Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Voodoo in the Digital Realm

"Voodoo isn't like that," Beauvoir said. "It isn't concerned with notions of salvation and transcendence. What it's about is getting things done. You follow me? In our system, there are many gods, spirits. Part of one big family, with all the virtues, all the vices... Voodoo says there's God, sure, Gran Met, but he's big, too big, and too far away to worry himself if your ass is poor, or you can't get laid... Voodoo's like the street. Some duster chops out your sister, so you don't camp out on the Yakuza's doorstep, do you? No way. You go to somebody who can get the thing done. Right?”

- from Count Zero by William Gibson

Everything I know about voodoo, I learned from Ishmael Reed’s brilliant novel, “Mumbo Jumbo.” Mumbo Jumbo is nothing less than a satiric, sardonic, conspiracy infused deconstruction of Western civilization. The novel chronicles the struggle between the insidious viral meme: “Jes Grew” and the Wallflower Order (read: illuminati). Jes Grew is evidenced by the outbreak of ragtime, jazz and blues on the streets of America. Jes Grew is a psychic epidemic… it is the archetypical spirit of Mother Africa overtaking and infecting American culture during the roaring 20's.

Jes Grew is a mind virus, which enlivens its victims into dancing, swinging, singing and talking crazy. The Wallflower Order is opposed to dancing and is desperately struggling to stamp out Jes Grew before it undermines the planned New World Order completely. Following the plot’s line of logic to today, Jes Grew has virally expanded to include rock n roll, reggae (of course), punk, hip hop & rap.

Everything I know about cyberspace, I learned from William Gibson’s “Sprawl Trilogy” and “Bridge Trilogy” …especially book two of the Bridge Trilogy, “Idoru.” Although book one of the Sprawl trilogy, Neuromancer… is the definitive go-to source for all things cyberspace, Idoru aggregated cyberspace, the music industry and artificial intelligence as pop-media personality. This imaginative blend of social modalities sums up our emerging zeitgeist.

These two trilogies also predict a future analogous to the technological singularity that haunts our near-future. With that said, book two of the sprawl trilogy, Count Zero, incorporated a very intriguing plot-line. From the plot intro @ Wikipedia:

Seven years after the events of Neuromancer, strange things begin to happen in the Matrix, leading to the proliferation of what appear to be voodoo gods (hinted to be the fractured remains of the joined AIs that were Neuromancer and Wintermute). These AI units now interface with humanity in the form of different Haitian voodoo gods, as they have found these images to be the best representations of themselves through which they can communicate with people. Hackers worldwide are becoming aware that there is something weird loose in the cyberspace matrix, but most are understandably reluctant to talk about (or deal with), "voodoo spooks" supposedly haunting cyberspace.

Loas in Cyberspace!
"Papa Legba"
Strangely enough, the idea of one or multiple Loa inhabiting cyberspace works, as a metaphor. The Loa are the spirits of Haitian Vodou. They are also referred to as Mystères and the Invisibles. Unlike saints or angels however, Loas are not simply prayed to… they are served. This makes the relationship between human and Loa, a personal one. Practitioners of voodoo do more than venerate their Loas, they “feed” them. For this service, they expect results from their Loa, in return. Loa, with their individual strengths and foibles, must deliver, if they are to remain relevant.

In Count Zero, the Loa known as “Papa Legba” stands at the gateway to cyberspace as the "master of roads and pathways." Papa Legba is analogous to Saint Peter, from the Christian tradition, standing guard before the pearly gates, allowing or denying access. In considering this metaphor, other Loa may fill other, more specific functions.

“In Voodoo and Haitian Vodou we have a deity for technology and communication known as Simbi. This spirit is the snake, lightning fast, and ever purposeful. Simbi gets us where we are going and while the path we led in 2013 may have been twisted at times, we know we are headed in the right direction.”

Many of us have prayed to the “computer gods” for an inspired intervention, when dealing with computer glitches. Many have been frustratingly amazed at the impish, “trickster-like” behavior of our computing devices when they suddenly freeze or when our data mysteriously vanishes. Yes… many of us have been introduced to the Loa of the digital realm. There is no doubt that the world-wide-web is a mysterious and wondrous place. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet professed… “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

"Baron Samedi" from
Shadowrun Returns
Knowledge Is Power… perhaps, when navigating the digital realm we can assume a more pragmatic approach to the Mystères and the Invisibles that occupy cyberspace. Perhaps we can take a page from the voodoo playbook, when dealing with technology. If we “feed” our technology Loas properly… input the correct code… perhaps we can expect better outcomes… beneficial results.

In the next installment of our Voodoo series, we will take a more in depth look at the similarities between the Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo pantheon, and their associated cosmology and world view, with that of the archaic Gnostic perspective, and by extension, the tek-gnostic perspective. Stay tuned...

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