Simulations& the Supernatural: How Tarot Theory & Baudrillard’s Nightmare Shed Light on the Nature of Reality. By Jack Vates
“We accept the real so readily because we sense that reality does not exist.”- Jorge Luis Borges
Is it all an illusion? Is there truly a veil that prevents us from correctly perceiving reality? Many occultists believe so. And they’re not alone. Recent times have afforded a myriad of philosophers and even “pop culture” references that question whether or not our entire world is a fabrication. Jean Baudrillard certainly thinks so. In fact, this social philosopher negated reality in its entirety. A groundbreaking perspective, Baudrillard asserted that all of reality is a simulation. He once stated that “we have passed out of the industrial era, in which production was the dominant pattern, into a code-governed phase where the dominant schema is simulation.” And he meant this literally. For this innovative thinker, reality directly coincides with an apparent law of value. What he called ‘hyperreality’,or ‘floating values’, what makes up reality is an indeterminate fluctuation much like money or power. It is significations of reality called simulacra and not reality itself. in other words, an illusion.
“There is no longer such a thing as ideology; there are only simulacra.”
Occultists recognize this line of thought. Specifically, the tarot readers absolutely understand what Baudrillard is referring to and have been espousing this point of view for centuries. In the Trump card of the Major Arcana called the ‘Devil’, the Tarotist intuitively recognizes the bondage or ‘simulation’ of materiality. Whenever this entity turns up in a tarot spread, there is always an idea of restriction or Saturnian influence. It’s not entirely negative, it’s simply a matter of identifying the simulacra in one’s life or unconscious.
Baudrillard also came to this conclusion but described it in philosophical terms. He asserted that the unconscious relinquished its own reality principle in order to become an operational simulacrum. At the exact point where its psychic principle of reality is confused with its psychoanalytic reality principle, the unconscious becomes another simulation model. But how does it work? For Baudrillard, reality is a “processual matrix”. In its most idealized form, it has a binary structure. it’s a simple questions/answer, stimulus/response format of bi-polarity that pushes us to place ‘value’ or signs of the real instead of the real itself. He states that, “It is the processual mode of the simulations that dominate us. They can be organized as an unstable play of variation, or in polyvalent or tautological modes, without endangering this central principle of bi-polarity: Digitality is, indeed, the divine form of simulation. Why does the WTC in NYC have ‘two’ towers…”
Again, the Tarot reader would agree with this idea. Part of reacting to the Devil is to negate the simulation of difference. To slip the veil or chains, so to speak; To not get lost in representations. And that’s the real fear isn’t it? When our icons are substituted for an ‘Intelligible Idea’ of divinity, we are pulling taut the chains of simulation. And the overarching fear that there never was a divinity and only simulacra keeps many a Tarot enthusiast up at night.
So what is the way out? How do we see through our illusions and end our reliance on simulacra? Baudrillard had some ideas. He suggested a use of equal and opposite value reversals or ‘inversion’ to create a kind of symbolic disorder to annihilate the simulation. He borrowed the concept of ‘Death’ and the ‘reversibility of death’ to breach this code. But this isn’t death in the bodily sense. He states that “Death should never be interpreted as an actual occurrence in a subject or body, but rather as a form, possibly a form of social relation, where the determination of the subject and value disappear.” In other words, utilize a process of inversion to destroy the simulation.
Again the occultist is familiar with the concept. To the tarot theorist, both Death and the Devil speak of inversions and reversals to achieve a ‘change of state’ during a liminal period. Traditionally, Death is an archetype of change. Appearance of this card suggests something is or should be exiting in favor of renewal. The Devil makes blatant use of inversion in its ideas of bondage. In fact, the Devil is portrayed on many tarot decks is a posture directly opposite to that of the Hierophant or ‘Pope’ card. The idea of an inversion of freedom or simulation is blatant in its iconography.
It’s impossible to not leave the discussion of simulation theory without at least mentioning a very curious sentence in Baudrillard’s essay on simulation. Did you catch it? When he states, “Digitality, is, indeed the divine form of simulation. Why does the WTC in NYC have ‘two’ towers…”(Ibid) Reading this now has a haunting and almost prophetic feel to it. There is something awful about it. And we all know why. There’s no sense stating the obvious here only to say that the implications of this one sentence is enough to send any conspiracy theorist into a fit of gleeful jabbering. What did Baudrillard mean when he asked, ‘Why does the WTC in NYC have ‘two’ towers?’ My first impression of the remark was that the two towers represent the concept of bi-polarity that the philosopher abhorred. But if that’s the case, then the towers were a ‘symbol of the simulation’. And this is where the conspiracy junkies will want to tap a vein. Because the implication is that the attack was an attempt to end the simulation. To shock us back into reality. Of course, the line of thought then begs us to ask: How did Al-Qaeda choose this target? Was it simply just a symbol of the West or something more? What if the goofy child terrorists were not even aware of their role in a real Kuhnian paradigm shift? Or even more horribly, what if they were given the target by someone else? It’s not hard to surmise where the conspiracy can go from here. But it is strange though yes? Baudrillard’s remark is more than curious. It’s scarily eerie.
Tarot does have a card that would give meaning to this scenario. Curiously, it is called the ‘Tower’. The card usually depicts the destruction of a tower by an impenetrable force. And get this, two figures are typically seen falling from the tower. They are the Pope and the King. The card is one of cataclysmic change. It is destruction; A horrifying shift in consciousness. It clearly points to revelation and revolution. Because in this card, ‘revolution is revelation’. See how easy it is now to fit the events of 9/11 in this framework? And it’s even easier to include Baudrillard’s ‘simulations’ or matrix theory into the equation. What becomes difficult is exploring how the implications could be interpreted. There is obviously somebody in the world ready to point to Al-Qaeda as potential saviors of reality; as martyrs to the simulation. But no serious occultist would suggest that Al-Qaeda was smart enough to come to this obscure philosophical argument on their own. Nor would we assert that it’s the Illuminati. The occultist position is that the event was a paradigm shift. It was the ‘Tower’ manifesting into reality. ‘Fortune’ turns and a universe persists. Al-Qaeda played a role. Like the adversary, they had a particular job but made no conscious choice or decision to be part of the larger design. They were simply used by a universe that persists.
And in regards to Baudrillard’s simulation? Occultists are not iconoclasts. We don’t destroy but create in a literal sense. To us, representation occurs only in the re-presenting or re-newing of the sacred. Our entities exist and are both determinate and self-determining. They are created and become autonomous through the act of creation. Are they simulations? Are they simply significations of a reality substituted for reality itself? Are we simply deluding ourselves in a matrix illusion? I would provide a resounding no because of the experiential nature of the occult conjuration. For a simulation to take hold it must have time to form and be accepted by those it tries to enslave. The trajectory of ceremonial magick forms and reforms continuously in real time. There simply isn’t enough time for a simulation to perverse the pot. During an operation, the nature of reality and what can be accepted is in a state of flux. Magicians speak of doorways or gates. Aspects of numinous reality being experienced as the entity is renewed and re-embodied by ritual. Simulation simply doesn’t enter into this experiential numinousness. And if it could, it would be like a ‘temporary file’ or cookie on your computer hard-drive. Not possibly something that could take hold but something deleted upon exiting the web browser or ‘ritual’. The occultist is naturally familiar with ideas of science, cyberpunk, and technology. But there are inherent differences that allow the occultism to escape simulation bondage. It is these esoteric nuances that make the conjuration such a remarkable shaper of reality.