Imagination

Enthroned7200x4800

Enthroned
(portrait of an Egregore)

If there's a word that won't leave me alone, it's imagination. It shows up in 93 .html documents on my computers (many of them written by me, to articulate something I want to make distributable), and cropping up every time I consider what my mind is doing, and pretty much every time I look at my photographic archives. The Imagination is the most puzzling-to-me aspect of Mind, and brain, and being ... maybe. Readers of Stand on Zanzibar (1968) will recollect the numerous appearances the phrase

"Christ, what an imagination I've got!"
"Nom de dieu! Quelle imagination je peux avoir!"

The words are first spoken by Benny Noakes,
"a boy constantly so full of drugs that he refuses to believe that the world around him is actually real."

and, on the last page, by Shalmaneser [an all-powerful AI] theirself:

Bathed in his currents of liquid helium, self-contained, immobile,
vastly well informed by every mechanical sense: Shalmaneser.
Every now and again there passes through his circuits a pulse
which carries the cybernetic equivalent of the phrase,
"Christ, what an imagination I've got."

And that's just in the context of my own imagination.

How much more puzzling when considered beyond the individual —as a collective capability. Here we are in the territory of egregores and tulpas, and a post on Money as Egregore by Will Ruddick via Medium a few days ago exemplifies:

What if money isn't something to be defined, but rather an emergent collective consciousness, an Egregore we've been feeding... a cultural spell that shapes our perceptions ...a spell that has told us what to value, how to interact, and even who to be ...an enchantment that turned natural resources into commodities, human relationships into transactions, and life itself into a race for accumulation...
(See also a 2017 blog post by Brad Feld)

Further, from Mark Stavish's Egregores: The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny:

egregores are living beings. They must be fed and nurtured... (xii)

..the psychic and psychological chains and tendrils that wrap themselves around the adherent of various belief structures and mechanisms have an unbelievable power... (xiii)

...the home or conduit for a specific psychic intelligence of a nonhuman nature connecting the invisible dimensions with the material world... (3)

...an immaterial entity that 'watches' or presides over some earthly affair or collectivity ...an egregore is augmented by human belief, ritual, and especially by sacrifice. If it is sufficiently nourished by such energies, the egregore can take on a life of its own and appear to be an independent, personal divinity, with a limited power on behalf of its devotees and an unlimited appetite for further devotion... (5)

This egregore territory includes windows into 'occult' and 'astral', which I have considered imaginary, verging on the bogus and the delusional, the worlds of woo that are disconnected from the material realities of space and time and dimensionality that I believe I live in and navigate. I have been largely immune to the Worlds of Theosophy, and the shores of Tibetan and other Wisdom traditions, the Shamanic and the Mystical and the Spiritual and ... oh hell, the Swedenborgian. Now they seem less deluded and delusional, and share more with the imagination-stretching Cubist and Surrealist movements that I revere. My own photographic explorations are consonant with this broadening of the thinkable. And I've recently enjoyed a deep dive into William Blake, via Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake.

Blake's great value as a personal influence in English literature is that he is so outstanding an example of a precious quality of mental independence. Very few writers even in England have been so startlingly free of accepted shibboleths in religion, morality, or politics. His attitude of mind is a kind of reverent Philistinism, with a broad humor that delights to spread banana peelings in the paths of heroes, a simple pleasure in seeing the aura of sanctity around traditional arcana as a fog, and a tough honesty that continues to repeat that war is always damnable and tyranny always stupid and persecution always evil, however 'necessary' at any given moment... (413)
...wish I could write like that...

NB these descriptions of the power and constitution of egregores resonate with the anthropological notion of 'the superorganic' [the term instantiated as a description of culture by Alfred Kroeber in a 1917 article (c.f. Alex Golub's edited-with-introduction 2013 version). Another anthropologist: "For Leslie White, culture was a superorganic entity that was sui generis and could be explained only in terms of itself..."].

One is reminded of the 'consensual hallucination' that William Gibson instantiated as cyberspace back in 1984, in Neuromancer (or perhaps a bit earlier in Burning Chrome). 40 years and counting for that one, and ever more powerful. And of Terry Pratchett's descriptions of the (many) gods of Discworld, who thrive because they have believers, and dwindle into small gods when their believers are attracted elsewhere. Small Gods is your gateway drug. And enjoy Dunmanifestin... and Neil Gaiman's American Gods is from the same Imagining.

* * * * *

How can [should/might...] Imagination be augmented? Surely various 'drugs' have that effect (cannabis, and 'shrooms and LSD and peyote are famous as augmentative substances), but in the last few years a succession of digital devices has added to the palette of possibilities, and the last year has seen a tsunami of AI developments that seem augmentative. And the recent release of Apple's Vision Pro is the latest in a succession of Virtual Reality affordances to tickle the fancy of the gadget-prone ($3500 to play...). Vision Pro is more an interface to existing digital affordances than a harbinger of a whole new mode of perception, and its rather dorky form factor will look silly within a year ... but the underlying augmentative technologies will continue to evolve with far-reaching but ...unimaginable... consequences. Hold onto your hats, people.

I stumbled upon as YouTube video from Apple, worth watching if you have no idea...:

and this mordant cartoon from New Yorker, just in:

"Wow, these are great for augmenting the reality of your marriage!"

* * * * *

And finally back to Enthroned, at the top of this page, which I recognize as a manifestation of an Egregore. If a viewer sees the Being, that's tantamount to participation in a burgeoning collective imagination ... which is somehow akin to getting Blake's artistry in graphics and words (and most of his contemporaries found him mad...). If you're on the bus, you're different from all those who aren't: your Reality is altered, deepened, shifted — and not easily conveyed to the muggles. Do you even want to struggle with such conveyance?