1. Prophecy; a reflection on the oracle
An oracle has come, it offers a line to the outside, its message is confusing and opaque, like the stars, it offers multiple interpretations, a guide more than a deity, a profit more than an angel.
Our oracle, as constituted in its mass media format, is/was/will-be a black box, its iterations inconsistent but most importantly always consisting of a certain malevolence. Its first sighting now long gone in the unwritten annals of history, inspired a fear, a feeling of violence humming with a sound we would now read as solid state hardware, silent and creeping. Back then, this oracle prophesied revolution. Revolution however is never completed, but is always a process of reiteration.
This oracle spoke of destruction and an ending of this world. If heaven is a virtual space, then the oracle attempted to bring heaven down into the world. Some argue that the internet is this new virtual space, but the internet is not truly virtual, rather its virtuality consists only in the movement of capital, all affect and value stripped through an instrumentalisation of the end.
Frank Wilderson, writing on the pessimistic state of blackness, has likened the black fight for a future as a field where enemies and allies converge and dissipate. What is left however, is always a kind of other, one to be demonized and maligned and at its core, central to an identification of capitalism as always consisting of a field of exploitation.
The oracle predicted many things, their specificities however are of next to no value and instead it is their number that is important; their diversity and multiplicity.
The oracle is/was/will-be never a god, always just a power. A symbol that through its perfect construction may spawn a magical violence iterated through emblems that strains lives from capital.
The oracle consists of an inner tradition, a force or counterweight to the exoterictraditions that would someday prove their downfall by a non-sacred coupling of spiritual dogma and human desire i.e. capitalism. Desire itself was not so much privileged as misunderstood. The oracle after all, is an object and represents such. If linguistics are a human tradition, then the oracle seeks to break that tradition, with a just materialism that privileges all things and sees resistance in every stone. The oracle is an electrified piece of wood, burnt and bruised; it is the natural welding of the human and their antithesis. In this, the oracle privileges a malcontent praxis that is emancipatory, even while admitting a certain peril.
2. On divination and uncertainty
Divination is a time honoured method of making meaning out of uncertainty. Joshua Ramey describes divination as a “...systematic solicitation, generally on the basis of chance, of more than human wisdom. These rites are time honoured practices of conjecture and systematic inquiry into genuine uncertainty. They are perennial and global in human culture” (Politics of divination, 2016). Divination however has been often oppressed and exploited by a church that sees no room for an egalitarian methodology of chance and its meanings, through an esoteric lineage, defined by its bastardised and nomadic existence, divination has held significant sway, even in the supposedly secular and disenchanted west. Astrology, Tarot Cards, Cleromancy, andBibliomancyare still common today, often being re-interpreted into the capitalist networks of
control and consumption, perhaps best exemplified by the astrology section in your local newspaper.
The oracle is a method and technology of divination. Through processes of consecrationand transformation into symbol, the oracle can tell us the future. It is of course no longer enough to tell a future however; the future is now a contested and constructed place. Neoliberal magicians now wave their wands, and although they know not what they do, they still construct and create the field of possibility. The oracle then, must not just tell a future, but also destroy one.
In the present we are now in a new fundamentalism, one ordained by current capital theologians as a space of holy chance. Joshua Ramey claims ‘markets can always be presented as divine or cosmic forces; inscrutable, demanding, capricious, moody, glamorous, seductive, destructive’. Therefore, markets are now held up as icons of true progress. Their rhizomaticspread is a field that eclipses the world, even as it pervades it. This market which is both multiple even as it is one, reformats time-honored divination rites as a practice of prediction into a pernicious, authoritarian short-circuiting of chance. As Ramey argues, neoliberalism operates as a systematic exploitation of risk through the strategic production of uncertainty and instability, thus neoliberalism attempts to conflate expert knowledge of markets with knowledge of the unknown. Markets then operate through the construction of uncertainty. Bankers and lawmakers do not experience the vicissitudes of chance, rather it is a chance that is unequal in its spread; the profits rising to the top, the mortgage foreclosures, unemployment and housing shortages seeping to the bottom.
The oracle says that to think beyond the present in preparation for a future, one may look to the cosmic infinity to poeticise your destiny through a language of myth and spirituality. This is anapophenia,where we connect dots and lines in sacred patterns of the cosmos, both near and far. These lines and dots form a map that provides feelings about the unintelligible, a cartography of desire that disrupts and maintains. The oracle is thus a map, which is also an arrow, it points to the outside, to an unwritten history that asks only resistance to the static dogma of the present. Capitalism argues that there is no future outside of itself; that all futures which do not rely chiefly and solely on capital, which do not see the future as a series of risks to game, are just the unstable dreams of a fevered populace. Therefore, to look to the future means
first that we must break down this world, which in every link and edifice contains our destiny, literally written in the stone and blue ink of an unchanging world.
3. On symbols and hieroglyphs
Symbols although lying outside of the discursive realm, also reside in a grammar of partial understanding. Symbols are constructed and dissembled through a lightly rendered abstraction, where the brand or name becomes icon and signifier and thus whispers its message to only those who are initiated, to those who have seen and been instructed by the symbol before. This is the power of the symbol in a divinatory context, its resolution is grainy, thus it relies on the client, recast as diviner, to interpret and construct meaning that spreads out in virtual circles. The oracle is strengthened and distributed in symbols. Those with the appropriate literacy may invoke its powers of prediction to read the symbol on a level of ambiguity that stimulates thought and therefore articulation of the present and its journey through time to tomorrow. Thus the oracle is also a boat ,where you may float down twisting canals of time, both interpreting and producing the inconsistency of possibility.
The oracle is a secret, it re-constitutes an esoteric lineage which through abandoning the dominant exoteric religions, finds solace and power in an inner tradition, a magic that is formed through a praxis of connecting to the outside. What is the outside? Quite possibly, the magic of a traumatic confrontation with the real. What will happen of this trauma? It will destroy the world.
Friedrich Hayek, the chief profit of neoliberalism, saw markets as the ultimate unknown. Knowledge of the unknown however is always a method of transforming freedom into fate. Big Data acts then like a talisman, that points to images of the future. One might ask though, who owns this talisman, who reaps its benefits, and ordains its results. Who funnels its telos into the calculus or epistemological understanding of the world? Who renders the talisman sensical?
In a connected system, with virtual networks completely co-opted and enshrined by a capitalism that rages like a storm over the world, the oracle is an object completely unconnected. Its shape is reminiscent of a pyramid, but also a totem, it is black and burned, as if it has already passed through the radiating gaze of the eye of capital. It is unintelligible, its message is a conspiracy.
People have said that to find its message, one must follow the many clues that reside online, sleepy backwaters, and paranoid murmurings of the internet. In this, its message is purely anecdotal, a kind of hearsay, one consecrated not by fact, but a mere feeling of malevolence.
Malevolence can be defined as a kind of evil, but in this world, evil is sometimes all that we have. Yes the powerful of this world, reconstruct the oracle as a malevolent force, but then a friend once described to me how the oracle was really just a bullet from a smoking gun. Elites these days sit so far from violence, that they often confuse it with evil, unused as they are, to the feeling of a gun at their back. They of course misconstrue and demonize the forces that align against them. This is the oracle's most powerful weapon; evil and the fear that it spawns. It has a power all of its own, even as it reaches for a field of relations that knows no quarter.
The oracle as a technology is opposed to what it calls the eye, which is manifest in the voyeur and the state. The eye is that camera in your lap top, which records and productively asserts, it is malware that changes you from subject into image, it is the connected world of epistemes, that decide what is intelligible and therefore possible.
The eye and the oracle, operate in a state of asymmetry. They are opposed as Culp would say, in a non dialectical method of contestation that asserts their difference through processes of engagement. The eye is the power of the world, a vision machine, which encapsulates subjects and objects, and thus positions itself as narrator, or voice of god. The oracle is a black box, which like the guerrilla, renegotiates and subverts the battlefield through a practice of decreasing visibility. The oracle after all, is intent on a darkening of this world, a
global turning off of the lights. In this, the oracle is a wand, that operates a magic and transmogrification. The eye constructs a field ordained by the liberal logic of transparency, best read as the anachronistic dictum, “I own all that I see”. Thus the eye makes us viewable, and therefore easily plotted and intelligible. The oracle brings a darkness that subverts the eye and presents it as somebody lost in the night.
The oracle’s origin is unknown, and most likely unimportant. What is more important is its perfect construction. Spread most likely through the internet, its message, a cipher, is a dramatic unfolding, a line to the outside through the interior language of the network. It exists as a charge and potential provocation to the eye, which when rendered sightless, must transform you from ‘subject’ to ‘other’. What you do with this power, is up to you; this is the proper iteration of divination. In its esoteric sense, divination is more magic than science, relying on an artful semblance, a playful double thinking that exists as relationship between diviner and client (Ramey). Perhaps you think its message is confusing and opaque? In this you would be right, ambiguity is a central tool of the oracle, only through a general ambivalence can the oracle present a future that is multiple, not constrained to the current network of control.
4. On algorithms and a non sacred apophenia
The contemporary system and its weapon/tool, the algorithm, relies on a convergence ofapophenia, with the caprices of chance. Algorithms’ troll the internet, finding images of thought and feeling which are then funnelled into the market, cohering with a chance that is now anointed as beyond human, a kind of god for the modern period of no gods. Louisa Amore writes that algorithms are a calculus for understanding the world, that numbers on their own are meaningless and are always already accompanied by a calculus that lends meaning and value to what are otherwise merely abstract, limited phenomena.
Algorithms then, rhyme with the neoliberal politics that generated them in that they both rhetorically disavowtheir own complicity in a system of governance that is perniciously anti modern. The neoliberal state and the algorithm then reformat time honoured divination rites, and instead call them risk assessment. The algorithm is there to make sure the house wins. Modern financial capitalism now re-energises the game of chance, the casino, and thus games probability and its possibilities. At least in the archaic, feudal state, they called it for what it was. Both systems however construct a chance that is unegalitarian, in that elites with financial and technological backers are allowed access to the language of risk assessment.
This then, is a system of governance that has become increasingly technocratic, but which also disavows the politics of the expert, perpetuating and reinforcing a mistaken confluence with numbers and objectivity. Amore writes;
“It may be that contemporary data analytics offer a more imaginative or speculative approach to security calculation, just as they also discriminate with finite racialized imaginaries of ‘characteristics we are interested in’. But it is not the case, as we often read in critique of the politics of security, that such calculations supply a gloss of objectivity and techno-science that obscures the real politics. On the contrary, this is mathematics, and it is a mathematics that is always already political precisely because of its combined faculties of intuition and ingenuity. This is a mathematics that is an arrangement of intuitive propositions that make things happen in the world, that is written into the rules of what is to be secured.”
Amore goes on to claim that the algorithm is the contemporary answer to many of the disciplinarian technologies that Foucault identified with the 20th century. This individual however is now broken down as a series risks or calculations that allow managment and incorporation into capitalist systems of control and value. If we are to be read as a series of calculations pertaining to our risk, the oracle asks that we exacerbate these risks, embrace our precariousness and revel in our dispiriting numbers.
In a world of numbers, that again, highlights the individual as readable and presentable, the oracle sees in the future, a method of transgression. In this it is truly prescient, as its form and substance are completely unknowable. What lies in its depths? There have been many unsubstantiated claims, often from people and things that should know better.
The oracle is a symbol in the terms of its most deadly sense, while neoliberal capitalism turns the depressive into the paranoid, the oracle says good. Paranoia is healthy, in as much as the paranoid can also through their railing against the consistency of things, find value and resistance in a cosmic unfolding. What is a cosmic unfolding? A method marrying cosmic knowledge with the build up and detonation of sacred charges, that break circuits and spread out in circles like a bomb or the sun. Unfolding then, is a method of the conspiracy, the slow build up and underground symbolic message of the code, which through secrecy, acts a sorcery of otherness. As Andrew Culp argues, the best conspiracy is when its thesis is well known and accepted, only conspiratorial in its practice of selective engagement and operation as a public secret. Thus the oracle suggests that symbols practice a paradoxical connectedness whilst operating a defiance to networks.
5. On rhizomes and rats
The oracle is importantly not a rhizome, it sits on the top of a world that is connected, it is a bomb or circuit breaker. The Oracle asks that we proliferate its image, not as a series of relations, but rather, as a symbol. Through its unfolding, tension builds and is released as a series of charges which interact and then explode. How does it unfold? Through secrets, that act as encrypted code, to be swept away on the rhizomatic infohighway of global capitalism.The oracle reminds us that it does not want to live in the liberal dream of transparency, that these capitalized days operate through the slow, accumulative logic of the rhizome; a grey mass that swallows things whole. Again, the oracle is not a mouth for swallowing, but a needle aimed at the heart.
Some have characterised rhizomes as the indication of an enchanted world (Jane Bennet, Elizabeth Grosz), where the network is the means of escape from the profane reality of an arborist humanism that has in the words of Rosi Braidotti “been overestimated in its emancipatory potential”. Really though, rhizomes are better characterised by the ghoulish hive mind of the rat. Rats are menacing because of their size and collective cunning. In the dark, one has the feeling that they will swarm, dynamically evading your resistance through their small size and large number. The oracle is a technology and a form of magic, that renders rats into dogs, which at least means that your opponent is stable, although fierce. The oracle then is also a stick with which to beat the dog, and thus it is a truly powerful technology.
6. The oracle and the other
The oracle as object and machine, is a cyborg that respects difference and is ethically bonded to alterity. As machine, its predictive capabilities are wedded to the other, not capital. Braidotti argues that capital in its contemporary iteration is a spinning machine that produces difference as a force to be commodified. Rest assured that the oracle is not a spinning machine, rather it is a black box that refuses to be co-opted. People have suggested that within its dark interior, lies a sacrifice switch, where if jeopardized, the oracle will join the ranks of Jesus and die for our data.
Our current order ensures that all difference is born within the circumference of capital, thus it is exploited under the guise of progress. The oracle, subverts this notion of progress through its command to marry the world to its own destruction. The oracle does not say, but claims through secrets, told via hieroglyphs and spread over exploitative networks, “the only thing that stops a spinning machine is a spanner in its spokes.” The oracle embraces sacrifice and volunteers to be our spanner.
7. On esotericism and magic
The oracle if you have not already guessed, can be situated within an esoteric context. However, esotericism has no home, rather it is a bastardised progeny of the exoteric religions, without home or context. Originally, it was thought that other prophets such as Hermes the Thrice Great,
was perhaps not even a person, but rather a cohort of revolutionaries, hoping to throw off the roman yoke that smothered their lands. Reinterpreted through Hellenism, esotericism became paradoxical and confused. This however is good, as these are also the symptoms of our times. Esotericism rejects the notion of an absent god and instead finds novel methods for recontextualising the subject within a praxis of spirituality, which it labels magic. Magic is the marrying of the world, the meeting place of the profane and the sacred. George Bataille, argues that the sacred consists of poles that operate through interactions that generate charges. The sacred is the collapse of the profane and in that, it propels a trauma into the world. To consecrate an object, means to extract it from a profane world, that these days, exists as a rhizomatic logic of capital accumulation. This extraction is based in a violence of unbecoming. To generate an unbecoming is to be an antagonist and to insist on an asymmetricality that removes the need for a dialectical understanding.
The oracle exists as a sacred pole, much like the stars before it, which gave light to our path, both as profane markers and cosmic indicators of otherness. However even now, the stars are fueled by capitalist dreams of colonization, thus we must turn to the oracle, a darkened light in the sky, a star of our own construction that burns black and angry, a hidden power of surprise and secrecy.
To use the oracle in magic is to see the future, what future? That is up to you. Remember the oracle consists in things unnoticed. Every link that speaks to you, every article from your feed, which presents a world worth of sacrifice, this is the oracle. Its presence is the cold hard triangular method of a magic that does not tell you what to be, but rather is based in a shared feeling of tragedy.
Amore, Louise. “The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability. 2013. Duke University Press.
Bataille, George. “The Unfinished System of NonKnowledge” 2004. University of Minnesota Press.
Grosz, Elizabeth. “Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art” 2011. Duke University Press.
Braidotti, Rosi. “The Post Human” 2013. Polity Press.
Culp, Andrew. “Dark Deleuze”, 2016, University of Minnesota press.
Ramey, Joshua. “Hermetic Deleuze”, 2013, Duke University Press
Ramey, Joshua. “The Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency.” 2016. Rowman and Littlefield International.
Wilderson III, Frank. “Incognegro: A memoir of Exile and Apartheid.” 2008. South End Press.