Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

It seems my intuition of a Lovecraft connection with WikiLeaks was right, as was Jean’s suggestion that the MARUTUKKU quote is “more specific and extensive and ‘mythological'” than the translations of Enuma Elish she’d found on the net. I dropped Anders Sandberg a line letting him know I’d quoted him in my earlier post, and he graciously responded with this clarification of the mystery:

I think the MARUTUKKU name/description is from the Simon Necronomicon, which did its best to shoehorn mythology into the mythos, and might explain the different translation. Of course, one might argue that that book is a real, a hoax posing as real, real posing as a hoax, or both at the same time.

Anders, currently a staff member with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford (which name strikingly reminds me of the Bright Futures Institute in Qom, Oxford’s parallel in the Iranian universe), is also known for his writings on Mage: the Ascension and other role-playing games — see for instance this account of the Asatru in M:tA.


Bryan Alexander Steve Burnett

The bearded, theremin-wielding mage Steve Burnett [left] also noted the origin of the MARUTUKKU quote in the Simon Necronomicon in his comment on my no-less-bearded mage-friend [right] Bryan Alexander‘s blog Infocult — which features a rich vein of gothic imaginings and runs with the subtitle “We haunt every medium we make”.

My warm regards to all…

14 thoughts on “Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology”

  1. Mr. Assange may be hearkening to H.P. Lovecraft and the Necronomicon in his internal codes and even in his personal self-mythologizing. I yield to no one in my enduring love for Lovecraft and his work. But, it seems a little juvenile to be using this sort of fantastical fiction when engaging in real-world deeds with real-world consequences. On the other hand, perhaps only someone who treated the world and its supposedly respectable powers and institutions as a giant dungeon to be invaded and mapped by a team of players, would undertake something like this. In this view, the so-called “real world” is simply one of many massive, multi-player games, and not necessarily the best designed one, or the hardest one to play.The mysterious cults in the Lovecraftian universe succesfully, over millenia, kept their arcana arcane, but Lovecrafts investigators exhumed it, showing that the world we thought we lived in was a far different place than we imagined it to be. The revelations usually cost the protagonists their sanity. Mr. Assange may see himself similarly, stripping away the secrecy and double-talk from the arcana of governments and militaries and businesses (I eagerly await the document dump from one or more big banks). So, a self-identification with the fictional Lovecraftian world makes some sense.

  2. I’ve responded on Zenpundit, Lex, but I think I’m only just managing to point mutely there at something that strikes me as important.

    The hacker, science fiction, occult, gothic, role-playing and mythic mind-sets that seem to be converging here are all what you might call “outlier mindsets” — and thus arguably less easy to predict than “normal” in ways that parallel the situation with “normal” military thinking and an understanding of counterinsurgency, swarming, etc.

    I think we’re at a place where a grasp of “outlier thinking” is a requisite part of the analyst’s, journalist’s, historian’s or thinking person’s toolbox…

    Damn, I wish I was in Chicago so a bunch of us could talk at length.

  3. “I wish I was in Chicago so a bunch of us could talk at length.”

    This is 2010. We can do a conference call, or even a video conference.

    “… a grasp of “outlier thinking” is a requisite part of the … toolbox.”

    OK. Yes. I see this. From the perspective of a suburban American, a Twelver Shia may be more like a follower of Aleister Crowley, or a person completely immersed in a shared role playing fantasy world. Outsiders to the global order can be from without its heartlands (e.g., Islamic fundamentalism) or within it (cults, gangs, hackers, RPGers, etc.). The captured handwritten gang handbook that was published on the Internet recently was a shock to me: It was fundamentally a religious document, with the gang initiate seeing himself as a knight and a member of a body of warriors devoted on the spiritual plane. So, sure, in practice, it is completely sordid and materialistic. But they still choose to cast what they are doing in these terms because it fulfills a need.

    Did you see the movie Inception? That was a profound movie that most critics completely failed to understand. The shared dream was what people “woke up” to, and material reality was a nightmare that they endured to gain access to the dream world. It is like a somatic / virtual reality version of shared gnostic arcana.

  4. That quotation is certainly from the Simonomicon, verbatim (p. 59 in my copy) and not from any straight translation of the Enuma Elish. Sounds to me like pretty unremarkable geek-talk/obscure referencing. Like turning in a paper with the epigraph: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul” (which I in fact did once upon a time as an undergraduate.) I would bet it’s not the first time the Simonomicon has been referenced in such a way. The paperback was a best-seller in the 80s.

  5. Dr. Frank :

    Nice picture! You ask there on your blog, “Standard-issue geek-sotericism, or something more sinister?”

    I think Joseph Fouche‘s comment just above your own comment here goes some way to providing an answer — geek-sotericism, techgnosis, whatever you want to call it, has an imaginative flair that is playfully serious — it enhances the attitude, if you like, that realities are to be probed, and rules are for bending. And thus it is more flexible, more unpredictable than official reality can easily allow for — just as van Riper was more unpredictable and innovative than Rumsfeld could quite handle.

    But there isn’t just one techgnosis — here’s the thing, Lex, as I see it — there are probably as many as there are techgnostics or geek-sotericists. Part of the deal is the ability to put together a personally appealing pantheon of one’s own — some prefer Crowley, some Waite; some prefer Kesey, some Leary; some like Lovecraft, some prefer MR James…

    It’s like the the cult of Santa Muerte — utterly syncretistic — you offer her the liquor of your choice, cigars, whatever seems fine and dandy. Is she Mary? Is she Mictecacihuatl? Who can truly say?

  6. Charles: I believe it was the Latin Kings. Someone — John Robb? — had a link to a pdf of a handwritten manifesto which circulated only in that form, to keep it secret.

    Dan: Agreed. We have done some conference calls. The book ran into a roadblock, where we had a very trusted editor tell us we needed to rethink. But we will be pushing forward.

  7. All diplomatic correspondence is sent in code. I suppose the US has the best codes ever invented. Wikileaks owns all the US secret codebooks. Wow! We beat the Japanese and the Germans in WWII because we had their codebooks. We beat the USSR because we had their codebooks. Now we are in trouble.

  8. I would never deny constructing personal mythological systems can be quite serious in the midst of playfulness, irony, etc. And Crowley is perhaps the quintessential modern example of the attempt to turn one’s personality into a general theory of the universe. I’d be interested in hearing precisely in what ways this might illuminate anything about Assange or his project beyond the general, rather commonplace process of in-group signaling and egophany. I’m struggling to discern any.

  9. Dr Frank:

    I’d be interested in hearing precisely in what ways this might illuminate anything about Assange or his project beyond the general, rather commonplace process of in-group signaling and egophany.

    Me too. The thing is, these things happen in stages. A few days ago, nobody much was paying attention to Assange’s mythology. Then a religion scholar, Jean Rosenfeld, ran across the Enuma Elish quote in a fairly obscure document from a decade ago, and sent myself and another scholar of religious rhetoric an email about it. I thought I caught a whiff of Chthulu there, and quizzed Anders Sandberg, who confirmed the Simon Necronomicon as its source, you confirmed it too — and this is as far as we’ve gotten:

    we know now that there’s a topic worth thinking about: Assange’s personal mythological system — and we have our first clue: there’s a Necronomicon reference underlying the Enuma Elish quote.

    I too would be interested to see what folks who know the Chthulu mythos — and the role-playing ethos — and Assange himself — can make of it all.

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