Cognitive Symbol Mechanics: Alchemy for Creative Problem Solving

10 June 2018


Venue: Conway Hall, Bertrand Russell Room, Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL

Organiser: The Institute for Social Morphology and Dream Development

The Institute for Social Morphology and Dream Development is a non-existent entity intended to bring about really existing transformations in the world and therefore to become existent retroactively, via its effects. In other words, magic. A one-off event is paradoxical according to the procedures of scientific method. It must be said to have been at once both strictly necessary and yet can in no way be distinguished from an occurrence of pure chance. Our participation in the production processes that give rise to this 'workshop' (or what might better be termed a 'game') should be taken, in the same way, to have been both strictly necessary and entirely arbitrary.

Can alchemy be used for creative problem solving? This hands-on symbol development workshop investigates.

Alchemy is a confidence trick, parting rich patrons from their funding, hence obliquely transmuting base metals into gold. Real magic. Thus alchemy is also class war: a redistributive inversion of the expropriation of surplus value. Yet alchemy is also a process for transmuting the self and its action upon the world. Like psychoanalysis, it achieves this through the manipulation of cognitive symbol mechanics. Rather than simply interpreting dreams, however, the point is to change them.

Magic is about bringing the unconscious and imposed patterns that shape thoughts and actions into alignment with autonomous will - or as Engels put it, freedom is the recognition of necessity. Somewhere between Oblique Strategies, Tarot and Collective Self-Help, we experiment with hacking these patterns, through the manipulation of symbolic resonances.

The open question is how to develop this process as a practical tool for egalitarian social transformation.