Thoughts on Cyberspace

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, working extra hard at my “day job”. In the moments I’ve pulled away from the computer, stopped coding or coordinating code projects, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the nature of Cyberspace. I’ve been wondering about the nature of that space within reality, and it’s role in magick and life.

The term “cyber” is so overused these days, so wishy washy and meaningless at this point. I almost feel like I should apologize for using the world Cyberspace at all. Honestly, though, there isn’t a better word that I can think of to describe the digital world we inhabit in our computers. Whether we are escaping into the made up world of a standalone single player game or into the shared space of Internet communications, Cyberspace as I’m defining it here is that layer of reality created in computer code, with no physical reality in our analog plane.

Things that happen in code may affect things that happen in the analog world directly or indirectly. Digital code can make a robot arm move or create music that can be heard through headphones or speakers. In that way, what happens in Cyberspace affects the analog world directly. When a few people sit around their computers in different parts of the world having a digital conversation, or when a group plays a multiplayer game online, the experience is shared in the minds of the participants. That experience may affect those people in analog ways, but only indirectly, through the medium of their brains. Experience moves from the digital world of code to the still digital world of the mind, and only then moves into the analog world through the actions of the person.

People have been writing about the magickal repercussions of computing since the early days of computers. Computers have led us down whole new pathways of exploration about the nature of thought, even for those who do not believe in magick at all. For those of us who believe that thought and magick are tightly intertwined, the nature of thought and the nature of a computer’s cogitation have always been questions of magickal importance.

Most of what I have read about the nature of Cyberspace and magick have considered the digital space to be the same as human thought from a magickal perspective. If you imagine the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, with analog physical reality at the bottom of the tree and the unreachable, unimaginable, ineffable form of deity at the very top of the tree, you might imagine ordinary thought as existing in the interface between analog reality and the level just above where our reality is nearly fully formed, but still just an abstraction of the final form. One school of magick teaches that through meditation and other ceremonial tasks, we can reach up through the tree to affect the formations in the level of reality just above ourselves in the tree, thereby changing reality here in physical realm we inhabit. The thinkers I have read have all suggested that work done in Cyberspace runs along the same lines and goes to the same place(s) UP the tree.

Tree of Life diagram from WikiMedia I’m not entirely sure that is correct. In fact, I’m leaning pretty strongly towards a view that the worlds we create in Cyberspace do not go up the tree, but rather down it. There are two possibilities here. One seems very uncontroversial to me. It is that we are creating another sub-tree inside our own reality. Kabbalists say that every sephira (think: circle of power) holds within it a complete tree of life. The controversial view that I’m also considering at this point is that the world(s) created by our computer based explorations are a whole new sephira on the tree.

Is it possible that we are actually creating a whole new level of reality? It’s not completely inconceivable. In the same way that we can only reach the levels of reality above us on the tree through mental experience, we are now reaching into Cyberspace through our minds. Also, as we both affect and are affected by the levels of reality above us on the tree, we may be creating reality one layer down and having the effects of that layer come through to our layer. We can’t fully move our physical selves into that other reality at this point in our technological development, but there are many theorists who consider the ways in which we could move our consciousness completely into the digital realm. This could be the action of our layer of reality creating a whole new layer. It could even give us some insight into the way that other layers of reality create the layers underneath them.

What would the difference be between a Cyberspace that is a whole new sephira versus a Cyberspace which represents a sub-tree in the tree of life? That’s a concept that could take an entire book to tease apart.

About Sterling

When Sterling was 3 years old, her parents packed everything they owned into storage, put a roof rack on their ‘66 VW Bug and spent three months driving with her across the US and Canada. She’s been a nomad ever since. She’s lived in El Salvador, Guatemala, Canada, England, Scotland, Israel and several states in the US. Every place is a new spirit to get acquainted with, fall in love with, or struggle with. Her path within Druidry is a spiritual dance of learning the relationships of all the people, human and otherwise, in the context of place. She has a collection of short stories, The Imaginary City and Other Places, which you can read on Kindle or in paperback.

  • dashifen

    I think it’ll depend on what part of cyberspace you’re visiting. would be a part of a different sephira, I’d think. It’s a digital, progressive enhancement on practices that have an analog in the physical world as are many other sites.

    Social networking is starting to feel like it’s a whole new thing. Sure, you could have a social network in the real world but it’s limited by any number of things like language, geography, etc. Online, these limitations can be mitigated in a number of ways (though not always removed) and especially when you look at long-form networks (like Tumblr) you start to find whole worlds encapsulated within those networks where relationships are built and crumble around shared interests.

    And then you start to think about online worlds created as a shared visual, auditory, and even potentially tactile experience. We find these most often in gaming (here’s looking at you, _World_ of Warcraft) but there are other digital realities, like Second Life, where the focus is not so much on the slaying of Internet dragons but just on existing with others in a virtual reality. For example, there’s an alumni group for my alma mater in Second Life. I’m not a big part of it, but now we’ve moved from a social network on-screen in text to one where I can move an avatar to emote, speak and be heard, and given the right technology, even touch and feel others within this world.

    I’m only somewhat knowledgeable about the Tree of Life but it seems to me that there’s a third option beyond the two you present Sterling: that it’s both within and separate from the sephira that we’ve worked to understand. Maybe it’s more like a Venn diagram, where portions of or digital reality mesh with parts of our physical space and other parts do not.