By Cain Pinto
TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information(1998) by Erik Davis is a level headed exploration of the collective fetishes and taboos of our technocratic agon. Let not the book’s breezy tone and tongue in cheek yet pyrotechnic proclivity for floating self-conscious portmanteaux like ‘eschatechnology’ and ‘datapocalypse’ among its serious enumerations be an impediment to the receipt of delightful, well considered and erudite insights that are packed in for good measure.
The thesis of the book is not original but is fleshed out in a highly persuasive way and is wide in its reach of resources and analytical framework: that the project of the Enlightenment, seeking to dethrone religiomystical ways of understanding the world, by the use of instrumental reason, perpetuated magical ways of thinking while occulting them into the deeper ordering, unconscious structures of technological rationality is a proposition we have been made by theorists before. All in all, the dispassionate eye of Davis is an excellent vantage for the uninitiated and a succinct recapitulation to the blasé psychonaut and acquisitive dabbler.
The profusion of cults, the rash like irruption of mass entertainment products that gather attention across the globe among diverse audiences, the giddy ecstasy of communication and the tenacious optimism of cutting edge science which rivals the mystical pull of the numinous hearken back to a tribalism that never really ceased to breathe animating pneuma into the erstwhile deus ex machina of bellow-and-cudgel positivism. This book, though several years old in a world that ages by the minute, in sync with sound bites and giga, has aged remarkably well, and I suspect it will remain relevant until man’s elusive pursuit of the apocalypse will meet its resolution by coinciding with some trite prophecy.
Davis’ work is a fine piece of writing, capable of entertaining D & D nerds and tree-hugging ecofeminists alike, while cozying up with oddball, well read history buffs and pop culture connoisseurs. It is must read for the terminally optimistic empiricists of today, as a word of caution, a grain of salt, an obsidian mirror, a quick read in fast times.
My Rating: *** ½
Davis, Erik. (2004). TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. New York, NY: Harmony Books.