Hermetic.com

And now the method to my madness … probably still makes no sense. However, the reason I was thinking about the meaning of the term “hermetic” a while ago should be clear.

But, the thing I’ve been madly working on for at least a hundred hours this week? What have I been hammering and sawing on? Sanding and painting?

Well, the cat’s out of the bag now! Al Billings has transfered The Hermetic Library and the Hermetic.com domain to me. I’ve become the custodian and caretaker of one of the most important esoteric sites on the Internet, and one that’s been online pretty much since the beginning.

The Hermetic Library

The Hermetic Library was created in 1996, in the early days of the commercial Internet, and is one of the most comprehensive and popular resources on the Internet for the kind of information in its collection. Hermetic.com is justifiably famous, and perhaps a little infamous, as the source for an amazing collection of information useful to every researcher and student of esoteric studies and the modern Western tradition. Many students over the last decade found their start and much information useful to them by perusing the materials of The Hermetic Library and started their own electronic libraries by downloading pages and pages of content for their use and research.

Over a decade after being founded, Al was looking for someone to take over The Hermetic Library and Hermetic.com, and my name came up in a couple conversations. Introductions were made, memories remembered and the library was transitioned to a new caretaker. The rest, so to speak, is history yet to be written.

The Content

The collection is, by and large, of a spiritual focus but not the areas of spirituality that you will generally see within the mainstream of Western culture. The collection at the library houses materials related to Hermeticism and magic that would not otherwise be available, especially online.

The content currently exists in two main groups. The first group is content that is archived and presented which otherwise might not be available because there’s no one to maintain it or for some other reason. The other group of content is the sub-sites for particular luminaries.

It would have been unfortunate to lose this amazing archive or any of the sub-sites to the Wayback Machine. If The Hermetic Library didn’t exist people would probably go to Wayback or a torrent to get it … or worse and more likely to a site unfriendly to O.T.O. But, keeping Hermetic.com alive on the web means that it can be leveraged to increase traffic to local body sites, Grand Lodge and International. It can also lead to book sales, through linking to the published books with related content. In fact, I’m already seeing this begin to happen as I’ve added such links. And, it can lead people to becoming interested in membership and initiation in the Order, or at least in Thelema.

The loss of Hermetic.com wouldn’t stop people from getting the content. It would stop people from getting that content from a quality independent site. It would stop people from getting the content in a manner that supports O.T.O. and can be leveraged to bring O.T.O. more eyeballs and book sales and members. The loss of Hermetic.com would silence a supportive voice for the Order and Thelema.

I will, no doubt, stand up and be counted as believing that having this content online on a site which is fully part of the thelemic and O.T.O. community and, moreover and a fortiori, that is friendly to the Order; will do more to help both the Order and members than any alternative. Well, that’s just pure physical and spiritual gold. Hermetic.com is a voice speaking to the good against any other site which might not.

Hermetic.com is an existing powerhouse for promulgation and I only see that increasing if it can continue building. The more content there is in The Hermetic Library the more valuable it is to the people that use it, to our esoteric community, and to O.T.O. specifically.

The content on Hermetic.com has been an important part of the esoteric community for so long. The relationship has obvious reciprocal benefits as people can find what they are searching for and more people are attracted to the site, but the loss of interactive history when there is no such archive is something I work to avoid. I’m looking forward to working with luminaries new and existing who want to be on the site, not because they’re a luminary, to which I’m mostly immune anyway; but, because it’s about shared history as well as the future. The past is what helps the future become and become more through feedback.

I see sponsoring sub-sites on a high-traffic site like Hermetic.com (it’s really phenomenal looking at how fast the traffic adds up as I add tracking to pages) as being either a service to luminaries that do not have sites (for whatever reason) in order to get them exposure, or as a way to feature a luminary with a primary site in order to get people to see both their content and to find their primary. I plan on developing more such relationships in the future as well as work with those that have been on the site to increase the value to everyone of being part of The Hermetic Library. Either way, being on a sponsored sub-site is free advertising.

I have so many plans that involve the site as a part of the community, fully engaged as a partner in the online presence of the Order, and as a service to the world in promulgating the message along with the Order. But, also as a service in general to the world, which I feel is sorely in need of more Hermeticism and all that entails.

The Future

This opportunity to take on Hermetic.com is huge, and exactly the kind of thing that I love to do. I’ve got years and years of plans already in the works. I’m actually really freakin’ happy to get to do this stuff. It’s the kind of thing I’m meant to do, I think.

I look forward to working with the people with content already on the site as I continue to update and improve the site. And, I’m going to be looking for new content and building new relationships.

If you are familiar with the site you may already notice a few changes, but I will be rolling out some more as time goes by. I have in mind to keep to the spirit and excellence of the site, while adding content and improving the old pages. I’ll also be working to introduce the site to a wider audience, including adding a presence on social networking sites and other ways to engage the audience of people coming to the site.

There’s also the idea of using excerpts and samples to draw people to full articles or the additional article on an author’s primary site. Even a fully developed article on Hermetic.com that duplicates content from an author’s main site can be beneficial if it draws traffic to their primary or gets that article exposed to more people. There’s a lot of synergy in cross-posting content, and creating relationships with other sites.

As an example of a totally new project, one of the things that I have in the back of my mind is to create an oral history project page for The Hermetic Library with materials to help people create oral histories with the people they feel have been important in their lives, in their work and Work – this is to say, preservation of history is something I whole-heartedly support.

Also, I’m going to be working to get in the loop with any changes or updates that people with content on the site have going on. I have all kinds of ways I can feature the news about a new book or event through the site, and that’s just the kind of updates I hope to offer the site’s audience about those people with sponsored sites.

The Social

I’m pretty focused on exploring how to leverage the site, and the content to drive interest in the published books, O.T.O. as an organization; and, to create a lot of synergy with other sites, local bodies, individuals and so on. I think one of the biggest advantages to having me take on the domain is that I’m really interested in the synergy the site can generate to increase awareness and traffic to O.T.O. sites, and for individuals who have sponsored sub-sites.

As I’m beginning to see just how many people come to the site, it’s obvious that there’s a lot of traffic. I’m only tracking a small set of pages, and already the trend on that set will be millions of eyeballs every year. Who knows how many there are total? I’m going to be watching this as I make changes too, to see if the numbers trend up.

But, really, a supply of millions of fresh esoteric eyeballs? I mean, what would you do with millions of eyeballs? I know! Right? Build a freakin’ monster, of course!

For example, in the coming months, not only will I be doing basic updates and improvements, but I will also be introducing new ways to increase interest in the material and O.T.O. both. These include social networking, which I’ve already begun, and other projects.

I know there are things I can do to maximize the benefit of having content on Hermetic.com especially now that it’s likely going to see even more content and more traffic as I add and improve the site. I’m looking at ways to becoming more synergistic with other resources and social networking, and so on, including cross-referencing with Thelemapedia, and other ideas I have.

Another thing that’s new is connecting with social networking. I can make announcements featuring incremental or monthly updates to the site, to keep awareness about the site fresh by posting those to The Hermetic Library accounts on Facebook, Twitter and even Delicious links … and from there inform the world!

I can make the site more friendly and easier to navigate. I can also make it easier for users of the site to let others know about the content by adding social bookmarking links to each of the pages. I can add links to purchase books through Amazon for not only content that’s on the site but also for content that can only be found in print, so people can easily find the material to build their their personal library even as they might also use the site to search for a quote or material.

As I move the site into more interactive space, with social networking, any interactive tools I implement might attract the crazy. This is a good heads up to me about creating interactive services which might be abused. I will need to include this in my thinking, as something to be on guard about. But, as long as there’s some way to deal with that, the benefit for the site, and thus also to the users of the site only increases.

This increasing benefit from interaction means not just the context of the text, but of the audience to the text, the authors to the audience, and the audience to the audience. That means also relationships with partner websites, and organizations, such as various local bodies, sites like Thelemepedia and O.T.O. [also] itself.

I’m trying to create the ideal conditions for the emergence of an integral esoteric bio-mechanical social web of interdependent physical, intertextual and hypertext forms … or, to coin a term, the Interintegregor!

I think I’ll come to Halloween dressed as this new superhero. It’s a superhero. It’s a freakin’ monster. It’s a desert topping!

The Feedback

Well, this is where you come in. Yes, you. You’ve been to the site, maybe even been a devoted user. But, even if you’re new to the site and have just started to explore what’s there, you’re part of this. Thank you very much for being a part of the history of what has made Hermetic.com a great site on the Internet, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Crazy Together

Over on my relatively new unbook site, I’ve posted an even newer essay about social media, “Crazy Together: Searching for dialogue in the age of social networking“:

The thing about Twitter, and other online tools, is that it seems all really just like talking to yourself out loud in a public place. If you happen to be a stand-up comedian, that might be cool and entertaining. If you happen to be Hamlet, it might even be a literary device. But if you’re not, then it seems not much different than being crazy.

And yet, there’s this persistent feeling that something is going on that isn’t the usual. Somehow, it seems that, in spite of everything social media has progressed from merely one way broadcasting, through into an exchange of dialog, and even has the feeling, to those using it, of being a dialogue.

This is essentially the first essay of this kind that I’ve completed, from the many I’ve started, since leaving graduate school. It uses the theory I developed in my Master’s Thesis in an examination of dialogue in online environments. I was inspired to this mainly because of the main title which I developed in a posting a couple of days ago to an online community organized around Dave Gray‘s new work-in-progress “Marks and Meaning, version zero“. After that, I kept thinking about it, but then another colleague posted a response that really helped trigger, as a catalyst, the rest of the essay. Over the last couple days, the essay has really tumbled together out of my brain.

It felt really great to me to do this, and to have it come to me so quickly again. It’s been so very long. I don’t know if the motivation to this will last, but it feels a bit like coming out of a coma. (Has it really been so long since graduate school? Have I really been so turned off to my own work by the experience? Is it possible that I’m finally past the recovery stage?)

The commenting is broken over there on my unbook site because I’ve messed with the theme so much, but you can at least check out this new essay. Also, you can actually check out my Master’s Thesis and another essay about landscape and mapping while you’re there. Both my thesis and the other essay had not been published publicly before now, even on my academic pursuits page.

Although commenting’s broken so they kinda aren’t really unbooks after all right now, if you’re interested in what ‘unbook’ means you might check out Dave Gray’s post about the the unbook movement, unbook.com’s about page, or the CommentPress theme at The Institute for the Future of the Book.