Walkers Between Worlds

Pokemon Streetview

Throughout history, humans have have believed in, and sometimes hunted for, creatures that are not of this world. From medieval occultists who attempted to invoke angels and demons via magick circles, invocations and amulets, to modern-day ghosthunters with their electronic devices, invisible, incorporeal entities have sometimes been as much a part of the landscape as the everyday physical objects surrounding us that we can touch and see.

The modern, scientific view has these entities as products of the imagination; our pattern-seeking minds combining with our evolutionary survival instincts and desire to feel in control, to create phantoms out of nothing. The 'other world' does not exist; its imaginary denizens therefore cannot invade our own world and affect us, as they don't exist in the first place.

How ironic, then, that the modern scientific world has now created its own 'other world' - the world of computer-generated, virtual realities - and the creatures that populate any of those worlds can now manifest within our own plane through augmented/mixed reality. For those with phones to see...

This month, the infernal gates to this other world were thrown open. Within a week of its release, the game Pokémon Go amassed a similar number of active users to that of Twitter - with all those players running about their neighbourhoods, seeking the incorporeal monsters now inhabiting our environment, that can only be seen through a special, magical scrying device.

Unlike the rare and much-sought-after occult tools of yesteryear, however, this scrying device is a near-ubiquitous piece of equipment that lives in most people’s pockets or handbags. And while the augmented reality of Pokémon Go may be a reasonably crude first step (though that is of course, relative to what the future holds), as new devices are created and eventually offered to the mass market - such as Microsoft’s ‘HoloLens’, and the much-discussed upcoming product from Magic Leap - the other planes of ‘reality’ available to us will become more and more ‘real’ in their fidelity and detail.

In effect, we are all going to become ‘walkers between worlds’...

Move the dial one way, and you get reality. Move the dial the other way, and you get virtual reality. Now imagine dialling your entire environment between virtual, and real worlds.

I would imagine those people who have undertaken serious practice of ritual magick, or shamanic journeys via psychedelics, would find the way technology can now overlay other realities on our own rather intriguing, in multiple ways.

Firstly, on a philosophical level: if these coherent realities can emerge simply from within the 1s and 0s of a computer chip, could it be argued that the worlds occultists and shamans visit - sometimes elsewhere, sometimes overlaid on our own reality - are also coherent planes of information, only able to be accessed via certain technologies? Could DMT visions be considered, rather than a nonsense hallucination, actually an overlay of the same type, allowing us to see things that do exist, but are not visible without the necessary equipment?

What is the ontological status of even computer-generated holograms? They are not physically there, but you could eventually set them up to ‘augment’ your senses and show what is there but you can’t see (outside of your umwelt) - e.g. an overlay of the magnetic fields you are walking through. And if a scary VR experience can affect your body - from making you sweat, to raising your heart rate (or perhaps even causing a heart attack?) - can we really describe it as ‘imaginary’, and with no real-world effects?

Philosopher David Chalmers addressed this question in a recent video interview posted at Aeon:

I’m inclined to think that if we’re in a virtual reality and that’s been our environment for a long time, and we’re interacting with it, it’s not clear to me whether that’s any less real…more and more of the interactions we actually have are becoming virtual. I can at least imagine the day when, once we have so many virtual interactions, that life in this virtual world begins to seem at least as appealing as, say, a trip to Mars. It’s going to be a new destination, it’s going to be different from our old reality, but it’s nevertheless, a reality.

Secondly, on a practical level: can the development of technologically augmented reality enhance the experience of occultists, shamans and would-be mystics; be used as a tool to take things to the next level? Already, I have seen mention from a few practitioners of magick about the possibility of using computer-generated environments - for example, in conducting a simple Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram:

LBRP using Tiltbrush

In a recent interview, Alan Moore mentioned his interest in virtual reality (begins around 39:10) being piqued by the realisation that people can share an experience, "in a space that doesn’t actually exist in this continuum, but yet is a real experience”. His suggestion, rather than thinking about using it to play an adrenaline-pumping 3D shooter, was...

What about spiritual experiences? What about these difficult to reach, transcendent spaces that we hear about from the world’s various religions and mystical systems? Why don’t you do that with virtual reality? Why don’t you see what happens? Because, what is the difference between a ‘real’ mystical experience, and a virtual mystical experience?

A preliminary exploration of this idea can be found in this ‘immersive’ 360° music video made by film-maker Logi Hilmarsson, which is "designed to put the viewer in a mystical state, taking him through visions one can get in a deep meditative or psychedelic state" (made for watching in VR headset, though if you don’t own one, you can still click and drag the video to understand the concept behind it).

On the other hand, is our imagination the crucial ingredient in exploring the ‘other worlds’ of magick and mysticism? Is using augmented reality only going to weaken that fundamental tool, weakening our mystical muscle?

I don’t really have any answers to the questions posed in this article. But I would certainly enjoy hearing all of your thoughts (and own questions) about it, as the topic fascinates me, and as technology progresses things will only get more interesting!

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emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
15 hours 26 min

An earlier virtual reality was...books.

earthling's picture
Member since:
22 November 2004
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20 hours 8 min

Indeed. And before books there were story tellers. There still are story tellers actually. But the important part of the story happens in the mind of the listener,

That is why many people find books more inspiring than movies, and why story telling won't go away: our imagination is better than virtual reality or movies.

----
We are the cat.

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
6 hours 54 min
emlong wrote:

An earlier virtual reality was...books.

Most definitely! And they used our own imaginations very heavily, while modern tech may not. Though there are also upsides to modern virtual worlds, in terms of things like interactivity.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things
@DailyGrail

Chris Savia's picture
Member since:
4 February 2014
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7 hours 29 min
emlong wrote:

An earlier virtual reality was...books.

No, psychedelics.

Interdum taurus est victor.

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
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2 hours 45 min

A hag stone is any stone, usually found on a beach, with a hole worn into it that the ancients saw as a gateway between this world and the faerie kingdom. By looking through that hole, you were effectively peering into another dimension that looked like ours but had a few extras. Pokemon GO and our phones has become that hag stone, allowing us to see what's not there to the naked eye. Isn't interesting to note the evolution of seeing into other worlds? First the stones, then the scryers and crystal balls, then TV, computers and now our phones. Imagine bringing back Dr. Dee and showing him Pokemon GO. This is a device that allows you to peer into other worlds. What a fascinating revelation!

Great article, thanks for writing! Sadly my phone can't get GO but that's okay because I'm more of a Gen 2 and 3 fan.

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
6 hours 54 min
LastLoup wrote:

A hag stone is any stone, usually found on a beach, with a hole worn into it that the ancients saw as a gateway between this world and the faerie kingdom. By looking through that hole, you were effectively peering into another dimension that looked like ours but had a few extras. Pokemon GO and our phones has become that hag stone, allowing us to see what's not there to the naked eye.

Love it! Wish I had of known that before writing the article, I would definitely have used it. In any case, am now going to refer to my iPhone as my hag stone. ;)

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things
@DailyGrail

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
Last activity:
2 hours 45 min

Happy to have taught you something new. Thanks Greg!

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................

purrlgurrl's picture
Member since:
21 June 2008
Last activity:
5 hours 5 min

Played it....meh.

Not up the to hype, IMO.

earthling's picture
Member since:
22 November 2004
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20 hours 8 min

I suggest that consumption of this kind of thing weakens our imagination.

It is not our imagination that is being employed here. We are just supposed to consume someone elses imagination. Like watching a movie, as opposed to reading a book - everything is pre-chewed and pre-digested for the consumer.

Even with a van Gogh painting, the imagination is still your own. It is directed by the painter in a certain direction, but the image is incomplete enough so the viewer needs to fill in a lot.

----
We are the cat.

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
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15 hours 26 min

http://www.truecovenanter.com/against_th...

"Thus, also, to draw an imaginary man, like nature in his feelings and his conduct, is the hardest task of literary genius, although the picture, when finished, may seem so simple and easy. It is an exploit utterly beyond the reach of our herd of novelists. I fearlessly assert that, even though their intentions and principles were pure, and their scenes undefiled by pictures of vice, the views of human life and of the human heart which they give would not be true to nature, but unnatural, exaggerated and absurd. They do not truly paint the springs of human conduct and feeling. The men and women who flaunt on their fantastic pages are not the men and women with whom the reader has to deal in real life.'

earthling's picture
Member since:
22 November 2004
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20 hours 8 min

Actually I often have an opposite experience when reading novels. The characters "look" like people I know, or people I have seen in movies. This is often contrary to even the description in the novel.

Similar things happen in dreams to me - I mix up some real world people that have similar character traits (or I perceive them like that), and a merged actor that is a combination of these shows up in my dreams.

----
We are the cat.

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
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15 hours 26 min

My point was that sounding the alarm about new virtual realities goes back a long way in history.

earthling's picture
Member since:
22 November 2004
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20 hours 8 min

Indeed, there is always the fear of the new methods.

There is story telling as we all do, in social settings. And then there is the technical story telling. The kind that Homer did, with the rhymes and rhythms to keep the story repeatable, more accurately. Where rhymes and rhythms serve as error-correcting methods.

I'm not sure - did the neolithic painters pre-date the technical story telling? I don't even know what kind of spoken language was in use at the time.

And then I just now thought about languages with no significant vowels, and writing systems. And I had to correct the spelling of "rhythms".

----
We are the cat.

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
6 hours 54 min

earthling wrote:
I suggest that consumption of this kind of thing weakens our imagination.

It is not our imagination that is being employed here. We are just supposed to consume someone elses imagination. Like watching a movie, as opposed to reading a book - everything is pre-chewed and pre-digested for the consumer.

That is my concern too. Though I think there is good and bad to be looked at.

Quote:
Even with a van Gogh painting, the imagination is still your own. It is directed by the painter in a certain direction, but the image is incomplete enough so the viewer needs to fill in a lot.

In that case...Pokemon Gogh? :P

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things
@DailyGrail

LastLoup's picture
Member since:
6 April 2010
Last activity:
2 hours 45 min

Freakin' Zubats appear everywhere! *LastLoup used Repel*

...I forgot how I got here but everyone seems to be heading off in that direction. I hope someone brought food. I have a feeling this is going to be a long journey................