Technology and Spirituality


Bauwens Michel

Some Thoughts on the Relationship between Technology and Spirituality


Something utterly important is happening in our world right now: the exponential
growth of the internet and the Web, as a new global communications tool linking
our human brains together in real time.The net effect of computer networks is
that it changes our relationship with time and space in a fundamental way, and
hence it is not exaggerated to say that we are going through an important
civilisational shift.

Let's consider simply the effect of such networks on the speed of knowledge
transfer, and hence on the speed of cultural and technological evolution. Before
the invention of the written word, it was not possible to codify knowledge, and
hence to save it through time. 'When an old man dies', says an African saying, 'a
library goes up in flames'. Indeed in pre-literate times every progress depended
on the capacities of our brains to remember, and so evolution was very slow. With
writing, and especially with the mass produced book, knowledge became independent
of its bearer, and knowledge became independent of Time. Not of Space though, as
the transmission of knowledge still depended on the availability of the physical
object, the book. Now, with computer networks, and especially as we are moving to
wireless communication, knowledge is also being liberated of the constraints of
Space. What actually happens when you install a network in an organisation, and
this is exactly what will now happen on an universal scale through the internet,
is that every innovation, every creative thought, any solution to a problem,
becomes instantly available throughout that organisation. Hence cultural and
scientific evolution will speed up to an unprecedented degree. The time span
needed to double our knowledge which once took hundred of thousands of years, now
takes approximately three years, and this 'doubling' time is shortening ever
more, leading to speculation that there will be a hypothetical point in future
history, (in the not too distant future), called the Singularity, where knowledge
will double in a single moment, leaving mankind utterly unable to even understand
what is happening. Clearly we have created a Technological Juggernaut which is
now clearly 'Out of Control' (cfr. Kevin Kelly's book of the same title). Indeed,
if we combine the Digital Revolution just mentioned, with the ability to
manipulate our genes, and with developments in the field of nanotechnology, we
realise time has come for thinking through our relationship with technology,
which, once our servant, has now perhaps become our master. As we progress with
this essay, we will first look at some of the social and cultural changes
associated with the notion of the Digital Revolution, and we will look at some
basic spiritual attitudes, and how various debates within and between different
schools of thought, help us look at technology in interesting ways. In this
context, we will both look at technology with 'negative' glasses, seeing
technology as a degenerate practice, and then through 'positive' glasses, seeing
technology as a means of bringing mankind towards a higher 'plane of
consciousness', or let's simply say, towards a higher level of civilisation. We
will also look at emergent spiritual practices on the internet itself. But first,
some comments on the notion of the Digital Revolution.


In the previous section we discussed how networks change our relationship with
time and space, and hence, the social, political, and economic effects of
networks are of a very fundamental nature. Liberating our social life from the
constraints of space, means big changes in for example politics, which have
always been based on territory; it means big changes in the organisation of human
settlements, which again have been based on the needs to be close to the flow of
material products and the centralised structures of power. Hence, the growth of
all kinds of 'tele'- activities: tele-education, tele-shopping, tele-working. How
these things will turn out to be is still a matter of conjecture, but that they
are changing our traditional ways of operating is a certainty. Possibly, quite a
few of the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution could be reversed.
Already today, according to some recent U.S. figures we see phenomena like to
growth of tele-working (almost half of the new jobs created in the last 5 years
are tele-jobs), the fact that more jobs are created in rural areas than cities,
and the extraordinary growth in the number of home-schoolers (almost one
million). Our current level of technology allows us to produce more and more
material products, with less and less manpower. Ultimately, only a few percent of
the working population will be employed for material production. Again, this is a
major shift in civilisation. In the thirties, under influence of organisational
advances like Taylorism, manual labor was heavily automated and gradually
expelled from the production process. Since the late eighties, a similar process
is now at work concerning routine intellectual work. Many companies are
undergoing processes like business process re-engineering which reorganise work
processes around the advantages of the technology, and eliminate routine
procedures. Hence the elimination of middle managers and white collar workers.
The effect of the digital revolution on how we organise and experience work will
be very important, and is even suggested by some analysts, like Jeremy Rifkin,
that we seriously look at the hypothesis of 'the end of work', or at least at the
hypothesis of the 'end of the job'.

Part of this digital revolution is the process of virtualisation. To understand
the nature of this process we have to look at how human beings transform the
material world for their own needs. In the agrarian age and before, nature
(matter) was being transformed by physical labor and mechanical devices (i.e.
matter). Hence matter was being transformed by matter. During the Industrial
Revolution, we inserted a new factor in the production process, i .e. energy (in
the form of processed fuels). Hence matter was being transformed by matter, and
by energy, and this lead to a quantum leap in productivity.

We are now in the process of adding yet another factor in this equation: i.e.
information. Today, the natural world is being transformed not only by using
matter and energy, but by the introduction of information, which leads to a new
explosion of productivity. We can say that virtualisation is the increasing
substitution of matter by information. This process has profound consequences for
our ways of relating to the world. Between humankind and nature, between humans
and other humans, between humans and machines, there is now a layer of
information. And, this layer of information gains in prominence as the process of
virtualisation intensifies. In the past, we were able to say, 'if I can't touch
it, it isn' t real'. This has been the credo of science, of the industrial world,
of materialism. Today, this situation is being reversed to the point where one
could even say, together with management consultant Tom Peters: 'if you can touch
it, it's not real'. In other words: the informational, the non-material, has
become more important, in political, economic, social, and philosophical terms,
than the material. A pair of Reebok shoes, contains more non-material value
(image, marketing, research) than its actual value in terms of the available
atoms. Our social life is already virtualised to the extent that most of us would
spend more time watching nature documentaries, than effectively walking in the
woods! This process, which was begun by the emergence of television, will be
intensified by the new cyberspace media. Multidirectional networked media like
the internet are not just a continuation of the mass media, they represent an
important shift, because they create a new collective mental space. Hence the
notion of cyberspace, which means that next to the physical world, humankind is
now creating a parallel 'virtual' world, which will co-exist with the so-called
real world. If our ancestors have been living principally in a natural
environment, and civilised humanity in an architectural environment, then our
descendants will principally live in a 'digital environment'. Cyberspace is where
they will live an important part of their time, and what happens in cyberspace,
will greatly determine the rest of their lives.

If we look at the different aspects of the digital revolution, then we clearly
see that we are going through a major civilisational shift, and that these
changes have metaphysical importance, as they affect the basic building blocks of
our experience. It is not surprising therefore that we cannot confine our
thinking to science, which deals with the 'how' questions, but that we must deal
with the 'why' questions as well, the domain of spirituality and its schools of


What would be a likely point of view of spiritual schools of thought towards the
developments mentioned above? Before proceeding, let me digress about the notion
of the 'Wisdom Tradition' itself. At the start of this essay we defined
spirituality as the means through which mankind finds meaning in its relationship
to the totality of the external world. This definition was chosen on purpose, so
that it would also be acceptable to agnostics and atheists, as spiritual then has
the meaning of a most general human activity aimed at understanding our
relationship with the universe. In the modern world, there has been clearly a
divorce between those who posit a belief in an Absolute or Supreme Being, and
generally accept the existence of non-material realms and beings, and the
'rationalist' or scientific camp, which does not accept non-materiality. Within
the camp of the spiritualists, there are many great differences in terms of
methodology and approaches. In very general terms we can distinguish paths based
on 'belief', 'faith', and those based on concrete experience. Hence quite a few
authors posit a distinction between 'exoteric' religion, based on belief and
aimed at those without concrete experience, and the 'esoteric' tradition, mostly
hidden within the exoteric structures, for those who do indeed have experience
with the 'divine'. Quite a few authors call this body of knowledge the
'Tradition', the 'Philosophia Perennis' or the 'Wisdom Tradition', and claim that
behind the enormous diversity of religious thought, there is this body of real
spiritual knowledge. For those wishing to deepen their understanding of these
matters I refer to the extraordinary reading list compiled and commented upon by
Franklin Jones (Da Free John), i.e. the Basket of Tolerance, which introduces the
major spiritual works of mankind from this point of view. Other recommended
authors would be Hegel, Teilhard de Chardin, Rene Guenon, Fritjof Schuon, Julius
Evola, and of course the current master works by Ken Wilber. His three latest
books, 'The Third Eye: the search for a new paradigm';'Up from Eden'; and
especially 'Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality: the spirit of Evolution' are good
modern introductions to this approach. The latter, the first part of a trilogy,
will probably turn out to be the major philosophical and spiritual book of this

The author of this essay accepts the point of view that there is such a Wisdom
Tradition, but in my personal analysis, there are two main interpretative schools
within it. It is important to show this contradiction between schools, as it will
have an impact on their analysis of the meaning and role of technology in the
historical psycho-spiritual development of mankind.

We will call these two schools of thought, the 'pessimistic' and the 'optimistic'
interpretations of the Wisdom Tradition.

The pessimistic school basically sees human history as one of progressive
degeneration, i.e. regression. Authors like Rene Guenon, Julius Evola, and
others, will posit a 'spiritual golden age' in the mythical past. Thus, early
mankind was more developed spiritually than current civilisation, and they will
for example show how the ruling classes where first spiritual (shamans, priest y
castes in Egypt, the Church), then military and finally commercial. This school
will be strengthened in its interpretation by many sacred texts positing such
gradual loss of consciousness. For example the Hindu tradition clearly states we
are now in the age of 'Kali Yuga', the last stage before a world destruction.
Hence the notion of the 'Fall' and others concepts highlighting the predicament
of current mankind.

The 'optimistic' school of thought, as exemplified in the works of Hegel,
Teilhard de Chardin, and Ken Wilber, takes an evolutionary approach. They will
generally agree that there has indeed been a fall, at the creation of the Cosmos
and our universe, when divine consciousness was lost in unconscious matter. But
from that point on, there has been progress towards ever higher levels of
complexity and consciousness.

This basic attitude towards spirituality, and life, will color the spiritual
point of view of the various schools. Pessimistic schools will tend towards
dualism (the fundamental split between the human and the divine), towards
Gnosticism (there will always remain a split between the Knower and the Known,
i.e. an individual self), and towards negative approaches towards the body.
Indeed, Pessimistic spiritual practice will tend toward techniques that teach
their adepts that 'you're not your body, you're not your mind, you're not this,
you're not that'. Optimistic spiritual practice will tend towards non-duality
approaches, mysticism (a fusion with the divine), and a positive approach towards
the body and the self. Its practices will tend towards techniques that teach
their adepts: 'you're more than your ego, you're more than your body'.

Of course, 'In Real Life', most spiritual schools will have elements of both, but
it is a very instructive 'heuristic' tool to look at the Tradition from this
point of view. The interpretation of human history, and of the role of technology
in it, will be colored by it.

Hence, the Technological Project of mankind (and especially the current
'cyberspatial phase' can be seen either as a 'Luciferian' God Project, i.e. an
attempt by humankind to usurp 'God' and to liberate itself from all limits
imposed on itself by Nature (the pessimistic interpretation), or on the contrary,
as a new phase in the evolution of mankind towards higher levels of collective
consciousness. We will therefore continue our exploration on the meaning of
technology, inspired by these two points of view, as a God Project, or as
Electric Gaia.


Metaphorically, we can argue that technology really started when Adam bit in the
apple of the Tree of Knowledge, the moment that mankind said, 'we can do it on
our own and we want to understand the meaning of it all'. Technology started with
the very first tools, which enhanced our mastery over Nature, rather than our
harmony with it. This has been understood very well by for example the Australian
aboriginals, who only accepted three technologies as they were aware that more
tools would destroy their harmonious relationship with the environment. But the
rest of us went along on the path of technology.

For spiritualists there are basically two ways of approaching knowledge, one
approach which can lead to holiness (wholeness), the other which will lead to a
false and arrogant mastery over nature but which will ultimately destroy us. The
first, inner approach, is based on the idea that we are indeed created as an
image of God, and that by discovering our inner being, we will discover our
God-like aspects. (at the same time, these schools will warn their adepts that
these powers are only signposts along the way, and that nobody should revel in
them. As the soufi's say: heaven is the hell of the wise men, i.e. even the
pleasures of heaven have to be abandoned to reach enlightenment). Spiritual
practice will therefore give us aspects of the powers of the divine, and the
wisdom literature is full of testimonies to that effect. For example, Richard
Thompson, a Hindu scholar has described the 64 'siddhis' (powers) one can
achieve through meditation, and he describes how the technological program of
mankind is an attempt to emulate these powers one by one.

And there is no denying that technology is a magical program. As Arthur Clarke
said: 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'. We
can now routinely communicate with people over great distance, see and hear what
happens thousands of miles away, walk through walls in virtual reality, etc...

But whereas the effect of the 'inner way' will strengthen human character, the
external technological way will progressively weaken humanity. McLuhan would
caution this interpretation and he also posited that technology is an extension
of our senses. Machines are extensions of our muscles, computers of our brains,
robots for example are extensions of both. Look at how the automobile in effect
'amputates' our legs, how the calculator destroys our capacity to calculate on
our own, how text processing weakens grammar. The more we extend our technology,
and thus our senses on the outside, the less we need our inner senses. At the
same time, we're are creating a 'technosphere' (next to the biosphere and the
sociosphere), which is increasingly becoming inimical to our bodies and our
minds. Ocean research and space travels create conditions in which our bodies
can't survive, and information overload causes permanent stress on our minds.

Pioneering scientists, such as Marvin Minsky (Artificial Intelligence), Eric
Drexler (nanotechnology), Hans Moravec (Robot science) are predicting a world in
which both the body and the mind could become obsolete. A world in which a
combination of technologies (which invades our bodies) and genetic engineering
(which could change the very definition of what it is to become human) could lead
to a post-human world. Some are taking this concept very seriously. For example
the Extropians, a group of young scientists who strongly believe in the promise
of technology, are already now earnestly discussing possibilities to double our
lifespan (through special diets), to resurrect the dying (through cryogenics,
i.e. deep-freezing the body), to download consciousness into computers, or to
upload computer memory into our very brains, and to merge with our machines
(cyborgism). In their radicalism, groupings like the Extropians represent the
'Technological Unconscious' of Western civilisation, and they force us to decide
whether it is that that we really want. If we continue along our current path, we
create an immortal man which can control nature and will ultimately leave Earth,
in order to control the Universe. In the meantime, we are already creating a
worldwide computer network (the Internet) which will soon be inhabited by
Artificial Intelligences, and will reach such a level of complexity, that it is
no longer controllable by human intelligence. Surely, this will lead to the
creation of a Machine-God, a Deus Ex Machine (cfr. Paul Virillio) that is a
direct competitor of the Supreme Being of the spiritualists. Surely this is proof
that their analysis of technology as a Luciferian project is right on the mark?
It is also in that context that we can see the prediction of a Technological
Singularity, i.e. a moment in history in which there will be as much novelty and
in the whole preceding history. A moment that can be called the 'End of History'
or 'The End of Mankind'. Such an event would be an abomination to the spiritual
Pessimists who may well equate the advent of an overpowering Machine Intelligence
with the coming of the Anti-Christ.

The Spiritual Pessimists are of course not alone in this negative analysis. Their
point of view is largely shared by those who are now called 'Neo-Luddittes'. Like
the original followers of General Ludd, i.e. the English weavers who destroyed
textile machinery at the end of the 19th century, many of the latter-day 'Deep
Ecologists' would stop technological evolution in order to go back to a golden
age where humankind still lived in harmony with nature. It is interesting to note
the parallels: both pessimists and neo-Luddittes place their Utopia in the past;
while both spiritual optimists and technological utopians place their Utopia in
the future.

Surely, there are a lot of facts that would lead many readers to accept a
pessimistic reading of the future, and to interpret technology as a path of
destruction. However, there are also quite a few facts which could point in the
other direction. The optimistic interpretation of the Wisdom Tradition would
point out that technology is one more step in the unfolding of mankind's


At the creation of the Cosmos, divine consciousness 'fell' in a Nature that could
not be conscious of itself. Then came life in its various formations, from
unicellular, through plants, to animals in their various guises and finally to
Man and Woman, uniquely self-conscious beings. Through humankind, Nature and the
Cosmos, can become conscious of itself. But this process of increasing
consciousness is a slow process. Mankind itself moved from magical to mythical to
rational consciousness; from tribal through national to planetary consciousness.
For such a planetary vision to arise, the right tools are needed. Hence we can
make a reading of history, in which technology can be seen as a necessary adjunct
to make such consciousness possible. True, it can be argued that there are
Realised Beings who achieved such states of Universal Awareness, but the mass of
the people clearly need help. Thus it can be argued that national consciousness
could not be achieved without the printing press, and that real planetary
consciousness will not be achievable without the creation of worldwide
communication networks. Using a proto-marxist language we could say that only
such technological infrastructure would create the necessary material conditions
for such a higher collective awareness to arise.

This process of universalisation started with print, extended itself through
communication technologies such as the telegraph and the telephone, and through
media such as radio and television. But only now do we have a medium that
combines the characteristics of both personal and mass media, that extend every
human's senses and reach of consciousness, to every corner of the world.
Traditional mass media were still one-way, and so expensive that they could only
be operated by the powers that be, while today the fully-bidirectional internet
can be used as a communication and broadcasting tool by every connected
individual. The internet can thus be seen as a tool to broaden our awareness even
further and for the first time, it allows mankind to materialise the 'noosphere',
i.e. the collective mental space where all our cultural exchanges take place.
The internet will ultimately evolve to a World Brain, which contains all
connected individual brains. This at least is the interpretation of the Positive
School. To this school belong philosophers as Hegel, and spiritualists such as
Teilhard de Chardin and today, Ken Wilber. Their optimism is shared by many
others cyberspace settlers and it helps explain the extraordinary amount of
creative and optimistic cultural energy that is generated throughout the
internet. Seen in that context, cyberspace is a very important civilisational
project. It can be compared to the building of the Gothic Cathedrals that were
build to the glory of God and that mobilised whole communities in the late Middle
Ages. Similarly, cyberspace is the creation of a new parallel world. Next to the
physical world, mankind is creating a virtual world, a 'country of the mind' , as
John Perry Barlow calls it, or perhaps even a country of the Spirit? Whether such
an interpretation is correct or not, at least it should be understood that
cyberspace is seen by many as a utopian social and political project, and hence
as a generator of utopian energy. (Michael Grosso sees a fusion of utopian
dreams, and the apocalyptic fears of the end of the millennium, and calls this
fusion the 'Technocalyps').In an epoch where all political 'isms' have died, and
in which the authoritarian religions are either moribund or being hijacked by
reactionary social forces, cyberspace is seen as a home for freedom, a place
where forms of equality can be achieved, and as a organisational tool for the
creation of utopian virtual communities (in this sense, the internet's virtual
communities can be seen as a revival of pre-Marxist 'utopian socialism' which
insisted that change could happen here and now by creating communities of men of
goodwill who would operate according to new social rules). Cyberspace functions
as an ideal projection screen for utopian hopes for a better world. In this
context, it is not surprising that Cyberspace is also a domain for the activities
of spiritual movements, especially those who share the positive evolutionary
interpretation of history.


Stewart Brand, founder of the legendary Whole Earth Review and author of 'The
Media Lab', outlined a history of personal computing which showed a strong
relationship between the pioneering forces of technology and the counter-culture
of the sixties. Both endeavours shared the goal of giving 'power to the people'
and of 'augmenting the possibilities of the individual'. While it is true that
the internet was originally a U.S. Department of Defence project, one has to
admit that the internet shares this strong link with the counter-cultural
movement. One of the elements of this social movement was a spiritual revival,
due on the one hand to the import of eastern religions and practices, and
probably also to the discovery and broader use of mind-altering drugs. The
special characteristics of the internet, where anyone can be a publisher at
moderate cost, insures that many alternative spiritual forces are finding a home
on the internet and are using it to further their spiritual aims. The link
between the counter-culture, spiritual interests, and cyberspace, can be seen in
the prominence of individuals such as John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor. Barlow
has a major in comparative religion and is the former lyricist of the Grateful
Dead; Kapor, former CEO of Lotus, is a former teacher of Transcendental
Meditation and still a practising Buddhist. Both are leaders of the movement for
civil rights in cyberspace (through their leadership of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation) and combine their humanitarian activism and their spiritual concerns,
into a hopeful vision of the possibilities of cyberspace. Howard Rheingold, the
influential author of the book about 'Virtual Communities' and long-time former
editor of the Whole Earth Review, is another example of the California
counter-culture, which has now matured in cyberspace.

Certainly, the internet is also used by traditional spiritual forces. The
Christian fundamentalists, the Jewish Hasidim, and the Islam are present. The
Catholic Church is following suit, and the various schools of Buddhism are
particularly active. The latter have a very active 'Cyber-Sangha' (community),
but most traditional schools would use the internet as an auxiliary tool, as a
simple addition to their physical activities.

Some spiritual movements, who share the positive spiritual interpretation
outlined above, are taking a much more active role in cyberspace. Very
prominently active are the techno-pagans. It might surprise some observers that a
pre-christian nature religion may find the internet of interest, but this is
actually very much the case. Pagans are of course a urban phenomenon, precisely
amongst the social classes that are natural users of the internet. They use the
internet not only as a self-organising tool, but as a new space that has to be
sacralised. For example, Mark Pesce, the creator of the Virtual Reality Modelling
Language, has created a Zero Circle on the internet, which involved a shamanic
ritual. Every 3D-object will have to position itself against this spiritual 'Axis
Mundi' or 'Center of the World'. Similarly, Tibetan monks from the Namgyal
Institute in Ithaca, NY have consecrated cyberspace on February 8th. From a
spiritual view such rituals are very important as they created sacred spaces
where the divine forces can be present. Marc Pesce argues that cyberspace will
contain a lot of 'pathogenic' spaces detrimental to our mental well-being, and
that 'vivogenic' spaces have to be created as a counter force. Among the active
techno-pagans, there are quite a few experiments with cyber-rituals and
collective meditation using the internet as a focal point. This has led to a
lively debate on specialised mailing lists such as Techspirit-L about the topic
of 'Does Prana Travel the Wires'. The debate centers about the fact of the
transmission of spiritual energy. Does it need physical presence to transmit
itself, or, as it concerns immaterial energy anyway, can it be transmitted
through the 'wires'. Some clearly believe that cyberspace can be used for bona
fide spiritual practices, such as for example Alexander Besher, author of the
science-fiction book 'RIM', who argues for the creation of Spiritual Spaces
throughout cyberspace, through the practice of Feng Shui, the Chinese Taoist art
of creating 'right' spaces and buildings. It should also be noted that one can
now witness the creation of specific cyber-religions. Though many are indeed
'tongue-in-cheek', a few initiatives are serious attempts to create a new kind of
virtual spiritual community. Also, the book of Douglas Rushkoff, i.e. Cyberia,
has outlined the fusion of the internet and the psychedelic and House music
communities into a kind of spiritualised youth culture which aims at spiritual
awareness through the combined use of ecstatic techno-music, hallucinogenic
substances, and communication in a collective mental realm, i.e. cyberspace.
Terence McKenna and the ever-present Timothy Leary are very much popular in these
circles. McKenna in particular has written very cogently argued books about the
need for a new alliance between technology and nature, what he calls the 'Archaic

From the above, we can indeed conclude that there is an active spiritual life in
cyberspace, and that there is indeed a specific cyber-spirituality being
developed. While every medium has indeed influenced human cultural practice,
including religion and spirituality (cfr. TV preachers), it is surprising that
the internet creates new types of social movements which take their very identity
from cyberspace. So, while we don't have radio-fascism and TV-feminism, we do
notice movements like cyber-feminism, cyber-marxism, and specific cyber-spiritual
movements. This is a further confirmation of the fact that the internet is not
just a medium, but a real 'space', a digital environment for the life of the


Can the body of the Wisdom Tradition offer any useful perspectives even to those
amongst us who are by nature skeptical of any non-scientific 'knowledge'? I
believe there are some interesting parallels between cyberspace and spiritual
spaces that could make it of interest to look at spiritual testimonies of
immaterial realms.

Indeed, it can be said that science has always dealt with the material world,
while spirituality has extensively described non-material spaces. Until today,
there was no immaterial space which could be recognised by the scientific mind.
However, cyberspace is precisely such an immaterial space and hence, there is
very little in the scientific tradition that could help us make sense of the
dynamics of such a space. Not so in the Sacred Texts, which for example describe
Indra's Net (a metaphor for the nodes of the internet) or the Akashic Records
(the place where all the world's knowledge is stored and where one can travel
using out-of-body techniques). I therefore believe that a study of such texts
could be useful in understanding the dynamics of cyberspace as the quintessential
immaterial realm.

Another aspect is the magical aspect. There is no denying that cyberspace has
magical aspects. Especially with fully-developed VR environments, our minds will
be able to travel in worlds that are changeable at will and where our very
desires can be materialised. We have already seen how MUDS, MOO'S and MUSH'es
are very much inspired by magical lore and techniques. This may be no accident.
Indeed it can be argued that to navigate a 'magical' space, we will need
'magical' interfaces. This was the premise of the legendary hacker-sf novel of
Vernon Vinge. Here again, a lot of the spiritual literature outlining magical and
theurgic techniques might find a useful application in our new virtual worlds.

From the point of view of spiritualists, cyberspace may also offer interesting
opportunities. For example, transpersonal psychologist Charles Tart, has invoked
the idea of 'faking' spiritual experiences through technology. Out-of-Body
experiences could be easily recreated in cyberspace, using goggles linked to a
robot, which then would look back at one-self. He's also trying to find funds to
create a lot of the intermediary worlds described in Sacred Texts, such as the
Bardo of the Tibetans, in VR environments. Such a project would be an important
cultural undertaking which would increase the understanding of the world's
spiritual traditions.

Cyberspace also presents an important spiritual challenge. Indeed, technology is
clearly an extension of mankind and hence of nature. One of the fundamental aims
of spiritual practice has been to extend our identities, and to overcome our
feelings of separateness with other human beings, nature and the Cosmos. The same
techniques could be used to arrive at a more holistic view of technology. In that
sense, the merging of man with machine and technology, can be seen as part of the
mystical task of union with the universe.

For the rest of us, it will be always difficult to decide on the merits of the
Positive vs. the Negative spiritual view of technology. There would be enough
facts to sway our opinion in either direction. In this material world of
contradictions, of Yin and Yang, such opposing views remain a useful heuristic
tool, and it shows us the contradictory logic of technological progress. For
every new power and possibility that it brings, technological progress takes away
some other part of our humanity. Perhaps in order to survive in the high-stress
world of high-tech, we more than ever need the high-touch psycho-technologies
and body-work methods that are the enduring legacy of spiritual practice and the
human potential movement. The new edge of technology, may need the 'new age' of
reviving of spiritual practice. Without them, we may not be able to survive!