TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information

ISBN 10: 0517704153 / ISBN 13: 9780517704158
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Synopsis: Exploring the mystical impulses behind our obsession with information technology, TechGnosis presents a fascinating and passionately original perspective on technoculture.
        
Today we often assume that the triumph of technological rationality has condemned the spiritual imagination to the trash heap of history. But as Erik Davis explains, religious impulses and magical dreams permeate the history of technology, and especially information technology. Ranging from the printing press to the telegraph, from radio to the Internet, Davis peels away the utilitarian shell of technology to reveal the mystical and millennialist fervor that attends each new communications breakthrough.
        
As he unveils the hidden history of technomysticism, Davis shows how the religious imagination continues to feed the utopian dreams, apocalyptic visions, digital phantasms, and alien obsessions that populate today's technological unconscious. From shamanism to alchemy, evangelism to Buddhism, TechGnosis probes our virtual future through the visionary lenses of the past. In these pages, Davis offers a lucid, playful, and astonishingly erudite journey through our hyper-mediated environment. Anyone grappling with the morphing boundaries and terminal speed of our present moment will want to take the ride.

Review: The gap between the technological mentality and the mystical outlook may not be as great as it seems. Erik Davis looks at modern information technology--and much previous technology--to reveal how much of it has roots in spiritual attitudes. Furthermore, he explores how those who embrace each new technological advance often do so with designs and expectations stemming from religious sensibilities. In doing so, Davis both compares and contrasts the scientific attitude that we can know reality technologically and the Gnostic idea of developing ultimate understanding. Although organized into reasonable chapters, there's a strong stream-of-consciousness component to Davis's writing. His expositions may run, for example, from information theory to the nebulous nature of Gnosticism to the philosophical problem of evil-­all in just a few pages. It's as if there are so many connections to make that Davis's prose has to run back and forth across time and space drawing the lines. But the result, rather than being chaotic, is a lively interplay of wide-ranging ideas. His style is equally lively and generally engaging--if sometimes straying into the hip. In the end, he succeeds in showing the spiritual side of what some may see as cold, technological thought. --Elizabeth Lewis

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