Ordo Templi Orientis — McDonaldisation of Occulture (english)
Ordo Templi Orientis1>
The McDonaldisation of Occulture
by Peter-R. Koenig
What is 'McDonaldisation' and what is 'Occulture'?
By the term 'McDonaldisation' I mean an emphasis upon things which are calculable or quantifiable, in a context where quantity increasingly becomes an measure of quality, and no hints or evidence are found as to actual quality. Further, I would define McDonaldisation as a symbol-system meant to create enduring emotions, a system that counterfeits order and actual effectivness to make itself seem more real. These things are what the producer of 'McDonaldisation' expects from his 'product' while
McDonaldisation contains other factors: increased efficiency and rationalisation, as in the fast-food chain McDonalds; a predictable and consistent product; how quantifiable that product is in terms of size, number, and quotas — and finally, how it may be considered as a means of control. One example of this may be found in the mechanisms used for increasing the efficiency of postal services in some German-speaking countries; here, 'performance standards' allow exactly 1.71 seconds to post an ordinary letter in a post-box. Similarly, in occultism there is an unusually strong desire for scholarship and detailed numerical schemes, as if anything that cannot be expressed in cyphers, codes and symbols will fade out of existence.
What do consumers now expect of McDonaldisation? They want to get hold of a moderately good product with a strong flavour as quickly and easily as possible. Important factors will determine the nature of such a product: it must be easily prepared, and available everywhere for consumption at any time — in effect, it must be omnipresent. Such products will present society with ideas interpreted through human relationships, and views filtered through the minds of marketing-men and advertisers; ideas and views which tend to treat people as objects, and make humanity itself into a commercialised and therefore consumable resource. Information becomes a part of the game of Interest and Demand.
The term that I use, Occulture, embraces the culture-generating aspects of what happens in the ethnological underground of Western society and which has mirrored some of that underground's cultural ambitions in the mainstream form of what I call 'Ecstatic Creation of Culture'.
All these qualities may be found in the American 'Caliphate' Ordo Templi Orientis founded in 1977 (I exclude here other O.T.O. groups, such as the 'Typhonian' O.T.O. founded more than 10 years earlier). As with McDonaldisation, this O.T.O. has extended its sphere of activity far beyond that of the suburb of a secret Order, and may be found not just in cities, but in geographical suburbs and villages, and has blossomed into a considerable Internet presence in recent years. It consists of various branches, with names such as the 'Gnostic Catholic Church', the 'Mysteria Mystica Maxima', 'The Esoteric Rosicrucians', 'The Home of the Order of the Oriental Templars', the 'Hermetic Science College' and the 'Translator's Guild'. Sometimes the ruling body of the 'Caliphate' tries to borrow high-sounding names from other organisations, like that of the 'Fraternitas Rosicruciana Antiqua', the 'Illuminaten Orden', the 'Hermetic Brotherhood of Light', 'Memphis Misraim', or 'Academia Masonica'.
To appeal to consumers, the 'Caliphate' has produced a range of products that resemble a McDonaldised 'illumination through sex-magic'; a McGnosis transported through the iconic figure of Aleister Crowley. It is hidden behind a confusing veil of euphemisms, and is preferably practised on Sundays by means of consuming a 'host' made of sexual secretions, prepared according to Emblems and Modes of Use (in constantly reprinted Crowley books that contain 'enlightening'
footnotes by the current 'Caliphate' leaders).
Regarding Crowley's antidemocratic, racist and misanthropic writings, followers point out: "The reason [...] aspects of Thelema are omitted [in public discussion] indicates the actual problem with presenting Thelema as a religion and attempting to get Thelema sanctioned by the government or approved by the public: Thelema is ultimately in contrast to and transgressive of normative society. Thelema rejects the morals and values of normative society and acts to transgress and violate these norms. From the inclusion of intoxicants in ritual, to the positive view of sexuality, which frequently is seen as promoting promiscuity, to the pro–authoritarian and Nietzschian aspects of Thelema, normative society has much to reject in Thelema and conversely, Thelema encourages its adherents to reject most aspects of normative society." See The Templar's Reich.
The 'Caliphate' O.T.O. as a typical example of McDonaldisation, or: the supermarket as the peak of cultural achievement.
There are many obvious examples of McDonaldisation in occultism generally — what I called Occulture — from horoscopes in daily papers, through the Tarot and psychic readings advertised on TV in the US or Italy, descending finally to the level of the 'do-it-yourself love spell kits' found in some downmarket occult bookshops. The 'Caliphate' has not moved into these realms as yet, but with its increased popularity, and the wider acceptance of the border realms of occulture in mainstream culture,
it is surely only a matter of time before we see the 'Caliphate' not only selling T-shirts with the O.T.O.-lamen and [at one time via www.venus.com] pornography but also frozen 'Amrita' (the sexual-secretion cocktail) over the Internet.
When I once confronted a member of the 'Caliphate' with my concept of his O.T.O. as McDonaldised Occulture, he defended himself with an example of this tendency elsewhere: "Just the other day, I saw a huge billboard on the street advertising Freemasonry. It had the square and compass logo with a phone number, and the caption read 'To be one, ask one'. And it was right across the street from a McDonalds, too! What next? Disposable Masonic aprons with your Big Mac?"
In the example I am using here, the 'Caliphate' O.T.O. shows itself to be a post-modern esoteric supermarket with the equivalence and equal importance it vests in a whole range of different things: kabbala, T-shirts, yoga, invocations of demons and angels, sex-magic, calendars, exorcism, drugs, religion, Gnosis, videos, scandal, postcards, philosophy and pseudo-science. Common occult knowledge is repackaged and sold as a new product; Crowley's Thelema is transformed into a juicy hamburger in a shiny new wrapping. Anyone and everyone can brew up their own individual occult mixture from the ingredients found in Crowley and the O.T.O.'s repertoire. Today's organised Crowleyan occultism as found in the 'Caliphate' provides a user-friendly method of handling occult material, abilities, knowledge, rules, and procedures. The present-day leaders of the 'Caliphate' reinterpret Crowley to suit their own needs, and generate new rituals, dogmas and teachings — like their VII° ritual, ceremonies for adopting children influenced by Christian liturgy, animal blessings, healing by laying-on of hands, and even exorcism. This O.T.O. has become a sort of perpetuum mobile which never permits it members a true apotheosis; they have to patiently endure a long series of initiations, which are claimed to produce illumination bit by bit. By only gradually revealing its promised secrets and adventures, this Order (firm) plays with its members' (clients) spiritual yearnings: the organisation works as a dealer of the yearning itself; and it is careful to rule which occult methods are allowed and which are forbidden. With its efficiently-organised supply of formulæ (yoga, sex-magic, 'no drugs', etc.) the 'Caliphate' appears to offer instant illumination which runs to an exactly-prescribed timetable — in other words, its hierarchical system of degrees or grades. Each initiatory degree comprises a predictable speciality within the limits of specific symbolisms and techniques; each stage means conforming to new rules and regulations to enable or 'execute' illumination. The hierarchy allows precise control over members, and means they are under constant observation so that they produce standardised results. No experimentation is encouraged; the best way to progress has already been discovered, and must therefore be followed. These restrictions have turned the 'Caliphate' into an institutionalised group, whose ordinary members must follow strict criteria, and pass set examinations. Of course, it is out of the question for the rank-and file to discuss the fees for membership and initiations, the group's interpretation of doctrine, or how the organisation is run; the 'Caliphate' is not a democratic body, and its leaders are not elected democratically. Everything has to be consistent — all members of the 'Caliphate's' Fifth Degree are supposed to have a rose tattooed on their upper chest, numerologically 729 always signifies the Crowleyan version of Baphomet 'BAFOMIThR' — a McBaphomet, in other words. Creativity and original thought are eliminated, because they are 'inefficient' — and not controllable.
But fixation on Crowley means stagnation. This is where the irrationality of McDonaldised Occulture starts. Freedom in Crowley's O.T.O. mirrors in dogmas;
— The dogma of mystification; nobody must know of the
central spermo-Gnostic secret -
and explicit censorship is enshrined in the statutes.
There is a technocracy which 'owns' this knowledge, and
seeks to monopolise its interpretation and transmission;
of course, anyone wishing to manipulate in this way must
be selling the best secrets on the market. Hence the
bizarre spin-doctoring attempts to treat the 'secret' of
spermo-Gnosis in the same way that Coca-Cola jealously
guards its 'secret recipe'; it is a 'trade secret' to
which any reference must be denied (even when such
denials look absurd) because 'commercial
confidentiality' must be preserved at all costs.
— In a deliberate vagueness about the organisation's
hierarchy; just who is responsible for what — and does
the left hand even know what the right one's doing?
— In this hierarchy's pyramid structure, where it is
obvious that all members can never reach the highest
— In costs — long years of paying membership dues.
— In long delays waiting for the next initiation (although
most members never get further than the Third Degree).
— In the equating of quality with quantity; only those who
introduce the most new members will rise higher in the
— While officials, dignitaries and the famous enjoy only
limited rights to privacy and anonymity in a democracy,
it is the exact opposite in organised occult niches like
the O.T.O.; the higher the O.T.O. official, the less his
name will be known, and the more pseudonymously will he
exercise his power in the group. So the 'mundane' names
of the leader or his representative are often kept
— Dominance of the organisational framework. Belonging to
other groups is not permitted — so membership of the
'Caliphate' O.T.O. is not considered compatible with,
say, the 'Temple of Set' or H.O.O.R. This means a
monopolisation of the market very similar to the
dominance of Microsoft's operating system in computers.
This tendency often results in the expulsion of members
who try to abandon Crowleyan dogmas, or legal threats to
other creative groups which use the O.T.O.
All these factors support an illusion of efficiency which has worked to date — so why shouldn't it work in the future? After all, the 'central secret' was never really a secret; everyone with an interest in the O.T.O. knows it means Spermo-Gnosis. So why should anyone want to join the O.T.O., if the only ambition of those already in the Order is to reach the next degree, and what would happen if there were no more steps to achieve, if the Order was no longer a dealer of the sacred?
It should be remembered in this context that the chiefs of O.T.O. groups claim that membership dues and initiation fees are not viewed by them as a reward for products and services (not even the 5-10% discount on O.T.O.-published Crowley books) — but as a contribution to the 'Great Work'.
The Internet as illustrating the McDonaldisation of Occulture
While I have so far broached the subject of McDonaldisation merely in utilitarian terms, I now intend to reflect on some of its apocalyptic (rather than Utopian) mechanisms as exhibited on the Internet.
The internationalisation of trade, and the influence of Hollywood have both been essential contributors to the spread of McDonaldised American culture. Both as a communication medium and as an introducer of a new information-driven reality (cyberspace), the Internet promotes a tendency towards a 'supermarket of cosmic vibrations'. In its various manifestations — WWW, e-mail, MUD, ftp, mailing lists, newsgroups, Usenet, chat rooms, Hot Chats, virtual confessionals IRCs, Internet banks, etc. — the Internet also serves as a chaotic collection-point for digital occult documents, which all appear to contain information of equal validity. But the power-balance in this market between authors and readers has shifted, as useful or worthwhile information is seldom posted on the Internet; this is because of copyright-restrictions and the sheer triviality of most on-line publication. This can hinder serious authors from publishing their material online — though exception to this may be found in
'Virtual Libraries'. Nevertheless, both casual users and many supposedly 'serious' researchers place an implicit trust in Net data (assumed "thorough" and "complete"), building theories on information of doubtful quality and unknown provenance; so research supported only by the Internet is often of questionable quality, and full of loopholes.
Fragmentation is the major quality of the Occulture (in the sense of hinduistic variety), of the Internet, and also of how identity is defined in post-modernism. The equality between 'person' and 'rôle' leads to a break-up where multiple or de-centralised selves are the benchmarks of knowledge.
The association of the fragments (or the fragmented perception) has a reason: but there is no ultimate truth behind. This is the imperative of meanings, and their simulation as rôles. Surfing the Net through the ever-changing variety of websites does not require one to use the deeper methods of searching out sources and discerning structures. There is only need of an aesthetic way of simulation and navigation in order to find one's way about in virtual spaces; in a world which is never analysed,
but merely inhabited, like Jungian archetypes.
This fragmented self (or rather the multiple subjectivities and post-modern concepts of the self), this life lived as a series of Cabalistic correlations — which constitutes reality for many occultists — is reflected in the endless image-manipulation seen in trances or visions and their written versions, and also of the imagination displayed both on and behind the computer-screen.
Is this a virtual form of Gnosis, where the the unbearable body is virtually transsubstantiated and experienced anew — but this time not through extreme sports, or sex-magic, or drugs, or Yoga? Does Gnosis become dia-gnosis when mankind leaves the old Temple of the body to find a new home on the Net? There are some critics who have likened this reduction of 'body-ness' to a mouse and keyboard to an amputation of the Self — a process which may induce psychosis. Together with an increased
information-flow which may trigger confusion and indecisiveness, these critics view this reduction in the importance of the physical body as one of the major factors impacting on culture; therefore it will have a major impact on Occulture. Disorientation represents a step towards amputating the Self in a sea of choices, and many occultists re-interpret this as the mystical goal of self-dissolution.
The only measure of 'quality control' in occultism is the intensity of what is experienced, which will manifest itself in a passion for 'authenticity', 'true' knowledge, and introspection; the Internet now simulates this sense of urgency, this strong feeling of a 'presence', of being present.
If we define cyberspace as the space behind the images, then it leads to a complete detachment from time, space, and social relevance in Internet communication. Virtual Occulture has been generated; the technological duplication of reality into 'real' and 'virtual' engenders a mere mimickry of activity, and produces 'instant' illumination. Of course the thoughts and ideas that meander round the Net are not totally formless, but their very vagueness, transience, and illusory qualities increase both quantitatively and qualitatively. As the net grows and grows, it gets harder to get hold of concrete ideas and concepts, and more difficult to judge and observe properly. An unforeseen chance to revise traditional approaches to reality has arisen.
"I sing the body electric"
Marshall McLuhan recognised the processes of modern media — on the borders of post-modernism — as "extensions of man", a result of the organism versus environment duality. The technical potential to transfer the entirety of human consciousness from the body into data systems can be seen in religious terms as a sort of 'doctrine of salvation'. This expansion of the human brain (which actually treats human beings as equivalent to information) bears a strong resemblance to some occultist's
ambition to create or become a homo superior, a master-race of super-beings able to change genetic material at will.
Hence many occultists experience the Internet as an unconscious electronic expansion of the nervous system — a kind of astral body which leads to new forms of human interaction. The hard disk refers to the earthly physical body; with the computer's main memory as formless as mercury, and its processor providing astral energy, the sacred fire bursts forth from the amputated and reduced body in the form of mouse and keyboard. So there are citizens of cyberspace who equate the iconic visual language of programming with the Tarot, and see the data-stores of Internet search-engines as the Akashic Records. It is an odd by-product of history that the allure of what is offered on these computer-screens has meant that rationality has fallen by the wayside, and has ceded its place to newfangled animism.
The Internet as a McLuhanite collective brain goes against the secrecy of certain O.T.O. groups, who carry on as if simply thinking about something would be equal to its production, distribution and trade. Their claims to be the sole claimants to the 'trade secret' of spermo-Gnosis amidst the openness of this collective brain is like some new firm maintaining that they own the rights to fire and air; a dance of the brain's synopsis on the grave of copyright. Intellectual property rights must be
redefined, and a new basis for laws found. Code-keys for Internet security replace the traditional boundaries between you and I.
The speed of data-transfer simulates and stimulates an illusion of wealth, power, and community. Any loss of self-restraint through this speed appears to give 'instant' access to an occultist's inner Self; but that Self now seems to have forgotten the most basic rules of grammar or how to think analytically, has no vestiges of 'political correctness', and has lost its common courtesy. The degeneration of much language on the Internet into a kind of Pidgin English is supposedly for reasons of speed, and a result of pragmatism in communication. The fonts, icons, pictures, and animations on the screen, the generally-obtaining silence of Internet communication, the lack of non-verbal clues from body language — all these seem to have led to over-exaggerated sympathies, antipathies, idealisations and demonisations. The disappearance of the sort of traditional consciousness that was moulded by external factors (such as everyday life, the time required for old-fashioned 'snail-mail' to arrive, the need to draft and edit, cultural borders, and so on) has meant that old-fashioned strategies for resolving conflicts have been lost or forgotten. Nike's "Just do it" slogan as seen on the trainers worn by the Heaven's Gate suicide victims comes to mind here: was that another example of the rituals of communication being abused, as supposed 'awareness' increased? Crowley's "Do what thou wilt" became "Do your own thing" in the 1960's; through commercialisation it became "Just do it", and now it is the demonstrative "Do!".
The opportunities in cyberspace to change personality, sex, and age at will, to exist as pure 'bodyless text' or an icon (and an avatar as well) are in blatant contrast to a traditional occult lifestyle and experiences (sports, drugs, music, dance, light-effects, yoga and sex-magic). On the Internet, everything gets reduced to a uniformity of typefaces, formatting, and style. Slipping into this discorporated astral existence is experienced by some occultists not only as the fulfillment of the 'Great Work', but as a concomitant sense of being parasitised or eaten up, with a dramatic loss of energy; for them, it is as if the Internet has become an evil égregore. The processing and assimilation of all the data becomes one-dimensional, a road you can't seem to get off: mental consumption alongside physical stiffness. As a result, there is physical degeneration alongside mental decay: eye-infections and bad eyesight, repetitive strain injury, eccentric habits, headaches, disturbed sleep patterns, and lack of concentration. Another alarming result of this loss of former emotional authenticity is a wish to somehow melt into the computer, like Andy Warhol's desire to become a machine, sometimes seen in Japanese man-machine films, or on a grander scale, David Bowie's "Heroes just for one day". But who needs to achieve this fusion? Nowadays, with the individual definition of what makes up an identity getting more fragmented by the moment, the increase of popular myths that seek to render the world a unity shouldn't astonish us. But does this myth simply arise spontaneously, or do we struggle to promote it? Which myth is it, for that matter: the myth of omnipotence and omnipresence, or that of liberating the body in a sort of Yogic self-loathing, or that of immortality, or that of being like a God? But these are old ideas; the new media are not really devoted to the old desire for immortality, but the Gnostic need to achieve perfection. The physical body has been devalued, and now the need is to at least partially replace it. Neurological technology aims to separate mind and body, so that the mind may be stored in an electronic form, and thereby be improved and reprogrammed. The interest in the possibilities of influencing the body so as to change it and improve it, are symptomatic of a disinclination to accept physical and psychical disabilities. Once again, the rich will win in this race to self-improvement; for instance those in O.T.O. groups who are in a position to determine which members shall be raised to the ranks of the higher degrees — perfect initiates need perfect bodies to perform perfect sex-magic to produce the perfect 'Elixir of Life'.
This allows a new myth to be introduced: being a fictional creation becomes an integral part of being real; to be one simulation among other simulations. Magicians feel comfortable with such a concept, for after all it is just another way of changing the world purely through the exercise of a magically-honed will. The trouble is that these magical wills only seem to express themselves by exposure to constant new stimuli (from higher dimensions, for example), or to download a new mind off the Internet. The proto-fascist Self hides itself in a bunker that is merely the global community of discorporated beings on the Internet, whom they never touch or meet. It's the ultimate form of safe sex, safe drugs, safe transcendence and safe feminism.
Timothy Leary tried to reformulate this theory of virtual cyberspace existence; he wanted human brains to learn how to breathe while diving in and out of what he called the "Datmosphere", while their bodies enjoyed themselves in the slow lasciviousness of the "meat-matter" world. He thought that on the "skin-fluid-level" our left part of the brain is focussed on mechanical, material images, while in cyperspace the right part of the brain seems to be freed to investigate the
intense cyber-realities of quick feedback exchange with other sources of information and other out-of-the-body entities. But can a computer screen create expanded consciousness outside the "authorised realities"?
A lot of occultists used to spend a good deal of time wandering around alternate realities in any case — things like the astral planes and the spirit-world. Cyberspace therefore just means another (symbolic?) extension to the 'higher dimensions' to such people, who can annex and decipher such things for their personal magical and consciousness-expanding needs. Although cyberspace seems to be one tool for escaping reality which might confront occultists with scepticism or rejection, one of those
responding to my questionaire about the 'Use of the Internet' expressed the occult view very clearly: on the Internet "we can just exist." This raises the surreal possibility of people like this perceiving the real world as 'hyper-real' after taking off their cyber-helmets. Thus a renewed allusion to these new media as an 'extension of man' could be made to refer back to the physical world as kind of 'phantom pain' like that from an amputated limb.
Tumult in the Living Room
There are some Anthroposophists who see some of Rudolf Steiner's predictions fulfilled through the Internet: freedom of thought, social understanding of humanity, and knowledge of the mind. In the culture of electronic information, these people have seen the realisation of humanistic ideals like philosophical tolerance, and condemnation of censorship and violence; purely a life of the mind, unadulterated by politics, ideologies or mass media.
But in reality the Internet turns out to be a global stage for self-exposure, with only a theoretically cathartic effect; it is a medium for breaking taboos, and of the lowest common denominator. Here there is a meeting of self-confidence with traditional longings and deficiencies derived from popular culture. Access to the Net supports extreme opinions, gives them credibility and an audience. With this socially irresistible hybrid constellation of minds, cyberspace degenerates into a largely æsthetically mediated exposure of the social mainstream, and hence also for the occult commonplaces of ritualised chatter about Yoga, Cabbala, Gnosis, ceremonies, and Crowley (as in some O.T.O. groups). All the claims about the Internet being a form of expanded consciousness turn out to be a simple reconfiguration of the world which allows things to go on as before. It is a semblance of expressing the individual will and plans, an imitation of freedom blinkered by a corsett of rituals. Or if you will, the saga of Narcissus updated: McNarcissus.
There is a constantly growing morass of occult 'experts' on the Internet; because there is no control or editorial selection, just about every member of the O.T.O. with a homepage has become an 'expert' in accord with Joseph Beuys' dictum that everyone is a talkshow host — but one is then faced with a duplication of these alleged sources of the truth which eventually completely invalidates any truth. Everything is equally insignificant, although it is presented so that it does not appear like that. Whether it is Bennetton adverts, anti-cult organisations, or Tarot cards, it's all the same: the world as wrapping-paper. In the hyper-democracy of the Internet there are no longer such things as 'right' and 'true' as opposed to 'wrong' and 'false', but only the vestiges of what McDonaldisation's methods dictate: faster, louder, brighter, juicier. In this intercontinental debate about the value of knowledge, empathy and the search for quality have to give in to the sheer information-overload and overkill that comes with quantity. What seemed at first to be revolution or anarchy, has rapidly degenerated into conspicuous consumption.
Almost all O.T.O. homepages on the Internet are self-referential communication; apart from their contents, all they tell you is what's on other O.T.O. homepages. The package suggests that it is the contents, (the medium is the message). This self-reference is common among occultists like Crowleyans or Scientologists, and some Masonic 'scholars' (who only quote Masonic literature in their essays), who therefore reinforce their own prejudices.
The McDonaldisation of Occulture might seem to break down these incestuous tendencies by its public Internet exposure; where once it honoured academic titles, and the old distinctions between white-collar, blue-collar, and uniform, now pure ASCII holds sway. Selective attention now decides whether information is worthwhile or not; now it doesn't matter if that information is right or wrong, or even true or false — only whether it attracts attention. 'Netizens' organise themselves in net-rings - communities of interest detached from geography, communities based on time-zones, widespread anonymity, and constantly-changing identities. Constancy and reliability are the standards for affiliation to these Web communities, on the meta-level that is online existence.
Thanks to the Internet, what were previously activities exclusive to occult Orders have become part of popular culture, factual concerns shrink to the level of Web 2.0 'happenings' and second-hand opinions, knowledge becomes data-hoarding, the linear becomes interactive, and proper friendship dissapears in interchangeable cyber-interaction. Occulture becomes an audience riven by factions which fishes its half-truths out of the limitless digital pool. This McDonaldised Occulture is an arena where
anything goes, a breeding-ground for conspiracy-theories where half-truths are classed as scholarly work — for example in the wholly quantitative use of data exclusive to the Internet in university dissertations and theses. This reduction of facts to hallucinatory speculations leaves no room for the controlling influence of truth, and results in an endless fragmented labyrinth of unlimited choices. Any information here will face a continuing elasticity in a process of transformation and interactive reconfiguration. In the vast catacombs of the hypertexts it is all too easy to lose a feeling for the whole; in the nebulous atmosphere left by an absence of such an overview, connections and continuity can disappear. Where there is hypertext, there is no context. Does this hold out the unalluring future prospect for Internet users of having to develop a robust information immunity against the infection of false information on the World Wide Web?
With or without onions?
More influential than radio, film and TV, the Internet is going to alter our perceptions and our language. Already ten per cent of Internet usage is by children and teenagers — it is the resource-base and market-place of Western society. The EU has instituted plans to provide all schools with Internet connections.
Of course, the huge range of information on the Internet can be a source of inspiration to careful and thorough researchers; and its openness means that it is far more difficult for some groups to maintain their abusive behaviour. It is worth pointing out that the founders of the O.T.O., Theodor Reuss and Aleister Crowley, developed very 'open' and libertarian opinions on education and sexuality (children should be brought up by 'Priest-Doctors' or libertarian Gnostics, and not within a family structure).
The numberless manifestations of multiple identity in our culture — including the creation of Internet personas — contribute to an over-all confirmation of traditional unitary theories of identity, and support the post-modern Weltanschauung. There are relevant metaphors for this running through information science, psychology, children's games, literature, advertising, biology, medicine (you can now do a virtual frog-dissection), mass culture and of course Occulture. The principle of the
'embodied artificial intelligence' is well-known, and used as a paradigm in physics, information technology, biology, and behavioural science — there are already primitive artificial 'beings' that can move independently, co-operate, organise, and evolve. Never has the gap between high culture and mass (or consumer) culture been so narrow. What is visible doesn't have to allude to the concealed, existence doesn't have to allude to essence, nor the signifier to the signified. We are living in an electronic version of Oscar Wilde's disguise, where "the true secret of the world is the visible and not the invisible".
But what disadvantages does the post-modern bring with it? A constant leaping from one subject to another in a world tied to immediacy and simultaneity will erase any consciousness of history. The post-modern individual's passivity and immobility goes hand in hand with an increasing need for ever stronger stimuli.
While a world-famous brand-name is defined by unity, clarity, and an strict fulfillment of the customer's needs to generate brand-identification and loyalty, the 'Caliphate' O.T.O. is little more than a commercial concern which allows its managing director to live off the royalties generated by Aleister Crowley's writings. It isn't really the membership-fees which are carved up as a rich income for the organisation's chiefs, but almost entirely these (some say unauthorised) royalties. These royalties are raised through intimidating publishers, who are too indolent to admit the real legal situation; thus the 'Caliphate' can continue as a withered legal parasite on the body of publishing. This fact is whitewashed on dozens of 'consciousness-expanding' Internet homepages, which show the over-egged peace-and-love pudding of the 'Caliphate' up for what it is — a McO.T.O. From an eschatological viewpoint, the occult parts of the Internet should be seen as a place where information (as a factor in production and consumption) is used by a minority as tool of control, power, and manipulation over the mass of occult consumers. Marginalised religious groups and neo-liberal economics (like McDonaldisation) are the two sides of this (dollar) coin.