Illustrations by CF
Western Political philosophy, in the tradition of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, attributes witchcraft to the ignorance of not being able to distinguish between dream and real experience. Despite popular doctrine, the imaginary and the real do not have clearly defined borders. The assumption that physical events do influence mental ones, but not the other way round, stems from dubious beliefs in some sort of primacy of one over the other. Contrary to widespread opinion, manipulation of the phantasmal is not a disease, and the pleasure principle is not opposed to reality. Such beliefs result from centuries of censorship in the realm of the imaginary. Phantasmal operations are driven into the occult by the spirit of Protestantism, liberalism, and the technocratic institutions of control. An interdisciplinary science of psychosociology, as described by Giordano Bruno, actively seeks to influence phantasmal agency. As opposed to the manipulative political adventurism of Machiavelli, Bruno’s work is prototypical of impersonal and virtual operations. Culture, images and language are an arena of phantasmic manipulation in a mundus imaginalis. Metonymy and metaphor, fundamental institutions of cultural programming, are part of symbol manipulation that works with socially standardized concepts. Collective reality is potentially in continuous renegotiation, a process where language develops unconsciously out of collective action. Social production of meaning is both a program based on prior encoding of cultural norms and a process of individual self-interested interaction, but the semiotic dynamics are not reducible to the action of pairs. Media, the nervous system of social organization in fragmented societal milieus, is composed of multitudes of imaginary microworlds. Phantasms expanding in the individual’s mind and vital existence replace the self. Phantasmal-milieu control is achieved by influencing information, communication and perception. Collective identities are manipulated by loaded language used in new ways, employing insider codes and lingo as well as doctrines of ultimate truth beyond questioning or dispute. Concepts of purity constantly exert pressure to conform to coded and limited worldviews, requiring public or personal confession of transgressions. Planned and orchestrated experiences are designed to seem spontaneous, mystifying manipulation. Personal experiences are subordinated to doctrine and contrary experiences are reinterpreted or denied. This creates the power of dispensing existence, to decide what exists and what does not. With a rising military-entertainment complex, information dominance extends to the psycho-cybernetic coordinates of individual reality. Selectively exposed to a subset of data, called “Truth Projection,” we are victimized by a so-called reality of restricted actuality and the terror of bland virtual normalization. Psychological operations deprive targets of options, making a manifold potential disappear in an illusionist vanishing act. The underlying logic of life as an economic transaction is not just an excuse for shaping the world as a workplace, but a death cult targeting the mind.
Giordano Bruno’s work deserves a special place of honor in the science of human manipulation. It anticipates the magic of modern mass media, indirect censorship and the hidden influence of brain trusts centuries ago, and it investigates techniques of persuasion and psychological manipulation not unlike contemporary manuals for undercover operations. Moreover the philosopher of innumerable worlds is known for his work on the art of memory and mnemonic techniques. His Shadows of Ideas and Ars Memoriae from 1582 are based on computation combinatorics of information wheels and mapping of ideas in space. Bruno’s concepts of a technology of the mind are based on binding demons or spirits and the gateways through which bonding agents attack. In his visionary treatise on operational phantasms and the libidinal manipulation of the human spirit, entitled De Vinculis in Genere—A general account of bonding—the renaissance scholar explores the forces of the imaginary and the persuasion of the masses and the individual. “Indeed, it is easier to bind many rather than only one,” he points out, and when bonds are cast not over a group but over an individual, special attention is required at the social level. For binding action to occur he discerns three conditions of agent, matter and application. This means a process of active agency meeting passive disposition in subjects with suitable applications in a space-time matrix. Bruno’s research lists thirty different agents, thirty topics and thirty types of bonding as well as twenty three general accounts of what he calls “Cupid’s bond.” In his systematic index of interlinks, all bonds can be reduced to a force of operative affection or vital libidinal attraction. “There are three gates through which the hunter of souls ventures to bind: vision, hearing, andmind or imagination.” Beyond sound and vision he focuses on imagination and thought: “The role of the imagination is to receive images derived from the sense and to preserve, combine and divide them.” Accordingly the excited imagination is seen as the gateway to all internal affections and the bond of bonds; however, “the bondings of the imagination would not be very significant in themselves if they did not duplicate the powers of thought.” Arguing against those “who are acted upon rather than act,” the rebellious monk stands up for the importance of exercising controls of receptive faculties, for the ability to monitor and direct the processes of consciousness. Radically opposing the hierarchical order of being and a separate world of pure essence and ideals, Bruno the thinker of an infinite universe ripped open the ontological separation between the spheres of the heavens and the sublunary world. Having run into trouble with the Holy Inquisition, the disputatious heretic noted in 1591 that he “preferred a courageous death to a noncombatant life” (De Monade), and in February of 1600 he was burned at the stake on Campo de’ Fiori in Rome.
Descending through the seven gates of the underworld, Ishtar threatens the gatekeeper of the land of no return with a formula also used by her sister Ereshkigal: “I shall raise up the dead and they shall eat the living. I shall make the dead outnumber the living.” Fear of the walking dead, older than the most ancient literature on earth. In the 1190s, historian William of Newburgh wrote: “One would not easily believe that corpses come out of their graves and wander around, animated by some evil spirit, to terrorize or harm the living, unless there were many cases in our times, supported by ample testimony.”
Revenants had a number of common features and, unlike today, were always personalized specific individuals. An early European history of ghosts was characterized by the dead seeking out the living, who attempted to limit their earthly appearance. In the late-nineteenth century, necromantic spiritualism started to massively contact the dead. In spiritualist séances, mediums like Eva C. produced orchid shapes from her vagina, and Nobel Prize physiologist Charles Richet coined the term ectoplasm for this ghostly “unfamiliar form of matter.”
Based on the Aztec death goddess Mictecacihuatl, ruling the underworld together with her husband, La Santisima Muerte represents the currently most popular syncretic Mesoamerican deity. Clandestine for decades, “Saint Death,” the dark sister of the Virgin of Guadalupe has gone public, and appears as a skeletal figure in a long robe carrying one or more objects, usually a scythe and globe.
Condemned as devil-worship by the Church, Santa Muerte, deeply entrenched among Mexico’s lower classes and criminal underworld, also attracts faithful police and military personnel. Señora de la Noche protects against all types of assaults and violent death. From inner cities and rural areas the base of believers expanded to millions, far beyond the northern borders. Corresponding to what scholars like to call crisis cult, some of the most dvoted followers of the “Lady of Death” are associated with crimes of economic desperation.
Burial and revival as living death, was a punishment for those who crossed the secret Haitian Bizango society. For more than a hundred years scientists have known about a ghastly capacity to turn unsuspecting ants into zombies. Infected by Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, ants remain alive for a time under the precise control of the fungus, but the mechanisms to govern behavior remains unknown. Behavior manipulation includes gypsy moths infected by a baculovirus. They climb tree tops to die, and shower the virus on the foliage to inflect new hosts.
Malware-infested remotely-controlled Zombie-PCs proliferate. With a net worth less than zero, Zombie banks continue to operate with debts shored up by public money. Facing runs by depositors and call from derivatives transactions, engaged in high risk resurrection gambles, they spread distress and insolvency. Zombie metaphors for consumer society in a technological age correspond to the growing trend to take mobile phones into the grave. Playing dead is an animal-kingdom reaction to fear and unresolved authority; humans make it a way of life without being alive.
Technical extensions of the imaginative faculty and the mind function as receptacles for the flood of human sense perception. Systems and disciplines applied to identify, harmonize and unite phenomena without exhausting the mind or confounding memories. Isolating individual sense-perceptions from the stream of consciousness, the art of memory awards these with attributes, transforming them into thought-forms. A microcosmic architecture arranging ordered structure in the chaos of the imagination.
Methods of transforming facts into stories to remember them for extended periods of time involve associating images and narrative. Routing nodes and spatial organization ground them in the depth of long-term memory. Mnemonic systems do not try to be objective, but apply narrative structuring of the imagination, and visual anchoring of information as repository device in the geometry of thought. Science likes elegant designs of theory, but a slight change in their taxonomic hierarchy may run the salience of their whole memory-bank design into an awkward clutter.
Memory, not a record on playback but a taxonomic organization of familiar types of recollectable mental images, binds actualities into narrative chains. When the present spews the future in open-ended anticipation, the past eats into it, and timelines strangely intertwine. Much better guarded than the past, the future can be infiltrated by recapturing historical memory.
City of the Sun, a urban utopia of the Italian Tommaso Campanella written in 1602 after his imprisonment for civil unrest and heresy, describes an egalitarian social order of managing resources collectively. Knowledge is not shut away in books and libraries, but open to all, in a theatre of information and art. Children play to learn effortlessly. Painted walls of scientific visualization in the public sphere encourage efficient ways of education.
Civitas Solis is an urban memory machine similar to the mythical Adocentyn. It uses the emotional power of images in a magical practice, and in an unusual but systematic access to the meaning of space for human action. In complex relations relevant for future social and scientific concepts of human behavior, space effects behavior, and actions are influenced at a distance.
Every rock tells a story reaching back eons, every object on earth is an archive of memories. Industrialization developing a fascination with extended time-spans written into the crust of the planet, Geology became a dominant scientific discipline in the nineteenth century. At the same time, the early period of globalized industrialization stands for an era of intense memory politics, and the proliferation of commemorative monuments in every city.
From the seventeenth century on, ideas were on the rise that information does not have to be stored though Ars Memoria techniques. It can be encode d in classifications, compressed and unfolded through the algorithmic logic of scientific formulas. However, in 1931, mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel haunted by ghosts all his life, devised a proof that systems of logic are internally inconsistent or incomplete. A single, grand logic, subsuming all modes of logic while remaining consistent, turns out to be logically impossible.
1. “Mundus Imaginalis” and “Transaction Bonds” excerpted from Strategic Reality Dictionary: Deep Infopolitics and Cultural Intelligence (2009), published by Autonomedia, whose support is gratefully acknowledged.
2. “Revenants Revisited” and “Memory Control” originally published in Dictionary of Operations: Deep Politics and Cultural Intelligence. Autonomedia, 2012.