Perusing iTunes on my new iPad, I recently discovered the famous Psychedelic Salon, hosted by Lorenzo Hagerty. In a haze of 3 AM essay writing on the internet and global consciousness, I scrolled through the archives and gave this one a double-take:
A few weeks back, Lorenzo published “The Spirit of the Internet,” a podcast with the same name as his 2001 book, which I also picked up from Amazon. Lorenzo makes an intriguing hypothesis: the internet is analogous to a virtual sacred plant, a digital psychedelic medium, here right on schedule to assist us with an evolutionary leap of consciousness:
One of the more controversial aspects of this talk is my comparison of a deep Internet experience with a psychedelic experience
Lorenzo’s hypothesis is similar to other theories about the internet; most of them revolve around the idea that using it is analogous to being in a form of trance or altered state. The most convincing suggestion I’ve come across in my research was Cliff Bostock’s article, Cyberwork: the Archetypal Imagination in New Realms of Ensoulment. Bostock compares the experience of being online to a dream state (some might argue, another psychedelic-like state) where in the rush of images, a “bricoleur” of the soul is unveiled.
The fact that billions of people now use digital technology each day, if only to check their text messages and cell phones, suggests to us that some kind of deep change might be occurring in our consciousness. Bostock believes the internet is a new realm of ensoulment, while others analogize the net to the generation of a digital Anima Mundi.
The adjective “psychedelic” gets tossed around a lot.
Terrence McKenna, for instance, was fascinated with Hermeticism and alchemy and did a whole lecture series on the subject, dropping connections with the symbolic processes of the alchemists and magi and the psychedelic experience. I’m not against drawing these connections. But to me, what psychedelics, dreams, mythology, and alchemy all have in common is the Imagination.
Bostock ends his article with the suggestion that through the internet, we are creating a new Imaginal body, as erotic and sensual as our material ones (remember, images are ensouled by the touch of Aphrodite).
The mystic and historian William Irwin Thompson claims that the digital age is an eruption of the astral plane into our material existence. Still others – like Teilhard de Chardin – wrote about how our age is the psychic, or noospheric epoch of human evolution.
Each of these ideas merit their own discussion. But what I think we can say for now is that each of them have to do with recognizing the Imagination, Henry Corbin’s “Mundus Imaginalis” as an important dimension of reality; one that has been paved over in favor of rational progress or reduced to random neuronal firings of the brain.
But the Imagination is not lost by being sliced up into 0′s and 1′s.
The old word “techne” combined the idea of technical mastery with artistic expression. Perhaps we can see the Internet, and all of our mechanizations for that matter, as creative expressions of the psyche. Jung wrote that even our machines, from a certain point of view, could be seen as projections of the soul. In a materialistic world where only what is mechanical is real, the archetypes found their way into our machines; like water drips through the cracks in a glass.
I’ll end this blog asking the reader: is the internet a projection of soul? The World Soul?
If so, imagine the irony: the most technocratic society is in fact, possessed by the most magical and animistic of persuasions.
Through our technological fantasies we have dreamed up and enmeshed ourselves in the technological eruption of the World Soul.
No matter how far our meanderings, the Imagination can’t be escaped, or erased. It ends up turning our computers inside out, assembling their bits (or bytes) and pieces into an Image of itself. Perhaps, as Lorenzo suggests, it’s even offering us a new sacred medium, embedding us in a psycho-physical environment that retrieves, digitally, the old animistic consciousness. Archaic Revival indeed.