Time’s Prisoners: Nietzsche, Burroughs and the Rift


“This, indeed this alone, is what revenge is: the will’s resentment against time’s “it was”.
……….– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

“The black iron prison is the corpus of the great it as it was; our world is the process metamorphosis, interim, of an insect-like camouflaged, mimicking organism.”
………..– Philip K. Dick,  The Exegesis

“What follows is speculation, often far-fetched speculation, which the reader will consider or dismiss according to his individual predilection. It is further an attempt to follow out an idea consistently, out of curiosity to see where it will lead.”
………..– Sigmund Freud

Time is a prison, history a pre-recorded film in which we are all stuck in time repeating the gestures of automata and puppets. We are it’s pawns. Programs in a universal game, slaves of the time-lords who entrust us to our own hells for their perverse pleasure. There is no escape. Or is there? We are in the midst of a temporal war that has become so ubiquitous that we no longer know victim from perpetrator. Lost among the time-loops we spiral into our separate black holes of disinformation  like gods who have fallen asleep and forgotten our singular powers and capacities to change the very rules of the game. Nietzsche in another passage had Zarathustra add:

To redeem those who lived in the past and to re-create all “it was” into a “thus I willed it” – that alone should I call redemption. Will – that is the name of the liberator and joy-bringer. thus I taught you, my friends. But now learn this too: the will itself is still a prisoner. Willing liberates; but what is it that puts even the liberator himself in fetters? “It was” – that is the name of the will’s gnashing of teeth and most secret melancholy. Powerless against what has been done, he is an angry spectator of all that is past. The will cannot will backwards; and that he cannot break time and time’s covetousness, that is the will’s loneliest melancholy.

Freud following Nietzsche would redefine ‘will’ and christen it with a new name – “libido” – the energetic unconscious. And out of this seething energy he would bring forth the drives, Eros (sex) and Thanatos (death). Bloom, another deep reader of both Nietzsche and Freud would offer another, further, revisioning of these drives: “I will suggest that the creative will or poetic drive puts the Freudian drives into question, by showing that those drives themselves are defenses, or are so contaminated by defenses as to be indistinguishable from the resistances they supposedly provoke.”1 Defense, in war or in sport, seeks more than stability; it seeks victory, or the annihilation of change (Bloom, p. 123). In Bloom’s brokering of Freud’s theoretic the rage against time’s “it was” can only be overcome by Eros or figuration which is the true revenge against time, while the fall into sado-masochism or the literal revenge against one’s self or an other’s body is to yield to the literalism of Thanatos or the death-drive. The erotic cosmism of Burroughs and others is this figural investment in trope and desire; artistic creation and poetry as the force of the will’s deep and abiding pressure against the literal powers that would bind us to a universe of death.

Nick Land following Nietzsche and Freud but probably not versant in Bloom’s critical poetics would remind us again that “Freud, too, is an energeticist … He does not conceive desire as lack, representation, or intention, but as dissipative energetic flow, inhibited by the damming and channeling apparatus of the secondary process (domain of the reality principle).”2 Seeking the lost object of our desire we wander in labyrinths of unreasoning chaos like clowns in a fun house where the only release is to break through the clown not the mirror.

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” – Rousseau.

William S. Burroughs would begin his long struggle against the Archons, the Lords of Time – otherwise known as the elite financiers of this cold world – the Board. In Act One of his life’s work he storms the reality studio itself:

“This is war to extermination—Fight cell by cell through bodies and mind screens of the earth—Souls rotten from the Orgasm Drug—Flesh shuddering from the Ovens—Prisoners of the earth, come out—Storm the studio.” His plan called for total exposure—Wise up all the marks everywhere—Show them the rigged wheel—Storm the Reality Studio and retake the universe—The plan shifted and reformed as reports came in from his electric patrols sniffing quivering down streets of the earth—the reality film giving and buckling like a bulkhead under pressure—burned metal smell of interplanetary war in the raw noon streets swept by screaming glass blizzards of enemy flak.3

Ccru in its hyperstitional investigations would probe Burroughs rhizomatic interzones like moles entering a multiverse where the secret Board room criminals who control the Reality Studio have no reach:

“You can see that Burroughs’s writing involves the highest possible stakes,” Kaye wrote. “It does not represent cosmic war: it is already a weapon in that war. It is not surprising that the forces ranged against him – the many forces ranged against him, you can’t overestimate their influence on this planet – sought to neutralize that weapon. It was a matter of the gravest urgency that his works be classified as fantasies, experimental dada, anything but that they should be recognized as what they are: technologies for altering reality.”4

But who or what is behind it all? The OGU: “The OGU is a prerecorded universe in which He is the recorder” (Ccru, KL 604). The universe, reality, time are nothing more than pre-recorded cinema, a continuous replay of the same sitcom with its hideous canned laughter, playing over and over and over again. We have all been here before. Deja vu! History is a recording you’re stuck in, a Venus flytrap from which you cannot crawl out. Ccru will explicate: “Burroughs names the dominant control program One God Universe, or OGU. He wages war against the fiction of OGU, which builds its monopolistic dominion upon the magical power of the Word: upon programming and illusion. OGU establishes a fiction, which operates at the most fatal level of reality, where questions of biological destiny and immortality are decided. “Religions are weapons” (WL 202).” (Ccru, KL 517)

Marx was right all along: … “they do not know it, but they are doing it”. Slavoj Zizek heir of this dark sage will reiterate in another key: “The very concept of ideology implies a kind of basic, constitutive naïveté: the misrecognition of its own presuppositions, of its own effective conditions, a distance, a divergence between so-called social reality and our distorted representation, our false consciousness of it. That is why such a ‘naive consciousness’ can be submitted to a critical-ideological procedure. The aim of this procedure is to lead the naïve ideological consciousness to a point at which it can recognize its own effective conditions, the social reality that it is distorting, and through this very act dissolve itself. In the more sophisticated versions of the critics of ideology -that developed by the Frankfurt School, for example — it is not just a question of seeing things (that is, social reality) as they ‘really are’, of throwing away the distorting spectacles of ideology; the main point is to see how the reality itself cannot reproduce itself without this so-called ideological mystification. The mask is not simply hiding the real state of things; the ideological distortion is written into its very essence.” But, dear Zizek, it’s not just social reality – the Reality Studio is ontological, too. Consciousness is not false, it’s a trap – a false mask stretched across a clown’s paradise. Zizek, a follower of Lacan, will misprision the effects of desire, assuming lack where there is none, he will seek in the labyrinth of the Reality Studio a lost desire that never was. Desire is not lack, but a plenum, an energetic and productive power that can aid us in our temporal war against the Archons, the Board; for those who know, it is our only friend.

Norman O. Brown tells us in his short book, Closing Time that the aboriginals, the originals, the tribes had ritual clowns, formed “Fools Lodges,” or “Society of Contraries,” who violated taboos and thereby acquired magical powers.5 Henry Miller, Georges Bataille, William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Salvadore Dali, J.G. Ballard and oh so many more, all belong to the “Secret Society of Dada-Surrealism” – a world of contraries, paradox, and reverse temporal engineering – those who negate time and time’s law, reprogramming the codes, deterritorializing the mesh developing escape pods and time-travel devices for transport beyond the Reality Studio.

quantum grandfathers & traveling the time-waves

In 2014 scientists trying to resolve what came to be known as the Grandfather Paradox (David Deutsch). Deutsch would propose his own solution. Ralph and his PhD student Martin Ringbauer led a team that experimentally simulated Deutsch’s model of CTCs (“closed timelike curve”) for the very first time, testing and confirming many aspects of the two-decades-old theory:

Instead of a human being traversing a CTC to kill her ancestor, imagine that a fundamental particle goes back in time to flip a switch on the particle-generating machine that created it. If the particle flips the switch, the machine emits a particle—the particle—back into the CTC; if the switch isn’t flipped, the machine emits nothing. In this scenario there is no a priori deterministic certainty to the particle’s emission, only a distribution of probabilities. Deutsch’s insight was to postulate self-consistency in the quantum realm, to insist that any particle entering one end of a CTC must emerge at the other end with identical properties. Therefore, a particle emitted by the machine with a probability of one half would enter the CTC and come out the other end to flip the switch with a probability of one half, imbuing itself at birth with a probability of one half of going back to flip the switch. If the particle were a person, she would be born with a one-half probability of killing her grandfather, giving her grandfather a one-half probability of escaping death at her hands—good enough in probabilistic terms to close the causative loop and escape the paradox. Strange though it may be, this solution is in keeping with the known laws of quantum mechanics.

In their new simulation Ralph, Ringbauer and their colleagues studied Deutsch’s model using interactions between pairs of polarized photons within a quantum system that they argue is mathematically equivalent to a single photon traversing a CTC. “We encode their polarization so that the second one acts as kind of a past incarnation of the first,” Ringbauer says. So instead of sending a person through a time loop, they created a stunt double of the person and ran him through a time-loop simulator to see if the doppelganger emerging from a CTC exactly resembled the original person as he was in that moment in the past.

By measuring the polarization states of the second photon after its interaction with the first, across multiple trials the team successfully demonstrated Deutsch’s self-consistency in action. “The state we got at our output, the second photon at the simulated exit of the CTC, was the same as that of our input, the first encoded photon at the CTC entrance,” Ralph says. “Of course, we’re not really sending anything back in time but the simulation allows us to study weird evolutions normally not allowed in quantum mechanics.”

Yet, as one scientist states it: “”If the Deutsch model is correct, then this experiment faithfully simulates what could be done with an actual CTC. But this experiment cannot test the Deutsch model itself; that could only be done with access to an actual CTC.”

Seth Lloyd, another physicist has proposed an alternative solution: “Deutsch’s theory has a weird effect of destroying correlations,” Lloyd says. “That is, a time traveler who emerges from a Deutschian closed time curve enters a universe that has nothing to do with the one she exited in the future. By contrast, post-selected CTCs preserve correlations, so that the time traveler returns to the same universe that she remembers in the past.”

Other scientists would discover even further news: “…loopholes, and the detection loophole in particular, leave the door open to sophisticated eavesdroppers. Through this loophole, malicious companies could sell devices that fool users into thinking that they are getting quantum-entangled particles, while they are instead being given keys that the company can use to spy on them.” Opening the ‘communication loophole’ allows such strangeness: if the entangled atoms are too close together, then, in principle, measurements made on one could affect the other without violating the speed-of-light limit.

P.K.D. – on Growth time and decay time

Philip K. Dick will separate out the great war in the Reality Studio as two forms of time-warp: “Growth time” (movement of an entelechy toward completion) must be orthogonal to “decay time,” or “wheel spinning time,” even if our senses can’t sort out these two times at work before us, in us and around us. Some sections (subparts) of the universe are moving backward, then, despite our occluded vision of a single forward lineal stream. We have a monovision in a sense. Blending two signals which should be discriminated.6 He will recognize early on that we are in a prison:

We seem to be confined within a metal prison, but something vital has secretly penetrated the enclosing ring around us and fires assistance and advice to us in the form of video and audio signals. Neither the prison ring is visible to us nor the signal system which fires nor the entity which has penetrated through us. The signals emerge as if from cores drilled through the metal; they’re in color. Thus, our prison was breached a long time ago. Help is here, but we still remain here within the prison; we aren’t yet free. I take it that the camouflaged invisibility of the signals is to keep the creator of the prison from knowing that help is here for us. (Exegesis, KL 3878)

Dick would come upon the ‘holographic principle,’ (the idea that a universe with gravity can be described by a quantum field theory in fewer dimensions, has been used for years as a mathematical tool in strange curved spaces) long before physicists set it down into mathematical formula:

This is not pantheism. This is not dualism, although there is a good vs. bad and a dialectic interaction. It is simply a 2-signal source hologram, and one of the sources has died and “seeks” to enslave us to its repetitious, frozen prison-state, its corpse-state. Our universe is neither animate nor inanimate (vs. the pre-Socratics and Timaeus)— half is alive and half is dead, and the alive half is trying to rescue us from the enslavement to the dead part. (Exegisis, KL 6604)

information grows – order and entropy in the timewars

Cesar  Hidalgo, in Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies will remind us that information, when understood in its broad meaning as physical order, is what our economy produces. It is the only thing we produce, whether we are biological cells or manufacturing plants. This is because information is not restricted to messages. It is inherent in all the physical objects we produce: bicycles, buildings, streetlamps, blenders, hair dryers, shoes, chandeliers, harvesting machines, and underwear are all made of information. This is not because they are made of ideas but because they embody physical order. Our world is pregnant with information. It is not an amorphous soup of atoms, but a neatly organized collection of structures, shapes, colors, and correlations. Such ordered structures are the manifestations of information, even when these chunks of physical order lack any meaning.7

Yet, this is a war, a war between information and entropy. Our ability to beget information, and to produce the items, infrastructures, and institutions we associate with prosperity, requires us to battle the steady march toward disorder that characterizes our universe and which troubled Boltzmann. To battle disorder and allow information to grow, our universe has a few tricks up its sleeve. These tricks involve out-of-equilibrium systems, the accumulation of information in solids, and the ability of matter to compute. Together these three mechanisms contribute to the growth of information in small islands or pockets where information can grow and hide, like our body or our planet. (Hidalgo, 217)

Quantum mechanics: temporal engineering – uncovering the codes that construct the Reality Studio. 3D quantum printers, using the codes of the Archons to build our own studios. Jennifer Hoffman, however, is using her expertise in the area to set out on a project to 3D print objects atom-by-atom in order to assemble quantum heterostructures, which are objects consisting of multiple materials and governed by the laws of quantum physics. “One key 5-year focus is interface superconductivity, with two parallel goals of realizing higher Tc and topological superconductivity. In each case, we will establish a film growth recipe, perform detailed imaging to understand the materials, explore atom manipulation strategies, characterize superconducting behavior in confined geometries, and ultimately ‘print’ layered arrays of superconducting 0’s and 1’s to create quantum devices.” She continues:

“Emergent properties in quantum heterostructures are widely expected to lead a technological revolution, with impact on electronics, communications, energy, and medicine. ‘Quantum 3D printing’ could produce ultra-fine wires for fast computing with charge or spin, ultra-dense memory, ultra-precise metamaterials for shaping electromagnetic fields, or ultra-sensitive magnetic detectors.”

The rift – timebandits and the secret temples of time

Burroughs affirms this as the “Rift”, a place of secret flows, a time both in and out of time, a time between that escapes the temporal wars; it’s not easy to exit the studio, there are those who are watching the interzones and portals into the rhizome: “To conceal the bankruptcy of the reality studio it is essential that no one should be in position to set up another reality set. The reality film has now become an instrument and weapon of monopoly. The full weight of the film is directed against anyone who calls the film in question with particular attention to writers and artists. Work for the reality studio or else. Or else you will find out how it feels to be outside the film. I mean literally without film left to get yourself from here to the corner. . . . Every object raw and hideous sharp edges that tear the uncovered flesh.” (Word Virus, KL 5316)

Time Bandits will entertain us with the impossible truth of time-wars through the eyes of innocence. The map of time has been stolen from the OGU. The time-lord and his minions want it back. Yet, in this instance the time-lords have all the pieces, the game is rigged, the outcome assured. Innocence is bound rather unbound, and the rulers of the Board bind the agents of time’s apocalypse into the secret weave.

Who are these dark lords, these Archons who control the Reality Studio:

“Top Secret—Classified—For The Board—The Elite—The Initiates—” Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth? These are the words of liars cowards collaborators traitors. Liars who want time for more lies. Cowards who can not face your “dogs” your “gooks” your “errand boys” your “human animals” with the truth. Collaborators with Insect People with Vegetable People. With any people anywhere who offer you a body forever. To shit forever. For this you have sold out your sons. Sold the ground from unborn feet forever. Traitors to all souls everywhere. You want the name of Hassan i Sabbah on your filth deeds to sell out the unborn? What scared you all into time? Into body? Into shit? I will tell you: “the word.” Alien Word “the.” “The” word of Alien Enemy imprisons “thee” in Time. In Body. In Shit. Prisoner, come out. The great skies are open. I Hassan i Sabbah rub out the word forever. (Word Virus, KL 5478)

Ccru in their investigations of Burroughs will discover in his obsession with cats and lemurs a secretive knowledge leading to Lemuria, the ancient homeland of the Old Ones, the Immortals. And, to the escape hatch of alternate realities – to enter the Rift. Burroughs last three books, his famed Western Lands trilogy would place the pirate anarchist Mission and lemurs in focus – discover a time-machine:

“Mission was spending more and more time in the jungle with his lemurs” (GC 11) – the ghosts of a lost continent – slipping into time disturbances and spiral patterns. Lemurs became his sleeping and dream companions. He discovered through this dead and dying species that the key to escaping control is taking the initiative – or the pre-initiative – by interlinking with the Old Ones. (Ccru, KL 665)

The Archons, the Board elite troubled by this connection between Captain Mission, lemurs, and Burroughs would enforce strict and necessary retribution:

The Board conceived Mission’s traffic with lemurs, his experiments in time sorcery, and his anachronistic entanglement with Burroughs as a single intolerable threat. “In a prerecorded and therefore totally predictable universe, the blackest sin is to tamper with the prerecording, which could result in altering the prerecorded future. Captain Mission was guilty of this sin” (GLM 27). (Ccru, KL 672)

Of course you’ll remember in my previous post this quote from conversation with Burroughs by Genesis P-Orridge: “Everything is recorded. If it is recorded, then it can be edited. If it can be edited then the order, sense, meaning and direction are as arbitrary and personal as the agenda and/ or person editing. This is magick.” But Burroughs is too late, the time lords have found and obliterated the stone structure (portal to alternate realities), the lemurs, Mission and closed Bill off in a time-loop:

“They’re speaking of White Chronomancy” he explained, “the sealing of runaway time-disturbances within closed loops”. What Mission had released Burroughs had bound again. That is how it seemed to the Board in 1987, with the circle apparently complete. (Ccru, KL 727)

The Board was mistaken: “It seems never to have occurred to the Board that Burroughs would change the ending, that their ‘dead end’ would open a road to the Western Lands.” (Ccru, KL 734) Remember: ““I want to reach the Western Lands – right in front of you, across the bubbling brook. It’s a frozen sewer. It’s known as the Duad, remember? All the filth and horror, fear, hate, disease and death of human history flows between you and the Western Lands. Let if flow! My cat Fletch stretches behind me on the bed. A tree like black lace against a gray sky. A flash of joy.” (The Western Lands, p. 257)

H.P. Lovecraft had seen this too. The Old One’s await us in the Rift, the time-zones below the waves, where words and light break through the time gates of the Board’s archonic Black Iron Prison. And, as Burroughs well knew: ”

“People of the world are at last returning to their source in spirit, back to the little lemur people …” (GC 54). The Board had no doubt – this was a return to the true horror. (Ccru, KL 738)

Burroughs would leave a message in the sand….

“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals. In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. Minutes to go. Souls rotten from their orgasm drugs, flesh shuddering from their nova ovens, prisoners of the earth to come out. With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly—

William S. Burroughs would join all those poets of Eros, of the figural and Sublime movement against anteriority, Nietzsche’s “it was”, historical temporality, the past; offering instead the will’s revenge against time. Freud in his last book, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, would offer a final speculation: “Some portion of self-destructiveness remains permanently within, until it at length succeeds in doing the individual to death, not, perhaps, until his libido has been used up or has become fixated in some disadvantageous way…” Thea war between information and entropy, eros and thanatos, figural and literal, creative and repetitive, composition and decomposition is a dialectic between trope and defense that seeks to exit the duplicitous tyranny of time and it’s dark prison. As Freud would remark in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life:

Rage, anger, and consequently a murderous impulse is the source of superstition in obsessional neurotics: a sadistic component, which is attached to love and is therefore directed against the loved person and repressed precisely because of this link and because of its intensity. – My own superstition has its roots in suppressed ambition (immortality) and in my case takes the place of anxiety about death which springs from the normal uncertainty of life…

This sense of surpassing all anteriority, of stepping outside the Reality Studio and into an alternate reality unbound from the control freaks who have imprisoned us in this vision of a sado-masochistic universe of death and self-defeat has lent itself to many strangers, painters, authors, visionaries, philosophers, psychologists, etc. across the expanse of human time. Fantasy? Figural troping of a path out of the maze, a staving off of the ultimate literal defeat that awaits us all? Take your own pick, find your own path: between Eros and Thanatos and the energetic libido or poetic will that keeps you struggling against time’s “it was”.


Simon Reynolds:

“CCRU retrochronically triggers itself from October 1995, where it uses Sadie Plant as a screen and Warwick University as a temporary habitat. …CCRU feeds on graduate students + malfunctioning academic (Nick Land) + independent researchers +…. At degree-O CCRU is the name of a door in the Warwick University Philosphy Department. Here it is now officially said that CCRU ‘does not, has not, and will never exist’.”
—Communique from Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, November 1997.

  1. Harold Bloom. Agon: Toward a Theory of Revisionism. (Oxford, 1982)
  2. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataill and Virulent Nihilism. (Routledge, 1992)
  3. Burroughs, William S. (2007-12-01). Word Virus: The William S. Burroughs Reader (Burroughs, William S.) (Kindle Locations 4950-4954). Grove/Atlantic, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  4. Ccru (2015-05-06). Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 (Kindle Locations 628-632). Time Spiral Press. Kindle Edition.
  5. Norman O. Brown. Closing Time. (Random House, 1973)
  6. Dick, Philip K. (2011-11-08). The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Kindle Locations 2911-2914). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  7. Cesar  Hidalgo,  Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (Kindle Locations 211-216). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

3 thoughts on “Time’s Prisoners: Nietzsche, Burroughs and the Rift

  1. I enjoyed this. True that critics regard Burroughs works as ‘science fiction’ or ‘works of literature’ or ‘great literary experiments’ (which they are, too) but without engaging with the fact that Burroughs really was trying to re-order reality through writing. I approached this in a 3AM article published on his centenary birthdate. It’s here if you’re interested. http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/william-burroughs-and-the-dreamscapes-of-the-dalai-lama/

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks! Add it to my list 😉

      Yea, after reading your essay, I see the long an fruitful transformation within across the years. Too bad you didn’t actually meet him. I started reading him back in the sixties, but never even thought about meeting him. In a lot of ways life has been a grand experiment, and my life was always a laboratory. I’ve pushed the limits in many directions along the way. 🙂


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