In Hermetic philosophy and many other esoteric traditions a being’s body is divided in three: the corpus, the animus, and the spiritus. As the Hermetic alchemist Kremmerz writes:
Gods, daimons, and men: among them the same relationship exists as among the three states of perceptible matter: that which is heavy, that which is light, and that which is evanescent. The synthesis of nature presents the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gaseous.
This number three recurs in the kingdoms of visible nature. This number makes up the series in divine progression: man (the heavy body that imprisons an intelligence), daimon (the light body that comes near to intelligence), spirit (the evanescent body, which has not even an ideal form, and is symbolized by light).Giuliano Kremmerz, The Hermetic Science of Transformation
We can understand this division most clearly in ourselves through introspection, but the same division applies equally to non-human beings. The corpus is static substance; the animus animates the corpus; the spiritus determines the nature of the animus. The axis along this hierarchy of determination is the orthogonal axis through the “planes” of being.
Historically, esoteric scholars have been concerned with beings like states or cultures. The anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot, distinguishing spirits from egregores, writes:
However, it is the souls and spirits from above—forming, inspiring and directing communities of human beings—who nourish and vivify human souls: for example, Archangels (who are the spirits of nations); Principalities (Archai or “time spirits”); the spiritual entity which is behind Tibetan Buddhism; not to mention Christ, whose Flesh and Blood each day vivifies and unites the Church (Christ’s Mystical Body). Egregores are therefore nourished by men, whilst the latter are nourished by souls and spirits from above.
Nevertheless, although God, Christ, the Holy Virgin, the spiritual hierarchies, the saints, the Church (or the Mystical Body of Christ) are real entities, there still exists also a phantom or egregore of the Church, which is its “double”, just as every man, every nation, every religion, etc., have their “doubles”.Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VI: The Lover
The tripartite body of a superhuman being is not a purely conceptual existence, “nourished by men”, but constitutes a free and noumenally independent existence.
[T]he Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. All these beings—including man (the Ischim)—have an existence that is either real or illusionary. If they have a real existence, if they are not a mirage, they are independent entities endowed not only with a phenomenal independence but also a noumenal independence. Now, noumenal independence is what we understand by freedom.Meditations on the Tarot, Letter IV: The Emperor
Beings with real existences exist across all planes of being. They are not subject to any human’s will, but are superhuman and free, and human-like in their spiritual structure. They have the same capacity to act, to will, to affect, and are subjects as much as they are objects. These beings are the spirits of states, organizations, languages, cultures, and other systems.
The corpus of an organization of people is not even merely the union of its constituents’ corpora, because physical beings do not have strict boundaries. The corpus associated with an animus is better thought of as a domain over which the animus has influence. A human body has a strong center of subjectivity where the nerves run, but exists in the world and is not separate from it. It uses tools and cognizes via external artifacts. Even its immediate substance is constantly renewed. Similarly, the interaction of individuals does not merely join their domains of influence in the world, but creates a new context of interaction with its its own physical scope.
With the advent of systems theory and cybernetics, we have an understanding powerful enough to quickly create new media in which other systems can be represented. There have long been systems like law and theory which duplicate and co-affect a system outside of themselves. Now we have the computer (which is only abstract), and its worldly extensions in beings like a program or a computational blockchain.
Each representation-capable medium contains extensional bodies of other spirits represented in it, or emerging from the interaction of these spirits, so that within each plane of being there may be diverse realms governed by these media. Each medium is also itself a free being with a noumenal body across each plane of being.
Information as a Fluid
From another perspective which diminishes separateness, subjects and objects are only structured regions in a rarefied field of pure information. In this sense, information is a substance so abstract as to be meaningless; yet it can be measured and analyzed, and retains some aspect of its mathematical sense as the capacity to resolve an uncertainty. It is more general than flows like matter, energy, value, and libido; yet flows of each of these quantities are necessarily also flows of information. In this sense information is the most general fluidic quantity, an ur-fluid.
The Dao Jing of the Dao De Jing, as explained to me by the lineage master of the Wind Fire Thunder (风火雷; feng huo lei) sect in a WeChat message, is about clearly perceiving the front and back of natural changes, the patterns of subject-change (self-changing) and object-change (being-changed) (道德经的上经为道，指要参透自然变化的正与反；自变和被变的规律，道本。).
This association between front/back and subject/object provides a ready analogy in the context of information flows. A subject is a region of positive divergence; an object is a region of negative divergence. The subject acts on the world outside it, transmitting information outwards; the object is acted upon by the world outside it, receiving information inwards.
The distinction between esoterica and exoterica, or between the sacred and the mundane, are also matters of viscosity or of external barriers to information flow. Information cannot flow easily past a physical barrier, a geographical boundary like a mountain or ocean, or a political boundary like of a city or nation. Now the internet has made such flows much easier than before, and the more powerful boundaries now exist in a separate realm. Information does not flow easily between languages, and concealment in twilight language still has a substantial effect.
From the fluidic perspective, the distinction between the planes of existence is a distinction of dimension. The corpus exists in a static field. The animus adds the dimension of time. The spiritus adds a dimension beyond time. But there are many dimensions beyond time, hence the continuity of the planes.
Metaverse and AR
With metaverse and AR technologies, the relations between bodies across planes of existence is immediately relevant. A simulated body directly replaces a physical body for a time, and they exist on the same plane insofar as they are experienced in the same way. On a simple level of analysis, the bodies compete because a spirit might only need one body on each plane. An inferior body can be thrown away, or naturally disappears as it is no longer maintained.
The relationship between AR and traditional experience therefore parallels the relationship between blockchain computation and traditional computation. They have the capacity to hold a body of the same spirit on the same plane. The new body may coexist with the old body temporarily or indefinitely; the same spirit can have multiple bodies in the same plane at an equilibrium, and different media have different degrees of exclusivity with each other.
The technology of the metaverse can be grouped together with the boat, the plane, the phone, the internet. These are technologies that have accelerated the flow of information, or equivalently, that have made it easier for spirits to travel between realms.
Distance within a medium may be bypassed via a body in a different medium. Such “astral travel” is canonical to many magical traditions, wherein a spirit ascends to a higher plane of existence to travel at supernatural speeds on a lower one. One’s body in the metaverse intersects more realms than an internet chat service, and can be associated with a grander spirit.
Another aspect of astral magic is to become a foreign body, like of an animal or god, and to incorporate what one learns from the experience into one’s life as a human. This kind of spiritual metamorphosis also becomes quite literally enabled by AR technologies and other applications of brain computer interfaces, where the activity from a user’s brain, and thereby their conscious experience, can be mapped directly to an augmented super-human body, or even a non-human body.
In such an environment, where lower bodies on the plane of the corpus and animus become so readily malleable, there are inevitable political and social consequences. Many esoteric traditions, which are protected enough by various mechanisms of sacredness to be able to say some very cruel things, speak of a hierarchy of spirits, which in reality are all human spirits. In Buddhism there are the gods, men, demons, and hungry ghosts, who each perceive reality differently and have different desiring-machines. The Wind Fire Thunder lineage master is more explicit: “Yang is above the temple; yin is the rivers, lakes, and seas. Below the temple is not the rivers and lakes but the general’s platform. Below the general’s platform is the row of soldiers extending to the rivers and lakes. Below the rivers and lakes are the people-slaves, blind-slaves, grass-slaves” (阳为庙堂之上，阴为江湖四海。庙堂之下不是江湖而是将台，将台之下是兵道直通江湖，江湖之下为名奴，盲奴，草奴。).
Perhaps these social observations currently only have an esoteric significance, applying only to a realm beyond what everybody can easily see. But if the strata of lower realms are transformed to be like the domain of the astral, the values and dynamics of astral realms will likewise apply to them. Kremmerz explains the astral thus:
In Greek grammar the word aster means “star.” In hieratic Greek, astron is made up of the negative prefix a- and stereon, the state of being fixed or solid, and thus means without fixity, wandering, and therefore astral light in its secret sense is the light that is not fixed, which is wandering, ethereal, evanescent.*Giuliano Kremmerz, The Hermetic Science of Transformation
In this context, the mechanism of deterritorializing technologies like the internet or the blockchain or the metaverse in transforming a plane of being becomes very explicit.
DAOs and Blockchain(s)
Where are the bodies of a DAO? It is a program on a blockchain. It is a collection of people. A participant in a DAO interacts with the DAO contract through the blockchain it exists on; that blockchain has its own bodies across various planes and realms, in computers, in theories, in dreams.
Some people say that DAOs will replace VC firms and maybe even corporations. Does a DAO refer specifically to the blockchain body of an organization? Or is any organization with a blockchain body a DAO? If it is the former, it will certainly not replace VC firms and corporations, which do not even exist in the same realm. Otherwise, the claim is that every corporate spirit will develop a blockchain body, which seems more reasonable.
But the latter claim acknowledges that corporate spirits also have other bodies in different planes and realms. Will DAOs eventually be captured in law? Wyoming already defines the legal rights of DAOs by analogy with existing LLC definitions. The relations between people in an organization are also matters of interaction between anima and between spirits. Will on-chain contracts and the anima governing them replace the anima emergent from systems of human relations? If not, we must acknowledge that a program’s rules shape but do not wholly define the animus of a DAO.
Some people say that the point is not for programmatic systems to replace human decision-making, but for on-chain programs to define incentive structures that encourage better human behavior within human systems. Then what are the advantages of an on-chain system over a traditional legal one? There are interfaces between an on-chain system and parts of the off-chain world it must represent, just as there are interfaces between a legal system and the off-legal world it must represent. One submits a transaction to a node, or pulls data from an oracle; one represents oneself in court, or calls for witnesses. Even if the blockchain is more transparent and decentralized than the bureaucratic legal system, it does not constitute the whole body of a spirit even on a single plane of existence (e.g. human bodies and computing machines exist in the same plane); opacity and even centralization have lots of room to unexpectedly emerge.
Perhaps the advantages of DAOs inherit from the advantages of the blockchain in general. It is easier to interact with a smart contract than with a bureaucracy, so a blockchain corpus is preferred to a bureaucratic one. But what about the blockchain spiritus? We may deploy the bodies of existing spirits onto the blockchain, but what kinds of spirits and more tangible bodies might crypto technology uniquely generate?
Patterns of behavior repeated across time in different media are also spirits. Finance, economics, and governance are all spirits. Will the current corpora of finance and governance be largely obsoleted by crypto? Even with the infrastructure available today, we still have cash transactions and in-person rituals in governance. Perhaps the immaturity and imperfection (e.g. centralization, lack of robustness) of available infrastructure contribute to this, and crypto at least partially “solves this”. But existing corpora struggle for their own survival and often win; how much more powerful is crypto than the existing dominant infrastructure, compared to how much more powerful that infrastructure was than what came before it?
Decentralization has long been an ideal theme. Even the use yang (用九) of the I Ching hexagram Heaven (乾; qian) says, “to see a crowd of dragons without a head; auspicious” (见群龙无首吉). Foucault asks if we are in a Deleuzian century; Deleuze and Guattari begin and conclude their Thousand Plaeaus with the rhizome opposed to arborescent structure.
But even if crypto is a deterritorializing technology, does it reach the level of establishing a new plane of consistency? Then it mustn’t impose a homogenous surface over the smooth space otherwise represented. Deleuze and Guattari write, applying equally to a blockchain ecosystem as to the “legal model”:
This does not mean, however, that the legal model knows nothing of forces, the play of forces. That it does is evident in the homogeneous space corresponding to the compars. Homogeneous space is in no way a smooth space; on the contrary, it is the form of striated space. The space of pillars. It is striated by the fall of bodies, the verticals of gravity, the distribution of matter into parallel layers, the lamellar and laminar movement of flows. These parallel verticals have formed an independent dimension capable of spreading everywhere, of formalizing all the other dimensions, of striating all of space in all of its directions, so as to render it homogeneous.A Thousand Plateaus, 1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE
Is a programmatic system even theoretically capable of establishing a plane of consistency? Crypto claims to be representative of an ideal it could not wholly encapsulate. In this way it becomes a bound spirit in service of a higher spirit. Even as it contributes to the process of decentralization, or of deterritorialization and the establishment of lines of flight to a new plane of consistency, or of the establishment of a crowd of dragons without a head, it is in no way the whole body of the process, nor identical in spirit.
This post has been a little out of character for me, and it’s mostly because I work at a crypto company now. I am no longer writing developmentally, but toward application in the world. Incidentally, toward what is symbolized by the 利 and 贞 of 元亨利贞, or by the waw and he of tetragrammaton.
In the Chariot arcana from Mediations on the Tarot:
What my intention is here is to refute the false accusations concerning occultism, on the one hand, and on the other hand to show up the real danger that occultism presents—so that one is put on guard against it. But what should one do against this danger, in order to guard one’s moral well-being?
The ancient saying “ora et labora” (“work and pray”) constitutes the only answer that I have been able to find. Worship and work constitute the only curative as well as prophylactic remedy that I know against megalomaniacal illusions. It is necessary to worship what is above us and it is necessary to participate in human effort in the domain of objective facts in order to be able to hold in check the illusions concerning what one is and what one is capable of.Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VII: The Chariot
Indeed, the domain of esoteric theory is no other than the domain of real life. There is no “other” power outside of common power, nor other value outside of common value, nor other truth outside of common truth.
It is the same conduct which must be applied by the Christian Hermeticist in that which concerns knowledge and science—natural, historical, philological, philosophical, theological, symbolical and traditional. It amounts to learning the art of learning.
Now, it is the Arcana which stimulate us and at the same time guide us in the art of learning. In this sense, the Major Arcana of the Tarot are a complete, entire, invaluable school of meditation, study, and spiritual effort—a masterly school in the art of learning.
Dear Unknown Friend, Christian Hermeticism therefore has no pretension to rival either religion or official science. He who is searching here for the “true religion”, the “true philosophy”, or the “true science” is looking in the wrong direction. Christian Hermeticists are not masters, but servants. They do not have the pretension (that is, in any case, somewhat puerile) of elevating themselves above the holy faith of the faithful, or above the fruits of the admirable efforts of workers in science, or above the creations of artistic genius. Hermeticists are not guarding the secret of future discoveries in the sciences. They do not know, for example, just as everyone at present is ignorant of it, the effective remedy against cancer.Meditations on the Tarot, Letter I: The Magician
But esotericists and fans of esoterica have often looked for a unification of esoteric theory and mainstream science or academic discourse. Kremmerz writes:
The concept of the universe as a unity leads in magic to the principle of unity of force and unity of matter that some superior intellects have already glimpsed, in their studies, outside of the teaching of magic. In this case, magic, which no progress of vulgar science will ever be able to find fault with, identifies many modes of existence of the one force of the one matter that begins with the metal and, from liquid to gas, passes to infinitesimal attenuations.**This is the basis of alchemy, which its few researchers believe to be rudimentary chemistry, whereas it is, in fact, the philosophy of chemistry.
Modern history will begin when a new type of chemistry analyzes the elements of the soul that make up the individual person and causes them to unfold, and this will mark the end of a long period of darkness in which man has not known himself.Giuliano Kremmerz, The Hermetic Science of Transformation
Clearly today’s sociology is not such a chemistry. Psychoanalysis, being the product of a particular place and time, also lacks the universal scope of a “chemistry”. Deleuze and Guattari, perhaps having lost faith in “science”, say of their schizoanalysis:
Nowhere do we claim for our concepts the title of a science. We are no more familiar with scientificity than we are with ideology; all we know are assemblages. And the only assemblages are machinic assemblages of desire and collective assemblages of enunciation.A Thousand Plateaus, INTRODUCTION: RHIZOME
Indeed they say later of chemistry and science in general:
Universal attraction became the law of all laws, in that it set the rule for the biunivocal correspondence between two bodies; and each time science discovered a new field, it sought to formalize it in the same mode as the field of gravity. Even chemistry became a royal science only by virtue of a whole theoretical elaboration of the notion of weight. Euclidean space is founded on the famous parallel postulate, but the parallels in question are in the first place gravitational parallels, and correspond to the forces exerted by gravity on all the elements of a body presumed to fill that space. It is the point of application of the resultant of all of these parallel forces that remains invariable when their common direction is changed or the body is rotated (the center of gravity). In short, it seems that the force of gravity lies at the basis of a laminar, striated, homogeneous, and centered space; it forms the foundation for those multiplicities termed metric, or arborescent, whose dimensions are independent of the situation and are expressed with the aid of units and points (movements from one point to another). It was not some metaphysical concern, but an effectively scientific one, that frequently led scientists in the nineteenth century to ask if all forces were not reducible to gravity, or rather to the form of attraction that gives gravity a universal value (a constant relation for all variables) and biunivocal scope (two bodies at a time, and no more). It is the form of interiority of all science.A Thousand Plateaus, 1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE
So what of the project that Kremmerz articulates? It is a homogenizing project, of “one force” and “one matter”. It articulates a homogenizing force that accompanies many realm-establishing technological advances, wherein the realm-establishment inevitably overcodes whatever it captures as if to establish itself as a perpetual monopoly on its plane.
Does crypto provide the basis for a chemistry of the “elements of the soul”? Indeed we may explicitly define agents in a program, and observe their interaction much like we algorithmically analyze the interaction of chemical molecules based on their abstract models. AR also provides a chemical methodology for experimenting with the soul, wherein we are able to attempt to combine an existing soul with something foreign to it, to see what reactions are possible and not, and to determine what elements of the soul are active or inert.
But in such a project are we merely following ancient striations that have captured our modes of thought, and that tyrannically govern the production of legitimacy? I think it still remains to be seen who is stronger and truer between the tree and the rhizome; perhaps it is an eternal and transcendent conflict.
Even by participating in a discourse we are engaging with spirits larger than ourselves, advancing one epistemic project or another, diverting flows of information. Will we speak of things in terms of spirits and bodies, or in Deleuzian words and methods, or in the context of another canon coding the same domain, or something new altogether?
Even without an established canon, by framing the discourse within any context accustomed to superhuman entities, we recognize their presence by whatever names they may be known. Thereby these questions about the interaction and evolution of projects, theories, epistemologies also become subject to analysis.