As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with Hermeticism and it’s iconic tradition of capturing mystical truth in highly symbolic imagery. As a kid, I’d look up everything I could at school and public libraries after the mystery traditions. I found friends who shared an interest in exceptions to the general historical narrative, lovers of the hidden fact, and the theoretical outlier. After a point, you learn to recognize your own, you can sense that someone has a relationship with the mysteries. There is a great American tradition around Masonry, the Golden Dawn and Neo-paganism just to name a few strands in the braid. It’s common knowledge, an open secret.
Image from Wellcome; Compendium of Magic, c. 1775. Licensed in the public domain.
The last major revival of these folk traditions was during the 1970’s New Age movement, lingering on through the 1980’s and petering out toward the end of the ’90’s. Thereafter, it seems to have spored into the web, establishing online communities and hubs where scholars and practitioners are free to socialize and exchange ideas with ease over the internet. I wonder, though, when some of this networking and tradition building will bubble back to the surface in another sort of cultural renaissance. I feel like we’re missing something right now, maybe it’s that we’re splintered off into so many minuscule sub-sub-cultures, while being more inextricably linked and dependent on one another than ever.
Chart of Micro-cosmos, by Robert Fludd, c. 1617. Licensed in the public domain.
Maybe it’s the feeling of many small organisms coming together to form a super-creature. We have installed a new central nervous system to humanity en masse, and like every story about taking a gift offered by the gods, there is a price attached. What is that price? More importantly, how do we retain a context for where we’ve come from, so as to know how much we’ve changed since becoming networked? The analog grounds us in the real, the net has become like a portal to the aethers, an oracle in every pocket that we never close. I’m convinced that a part of the technology is in the way we read and respond to the signs and symbols transmitted through it.
How we learn to interpret codes and ciphers programs us, becomes our operating system, and defines the rules that determine how we can interact with the game board. In many ways, communications technology has opened doors to the world and to knowledge, but there is plenty that is not to be found in the world wide web. I sort of have a thing for finding the edges of the known and wanting to exploit that jumping-off point. So, coming to an intersection between computer coding and western esoterica, while obscure to some, makes total sense to me. Let’s hope I can explain myself well enough to help interpret the connection for you, as I start combining and reinventing these images to be applied to my surfaces.