warning: near toxic levels of earnestness herein

What I have described to you so far in this series is not simply a kind of postmodern squinting at human esoteric development, wherein we are all ‘special’ in our own way.

Rather, I’m talking about how we are all, in a sense, components of a machine. An immense mind-boggling computational engine that has struggled since the beginning of time to fuse spirit, mind and matter. Your life, and the lives of everyone before and after you, is fed into this process, and used to formulate the platform for new evolution.

When I said I wasn’t interested in formulating some new jargon, or a new cult dogma to try and shoehorn everyone into, I wasn’t kidding. One must use words to an extent, and to the extent that we must, it’s important to hold them lightly and to periodically shed them. I think it’s important to remember to always do that, even if only to keep our minds alert and awake.

I wouldn’t even try and do something like this if it was going to be another excuse to draw lines and exclude people and anoint a new priesthood or elite or intellectual vanguard. Everyone gets to sit at this table, because this is the story of all humanity, indeed of all beings, everywhere, struggling to realise themselves.

What I do propose is that we can come together in the understanding that we all want the same things, and we all work to manifest it in more or less the same way. Sometimes it’s all we can do to grapple with the how and the why.

Everyone wants to experience life deeply, to master ourselves and our experience, to communicate, to share and explore community, and everyone wants to contribute, serve others and leave something behind. Anyone who wants to argue with me about this is welcome to do so, because in so doing, they would only prove my point. The very body you inhabit testifies to the struggle of life itself to express its vision.

We all have something to say about the depths of human experience, about how to achieve mastery, and manifest our intentions. When you scrape away the fear, dogma, selfishness and misunderstanding, we are all talking about the same thing, and that holds true in all the realms. It’s time to stop pretending that what happens to us is solely about us. A human experience is a human experience and is open to all human beings. However apparently magickal, or not.

We are all probing the event horizon of what is intelligible, where understanding bleeds into the great mystery.  Where skill becomes magick, and science becomes art. If we can all come together in the understanding that that is our great project, the great project of humanity, we will have achieved something amazing.

The world has mostly embraced the cult of science, clinging to the memory of how it pulled us out of an age of darkness and fear and superstition.  To the extent that we must use words, it would be foolish to neglect that one. But we must go farther, and understand that this is not the science we knew. Or that the world thinks it knows, This is something larger, deeper, more profound. This is the wellspring that the science we know emerged from in the first place, from the depths of  the mystery. Further it would be foolish to overlook how that happened, and how it was done. To backslide into superstition and naivety is the wrong path. That is the legacy of our human forebears from the dawn of time; to gaze into the mystery and understand it better, more clearly, with greater precision. They were not, and are not, any different in their intent than a scientist today, and to pretend otherwise is a grave disservice.

That is the real challenge: to face the mystery, to face the unknowing. Rather than flee from it, to pretend that we have already banished ignorance, or worse still to embrace it. Rather we should accept that it exists, but embrace our role as the those who turn consciously towards it, and make it our life work to stand at the edge of the unknown.  And to get up every day and make that choice all over again. And while that choice, like every real choice, gets made alone, you can take some comfort in knowing that you will not be alone when you have made it.

So pay no mind to my aesthetic choices if they annoy you, but understand what lies behind, just as it lies behind your words, your images. Use what words you like, but perhaps appreciate the value of a shared banner. A United Nations of the Mystery, if you will.

…pay no mind if it displease you, but if it agrees with you, then take a seat, and welcome to the Depth Scientists Union.

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19 thoughts on “Building A Better Brand: The Depth Scientists Union

  1. Sign me up, please. I’m already convinced that there is only one side to the very twisted Moebius strip, it is time to Work.

    ORA ET LABORA

  2. Intriguing.

    Perhaps I’m jumping the gun, but what form will this union take? Will it be an actual organisation, or do you see it as more of a brand to be used by individual magicians for making their specific magical practice more accessible to the public at large?

    Will there be a manifesto, membership paraphenalia (logo for websites), meet ups, forums, etc?

    I ask simply because I think this is indeed a good brand, but I’m curious as to what a newcomer, with no previous magical/spiritual experience, could expect from the Union.

  3. It’s a little premature, but for starters, I’d suggest looking at how mainstream scientists organise themselves and their work.

    And from the outset, I should say I see this as an open source proposition. Part of the point is to strip the practice down to it’s bare essence and allow people to incorporate that into their lives however it seems to fit, and then use it as a point of connection with everyone else.

    The essential bits, which i would not like to see overlooked are precisely the ones that make for good, true science, in the deep sense that I have laid it out, and make it possible to have a functional research community.

    well designed experiments, good documentation, an attention to rigour and replicability, an absence of extraneous metaphysics or unnecissary postulates, and in general reconstructing those aspects of the human knowledge process that have fallen into disrepair for the last several hundred years, until we can talk about every human experience on the same footing, and grant every true experience( but not every interpretation!) the same dignity, no matter what it is.

  4. How do you relate this grand vision (and I am not trying to be ironic, it is a grand vision) to your blog?

    I wonder about this. I read a few different blogs. I got into Green anarchist /peak oil type blogs a while back. Like Ran Prieur, Jeff Vail, Anthropik, then Pop Occulture (not totally related but Ran quoted Tim a few times).

    So then I got a blog. It never got as big as these other guys blogs, but I was writing everyday about things on a huge scale. I was writing about things on a huge scale, saying things interesting enough to hold about a hundred people’s attention. So it wasn’t a blog simply about the minutiae of my everyday life.

    But in the sphere of influence of my everyday life, outside the internet, my sphere of influence was small. I marveled at the incongruity. So I was thinking what should I do?

    Should I promote my blog a lot more untill it gets really big like thousands of hits? Then what should I do? Could it be possible to have a really popular blog with lots of hits and still kind of have a small amount of power I am actually able to exercize in my day to day life?

    It seemed easy for me to dream and think really big and on a huge scale without really actually manifesting anything big in my actual day to day life.

    Where does the rubber meet the road? Its like I can read all these books and then kind of write in the same vein, but yet I am not a world renowned philosopher. What good are philosophers really without powerful people that physically bring their principles into being?

    You see what I am getting at? I studied Straussianism and Neo-conservatism for a while, because that is an example of a school of Philosophy that really came into power and was able to really be in a position to impose its will on the world. But its kind of an insular society.

    The internet and by extension blogs, are very democratic and egalitarian. It diffuses power. Seems like all the occultists that accomplish great things are small groups of people working in secret. I dunno. Hope this makes sense.

  5. “But in the sphere of influence of my everyday life, outside the internet, my sphere of influence was small. I marveled at the incongruity. So I was thinking what should I do?”

    The internet is a marvelous forum for the exchange of concepts and ideas, but a very poor vehicle for the creation of a cohesive group or society. At the end of the day, there’s a real world out there, and if you’re only fighting your battles online, you won’t be doing much in it. I’m not attacking your blogging activities or anything, but suggesting that you–with the ideas and concepts that you carry–talk a little with the people you know in real life and see where it takes you.

  6. It’s an interesting question, ted.

    The thing to remember about the internet, is that facilitates the flow of information, and that’s all. it has a secondary effect on commerce, but that’s dependent on a globalised cheap oil transport system, so it’s really a second-order effect.

    What you do to deploy that information in the ‘real world’ is entirely variable, and limited in whatever ways you can do that already.

    if joe blow from armpit arkansas reads my site, he can act on that stuff in all the ways that joe blow from armpit arkansas can, while george bush can read my site and do all the things he can do from a much different place.

    what’s important though, is that you can use the right kind of information to evolve your place in the ecosystem. joe blow can use a more refined understanding of politics and global networks to move into politics, to refine his interpersonal skills and presentation, and maybe one day he’s the president. what’s nice about the internet is that it tends to evolve itself to the point where everyone has access to the same knowledge base to the same degree. I can find out how to write presidential speeches or manufacture nuclear weapons or achieve the 4th samatha jhana as easily as anyone else can now.

    you scatter your seeds and they take root wherever they can. I’ve distributed about 21 000 downloads of my stuff directly off my site and those are all circulating freely and been copied lord knows how many times. I get about 200-300 people visiting me every day and occasionally spiking into more. many of those have their own websites who are influenced however much and speak to thousands more, every day. I know tim reads my site, and he gets thousands every day, just himself. A couple folks made a PDF of the alchemy for the braindamaged series for their own use and who knows how far they spread that. people have told me they play my stuff at parties and on the radio.

    do I need to know exactly what my influence is? not really. Does it directly change my real world situation? not yet. but I’m sure it will eventually.

    it’s just an example.

  7. “Does it directly change my real world situation? not yet. but I’m sure it will eventually.”

    I am tracking on everything you said, but the above quote pretty much summarizes my question and then your answer is basically “not yet but I am sure it will eventually”

    Which means you don’t really know how it will effect your situation. I am not saying it won’t. But the fact is you have yet to find out how it will directly affect you, you are not sure how it will happen but you are sure it will happen. An uncertian proposition there. Isn’t it? That’s not really controlled and rigorous is it?

    But that is kind of where I was too. What I did was just delete my whole blog. Part of the reason was that I kind of rejected a lot of the premises of anarcho primitivism but also it was the lack of congruity with my real life. I wasn’t living in a wigwam hunting my own food, I wasn’t monkey wrenching. I was just a person spending a lot of time on the internet, thinking out loud. There was no face to face grouyp of people I was leading.

    Probably, I was a little better at communicating my ideas than average, perhpas you and Tim are better.

    But really maybe this just isn’t somthing that has a big pay off. Maybe it akin to doing performance art on the street corner.

    Maybe there will always be this element of trust there. You trust that if you cast your bread upon the waters they will return to you. You could be the next Socrates, philosophizing on the internet in the global village like Socrates philosophized on the streets of Athens. But Socrates would be lost in time if there were no Plato that created a school, immortalized his words. No one would have heard of Jesus if no one took up his message and spread it and eventually wrote it down.

    But at the time, Did these people know their ideas would really take off? Could it have gone either way? Where do these ideas come from? Are you just a conduit? A conduit voicing the ideas whose time has come?

    The internet is so ephemeral. It could all dissappear so quickly. I don’t know if its such a good meduim for a really serious thinker that perhaps has real potential for communicating great ideas. But maybe I am wrong.

  8. I am not just naysaying. Please don’t take it that way. Because this framework you are puting togetrher is really cool. I am just wondering how it will take shape. Just wondering about this whole open source deal.

    I am kind of wanting to go more analog with my ideas, reducing the scope of them and also wanting a more tangible pay off for myself. I am not vey far along with it either. Not saying you should go that way. I think what you are doing is rteally interesting.

  9. well , I wasn’t specifically talking about my newer ideas here. I was speaking in a more general way.

    I guess what I was trying to say is that how you transform your life is up to you, and good information makes that easier to do, and what the internet does is make good information essentially free, and ubiquitous. That’s a new thing, and it’s something I’m pleased to be a part of.

    I suppose in large part it’s hard to separate out where your influences are coming from and how they’ve impacted your own life. and in ecological terms there’s not much point trying to even do that. I’m more concerned with understanding how energy flows. That’s hard to do if you’re preoccupied with diverting energy off for yourself.

    What I’m trying to approach now is how to understand and fine tune that informational process and find a way to do all the things you’re talking about in a way that’s suited to what the internet is, and what it does.

    how do large numbers of people with unlimited access to good information create qualitative changes in their own lives, without ever meeting each other? it’s a question of physical and informational economics. and not in the money sense but in the actual standard of living sense. or at least you could look at it through that lens.

    to me it’s not such a dilemma in general because I have a community of sorts for the more concrete things. The hands on practice, the training, the face to face exchanges. This is for everything else. but it’s interesting to explore how they can connect.

    as society start to mutate in general towards a more decentralized model where people meet less and less in person and virtual technologies take the place of human contact, it’ll be important to have thought it through ahead of time, and have economic and social models for how that works, along with spiritual ones too one would guess.

  10. I am on the fence here. I remain surprised at how hard it is to get access to the highest quality information, like the more perennial works, at least in history and social studies. I.e., there are so many high-quality ideas out there that simply aren’t well distributed because they’re stuck in hardcopy, with the closest means to access them being, e.g., to browse the reviews on Amazon–otherwise, you have to do it the old fashioned way and locate then open the book. Things like Wikipedia show a certain degree of self-assembly, but remain nascent. You could, e.g., re-assemble Bowling Alone from the facts on Wikipedia, though it would be a tremendous time-sink, but you will have a very very hard time generating, e.g., the intepretations of the Frankfurt School or Situationists. Instead I might suggest that the nature of the internet is to give rise to a more folk-based understanding. sometimes it will be linear, sometimes it will be deep, sometimes it will be the “retribalization”. and so on.

  11. It’s amazing how the www and technology has impacted the lives of my teens, just seeing them grow up in it and with it. It will change the face of the world in another 1 or 2 generations.

    Zac, do you think more in terms of an evolved critical mass creating a collective move-forward, or rather where “market forces” favor the risk-takers and the lucky who get noticed?

    … naturally, there’s that chance an externally imposed singularity might take over for us…

  12. Sounds like a worthwhile germ of an idea Zac; though I doubt anyone would have a clear understanding of what exactly the heck that might mean at this stage of the game. Nevertheless, a start is still a beginning.

    So, basically everyone that is putting sincere effort in their personal practice & sharing their experience via blog or comments is kinda/ sorta already doing what you describe, minus the lack of organization or unification beyond linking to or posting comments on one another sites. Are you proposing a more formalized collective effort/ site or just a loose confederation of sorts, kinda like a ‘Depth Scientists Union’ webring (to use an admittedly flaccid example)? Is there more to the idea or is it just a bud?

    I mean, there are plenty of ideas & worthwhile practices floating around in books & in everyone’s heads. The trick, as it always has been, is putting all the stuff into worthwhile practice so that, as you say, the overall standard of living is impacted in a positive fashion. Ultimately, the rubber hits the road at the personal & local community level…

  13. It’s almost one of those things that’s too big to get one’s head around, so I’ll be taking it in smaller bites for a little while.

    In some sense, I’m just making the big frame here, and much of what I’ve done before fills out the small frame of the individual. but once you’ve got the border of the puzzle in place, you work your way in from the edges to fill in the spots you’ve missed.

    Once you can make a case that it *does* all fit together, then the artificial barriers can start to come down, and what’s already a natural process will accelerate naturally. If what you’re doing doesn’t accord with nature, it’ll be sisyphus and the rock all the way.

    That’s how I’d like to proceed, mostly. least effort, most impact.

  14. Hey Zac, I’ve been changing my life to include occult, magick, spirituality, alchemy and mysticism to a large extent, and I will become an expert in these matters.

    I might just figure it out eventually but I’m wondering if most of what fits under these words can be learned in one lifetime?

    The things that fit under these 5 hats, that I find especially interesting are Thelema, Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, Taoism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Chaos Magick, Bahá’í Faith and Sufism.

    And out of that I find especially interesting: Thelema, Kabbalah, Hermeticism and Yoga.

    I’m just wondering what combination of these things is best in relation to actually get things done, enlightenment, union with the Godhead, holy guardian angel, “superpowers” and Gods knows what else can be accomplished with this technology.

    Do you think this combination is good?
    Am I missing out on some core things which I’m not including in this focus?

    I’m basically laying out how and what I’m going to study and practice these things, haven’t gotten my head around it yet, but maybe it will just click once I’ve read enough of the basic literature on all these things.

    Couldn’t the Depth Scientists Union create a hybrid system of practice from the core of all these things to create “the ultimate human potential technology” based on what we have right now? That would make things so much clearer, better then having the info scattered in four corners of the universe and no guideline on how to mix it together. Your words, online communities and my own common sense are the only things I have to figure it out, and even if I find a good teacher he will only teach one tradition, like some form of Buddhism or some form of Yoga.

    I’ll probably end up with a teacher on Yoga or Buddhism and work on using Thelema, Kabbalah and Hermeticism my self.

    We need a map on how to approach these things, the pirate needs a treasure map!

  15. I dunno. the last thing the world needs is another hybrid system. they’re all hybrids really. it’s like saying one wants to learn jewish math, christian math, and chinese math. simply ludicrous. it’s all just math right? why should this stuff be any different?
    one of the most valuable things to pick up from the start is learning how recognise the same things in different guises.
    thelema, khabbala and hermeticism are really just adumbrations of the same thing. buddhism is a stripped down form of hinduism, minus the myths and deities. taoism is literate shamanism in an asian culture.
    The best thing to do is learn your one thing and then understand how it’s all the same thing. find your particular discipline that moves your heart and your mind and devote yourself to it. get to the core of what works and how it works and chuck the rest. all the stories, all the myths, all the impenetrable metaphors. use them if they create a meaning, if they engage your imagination or push you over the rough spots. but if it doesn’t do any of that, then throw it away and never look back.
    once you can do that, then help other people do the same. build up our common understanding, not just our junk pile of stuff that nobody can figure out how to organise. this is science, after all. proceed scientifically.

  16. Zac, have you ever had the opportunity to read ‘S.S.O.T.B.M.E. – An Essay On Magic (Revised Ed.)’? I myself have only recently been exposed to that classic gem of a book. At less than 160 pages it is a short (but idea-dense) read & very relevant to our discussion at hand, RE: the Depth Scientists Union (referred to hereafter as DSU for brevity sake).

    In particular, there is a quote near the very beginning of the revised edition regarding Scientific & Magical thinking:

    “…the point is that, in terms of the faculties used, magical thinking is broader, but maybe not as deep.” [as science]

    If we were to agree that ‘depth’ is what scientists already do (ie – studying an individual tree, as it were, from leaf to root & everything ‘in between’) & that ‘breadth’ is what magicians ‘do’ (ie – understanding the tree in relation to the ‘metasystem’ of which it is a part – the forest, the land of fairie, the Tao, etc.), then… what?

    Are we hoping, via the DSU, to develop a ‘broader’ understanding of ‘science’ or a ‘deeper’ understanding of ‘magic’? If, on the other hand, we are talking about developing a community dedicated to applying the *rigor* of science to magical exploration & sharing the results for discussion & as a means of developing a healthy & integrated worldview, then I think we are onto something exciting. It will require diligence to avoid dogmatism & the ol’ dualistic trap of ‘either’ Science ‘or’ Magic (or Religion… or Art for that matter). Science has plenty of dogmatically capable technicians & Magic is chock full o’ superstitious nuts that all detract from the *real* Scientists & Magicians (as well as Artists & Theologians) that look to peer behind the veil of the status quo.

    There’s that bit from A.C. Clarke that everyone loves to quote:

    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Of course, one need not understand the scientific principles behind a TV remote in order to successfully make use of it.

    So are we looking to understand how the remote works, scientifically? …or are we hoping to come up with a easy to understand, readily applicable, user’ manual?

    I mean, let’s face it, the ‘technology’ exists… I’m just not so sure it can be ‘understood’ in a scientific manner. That’s where a ‘magical’ worldview/ understanding can have its usefulness. There are already a lot of user manuals (religions, philosophies, magical systems) out there written in different ‘languages’ (Thelema, Enocian, Kabbalah, Taoism, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, etc.). I wholeheartedly agree that the world doesn’t need yet another hybrid system.

    While ‘DSU’ lends a sheen of respectability for the proposed endeavor in the context of a materially-oriented society by including ‘Scientists’ in its title… might not a more appropriate title be the ‘Depth Mages Union’ or the ‘Breadth Scientists Union’. Whatever the title, I think it has the beginnings of much-needed collaborative approach for developing a system of relating to a world that is proving increasingly difficult to understand in the context of rigidly dogmatic Old World systems of thought…

    The Zen ‘user manual’ states it succinctly:

    “The finger can point to the moon but is not the moon.”

    All the fingers are pointing to the same destination… it is up to us to start the journey toward that destination, that experience, which is ultimately ineffable. All we can do is share our experience & perhaps lend a hand to one another along the road.

    At any rate, I don’t expect any definitive answers, I’m just putting some thoughts & questions out there for folks to consider as this discussion develops.

  17. well, there’s a lot there to chew on, but the main thing is this: I will stand by the ‘depth’ part of equation, because that is where you find the root of everything.

    no amount of breadth or horizontal networking will show you where understanding actually comes from. where mystical religious or peak experiences come from.

    normal science has no problem with breadths. systems, networks, ecologies. but it’s all flat. all reduced to exteriors. ntohing has any depth to it.

    if you just throw up your hands and say that magick cannot be dealt with scientifically, or science cannot incorporate magickal understanding, you’re just throwing up more walls again.

    I’m not interested in reforming either science or magick as it’s usually understood. anyone who wants to keep their sandbox is welcome to it. but i refuse to acknowledge these barriers, or say that some areas are off limits to rational understading and carefull research. I’m not going to defend splitting off from ‘them’ … they can justify splitting off from ‘us’.

    I also refuse to stop at ‘results magick’ which has unfortunately become a millstone around all our necks. results without understanding is superstition. it leaves us shaking wands at the universe and hoping for the best, to satisfy our desires. I could not think of anything more fundamentally debased.

    technique and result and technology comes out of understanding. understanding comes from depth experience. depth experiences can be brought about through proper application of technology. therefore the more understanding you have, the more you get. full stop.

  18. “one of the most valuable things to pick up from the start is learning how recognise the same things in different guises”

    Why not start a project then on making the comparison of these things, map the things in them where they are talking about the same thing, something like this http://deoxy.org/img/7chak_colors_signs_circuitscopy.jpg and this http://deoxy.org/eoctave.htm and this http://deoxy.org/cirtable.htm

    Or maybe not like that, just some kind of structure to compare the different things found in occult, magick, spirituality, alchemy and mysticism where they are the same, so the Kingdom of Heaven would be the same thing as Samadhi for example, if I’m not mistaking.

    That way all can have a good overview on how it’s the same thing and where things are not the same, it would skip all interpretation of these things, just lining together different words that are pointing at the same thing, that way you can see clearly this structure no matter what religion or whatever you are looking at, no?

  19. Lots of people have done that, and I continue to do it in passing. It’s much more useful to learn to do it yourself. develop the internal faculty of pattern recognition.

    or better yet, in those cases where its possible and practical, go do the things and find out for yourself how similar they are.

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