This is a (long) list of books I recommend re. technomancy, cybermagic, etc. It is not a comprehensive list but it does include nearly everything I have found that is explicitly intersects magic and computers. I tried to exclude books that are concerned with particular machines (e.g., Arduino) or programming languages, but there are a few that are so good I included them. I have also excluded most books about cybernetics (I have a few of those), and books pertaining to robots and artificial life and intelligence, as I will be mentioning those in the Robomancy project when I publish it.
The list is divided into the following categories. Many books could fit into more than one category but I did not list any title more than once (except that all titles on the TL;DR list are also mentioned below that).
- Magic and ritual
- General computing
- New media arts
- Cyberspace and virtual reality
- Video games
- Storytelling and narrative
- Technoetic arts
- Magic and computers
Here is a short list for people who already know how to do occulty stuff and just want to explore doing it with computers and computational media.
- The Electronic Cottage by Joseph Decken.
- Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing by Hartmut Bohnacker et al.
- Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson.
- Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking by Nicolas Collins.
- Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality by Ken Jordan and Randall Packer (Eds.).
- The Nature of Code: Simulating Natural Systems with Processing by Daniel Shiffman.
- The New Media Reader by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (Eds.).
- The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work
- Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers by Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe.
- Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists by Casey Reas and Ben Frye.
- Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s Guide to Processing, Arduino, and openFrameworks by Joshua Noble.
- TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information by Erik Davis.
Magic & Ritual
In order to do technomancy you need some skill in the -mancy part, i.e., experience with the occult arts. A really good list of magic books would needs its own page, but here are a few I generally recommend to anyone starting down the Path.
- Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts by Georg Luck. Most of the books in this list are how-to’s rather than academic treatises, however, Luck’s book is, in my opinion, one of the best introductions to magic ever written.
- How to See Fairies: Discover Your Psychic Powers in Six Weeks by Ramsey Dukes. This book is especially well suited to people who do not believe they have never experienced magic or who are skeptical about it.
- Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic by Peter J. Carroll. I owe a great deal to this book; it was not my first foray into occult practice, but it catalyzed my transformation into life-long sorcerer. The first syllabus in this text, “Liber MMM,” builds a solid foundation for magical practice.
- Condensed Chaos: An Introduction to Chaos Magic and Prime Chaos: Adventures in Chaos Magic by Phil Hine. By its nature, doing magic with new media diverges in one way or another from traditional occult practices. In its attempt to distill the functional elements underlying any effective magical technique, Chaos magic has assembled a loose structure that gets along as well with computers and cyberspace as it does with the so-called natural world the pagan face of magic typically venerates. Hine has made many explicit mappings between computers and magic, so these books could have been mentioned at the bottom of this page, but they are also more generally applicable.
- Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks, and Covens by Paul Huson. Witchcraft is a big influence on my own magic, and I know of no better introduction to it than Huson’s classic text. (For a six-week, organized introduction to Mastering Withcraft, see pp. 22–35 of Julian Vayne’s Deep Magic Begins Here… Tales and Techniques of Practical Occultism, which collect the instructions from a course Vayne taught based on Huson’s text. Speaking of, Deep Magic and its predecessor, Magick Works: Stories of Occultism in Theory and Practice, are also good introductions to magic in general, although parts of them will resonate more strongly with those already who are already practicing.)
- A Deed Without a Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft by Lee Morgan. Morgan masterfully relates old-world magic to modern ways of seeing and acting in the world. Highly quotable.
- Visual Magick: A Manual of Freestyle Shamanism by Jan Fries. An excellent introduction to sigil magic, Fries’ book also explains how to exercise your imagination and apply it toward becoming sensitive to spirits and similar subtleties (sometimes they are not so subtle).
- Meta-Magick: The Book of ATEM and Brain Magick: Exercises in Meta-Magick and Invocation by Philip H. Farber. Phil’s state-based approach to empty-handed magic offers something for novices and adepts alike.
- The Book of Magick Power by Jason Augustus Newcomb. Plainly written, step-by-step instructions for many operations common in modern Western magic. 103 exercises in toto.
- Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, The Philosopher’s Secret Fire, and The Secret Tradition of the Soul by Patrick Harpur. These catalog a variety of ways to experience the Other and those parts of ourselves that experience It. Most criticisms I have read attack Harpur’s understanding of modern evolutionary synthesis, but I feel in so doing they evade (intentionally or unintentionally) the gist of his argument.
- Idolatry Restor’d: Witchcraft and the Imaging of Power by Daniel A. Schulke. This is a short but excellent treatise on image magic that may reveal much to the technomancer who can see the web of connections between magic, images, and computational media.
- Imaginal Reality Volumes 1: Journey to the Void, and 2: Voidcraft, by Aaron B. and Laura M. Daniels. The notion that both our most magical and most mundane experiences arise from the same Void appeals to me. If it appeals to you as well then you may find the Daniels’ books edifying.
- Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson. Johnson is an analytical psychologist so this book assumes you find Jung’s theories agreeable. I have included it here because it shows how to reify the encounters we experience through dreams and active imagination (a kind of evocation), via ritual.
You need not be a computer scientist in order to be a technomancer (I cannot stress this enough), any more than you need to be a materials scientist in order to be a painter, but just as the craftsperson benefits from knowledge of the media she crafts in, understanding how computers work is certainly helpful.
- The Electronic Cottage by Joseph Decken. Out of print but you can still find inexpensive used copies. This may be my favorite introduction to computers. Some of the technological specifics are now dated, but the concepts are still quite valid.
- The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work by Daniel Mills. Contains one of my favorite technomancy quotes: “I etch a pattern of geometric shapes onto a stone. To the uninitiated, the shapes look mysterious and complex, but I know that when arranged correctly they will give the stone a special power, enabling it to respond to incantations in a language no human being has ever spoken. I will ask the stone questions in this language, and it will answer by showing me a vision: a world created by my spell, a world imagined within the pattern on the stone.”
- Computer Lib / Dream Machines (1974) by Theodore Nelson. A highly creative introduction to computers from the perspective of radical advocacy for computer literacy. Hard copies now fetch > $100, but much of this book was reprinted in The New Media Reader (see below).
- Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold.
- The Magic Machine: A Handbook of Computer Sorcery by A.K. Dewdney. The second collection of the author’s “Computer Recreations” column in Scientific American magazine. All three books introduce interesting ideas from computing; the other two are The Tinkertoy Computer and Other Machinations and The Armchair Universe: An Exploration of Computer Worlds.
- The Turing Omnibus: Sixty-Six Excursions in Computer Science, also by Dewdney. Brief explanations of a wide variety of topics in computer science.
- Computer Organization and Design: The Hardware/Software Interface by David A. Patterson and John L. Hennessy.
- Micro Man: Computers and the Evolution of Consciousness by Gordon Pask and Susan Curran.
- A Logical Approach to Discrete Math by David Gries and Fred B. Schneider. Of all the books I have listed here, this is the heaviest in terms of scholarship, but it is just so dang good I felt the need to include it.
New Media Arts
Technomancy as I do it is essentially an intersection of occult arts and new media arts. Here are some of my favorite books about cyberculture and digital and interactive art, media, and performance.
- 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 by Nick Montfort et al. This book is about a one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program that randomly generates maze patterns and is an example of both generative algorithms and minimalist computing. You can download a PDF of this book from its website.
- Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality by Ken Jordan and Randall Packer (Eds.). Get the expanded edition if you can.
- The New Media Reader by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (Eds.). Includes a CD with examples.
- Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas by Jasia Reichardt (Ed.).
- Cyberarts: Exploring Art and Technology
- The Cybercultures Reader by Barbara M. Kennedy and David Bell (Eds.). There are two editions of this book and apparently they differ considerably but I have only read the first.
- An Introduction to New Media and Cybercultures by Pramod K. Nayar. Tends toward sociology but does a fine job of defining and explaining jargon.
- Chaos & Cyberculture by Timothy Leary et al. All of the hyperbole you would expect from such a book, and all of the fun.
- Art and Electronic Media by Edward A. Shanken (Ed.).
- Computers as Theatre by Brenda Laurel.
- Virtual Theatres: An Introduction by Gabriella Giannachi.
- From Technological to Virtual Art by Frank Popper (MIT Press, 2006). The same author published Art of the Electronic Age in 1997.
- Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation by Steve Dixon (MIT Press, 2007). Related: University of Bristol’s Digital Performance Archive.
- Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art by Katja Kwastek (MIT Press, 2013).
- Performing Mixed Reality by Steve Benford and Gabriella Giannachi (MIT Press, 2011).
- Multimedia Performance by Edward Scheer and Rosemary Klich (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
- Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity by Susan Broadhurst and Josephine Machon (Eds.) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
- Cyborg Theatre: Corporeal/Technological Intersections in Multimedia Performance by Jennifer Parker-Starbuck (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
- Theatre and Performance in Digital Culture: From Simulation to Embeddedness by Matthew Causey (Routledge, 2006).
- New Philosophy for New Media and Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media by Mark B. Hansen.
. First published in 1992, it is pretty dated now, but still quite inspiring in parts, especially if you (like I) have a nostalgic fondness for 1980s and 90s cyberarts.
New media technology is rapidly evolving and technomancers of all levels of experience would do well to keep current with what new media artists are doing at present. Here are a few re/sources of such news:
Cyberspace & Virtual Reality
In some ways, virtual reality has improved much over the last ~20 years, and in other ways today’s VR still closely resembles that of two decades ago. While some of the specific technologies mentioned in some of these texts are now outdated, many of the ideas therein remain relevant (and revelatory) today.
- Artificial Reality 2 by Myron Krueger. Krueger artificial reality was more about joining physical spaces and cyberspaces than about donning head-mounted displays, and anticipated (or pioneered) so-called augmented reality.
- Virtual Reality: The Revolutionary Technology of Computer-Generated Artificial Worlds — and How It Promises to Transform Society. Howard Rheingold (who also dabbles in electronic occult arts) has been writing and teaching about cyberspace since it began. He also authored an excellent text on cybercultures: The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier.
- True Names by Vernor Vinge. Written in 1981, Vinge’s story is one of the first about cyberspace and features many magical metaphors including the book’s title, an allusion to the idea that knowing the true name of a person bestows magical power over them.
- The cyberpunk fiction of Rudy Rucker, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, George Alec Effinger, Neil Stephenson, et al.
- Cyberspace: First Steps, edited by Michael Benedikt. Of particular interest are “Old Rituals for New Space: Rites de Passage and William Gibson’s Cultural Model of Cyberspace” by David Thomas, and “Making Reality a Cyberspace” by Wendy A. Kellogg, John M. Carroll, and John T. Richards.
- Envisioning Cyberspace: Designing 3D Electronic Spaces by Peter Anders. Like Benedikt of the previous book, Anders is an architect, and his book is much about how human spatial cognition informs (or should inform) our design of cyberpsace.
- Composing Cyberspace: Identity, Community, and Knowledge in the Electronic Age by Richard Holeton (Ed.). This books is very 1990s—perhaps more so than the two previously listed—but it contains some good writing from that period.
- Permutation City by Greg Egan. A novel about people in a computer simulation. See also the author’s FAQ about Dust Theory.
- Anything by Philip K. Dick.
- The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality by Michael Heim.
- Maya: The World as Virtual Reality by Richard L. Thompson. If you are looking for a “magical paradigm” based on virtual reality, check out this book and the ones listed before and after it.
- Journey to the Source: Decoding the Matrix Trilogy by Pradheep Chhalliyil. This is what happens when you distill The Matrix in the alembic of Vedic alchemy.
In the 1980s, many people learned how to program their home computers by making video games because video games are a great way to learn programming via how to do interesting things with computational media (there were so many books and magazines about this, and you can find many of them online today, e.g., at the Internet Archive; you can also easily find contemporary books that introduce programming in today’s popular languages this way). Extend that to the many connections that can be made between games and ritual, and… well, here are some books…
- How to Do Things with Videogames by Ian Bogost. Ian designed the Introduction to Computational Media course at Georgia Tech, and he has many more books I could recommend.
- Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal (Penguin, 2011).
- First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media, and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin (Eds.).
Storytelling & Narrative
Relationships between myth, ritual, and magic are very old and still studied, debated, and created today. Some people believe myth informs ritual and ritual performs myth. The specific details of magical acts are often related to cosmologies in which such acts are meaningful and plausibly efficacious. While ritual magic is never performed merely to tell a story, often there is a narrative component to the ritual that helps to “make sense” of it (cf., user stories in HCI design), that constructs a network of sign(al)s between the “target” domain the magic is intended to have an effect on, and a story about a person or event or theme having or expressing the power or ability to cause such an effect. Thus, a ritual narrative might inform one or more personalities for the participants to invoke, key inter/actions to be performed, thematic elements, the ritual’s feel, mood, or æsthetic, etc. Such narratives can be habitual or ad hoc, and they may come from tradition or pop culture, or be something completely new.
Here are some books about narratives and computers and cyberspace.
- Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray (MIT Press, 1998).
- IF Theory Reader by Kevin Jackson-Mead and J. Robinson Wheeler (Eds.). A collection of essays about interactive fiction. You can download PDF and Kindle versions from the Interactive Fiction Archive.
- Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (2003) and Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (2015) by Marie-Laure Ryan.
- Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems and Neocybernetics and Narrative by Bruce Clarke.
- The Cyborg Handbook by Chris Hables Gray (Ed.). A collection of reprinted articles about cyborgs, including the aforementioned “Cyborgs and Space.”
- The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660–1830 by Allison Muri.
- The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture by Bruce Grenville (Ed.).
- Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence by Andy Clark. Clark advocates “[being] cyborgs not in the merely superficial sense of combining flesh and wires but in the more profound sense of being human-technology symbionts,” in which sense all technomancers are cyborgs, not only the Adeptus Mechanicus!
- Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature by Donna Haraway. Like her “Cyborg Manifesto” (also reprinted in The Cyborg Handbook), Haraway’s book is often cited at the intersection of posthumanism and feminism, extending far beyond the Terminator-esque stereotype or caricature of cyborgs.
- How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics by N. Katherine Hayles.
- Reframing Consciousness : Art, Mind and Technology (1999)
- Art Technology Consciousness (2000)
- Engineering Nature: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era (2006)
- Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness (2007)
- New Realities: Being Syncretic (2009)
- Technoetic Arts (journal, 2003–present)
- “Authentic Theurgy: Ceremonial Magic in Second Life” by Morgan Leigh and Mark Elwell, in Workshop Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computers in Education by T. Hirashima, A.F. Mohd Ayub, et al. (Eds.).
- Chaos Servitors by Phil Hine. Out of print but hopefully to be published by the author online at some point like many of Phil’s other books and articles.
- City Magick by Christopher Penczak. Includes a chapter titled “Techno-Temples” about doing group magic online.
- “The Computer-Mediated Religious Life of Technoshamans and Cybershamans” by Libuše Martínková, in Pathways in Modern Western Magic by Nevill Drury (Ed.).
- “Computers in Chaosium” by Frater W.H.H., Chaos International #1.
- The Cyber Spellbook: Magick in the Virtual World by Sirona Knight and Patricia Telesco.
- Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet by Douglas E. Cowan.
- “A History of Magic, Online” by Lisa McSherry.
- “Introduction to CyberMagick” by Philip H. Farber.
- “Magick and Technology” by Frater M (Anton Channing).
- Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age by Patrick Dunn.
- Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic by Nevill Drury. Includes a chapter titled “Archetypes and Cyberspace: Magic in the Twenty-First Century.” This book is an updated version of Drury’s The History of Magic in the Modern Age: A Quest for Personal Transformation.
- TechGnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information by Erik Davis. This is the technomancy book to date.
- “Techgnosis, Magic, Memory, and the Angels of Information” by Erik Davis, in Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture by Mark Dery (Ed.).
- “Technology and Magick” by Steve Collins.
- The Urban Pagan: Magical Living in a 9-to-5 World by Patricia Telesco. Not much here on cybermagic per se, but there is a small bit on computers, and the section, “Creative Magical Uses for Modern Items” is similar to the “Techno-Mechanical and Household Items/Tools” section in The Cyber Spellbook (above).
- The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle by Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein. Includes a chapter titled “Spirit in the Wires: Magic Over the Modem.”
- The Virtual Pagan: Exploring Wicca and Paganism through the Internet by Lisa McSherry.
- Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life by Robert M. Geraci.
- Witchcraft and the Web: Weaving Pagan Traditions Online by M. Macha Nightmare.
- Words Made Flesh by Ramsey Dukes.
The word cyborg, a portmanteau of “cybernetic organism,” was introduced in Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline’s 1960 article, “Cyborgs and Space” (Astronautics, September 1960), to denote human organisms using technology to survive in outer space, which is deeply related to cybernetics concepts such as requisite variety. While arguably all living organisms are necessarily cybernetic organisms (in that their organization embodies the fundamental principles of cybernetics), today the term ‘cyborg’ typically connotes any natural organism enhanced by artificial technology. I consider anyone doing technomancy to be a cyborg sorcerer regardless of how much that resemble a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Roy Ascott coined terms such as technoetics (“technology” ∩ “noetics”) and psibernetics (“psi” ∩ “cybernetics”) to connote things emerging at the intersection of art, science, technology, and consciousness research. The books written by Ascott and his Planetary Collegium comprise an inspiring collection of technomantic or nearly technomantic designs and ideas. Here is a partial bibliography.
Magic & Computers
What follows is an incomplete bibliography of works that combine magic and computers. There are several occult works with cyber in their titles or contents, which have little or nothing to do with computers, but the following list is concentrated on works featuring computers in one way or another.