Introduction to Dictionary of Operations
Giordano Bruno, in his essay on Image Magic, famously remarked that it was far easier to ensorcell millions of people at once, by such means, than to make a single person fall in love with you.
And as Ioan Culianu famously remarked, in his seminal Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, this Brunonian insight marks the foundation- point of all modern brainwashing, mind-control, advertising, “public relations” and propaganda. In other words these sciences in fact comprise a form of magic that happens to work. This explains the age-old attraction between Intelligence (spying) and Magic, including stage-magic and illusion as well as “real” occultism, as Konrad Becker herein points out and documents; and of course codes and cyphers, once the avocation of alchemists and astrologers such as Trithemius and Della Porta, now the obsession of quantum spooks.
The corollary of Bruno’s remark — its occult reversal, so to speak — suggests that one can use Hermeticism not to “enchain” others to illusion, but to free yourself from these vinculae and attain a relative autonomy or freedom from ensorcellment, the hex or fix that disempowers you — perhaps even from the Big Lies that pass for Consensus Reality.
This process could be considered hermeneutics or even esoteric hermeneutics (ta’wil, as the Suffis called it) — an exploration and unpacking of a thing back to its origins. Etymology offers one good Dictionary of Operations pages way to go about this — the discovery of the hidden origins of words — which branches off into a magical philology that makes use of puns, rebuses and gematria — the subconsciousness of language itself, the generative “space” of magic.
A very Viennese idea, it seems.
Even the form of Konrad’s “dictionary entries” here is typically Viennese — they are in fact feuilletons, blätter, “leaves,” mini-essays in the tradition of Karl Kraus and the fin-de-siècle coffeehouse wits.
Konrad personifies old Vienna for me; his great-grandfather was Admiral of the Austrian Navy, which sounds like a joke (like “Swiss Navy”) until you remember that Austria once possessed an Empire and owned the port of Trieste, where at various times James Joyce and the mad Hapsburg Empress Carlotte of Mexico dreamed behind façades of genteel respectability.
Konrad is an ectomorph, wears a mournful suit & tie, is an expert on Viennese pastry, and performs fake Spiritualist séances complete with ersatz ectoplasm and eerie post-industrial noise.
The Hermetic Imagination is an epistemological weapon. A radical dialectic or tri-alectic can be traced from Paracelsus to Boehme to the Rosicrucians to Romantic Science (Novalis, Goethe, Swedenborg) to the left Hegelians. Spinoza may be involved. Then the radical French occultists like Nerval or Eliphas Levi. Then onward to Surrealism, Situationism and Psychedelicism, the last gasps of the old magical tradition.
But after the last gasp there still remains (like an ectoplasmic stain) the unacknowledged Eternal Avantgarde, which has never ceased since about 40,000 years ago to hope and agitate for an end to alienation. It’s the Old Mole, the Neanderthal Underground — the same gesture of refusal since the archaic dawn of hegemony.
The 21st century Hermeticist’s alchemical lab has become the conceptual (laboratory as oratory) — a Memory Theatre. The computer is its diabolical twin. The subject of much of the work turns out to be communication theory, meta-network theory, sociology in a world where the Social has come to an end in ecstatic representation.
But at bedrock level the theory miraculously resurrects an animism so basic, so primitive as to be called a Doctrine of Signatures. “Everything is alive.” The point of the Hermetic critique revolves around the protection of that life against the antibiosis of Capital in its spectral form — against the Totality of the Image as erasure of the Imagination.