11 October 2005

A Metaphysics of Human Interface

This was a portion of what I was working on for Stanford d.school’s magazine, Ambidextrous. Unfortunately, late time constraints and busy work schedule kept me from re-writing it to incorporate the upcoming theme of the issue. (This version takes an overly broad interpretation of the issue’s theme of interface.) I'll keep my eyes open and perhaps write for them under the auspice of a different theme.

It was toned down from a few pages of notes, so it's going to be a very brief intro to the concept of sigila. Also, you can click on the above image to view the full sketchy illustration.
“A Metaphysics of Human Interface”
by Don Eglinski

We define metaphysics as the philosophy that examines the nature of reality, the connection of mind and matter, of “being” (ontology). Interface, as the aggregate of means by which users interact with a complex system, device, or tool. User input allows control of the system, while system output provides the users of the results, also called feedback. System feedback may be regulated by cybernetics. From cybernetics’ point of view, it is possible to consider the whole universe in terms of data and data processing. Here, I propose a simple experiment from the field of contemporary esotericism: a simple request made by a user in order to accrue a procedural knowledge of phenomenon, with which the experimenter can further explore to her or his delight.

In his essay “Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms,” Mark Defrates speaks of artist and magus Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) and his original approach to establishing communication with the universe via a subconscious interface. Spare explores the concept of a complex system, referred to here simply as “energy,” that humans may interface with:
Spare stated unequivocally that the … force that interpenetrates all phenomena is non-human. Moreover, Spare required the [user], in order to avail himself of this force, to renounce his human belief systems, his dualistic mind, to achieve a state of consciousness that, as much as possible, mimicked the primordial.
Spare wrote that such input could acquiesce in desirable feedback by designing commands in “the reduction of [their] properties to simplicity,” beyond human precept. For the sake of a result that you will be able to recognize, I want to illustrate a basic request for affirmation—that there is, indeed, feedback correlating to the initial input.

Defrates goes on to posit that “Spare believed that it was essential to base [a process of input] in a state of … simplicity and pure self. This is a state where, however briefly, the mind has ceased its chattering, its continual discourse, and is in a state that can most easily be achieved by exhaustion, but may also be a result of sex, alcohol, or today, even watching television until the mind has become numb and mute.” Let’s suppose that a small personal phenomenon will make for a satisfactory piece of output datum. In this, the input must be devoid of affects of the ego in order to integrate with the id—our interface.

I COMMAND THE UNIVERSE TO PROVIDE ME WITH A SHOCKING EXPLOSION

Of course, this is fairly vague and can be interpreted subjectively in any number of ways. The simpler the request, the easier it may be for the user to learn the interface and resultant output. Feel free to change it to involve seeing a woman (or man) in a red dress, or a flurry of balloons if you so wish. Make it personal. But start it out with “I COMMAND” or “IT IS MY WILL” or “I DESIRE,” some sort of control function.

To input the command, we must translate it into a symbol in order to “as much as possible, mimic the primordial.” This symbol, called a sigil, will retain the subjective notion of the command, but eschews the human formalities of linguistics and semantics.

Remove all of the vowels and any repeating letter after the first instance of it:—

I COMMAND THE UNIVERSE TO PROVIDE ME WITH A SHOCKING EXPLOSION

becomes

C M N D T H V R S P W K G X L

We’ve stripped any linguistic nuance from the initial command, providing a series of elementary letters (graphemes). But farther yet, the remaining letters must be reduced to a simple mark, a personal symbol bordering on the edge of artistic intuition and that of a rudimentary glyph. The act of rearranging these remaining graphemes into a nonfigurative sigil is necessary for input unto the primordial in that it further simplifies and removes it from most varieties of egoistic or semantic semblance of the original command. The only remaining associations to it remain in memory and the subconscious mind. Let intuition take over and just create something that feels right; there is no right or wrong way.

The act of building the command was in itself enough to create a reference to it in the subconscious mind, but the actual command itself must now be input. For the sake of example, use the ecstatic state that arises via orgasm to achieve brief accessibility to the subconscious. It is here that the sigil may be input, unfettered by the activity of the waking, conscious mind. This is accomplished at the peak of orgasm: Picture the sigil in your mind’s eye. With the proprioceptive exultation that embodies orgasm, “blast” the sigil away from yourself into the abyss just beyond your own senses. Here, the abyss is the façade beyond which the machinations of the universe whirl away—John Locke’s veil of perception.

You’ve now input your command. Because the ego is not privy to the effects of the subconscious mind, we needn’t worry about interfering with the command embodied in the sigil. The only step left after input is forgetting the initial command. By pondering the results, the user unintentionally applies an abstract semiology unto the sigil created. This corrupts the original intent. Often, the hardest part of this method is just letting go of the original command and letting the results appear as they will. Rid yourself of the original sigil, perhaps in a manner befitting your own personal theological or emotional symbolism. Try to occupy your mind with other things, or input more than one sigil over a few days. This way, the user isn’t so expectant of one particular result and won’t corrupt it so.

Once results are noticeable, one may explore further commands and begin to develop a personal understanding of the nature of the system.

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Interestingly, Wikipedia states that recent studies in the philosophy and science of perception, “recent fMRI studies show that dreams, imaginings, and perceptions of similar things such as faces are accompanied by activity in many of the same areas of brain. It seems that imagery that originates from the senses and internally generated imagery may have a shared ontology at higher levels of cortical processing.”

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