Erik Davis is a San Franciso-based writer, culture critic, and independent scholar who recently published TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information (Harmony Books, 1998), undoubtedly one of the very best analyses of how spirituality and technology intertwine, not only in the past but in the present as well. Unlike David Noble’s neomarxist ‘The Religion of Technology’ which covers the link between technology and the christian religion from a rather hostile viewpoint, Erik Davis covers all traditions and he covers them with knowledge and empathy.
Ranging from the printing press to the telegraph, from radio to the Internet, TechGnosis peels away the utilitarian shell of technology to reveal the mystical and millennialist expectations that permeate the history of technology, and especially information technology. The book shows how the religious imagination, far from disappearing in our supposedly secular age, continues to feed the utopian dreams, apocalyptic visions, digital phantasms, and alien obsessions that populate today’s “technological unconscious.” In turn, TechGnosis also shows how the language and ideas of the information society have slipped into and even transformed the myriad worlds of contemporary spirituality. In the end, the book gestures towards a networked framework for grappling with some of the impulses that are currently tearing us apart: spirit and the machine, modernity and nihlism, technology and the human.
In this selected piece, Erik Davis examines the theme of the ‘spiritual cyborg’ with particular attention to two contemporary spiritual movements, i.e. Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way and Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.