Technocratic Shamanism

Think back… way, way back… to when you were an infant. The word “infans” means “without speech”. That’s a long ways back, although not entirely inaccessible.

Before you are born, you know neither need nor desire. As your bodily organism develops in the mother’s womb, all its requirements are provided by its environment, so that the sense of need or desire never arises at all. There is no delay, really, between your organism’s needs and the satisfaction of those needs. There is no sense of separation between the organism and its environment.

After you are expelled from the womb, it’s another story altogether.

You’re first encounter with a sense of apartness or of separation is the sense of need, desire, want, and the perhaps traumatic realisation that the new world into which you have entered throws up resistances to the immediate satisfaction of those needs, desires, wants. Suddenly, you’ve encountered the first of the Buddha’s Noble Truths — suffering and neediness, dukkha. There’s a sense of helplessness and neediness. But, over time, you learn that to get attention for your needs, a little bit of bawling and crying brings attention, comfort, and satisfaction of need.

You begin to sense that you face a frightening and even hostile world, one that apparently resists the satisfaction of desire, and so you have your first rudimentary awakening to the subject-object differentiation, which somehow you must bridge. Crying helps, perhaps. It brings attention. But even better is speech. And as you learn to speak, and leave infancy behind with the learning, you also make your first discovery of magic and magical technique. It’s not a coincidence that the word “grammar” is connected with words for magic and spell-casting. The names and tenses of grammar made the spaces and times of your immediate reality governable. “Johnny wants a cookie!” gets you want you want, along with that other magical word “No!” — and especially when it’s repeated 3 times: “No! No! No!” — since 3 is the number of magic.

I’m not entirely sure why three is the number of magic, yet, but threesomes keep recurring in connection with magic — Macbeth’s three witches, and Hermes Trismegistus, or “the thrice-great” Hermes. The number three, as the number of magic, insinuates itself through the mental-rational consciousness as the technique of dialectical reasoning — thesis, antithesis, synthesis — represented by the pyramid surmounted by the Eye of Horus or Eye of Ra become the perspectivising eye of the Age of Reason. As Gebser has it, all concerns with will, all concerns with power, belong to the magical structure of consciousness. Repetition, formula, prescription, recipe belong to magical technique — the power to “make happen” (for magic and “make”, as well as German Macht are related words, as is machine, magnificent, majesty, magus, and so on). And for the child, speech especially is spell-casting. The Greeks used the words “techne” and “magikos” interchangeably. And before the word “technology” — or “reasoning about the means” — came to be applied to the study and design of machinery and the means of production, it originally referred to the study of grammar — a “how to” approach to representing meaningful and ineffable truth in articulating, grammatical speech. Naming, and the power to name, was itself magic.

Magic arises as will to power, and the first experience of magic is the attempt of the child to overcome the gap between the arousal of need and desire and the resistance thrown up against the immediate satisfaction of the need or desire by the environment. This is our first orientation in reality — that there is, indeed, an evident difference between the “in-here” and the “out-there” that must somehow be overcome and managed by a technique. Technique is, for that reason, magical and is the chief expression of will to power for the purposes of satisfying need and desire by overcoming the resistances to the gratification of that need and desire.

And this is the issue of what Algis Mickunas calls “technocratic shamanism”. But he approaches it from a rather more abstract level than is necessary in his essay on “Magic and Technological Culture”. We can indeed speak of the ontology and metaphysics of contemporary instrumental rationality and techno-science as having its roots, unconsciously, in the magical consciousness structure, but really what it boils down to is that this ontology and metaphysics — or world-outlook (or “reason for being”) and method or means (quantification) correspondingly — is just a very sophisticated and refined approach to the child’s attempt to overcome the differential between desire and the resistance thrown up to desire by either nature or other human beings. In other words, it’s all just a sophisticated way of saying “Johnny wants a cookie!”.

If that sounds rather childish, it’s because it is. Much of contemporary techno-science (and I include in that also the advertisers and “brandmeisters”) are just great big overgrown children trying to find ever more sophisticated techniques for getting a cookie. In that sense, and in psychological terms, there is something very infantile about technological culture. The admen are just as childish in their neediness — in their need to control others for fun and profit — as little Johnny is desirous of getting someone to get him a cookie.

Of course, a lot of sociologists have already noted how infantile, childish, petulant, and narcissistic the consumerist culture of Late Modernity really is. Rosenstock-Huessy even noted that about the great Rene Descartes — that his thinking was that of a frustrated adolescent. So, what does Mickunas have to say about the ontology and the metaphysics of contemporary rationality that invokes the claim that it is rooted in magic (or more correctly, the “deficient magical”)?

First, Mickunas notes that the contemporary mental structure is characterised by two principle features: instrumental reason and will. These belong to the modus of the magical structure of consciousness and are formally expressed in the more or less conscious ontology and the metaphysics of the technological culture. He actually begins with a brief recapitulation of the fragemented and growing decoherence of the mental structure of consciousness — of “reason” — but we won’t revisit that here. It suffices to say that for Mickunas this fracturing of the consciousness structure is best characterised as “overspecialisation” of societal subsystems each making a claim to the possession of a specialist technique for the domination of some partial aspect of nature or human nature. In other words, pretty much the meaning of the old parable about the five or six blind scholars and the elephant. Underlying all this fragmented approach to nature and reality (and human nature too) in the form of the “disciplines” is a shared ontology (or world-outlook, or “reason for being”) and a common metaphysics that specifies the proper approach to that reality, and which takes the form of “method” or “methodology” or procedure.

The ontology of the technological society is the social construction of nature in which nature’s “reason for being” as such is to satisfy human wants. It exists for human use. The metaphysical or instrumental approach that follows from that is in the form of quantification, and as Mickunas puts it “Quantification is used as a way of establishing rules that may be applied to the ontologically designed world. Such rules allow the human to become lawgiver to the environment.”

This characterises both techno-science and propaganda, too, inasmuch as advertisers aspire to be “scientific” themselves which, in the literature, really means to achieve command and control of human behaviour and which we should probably call “behavioural engineering”. The motivations for this do not lie in science, per se, but in magic. All this “ontology” and “metaphysics” is just a fancy way of saying that Johnny has figured out how to cast his spell over the environment and other humans to get a cookie every time. His wish becomes a demand and a command. And that’s pretty much the gist of magic — the power “to make happen” rather than to “let happen”.

There is, of course, an authentic magical mode of awareness which has more to do with the mastery of intent. Gebser himself was more concerned with the manifestations, in our time, of the “deficient mode” of the magical consciousness. Bear in mind that Gebser began his Ever-Present Origin around 1932 (the same year Huxley published his Brave New World) and only published it finally in 1949 — the years that span the fascist period in Europe, when the intellectual culture of Germany succumbed to the influence of the unconscious ancient forces of magic and myth, when Nazi science served fetish and cult, often quite enthusiastically itself.

In fact, the “ancient forces” of myth and magic are real. They aren’t fictions, and Gebser insists its our task to recognise their continuing effective reality in our psychic constitution. They still lurk about in our dreaming, and in our dreaming we also rehearse our own approach to everyday reality. The boundary between what we call “consciousness” and “unconscious” is indeed very thin and very fluid.

“The priority of the will reintroduces the magical consciousness structure. This magical consciousness structure integrates instrumental rationality and technological production on the grounds of vital wants, performance for effect, and the power to transform all things into any desired shape. For magical awareness, everything can become everything else. Everything can be changed into any desired effect. All that is required is an appropriate and precise ritual. The ritual can be a rain dance or the seeding of clouds, a healing chant or a plastic heart. The principle is the same: Magic is the consciousness of the power to make, to transform, regardless of the qualitative and natural differences of things. Willing wanting, making, and power dominate this consciousness. Thus, all things are referred to the will and to the power to establish desired results.”

What must be added to this, of course, is the issue of efficiency. Where efficiency in the production of results as the satisfaction of wants trumps ethics, or in fact becomes the ethos itself, this also belongs to magical consciousness.

Here, I want to quote at some length from the concluding paragraphs of Mickunas’ essay, in which he turns his attention to the implications of techno-science for the political state “in the context of magical intentionality”. This is of some importance since it pertains to my recent research into the meaning of “holistic branding” a.k.a. “marketing 3.0”,

“First, since the claim is made that all things, including human thinking and even the conceived political institutions guaranteeing human rights and freedoms, are products (results) of certain conditions, then it follows that the remaking of conditions should abolish such institutions. Second, those who know how to redesign the conditions must be free from institutional restraints. Third, since an understanding of the complexities of the technocratic world is unavailable to the general population, there must be a political technocracy that is capable of employing technological processes, innovations, and humans for the construction of conditions that can yield the future desired result. Such a technocracy must be both the lawgiver and the designer of the conditions for the material processes in every area of social life. Fourth, the political technocracy claims that it has scientific knowledge about how to attain the ultimate promise of the scientific enlightenment (i.e., the establishment of the material conditions that can release all persons from external and internal forces). Consequently, everyone will live in a world dominated by human will. Fifth, since the material conditions and provisions are not yet adequate for the total mastery of all events, the technocracy must continue to manage society scientifically.
The technocracy thus becomes the new priestly class, the new shamanic elite…. This is to say, being in a position to master the conditions and to construct the future in accordance with their own forecasts, the technocrats become the true shamans of the modern age. This technocratic shamanism has a tendency to posit a future liberated state based on a behaviourally modified “new man” and to use all available means, including humans,as so much material force to achieve scientifically necessary and predictable results. This is a tendency toward the reductionism of the human to a means and a product. The result is a loss of the very concept of autonomy so important to political enlightenment and initially for the integrity of scientific enlightenment. Moreover, technocratic shamanism must regard the views of political enlightenment, which stress the autonomy, rights, and freedoms of the individual, as unscientific, outdated, and indeed a hindrance. Martin Kriele has argued that with this trend, there emerges the rule of human over human, in the form of a political technocracy that can dictate events on the basis of its claim to a scientific, technocratic understanding of what and how things are to be done…. The final liberation of the masses and their ability to shape their own destiny without institutional or shamanic involvement are always postponed to the future, when the political technocrats will have established the right conditions.
This problem of political technocracy and technocratic shamanism is extensive and is manifest as institutions that guarantee the freedoms and rights of autonomous individuals. If the basic aims of a person within a technologically oriented society are the production of material commodities and the constant striving to guarantee the continuity (or even incrementation) of such production, then the emphasis in social life is placed on the materially determined vital needs of the individual. While the purpose of an autonomous political being is to participate in qualitative, rational discourse concerning common interests, such a purpose is being abolished in favor of the magical process of enhancing the production of material well-being. Thus, the public is more attuned to magical consciousness, which is capable of integrating the atomized ontology and the quantified metaphysics, than to the deficient mental consciousness. Instead of managing the public domain of autonomy, even political figures are called upon and held responsible for the enhancement of technocratic shamanism, with its promises to fulfill all wants….. The public sphere of autonomous freedom and democratic institutions is reduced to the domain of technocratic shamanism. Once the magic sets in, the only reason for political institutions to exist is to manage and fulfill wants. In this sense, public institutions become means to be appropriated and used by contending groups, each seeking to enhance and extend its power.”

Now, all this sounds very dystopian indeed. But I have quoted it at some length because it is a very exact description of “holistic branding”, and already a partially realised condition. This I will show in subsequent posts. The “magical integration” via techocratic shamanism is precisely the meaning of “holistic branding”, and which is today less about the “engineering of consent” than it is about this behaviourally modified “new man”, ie, behavioural engineering also called “branded behaviours”.

It’s probably worthwhile here, also, to include in full Mickunas’ Postscript to the essay, because it bears some pondering,

     “In principle, technocratic shamanism is a sign that political enlightenment is being surrendered to the metaphysics and ontology of indifference toward the human, subtended by a one-sided magical consciousness of the pure logic of power. No doubt, there is an ambivalence between the promise of modern technocratic magic and the fascination with power for its own sake. The latter seems to be gaining pre-eminence as the very driving notion of the self-proliferating cycles of the myth of progress. Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of the current consciousness is the collapse of the mythical and magical structures, that the very myth of progress itself is identified with the ceaseless incrementation of power. Here deficient rationality, especially in its forms of instrumental and formal reason, is no match for the conjunction of magic and myth.
The overcoming of this fascination cannot be achieved by a detached consciousness attempting to survey our current state of affairs and propose various activities to combat the magic of modernity. The public is too fascinated with shamans and their constant promises of the fulfillment of every want. Myth, magic, and reason all have a background integral consciousness. The task is to extricate the latter integral world from its entwinement in the three deficient modes of consciousness. The extrication of the integral consciousness has been accomplished by Jean Gebser’s work.”

I can, from my readings into Marketing 3.0, vouch for every word Mickunas says about “technocratic shamanism” as the logical development of consumerism. “Branded behaviour”, “management of meaning”, “perception management” and “psychological marketing” all pretty much resolve in the notion of behavioural engineered “new man”.  In coming posts, I’ll marshall the evidence for that, and why there’s a pretty good chance that they can pull it off.



21 responses to “Technocratic Shamanism”

  1. Charles Leiden says :

    Good writing Scott. The signs are everywhere. It seems that many sensitive observers are articulating similar ideas. I mentioned the book Shades of Loneliness – Pathologies of a Technological Society. Richard Stivers This books covers much territory -how success changed over the last hundred years. How power became the leading value. The idea of anomie which creates moral ambiguity. ‘Anomie refers both to the ambiguous relationship between groups in society and to the group’s inability to integrate the individual into itself…the failure of moral integration at all levels of society.” Loneliness is the result which makes individuals easy prey for manipulation.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    There is an essay I just came across by Raymond Williams. It’s entitled “Advertising: The Magical System”. It actually is more a concise history of advertising in Britain, although the historical pattern is the same everywhere.

    “The system of organised magic which is modern advertising” actually bewilders Williams, since it seems such a “contradiction” within the rationalised system of advanced capitalism. He doesn’t really understand it because he’s a committed materialist, so he sees the resort to this “technocratic shamanism” as highly aberrant. “The short description of the pattern we have is magic: a highly organized and professional system of magical inducements and satisfactions, functionally very similar to magical systems in simpler societies, but rather strangely co-existent with a highly developed scientific technology.”

    And that’s pretty much where he leaves it. He thinks we’re not materialist enough. He sees that the system is really organised in the form of technocratic shamanism, but he doesn’t know why, or how,, or wherefore. But it’s significant enough, in any case, that he noticed it. This is the “magic system” that Mickunas, in his essay on “Magic and Technological Culture”, tries to understand and interpret in terms of Gebser’s insights into the magical structure of consciousness.

    For Williams, with his apparently Marxist orientation for historical materialism and dialectic, the fact of magic within the context of scientific technology is a “contradiction”. For Mickunas, it’s not a contradiction, since the essence of technoscience is magic itself.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    I might add, too, that those brandmeisters who are aware that they are trafficking in magic — using placebo and nocebo effects in their brand strategies and in the promotion of consumption — hold themselves “harmless” for doing so, “White magic” is what they believe they are doing, really, and really believe they are engaged in “service” and “helping” by “fulfilling a need” — the need for a little magic and meaning in people’s lives. Those rationales are fraudulent. The “need” they are fulfilling is their own, and they are involved in deception and self-deception about this. As Gebser and Mickunas point out, it is not harmless. The point of the “magic system” or technocratic shamanism is not to enlighten but to mystify, not to liberate but to create a dependency in the form of “brand loyalty”.

    I’ll get to those issues when I begin writing about technocratic shamanism and “the magic system”.

  4. davidm58 says :

    In the ‘peak oil’ community it has been noted that the “business as usual” scenario for the future that most people hold really entails unexamined beliefs that combine the expectation of a “techno-explosion” supported by magical thinking, though they generally don’t have an understanding of the magic structure of consciousness.

    David Holmgren describes expectations of the techno-explosion here:
    and here:

    James Howard Kunstler describes magical thinking here:
    See also “Why Technology Won’t Save Us” by Kunster at

  5. abdulmonem says :

    Yesterday I was reading a book by Ibn Arabi titled the subtlety of the human action and how to subtilize or desubtilize that action and was talking about the two basic schools of human action, those who pursue the moral well-being of the human and those who pursue the material well-being of the human and how the latter school work to defy the aim of the first school and pervert its purpose in the conscious pursuit of the common good by all different tools and under all different brands and motives. It is the same human story replayed again and again across time and space and under different theories , philosophies,technologies, using the various types of the consciousness available to the human. Again the animal self and the speaking self in combat, each one tries to subordinate the other. It seems in our post human society the animal one has succeeded and the other one has started to realize the depth of the abyss the animal one has sent humanity into and begins to resist. The animal school that is benefiting from the inclination of the human to be more responsive to the onslaught of the negative forces that require no conscious efforts than to the positive forces that require intentional conscious efforts. To me everything is played, as Rumi said, under his watch and one need not grumble because spring will come again, however its coming will not be without cost. It is a process as Whitehead said, of unlearning or delearning in order to learn a new, It is a process of continual and constant human metamorphosis until we super up or god created us anew through his processes of correction which we have come to learn from watching history but alas it seems our learning is very slow or even in a mode of reluctance to learn. Let us not forget the banking priesthood behind the technocratic shamanism and also not forget the monster son of this technological shamanism, that is the military complex which all wise men have warned us of its monstrosity and how it feeds the animal self and leads it to destruction, a destruction we are noticing its signs everywhere.

  6. dadaharm says :


    Technocratic shamanism as an institution looks very impressive and totally unbeatable. But if one takes a look at the technocrats themselves, one does not see true shamans. They are only technocrats, bureaucrats or at best priests. Their charisma is institutional. It depends purely on their position in the technocracy. As human beings they are pretty close to zombies.

    This makes them vulnerable to a real shaman. An independent individual with true charisma. A person that uses human originality to outsmart the machine of technocratic shamanism.

    That is something we see currently happening in politics, I think. Trump has real charisma and knows how to use it. He understands the weaknesses of the political institutions very well. His political opponents in the republican party were technocrats. They had no chance against Trump. In fact, I had the impression that they had no idea what was happening.

    Now it will probably be Trump against Clinton. Clinton is again a typical technocrat with no original ideas. Even though the officials of both the republican and the democratic party support (at least in their hearts) Clinton, it might not be enough to stop Trump.

    This seems to be a real weakness of technocratic shamanism. Sooner or later some charismatic shaman will find a method to outsmart the technocrats. All one can hope is that he will bring a change for the better. (And I am definitively not convinced that Trump will improve things.)

    • Dwig` says :

      This looks like a good place to put something that occurred to me while reading the post.

      In an essay I read some time ago, Joseph Campbell drew a distinction between the shaman and the priest. Searching a bit, I found the following in a Bill Moyers interview with Campbell (
      “CAMPBELL: Well, there’s a major difference as I see it between a shaman and a priest. A priest is a functionary of a social sort. The society worships certain deities in a certain way, and the priest becomes ordained as a functionary to carry on that ritual. And the deity to whom he is devoted is a deity that was there before he came along. The shaman’s powers are symbolized in familiars, deities of his own personal experience, and his authority comes out of a psychological experience, not a social ordination.”

      It might be useful to make this distinction here: are the technocrats priests or shamans (or some of each)? I’m guessing, for instance, that dadaharm’s point has to do with the ability of a shaman to “puncture” the poorly-grounded dogma of the technocratic priesthood. (As a “techie” myself, I’m well aware that “the pope has no clothes”.)

      • Scott Preston says :

        The priest and the shaman are, indeed, quite different types. Let’s take early Christianity’s rejection of priests — exemplified in Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes, the ruling class of his time. All that was required, as he said, was “two or more gathered in my name”. Jesus did not want priests but teachers. In fact, that’s the original meaning of the word “rabbi” — teacher. And just as Jesus raged against the scribes and Pharisees, so the Buddha raged against the Brahmans — the priest caste of his time. He trusted in the Bodhisattvas — the teachers, not the priests.

        Our modern day Brahmans or scribes and Pharisees are the “techocratic shamans”, especially the “managers of meaning” (branders) who peddle the “genuine imitation” reality that Buddha condemned in the Brahmans teaching and that Jesus condemned in the Jewish ruling class — the scribes and Pharisees. We’re suffering from the same B.S. all over again — the “genuine imitation”. ie, people are asking for bread and are being given a stone, as the parable goes. That’s what branding does inasmuch as it exploits values, meanings, symbols as objects of consumption.

        Practically the entire communications complex of post-modernity (that is, the conjunction of corporation, advertisers, mass media, and the university) is the institutionalisation of technocratic shamanism, especially since the Second World War when “branding” moved into the political sphere with the marketing and branding of political candidates according to a “technique”, a methodology that eschewed rational discourse. Propaganda (or “perception management”) is, in fact, the most revealing praxis that exemplifies what Mickunas means by “technocratic shamanism”

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Technocratic shamanism” isn’t about one’s social office. It’s about an attitude one brings to life and reality — that’s what Mickunas means by its “ontology” and its “metaphysics”. It’s about shaping reality to deliver the goods, to fulfill human wants. Neither is it about “true shamans” or “false shamans”, since magical thinking is indifferent to all logical considerations of truth or falsehood. It is about power, and about the exercise of power, and that is related to will and not logic. Our goal here is not the “true shaman” as charismatic strongman and tribal chieftain, but with the integral consciousness.

      After all, this is exactly what Mickunas is saying in his essay — a shamanistic politics is fascism, even if it comes by another name as “technocracy”. Looking for a shaman to save us from ourselves is precisely the wrong way to go about it. In fact, expecting our political leaders to be shamans (whether “true shamans” or “false shamans” makes absolutely no difference since that just means “effective” or “ineffective” in terms of power) belongs itself to magical thinking. This is what Mickunas is saying.

      A shaman-king, or a shamanic elite (courtiers) must prove and serve power, not truth or reason. They must be perceived as effective ,ie, Hitler and his “triumph of the will”. They must be seen to “deliver the goods” or “make the trains run on time”.

      The nonsense that Trump spews is not reason or logic. Look at his rhetoric. It’s magical chant and incantation. It’s conjuration. All that is required for something to be considered “technocratic shamanism” is the presumption of possessing a technique or method for shaping and modifying society and nature for the satisfaction of wants, needs, and desires. And what works or does not work are the only issues, not truth or falsehood.

  7. Dwig says :

    To get a good taste of the current state of “practical magic”, I recommend John Michael Greer’s blog, “The Well of Galabes” (and more detail is available in the many books advertised there). I think my favorite book of his is “Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth”, where he merges evolution and ecology into the cosmology of the occult.

    Also, in recent posts, he’s been discussing the decline of “Neopaganism”, descending into factional feuds, etc. As I read it, it sounds sort of like “the deficient phase of the Neopagan consciousness structure”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Neo-paganism” is just as much a term for fascism, too. Robert Kaplan also advocates “neo-paganism” in his book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, and Kaplan is no lover of democracy. His model is also a “shaman king” — the Emperor Tiberius. And it’s not coincidental (or perhaps more correct to say, it IS coincidental) that some historians are comparing Trump to Caligula or Nero.

      “Neo-paganism” is also brand culture and branding, which I’ll discuss in the future — the idea that “brand names” represent or symbolise the gods and goddesses, the major or minor deities, belongs to neo-paganism as well and just as much, ie, idolatry. This is actually the aim of “marketing 3.0” — neo-paganism as brand cult and religion. All this, too, belongs to the meaning of “technocratic shamanism”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Should probably add also that the “marketing imperative” ie, salesmanship and selling something, invokes magical technique — “repetition is reputation” is the meaning of the magical chant (or cant). Mr. Greer thinks we live in “the Age of Pretence”. Well, that’s because of technocratic shamanism itself — branding even as the “Me Brand”. It’s because everybody is trying to sell something or themselves to everybody else. It’s the ethos of salesmanship that everyone is expected to conform to in a capitalist society — winning and losing, is a matter of selling and buying. Ad culture is the very expression of this ethos of salesmanship or “the commodification of everything” including religion and even spirituality. Commodities (or even oneself as commodity) are traded as “power objects”, things having inherent mana or virtue or “transcendental meaning” — fetish, in other words.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, I might add that “technocratic shamanism” is pretty much synonymous with what some call “managerialism”, and most especially when it comes to issues like “management of meaning” or “perception management”. Management means possessing a technique for organising and shaping time and space, or even human behaviours. Managerialism treats such things, including humans, as objects to be manipulated according to some formula or technique, and that means systematisation and rationalisation of spaces and, especially, time and times (what Mickunas calls “the conditions” above). This is primarily an issue of power — the possession of a powerful technique. So managerialism implies the two things that Mickunas and Gebser insist are characteristic of the magical structure of consciousness — instrumental rationality and will.

    Now, things get interesting here because these two things — instrumentalising reason and will — correspond to two of the four enemies of the “man of knowledge” in don Juan’s sorceric explanation, these two enemies being “clarity” and “power”, and both are implied in Bacon’s formula for science — “knowledge is power” — scientia potens est. And Bacon knew — to some extent anyway — that there was a connection between science and magic. For Bacon, science was just more effective magic. so, in Bacon’s mind, there never was any real contradiction between science and magic. We’ll eventually get to Plato’s “Philosopher King” idea along with his “Noble Lie” theory (which continues in Bacon’s philosophy) as the root of technocratic shamanism.

    • Dwig says :

      So, if I understand rightly, the “shamanism” of “technocratic shamanism” is yet another case of a word twisted in meaning to refer to its opposite: a priesthood dedicated to guarding and promoting the official dogma.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Put more simply, “magic” is a technique for turning a wish into a command. Magic is about command and control. And since magic is a technique for turning wish into command (Mickunas calls it ‘want’ — the wanting energy) this raises the old problem encapsulated in the saying “be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it” — which is the issue of Goethe’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

        What was the problem of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Essentially, that he had command but no mastery, and the effect of his command was to unleash chaos — unintended consequence, perverse outcome, revenge effect, blowback, ironic reversal, etc.Moral of the story? Command and mastery are not the same thing at all.

        Real magic is then what? The mastery of intent, not just the ability to command powers and forces to do one’s bidding. The mastery of intent is the essence of magic, and that implies very deep self-knowledge. And so “know thyself” was inscribed over the doorway to the Delphic temple.

        And that also raises the issue of the karmic law of action and reaction, and karmic law as the essence of samsaric existence, what Gebser calls “the Consequential”, and no doubt he has the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in mind with that. Buddhism actually teaches how to transcend the karmic law — to act without invoking the reaction or the Consequential. But that only comes with “enlightenment”, which is liberation or emancipation from the karmic law. All mastery is ultimately self-mastery.

  9. abdulmonem says :

    Sometime I wonder why only the human has a moral code that he is called upon to respect or runs in the mess we are facing. Wonder also why this modern civilization shuns away from using the moral code.
    When we start from the wrong assumptions that there is no writer to this universe and the human is the only writer for his conduct and exploitation is the flag , it is not surprising to see all these diseases. I think it is not enough to explain our pain and find different names every now and then for it but to fly from it in the other direction, the divine direction that is brightened with unbound opportunities for those who want to fly. The direction of the motto hanged on the doorway to the Delphic temple in order to be a light in this darkness and not to consume your energy in the ills of the world.
    All the human can say, this is wrong and I am not going to participate in it. Like the unfashionable voice of Stivers who exposes the hoodwinkery of the brand culture and how it has destroyed human relation. One does need to read all the books of a writer to know his feeling , some few words of the reviewers is enough, to show the quality of the words and be saved from the road of quantity.
    One has first to be unified within himself before one can live in harmony we the errant world, knowing err is a must in human nature. It is strange how the aridity of the mental mode, reflects complete indifference to the severity of the atrocities inflicted on the world, even there are those who want to hide them through misleading branding as it is well-illustrated by your posts.
    When the wrong action is not faced by a corrective action,the wound expands. It is sad to try to decode the social laws or natural laws and forget to decode the code of one self which is the cornerstone of understanding the world. Efficient and deficient are a masking replacement of wrong and right or good and evil. The more we run from the divine lexis the more we descend in the abyss of self-negation, the natural abode of the negator. Sometime I wonder why there is a sunset every day if not not to remind me of my selfset, to seize the opportunity to rise to the original knower to accompany me in my epistemic journey to Him and avoid being sequestered in the sterile mental lab untouched by the rays of the divine.

  10. dadaharm says :


    The discussion so far seems to indicate that technocratic shamanism has no shamans, but only priests (technocrats). Moreover, should some charismatic leader (a shamanic personality) arrive on the scene, then the change he will bring will be a change for the worse.

    This way of reasoning basically destroys all hope for the future.

    Because if there is one thing in which the system of technocratic shamanism has real expertise, it is in keeping the population passive. It knows how to manage perceptions in such a way, that people accept whatever the technocrats have to offer. It knows how to keep people sleep walking.

    The only time they wake up and act, if they perceive a saviour who they can follow. (In American politics Sanders or Trump). Since this perceived saviour is a charismatic person (a shamanic personality), he will make the situation worse. So it seems that we are really in a very bad situation. There is no escape.

  11. Charles Leiden says :


    The “need” they are fulfilling is their own, and they are involved in deception and self-deception about this. As Gebser and Mickunas point out, it is not harmless.
    Max Weber “specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart;

    Lewis Hyde writes in (The Gift) “ The desire to consume is a kind of lust. We long to have the world flow through us like air or food. We are thirsty and hungry for something that can only be carried inside bodies. But consumer goods merely bait this lust, they do not satisfy it.”

    A consumer culture institutionalizes discontent.

    Mona Lisa’s Moustache: Making Sense of a Dissolving World
    By Mary Settegast is a very articulate book about the present context. Chapter 3 is The World is for Sale – One quote
    When we are what we buy, our lives, including our inner lives, tend to be organized around economic principles. By equating everything with its market value, we end up “seek-ing answers to questions about what is worthwhile, honor-able, and even what is real, in the marketplace.”8′ It is therefore not surprising to find advertising, television, and media in general so intensely permeating our lives. In a society of consumers, who is better suited to form our “representations,” the pictures and stories of how life is to be lived? No longer the artists or the priests, but the salesmen of the world are now charged with creating the significance of our lives. Advertising has become what one social critic called “the dominant meaning-making system of modern life.”

    Gregory Bateson’s wrote about the Paradox of Conscious Purpose. Here is a essay about it.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Great quotes. I’ll definitely look into those references. Mona Lisa’s Moustache sounds especially interesting in terms of Gebser’s breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness structure.

      I’ll have quite a bit to say (none of it good) about Margaret Mark & Carol Pearson’s book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. It exploits Jung’s archetypal psychology for commercial purposes (they, of course, don’t think they are “exploitative” at all). This book got very wide circulation, it seems. A lot of agencies are using their schema for designing brand campaigns. But this is where branding begins to self-consciously and deliberate infringe on the spiritual, and this leads directly into Lindstrom’s more overt exploitation of “religion” as “holistic branding” — corporations as “temples”, brand communities as “cults”, products promoted as power objects and sacred relics and so moving more deeply from “perception management” into “management of meaning” (or “way of life” into “reason for being” — marketing 2.0 to marketing 3.0).

      This is the kind of stuff that I would call “profanation”. Profanation is probably the easiest way of understanding the meaning of “technocratic shamanism” or the “deficient mode of the magical consciousness structure” as Gebser might put it. So, my interest at present is attempting to understand what this profanation means in terms of the karmic law.

      Spell of the Sensuous arrived today. Looking forward to diving into it.

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