Load & Run High-tech Paganism-Digital Polytheism

           Load & Run High-tech Paganism-Digital Polytheism

                 By Timothy Leary and Eric Gullichsen

We place no reliance
On virgin or pigeon;
Our Method is Science,
Our Aim is Religion.
              -- Aleister Crowley,
    mot from the journal "Equinox"

     People jacked in so they could hustle. Put the trodes on and 
they were out there, all the data in the world stacked up like one 
big neon city, so you could cruise around and have a grip on it, 
visually anyway, because if you didn't, it was too complicated, 
trying to find your way to a particular piece of data you needed. 
Iconics, Gentry called that.
                                            --William Gibson,
                                           Mona Lisa Overdrive

  Information is more basic
than matter and energy.

  Atoms, electrons, quarks
consist of bits --

  Binary units of

  Like those processed in
computer software

  And in the brain.

  The behavior of these bits,
and thus of the universe,

  Is governed by a single
programming rule.

             --Edward Fredkin


     Major historical accomplishments of the 20th century included 
the personalization and popularization of Quantum Physics, an 
acceptance of self-reference and circular causality in systems of 
mathematics and psychology, and the resulting development of 
cybernetic society.
     This philosophic achievement, which has dominated the culture 
of the 20th century, was based on a discovery by nuclear and 
quantum physicists around 1900, that visible-tangible realities 
are written in a digital assembly language we could accurately 
call "basic."
     It turns out that we inhabit a universe made up of a small 
number of elements-particles-bits which cluster together in 
geometrically-logical, temporary configurations.
     The solid Newtonian Universe rested upon such immutable 
General-Motors concepts as mass, force, momentum, and inertia, 
cast into a Manichaean drama involving equal reactions of good vs. 
evil, gravity vs. levity, entropy vs. evolution and coerced by 
such pious Bank-of-England notions as conservation of energy. This 
dependable, static, predictable, universe suddenly, in the minds 
of Planck/Heisenberg became digitized, transformed into shimmering 
quantum screens of electronic probabilities.
     Up here in 1988, we are learning to experience what Nils 
Bohr and Werner Heisenberg could only dream of. The universe, 
according to their cyberdelic equations, is best described as a 
digital information process with sub-programs and temporary ROM 
states, megas called galaxies, maxis called stars, minis called 
planets, micros called organisms, and nanos known as molecules, 
atoms, particles. All of these programs are perpetually in states 
of evolution, i.e., continually "running."
     It seems to follow that the great intellectual challenge of 
the 20th century was to make this universe "user friendly," to 
prepare individual human beings to decode, digitize, store, 
process & reflect the sub-programs which make up his/her own 
personal realities.


     The chain of events that elevated us to this new genetic 
status, HOMO SAPIENS CYBERNETICUS, began around the turn of the 
     Physicists, we recall, are traditionally assigned the task of 
sorting out the nature of reality. So it was the quantum 
philosophers who figured out that units of energy/matter were sub-
atomic bits of programmed information that zoom around in clouds 
of ever-changing, if/then, start/stop, off/on, 0/1, yin/yang 
probabilities in clusters of pixels, up-and-down recurring 
stairways of paradox.
     When they started out, no one understood what these guys were 
talking about. They expressed their unsettling theories in complex 
equations written on blackboards with chalk. Believe it or not, 
these great physicists thought and communicated with a neolithic 
took -- chalk-marks on the wall of the cave. The irony was this: 
Einstein and his brilliant colleagues could not experience or 
operate of communicate at a quantum-electronic level.
     Imagine if Max Planck pottering around in his mathematical 
chalk-board had access to a video-arcade game! He'd see right away 
that the blips on Centipede and the zaps of Space Invaders could 
represent the movement of the very particles that he tried to 
describe in the dusty symbols of his blackboard.


     Now let us reflect on the head-bursting adjustment required 
here. The relativistic universe described by Einstein and the 
nuclear physicists IS alien and terrifying. Quantum physics is 
quite literally a wild, confusing psyberdelic trip. It postulates 
an Alice-in-Wonderland, Sartrean universe in which everything is 
changing. As Heisenberg implied: nothing is certain except 
uncertainty. Matter is energy. Energy and matter are temporary 
states of info-bits, frozen at various forms of acceleration.
     This digital universe is not user-friendly when approached 
with a Newtonian mind. We are just now beginning to write a manual 
of operations for the brain and the universe, both of which, it 
turns out, are digital galaxies with amazing similarities.
     People living in the solid, mechanical world of 1901 simply 
could not understand or experience a quantum universe. Dear sweet 
old Einstein, who couldn't accept his own unsettling equations, 
was denounced as evil and immoral by Catholic bishops and sober 
theologians who sensed how unsettling and revolutionary these new 
ideas could be. Ethical relativity is still the mortal sin of 
religious fundamentalists.

     The baby boom generation has grown up in an electronic world 
of TV and personal computing screens. The cyberpunks offer 
metaphors, rituals, life styles for dealing with the universe of 
information. More and more of us are becoming electro-shamans, 
modern alchemists.
     Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of 
magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to 
friends distant or dead. Writings of Paracelsus describe a mirror 
of ELECTRUM MAGICUM with telegenic properties, and crystal scrying 
was in its heyday.
     Today, digital alchemists have at their command tools of a 
precision and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer 
screens ARE magical mirrors, presenting alternate realities at 
varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation). Aleister 
Crowley defined magick as "the art and science of causing change 
to occur in conformity with our will," and to this end the 
computer is the universal level of Archimedes.
     The parallels between the culture of the alchemists and that 
of cyberpunk computer adepts are inescapable. Both employ 
knowledge of an occult arcanum unknown to the population at large, 
with secret symbols and words of power. The "secret symbols" 
comprise the languages of computers and mathematics, and the 
"words of power" instruct computer operating systems to complete 
Herculean tasks. Knowing the precise code name of a digital 
program permits it to be conjured into existence, transcending the 
labor of muscular or mechanical search or manufacture.
     Rites of initiation or apprenticeship are common to both. 
"Psychic feats" of telepathy and action-at-a-distance are achieved 
by selection of the menu option.


     Alchemists of the Middle Ages believed quite correctly that 
their cosmos was composed of four elements: earth, air, fire and 
water. Although today our periodic table sports more than 100 
chemical elements, the four universal elements still can be 
identified as the constituents of some processes in the external 
reality, and within the inner psychological world of humankind.
     Each of the four elements is an archetype and a metaphor, a 
convenient and appropriate name for a universally identified 
quality. The four are echoed in the organization of both the four 
suits and the four "court cards" of each suit of the Tarot, 
inherited from the Egyptians and its symbolism preserved in 
ordinary Western playing cards. The four also correspond to the 
four principal tools of the classical practitioner of ceremonial 
     The wand of the magician represents the phallic male creative 
force, fire. The cup stands for the female receptive force, and, 
obviously enough, is associated with water. the sword is the 
incisive intellect, moving and severing the air, the abstraction 
in which it moves. Finally, the pantacle (disk) is the grounding 
in earth (magnetic material), the stored algorithms. (We use 
Crowley's spelling of pentacle, which communicates the sense of 
"all and everything," advisedly.)

     These classical instruments of magick exist in modern cyber 
technology: The mouse or pen of the digitizing tablet is the wand, 
controlling the fire of the CRT display and harnessing the 
creative force of the programmer. It is used in all invocations 
and ritual as a tool of command. Spinning disk drives are the 
pantacles, inscribed with complex symbols, earthen tablets to 
receive the input of "air," the crackling dynamic ethereal 
intellectual electricity of the processor chip circuitry 
programming results. The RAM chips are, literally, the buffers 
("buffer pools"), the water, the passive element capable of only 
receiving impressions and re-transmitting, reflecting.
     Iconic visual programming languages are a Tarot, the 
pictorial summation of all possibilities, activated for the 
purpose of divination by juxtaposition and mutual influence. A 
periodic table of possibilities, the Western form of the Eastern
I Ching. Traditional word-oriented programming languages, FORTRAN, 
COBOL, and the rest, are a degenerate form of these universal 
systems, grimoires of profit-oriented corporations.
     Detailed database logs of the activity of operating systems 
from the Akashic records on a microscale. At a macroscopic level, 
this is the "world net" knowledge base, the "knoesphere," the 
world-wide online hypertext network of information soon to be 
realized by the storage capacity of CD ROM and the data 
transmission capability of optical fiber. William Gibson's 
cyberspace matrix.
     Banishing rituals debug programs, and friendly djinn are 
invoked for compiling, searching, and other mundane tasks. When 
the magic circle is broken (segmentation violation), the system 
collapses. Personal transmutation (the ecstasy of the "ultimate 
hack") is a veiled goal of both systems. The satori of harmonious 
human-computer communication resulting from the infinite regress 
into meta-levels of reflection of self is the reward for 
immaculate conceptualization and execution of ideas.
     The universality of 0 and 1 throughout magic and religion: 
yin and yang, yoni and lingam, cup and wand, are manifested today 
in digital signals, the two bits underlying the implementation of 
all digital programs in the world, in our brains and in our 
operating systems. Stretching it a bit, even the monad, symbol of 
change and the Tao, visually resembles a superimposed 0 and 1 when 
its curving central line is stretched through the action of 
centrifugal force from the ever-increasing speed of the monad's 


     By the year 2000, Aleister Crowley, William Gibson, and 
Edward Fredkin could well replace Benjamin Spock as a Baby Boom 
navigator. Why? Because, by then the concerns of the baby boom 
generation will be digital. (Or, to use the old paradigms, 
     During their childhood they were Mouseketeers. In their teens 
the Cybers went on an adolescent spiritual binge unequalled since 
the Children's Crusade. In their revolt against the factory 
culture they re-invented and updated their tribal-pagan roots and 
experimented with Hinduism, Haight-Ashbury Buddhism, American 
Indianism, Magic, Witchcraft, Ann Arbor Voo Doo, Esalen Yoga, 
Computerized I Ching Taoism, 3-D Reincarnation, Fluid Druidism. 
St. Stephen Jobs to the Ashram!
     Born-again Paganism! Pan-Dionysius on audio-visual cassettes. 
Mick Jagger had them sympathizing with the devil. The Beatles had 
them floating upstream on the Ganges. Jimi Hendrix taught them how 
to be a voodoo child. Is there one pre-Christian or third world 
metaphor for divinity that some rock group has not yet celebrated 
on an album cover?


     The Boomers in the evolving life-cycle seem to have 
recapitulated the theological history of our species. Just as 
monotheism emerged to unify pagan tribes into nations, so did the 
Boomers re-discover fundamentalist Judaism and Christianity in 
their young adulthood.
     Even far-away Islam attracted gourmet Blacks and ex-hippies 
such as Cat Stevens. Bob Dylan nicely exemplifies the consumer 
approach to religion. For 25 years Bob (ne Zimmerman) has 
continued to browse through the spiritual boutiques dabbing on a 
dash of Baptist "born-again," nibbling at Hassidism before 
returning to his ole-time faith of sardonic reformed humanism.
     We can laugh at this trendy shopping around for the custom-
tailored designer god, but behind the faddism we find a powerful 
     Notice how Dylan, for example, preserves his options and 
tries to avoid shoddy of off-the-rack soul-ware. No "plastic 
christs that glow in the dark" for Bob! The religion here is 
Evolutionism, based on the classic humanist, transcendental 

1.   God is not a tribal father nor a feudal lord nor an engineer-
     manager of the universe. There is no god (in the singular) 
     except you at the moment. There are as many gods (in the 
     plural) as can be imagined. Call them whatever you like.
     They are free agents like you and me.

2.   You can change and mutate and keep improving. The idea is to
     keep "trading up" to a "better" philosophy-theology.

3.   The aim of your life, following Buddha, Krishna, Gurdjieff,
     Werner Erhart, Shirley, is this:
     Take care of your self so you can take care of others. If 

     This generation, we recall, had been disillusioned by the 
religions, politics, & economics of their parents. Growing up with 
the threat of nuclear war, the assassination of beloved leaders, 
immune deficiencies, a collapsing industrial system, an impossible 
national debt, religious fundamentalisms (Christian-Jewish-
Islamic) that fanatically scream hatred and intolerance, and 
uncomprehending neglect of the ecology, they have developed a 
healthy skepticism about collective solutions.
     They can't retreat back home because Mom and Dad are 
     No wonder they have created a psychology of individual 
navigation. Singularity. The basic idea is self-responsibility. 
You just can't depend on anyone else to solve your problems. You 
gotta do it all by yourself -- With a little help from your 


     Since God #1 appears to be held hostage back there by the 
blood-thirsty Persian Ayatollah, by the telegenic Polish Pope and 
the Moral Majority, there's only one logical alternative. You 
"steer" your own course. You start your own religion. The Temple 
is your body. Your mind writes the theology. And the Holy Spirit 
emanates from that infinitely mysterious intersection between your 
brain and your DNA.
     The attainment of even the suburbs of Paradise involves good 
navigation and planning on your part. Hell is a series of 
redeemable errors. A detour caused by failure to check the trip-
maps. A losing streak. Many people are carefully conditioned from 
birth to live in hell. As children, they are largely ignored until 
something happens to cause them pain or injury. Then, mommy and 
daddy quickly lavish aid, attention, succor, positive 
reinforcement. When "all grown up," and in the world alone to make 
choices, what kind of choices are going to result from those many 
years of conditioning? It's no wonder so many people seem to live 
in hell, to live pained lives of mishaps and broken dreams. Of 
course, by realizing this we can begin to decondition ourselves 
towards healthy hedonism. Reward yourself for making choices that 
lead to pleasure, and build a cybernetic cycle of positive 
feedback. Only from the state of free selfhood can any truly 
compassionate signals be sent to others.


     The management and piloting of a Singularity leads to a very 
busy career. Since the Crowley-Gibson-Fredkin Individual has 
established herself as a religion, a country, a corporation, an 
information network, and a neurological universe, it is necessary 
to maintain personal equivalents for all the departments and 
operations of the bureaucracies that perform these duties.
     This apparently means forming private alliances, formulating 
personal political platforms, conducting your own domestic and 
foreign relations, establishing trade policies, defense and 
security programs, educational and recreational events. On the 
upside, one is free from dependence upon bureaucracies, an 
inestimable boon. (Free agents can, of course, make temporary 
deals with organizations and officials thereof.)
     And if countries have histories and myths, why shouldn't you?


     So you search and research your very own genetic memory 
banks, the Old Testaments of your DNA-RNA, including, if you like, 
past incarnations and Jungian archetypes. And funky pre-
incarnations in any future you can imagine!
     You write your very own Newest Testament, recalling that 
voluntary martyrdom is tacky and crucifixions, like nuclear war, 
can ruin your day.
     You can do anything the great religions, empires and racial 
groups have done in the name of their God #1. and you're certain 
to do it better because... well, look at their track records. 
There's no way your Personal State could produce the persecutions, 
massacres and bigotries of the Big Guys.
     Why? Because there's only one of you, and even with the help 
of your friends the amount of damage an individual can do is 
insignificant compared with the evil-potential of a collective.
     Besides, you're a child of the 60s. You're imprinted to want 
a peaceful, tolerant, funny world. You can choose your gods to be 
smart, funny, compassionate, cute and goofy.


     It has been suggested that the philosophic assignment of the 
Roaring 20th Century was to prepare the human species for the 
shifting realities of Quantum Physics and Singular Steering.
     Relativity means that everyone "sees" or reacts to things 
differently, depending upon location, velocity and attitude (angle 
of approach). 
     The relativistic insight is in essence irreverent or 
humorous, i.e., laughable, comical, delightful. With the law of 
gravity repealed, levity is the order of the day. We rise through 
our levity, instead of being held down by our gravity.
     The word "humor" comes from the Latin word for liquid or 
fluid, referring to such qualities as flowing, pliable, smooth, 
effortless, easily changed, non-frictional, transparent, shining, 
musical, graceful in motion and readily converted into cash.


     Through science and technology we will meet the aliens, and 
they will be us.
                       -- Norman Spinrad, "The Neuromantics"

     Information-beings of the future may well be fluid. Human 
society has now reached a turning point in the operation of the 
digital programs of evolution, a point at which the next 
evolutionary steps of the species become apparent to us, to surf 
as we will. Or, more correctly, as the evolutionary programs run 
and run, the next stages pop up in parallel, resulting in 
continuing explosions of unexpected diversity. Our concepts of 
what is known as "human" continually change. For example, we are 
no longer as dependent on physical fitness for survival. Our 
quantum appliances and improved mechanical devices can generally 
provide the requisite means or defenses. In the near future, the 
methods of information technology, molecular engineering, 
biotechnology, nanotechnology (atom stacking) and quantum-digital 
programming could make the human form a matter totally determined 
by individual whim, style and seasonal choice.
     Humans already come in some variety of races and sizes. In 
comparison to what "human" might mean within the next century, we 
humans are at present as indistinguishable from one another as are 
hydrogen molecules. Along with the irrational taboo about death, 
the sanctity of our body image seems to be one of the most 
persistent anachronisms of Industrial Age thought.
     We see evolutions of the human form in the future; one more 
biological-like: a bio/computer hybrid of any desired form -- and 
one not biological at all: an "electronic entity" in the digital 
     Human-AS-programs, and human-IN-programs.
     Of these two post-humanist views, human-as-programs is more 
easily conceived. Today, we have crude prosthetic implants, 
artificial limbs, valves, and entire organs. The continuing 
improvements in the old-style mechanical technology slowly 
increase the thoroughness of brain/external-world integration. A 
profound change can come with the developments of biotechnology, 
genetic engineering, and the slightly more remote success of 
     The electronic form of human-in-programs is more alien to our 
current conceptions of humanity. Through storage of one's belief 
systems as data structures online, driven by desired programs 
one's neuronal apparatus should operate in silicon basically as it 
dead on the meatware of the brain, though faster, more accurately, 
more self-mutably, and, if desired, immortally.
     Clever cyberpunks will of course not only store themselves 
electronically, but do so in the form of a "computer virus," 
capable of traversing computer networks and of self-replicating as 
a guard against accidental or malicious erasure by others, or 
other programs. (Imagine the somewhat droll scenario: "What's on 
this CD?" "Ah, that's just that boring adolescent Leary. Let's go 
ahead and reformat it.")
     One speculation is that such viral human forms might ALREADY 
inhabit our computer systems. Cleverly designed, they would be 
very difficult, if not theoretically impossible to detect. 
     Current programs do not permit matching the real-time 
operation speed and parallel complexity of conventional brains. 
But time scale of operation is subjective and irrelevant, except 
for the purposes of interface.
     Of course, there is no reason one needs to restrict one's 
manifestation to a particular form. One will basically (within 
ever-loosening physical constraints, though perhaps inescapable 
economic constraints) be able to assume any desired form.
     Authors of current science fiction of the cyberpunk or 
"neuromantic" school have approached this idea from many angles. 
Bruce Sterling's novel SCHISMATRIX recognizes the fact that human 
evolution moves in clades, radiating omnidirectionally, not moving 
in a line along a single path. His "Mechs" and "Shapers" 
correspond closely with our notions of electronic and biogenetic 
paths to evolutionary diversity.
     Given the ease of copying computer-stored information, it 
should be possible to exist simultaneously in many forms. Where 
the "I's" are in this situation is a matter for digital 
philosophers. Our belief is that consciousness would persist in 
each form, running independently, cloned at each branch point.