Technomancy, Mathemagick, and Fun With Scratch
Roughly two months ago, I began toying with the idea of technomancy, after seeing a post somewhere on some site which described it as the next frontier of magick. With little information to point me in the right direction, I first tried to delve into the world of NFTs, but was quickly turned off by the cost and complexity of it. Not to mention that I am by no means an illustrator or graphic designer, and so I couldn’t make much of anything beyond simple collages edited in Gimp. Unsatisfied both with my artistic talent and the medium itself, I turned more toward machine learning and DeepDream artwork. This was one step in the right direction, but even if I were able to use such imaging in ritual, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Machine input was only a detail of the bigger picture that eluded me.
I am, by nature, a record-keeper, someone who obsessively catalogues data of my own life for reasons I don’t fully understand.1 I’ve done this for nearly a decade now, though as of recent years have been increasingly falling out of practice. This lack of notes of my more recent past leaves me wondering when and how I discovered that Big Picture, but somewhere down the line it happened, and the doors of perception were not only opened, but kicked off their hinges.
The Technomancy 101 website’s aesthetic is one I’m personally not a fan of, relying a bit too much on cyberpunk style a la Blade Runner, but don’t judge a blog by its cover. I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon this website, but I’d say the personal importance of this discovery is second only to my discovery of ceremonial magick. The unifying piece was code. Versatile, limitless, and magical in its own right, the art of programming and the art of magick seemed to fit together so well that I finally understood why mathematics was so lauded as a way to know Divinity by past magicians.2
Technomancy 101 arranges itself like a workbook, giving the reader dozens of projects to work through to learn not only the very basics of programming, but how to creatively apply programming to activities ranging from meditation to sigilization to invocation. Perhaps the most important feature of this site, though, is that it doesn’t start the reader off with Python like many “learn to code” courses do.3 We begin with Scratch, a visual-based programming language that is used to teach kids to code. While the scope of its abilities is limited compared to “real” languages, its learning curve is not near as steep, and so with only days of practice it’s easy to begin creating interesting programs.
Armed with the coursework of Technomancy 101 and Learn to Program with Scratch by Majed Marji,4 I began my adventure into the world of code.
Magick by Numbers
It would be easy to go on and on about the things I’ve been working on with Scratch, but to do so would only drag this post out.5 It is more important I think to keep to the original topic of code’s intersection with magick. On this subject there isn’t too much I can say, as I’m still fairly new to both disciplines. But learning is a lifelong journey, and so this subject is one I’ll probably explore more than once. Writing this allows me collect my own thoughts on the topic.6
I have a friend who I met when I was first learning about Kabbalah. While not a Kabbalist, they expressed interest in the numeric aspects of the science, as they understood God as “a mathematical concept.” I would later read about the same idea of God-as-math in a few different books, though the authors would only mention it in passing, never giving the concept its due diligence. This was all confusing at first, but with a little more practice I came to understand what was being hinted at.
The medieval period brought us the concept of quadrivium, or the four liberal arts. These arts were arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, and were considered the backbone of philosphy.7 Given that this era was one in which the religion prevailed, these four subjects were intimately bound with theological studies as well. It was believed that God created the universe through these four principles, and that to grasp these concepts was to come a little closer to divinity.
Quadrivium is not confined to pure reasoning. For the magician, who in practice (usally) seeks to identify themselves with divinity, it should be experienced as well. Geometry is the most obvious here, so much so that “sacred geometry” is a common concept in spiritual and psychedelic circles alike.8 In magick this sacred geometry is realized through ritual. Take for example the Ritual of the Pentagram, that iconic ritual of ceremonial magick. From the cross to the hexagram to the circle to the pentagram itself, it is a flurry of shapes being drawn, imagined, experienced. And each of these shapes is endowed with inexhaustible meaning. And every ritual has such depth, if not more.
This only scratches the surface of the topic, but hopefully gets the reader engaged enough to see this truth for theirself. This infinite, magical presence applies not only to geometry, but to any subject in the classical education. Such a topic, however, is beyond the scope of this post.9 Rather, having touched on math, we’ll now turn our attention to code.
Technomancy (Where Programming Fits)
At the time of writing this, I’m still fairly early on in the Technomancy 101 coursework, maybe halfway through the “Enchantment” section, which looks at using programming to charge sigils. So far my favorite project has been SurroundSigil, in which one designs a pentagram that manifests via incantation. More than any of the projects learned prior to it, it shows plainly the marriage of math and code. Of course, the math was always there,10 but the construction of a pentagram via trigonometric principles accentuates its presence. Most importantly, it is just as involved as traditional ritual practice, if not more. Coding is an engrossing task, especially for the beginner. It is something you have to put all of your mind into. Like magick, it requires presence and deliberate action. And when you use programming to perform magick, it in and of itself becomes a magical act.11
The best part is that, in spite of the luddites, this marriage of magick and technology works. Most things you can imagine you can, with enough experience, Will into being with the proper program. Like the dagger, the wand, the cup, or the pentacle, the computer can become a magical tool if used correctly. But is also a tool which may contain all other tools within itself.
There are a lot of people who are into astrology, but of the countless astrologers only a few practice magick. I often think to myself that any proficient astrologer who is not also a magician is wasting their talents. I think the same can be said of the magician who doesn’t code.12 The only limit is one’s imagination.
Appendix I: Some Scratch Projects
At this point I’ve made maybe some two dozen or so projects on Scratch, though of those roughly half are just cases of me experimenting with some of the program’s different tools. For the sake of keeping this section relatively succinct, I’ll highlight five of my favorite projects, presented in chronological order.
This is the first ever project I created, and so it holds a good deal of sentimental value to me. It was made following the instructions outlined on Technomancy 101, with some minor deviations. There’s not much to say on the project, as it is no more complex than a simple couple of scripts that monitor a timer, and respond accordingly. It can be viewed here.
This one was made following instructions from the first chapter of Learn to Program with Scratch, and is the first game I made in Scratch. I’ve come to realize that making games is one of the most fun ways to test one’s skill. This game is as simple as it gets, but making it still taught me a lot. Again, I deviated, using my knowledge of variables from Technomancy 101 to add a scoreboard, and then experimented some with Scratch’s cloning feature to upscale the game’s difficulty the longer one played by adding in more balls. It can be played here.
This one is a bit of an unintentional project, something I made for fun while experimenting with Scratch’s pen and custom block features. On the surface it’s pretty simple: it features a smiley face and a text box; one types their question into the box, and the smiley gives a yes-no response. The cool part is that the smiley is not a sprite itself, but rather is drawn by a sprite using some basic math.
This project remains unpublished as it’s something I hope to add onto a bit more, but it is suffice to say it’s one of my favorites. A perfect example of how to use a computer toward magical ends.
Another of the Technomancy 101 projects, and to date one of the most complex programs I’ve created. This one incorporates sound input, the Scratch pen tool and, unsurprisingly, mathematics to position five symbols and draw a pentagram around a sigil, all manifested by sound. The most difficult part here was creating the orbit of the symbols, as the method outlined on Technomancy 101 just wasn’t working for some reason. The project can be viewed here. By all means, try it out. My sigil could use the extra help charging up.
Tears of Icarus
Tears of Icarus is a working title for this game, and might be changed to just Icarus. Currently a WIP, and passion project more than anything else, this is my attempt to make a full-fledged game in Scratch. It’s a simple enough arcade-style game with inspiration from Galaga. While the music and sound effects came preloaded with Scratch, the artwork is mine, explaining why it is rough around the edges. I utilized Paint of Persia to get the pixilated style.
This project represents everything that I’ve learned about Scratch, and is something I’ll likely work on here and there until it’s done. As of right now I’ve completed two out of the three boss fights that will occur, and after I complete the bosses I’ll move on to other aspects of gameplay. It’s something I’ll be excited to publish upon completion, but until then I don’t want to disclose too much about it.
Appendix II: Plans From Here
As mentioned in a previous post, I am, for the most part, putting my occult studies on pause for the time being, so as to synthesize the information I’ve gathered so far, and find ways to put it into practice. I’m also using this time to take up studies in other fields. To paraphrase Crowley, there is no knowledge that cannot be applied to magick.13 Keeping this in mind, I see these other subjects informing my magical practices, if not now then later down the line when I figure out how to implement them.
In terms of programming, I hope to continue with solely with Scratch for a month or so more, working through the Technomancy 101 and Learn to Program with Scratch projects. Once I am finished with the latter book, though, I hope to move on to Python. No Starch Press, the company which published Learn to Program with Scratch, has a plethora of books on Python. Of these I’ll likely begin with Python for Kids. I’ll still utilize Scratch primarily at first, as I want to complete the Technomancy 101 coursework and the game I’m making, but I hope to eventually move on entirely to Python.
That’s enough on programming, though. The process of writing this has had me thinking more and more about quadrivium, and its prerequisite, trivium. I think the two cirricula cover some invaluable subjects for just about anyone, but especially for the magician. Right now, as discussed earlier, arithmetic and geometry are of primary interest to me.
I recently began reading A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe,14 which seeks to show how the essences of the numbers 1-10 contain the principles for all manifest things in the universe. While the book is sort of all over the place, it has served so far as an excellent introduction to the spiritual aspects of mathematics. When I finish it, I’ll most likely look for something that can teach me the more technical side of geometry, though trying to plan that far ahead is tentative at best.
No matter what I choose to do next, I’m sure it will be a thrilling experience.
- Perhaps it’s some distorted form of narcissism, but I’d rather not pathologize something so harmless. Another possibility is that it stems from being a “creative type,” and feeling compelled to document anything interesting that happens to me or that I think of, so as to use it in future acts of creation. Hell, what I’m writing right here right now is one such example. The self-awareness of this is so glaring that I feel increasingly embarrassed with every keystroke.
- This is an idea that stretches at least as far back as Ancient Greece with Pythagoras, though it possibly has origins as old as humanity itself. Gematria is another good example, and is one which is used extensively in Kabbalah magick. In the ceremonial realm, Crowley expounds on the importance of mathematics a number of times, such as here: “Such knowledge as we have got is a very general and abstruse, of a philosophical and almost magical character. This consists principally of the conceptions of pure mathematics. It is, therefore almost legitimate to say that pure mathematics is our link with the rest of the Universe and with ‘God’.” Paul Foster Case wasn’t unaware of this connection either, saying of the tarot card Judgement, “[the] Snowy mountains in the background represent the heights of abstract thought. This takes purely mathematical form. Thus the symbolism suggests that what is shown by Key 20 is derived from mathematical considerations.”
- This is good in particular for visual or hands-on learners like myself. I’d once tried to learn programming way back in high school via Python, but could not wrap my head around it. It’s not so much that the learning curve was steep, but rather that I had no clue how apply this knowledge in a creative and enjoyable way.
- This is a book which Joshua Madara of Technomancy 101 recommends to the reader, saying that those new to programming should read it to “get the most out of Technomancy 101.” I can only emphatically agree.
- Still, showoff that I am, I couldn’t resist discussing some of my fav projects. They are appended to the end of this post.
- There is a lot of truth to the cliche “you only know something if you are able to teach it to others.” This post then also serves to test what I know, based on what I can actually convey.
- It should be noted as well that before one took up quadrivum, they had to study trivium as a precursor. Trivium consisted of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. A basic understanding of grammar and logic are essential for any programming language.
- It can be argued though that all geometry is sacred. I’m currently in the process of reading A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael S. Schneider, which has changed the way I see shapes and numbers as I encounter them in my daily life.
- Maybe I’ll explore it someday, though.
- The first project MeditAid, requires use of a timer, and a program that executes once the time has reached its designated count. Simple arithmetic, sure, but it shows too how numbers are required for even the most basic of actions.
- On the flipside, there is the argument that magick is an act of program-execution.
- Of course, it’s not so black-and-white. But for those whose practice leans more toward the chaos magick spectrum, this really is the new frontier.
- I can’t remember the exact quote, or what page I read it on, but this importance of non-magickal studies was touched on somewhere in Liber ABA. For the time being I really can’t be bothered to find it and provide proper citation, but that may change in the future. If it does, the proper reference will be put in place, and this footnote become nothing but a distant memory.
- Footnote 8 already revealed this, but it is presented again in the main body of text for those not adventurous enough to explore this underbelly of the post.