Gnon and OOon
Twitter gets people counting characters, and thus numerizing language. In only a very few cases does this microcultural activity tilt over into the wilder extravagances of exotic qabbalism, but it nudges intelligence in that direction. Even when the only question is strictly Boolean — will this message squeeze into a tweet, or not? — words acquire a supplementary significance from their numerical properties alone. A phrase is momentarily numbered, in the crudest of ways, which the tweet box registers as a countdown towards zero, and then into the negative accumulation of over-spill. Twitter thus promotes a rigidly convention-bound semiotic practice, which it simultaneously hides, technologically instantiating a precise analog of hermetic ritual.
Qabbalism is the science of spookiness, which makes it a natural companion on any expedition into horror. There is, in addition, an intrinsic reactionary slant to its ultra-traditionalism and attachment to the principle of hierarchical revelation. Its concrete history provides an unsurpassable example of spontaneous auto-catalysis (from discrepant conventions of arithmetical notation). This post, however, is restricted to a very preliminary discussion of its most basic intellectual presupposition, as if it had been developed out of an implicit philosophy (which it was not). It will be coaxed into making sense, against the grain of its essential inclination.
Within the Abrahamic tradition, the Word of God anticipates creation. Insofar as scripture faithfully records this Word, the holy writings correspond to a level of reality more fundamental than nature, and one that the ‘book of nature’ references, as the key to its final meaning. The unfolding of creation in time follows a narrative plotted in eternity, in which history and divine providence are necessarily identical. There can be no true accidents, or coincidences.
The Book of Creation is legible, and intelligible. It can be read, and it tells a story. The noisy squabbles between religious orthodoxy and natural science that have erupted in modern times threaten to drown out the deeper continuities of presumption, which frame the rancorous contention between ‘belief’ and ‘disbelief’ as an intimate domestic dispute. This is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the declaration attributed to Francis Bacon: “My only earthly wish is… to stretch the deplorably narrow limits of man’s dominion over the universe to their promised bounds… [nature will be] bound into service, hounded in her wanderings and put on the rack and tortured for her secrets.” There is no doubt that nature can speak, and has a story to tell.
Resisting any temptation to take sides in this family argument, we refer neutrally to Gnon (“nature or nature’s God”), ignoring all dialectics, and departing in another direction. The distinction to be drawn does not differentiate between belief and unbelief, but rather discriminates between exoteric and esoteric religion.
Any system of belief (and complementary unbelief) that appeals to universal endorsement is necessarily exoteric in orientation. Like the witch-finders, or Francis Bacon, it declares war upon the secret, in the name of a public cult, whose central convictions are dispensed commonly. The Pope is the Pope, and Einstein is Einstein, because the access to truth that elevates them above other men is — in its innermost nature — the equal possession of all. The pinnacle of understanding is attained through a public formula. This is democracy in its deepest, creedal sense.
Esoteric religion accepts all of this, about exoteric religion. It confirms the solidarity between doctrinal authorities and the beliefs of the masses, whilst exempting itself, privately, from the public cult. Its discreet attention is directed away from the exoteric mask of Gnon, into — or out towards — the OOon (or Occult Order of nature).
The OOon need not be kept a secret. It is secret by its intrinsic, inviolable nature. A very primitive qabbalistic excursion should suffice to illustrate this.
Assume, entirely hypothetically, that supernatural intelligence or obscure complexities in the topological structure of time had sedimented abysmal depths of significance into the superficial occurrences of the world. The ‘Book of Creation’ is then legible at (very) many different levels, with every random or inconsequential detail of relatively exoteric features providing material for systems of information further ‘down’. The deeper one excavates into the ‘meaningless chaos’ of the exoteric communicative substrate, the more uncluttered one’s access to the signals of utter Outsideness. Since ‘one’ is, to its quick, a signaletic product, this cryptographic enterprise is irreducibly a voyage, transmutation, and disillusionment.
The most thoroughly documented example is the esoteric reading of the Hebrew Bible, which need only be remarked upon here in its most general characteristics. Because the Hebrew alphabet serves as both a phonetic system and as a set of numerals, each written word in the language has a precise numerical value. It is at once at exoteric word, and an esoteric number. Nothing prevents an ordinary language user from deliberately coding (numerically) as they write, or even as they speak. The key to numerical decryption is not a secret, but rather a commonly understood cultural resource, utilized by every numerate individual. Nevertheless, the linguistic and arithmetical aspects are in fact quite strictly separated, because thinking in words and numbers simultaneously is hard, because maintaining sustained parallel intelligibility in both is close to impossible, because the attempt to do so is (exoterically) senseless, and because practicality dominates. The esoteric realm is not forbidden, but simply unneeded.
That the Hebrew Bible has not been deliberately crafted as an intricate numerical-cryptographic composition by human authors is therefore an empirical or contingent fact that can be accepted with extreme confidence. Its esoteric channel might of course, as common sense has to insist, be empty of anything but noise, but it is no less certainly clear. Whatever comes through it, that is anything other than nothing, can only come from Outside. It is the real difference between exoteric and the esoteric levels that makes the OOon thinkable at all. Only that which the exoteric does not touch, is available for the esoteric to communicate through, and to have assembled itself from. Qabbalism has to be seldom, in order to occur. For that reason, it cannot seek to persuade the masses of anything, unless its own senselessness. In an age of triumphant exoteria, this is not an easy thing to understand (thank Gnon).