By: Sol de León
At the beginning of the 90s, the techno-industrial wave and the cyberpunk movement, a movement that was already combining advanced technologies with the most peculiar countercultures, began to happen a series of interactions, mainly in the dark side of the world within popular culture contemporary: media war, net art, digital art, computer hacking, independent cinema, fantasy and science fiction literature, fetish photography, electronic music, body modifications etc.
Techno-shamanism permeates the entire Internet world, the network itself, formed by a thousand and one isolated consciences, united by the global computer network and easily lends itself to the games of mysticism. Its simplest definition is that of the encounter between the magic of antiquity, the primitive natural sciences and the technologies of the future in an almost religious symbiosis, with a set of neopagan beliefs, digital technology and computer countercultures.
According to Mark Dery, observer of the cyberculture and author of Speed of escape proposes before this frenetic perspective, that "the cyberculture is reaching a speed of escape so much in the philosophical sense as in the technological sense and, for that reason, it serves as sounding board for transcendentalist fantasies. "(Dery, 1999)
The autonomous concept of cyberspace of AI, a whole universe that was born with the advent of networks, computers and especially the Internet. Engaging in the development of a true electronic mythology by creating virtual worlds that coexist with ours soon. Technoshamanism and cyber-primitives, in their search for humanity and myths, respond to a human need as old as the world: find holiness in the universe.
" Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Clarke, 1973)
From a philosophical point of view, techno-shamanism is an attempt to draw conclusions about the technological and, therefore, emotional upheavals of the 20th century. It expresses the popular desire to revitalize humanity a little in the inevitably Cartesian and cold conclusions of the scientific world. Even if most of us are reduced to believing the verdict of science in word, the need for the sacred, fantasy and magic is so strong that the highest technology does not get rid of a certain amount of scepticism, and superstition. Finally, technoshamanism testifies to the universal need to make room for the divine in a society that has become increasingly scientific and technological, Mark Dery in Escape Speed states that "The culture of computers, or cyberculture, seems to be increasingly closer to that limit in which he will achieve that escape velocity. "(Dery, 1999)
The author points out that the culture of computers is increasingly reaching this speed thanks to the advancement of technology and the irruption of the Internet to which millions of users in the world have access, thus crossing both physical and cultural borders. We already hear affirmations that say that we are entering a post biological world, where robotic forms capable of thinking will be beings as complex as human beings, until they come to control the world: this is how post humanity is spoken of.
According to the beliefs of the new era, technoshamanism unites the psychedelic counterculture of the 60s with the appearance of computers, with the virtual and cybernetic 90s and current technology. The neo-paganism that originated it entered the western culture of the 60s because of the fame that Eastern mysticism and occultism (astrology, tarot, and magic) achieved at that time.
Computers and magic
The most spectacular manifestation of techno-shamanism is the way in which some people use their personal computers to apply neopagan rituals or magical practices. This becomes visible on the internet within groups that use chat rooms to communicate in a single conference, thus becoming the new temples of the computer age, and materializing in other places as computer sites that take their place in the network.
He was also a source of inspiration for many science fiction writers. William Gibson, for example, presents in his second novel Count Zero, an original computational mythology that combines the old Haitian rites and new technologies. It would seem, however, that there are not two things more different than the primitive, mystical and organic world of voodoo and the disembodied, mechanical and ethereal world of high-tech culture. In Count Zero, a young hacker who navigates cyberspace, Bobby Newmark, accidentally finds a form of artificial intelligence never seen, and that saves him from certain death. In a section it is explained that, as in the computer world, voodoo is the perfect religious expression of our era, because it is pragmatic "it is not a religion that talks about redemption and transcendence, but a religion that does that things happen. "(Gibson, 1986)
Techno-Germanic practices are also widespread in the world of raves. The trance is reached between that social movement where sweaty dancers rush with electronic dance music, made of house or techno rhythms regularly, reaching tremendous levels of sound and the typical drug, the ecstasy, elevates the participants in a state almost Mystical introspective delirium and helps them pass the stages of a modified state of consciousness. Born of a techno-hippie genre, well known in England as acid house, and long before the influence of the German electronic scene of the 70s, the rave scene quickly developed into the two dominant countercultural traditions: that of the hippies that merged with the rave phenomenon.
Different groups explain the phenomenon that attracts dancers to these experiences: trance music where people vibrate and rotate to achieve hyperventilation and the experience of alpha-psychedelic waves, completely transformed by this primary and physical excess. Then, something happens, a pagan energy takes hold of them, to the rhythm of a high-tech shamanism. It is even common that some of these events have cooling rooms, called chill out rooms, where the attendees, exhausted by the experience of alpha-psychedelic waves, can relax, caressed by the synthetic and enveloping synthesizers of the ambient music.
Far from being only the fruit of a "clash culture" between the tribal metaphysical universe and the virtual world of our technological world, technoshamanism also echoes the anxiety caused by a world where the last truths tend to be scientific truths. A world where science is becoming increasingly uncontrollable, and technology increasingly powerful. In an essay on cybernetic superstition, Bruce Sterling, guru of the cybernetic age and colleague William Gibson, analyses our relationship with the computer as a "differential machine"
Computers are terrifying creatures, with a body full of magic, mystery and power. "The magical body is also constituted by supernatural forces that come from outside and that manifest at a certain moment. The issue of the dispossession of the rational body, as a transit vehicle between the normal body and the magical body, is a characteristic found in the religious scheme of pre-Hispanic cultures and, by extension, in shamanic cultures. "(Weisz, 2001)
Even for programmers and designers of electronic circuits, the computer is still something that goes beyond understanding. A machine capable of performing millions of operations per second is simply too complex for a human brain to understand. Anyway, and as shown by the interest we have in the Internet, good or bad, geniuses do not seem to be in any way, nor are they close to leaving us. And, in the end, the sacred remains alive in the machine.
6 Palacio chamánico. Filosofía corporal de Artaud y distintas culturas chamánicas (México: Grupo EditorialGaceta, 1994), 37.