20 July 2005

The spiritual in design

I was just leaving some back-and-forth comments on Michael's Flickr page, in regards to some Canadian logotypes that were being discussed in Dose last week, and I think I may be coming closer to finding this link between magic and design. For lack of better terms, my little brain is beginning to assemble the necessary bridges in order to fathom a theory of esoteric design.

In no way am I a designer deserving of high and mighty praise, I work off of observation of European and New York pop culture, and primarily by intuition. But I will admit that a few designers have shared with me a perspective of technical brilliance in design. And as of tonight, this was my first major epitome of realising an esoteric design: it has to do with ego.

I was watching the documentary thing on Louis I. Khan today, My Architect, and one gentleman made an interesting and beautifully simple analogy between Jewish mystical thought and Khan's architecture: that God is in the details.

And earlier still, I was at the MADE in Edmonton meeting at Manasc Isaac Architects and there were two new guys there, students from the U of A, and I found myself conversing artistic versus technical approaches to design. I sounded a lot like Mike down in Calgary, though not consciously repeating his role as technical designer. (Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful artist in his own right and shaped what I consider to be most of Edmonton's urban trends in Old Strathcona through the early 1990s through his role at Divine Decadence.) I think I just "see the light" now, as it is.

The reason this has come about is most likely due to my recent and frequent comfortabilities with the concepts of free will versus determinism. The whole fucking thing is paradox: I wish I were more articulate sometimes, but in regards to will, the only way to achieve free will to do anything, by my current analyses, is to give up on it. No wonder this crap is so hard to teach, how do you make a message out of that? To gain something is to give it up.

By acknowledging free will as illusory, by playing along with divinity and allowing the myth of your life to come to fruition — the pursuit of dharma by sloughing off karmic response — we can, over time, come to an understanding with what we deem reality. It's like when I teach the Witchcraft & Occult Class, I stress that when a sigil is cast that it will cause as much change in the caster as it will in the manifest world by which to bring about its change. Accepting responsibility for one's own myth, that the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows are equal, then there is a shift in interaction with one's environments — both external and internal.

With every acceptance, the capability for one to grasp at free will comes to. As Karlfried Graf D├╝rckheim put it, "When you're on a journey, and the end keeps getting further and further away, then you realize that the real end is the journey."

I guess the easiest way to put it is that once you can see we all share a path, and that perception lies in deep meditation and altered states, but it's there, then there is no reason to exact free will upon the world. To react against the illusion of maya is to be its prisoner.
In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, maya is the illusion of a limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled, a veiling of the true, unitary Self, also known as Brahman. Maya originated in the Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. Many philosphies or religions seek to "pierce the veil" in order to glimpse the transcendent truth, from which the illusion of a physical reality springs, drawing from the idea that first came to life in the Hindu stream of Vedanta.

In Hinduism, Maya must be seen through in order to achieve moksha (liberation of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth) — ahamkar (ego-consciousness) and karma are seen as part of the binding forces of Maya. Maya is seen as the phenomenal universe, a lesser reality-lens superimposed on the one Brahman that leads us to think of the phenomenal cosmos as real.

With every year, what Baumle put forth in a prior post becomes more and more apparent to me: Paramahansa Yogananda wrote, "The iron filings of Karma are only attracted to the magnet of the ego."

Moving on… what does this have to do with design?

I remember speaking to a fellow by the name of SatsUrn on OccultForums.com some time ago. He works as a physicist in the U.S. dealing with electromagnetic radiation and had gotten involved in the occult with his interest in sacred geometry in ancient temples. Turns out that much of the ancient holy architects had some sort of esoteric knowledge of how particular angles, shapes, dimensions, and spaces could warp and affect the natural electromagnetic forces and other radiations and/or energies that were naturally occurrent. These structures could also focus human energies while within and, for lack of better terms, magnify or amplify them. Thus, sacred temples were actually, yes, houses of the gods. Not in that they were hanging out in the rafters looking down upon us, but as it welled up exotic energies that essentially entrained the people within to be drawn into either ecstatic states or lower EEG states, perhaps from the normal, waking beta state down to more introspective, "mystical" states that are normal when the mind's EEG is entrained to alpha or theta waves.

In art, it is the realm of the artist to exact their inner visions of reality upon a canvas, whether it be clay or by brush. We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. But a designer learns the tenets of her or his craft in order to bring an order, hierarchy, and structure to that which there is apparently none — something especially true in an "Age of Information," an age named after an abstraction. The methods of magic are similar in that the will of the individual is fixed and, through a projection of desire into the substratum of reality, events unfold that can bring about changes in apparent accord to the magician's will. It is an attempt to place an abstract order of control over the randomness of life.

(Well, we could go into a number of areas of magic, from chaos magic to Goetic evocations, whatever, but for simplicity's sake I am just spewing my verbal diarrhea here.)

Design and magic are quite similar in this nature:—

DESIGN, from Wikipedia
Design as a process can take many forms depending on the object being designed and the individual or individuals participating.

In the context of the applied arts, engineering, architecture and other such creative endeavours, design is both a noun and a verb. Design in its verb context is the process of originating and developing a plan for an aesthetic and functional object, which usually requires considerable research, thought, modelling, iterative adjustment and re-design. As a noun, design is used both for the final plan of action (a drawing, model or other description), or the result of following that plan of action (the object produced).

In philosophy, the abstract noun design refers to purpose/purposefulness, or teleology. Design is thus contrasted with purposelessness, randomness, or lack of complexity.

MAGIC, Crowley's oft-repeated definition
Aleister Crowley preferred the spelling magick, defining it as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will." By this, he included "mundane" acts of will as well as ritual magic. In Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XIV, Crowley says:

What is a Magical Operation? It may be defined as any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will. We must not exclude potato-growing or banking from our definition. Let us take a very simple example of a Magical Act: that of a man blowing his nose.

There was also a quick definition of design that I saw recently that stated, simply, design as the conscious act of doing something for a particular reason(s).

Designer as sorcerer… Magic as design… Information as a the most basic construct of a holographic world… Observation as imprisonment…?

The ideas will come in time. But now I sleep.


lvx23 said...

There's been a lot of convergage between the international psychedelia of the 60's and design trends over the last 20 years. In a sense, it's part of the ongoing process of humanity's exteriorization of the soul. Design manifests spirit into the kingdom.

You Wrote: "...when a sigil is cast... it will cause as much change in the caster as it will in the manifest world by which to bring about its change."

I'm starting to feel that there's a feedback loop between the two as well. The more change brought about in the caster, the greater the impact on the world. The sigil (or any magickal act) needs to be sent through the caster in order to be effectively charged. The caster is an amplifier and a portal through which the conscious will can become manifest within the quantum plenum. I'm thinking of the human bodymind as a nonlocal quantum device that accretes out of the hologram into our 4D world, though I can't yet articulate this clearly (and I'm starting to ramble).

lvx23 said...

I'd also suggest that the convergence of design and psychedelia serves the marketing agenda well by inducing a degree of trance in the viewer while delivering the sigilic brand. I wouldn't be the first to suggest that magick and marketing are in some ways very similar.

tim boucher said...

yeah, i'm feeling it... im so close to being able to put what youre saying into words here fell. so close - the thing that kicked it over for me was i think just seeing the definitions of design and magick next to each other like that.

one of the things i wonder is - in terms of this whole occult design thing - is do we even need to use words like sigil? do we need the occult content at all, at least initially? what if we made up some kind of neologisms that described the same processes employed by chaos magickians, but without any references to magick or esoterica at all?

put another way: does the occult content of these techniques help or hinder their delivery to a wider design audience?

i absolutely love the idea of creating a magickal path around the field of design - now that im starting to get more of a feel for what you mean by it. like meditation techniques for designers, charging up logos, etc. a focus on the internal states of the designer, and the internal states of the audience, rather than so much about the formal aspects of design. i think theres a really huge potential here, and it somehow crosses what im doing right now, so ill try to cook the two together in my head and see what happens