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The word techgnosis was invented by Erik Davis in an article in 1994 and used as the title of his 1998 book, subtitled Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. His is not the easiest book to read or summarise — Publisher’s Weekly called it a “deluge of information and theory” — because he ranges very widely over spirituality and its interaction with technology. He argues that for many Net users there’s a spiritual component to their links with it, and that valid comparisons can be made with earlier technological developments that also became metaphors for our view of the world. He cites the example of the Extropians, a Californian sect which believes it may one day be possible to download the essence of the human mind into a computer and so achieve immortality, and suggests this has elements in common with the Christian belief in the afterlife. He argues this spiritual feeling is a high-tech update of gnosis, an early Christian belief, hence his title and the word techgnosis for its modern equivalent. The topic is techgnostics and someone who studies the subject is a techgnostic. Spelled with an internal capital, TechGnosis, it’s the trading name of an American computer company.

The moment you have that notion that we are really information instead of bodies or souls, then you have that possibility of techgnosis.

Erik Davis, Techgnosis, 1998

Davis suggests that “techgnosis” is a kind of information age update of gnosticism, a Christian heresy in which believers rejected the world of matter and yearned for gnosis, a flash of transcendent illumination in which individuals cast off the body and ascended to the real world of the spirit.

Guardian, Dec. 1998

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Page created 19 Jun 1999