Why farmpunk?

A farmpunk could be described as a neo-agrarian who approaches [agri]culture, community development and/or design with an anarchistic hacker ethos. "Cyber-agrarian" could supplant neo-agrarian, indicating a back-to-the-land perspective that stands apart from past movements because it is heavily informed by conceptual integration in a post-industrial information society (thus "forward to the land" perhaps?) The art and science of modern ecological design—and ultimately, adapting to post-collapse contexts—will be best achieved through the combined arts of cybermancy and geomancy; an embrace of myth and ritual as eco-technologies. In other words: the old ways of bushcraft and woodlore can be combined with modern technoscience (merely another form of lore) in open and decentralized ways that go beyond pure anarcho-primitivism. This blog is an example of just that. Throughout, natural ecologies must be seen as the original cybernetic systems.

**What we call for at the farmpunk headquarters**
°Freedom of information
°Ground-up action + top-down perspectives
°Local agricultural systems (adhering to permaculture/biodynamic principles) as the nuclei of economies
°Bioregional autonomy
°Computers are optional but can be used for good—see peer to peer tech, social media for direct popular management of natural or political disasters (e.g. Arab Spring), or the mission of the hacker collective Anonymous

Monday, April 6, 2009

Post-Mythology & Re-Sorcery

There are two distinct themes in the following diatribe that I want to work to connect. One is magic[k]. The other is conscious ecological design/build. I am going to attempt to provide a working definition of magick to make for better grokking. Hey, my spellchecker knows the word "grok", but not the archaic spelling of magic (with a K). Kurious.

This is by no means a comprehensive definition, and please feel free to contribute thoughts of your own... I'm going to be purposefully general because of the concepts we'll work with later on. My definition will probably most reflect a familiarity with the concept of Magick with a K as articulated by Aleister Crowley, and the school of Chaos Magic, which is a syncretistic "post-modern" incarnation and open-reconciliation of various historical occult philosophies. I can't go into the relative depth of my affinity with either of those paradigms, but let me simply say that I see magick as an interface, and a relative perceptual waveform, not something that explains cause and mechanics in the classical scientific sense. As a self-conscious practice, "magick" is superficially the manipulation (and often creation) of symbols. Incipiently - and ideally - this "casting" and placement of symbols in both visible and invisible landscapes represents the deliberate allocation of individual will and attention as well as possibly the manipulation of the attentions of others. Lastly, mobilizing will and focusing attention in magical practice is something that is often honed through meditative and yogic techniques. Perhaps one could call magick the active integration of an ecology of perception with an economy of attention. One can see this cartoonishly crystallized in sleight-of-hand magic, the success of which relies on the magician's understanding and trust of the perceptual tendencies and cognitive apparatus of his audience. In our society sleight-of-hand is streamlined for the goal of entertainment, but similar performative techniques have existed in indigenous shamanic traditions that are geared toward very different goals, like healing. For more on this idea, please refer to David Abram's work.

In regards to the popular term " the dark arts"; dark should not connote malice - it simply connotes the risk to self and others that comes naturally when we learn new things about cause and effect in our environment. Manipulation - and for that matter, deception - are not intrinsically "bad". (In fact, optimal social friction among human and animal groups alike depends on fundamental forms of deception... but that's beyond the scope of this post). Toddlers go through destructively manipulative phases when they figure out certain social "rules"... but hopefully they grow out of it. See what I mean?

Conscious design/build, or ecological design, or geomantic design, or permaculture (etc. etc. etc.) is, for the purposes of juxtaposing our definitions, the manipulation and placement of materials that depends on attention to natural (ecological and social) patterns. Consequently, placement of structures and orientation of built space is intended to steward or optimize such patterns in various ways. Like practical magick, it is a engagement of principles and practices. Magick and Design-Build are both strategic processes. They both involve successive steps; the preliminary mapping of an environment, the installing of infrastructure, and with the addition of the ingredient of consciousness as a critical currency, producing some desired effect.

We have come to rely on professionals to "do magic" and to "design and build" for us. The services of enchanting (corporate media and "entertainment") and building (which we rather unconsciously refer to as "construction") are unsurprisingly commodified. The sort of intention that goes into the built environments we inhabit or the products we find ourselves buying does not address our local conditions, so we forget what locality even is.
We need to go freelance. These crafts really only work through freelance practice and concomitant guild systems that allow practitioners an interface for sharing information and a means for organizing forums.

We must make the incentives to practice these crafts responsibly and holistically more attractive than the incentives to practice them irresponsibly and destructively. The latter incentives abound as we navigate the Capitalist-Protestant game board.

My standpoint probably isn't too hard to guess. Both the creation and placement of symbols, and the creation and placement of structures must be grassroots and ground-up - but don't have to be antagonistic to modes of 'global thinking' and information society. In fact, I dare say that localization, import substitution and bioregional autonomy is a pretty fucking good global ethic. Physical reality: human settlements are located in different bioregions all over the earth. Different societies have produced vastly different ways of both worldview-building and structure-building that are critical to an ongoing dialectic with their local environment. The preservation (and re-creation) of these dialectics provide a way to index and articulate available natural (and social) resource pools. It's prty simple, rly.

The recent emergence and diverse applications of systems theory testifies to our ability on a species-level to just BEGIN to comprehend complex systems and the cause and effect therein. I can't emphasize enough how incredibly novel and powerful this is. It's no less than the fulcrum for the next (post-normal) scientific revolution. The implicit re-infrastructuring potential is comparable to that of the discovery of electricity. Seriously. We find ourselves participating in economic and social systems that were never really planned for implication on such large a scale (not like they could have been sufficiently planned anyway). It's a principle of textbook economics that our economy is a self-regulating, emergent system of allocation. No one designed it. People designed institutions that are now veritable organs of it, yes, but the flux of price value is pretty much an emergent beast. It does it's own thang. The mechanism of the market is interesting for like a few minutes, before you realize how much it just sucks. Anyway, point being: The fact that we can Name these various systems and world-views that have metastasized (and used us as unwitting agents in the process) as undesigned or badly designed is critical to the re-design process. Your brain is what designs things, not God, or similarly, the Dollar. Kevin Kelly has talked about this over at the Technium, and I agree with his idea that the future of efficient systems-design lies in optimally harnessing the creative power of open-access, ground-up action with minimal top-down selection for maximum innovation. (I count two holistic design principles in there...) The million dollar question of course is, who's going to be doing the modulation, and to what end. We can only hope that freedom of information and the health of the earth and its people are high on the list of priorities. We can also hope that the systems we design will adhere to the appropriate scale - that of the municipality. No, I don't think libertarian socialism will solve everything, but I do think it's a Good Place to Start.

The pseudo-twofold theme of this post is consistent with two of our birthrights: geomancy and myth-making. I'm claiming these two birthrights with some newfangled wordicles: re-so(u)rcery and post-mythology, respectively. Brielfly: Re-Sorcery is the practice of creating bioregional autonomy and natural-resource based economy - and implies things like natural building and anti-establishment methods of "sourcing" things in a post-industrial society like DIY and gleaning. Post-mythology is live-action-storytelling: the active process of re-appropriation of the function of myths and locally significant stories: the seamless blending of life and art, the virtual with the tangible. I'm interested in the value of mythic thought in human culture. It's really my number one Muse. If I could locate the arena where most of my activism goes on, it's in the area of story-telling, techno-bardic synthesizing and re-presenting of Highly Relevant Information. I don't want to go into terrible detail here, but simply put: we are physiologically designed for myth-making. I hate it when grammar fucks up my ability to articulate - obviously we aren't designed FOR anything, other than maybe to reproduce. But something sort of big popped up on the way... surprise! It's the neocortex. As Terence said, we are brains on a stick. Ever read the Ender's Game series? (It's scripture to me. Sheepish grin.) There's a superintelligent being named Jane who's "brain" is an emergent property of the interconnection of a future galactic internet that links a federation of human colonies on different planets. Jane can monitor like billions of data streams at once, and hold several hundred of them on levels of conscious attention. The bad guys (government) find out Jane exists and want to try and kill her by shutting down the entire galactic interwebs. Since she exists through the relational order of computers, the possibility that it will for all purposes "kill" her is high, so the Good Guys figure out a way to download Jane's "soul particle" into a human body. [Orson Scott Card articulates this whole system of metaphysics that is like a gnostic Christian remix of quantum physics]. So the point is, when Jane's sentience is transferred to a human body, she gets all antsy and pent up because she can't satisfy her massive ADD, which is actually just her now-restrained ability to hold like a gajillion levels of attention. So periodically she goes into some A.I. version of samadhi and like inhabits the "hive mind" of say an entire forest, or sometimes she even goes back into the internet and races around intergalactic cyberspace at faster-than-light-speed. Us humans go for these "fixes" as well. Y'know -- sensorial overloads. 300? Hazing? Mosh pit? Sugar? We need practical fiction and myth, or else we'll go stir crazy like Jane. Although to her credit, she did eventually pipe down and get married. LoL.

All I'm saying is that once we start to see the grand human legacy of myth-plexes as unimportant or worse the product of 'delusion', then we're really in a sorry state... was it von Goethe who said that there ain't no sorrier bastard than the one who falsely believes he is free? God is laughing. Even if he doesn't exist. He's LOLing with the power of all the LOLCATS in the universe.

We need to reclaim our cognitive and etheric inheritance and assemble as re-sourcerors, an army of white magic wielders. This war will be fought by many allied regiments - which is necessary, for we are dealing with complexity and uncertainty beyond measure. If there is any uniting principle, any mission statement of this un-army, it is healing. Liberation ecology, liberation theology, poetic terrorism, guerrilla energy therapy, gender-recreation, sexual liberation, brave college professors, midwifery, reclaiming our ethnobotanical birthright, seed & logic bombing, having the courage to ask ourselves what local, practical anarchism looks like, and for ___'s sake, teaching our children! Teaching our children without projecting our ego onto them! Co-teaching them with Nature! Having the goal of kneeling prostrate beside them in front of Earth's altar; HAVING THE FUCKING GUTS TO DO THAT! dare to be awed, and odd (reclaim the arcane power of odd numbers: 3:7:9:11:13) This means following the principle of "mystery-design", whether we are stewarding the learning of a three year old or a twenty year old! Mystery design is didactic craft driven by different questions than before - new questions - facilitating a dialectic-dance around common mysteries. Approaching those mysteries with love, /moth to the flame/, not cowering from Mystery in fear - never using Mystery as a mechanism for subordination. Knowing that there is no "the" in front of Mystery, and that it is an edge constantly moving - a wriggling plumed serpent at the periphery of our vision, whose feathers graze our fingertips when we smell the warm earth. Fauns declare it a human right to share a personal Secret with Nature. (In case you're skeptical of anthroposophy, this i[could be]s what Christ Consciousness Is. Not so bad, see?) This secret is a fire. We must not let it die (though it won't really ever die, but it will become invisible. The waveform biorhythm of magical consciousness that twines through us all will wane in its frequency - the crests and troughs of the waveform will become farther and farther apart until it seems to be a flatline. It is then hardest to revive, especially because we have been stamped with the seal of individualism in our society, so many will fail to see this flatline, much less be able to gather mana to remediate it). Empowering and cultivating awareness in our children is vastly more important - and difficult - than starting with answers. That's what doctrine does. It starts with answers. Using Doctrine as a rubric for Action is doing it backwards. It is the effect of someone else's inflorescence, in an ancient time, another place. It is Not Bad, but Not For Us!!! Indeed, there are squadrons emerging in this self-organizing army. They are each comprised of people who have found themselves waking up to an ongoing disaster. They can perhaps be loosely categorized by what they choose to Name this disaster (Naming is a form of Mapping, and also the operative act in a post-modern Magick). There are those who have woken up to the ongoing disaster of the economy. Those of us who have woken to the ongoing ecological disasters. Those facing disasters in the social and the spiritual realms. Then there is the squadron whose mission has perhaps inspired my ranting - and they are the possessors of the Hermetic prerogative of enchanting and healing. We must all Know that it is simply artificial channels which separate us, while still Knowing that Channeling is an extremely important tool. The Hermetic squadron should indeed not stay together, exclusively, and decay, as has happened history over, but meet in spirit and seed every other squadron in body. All systems "decay", so we must design decay into systems. Intelligent decay. That's what cells do. Decay can also be progress. It would behoove us to see them as fundamentally the same phenomenon. (N.B. This is figurative, spirit and body are separate in word, but not in being). Apprentices of Hermes may have already been touched by the feeling that Tricksters Cannot Stay Together In One Place For Too Long. This must be taken as a community design principle, and deserves to be well-accounted for. A fierce love of mine has just pointed me to the delightful website of The Institute for Applied Piracy, a collective of friends who deeply felt the need for a terrestrial base, a place to belong to the land and build ships and hold DIY gatherings. They've done a find job on the mythical remediation I've been taking about, too, playfully and passionately re-appropriating the pirate identity. I also am deeply interested in community farm models where there is rotational control of operations so those of us chronically wanderlusted can go on periodic and necessary walkabouts, sailing the seas whether proverbially or actually. But I digress... to return to the prerogative of the Hermetic sector of our un-army: The other squadrons and platoons of activists and paradigm-fighters each must have a mana pool - a regenerative flow of spiritual capital - and they must all learn to be stewards of this spiritual regeneration. In English: We don't want our activists to burn out, and often they are unfortunately put in danger of doing so. They must be given "spiritual knowledge of how to fish" instead of being given paltry communion wafers by some strange man in a dress. Hopefully we can thus calibrate our local social gyroscopes; do the group organism thing right (Not Like the Borg, obvs.); Open Society To Invisible Circuitry. Let weeds grow/expose our skin to the solar touch/maybe not censor scientific research on the power of the heart. This is how we will accommodate a tribal species that is facing globalization and information overload. Memo: Our identities as a tribal species are not going to change any time soon. Tribes need articulation of magic & mystery through myth. And we need to re-appropriate myth - take mythic thought back from the Advertisers and Popes and Money Machines who have stolen it from us and boiled it down into something unrecognizable as magick. It is vestigal magic that has forgotten itself - sterilized, dead, much like flash-pasteurized milk or the Flavr Savr tomato; cancer causing. The corporate media and the advertising that flows between us and the "free" market achieve their spell-casting power in part because of a very important act: the act of re-naming or un-naming. This is one of the most powerful hexes that exists - just refer to modern re-incarnations of this ancient myth, like The Neverending Story or A Wind in the Door. In communicating to you, product-propaganda objectifies and contextualizes you in a mythic world that does not exist. But alas, they create this mythic infrastructure by feeding your senses with designed input, and a collective illusion is erected by the local phenomena of millions of people being fed copies of the same symbolic/sensory experience. This creates an invisible consensus, a homogenization of perception; a prison! Unfortunately corporate advertising has become bloated with some of the most specialized psychologists on God's green earth. Notice I didn't say "smartest" or "most intelligent". In harmony with Bucky's story of how Kings and Kingdoms and the Power Structures behind them formed, specialization has historically reflected optimization of the populace by the powerful. Consistent with complex adaptive systems theory, optimization of sub-groups in a larger group allows for a wider repertoire of group-level actions. If there are a handful of guys at the top who have access to the yields of many specialized sub-groups, they can manipulate a plurality of abstractions that each represent an incredible amount of human capital, and could only be compiled by extreme individual specialization and focus. These beings of flesh who figure out how to live in a world of nearly 100% abstraction and excel in moving information around for selfish reasons are, upon examination, found to be impromptu arch-sorcerers of a type of magic Blacker than the blood from your liver.
Thus the need for the onslaught of white-magic swarms. At this point we are still very much concerned with protecting ourselves from the black-magic-barrage, and empowering others to do the same. Indeed, protective magic will pave the way for creative magic; the creation of new in/visible structures and machines. For this, we need to cease in the protectionism of the occult, and step to the challenge of actively integrating it. Look what is happening - people are writing books using magical principles about how to seduce women, even using the word "victim" to refer to human beings - and aiming for a consumer market that would have not the faintest interest in the Great Work otherwise! This is a tragedy of consciousness. There are many agendas that use intellectual or magical terrorism. We need inoculation of Liberation Freemasonry and Green Hermeticism - and WE NEED THEM NOW! Fortunately, we do not have to search for 'them' - as one does not search for Elemental Fire - but tends the coals and coaxes the flame out of the aether. Social and spiritual fire, isomorphic in function to its role in the natural world, is coming. God I sound apocalyptic. I encourage you to not take me too seriously.


Jeremiah said...

damn faun.
ART(ifice)FUL communication-seeds.
marketing mavens wield a death-grip on manipulaive language. anarchist/radical/ecological response blunts the tools of advertsement by naming them and even divining their evolutionary origins, but hasn't yet learned how to wield them for other purposes. in your words, then, how would you reclaim Magick? i'm willing to bet that those of us who can hear these words have an instinctual aversion to magick/manipulation/advertisement born of a fierce need for individualism. the lines blur between manipulation and authority, and the traditional radical response is to assume that leadership by example is sufficient.
thoughts yah
thanks for the seeds

Jennifer McCharen said...



It will take much grokking before my brain comes up with a worthy reply to these two posts. All I have to say is nonwords. Is a feeling of strength-power-love, I want to go sprint a mile in the sunlight. I want to dance until I fall over giggling. Oh, thank you.

the faun said...

That's good, Jenny, since the real farmpunk agenda is to prime all earthlings for the dancefloor/circus of holy foolz. Diabolical laugh.

And Jem, yes, the prerogative of reclaiming magick is on my mind. I'm pretty dissatisfied with my definition of magick as well. I wanted to tailor the definition for this particular post, but it's evident that I need to devote considerable time to explaining history and practice without any political agenda or advocacy clouding the discussion. Then we can get to what you're asking about.

the faun said...

Jem - and everyone - forgive my latency in directing you to this article by the fellow behind Brainsturbator... he goes way beyond simply answering your question of "how do we reclaim magick"... my thoughts on the matter would be mere abstractions of what this guy has to say:


the faun said...

lol. here's an actual link: brainsturbator article.

and for gawdsake read Poker Without Cards. Don't make me say it twice, eh?

AHWayne said...

Stain your prayer-rug with WINE old men, toss your Jesus-crackers on the floor, goose-Christians! The kingdom of God is within you! The cup-bearer pours out the intoxicating Spirit!

"We enter, fire-drunk,
Holy one to your sanctuary.
Your magic(k) powers re-unite
What custom's sword has strictly parted,
All earthlings become siblings
where your gentle wing alights."

Your blog posts make me erupt into ecstatic song and poetry. More academicians should start writing like you - maybe they'd become academagicians?