Hypersigils reconsidered

Lain

Above: a still from Serial Experiments Lain

I’ve been thinking recently about Grant Morrison‘s “hypersigil” concept, but considering as not an occult/magical practice, but as as a cybernetic phenomena.*

It started as a conversation between my friends Nabil Maynard and Amber Case on Twitter on the subject of Serial Experiments Lain (which I haven’t seen). Amber said:

There were a ton of parallels between that show and my life, especially now, where my online presence affects offline interactions. [1]

My online presence actually creates who I am. It’s a machine that produces my identity and exists outside of me. [2]

That reminded me of hypersigils. Morrison explained hypersigils thusly:

The “hypersigil” or “supersigil” develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent. Results can be remarkable and shocking.

Experiment:

After becoming familiar with the traditional sigil method, see if you can create your own hypersigil. The hypersigil can take the form of a poem, a story, a song, a dance, or any other extended artistic activity you wish to try. This is a newly developed technology so the parameters remain to be explored. It is important to become utterly absorbed in the hypersigil as it unfolds; this requires a high degree of absorption and concentration (which can lead to obsession but so what? You can always banish at the end) like most works of art. The hypersigil is a dynamic miniature model of the magician’s universe, a hologram, microcosm, or “voodoo doll” which can be manipulated in real time to produce changes in the macrocosmic environment of “real” life.

-”Pop Magic” by Grant Morrison from The Disinfo Book of Lies, pg. 20. (For more information, listen to Morrison’s talk from DisinfoCon (also available on DVD)

Invisibles

Above: an image from The Invisibles. The character in the center wearing a suit is King Mob, the character from Invisibles that Morrison identified himself with. Below: a photograph of Grant Morrison from his web site.

grant morrison

There has been extended internet-drama on occult sites regarding what does and does not count as a hypersigil. I think Morrison is clear that the hypersigil takes the form of a serial narrative – whether that be a comic series, a movie trilogy, a series of songs or albums, or what have you. But others have made a compelling argument that the definition needn’t be so limited. Nick Pell, in his essay “Beyond the Sigil: Creating YR own Mind Viruses” in Magic on the Edge, makes a compelling case for this, using Shepard Fairley‘s “Andre the Giant has a Posse” and “Obey Giant” campaigns as examples of other types of extended, non-static sigils.

However, for purposes of this essay, I’m only going to consider “hypersigils” as narrative works- but I do want to consider narrative beyond strictly fictional narratives. For example, one can create a narrative in a personal blog or Live Journal or their Twitter or Facebook updates.

After suggesting a connection between hypersigils and cybernetics, Nabil replied:

The number of ways that hypersigilism applies to the internet/cybernetics is kind of staggering when you think on it. [1]

Think about something as basic as a myspace/facebook profile, the choices we make defining the online persona [2] which creates a manifest change in the offline world. [3].

The things we choose to place on the internet reflect and magnify the awareness of self to ourselves and those around us. [4]

hypersigil feedback

Above: a diagram I made illustrating feedback loops of perception in hypersigils

The way I see it, the online persona, fictional self, or avatar one creates can create feedback loops to reinforce behaviors and perceptions and have a create significant “real world” changes in a person’s life over time. In the case of Grant Morrison, he was also shaping his persona in the letters column of The Invisibles, in interviews he gave, and his public persona at comic conventions.

Nabil says: “I know of one person who used net-anonymity to explore gender before pursuing changing gender IRL.” [1]. I suspect that’s rather common. Also, to go back to my interview with Amber from last week, in which she gives advice to liberal arts majors looking to establish a career outside academia:

Create an online presence that is ubiquitous and enjoyable to interface with. Let it be known who you want to be. Put that on your business card and on your social profiles.

Which, of course, is exactly how she came to be a “cyborg anthropologist.”

So I find myself wondering: what is and isn’t hypersigilic activity online (and off?) Is creating an avatar on an MMORG? If so, what about playing a character in a pen and paper role playing game?

I think it depends on the role of online and offline feedback involved – if playing a character (online or off) changes the way you think of yourself and *especially* if changes the way OTHER people think about you, then yes – I think it does.

*There was some discussions on cybernetics and complex adaptive systems and the occult at Esozone: The Other Tomorrow lead by Joseph Thiebes, deadletter b, Wes Unruh, and Edward Wilson but I missed them. I suspect the overlaps have been discussed elsewhere, if the curious reader wishes to look.

See Also:

The Other Tomorrow Manifesto

Hypersigil, Hyperstition, or Simply Interesting Living?

11 Comments

  1. I have developed a thoughtform through the use of a table top game that now exists on the astral plane. He protects me through the use of invisibility potions and a voracious appetite for Nosis. I guess you could call that a supersigil, but I roll with Dion Fortune when it comes to memetics; I’m old school like that.

  2. I think that’s called an servitor or possibly, if it’s created by a group, an egregore. #magickgeek

  3. I’ve been using narrative and cybernetic feedback loops to enact self evolution for years. Back in the day I called it narrative magick or something lame like that. lol.

    My latest post that parallels this is: http://nietzschecoyote.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/frankenstein-and-his-monster-becoming-trapped-in-the-narrative/

  4. As someone who works in the counselling field, the hypersigil concept can definitely be expanded to include Narrative Therapies, where abuse victims can re-write stories about their traumas and overcoming them, moving on from a horrific past and envisioning a better future.

  5. I agree with most of this, though it seems evident that the comparison to cybernetics is, like every theory about sigils in particular or magick in general, yet another narrative.

    The phenomenon of stories affecting their creator or events external to both the creator and the story goes back well beyond Grant Morrison, and many big names in literature have mentioned it, Madeleine L’Engle being a personal favorite of mine, but even authors like John Updike have mentioned it (see his essay Why Write in the recent PEN Anthology ‘Burn This Book’.)

    I think what is significant about Morrison’s work is the intentionality, and the eventual transparency of his methodology. Though I think like many folks working around that time he was still a bit too beholden to the ideas of his predecessors, and I hope as time goes on magicians/artists/whatever will continue to carry the work of Spare toward it’s logical conclusions as Buroghs and Gysin and Grant Morrison have (to say nothing of the less famous folks pursuing this line of thought relating to the power of narrative and the affect of the artistic process on the world…Foolish People’s weaponized art certainly comes to mind)

    On a personal note I’m also slightly amused as most of these observations, especially about the role of narrative in hypersigils were covered in Soror Ceilede’s “Golden Fiction” way back in the days of Key23, and was widely shouted down by many of the contributors at that time.

  6. If it’s somehow unclear I’m not suggesting this article has ripped off Golden Fiction, rather that Golden Fiction is worth checking out if you’re interested in these kinds of things.

    My personal amusement is more to do with the evolution of ideas in the occulture as time marches on.

  7. Samm- the flap about “Golden Fiction” was one of things I was referring to in the line about Internet-drama. I didn’t realize that it existed online still.

    Morrison didn’t invent hypersigils, but he did coin the term so I figure he’s as good a place to start with it as any.

    Those who believe in magic may find the cybernetic model of hypersigils useful in troubleshooting problems with their hypersigils – look for where the feedback loops break down, find places to amplify feedback, etc.

    For those of who don’t believe in magic, cybernetics can bring a new understanding to an old concept.

  8. I was at the visionary solstice gathering by Alex Grey in Baltimore this passed weekend. One of the mentions they noted was a Philosophy of Ken Wilber’s: The four quadrants.

    Until know…or then i hadn’t heard of the four quadrants by that means, but i knew of it in another way. Which was how i understood Grant’s work with Hypersigils.

    (http://www.integralworld.net/images/figure1.gif)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Wilber

    From listening to Alex discuss how art works, and how the cyber connections enable us to connect with each other, by using an external method put the “science” in how Grant discusses the Hypersigil. (Our aim is science, our method is religion….)

    It’s how it relates to when Tim Leary stated about whom controls your eyeballs, controls the reality construct you live in.

    All in all, good job of re-introducing this concept to people. The more you practice, the more you understand the intricacies of how things work. (that’s just advice, to noone in particular).

    Anyway, Enjoy your day everyone.

    ~Alkemical~

  9. Zero State is a hypersigil

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