Thursday, October 28, 2010

Techgnosis Review

Techgnosis Review
Jaye Beldo

A unique coign of vantage is evident in Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. A certain cybernetic quintessence pervades its pages, which is sure to inspire you to plug into a world that is, according to the author, more than it seems, at least alchemically speaking. Erik Davis's command of historical, political, spiritual and the necessary pop factuals keeps the read alive throughout and his sophisticated interface mix serves to keep the fluidium coursing through the fiber optic veins of the planet in an enlivening way. Using his scholarly skills that rarely encumber the flow, the author navigates the realm of the 'electromagnetic imaginary', offering us examples of how humanity has dealt with its own doppleganger in the form of an ever mutating technology that seems more and more to take on a life of its own.. Suggesting that 'magic is technology's unconscious' Davis spells out how the World Wide Whammy is playing out in social and political trends, politically, environmentally and perhaps more importantly: spiritually. It is getting harder and harder to escape technology's ever deepening influence, even for the most die hard of Luddites. It is literally reaching into the DNA of our being and tweaking things in a covert nano fashion. So the question of the day: Is it possible to have a genuinely spiritual technology which would reconcile the rift between flesh and machine? The notion of such an unlikely fusion has certainly been hyped up in recent years and has lead to some rather hard drive Icarus crashes of various sorts: Heaven's Gate being one of them and maybe electronic voting machines to come. But there is a gnostic glimmer of transcendental hope that may resist an immanent defragmentation: through the possible uploading into a digitally sustained samadhi at the click of the mouse. But the crux question remains: Will technology, even a fully spiritualized one, enable us to break free of the Archons, those planetary rulers the original Gnostics of Nag Hammadi fame so despised-or will it only be used by these heavies for further manipulation and control via the magical unconscious of our PCs, ATMs , Karaoke Machines and automated check out lanes at the supermarket? The latter seems to be the case-at least from the Gnostic perspective Davis provides us. I'd like to think that there are some heretical pockets left in the machine in which to hide in and wage war from -much like the desert fathers of yore once did.

On the one hand, I was impressed with Davis's cool articulations and the hypnotic, mercurial glibness that pervades Techgnosis. However it made me want to know more and more about the actual Erik and whether or not he smoked cigars and liked chocolate pies or to watch randy horses rolling around in the mud. The kind of cool detachment describecd above can be very dangerous and seems to be symptomatic of those commenting on media, its trends and perversions (such as Mark Dery and Douglas Rushkoff). So more personal introjections to bring all the Neo-Platonic refinement into perspective and preserve our humble humanism. .We need to break free of the spell of technology and I'm not so sure Erik is helping us out in that direction even as intriguing as the book is.. I mean how are we supposed to respond to lines like: "And so we drown, believing that to drown is to surf." ?

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