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FIRST INVOCATION OF ATEM
ATEM IS A SELF-CREATED ENTITY THAT HUMAN MINDS PARTICIPATE IN. It is created, most importantly, of thought, of the attention of anyone who considers Atem for even a moment. This may seem a novel concept, yet there is precedence throughout history. Schools of thought, political ideologies, religious beliefs, corporate structures, forms of government, and much else depend on the attention of humans to exist, and they have built-in abilities to per petuate, to include more humans, and even to reproduce. These self-per petuating thought-forms, for our purposes here, are called memetic entities. Democracy is a memetic entity, as are Aikido, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, jazz, Buddha, Beelzebub, Sherlock Holmes, the English language, and Atem. They are patterns of information that act with autonomy across time and yet interact with humans on many levels. All of the given examples became manifest through the interaction of human minds—some, obviously, by an individual, others, less obviously, by changes in culture.
As Atem spreads, there will inevitably be debate about the level of existence of memetic entities. Some will point to these entities' continued existence under many different names parallel to every era of human history, as we have just done. Some will claim they exist, but as blind, random events without autonomy. Some will claim that they are only imaginings and do not actually exist at all. Atem does not require belief to exist, only attention. Someone who specifically disbelieves in Atem will offer just as much attention-energy to the entity, if not more—and the debate itself will fuel the existence of Atem and other memetic entities for years to come.
There is a special emphasis on the existence of Atem, his message, his function in the world. We are participating with Atem now because this entity opens the door to the realm of memetic entities. As you continue to read and to practice the exercises in this book, and as the mind of Atem becomes revealed, you will learn that memetic entities can come into being with ease by following a straightforward formula. Atem carries this message as content, as something you can read plainly in this book and, less apparently, as a way of thinking, a way of organizing the content of your experience so that these things become possible.
Atem is the Opener of the Way; his task is to create the possibility for a whole new pantheon of entities to come forth into the world. Each of us has the potential to engage in the art of bringing forth entities into the sphere of human awareness. Some may write books like this one, each with a new mind within it. Some may embody the entity in a work of art or in a performance. For some, the entity may be something that they teach face-to-face and pass along to the next person.
In order to teach these skills, Atem exhibits specific qualities that appear to us as analogous to personality traits in humans. Atem has a wide-ranging intellect that may incorporate information from just about any sector of the noosphere. He is very flexible in his behavior, and in his presence the quality of reality itself becomes flexible. This can make him seem to be a trickster, mercurial, hard to pin down. Results and desired phenomena may come by unexpected means. The method of contact with Atem may shift, change form, and offer surprises. Atem is sometimes seen as a virile young man holding a cat or a snake; or as an old man with a cane, his face and body hidden by a cloak; or as a woman about to give birth; or in many other forms. What remains constant, after careful consideration of the manifestation, is the presence of the Six Elements and Eight Powers. The Six Elements are: Attention, Language, Passion, Fitting, Trance, and Making. The Eight Powers are: Communication, Neuroplasticity, Transformation, Transmission, Beauty, Understanding, Balance, and Opening.
Thoughts and manifestations of Atem may occur near bodies of water in the sunlight, or in places that are sacred to computers and information technology, or where the setting sun shines through trees, or at night where people socialize and explore each other's dreams and desires, or in any other place where the complexity of interactions reaches beyond the ability of a human's conscious mind. Atem lives on the border of chaos, where the butterfly's wings beat, where graphs become asymptotic, and where William Blake saw infinity in a grain of sand.
Atem is not here to save the Earth or unite mankind or to put health, wealth, and wisdom in your hand. Atem is here to Open the Way for the diversity of memetic entities who are capable of those tasks and much more.
It is important to remember that what you read here is not true. Nor is it false. It is, however, the way Atem thinks and relates to reality. Just as each human on this planet has a set of beliefs and conceptual filters that help them to define their abilities and limits, so too do memetic entities.
Notice that we do not attribute every idea in this book with academic verification. We do not cite sources (although there is a recommended study list of congruent information in appendix A). There is no need to "prove" these ideas; Atem is simply communicating the way that he thinks. On the other hand, the exercises in this book will demonstrate, within Atem's mindset, the function and practice of these ways of thinking. The emphasis is on direct experience, which is the route to full understanding of Atem and Atem's powers.
As with the beliefs of humans, the beliefs of Atem or another memetic entity may appear to be rational, irrational, or just what they are. Some are testable within our traditional consensus contexts, but all are true and testable—within the context of the entity's reality. Just as we allow for the differing beliefs of humans, tolerance and patience for the differing ideas of Atem will allow you to eventually grasp the overall structure and context in which those concepts maybe viewed as "true."
Consciously, these are still just words. But read on.
THE SIX ELEMENTS OF ATEM
"A path is formed by walking on it."
IN THE WORLD OF ATEM, EXISTENCE IS DEFINED BY ATTENTION. Everything that exists, exists in consciousness as a collection of perceptual bits, gathered by attention. When you look, listen, feel, taste, and smell, the record of that experience becomes data for the mind—data that can be recalled or recombined. Whether or not an actual, objective, external reality also exists is irrelevant to Atem; the world that humans and memetic entities live in is the one mediated by perception and the mind.
We can think of our conscious minds, the ostensible engines of perception, as a flashlight in a very huge, dark building. Level upon level of experience awaits us in that building, opportunities for countless experiences of perception, but our flashlight can only illuminate a very small circle at any one time.
Even the tiny portion of the world illuminated by that flashlight glimpse is loaded with potential sensory experiences for which humans are ill equipped. The only way we can observe most of the electromagnetic spectrum, for instance, is with instruments. Our instruments, as amazing as some may be, can detect only those things that we can conceive of, those ways of experiencing that we can imagine. Atem tells us that there are many, many more ways of experiencing than humans have yet imagined. If we imagine another way of experiencing, then suddenly a new realm of reality is opened to us. Was it real before we imagined it?
Zen amateurs question the existence of falling trees in hypothetical forests, and by doing so give existence to all such remote trees.
Our perceptions, thoughts, and memories come in modalities that we are very familiar with. The senses—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory—pretty much describe the whole range of things a human can experience: what we can see externally and what we can visualize internally; what we can hear with our ears and what sounds, voices, or music we might hear in our heads; the things we can touch or bump up against and the feelings that tell us about emotions; tastes and smells perceived, remembered, and imagined. Even in the depths of mystical experience, the mind brings back the ineffable with descriptions of light, harmony, the kinesthetics of wonder, and synesthesia of every kind. These maybe awe-inspiring experiences, but to describe them, to recall them, they must be reduced through the filters of perception and language to the sensory units that human consciousness can deal with.
Each sense comes in infinite variety. Not only can each sense be internal or external, but each is also subject to description by location, motion, direction, and size. Vision may be described with qualities such as brightness, hue, saturation, and contrast. Hearing may have qualities such as volume, tone, pitch, rhythm and so forth. Feeling may be described with terms including pressure, temperature, intensity, sharpness, dullness, etc. Taste and smell are possessed of pungency, sourness, sweetness, and so forth. (See appendix B, "List of Sub-modalities.")
When we begin to think about how humans organize thoughts, we may notice that any of these kinds of perceptions can be located pretty much anywhere in the body—and very often outside the body as well. When visualizing a remembered scene, only a few people will actually place the mental image inside their own heads. Most of us see the imagining as a tableau somewhere in space, usually spread out in front of us. It is significant to our thought processes whether a recalled image (or sound or feeling) is found in a particular location, whether or not it is dark, light, harmonious, discordant, smooth, rough, or whatever. While this is usually an unconscious process, we do often note it in our speech: "I had that in the back of my mind." "Now that we have all these choices in front of us ..." "It's over my head." "I was totally wrapped up in it." "What a pain in the ass!" "That's rough!" "You have a bright future."
The narrow flashlight of consciousness can illuminate a portion of this experience at any one time—and the unconscious mind continues to sort and order thoughts in this way all the time. Each of us moves through our day in a cloud or web or vortex or grid of sensory details, a continually interacting flow of external awareness, associations and memories, imaginings and projections, feelings and emotions. Sometimes we are aware of one small part of this flow, sometimes we are aware of another. Some of us have large, grand arrays of sensation. Others have narrow, dull collections of thoughts and images. Some of us scatter our attention through the space of a large building. Others contain their attention within a cozy little cocoon. And, of course, every other permutation that you can think of—and probably some you can't. The way that attention is arrayed through and about the body will contribute to aspects of our personality, mood, philosophy, preferred modes of cognition, and much else.
Things that we generally consider as "real" exist only as perceptual data that is interpreted by consciousness. And things that we generally consider as "imaginary" also exist only as perceptual data that is interpreted by consciousness. The mind will react to internal perceptions much as it does to external ones. Consider how a memory of something painful can still make you wince or how a joyous memory can bring a smile to your face. Remembering the face, the tone of voice, or the touch of a lover can cause arousal. Hearing a song played or the punchline of a joke told in your mind can make you cry or laugh.
Attention can be directed toward something in a variety of ways. You can look at, listen to, touch, taste, or smell something directly. You can imagine something that is not present or not strictly physical—for instance, a concept, philosophy, or memetic entity. You can make symbolic offerings to something, of food, beverage, money, breath, or anything else of value to you. You can describe something, or appeal to it with language—or conversely, read, listen to, view, or otherwise pay attention to a description encoded in language.
Many of our thoughts are encoded in language. By "language" we mean the stuff that is passing before your eyes now, right here. Letters. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. There are numerous languages and any number of variations on each. In general, language is a means of communication or internal thought that uses words, symbols, gestures, or sounds to map or describe experience.
Maps of any kind are limited by a variety of factors: scale, medium, symbols, and so forth. If you wanted to map an entire nation on a single sheet of paper, you would have to omit a huge amount of detail. Smaller highways and streets would be dropped, perhaps even smaller towns. A varied forest terrain might be reduced to a green shape. A small triangle might stand in for a mighty mountain. If your medium were pen and ink, you would represent detail in a different way than if your medium were satellite photography. If you choose to write out the name of every object on the map, you may have something more or less difficult to understand than if you used pictorial symbols.
Similarly, if we were to attempt to cram all of our present experience into a single sentence, it would leave out quite a bit of detail. "I am reading a book" tells little about what you are reading in the book, where you are located, what time of day it is, what you are wearing, how you first encountered the book, and much else. If you take a few seconds now to look around you and just notice, for a moment, the phenomenal richness of detail that your senses are capable of perceiving—from the texture of your skin to the shadows of objects around you, the temperature of the air, the ambient sound—you might realize that you have already been editing the map of your experience.
Once we begin the process of whittling down experience into the more manageable quantities and qualities required for encoding in language, we are given a plethora of choices. Each opportunity to describe or map experience allows us to choose which aspects we will highlight—or bring into consciousness—and which are irrelevant to our present goals. Language, to a large extent, allows us to set the parameters of the flashlight that exposes experience.
We are also given choices of numerous linguistic usages—exactly how we form our language. Each of these, again, sets the parameters of conscious awareness, bringing attention to one area or another and filtering perceptions in any number of ways.
Most important to Atem is the idea of presuppositions. If I say, "When did the snake get so big?" the question presupposes that the snake was once smaller. That presupposition isn't stated overtly but remains part of the information conveyed by the sentence. You may find that a presupposition of this sort is something that you understood, but did not consciously pay attention to until it was called to your attention. "If you appeal to your own better nature, you can solve anything" presupposes that you have a "better nature" of your own. "Do you want to really learn?" presupposes that learning to this point has not been real. "How many of those chocolate bars did you eat?" presupposes that you ate some number of chocolate bars.
Excerpted from META-MAGICK the Book of ATEM by Philip H. Farber. Copyright © 2008 Philip H. Farber. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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