Ahriman & Cyprian

Two conversations I listened to recently got me buzzing inside in that way that most things don’t after a certain age. It was one of those ideas that takes your current mode of thought and crumbles it calmly in its hand and stares at you blankly, indifferent to your reactionary protests. The talks in mind were both featuring everybody’s favorite sex-positive theosophist Conner Habib (once on his own show with Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey, the other on Rune Soup as a guest) and feature some difficult concepts relating to Rudolph Steiner’s work on a being called Ahriman. Now, I’m no Steinerite nor am I even well-versed in his work, however the characteristics of Ahriman are a matter I believe most of us can identify as alive and active in the world today. There is something about the personification and inspiriting-through-myth of these forces in the persona of Ahriman that somehow makes the task of grappling with such dark and mechanistic powers a bit more manageable.

Ahriman is a far older being than Steiner’s work, though his prophecy and interpretation seems to have pulled this being from the abstractions of ancient (or the reinterpretations present-day) Zoroastrianism into a practically-applicable contemporary relevance. Steiner’s vision of Ahriman is one of a being who possesses no framework or capacity for empathy or compassion, meaning there is a deficit in its ability to relate. For a being that is conscious and alive, having no ability to form a sense of realness or aliveness in relation to the Other would reduce the possibilities of interaction so acutely that self-expression would necessarily be limited to such truly meaningless and contextless acts as the application of force, increase of efficiency, volume, output, or any other factor which is void of a deeper relational meaning but have a visible, measurable, material impact on the world. Complex expression relies upon the way one identifies, relates, and adapts with the Other, therefore without empathy one would likely exist in a world where everything (and everyone) else is perceived as unconscious, un-aware. All feedback data relating to the nuance of well-being, coherence, sentiment, joy, pain, or trauma would all be purged as irrelevant and the being in question would never respond to cries of pain, unless these data indicated that they were disrupting its self-expression or efficiency, or could be employed as manipulative tools to increase these factors over time. 

Now, if this shape is beginning to set off some alarms, bouncing off of literally everything you know about financial tycoons, late-stage capitalism, and the frenzied conversion of earth-matter into profit then I’d say your’re getting the picture. These tangible phenomena seem to be the impact of Ahriman expressing itself in our world via technological and human means, though as with the tyrannical uber rich who pull the strings behind the scenes- you can’t really fight these forces head-on, lest you find yourself destroyed by them, or worse, subsumed. 

Regardless of which version you’re familiar with, the essential structure of the hagiography of Saint Cyprian remains in place. A powerful character, Cyprian, finds great gains in being capable of manipulating the world through the force of magic, presumably making his living and enjoying notoriety, but primarily the satisfaction of being somehow superior to others. A full commitment to being powerful enabled him to disregard other human concerns and become a magic-learning machine, until he encountered an anomaly. The faithful Saint Justina was able to thwart the very best of Cyprian’s sorcery with nothing more than faith and the sign of the cross, an act that should have, by his accounts, been impossible. This was far more than a simple defeat; this was an existential crisis. Cyprian had gladly given himself to the Devil in exchange for power and there had yet to be an instance in which this power fell short. This was a restructuring of Cyprian’s cosmology to include the impossible, to adapt to the idea that the most powerful being he had ever encountered may have been a small fry, and the subsequent awe and humility one cannot escape from following a reality disruption of this magnitude.

Now, currently we are experiencing Ahriman hard at work in zee fourth industrial revolution. It is mining all of our data, creating digital twins of us to be used in predictive simulations for social and carbon credit systems, predetermined education and career paths, advertising, law enforcement, military training and psyops, and the creation of new human futures markets which literally make us livestock. This means that as someone watches their marriage fall apart, or slips into addiction, or becomes suicidal due to the ever-unfolding consequences of lockdowns, job loss, foreclosures, closed businesses, and mysterious lingering health issues, every change in behavior from social media scrolling to their phone microphone may as well be the eyes and ears of Ahriman observing, learning, and formulating new strategies to make the world better (by force) through future manipulations. As stated, this isn’t the kind of thing one can wage war on, so what do we do? 

And this brings us to Conner’s point about our human responsibility to humanize this being which has made its firm arrival into our world. We have an obligation to our realm to be a living example of that which is both irrational and illogical, but inherently human. Conner shared in those talks that he had come to understand that the only option is for us humans to grow Ahriman a heart. If we can’t fight it, and we can’t make it go away, logic dictates that we must somehow learn to live with it. This idea was the aforementioned hand that crumbled up my previous mode of thought and watched it sift through fingers to the floor. In the Rune Soup episode, he said he wasn’t quite ready for the task. And me neither, not directly. But it also got me thinking of practically how we would go about this work of offering compassion to an enemy. How do we do the thing?

We do this by defying Ahriman’s expectations. We find our center and we dig deep for calm and compassion when we don’t feel up to it. Like when we’ve been stuck in the house with the same person(s) for weeks at a time and we speak kindly when we want to scream. Like when everyone around you is a toxic mess who doesn’t deserve your respect and you give it to them anyway. Like when the future seems incredibly dark and we still find it in our hearts to whistle as we stroll, to lose ourselves in the resplendent joy of being. Like when a mechanistic intelligence from another world is invading yours and you throw a wrench in its gears by being the compassionate outlier, the factor that won’t behave predictably and selfishly. Because the anomalies will not be ignored by this being. When by all accounts you should break, but you don’t, it breaks the predictive logic of the machine. It suggests that there is another power at play, one it hadn’t considered formidable, or hadn’t considered at all. This power is very much invisible and it is an absolute mystery. It is the same power that Justina found in her savior, the one she imbued in the triple cross. The very same that thwarted Cyprian and the Devil thrice, the anomaly that makes saints of scoundrels and adheres that which would otherwise be desiccated. It is the power that restructured Cyprian’s understanding of, and relationship with, power itself. It is the anomalous expression of this power which will, over time, force Ahriman to include factors in its computations which it currently deems irrelevant. It is this power that saves us all, but is reduced by its compartmentalized verbal utterance, therefore I care not to say it outright here. It doesn’t need to be mentioned. It’s more of a thing to be done.

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