I was excited by an invitation to attend a Technoshamanix conference at a free space in Axat, in the Occitanie region of France – a site of unique importance to the history of globalisation, Christian militarism, and the forced subjugation of communities that resisted Church orthodoxy.
The Technoshamanism movement situates traditional shamanism as a technology of communitarian knowledge production, and seeks to develop that technology in the interest of the communities that use it. These aims are foregrounded by historic struggles of resistance against the colonising actions of Western empires, and the imposition on host communities of Eurocentric value systems, including Christianity, politicised science, and the commercial, legal, and military operations that support an extractive economy.
In the 12th Century, the area saw the return of soldiers from the 2nd Crusade, who brought a highly ascetic Christianity to the region, characterised by quasi-gnostic theology, communitarian living, acceptance of women as preachers, and most disruptive to a feudalistic empire, the forbiddance of oaths.
In order to justify the brutal subjugation of the region, the Papacy conceptualised these tendencies as a heretical sect called Catharism, and instituted an inquisition with powers to torture confessions from suspects. The killing of convicted Cathars and the confiscation of their property was legalised, and convents were set up to forcibly re-educate Cathar women. In this way, the Church’s paranoiac methods constructed a performative threat that would legitimize the further extension of Church power into the lives of ordinary citizens, and destabilise desires that competed with the Christian empire’s own instrumentalising logic.
Contemporary corporatism has since inherited many of the institutions pioneered by the Church during its prolific expansionist history. The idea of a monotheistic and omnipresent legal structure, developed by, and in the interest of, a priestly caretaker class, and with a claim to being universal, eternal, and inviolable, has enabled the development of inalienable property rights. Similarly, the Christian division of communities into nucleated “selves”, individually responsible for their own redemption, and otherwise punishable by the state, has been taken up as a key component in liberal economic theory.
The City of Carcassonne is an ancient hill fort situated around 60km from Axat. Providing a stronghold for Catharism, the city also witnessed some of the most brutal episodes of its suppression. After falling into ruin, the entire edifice was rebuilt in the spirit of mid-19th Century romanticism, and today it has the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. Amidst the restaurants and souvenir shops, the Museum of the Inquisition provides a hammer-horror mix of camp and brutality, it can’t be a serious attempt to face the most brutal actions perpetrated in the interests of Christian imperialism.
One element that has fascinated me about Technoshamanism is the recognition of the legitimacy of desires and technologies that either compete with, or are invisible to, the orthodox distributions of power in a network. This allows for forms of innovation and information proliferation that an orthodoxy alone is likely to erase as it expands outwards from its metropole.