Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Techne Technology and Witchcraft

My viewpoint is bound to differ from that of Ian Vincent, who has with erudition engaged with the ideas in Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Exactly what is needed. This is, as he notes, not a book that sets out to please, and offers up many challenges to the citizens of the modern world.

To make sense of this post his lively review can be read here:

I would like to simply clarify a few points where I feel my ideas have been somewhat misconstrued.

If my work did not create controversy and debate then it would be a failure both of my writing and the reader's ability to engage with it.

Critically, Apocalyptic Witchcraft is not a call to retreat into an imagined past, but a recognition that the world is in a state of radical change, due to the actions of man upon the living systems without which we cannot survive. It does not suggest that the dreamspace or the planet is pristine, but rather that all worlds coincide. 

Witchcraft is orientated in time and space, it is embedded in the land and the body of the witch. The only cyborg we will get is courtesy of the military industial complex, our salvation is not technical but the raw techne of the body stripped of ego and gender and humanity in the celebration of the Sabbat.

This is where Ian and I diverge. He is modern, urban and technical and sees the solutions to be found in modern technical approaches. I am more keenly aware of the finite nature of our resources and the perilous state we are in. I trust the durability of my black handled knife over my keyboard. 

Those who place the planet first are often accused of wanting a 10 billion people genocide. This is not what I am advocating. The witch must use everything that they have got, all tools, we cannot return to year zero, even if we fervently wished to. I am simply pointing out the reality of collapse and that a living witchcraft must take account of this.

The city is unsustainable, our civilisation heading for the cliff at a rate which will only accelerate in the next fifty years. Readings of Zerzan, Kaczynski, Derek Jensen et al will become increasingly accepted by those who see the signs in the environment, signs that city dwellers are often slower to observe, alienated as they are from the natural cycles. This does not mean that I endorse all the ideas of these thinkers, my palette is far more diverse.

For another magical perspective on the crisis I recommend the work of John Michael Greer, both his Blood of the Earth which we have published, and his blog. These are all perspectives that should be critically engaged with.

In some places however the cities are failing, see New Orleans, Beijing and Phoenix, there is no place to hide:

As for mass extinction, loss of soil, death of the oceans and 'peak everything,' these are beyond the bounds of the book which is concerned with how witchcraft is envisioned and embodied rather than writing an environmental screed.
My postion is that there is no tech fix. The internet will not save us, and neither will celebrities, nor ethical consumption. This is difficult to accept in the cossetted world of industrial culture and the advantages which it brings to the few at the expense of the many.

My position on the internet has changed over the years, not as a technophobe but from being involved in the dotcom boom and seeing the infinite possibilities squandered into a marketing algorithm and an increasingly banal feedback loop. The technology is not neutral. Ian's position will be closer to some aspects of The Red Goddess, written when I was in the heart of the city and the cracks were not showing so clearly. 

Ian and I are unlikely to come to an agreement on this issue! I will rather let history be the arbiter. I predict war, collapse and famine at unprecedented levels, an ugly scramble for the last remaining resources to support a failing industrial culture. I offer no cosy myth of a rural idyll in compensation for this. I say that now is the time for Witchcraft to step into the breach and defend what is left.

The book was written with Alkistis, so contains a strong female influence. Neither of us adhere to an idea that there are two genders, but rather that sexual identity is fluid. Polarity should not be read as gender. The focus of the work is on the centrality of the moon and menstruation in witchcraft; these are women's mysteries. We welcome more gay writers articulating their mysteries, especially given the role of gay men in the cult of Inanna. We'd be very interested to read more from Ian on this. As for dualism, not something that I recognise in the text, animism certainly, though inversion and opposition are valid aspects the ultimate challenge the text gives is to remove the mask of gender, ego, humanity and engage in the Sabbat. 

In Nomine Bablon

Peter Grey


Cat Vincent said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment on my review.

It's clear that there are many areas on which we will have to politely agree to disagree - and it's also clear that it would be a fool's errand for a critic to disagree with an author's clearly stated intent. With that in mind...

One of the many areas where you see a dualism and I see a spectrum is in that of the cyborg concept. Your insistence that we would only see such entities as a result of the military-industrial complex is simply not so on the ground. A movement of people interested in enhancing nature with technology on a street-level, DIY basis has been ongoing for many years - they call themselves Grinders and I consider myself philosophically aligned with them. More of their perspective can be found at

A key point of this perspective is that humans have always been enhanced, and even defined, by our technology. Some variations of this insist that the use of language and symbolism themselves were humanity's first prosthesis. From this angle, the very idea that humanity's works and tools are somehow separate from nature is a misunderstanding.

Again you make the comment about "I trust my knife more than my laptop", which I noted in the book. I would point out that a knife is a very poor tool of communication... and is also a technological achievement.

I actually agree with you that a collapse of our current state is possible, if not likely. Where we disagree is on how we should approach this. My position is that by refining our understanding and use of all technologies, and prioritizing them on a basis of most benefit for least harm, is the only possible approach. I don't actually understand what your alternative suggestion is here - which may be my fault, of course.

Again we disagree on the future of cities - and we clearly read very different people on the subject (my still-somewhat-pessimistic, somewhat-hopeful angle is drawn mainly from Bruce Sterling's consideration of Gothic High Tech vs Favela Chic). Again, I think there is a middle point here - the city is not the only form of conurbation, and the overlap of urban and rural can be negotiated in other ways.

I'm glad to see the expansion of your views on the matter of gender and sexual duality. Like so much else, I find that life gets so much more interesting and vivid in the places where polarities touch and merge.

Again, we find agreement that some aspects of the modern condition can and should be fought with all tools at our disposal, including magical forces. Where we differ perhaps is on where those battles should be fought, and with what level of tool use. I've yet to read Greer, which I look forward to with some interest (especially after having another Grinder recommend it highly!).

My respects to you and Alkistis - may we all find a viable path to a more hopeful future.

Cat Vincent

Fox said...

The simple fact of the matter is that the military-industrial complex has got us where we are today ie in the midst of collapse. It isnt going to happen in the future, its happening now. Technology is the root of this-tech that requires a military industrial system to exist. A knife is a tool and so is a laptop but one requires the skill and knowledge of one person while the other requires...well, we know the story by now. Witchcraft is or must become again an adverserial current. Personally, after having read Peter's "AW" i went on to read Ted Kaczynki's "Technological Slavery". He has it right in my opinion-industrial civilization must be brought down, sooner rather than later to give all life a chance at survival. Another 200 species went extinct today-directly caused by the technological mindset. Witchcraft can be revolutionary and needs to be so if it is to be relevant to that which its animistic outlook claims to regard and respect.

Patrick Hawkes said...

I've just finished Apocalyptic Witchcraft- it was brilliant. I didn't understand all of it and I think I will have to read it a couple more times for it all to sink in and make sense to me so maybe I'm missing something in asking this; but all of the calls to stand up, fight, take action left me wondering---how? How can we fight these corporations and governments that are raping and murdering our world in any significant way?

Scarlet Imprint said...

Thanks for writing Patrick.

The answer on how to fight back is a personal one.

Responses vary from the liberal to the radical, you might want to look at The Dark Mountain Project, or Deep Green Resistance, or Occupy, or a whole range of other thinkers from John Zerzan to Ted Kaczynski to John Michael Greer to Hakim Bey.

The options are many, the personal response is entirely yours. From a purely witchcraft perspective I'd suggest working on Presence and Orientation to prevent getting overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problems. Listen to what the land wants.
I hope that is of some help.
All my best,