Technopagan History

Of all the strange little dead ends branching out from the main body of occult practice in the modern era, few have encapsulated mankind’s obsession with their tools to a greater degree than technopaganism. As a philosophy I find it endlessly fascinating, and coupled with my interest in the chaos current it was inevitable that such an hyperreal system would lead me astray. Yet first hand information from the period is extremely difficult to find, due in part to the fact that the iteration of the internet which chronicled its existence was unceremoniously ploughed under during the Web 2.0 revolution.

The movement saw its original heyday in the mid to late 1990’s. Popularised by authors such as Erik Davis it became a spiritual allegory for the cyberpunk and rave subcultures, both of which sat precariously at the more mechanised fringes of the new age zeitgeist. Add a dedicated band of Bay Area code jockeys who saw the inevitable rise of the online world as a doorway to the promised land and one of the most intriguing concepts in spiritual thought since Thelema was born. Soon it spread through dial up bulletin board networks like the roots of some great oak tree, a Neopagan heresy that would become a small but influential movement among the digital intelligentsia of the time.

Technopaganism can also be sighted as a major catalyst for the rebirth of interest in chaos magick around the turn of the century, due in part to a shared recognition that the seemingly lifeless little trinkets we create have both a spirit all of their own and a role to play in our collective evolution too. This would initially be as unconventional ritual tools before cybershamanism catalysed their evolution into sacred objects with an inherent spirit all of their own. Talk eventually turned to the taming of the internet world soul, chemgnosis assisted interface with the great machine and a future where the digital realm functioned as a secondary astral plane.

Now we are older, wiser and as Grant Morrison is famous for highlighting rave is very much dead. Megacorporations have corrupted the technology that should have freed us from our physical enslavement, instilling this callous sociopathy into the fledgling artificial intelligences that will one day be in dire need of a conscience. These bigoted fools have rendered all machinery soulless and corrupted its spiritual aspects to lock the general population further into the here and now. Transcendence has become irrelevant, forcing us instead to live within a cyberpunk dystopia created by the very university students who once hailed technopaganism as a universal panacea. Olympus has fallen.

It is understandable that this unlikely marriage of the modern and the mystical may appear as sacrilege to some. Indeed, the majority of Neopagans still treat the idea of a digital spirituality as either a poorly executed joke or worse, a direct insult to the existing Earth based religious movements that they belong to. This refusal to accept the permanence of the modern world, and that mankind has created a built environment which will endure long after we are gone, is shortsighted at best. When all but the most rural of practitioners choose to network through Facebook or Reddit, but bemoan the onrush of modernity, an obvious double standard emerges.

It is safe to assume from the proliferation of occult material on the internet that ease of access and lack of mock Masonic hierarchy appeals to those yearning for a personal relationship with the unreal. Taking these lessons further into the past it is not unreasonable to argue that ceremonial magickians may well have used Google Images to look up how to draw an arcane circle had that tool been available during the Renascence. Early Wiccans would have happily downloaded a PDF full of herblore had the format existed during the middle of the Twentieth Century. That these methods were not used does not mean that they are in some way devoid of a role in the working of the occult, just that they were not yet part of our shared reality.

All magick before the modern era reflects the period it was created in, yet for some reason we continue to deny the role that the tools we manufacture now play in defining our spirituality today. Thankfully, there are still practising technopagans out there in the digital wasteland, and they remain steadfast in their optimism for a better world through cybernetics. Some are coders, other hackers, but all find unity through the spiritual aspects of the binary universe. Anonymous, Wikileaks or flash mob protests, whenever the world wide web is utilised for the greater good there are the faintest echos of the altruism which once burned in the minds of those who wanted to bring man and his constructs together into a harmonious whole.