The Great Manipulator: Magic and Modern Society
The Life and Death of Ioan Culiano
On May 21st, 1991, at the University of Chicago, a visiting professor of comparative religion read his final lecture courses on Gnosticism. He was a specialist at the highest level to deal with this theme; one of the leading scholars of Gnosticism, Platonism and Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, and the secret and overt religious history of the West. After exchaning a few words with a student regarding his thesis, the scientist left. It was the last moment when the disciples saw him alive. A few hours later the professor’s body was found in the men’s room on the campus of the University. He had been shot in the head in broad daylight in one of the largest United States universities. To this day the killer has not been found. The scientist, whose corpse lay sprawled so unattractively in the latrine, was Ioan Culianu.
He was the most famous pupil and compatriot of Mircea Eliade, who, after the teacher entrusted by will the right to become his literary executor, deserves special attention. Having emigrated from Romania in the 1970’s, he finally decided to link himself with the University of Chicago, where he worked with the great Eliade. Culianu paid great attention to the Western tradition. It seems that following this direction, he tried to balance his teacher, dealing mainly with Asia and “primitive” peoples. Experiments of ecstasy and exit in other worlds, Gnosticism, religious duality, the spiritual dimension of the problem of power, some Western religious philosophies, the occult and the shadow side of the western tradition, and the genesis of the social and philosophical phenomenon, which later received the name of Modernity, became priority topics of research for Culianu.
Culianu was, as is written in his book “Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu”, by researcher of his work Ted Anthony, well received in a number of Western occult organizations. He conducted with students various magic sessions, prescribing them to reject disbelief in the studied phenomena of magic and religion. He sincerely believed in the wisdom of the ancients, and sought to use scientific apparatus to penetrate into the heart of the phenomena of religion and religious consciousness, but the approach to the threshold of the mysteries has always been a dangerous thing.
The liberal public rushed to pin the blame of the scientist’s death on the Romanian extreme right and the Romanian security service Securitate (non-existent for 2 years), which Culianu treated very unflatteringly. Gradually, this more than dubious version of events with very stretched motivations has become almost the main narrative. Indeed, in terms of the criticism of being Communists and replacing them with the Iliescu regime, Culianu does not stand out among the other Romanian dissidents. The same can be said of his tough stance against the “Iron Guard” and nationalist preferences of his teacher, Mircea Eliade. Why was it necessary to kill him? And did the really dangerous security services of Eastern European countries fall into poverty, chaos, corruption, and internal conflicts? Could it have been done by the organization (Iron Guard) from which by 1991 only the name and a group of elderly people peacefully resided in Spain and Argentina?
Culianu could have been killed for policy, but a policy of a very different kind. To understand who we might be interested in regarding the death of Culianu, we must recall another event, this time associated with his teacher. It was at that moment when Mircea Eliade, when writing his multi-volume “History of Religious Ideas”, reached the period, describing the appearance of modernity and religious development of western civilization from the XVI century to the present day. At his home in Chicago in 1984, there was a fire that destroyed a large part of the rare sources and documents of this period. Never recovering from the loss, Eliade died two years later, having not finished the last thing in his life. After 5 years, his life was cut short, and the student engaged in precisely these problems.
Culianu devoted his life to the secret religious history of the West. There is no doubt that he knew a lot, and perhaps it seemed he knew too much. Therefore, those who do not agree with the liberal version of events of the assassination of Culianu offer to appeal to his scientific heritage. It is unlikely that we will soon find the most likely answer. The scientist is simply not allowed to say this, but we may feel the dangerous line to which the researcher approached. An example of this is a study of the following theme:
Great Manipulator: power and magic
“De vinculis in genere”
In his book “Eros and Magic in the Renaissance”, Culianu, referring to the work of Giordano Bruno, the famous scientist and magician of the 15th century, reveals one of the secrets of the formation of the type of society that the founder of the Situationist, one of the ideologists of the spring of 1968, left nonconformist Guy Debord, called the “society of the spectacle”. This is the concept of “the Great manipulator”.
The historian of religions examines the book “De vinculis in genere”. Culianu notes that the value of this dark book exceeds many well-known works on political and social theory. According to their cynicism and candor, it is comparable only with the “Prince” of Machiavelli. But if the figure of the “Prince”, a political adventurer, sovereign, as Culianu notes, in the modern world is on the brink of extinction, the magician’s figure standing in the center of Bruno’s conception is the prototype of the impersonal mass media systems and mechanisms of brainwashing, which carry out the dark (occult) control over the masses in the western world.
The name of Bruno’s book “De vinculis in genere” is translated as “about links in general,” and refers to the magical manipulation of individuals and the masses, to the establishment of the remote control on people, regardless of hierarchical structures of coercion and punishment of direct power.
The concept of links “vinculis” is chosen by Bruno not by chance. Culianu notes that Giordano Bruno is in many ways the successor of another Renaissance Neoplatonist, Marsilio Fichchino, and brings to a logical but an unexpected end of the analogy of Eros and magic undertaken by founder of the Platonic Academy in Florence. For Fichchino as for Bruno, any magic is based on Eros, including what may be called the magic of social or political. In addition, between magic and erotic attraction there is an instrumental similarity; the magician like a lover, the author notes, builds a network or trap around an object of his interest. The art of love or seduction is structurally similar to the magician’s task. Ficino actively uses in respect of magic and lovemaking the term “rete” – network, as well as words such as illex, illecebra, esca, meaning the trap, trap, snare, decoy.
The task of the magician is to build a network, to connect, to achieve its indirect effects. Bruno puts forward a model that consists of manipulated individuals or masses, and the magician or the Great Manipulator actively uses nets and traps, and other tools of “binding”. The most important prerequisite for the existence of such a system is the knowledge of human desires. Bruno notes that the operation of such a plan requires subtletly, as the manipulator’s task is not directly stultification or propaganda, but creates the illusion of satisfaction of human needs and desires. Because of this, he needs to know and anticipate the needs, desires, and expectations of society. Otherwise, no “binding” can be established between the individual and a manipulator.
Peter Culianu says that the erotic magic system of Bruno aims to allow the tool to control the isolated individuals and the masses. “Its fundamental presupposition is that a big tool for manipulation exists – Eros in the most general sense of the word: that which we love. “Giordano Bruno reduces all human passions, all feelings, both lowland and sublime to love, because vanity is love of honor, greed is love of wealth, envy is love of self, which does not tolerate equality and even the superiority of another. Hatred, which is particularly Bruno stands out as a monitoring tool, it is also love, but with a negative sign. The most successful manipulation, Bruno says, is feasible if it is possible to ignite the manipulated self-love, Philautia, selfishness. In the study we found his description of love as “the most exalted relationship, the most common and the most important.” In the magical formulas used in book of Bruno, love is called “the great demon” (Daemon Magnus).
Magical effects on society using human passions, resulting in love, are carried out through indirect contact (virtualem seu potentialem), namely through the use of visual images and sounds (universal occult tools), to establish control over the visible and audible. Through these secondary gates, the manipulator can go up to his primary purpose, called porta et praecipuus aditus “main gate” and vinculum vinculorum “link of links” – a fantasy. It should be borne in mind that the imagination in the Middle Ages was understood in accordance with the teachings of Aristotle. Imagination was thought to be a device, which performs the function of a mediator between the body and the soul, the senses and the intellect. Under the name of fantasy or internal sense, it transforms the testimony of the five senses in the phantasms, images that can only be understood by soul. The device of the imagination is an interpreter translating from the language of the senses in the phantasms language and vice versa.
Fantasies and imagination have the advantage of the world of visible phenomena and feelings in the same way as the soul has the advantage over the body. Interestingly, Gilbert Durand, the French sociologist of 20th century, came to the same conclusion. He elaborated substantiated sociological theory, according to which specific types and modes of imagination, its symbolic structures, and archetypes predefine all the important elements of the social sphere.
With the understanding that there is a connection between the universal pneuma, the particular matter that forms the imaging apparatus, and the local use of the power of Eros, which is a force connecting this substance, it is possible to manage the individual consciousness by means of a particular reaction to images and phantasms insofar that in the majority of cases, it is not man that governs his imagination, but his imagination that governs him.
The conclusion of the treatise of Giordano Bruno is that everything is manipulable, and that love, as the force that permeates the world, is the only possible tool of manipulative magic, while imagination, and control over the imagination through audio-visual images is a form of power. The manipulator creates network connections based on the effect between him and different people, thereby causing them to act according to his will. Thus, he is like a spider at the center of the network of connections and interactions. It is particularly important that, according to Bruno, the manipulator must be absolutely indifferent to any external influence, and therefore any form of love, including love for goodness, truth, or even evil.
The Great Manipulator and modernity
The traditional, classical, Platonic scheme of organizing state and society which was characteristic of ancient and medieval states resembles a pyramid. Power is organized in accordance with the merits of the latter hierarchy from top to bottom and is realized in a “command-obey” style. It was against this authoritarian dictatorship of ideas that Modernity rebelled in the name of the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
The social world, built around the Great Manipulator, is different as it is organized along the principle of network connections surrounding the anonymous magician who exercises not direct, but indirect, implicit control by subordinating the imagination. He does not maintain simple propaganda, but instead by creating the illusion of meeting expectations and human feelings, he exercises skillful control over subordinates by dominating the zone of fantasy. In order for the Great Manipulator to exercise this power, it is crucial that people remain susceptible to their passions and that society consists of people who are not involved in a common cause, but are rather dissolved into uncoordinated, selfish, and self-centered groups and coteries. Instead of hierarchy, there is but a network; instead of direct submission, there is control; and instead of a common cause, there is selfishness and an absence striving towards the divine, replaced by naked sensuality or indifference.
Is the modern world really secular? If we compare Culianu’s concept of the state organized by the magician to the model of Bruno’s Great Manipulator and the society around us, we see striking similarities. Power is exercised through control of the imagination, and society is a mere network. It is no accident that today the concept of the network society has emerged and has become almost common use not only in the specific scientific community, but also, surprisingly enough, modern sociology uses the same language as Bruno’s magical treatise.
In the modern world, control of the imagination is exercised by means of audio-visual media, television, cinema, Internet and virtual reality computer games, ubiquitous and luring advertisements, and the employment of millions of images. Modern society is a society in which the cult of selfishness and sensual gratification reigns. And, yes, sexual energy, is stimulated, sublimated, and manipulated in this way in society which is permeated with sensuality and sexuality, a society which screams about itself and establishes selfishness as the social norm. This is a society of inexplicable frenzy, the triumph of the corruption of the spirit and the flesh – the total shift of attention to the mere carnal side of life which is rationalized and logically explained in Giordano Bruno’s conceptualization.
With good reason, modern society may thus be called magical society, or the society of the Great Manipulator if we connect the position and the conclusions Giordano Bruno, the data of modern sociology, and a mere ordinary observation of the surrounding social reality. Is this a coincidence? Perhaps there is a direct link between the current situation and the work of Giordano Bruno. Maybe the work of Bruno is a telling symptom of the general trajectory of the movement of the Western spirit. The fact remains that this figure, as a philosopher and magician, has traditionally attracted the attention of all occultist organizations of the West which, claiming the highest knowledge, also claim power.