Shivanath writes for Key 23, and has written a number of texts regarding yoga, mysticism, and the environment. He kindly joined us for an interview, and jammed on matters related to magick, libraries, technology, and history.
me: > What have you been working on lately?
Shivanath: Well, my life is quite divided.
I'm an environmentalist / sustainability activist on one hand
a spiritual agitator and wizard and yogi on another
and I also wrassle technology for money
it's hard in this culture wearing three roles
me: > Let's talk magick. What is it? Why should anyone care?
Shivanath: in 1997 I had this to say
"magic is action on the liminal edge between the ordinary and the impossible"
and over time I've found that definition to stand well
as for why you would care? well, where are your limits?
do you want to move beyond them - if so, action on the edge of those limits - surfing the edge of the possible...
it's a way to start expanding your role and your creativity and your potentials
making more crayons
and less lines
me: > The history of "the occult" and the history of libraries seem closely tied. Why do you think that is?
Shivanath: "Grammyre" was the old english word for magic wasn't it?
Language, you know... it's The Big One
men and beasts
women speak more than men do - they use more different words, more often, and to more different people in a day on average
(make of that what you will)
I guess I see two sides to it: the mantra / kaballah / enochian "magical language" aspect, and the whole "culture of knowledge" aspect
Newton and Leibniz, these alchemists and kabalists and students of the Western Tradition cook up calculus and the whole world is transformed.
they do this because they can build on the knoweldge of the Greeks, of the Indians, of all of these
"If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." and try to do that sans library!
me: > John Dee had a great library. What kind of magician was he?
Shivanath: "Hey, John, we're expecting the Spanish Armada in a minute... any chance you could... you know.... DO SOMETHING?"
(John Dee puts down his chess game.)
"Well, marm, I could invoke the Awesome Angels of Enoch and ask them to sink it, how would that be?"
I mean... depending on your read, this really happened. I've read that Dee literally said "ok, I'm off to go sink the Armada" and bloody hell he comes back later and finds there's been a storm and it is indeed sunk. Now, if that's true (and how would we know, never mind the cause./effect questions), what does it mean?
me: > What about magick in the East? Is there overlap between Western magick and, say, the Yogic tradition?
(rolls up sleeves)
There is no magic in India that I'm aware of.
It's a category that does not exist because there is no "mundane."
The bedrock reality of India is basically a 1.2 billion person Hogwarts. Each of those altars and shrines, the little Ganesh nook in the store, the Sarasvati in the school room, all of that is "magic."
Indians do these rituals because they are working.
As Swami Havabanana (my alter-ego, who operates Swami Havabanana's Ashram and Finishing School for the Troubled Teenage Daughters of the Very Very Wealthy) says
"Never, ever worship an idol. If all that thing does is sit there, why is it worty of worship? See my Ganesh? Working working working all the time for the benefit of all beings. Nothing idol about it."
and, I mean, yes I'm being funny, but there's a point here: we're a magical culture in every domain, to the hilt, and always were. This whole rationalist thing the westerner is stuck in looks like mental illness.
it's like hysterical blindness on the grand cultural scale.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOUR PEOPLE DO NOT SEE GOD IN ALL THINGS? oh my god.... those poor people....
It's a bit of a crisis really.
We're quite upset.
me: > I feel ya, bro.
me: > As a librarian, I have some conservative tendencies when it comes to organizing information, so the term "chaos magick" raises my neck hairs... Is it allied with Entropy, Pattern, neither, or both?
There's Peter Carrol's Chaos Magic, which is quite profound if weird and a bit dark. And there's Phil Hine's chaos magic which is an amalgamation of natural and sympathetic magic. And then there are the goths and punks and their chaos magic.
culturally I do not think the love of entropy, decay and darkness are all that useful
Libraries, though, have a bit of the Angelic Order about them - this renessance dream, allied a bit with (for example) formal systems in mathematics - this dream of a perfect fit between theory and practice
no "in between" texts
and Godel and Chaitin and co. have really shifted math away from that kind of thing.
Chaos is not and never was *random*. In fact, the delight of chaos math was that apparently random or highly ordered complex systems could be produced from simple underlying equations. Z = Z^2 + C (in the complex number plane) produces the Mandelbrot set. And that's simple math indeed!
me: > So does technology and magick have a future together?
Shivanath: I swear half of all pagans are system administrators.
I have friends who swear by "neurofeedback" which is literally plugging EEGs into a computer (for visualization) and then doing energy work on people's blocks.
I think it's insane personally: I know computers. I want this closer mental / spiritual link with computer technology why?
Internet explorer just barfed - I have to restart it according to this error message.
damn that was funny
me: > Synchronicity... what you gonna do?
Shivanath: so let me tell the other part of that story, which is that the "mini-astral" of the interent is a great place for the results of magic to manifest.
what could be easier than doing magic to get data and finding what you were looking for in an inspired google search
same for people: somebody's working on Friendster and Tribe and Myspace
building networks, conduits for connection
you could do magic there and nobody would even realize what you were up to becaues the effects, however fast and real, just fit into the new media so perfectly. it's not "fred is a powerful wizard" but "I find these cool folks on myspace - see fred? he's neat isn't he?"
me: > That plays in heavily to being a librarian, I must say... sometimes, it seems like the information itself is pulling you forward, and unlooked for sources pop open! Apopheniac.
> Can we go back to John Dee for a moment?
Dee's story is very informative.
where did you want to take the Dee thin?
me: > Edward Kelley. Do you think he forged the Voynich Manuscript? And was he, on balance, good or bad for Dee?
Shivanath: oh god.
ok. Forged is an interesting word, given that the book is just what-it-is.
I mean, unless it's a physical relic of some elf's encyclopedia or something, a human being wrote it.
so was it Kelly, I just don't know. But the whole thing seems plausibly channeled or copied from a book that somebody saw in a dream, vision or other psychedelic state. Perhaps not a forgery but a knock-off of a dream book? I just don't know.
Kelly, though. Oh man. I think that he was essentially half-parasitic, half-symbiotic on Dee.
Dee just didn't have the Second Sight to the degree required to talk to these Angels directly, it appears. But the problem is looking through a muddy telescope gives you dirty pictures.
Kelly's thing about "now the angels say I should sleep with your wife, John"
I mean... you know?
Maybe they did.
Maybe they said "Kelly, if you tell Dee that again, this game is over mate! and Kelly did it anyway."
You know about Jack Parsons?
me: > The rocket scientist OTO dude?
Shivanath: yes, the same chap.
me: > Don't know much about him at all.
Shivanath: so, hold on to your butt. Parsons takes the role of John Dee, and L. Ron "Scientology" Hubbard takes the role of Kelly, and they recreate a slab of Dee's work.
me: > Huh?
Shivanath: Jack's letters to Aleister detail some of the meeting and the discussions. I seem to remember that Crowley's quite against it.
Yeah: Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard did magic together.
All of this is way back in the day mind you.
And I think it's clear to see that Parsons gets shafted by Hubbard. This is important because I think it suggests that the Seer somehow feeds off the energy of the magician and, in fact, might be a necessary evil.
me: > Back to technology. What's up with transhumanism and all this talk of the Singularity? Is it magickal in your estimation?
Shivanath: ok. Again, yes-and-no. There are "high planes" in the Indian tradition - pure lands the Buddhists call some of them. Places where energy is higher, life is easier, enlightenment is sometimes a default base state for all beings. Trees which grow the things you ask them politely for, jewels the size of baseballs, diamond mountains and dakini maidens and great warrior men.
I think that the Transhumanists are trying to bring that here one hack at a time and I don't think it will work.
As my good friend Guy Sprio says "We were attracted to the physical plane for it's density.*" and I think that is very true and insightful. We came here for *this experience, not because it was a pure land in waiting.
me: > Can you suggest any novel ways magicians and librarians might collaborate for the greater good?
let me ask you a question: what has come from the collaboration between technologists and librarians?
me: > Wow. So much has come from it, so much so quickly, that it's hard to sum up. We've got better ways to connect more people to more information more quickly than ever before, though.
Western Tradition -> Leibniz and Newton -> Calculus -> Experimental Science That Really Works in Matter -> Engineering -> Electricity -> Computers -> Libraries.
You're already collaborating with magicians. They write your software.
me: > Okay. One more question.
> What're your plans for the rest of '06?
Shivanath: I'm going to Burning Man and I'm going to try and build a lot of hexayurts, possibly a whole village of them.
Architecture for Humanity published the design in their book, "Design like you give a damn" and I'd like to extend an open offer to people to collaborate on manufacturing a few dozen or a hundred units, and we'll all camp in comfort and splendor!
me: > That sounds fun.
Shivanath: I'm also working with Guy on his global meditation for peace projects, and I'll try and get a link to you soon for more info on that.
me: > Thanks Shivanath!
Shivanath: You're very welcome indeed. This was fun!