Esotourism: A Liquidation Sale of Hidden Knowledge
Hidden knowledge, which has long been jealously guarded by a literate elite, is these days largely out in the open. Astonishing truths are readily available, but they are needles in a haystack of disinformation, blind alleys, red herrings and false flags. With information technology, rare texts are now readily available on websites like Project Guttenberg. Because the populist implications of information technology are so numerous, the rhetorical currency of a scarcity model has been devalued. In a departure from his professed materialism, Walter Benjamin heretically maintained that the advent of mechanical mimesis tends to dilute the aura of rare books. In this presentation, I will suggest that electronic advances, while diluting the perception of rarity, have not effaced it outright. In order to describe the "flâneur" of the present electronic age, I have coined a neologism, "esotourism." The esotourist is a seeker of hidden knowledge when all such knowledge has been liquidated outright. In a widely literate world where magicians enchant children in popular bestsellers and the esoteric interpretation of Christianity has become cliché, I will suggest that the truth is always elsewhere, but hidden in plain sight. My presentation will suggest, in photographs of out of print book covers, a chain of signifiers indicating the domain of hidden knowledge today. I will indicate that what is occulted today are the grim realities of ecological disaster, war profiteering, and the human tragedy of neoliberal policy.
Keywords: Books, Esoterica, Technology, Benjamin
David Haldane Lee
Phd Student, Department of Communication, University of South Florida