Theophile Gautier: The Hashish Club

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The idea of decadence is merely the idea of natural death.
………….– Remy de Gourmont, On Decadence

“Today is when we must die laughing!” said the Harlequin.

Beyond, fantasies of droll dreams confusedly danced about: hybrid creations, formless mixtures of men, beasts, and utensils; monks with wheels for feet and cauldrons for bellies; warriors, in armor of dishes, brandishing wooden swords in birds’ claws; statesmen moved by turnspit gears; kings plunged to the waist in salt-cellar turrets; alchemists with their heads arranged as bellows, their limbs twisted into alembics; bawds made up of bizarrely knobbed squashes – everything which, with a feverishly heated pencil, a cynic might trace when intoxication guides his hand.

You who think you know what is a comic masque, had you attended this ball induced by hashish you would agree that the most mirth-provoking farceurs of our small theaters are worthy of being sculptured at the corners of a pall, or on a tomb!

When I came to, I saw the room full of people dressed in black, coming together with sad looks and shaking hands with a melancholy cordiality, like persons afflicted with a common sorrow. They were saying: “Time is dead. Henceforth there will be no years, no months, no hours; time is dead, and we are going to its funeral.”

– Theophile Gautier, The Hashish Club

The Besieged Thinker: Political Thought at the End of Man

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Death is the one thing fate gave our kind.
……– Leopardi

The thinker of today, besieged elitist, who regards himself as being set apart, more fragile, more learned, more perverse, and certainly more sensitive than his contemporaries wanders the byways of discourse like a faulty troubadour seeking that strange knowledge that will save us from ourselves. This fragility has nothing to do with the buzz of our endless charade of sound bites that perversely haunts the echo chamber of our external dataclaves. No, the global mapping of the cultural mind within our electronic hives has nothing to do with thought, but is rather a superficial and mindless escape from all thought, a world where thought dies in the shadows of a mass burial chamber, a necromantic consuming machine where death finally gains the upper hand and the mind feeds on its own entrails like a dog gone rabid. Ours is an age set adrift, lost among its own self-imposed engorgements of an excess it will never be able to absorb, it smirks at its own festival of sacrifice, a victim not so much of its own blind lust for life as it is of its triumphant victory in insipidity.

We repeat each other mirror by mirror as the circular logic of decay sets in and we maximize the lobotomies of our forbears with each scribbling motion of the keypad upon the blank of our current malaise. Unable to set things right, we enter our mazes like ambulatory denizens of the last thought. Without goal or purpose we sink into that annihilating light where the acedia of things neither moves nor remains still, but is rather bound to the anodyne of political correctness. No longer able to offend each other we become policeman of thought gathering the waste into a final pyre of the world. The fires in the echo chambers of this void cannot recover the purity of being, but instead deepens the morbidity of each carefully crafted soundbite as if the fragmentary substance of life were nothing but an anarchic cry in the machinic gaze of some impersonal and faceless algorithm.

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The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part Two

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Thinking through this essay I came to the realization that one of the fallacies of transforming Gnosticism and its gnosis (inner knowing) to the political sphere is to begin a diametrically inverse project that eliminates both the acosmic and soteriological stance of that ancient religion. The modern transformation of Gnosticism into a secular gnosis shifts the drama from an acosmic rejection of reality and ontologizes it into a rejection only of a specific relation to reality as bound within the specific domain of the human meaning of history.

Vitalist that he was Nietzsche would in his essay on the Use and Abuse of History for Life admit a need for history, but one guided less by some dilettante’s equivocations and degradations in which the “spoilt idler in the garden of knowledge uses it”, but rather “we need it for life and for action…”.1 Rather than the acosmic rejection of reality Nietzsche’s philosophy always maintained an affirmative though qualified acceptance of it; and in fact formulated a theory of “amor fati” which had as its basis the total affirmation of even its most horrendous aspects.

As Ioan P. Couliano will state it our tale of secular gnosis begins with the work of Gottfried Arnold (an impact of Goethe), and Ferdinand Christian Bauer’s (1835) early work on Gnosticism. It is Bauer who began the comparison of the moderns and the ancients with a penchant toward gnosis. He sees within Hegel the heir of Valentinus. As Couliano describes it the Valentian gnosis places absolute spirit at the top of the hierarch of the Gnostic Pleroma, and the aeons are the essences through which the absolute spirit knows itself by creating a negative reflection of itself (256).2 The connection between the aeons if eros, Love. In Hegel as with the Gnostic’s portrayal of the fall of Divine Wisdom, Sophia, which “takes on the form of a break in the “Kingdom of the Son of the World” (Hegel), when the “finite spirit” (endlicher Geist) appears, which is the equivalent of the Valentinian low-quality psyche (soul)” (256). Hegel’s treatise on the “Kingdom of the Son of the World” concludes with the dialectic of the “negation of negation,” a “process of reconciliation” in which the absolute Spirit recognizes itself for what it is (256).

For Couliano Gnosticism was a cognitive pattern ever-recurring in the human Mind that appeared with each new generation and would follow its own way into our cultural matrix of possibilities. Yet, it could be channeled into a diverse and even opposing sets of relations, and in modern times it suddenly came to a head under the secularization of our religious heritage. In those two unlikely utopianism of the early twentieth century, Stalinism and Hitlerism, Communism and Fascism, one discovers the mutated thought of a secular gnosis blended to the extreme left and right poles of a strange dualism seeking to destroy one world and create another. Both would have roots in a chiliasm that manifests it at various times throughout the Christian West.

Throughout the Nineteenth Century the acosmism at the heart of the Gnostic project would remain hidden, and most of its manifestation came by way of a resurgence in Hermetic and Platonic-Neoplatonic thought rather than the world denying extreme dualism of the original Gnostics. Yet, one would see various trial runs within both poetic, literary, and political uses of this old epistemic form-World.

In our age the names that stick out as thinkers of secular gnosis are Jacob Taubes, Eric Voegelin, Ernst Topitsch, and Luciano Pellicani. For most of these authors the notion of secular gnosis was a term of derision since they sought to cast dispersion of the tradition of leftwing politics from the Enlightenment period onward, seeing in progressivism, socialism, and modernity a turn toward philistinism, decadence, and misguided power economics where value was incarnated in Gold and Capital rather than in any external sense of God or Religion. Yet, as Couliano admits even their creative misunderstanding of this tradition can be an impetus to further insights. As one of my old professors used to say one must read between the lines, and even below them to gain insight.

Some might be surprised to find the gnostic mythos centered in the seat of Enlightenment Reason, but this is just where Kant would entomb it in his Religion within the boundaries of reason (1793) essay:

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The point of this secular gnosis is now termed the ‘Internal Turn’ in Philosophy away from all external authority and priority. Just here Nietzsche some years later would tell us is to be found in this movement away from external supports, grounds, and objective sources of religion and God that “uncanny guest,” nihilism is born. The “Death of God” is about this ungrounding of the external support systems of religion and morality that have guided humankind for millennia. Yet, as we’ve seen Nietzsche would do one better, he would begin an attack even on this strange guest, Reason. Slowly demolishing this inward power that had replaced God in the heart of man’s Mind.

I’m going to stop here for this post. In the next I’ll take up the work of Voegelin, and Pellicani.

Further reading:

  • The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part One

  1. Nietzsche, Friedrich (2010-11-03). On the Use and Abuse of History for Life (Kindle Locations 22-24). Richer Resources Publications. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ioan P. Couliano. The Tree of Gnosis. (Harper Collins, 1992)

The Unexpected Visitant

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Tonight she came like a soft light pooling among shadows,
a moon born music from within,
a dance in the depths, a beguiling.

My body awakened, light and exuberant;
a subtle fire stirring in my heart,
an energy – a quickening.

One pushes to the edge of things for so long one forgets
the tension of release, the jubilation of despair turned vibrant;
a serenity of darkness that sends one into a voluptuous festival.

If I wander here now it’s for the sheer reason that insomnia
lifted me from my lethargic indifference, gave me back
a natural capacity for surprise, a message from the void.

What does one do during such a transformation?
No longer bound to some religious or metaphysical tale of wonders
one seeks allowance for that which is happening to happen.

The Word that would be word no longer assures us of this change.
Is this the inhuman we’ve been seeking all along? A metamorphosis
from darkness to darkness, a visitation breaking from the surrounding stillness?

The ancients would’ve applied a narrative to it, given a mask to its strangeness;
but now we seem at a loss, unfounded in our new born knowledge.
It is is all one can say; the fruit thereof is one’s life. A certain jouissance


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Silences of Time

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There are moments in the night when I can here the voice –
the utter anguish, the solitude, the emptiness…

How far must we fall before the silence ends?
What would you have me say? What could be said?
Are we not like him formed of ash and clay? Broken vessels?
Our light but a fragment of some dark myth, an illusion?
Trapped among the shattered ruins of this desert world
we hide the truth from each other as if to wake were too much effort.
Ennui, the bitter fruit of acedia. Night wanderings.
Troubling the dark embraces of sleepers, seeking solace.
How many times I’ve opened my eyes to this world
hoping that my despair would fall away like that stranger,
but have found myself restless, always restless.
He must have gone mad long ago in that silent abyss.
Blind, alone, bitter, weeping. What else could he do?
Even we who have heard him in the silences know nothing can be done,
we keep coming back to the old circle of doubt, writing the same passages,
the same lines that lead to this blank page. Nothing can be done.
Sometimes one wants to send him a message, say it’s going to be alright;
but we know that’s a lie, nothing is alright, nothing will be alright.
When the end comes we know our dust will spread its vein wings,
sink into oblivion, find a formless bit of emptiness to hide in,
some black hole where nothing can escape – not even light.
We tell ourselves stories in the night to stave off the inevitable.
In our dreams we cry out to that unbound nihil in its dream;
but all we hear back is nothing but nothing, a murmurless void.
Did he die among those silences like some forlorn thought of being?
Is he – even now, wandering the wastelands of some frozen labyrinth,
waiting there in utter solitude, wishing he’d rotted away among black stars.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part One

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By blood we live, the hot, the cold,
To ravage and redeem the world,
There is no bloodless myth will hold.
………– Geoffrey Hill, Genesis

Most of the time people only remember the famous quote written on Marx’s tomb:  “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” But what world? Is it some literal vision of our material being, the place of our earth, of our lives here on this planet; or, might it better be the form-World the crime-World of our ideological blinders that impose the law of death upon our hearts and minds? Isn’t it the figural rather than literal world that Marx wanted to change, the world of men’s minds where the true revolution begins and ends? We’ve seen how the literal enforcement of that dictum produced neither a utopian society nor a nostalgic return to some primitive communist paradise. Marx would look upon the world of wealth and Capital as an alien world dominating the workers:

The world of wealth expands and faces him as an alien world dominating him, and as it does so his subjective poverty, his need and dependence grow larger in proportion. His deprivation and its plenitude match each other exactly.1

So what exactly did Marx mean in Das Kapital when he said: “Socialism must not become the end but the means through which we change the world we live in“? Enemies of both spiritual and secular forms of Gnosticisms have a long and varied (non-) history. Eric Voeglin one of the first but not last arch-reactionaries of the last century would tell us that the more we “come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism. The continuous interest in this problem goes back to the 1930’s, when Hans Jonas published his first volume of Gnosis und Spätantiker Geist on ancient gnosis and Hans Urs von Balthasar his Prometheus on modern Gnosticism.”1

Of late reading Luciano Pellicani’s Revolutionary Apocalypse: Ideological Roots of Terrorism one observes a well defined extreme reactionary view of the past two hundred years of revolutionary thought culminating in Communism. Astute and on the mark his analysis cuts to the quick of our current malaise on the Left, yet it does so as an enemy not as a friend. So one reads with a doubled thought, one appraises both the tenuous threads of difference between the ancient and modern variants, and one also seeks out the quickened appraisal of its political manifestation in those revolutionary intellectuals he raises to critical awareness – who brought to bare this potential for transformation and change he terms the revolutionary gnosis.

His basic thesis is straightforward, he sees the roots of revolutionary Communism as a project qualified as both a “gnostic” and Utopian endeavor, because it is animated by the belief that there exists a speculative knowledge— dialectical science—that is capable of indicating the method for eradicating alienation and changing the ontological nature of reality. It presents itself as the last avatar of the savior-saved myth, in which the desire for self redemption of the ancient gnosis combines with expectation of a rupture with the past, which is so radical that it is capable of putting an end to the prehistory of humanity and restoring the great universal harmony destroyed by the desire for profit.2

But why is the extreme radical wing of conservative (reactionary) politics so interested in the “gnostic” chiliastic vision? What do they see in this ancient heresy that they want to impute to those leftwing intellectuals of the Marxist traditions and their politics of subversion? To delve into the early Christian, Jewish, or, even later Islamic and Sufic Gnosticisms, those secret histories of Basiledes, Valentinus, Marcion, Seth, and all the other hetero-soteriological systems, where the notions of a separate knowledge or gnosis replacing faith (pistis) and belief would lead this post too far afield, yet we must at least begin with a compressed if fictive narration of this early system of religious and even acosmic vision of God, Man, and the Evil crime-World of the ancient Gnostics.

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Comments on McKenzie Wark’s Blog Post for Cyborgs

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A snippet from McKenzie Wark’s interesting essay on the life and work of Donna Haraway Blog Post for Cyborgs:

The cyborg point of view has at least one other component: the point of view of the apparatus itself, of the electrons in our circuits, the pharmaecuticals in our bloodstreams, the machines that mesh with our flesh. The machinic enters the frame not as the good or the bad other, but as an intimate stranger. Apparatus, like sensation, is liminal and indeterminate – an in-between. It is an inhuman thing, neither object nor subject.

One of its special qualities as such may however be to generate data about a nonhuman world. The apparatus renders to the human a world that isn’t for the human. An apparatus is that which demonstrates some aspect of a monstrous, alien world. An apparatus yield aspects, particular monstrosities, which never add up to that consistent and absolute world that is remains the God, or Goddess, of all realists.

An apparatus affords the real, material and historical form of mediation. I take up the significance of this in Molecular Red through a reading of Haraway’s colleague Karen Barad and former student Paul Edwards, who show the centrality of thinking the cyborg-apparatus for understanding techno-science today. Elsewhere I follow the same line of thought to Paul B Préciado. For while there has been a turn towards a revival of scientism and claims for the virtues of a universal rationality, these bypass the more difficult business of grasping how science is actually produced.

Hence the centrality today of Haraway’s work, in which thinking the messy business of making science fully embraces its implication in nets of corporate and military power, its processing and reinforcing of metaphors not of its making, and its dependence on a vast cyborg apparatus. The strength of her work is in not abandoning the struggle for knowledge under such difficult conditions and retreating into mere philosophy.

It’s this sense of the “intimate stranger,” its entry into the human of the impersonal and inhuman, an almost abysmal invasion of the flesh by those forces below the threshold of things; the catalytic infestation of the energetic cosmos where the indifference of the inorganic explodes our easy myths of optimism and happiness. He calls it the Apparatus – the force of technics and the law of technology which begins to reacquire our flesh, absorb us into its strange systems of culture and control. “Hegel’s gaze upon reality is that of a Roentgen apparatus which sees in everything that is alive the traces of its future death.”1 Or the Althusserian notion of the Ideological State Apparatus, the external ritual which materializes ideology: the subject who maintains his distance towards the ritual is unaware of the fact that the ritual already dominates him from within. (Zizek, KL 2190) Maybe as Karan Barad will have it

Barad emphasizes how the apparatuses which provide the frame for agential cuts are not just material, in the immediate sense of being part of nature, but are also socially conditioned, always reliant on a complex network of social and ideological practices. (Zizek, KL 20876)

The sense of the alien and inhuman have become central to a certain type of philosophical gaze. As Wark reminds us the “apparatus renders to the human a world that isn’t for the human. An apparatus is that which demonstrates some aspect of a monstrous, alien world.” Speaking of ancient Gnosticism Hans Jonas conveys to us this ominous quality of the alien world as the human condition:

Gnosticism has been the most radical embodiment of dualism ever to have appeared on the stage of history, and its exploration provides a case study of all that is implicated in it. It is a split between self and world, man’s alienation from nature, the metaphysical devaluation of nature, the cosmic solitude of the spirit and the nihilism of mundane norms; and in its general extremist style it shows what radicalism really is. All this has been acted out in that deeply moving play as a lasting paradigm of the human condition. (XXVI The Gnostic Religion)

Wark’s investigation like his Gnostic forbears is not just about knowledge, but rather about the traps and prisons of a certain false knowledge which folds us in a complicit acceptance of a cyborg-apparatus component within the techno-sciences today. In a capitalist world the pressure of competition – the drive for profit, power, security, etc. becomes the primal mover and operative dispotif, driving invention and goals. Jonas in a essay Toward a Philosophy of Technology would see this cyborg-apparatus as an “agent of restlessness” implanted within us by its functionally integral bond with science, politics, philosophy, art – all the ideological components of culture and material life.2 Jonas would see the cyborgization of Man as both the conclusion to art and philosophy, as the abstraction of an abstraction – a final idealism:

In the pervasive mentalization of physical relationships it is a trans-nature of human making, but with this inherent paradox: that it threatens the obsolescence of man himself, as increasing automation ousts him from the places of work where he formerly proved his humanhood. And there is a further threat: its strain on nature herself may reach a breaking point. (Jonas)

What he terms trans-naturing is now the mark of the transhuman and its egoist driven optimism. This sense of technological progress at the heart of our Faustian bargain and merger of science, corporate power, and technology into a full out war against life, nature, and the universe: a war of all against all. Domination and mastery. As Zizek will admonish we’ve all become material in the hands of these supposed Masters of the Universe, reduced to passive and empty forms: homo sacer, the subject reduced to bare life, is, in terms of Lacan’s theory of discourses, the objet a, the “other” of the University discourse worked upon by the dispositif of knowledge. (Zizek, KL 21952) Yet, this is not the gnosis (inner knowing) that saves, but rather the knowledge-as-Power as technological and scientific mastery that seeks to control us within, make of us cyborg-apparatuses – impersonal systems of indifference, tools in the arsenal of an elite brotherhood of capitalist agents-archons to further their ends and goals.

Bataille and Burroughs would see the beginnings of an exit from this trap, this prison in realizing that our greatest enemy is Language itself; that we are carefully integrated into a system of thought and feeling from birth (Foucault, Deleuze). We begin that long Bildung, the process of education that educes and imprints its codes and linguistic signs upon our brain, the cultural prison of mentalization: – we are shaped to the ideas of its external system of culture and thought, a power beyond us (the ideological crime-World); a transcendental system that is slowly internalized, grafted upon our nervous system, that controls us blindly in the very texture of what we believe is so essential to our lives, our selves. Our sense of self and being are mastered from the beginning by alien thoughts not our own, guided to ends we did not invent, shaped by desires we are not aware of nor would accept if we could only awaken from our deep sleep in this pervasive system of closure.

Navigating the borders between inclosure and exclosure, the thin membrane between noise and communication; the exacerbation of those forces that shift between immanent and transcendent relation, that score us with their tattoos, mark us out with their mappings, their cosmic laws of degradation. We fall asleep within this battlefield ignorant of its ruinous powers that control us, enforce their fatum. The task today is to disturb the sleep of those ideological slaves of thought, to awaken them from their long sleep in this alien crime-World where freedom is only another word for enslavement. If a rendition of aetheistic gnosis has any bearing at all it is to instill a gnosis (inner-knowing) against the crime-Worlds of Capital and its substrates shaping us internally through its intra-linguistic heritage, both material and immaterial; to begin once again that slow and methodical, one might say, merciless and cruel, awakening of the sleepers from their cultural vacuums, the vacuity of their repetitions and automations – the machinic circle of their desires.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 394-395). Norton. Kindle Edition.
  2. Hans Jonas. The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. (University of Chicago Press, 1985)

François Larulle: Future Struggle, Gnosis, and the last-Humaneity

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As that non-philosopher François Laruelle recently said “It is necessary to welcome a certain return of gnosis against philosophy, institutional and academic conformism (amongst other things), but we have to ask ourselves, how do we finally make room for it when it has been condemned to an eternal rebellion. Is it possible to introduce gnosis into the very foundations of thought, even if it means shaking those foundations? … If there is any future for rebellion (having a gnostic motif rather than a classically philosophical one) then it is a rediscovery of contemporary post-Marxist gnosis.” (Larulle, p. 189: Struggle And Utopia At The End Times Of Philosophy)

One of the dangers in any hyperstitional endeavor is to literalize what is figural and hyperbolic, spiritual and sacred, thereby turning what is a road to exuberance, waste, and expenditure into a campaign for political mastery and control. As I’ve begun restudying the ancient Gnostics and their heirs, the ancient dualisms both spiritual and political I’ve begun to see a pattern take shape as the ideologues of the past two centuries have battled over the political body of the world. Below is just a flight of anguish in the registry of such strangeness…

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The Cosmology of Nick Land: Bataille, Gnosticism, and Contemporary Physics

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We are so deeply mired in our philosophies as to have evolved nothing better than a sordid version of the void: nothingness. – Emile Cioran

Bataille seems to me far less an intellectual predicament than a sexual and religious one… – Nick Land

Contemporary Cosmology

As we approach Halloween I began thinking of current philosophical and poetic thought on the hidden world of things. Reading an article on NASA recently the authors reminded me how little we know about the universe. What little we know describes a universe in which most of the matter and energy that makes it up is invisible to both technology and the human equation, invisible to our senses, a ruin in the fabric of time. The stuff that we see around us in the universe: the stars, galaxies, suns, planets, etc. are made of baryonic matter which accounts for only 4.6 percent of the known universe. While 24 percent is made up of something scientists have ironically termed ‘cold dark matter’, leaving the rest of the universe in a seething ocean of what they like to call ‘dark energy’ which makes up a whopping 71.4 percent of the universe. As one article describes this dark stuff that is hidden from us, unrevealed and so far undetected but rather predicted by mathematical theorems:

It’s known as dark matter, which is itself a placeholder – like the x or y used in algebra class – for something unknown and heretofore unseen. One day, it will enjoy a new name, but today we’re stuck with the temporary label and its connotations of shadowy uncertainty.

Yet, underscoring the structure of this anomalous dark matter is the unqualified power of dark energy, a force that seems to run through all things, ourselves included – undetected and unbidden. We quietly run our eyes across the baryon spectrum of light and matter visible to our senses as if it were the greater part, when in fact it is but the miniscule and vagrant corruption of a ruinous thought – a kenoma or cosmic degradation.

Nick Land in his reading of Bataille will remind us all “energy must ultimately be spent pointlessly and unreservedly, the only questions being where, when, and in whose name this useless discharge will occur. Even more crucially, this discharge or terminal consumption… is the problem of economics.” (Land, 56) Might it also be the problem of cosmology? As we think of that seething sea of dark energy moving through us, its influx of unimaginable power flowing through our bodies and the universe one wonders just how close to the truth Bataille was as he dreamed of ‘expenditure’. Could it be that what we perceive around us, this baryonic matter is none other than the waste product of this vast ocean of dark matter and energy? And, might not the great engines of consumption, the stars, galaxies, and black holes at the center of these churning systems of heat-death be none other than the slow sepulchral consummation of even darker systems than we have as yet begun to imagine in our theoretic dreams of reason? or understanding?

What if all we see around us in this visible universe of dust and light is nothing but the byproduct of endless expenditure, an excess expunged by the engorgements of a darker world of forces that the ancient dreamers, shamans, and Gnostics could only hint at in their negative theologies, and our scientists can only mathematize in their theoretical alchemy of this universal degradation and catastrophic trauma? What if we are mere shit in the drift of things unseen? Dead waste in a floating sea of black impenetrability? The Big Bang nothing more than a burp in the body of some great blind entity roiling in its own excess? Is this madness, a metaphoric marshalling of strange tales from heresies of dead worlds?

Modern cosmology stripped of its ancient lineage of myth forces the cosmos into the procrustean bed of a bare and minimal system of holographs, strings, and vibrating systems of chaos and order. Has this given us anything better than the older myths? Is this universe bled of its fabrications, emptied of our desires, become a mere artifact of our insanity – an indifferent and essentially blind machine without purpose or telic motion? And, even if we revitalized a gnosis stripped of its redemptive qualities, its soteriological thrust how will we move those dark forces to reveal themselves? How  unconceal their potential by way of math and technology? And, to what ends? Utilitarian ends for some human destitution? A bid to enslave the elements, develop even greater destructive power than our atomic weaponry? Are we nothing more than sorcerers nibbling at the table of existence, seeking ways to tap into its secret machinations, control and master its dark blessing?

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The Angel of the Real

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Something old and terrible lies deep within the Mind,
a secret prejudice against time…

…………………..We travel among those images
where the visible and invisible begin to tear us
from our lives, seeking that which chance despises;
restless among those fragile thoughts we scatter
all the listless ones who gather round this void;
those remembrances, ghosts of memory and life unlived.
………Who are you to question those who’ve struggled so?
The empty world believes itself to be, and in being
attributes such illusory delights to light and eye
that even the pressure of this black night denies
them the very truth they seek among the blasted ruins;
these trivial games of intent, the subterfuge of ancient substance:
forms, angelic thoughts descending out of a transcendent dream;
fragments of a demented ecstasy, broken vessels
thrown everywhere… and, between…
.
….
Much closer to us is this dark impenetrableness, indifferent
to our desires, a realm of nonsense where neither Man nor Nature
holds us anymore, the meanings of our kind dissolved,
where the living take on the hue of the dead.

………………..If I were to hear the Call, the banter of the voices in the void,
how could I know its intention? If something slipped into this night of nights,
some fiery Angel of the Real, her wings frayed and twisted beyond telling
by the very forces of this strange earth, would I know as she knows?
Would I laugh at her weakness for coming here, for entering the blind kingdom,
breaching the gulf of shadows, disturbing the void, subtracting herself;
her voice trembling on the wind like a fallen monarch, whispering nonsense?
We who no longer believe in the myth of sanctity, our scorn
bringing us little comfort in this zone of silence and disparity,
why should we heed the voices of the dead, those Messengers
who walk between worlds, their chattering patter clamoring in the abyss?
Each of us thinks the answer that she seeks is some stable thought,
an idea to end all things, unravel the very texture of being,
reveal at last what is in the moment of its annihilation.

 …..Yet, in these vast silences nothing is and nothing remains
…….accept the impossible
…….and that sad breeze
falling through things, endlessly.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Georges Bataille: Quote of the Day!

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I live like a pig in the eyes of Christians without stopping myself at this laughable idea; this, from which I am in some way altered, is to burn: I suffer from not burning in my turn to the point of bringing myself so close to death that I breathe it in like the breath of a beloved.

A kind of hallucinating darkness causes me to slowly lose my head, communicates a contortion of all being toward the impossible. Towards who knows what hot, flowery, fatal explosion … in which I escape the illusion of a solid relationship between me and the world. A brothel is my true church, the only one insatiable enough. I can gluttonously seek the way saints burn, but their “requiescat” is cursed by my lightness. I have known ecstatic, illuminated repose, but should I have been chased from the glimpsed kingdom, if it had given me stability, I could only have cursed it.

– Georges Bataille. Guilty: Le Coupable

Midnight’s Consolamentum

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After midnight begins the intoxication of pernicious truths.
……….– E.M. Cioran

Things dark encircle us
(and in this nomadic wandering

nocturnal music tolls
against the outer sense of things)
as we scuttle across black seas,
inwardly around the indomitable
fierceness of this ruinous spark…

Children of a forgotten thought,
laborers in the negative,
shifting among the shadows
against the wall of night…
Silently moving among terrors
we come at last to the station of excess:
the cold allure that trembles on her lips,
the cartographic smile that disdains all use,
the perturbation of her luminous progeny:
Heimarmene’s scattered throng, alignments
and necessities; geometries of a merciless order;
lamentations between love and sleep…

Uselessness is our lot,
broken vessels of a blacker light.
Our blank gaze befits this zone of hate and dispersal.
The jackals rising in the cities: multitudes, blinded
followers of the insipid lie, harbingers of a new apocalypse,
cattle in the sewers of time; these denizens
who habituate silence and stone tombs, cherishing
a last tribute to the fetid god of solitaires: dreamers
dreaming of the nothingness to come,
the bastard and his lover who will chart our emptiness,
cross the gulf that separates time from time…

Did you truly think the lord of my deep mind
would harbor such doubts as this?

Wisdom fell long ago, her shade wandering among phantasms
where she seeks the hidden child among his broken toys;
her face shines among the solitudes, a remnant
who still believes, unlike us who long ago were thrown into this indifference.
Each one must work out her own salvation. The voices murmuring
like black angels begin the ceremony of death, midnight’s consolamentum.
The unholy water dripping onto her, the prying hands enfolding her carnal flesh,
her breath heaving in the warmth of a moonless night, delights…

Sparks flickering out one by one:
where laughter is the only consolation…


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Miracle of Being

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Why do we seek more than we can be?
What draws us beyond the limits of the possible?
Why do we crave what is not more than what is?
The eagle eyes the rabbit in the field,
his eyes shaped to a symmetry of death
he does not know or understand;
yet, does he question this, or ask the sun to answer him,
force from the flaring stars some strange meaning, cold and pure?
Why do we among animals bewail our fate, cause such misery
against ourselves and strive to escape the self
we so little know and understand?

You spent a lifetime seeking answers to questions you’ve already forgotten.
Why trouble the day with these old shoes, continue walking
these same trails, studying the patterns in the clouds for a sign?
Does the body gain some reprieve from the truth if you laugh?
And if you smile at that frowning one will it change anything, anything at all?

Every morning outside my window a yellow rose rises freshly dewed,
the petals gleaming with moisture, with those tributes of earth and sky;
yet, this blanched flower fades day by day,
and will like those repetitions of its life
follow the course of things into oblivion,
a slow unpraised vanishing to where?

My library is filled with talking heads, scattered thoughts from millennia past,
the squandering’s of men now dead and gone,
who once like me questioned what?

Is there comfort in these gray days when life begins its descent,
when the summit’s joy no longer calls, the mind’s secret agenda fades?
If one did come out of that strangeness what would you tell her,
what words of power and knowledge, gifts of a lifetime’s tally?
Would she release you from that debt, the burden of your humanity?
The old enemy laughs in the shadows whispering his doubts,
knowing you better than you know yourself; how defiant are you now?
There are moments when you want it to end, for the music in the moon
to move you one last time, to wander out of this flesh
like some fragment of silence; but that would be to alter your course,
to change the miracle of being, forever.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Georges Bataille: The Struggle Against the Absence of Authority

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Evil is certainly not what hypocritical misunderstanding has tried to make of it; is it not really concrete freedom, the troubling break with taboo?
– Georges Bataille, Toward Real Revolution

For Bataille all past revolutions were against Sovereignty, against societies based on monarchy or its derivatives. In our time one could not follow even the Communists of the October Revolution. Why? Simply put, power in these older societies still resided in the figure of a Leader, in modern democratic societies this power is absent. In modern democratic states and societies power shifts between two tendencies, each of which cannot overcome the other except through supposed political change of parties so that without “a crowned head to unite the opposition against it, no lasting union is formed; for if a chief of state or head of government does become the object of a general outcry, the institutions normally at work will eliminate him, thus satisfying a portion of the disaffected. Political crises within these regimes develop differently and in a radically contrary direction from those within autocracy. Under autocracy, it is authority which grows intolerable. In democracy, it is the absence of authority”.1

Modern Bourgeois democracies are clock-work mechanisms, pendulums that shift Left to Right and back again as one or the other side moves too far toward an extreme position, thereby forcing a shift in the opposite direction. Yet, as we’ve seen in our own time, politics is stage-show, a sham for the masses that stages a theatre of media-propaganda to entertain rather than resolve difficult social, economic, or political issues. Nothing gets done. But that’s the point, both the Left and Right sold out to the powers beyond government long ago: the bankers, the stockholders, the rich and elites that squander the resources of the planet and keep us attuned to the charade of a democracy that has become for the most part an oligarchs paradise and for the oppressed  and exploited, the excluded and the poor of the world an End Game without an outlet.

Bataille wrote this essay back in 1937 but it is as fresh as ever. Bataille was a singular figure who attacked both Communist and Bourgeois democratic forms of government. In many of the essays of this book he was developing an answer to the rise of fascism in his time, as well as the dark fall of communism into Stalin’s terrors. Throughout his life he would follow Nietzsche’s diagnosis of Idealism wherever it was found, attacking any form of closed systematic systems of philosophical or political subterfuge. An arch anti-Platonist and anti-representationalism he strove to develop an attack against both discursive (linguistic) entrapments and any system of closure that tried to contain humans in enslavement.

What we’re seeing in the global world today is a repetition of this very absence of power across the civilized world of which Bataille suggests is an “absence of authority”:

Bourgeois society is an organization with no true power, which has always relied on a precarious balance, and which now, as its balance weakens, is expiring in powerlessness. It must be fought not as authority, but rather as absence of authority. To attack a capitalist government is to attack a blind, heartless, inhuman, truly unspeakable leadership, which strides helplessly, stupidly toward the abyss. Against this garbage we must use direct imperative violence, direct construction of the basic force of an uncompromising authority. (p. 35)

Some mistook his statements as harboring fascistic components, yet if one carefully reads his statements one comes to a direct opposition to both Fascism, Communism, and Bourgeois democracy under capitalists forms as totalistic systems of enslavement against which he was an arch-enemy. As he’d state it:

The crisis of bourgeois democratic regimes leads neither to the putsch nor to popular uprising; it regularly results in the development of organic movements, movements of recomposition to which important politicians are forced to give way. This move has until now been undeniably to the benefit of social conservatism of the blindest sort. Only the lackeys of capitalism could and would undertake it. Under the mask of demagogy, they have tried to reconstruct the social structure only the better to curb the oppressed. They have, however, discovered new methods of propaganda fitting to a new situation; they have exploited the sole possibilities of effective action against the dissolving regime. …

We must cease to believe that methods invented by our adversaries are necessarily bad. On the contrary, we must, in turn, use those methods against them. (p. 35)Bataille’s study of the Left showed him that its methods and goals could only ever be provisional at best, that their alignment with the oppressed and hatred of all authority allowed them to act nobly, yet brought them to a point of complete destruction and destabilization but yielded no ability to reconstitute new social, economic, or political forms beyond this destructive tendency.

Sadly, in most instances the Left during most crisis developed a their ideological constructs based on overcoming autocracy in any form, which cruelly led the opposing forces of religion, state, and the older conservative tendencies of economics, etc. to reassert themselves in altered forms thereby once again entrapping the base proletariat in new traps of exploitation. A circle of closure that must itself be overcome. All systems based loosely as Marx’s was on Hegel’s closed system were tainted by Idealisms. Marx and Lenin were tainted by Idealisms of a merciless kind, a materialism that was itself the epitome of Idealism.

Against the abstract and rational systems and schemas that most hard core revolutionary idealisms have forged their organic and limited insurrections Bataille sought something baser, closer to the actual world of relations and realize that “a given form of action is on principle useful in either of two directions, just as a cannon can be directed eastward or westward. Only the analysis of the political situation at our disposal, seen in relation to goals pursued, allows us to decide whether or not recourse to a given form in a clearly defined case is valid” (p. 39).

Bataille was clearly working toward a theory of events, of a timebound register of action rather than some abstract schematic or universal system of thought. As he’d question it we cannot be sure of the direction or ends to which such mass movements will eventually turn, nor can we control those outcomes: “This being so, extreme prudence is in order from the start. How is one to know in advance that this mass, caught in an evolution which may somewhat alter its composition, will not, eventually, be propelled by nationalist goals or by forces hostile to workers’ freedom? How is one to know that a movement which first appears to be antifascist will not rapidly develop toward fascism? (p. 39)”

As he saw it we we’re in a battle against two competing forces in the modern world. The first forces them to kill each other in the setting of nation against nation(Capitalist democracies); the second forces them to work for an inhuman minority of producers at a time when the latter have become blind and impotent (Communist regimes). Neither of these systems of government offer true freedom or individual sovereignty. Both are enslaved to power regimes that profit only a select elite and minority. “We are fighting to transform the impotent world of human society in which we live; we are fighting so that human omnipotence may free itself from a past of misery and freely distribute the world’s riches. (p. 40)” Against commodity capitalism or communism Bataille struggled for the emancipation of all oppressed peoples of the earth.

Against both Fascist and Communist systems Bataille believed in a third alternative, an “organic movement for the liberation of the exploited, of an organic movement not of national consciousness and moral slavery, but of the universal consciousness committed only to the struggle against war and to the hatred of the legacy of past constraints.” (p. 40) In his own time Bataille looked to the Popular Front as typifying this embodied form of organic movement. What he’d hoped for did not come to pass. What Bataille believed was that we must relinquish our democratic illusions which still prevent us from seeing that a government formed under a parliamentary organization can only be weak, ineffective, and disastrous. That ultimately the necessary task for any future form of government set up a “revolutionary authority which will set the capitalists trembling in their banks, which will liberate the exploited, and which alone can bring about the passionate union of the peoples of the world.” (p. 41)

Yet, one wonders what such revolutionary authority would constitute after the revolution? Humans seem to repeat the same mistakes in every new generation because we are bound to those inevitable and real tendencies that come not from some external realm of cosmic horror, but from the very real drives and impulses that so immanently control our conscious perceptions of reality from within. Bound and trapped in neurochemical systems or organic being we still hang onto the notion that consciousness once free of the traps of external coercion will suddenly manifest some new social form of freedom. Yet, history continues to prove otherwise. Are we truly victims of our own evolutionary blindness? Are we shaped to powers we still believe we can control? Is the brain after all an accidental machine or organic and chemical reactions that like other physical and animal systems binds us to a heritage of survival mechanisms that disallows the very abstract notions of freedom we so heartily pursue. Why else to we continually allow ourselves to be brought back into chains with another turn of the wheel of time? Bataille would turn from external political concerns toward the base material of our inner experience seeking answers to modern man’s dilemmas.

Bataille in his time pushed the limits of inner experience to extremes, forming a world of fragments and aphoristic gleams into that hinterland of shadows which rarely comes across in language, and never in communication; yet, it was communication that would haunt Bataille’s thought most of all, that unique ability to form a community of beings based on communication rather than language. He sought in his vision of primitive society a way back to those early ways of perceiving and being that we’ve all lost in the struggles of power within our trivial pursuits of economic comfort. We are accidents of time who have forgotten our uniqueness; and yet, he knew nostalgia was a trap, too, one that would lock us into a world of false images, dreams. There is no going back, only in. We must discover within ourselves that power that can answer the externality of the world that seeks to trap us in its systems and schemas of closure. Between ecstasy and horror we  hang by a thread like shadows on a wall moving silently in a black night of fate and silence that is both unknowing and without remembrance. The only answer to such externality is that sardonic laughter that seems to echo through time like a merciless litany to those dark twins, eros and death…

The fate of human existence thus appears as linked to a small number of beings who are totally without power. For some carry within themselves far more than they, in their state of moral decay, believe; when the surrounding crowd and their representatives place in bondage all that concerns them. He who has been schooled to the limit through meditation upon tragedy ought not to take his pleasure in the “symbolic expression” of destructive forces; rather, he should instruct his fellows in the consequences. He should, by his firmness and persistence, lead them to organize, to become, in contrast to the fascists and Christians, other than the degraded objects of their adversaries’ contempt. For it is incumbent upon them to impose chance upon the masses who demand of all men a life of slavery – chance, meaning that which they are, but from which, through failure of will, they abdicate. (p. 45)


1. Georges Bataille: Writings on Laughter, Sacrifice, Nietzsche, Un-Knowing translated by Annette Michelson with essays by Rosalind Krauss, Annette Michelson, and Allen S. Weiss (MIT Press)

Georges Bataille as Parodist of Our Monstrous Life

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…he does not write masterpieces, he writes against them…”
…….– Georges Bataille

from Bataille’s essay The Human Face:

It was only until the first years of the nineteenth century that the extravagance of involuntary contradiction and of senile paradox had free rein; since then white men and women have, as we know, tenaciously persisted in their efforts to regain, at last, a human face. Those wasp-waisted corsets scattered throughout provincial attics are now the prey of moths and flies, the hunting grounds of spiders. As to the tiny cushions which long served to emphasize those forms of extreme plumpness, they now haunt only the ghastly brains of those greybeards, expiring daily beneath their weird grey bowlers, who still dream of flabby torsos strangled in the obsessive play of lace and whalebone. And within the image of the earth’s globe seen trampled underfoot by a dazzling American film star in a bathing suit, we may catch the sound, muffled but heady nonetheless, of a cock’s crow. And why blush at that sudden fascination? Why not admit that our few remaining heady dreams are traced by the swift bodies of young American girls? Thus if anything can still draw sobs for all that has just vanished, it is no longer a great singer’s beauty, but mere perversity, sordid and deluded. To us, so many strange, merely half-monstrous individuals seem to persist in empty animation, like the jingle of the music box, in innocent vice, libidinous heat, lyrical fumes. So that despite all antithetical obsession, there is absolutely no thought of dispensing with this hateful ugliness, and we will yet catch ourselves some day, eyes suddenly dimmed and brimming with inadmissible tears, running absurdly towards some provincial haunted house, nastier than flies, more vicious, more rank than a hairdresser’s shop.

Georges Bataille’s Refutation of Hegel

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from a letter to Alexandre Kojève by Bataille:

If action (‘doing’) is – as Hegel says – negativity, the question arises as to whether the negativity of one who has ‘nothing more to do’ disappears or remains in a state of ‘unemployed negativity’. Personally, I can only decide in one way, being myself precisely this ‘unemployed negativity’… I imagine that my life – or, better yet, its aborting, the open wound that is my life – constitutes all by itself the refutation of Hegel’s closed system.

Georges Bataille: The Smokestack

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In 1929 Bataille would see in the smokestack the monstrosity of abstraction at the heart of modernity, a disease of the mind that still guides the dreams of those engineers of a posthuman transcendence who seek a future without-us, a future where humans become machinic and enter the ultra-abstractions of an affectless world, indifferent and apathetic. Born of metalloid nightmares of an Idealism run amok: fearful of death, seeking the immortalization of egoistic myths of an outmoded psychology of duration and identity, forgetful of the entropic effect of time that drives it all we wander the Hollywood dreamlands of a bloated and mortuary aestheticism founded on nothing more than the fetid desires to escape ourselves and enter the very abstractions that would deign destroy us. Bataille reminds us of the memories of his childhood:

When I review my own memories, it seems that for our generation, out of all the world’s various objects first glimpsed in early childhood, the most fear-inspiring architectural form was by no means the church, however monstrous, but rather certain large smokestacks, true channels of communication between the ominously dull, threatening sky and the muddy, stinking earth surrounding the textile and dye factories.

Today, when the truly wretched aesthete, at a loss for objects of admiration, has invented the contemptible “beauty” of the factory, the dire filth of those enormous tentacles appears all the more revolting; the rain puddles at their feet, the empty lots, the black smoke half-beaten down by the wind, the piles of slag and dross are the sole true attributes of those gods of a sewer Olympus. I was not hallucinating when, as a terrified child, I discerned in those giant scarecrows, which both excited me to the point of anguish and made me run sometimes for my life, the presence of a fearful rage. That rage would, I sensed, later become my own, giving meaning to everything spoiling within my own head and to all that which, in civilized states, looms up like carrion in a nightmare. I am, of course, not unaware that for most people the smokestack is merely the sign of mankind’s labor, and never the terrible projection of that nightmare which develops obscurely, like a cancer, within mankind. Obviously one does not, as a rule, continue to focus on that which is seen as the revelation of a state of violence for which one bears some responsibility. This childish or untutored way of seeing is replaced by a knowing vision which allows one to take a factory smokestack for a stone construction forming a pipe for the evacuation of smoke high into the air-which is to say, for an abstraction. Now, the only possible reason for the present dictionary is precisely to demonstrate the error of that sort of definition.

It should be stressed, for example, that a smokestack is only very tentatively of a wholly mechanical order. Hardly has it risen toward the first covering cloud, hardly has the smoke coiled round within its throat, than it has already become the oracle of all that is most violent in our present-day world, and this for the same reason, really, as each grimace of the pavement’s mud or of the human face, as each part of an immense unrest whose order is that of a dream, or as the hairy, inexplicable muzzle of a dog. That is why, when placing it in a dictionary, it is more logical to call upon the little boy, the terrified witness of the birth of that image of the immense and sinister convulsions in which his whole life will unfold, rather than the technician, who is necessarily blind.1

The image of the blind technician of modernity is the frayed shadow cast upon futurity by that first lord of time, the Demiurge, the blind artisan and potter of this dementia we all now live in… and, this, too, is illusion. As Bataille would define it most materialists have been hoodswinked by Idealism:

Most materialists, even though they may have wanted to do away with all spiritual entities, ended up positing an order of things whose hierarchical relations mark it as specifically idealist. They situated dead matter at the summit of a conventional hierarchy of diverse facts, without perceiving that in this way they gave in to an obsession with the ideal form of matter, with a form that was closer than another to what matter should be. Dead matter, the pure idea, and God in fact answer a question in the same way… a question that can only be posed by philosophers, the question of the essence of things, precisely of the idea by which things become intelligible. (Visions of Excess, p. 15)

Against Plato, formalism and humanism among other illusions Bataille would turn toward base matter borne of a teratology of the uniqueness and monstrosity of humanity, and the derisive indifference of the natural in man and Nature that defines us as unique celebrants of this monstrous universe of catastrophe and collapse.


  1. October 36: Georges Bataille – Writings on Laughter, Sacrifice, Nietzsche, Un-Knowing – Spring 1986 by Douglas; Krauss, Rosalind; Michelson, Annette Crimp (Author)

Moon Dust

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Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind. – from a plaque left on a dead moon

We used to look up and dream of a goddess,
now we know she is mere dust,
a world of rock, cosmic waste and debris;
the life we gave her, the myths we dreamed for her
have all withdrawn into the mindless histories of faded poets and priests;
now men walk on her ashen face like bugs in glass cages.
In another age the men of earth scoped her shadowed demarcations
across the yearly round, counting the frayed edge of light, the patterns
that flowed against the night giving shape to seed and love.
Knowledge of her timings once shaped the rituals of seasonal rites,
her mysteries – the flows of blood in women’s wombs;
her bright horns displaying the power of life and death – 
a bull’s dark secrets; now she casts her bone hood
upon believer and unbeliever alike, her mythical danse macabre
secreting strange roarings under black trees…

We have stripped her of her primordial crown, brought her low
and sunk our bitter teeth in her shame, and for our trouble
we wander this shorn planet in ghostly silence
harboring an even colder breath and dreamless sleep;
Time once scored her sky with tears,
now even the tears fall into the abyss beyond all light.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Meditations in Black (1) – Aberrations of the Impossible

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Aberrations of the Impossible

“Man must vanquish himself…” – E.M. Cioran

At first it had been a comfort discovering that others shared one’s secret desires, that one’s transgressions were nothing more than the derivative embellishments of the human condition, a slight swerve or deviation from the strange and bizarre aberrations of the impossible. Nothing special. Such were the days of innocence when one still believed that one’s inner experience was sacrosanct, a temple of thought and emotion where one could discover the most arcane and revolting truths. Then came the realization that one shared too much with the others: one wanted something unique, something that was not shared by those ruinous tribes of the human; something hidden and away, forbidden. One sought above all for darker desecrations, inroads into those strange relations no one else had ever experienced or could experience. One sought above all an absolute experience, one without qualification or precedent.

Absolute Evil without equal or repetition, a singular thought that would isolate one from the others, make of one a dark and impenetrable system of non-knowledge where even solipsism begins to twitch and quiver under the darker reaches of some forgotten memory of thought, a thought without-the-human, a blind thought of the absolute indifference of things and nothingness… a thought emptied of its content – a parodic thought lost within the burnt out dust bins of dead stars, their broken vessels and fateful furnaces of ash and frozen tears strewn across the wastelands of decaying galaxies among the forgotten ruins of Time. 

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Giacomo Leopardi: The Nothingness of Things

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“It is a property of works of genius that, even when they represent vividly the nothingness of things, even when they clearly show and make you feel the inevitable unhappiness of life, even when they express the most terrible despair, nevertheless to a great soul that finds itself in a state of extreme dejection, disenchantment, nothingness, boredom, and discouragement about life, or in the most bitter and deathly misfortune (whether on account of lofty, powerful passions or something else), such works always bring consolation,  and rekindle enthusiasm, and, though they treat and represent nothing but death, they restore, albeit momentarily, the life that it had lost.

“And so, while that which is seen in the reality of things grieves and kills the soul, when seen in imitation or any other form in works of genius, it opens and revives the heart. In fact, just as the author who described and felt so powerfully the vanity of illusions, but still preserved a great fund of them and gave ample proof of this by conveying their vanity so accurately, in the same way, the reader, however disillusioned both about himself and about what he reads, is yet drawn by the author into the same deception and illusion that he experienced and that are hidden in the most intimate recesses of his spirit. And the recognition of the irredeemable vanity and falsity of all beauty and all greatness is itself a kind of beauty and greatness that fills the soul when it is conveyed by a work of genius. And the spectacle of nothingness is itself a thing in these works, and seems to enlarge the reader’s soul, to raise it up and to make it take satisfaction in itself and its despair. (A great thing, and sure mother of pleasure and enthusiasm, and magisterial effect of poetry when it succeeds in enhancing the reader’s concept of himself, and of his misfortunes, and of his own dejection and annihilation of spirit.) 

“In addition, the feeling of nothingness is the feeling of something dead and deathly. But when this feeling is vivid, as in the case I am describing, its vividness prevails in the reader’s mind over the nothingness of the thing that it makes him feel, and the soul receives life (if only fleetingly) from the very force with which it feels the perpetual death of things, and its own death. For no small effect of knowing the great nothing, and no less painful, is the indifference and insensibility that it very commonly inspires, and must naturally inspire, toward nothingness itself. This indifference and insensibility is removed by the reading or contemplation of a work of genius: it makes us sensible to the nothingness of things…1


  1. Leopardi, Giacomo (2013-07-16). Zibaldone (pp. 175-176). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Eugene Thacker: The Horror of Philosophy

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“Nothing matters…” – Cioran

On discovering that the earth is not our earth the philosopher wandered in exile and solitude among the ruins of a depleted thought of earth, a nonhuman earth, indifferent to our needs or our desires; a planet devoid of any human taint or the corruption and degradation of an Idea, a place where even the name “human” had no meaning or comfort much less a reason for being. Thus began the disenchantment of the human rather than of the earth: a slow process of alienation; or, should we say disalienation in which the human project vanishes into the nonhuman indifference of an impersonal and impervious realm of nonbeing. Here the philosopher would at last divest himself of thought and being, become one with the nonbeings of that vastation which is the immutable and indifferent face of chaos. Here the horror of philosophy would be enacted. A meditation in silence and blackness. Where the nothingness that is and the nothingness that is not would cross those fantastic waverings between thought and thought. A realm that had forgotten the human animal, a realm without a reason for being, a world without us. At last the non-philosopher stood before the unknown – devoid of thought, sensible only of the vast nothingness of things, depleted and alone among the ruins of time he gazed on what could not be named: the absolute indifference beyond which all names go silent in ignorance…

In the past few days I read through Eugene Thacker’s trilogy on the horror of philosophy that seemed more like an absolute meditation in darkness and blackness, nullity and nothingness, a dark diver’s adventure into the realms of secret oblivions, spaces of silence and nonbeing; of the emptiness of Śūnyatā (emptiness without mind or thought). In fact this trilogy seemed more like a series of tentative movements around a black hole, dipping here and there into the dark mystery of that burnt horizon of thought beyond which is nothing, nothing at all: a dark impenetrable limit beyond which thought is no longer thought but is something else altogether – an event.

One can imagine these meditations like a series of woodcuts where the endless iconology of a forgotten language of nightmares and inhuman horrors is traced, a hidden world yielding its energetic and unholy silences, scratches and screeches from the hinterlands of thought; of something so real that if exposed to it’s dark mystery one would enter the final shadows of a virulent and total annihilation. As Thacker will offer by way of warning in the first volume the aim of his books is to explore the relationship between philosophy and horror, through this motif of the “unthinkable world.”1 The notion of what comes after thought and philosophy, the demise of a two-thousand year project seems on the horizon to many these days. Will the sciences uncover the dark secrets of our brains, will the neuroimaging devices unlock the strange worlds of our thought like so many neurons firing across the abyss of the brain’s secret programs? Or will we rather enter a nonreligious age of atheistic mysticism, monks of a new and darker truth where nonbeing rather than Being becomes the new order of nonknowledge rather than knowledge. An age of non-philosophers and strange thought experiments that enter into the black contours of a forbidden othering of thought? A collapse or apocalypsis of thought? A thanatopolis of the abyss where nonbeing asserts its vita negativum, or a drift among the blank spaces between the stars – a probing of the infinite voids where nothingness begins to move in the silences and ignorance of a last thought?

Along the way Thacker visits the ancient enclaves of cenobites in their solitary cells, the mad monks of the desert whose mystic paths led to the unknowing powers of secret thoughts; of dark mystics of a negative and negating internal worlds of self-divestiture; to the generosity and vitalistic organicism of German Idealism; the estrangement and cosmic pessimism of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and H.P. Lovecraft. He will visit the broken ruins of thought in Georges Bataille and many other lesser lights, including the traditions of the Kyoto School of Japan where the emptiness of things is revealed, where the West meets the East in an exchange that tempts us to broker the nothingness and nullity of Being itself.

In these works he’ll read philosophy as if it were horror fiction, and horror fiction as if it were philosophy. He’ll read both from a non-philosophical language of atheistic mysticism that brings with it a deep knowledge of the ancient threads of Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic, Decadent, Symbolist, Surrealist, and other artistic, religious, and atheistic endeavors through art, literature, poetry and mystical writings of Eastern and Western  Heritages. At times Thacker will enter his text in a personal manner allowing us to see a man grappling with thought that is non-thought from within its paradoxical estrangement from the human, and its temptation between its emergence and its final dispersal into the unhuman. For at the center and circumference of these works is the strange theme of thought itself as agent of its own unbinding into the unhuman, and of how men and women have grappled with this unnamable thing that has for better or worse made of us what we are and begun the process of disinvesting us of Being. Thacker will seek in his dark and atheistic mystic quest an end to the human project, an end to the very thing that has given us this long unyielding destiny into the void, an end to the human and the beginning of the unhuman as it manifests itself in the dark contours of outer thought at its limits. This horizon around which Thacker like some philoastronaut revolves in spiraling and concentric nonphilosophical movement, his divagation upon a naming and unaming of thought itself as it sinks into the black hole of an immanent revelation from which there will be no return – here, just here he situates the horror of philosophy and the philosophy of horror; a paradoxical relation between terms that cannot be reduced to any human meaning, but both share and inhabit the space of nonthought and unbeing. A space of nonreasoning where the principle of sufficient philosophy gives way to a new hyperchaotic time of pure voidic immersion, where thought empties itself of its conceptual baggage and suddenly drifts into that nonphilosophical zone of experience where only the dark mystics of nonknowledge dwell.

What he seeks is “the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility – the thought of the unthinkable that philosophy cannot pronounce but via a non-philosophical language” (p. 2). Ultimately his works on “horror” are a non-philosophical attempt to think about the world-without-us philosophically. Here culture is the terrain on which we find attempts to confront an impersonal and indifferent world-without-us, an irresolvable gulf between the world-for-us and the world-in-itself, with a void called the Planet that is poised between the World and the Earth. (p. 9) Moving between the pure abstract realms of Kantian thought to the visceral and animalistic peregrinations of the Comte de Lautréamont  (Ducasse) he will treat of both the expansive and intensive worlds at the edge of thought and body (senses), as well as our views of the natural and Nature. He’ll explore vitalist traditions of unholy matter and its generosity from the early German Idealists through Deleuze of a deep Will (Life-Death). As well as the materialist pessimisms of a panoply of major and minor philosophers into their respective infiltration of current popular horror literature.

If you haven’t read his works then do it. Whether one agrees or disagrees there is a great deal to ponder. Like many thinkers of our moment – I think of Quentin Meillassoux in this regard – Thacker’s main thrust is to overturn the “principle of sufficient reason” which has grounded philosophy for far too long. His own cosmic pessimism following the likes of Schopenhauer, H.P. Lovecraft, Ligotti, Zappfe, Cioran and others. Shifting between a pessimism of indifference and malignancy, he seems at times to harken back to the old gnostics who were fated to explore the extremes of excess in libertinage and asceticism, fecundity and anti-natalist negation. Yet, over and over one is sparked that his mission is to discover in all these various traditions and ruins of time a form of atheistic mysticism: an inhuman system of nonphilosophy and nonknowledge that is devoid of the corruption and taint of the human, a nonhuman mysticism based on the impersonal and indifference of the universe without-us. One wonders if such a thing is possible?

Once we disembark from the known realms of human thought, abandon the worlds of philosophical speculation and the groundings this entails in the human animal, who will be there to communicate; or, is this ultimately a mystic exercise in total silence? Without the human will it be much like the old zen koan of “If a tree falls who is there to hear it?” No one and nothing, or everyone and everything? A paradox that is irresolvable for thought as we’ve come to know it? Shall we admit with those pessimists that like the old preacher of Ecclesiastes:

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.2

And, yet, in the wavering between the marvelous and the uncanny we shift in that realm of the fantastic where as Thacker will remind us:

Matter is unstable, unpredictable, innovative, ambivalent – especially when the matter is the stuff of our own bodies, often obeying an occult logic of its own, continuing to live bit by bit, continuing to die bit by bit. Perhaps the various “miracles” that populate supernatural horror are, in a way, variations of holy matter. Except that the world of supernatural horror stories is a secular world, where no one believes, at least not without empirical “proof.” And yet there occur in the normal, day-to-day world irruptions of paradoxical matter: from the living dead to the undead, from human-animal metamorphoses to creatures that have no name, from resurrected bodies to autonomous body parts, from ominous and animate objects to accursed secret books, from the atheistic passion plays of “splatterhorror” to the mesmerizing dissipations of “cosmic horror.” Matter behaving indifferently to the self-conscious human beings that it composes and decomposes. An unholy matter…3

I have to admit the only criticisms for me were that he does not go far enough, that he stays with the outer realms of this dark heritage, that he does not explore the actual experiential dimension in a personal and actual way. By that I mean his own personal risk and movement into an atheistic mysticism. (One wants an exploration from the inside rather than a pure philosophical portrayal or history of others experiments. Although there are times that Thacker’s own personae will almost break through into the text… one wants more of that personalism in his impersonal thrust into the unhuman.) He explores those who have themselves sacrificed all (Ducasse, Bataille, Medieval Mystics, etc.), their minds, sanity, hearts to enter the blackness of this unhuman zone of silence without-us. That he gives a hint of an atheistic mysticism without providing a road map to its dark heart is something we hope to see in a future work, a more personal investigation into the experiential dimensions as in Bataille (Inner Experience, Guilty, On Nietzsche, etc.).

One sees a tentative almost academic distancing between what he’s uncovered and its actual hard core inner work. As if he were fine with peering into this dark hell hole of thought, but hopes only to be a visitor rather than a participant of its corruption and failures. One must enter the labyrinth, experiment in the darkness within this unholy dimension of thought, be ready to expose and risk one’s sanity. Otherwise one becomes a chronicler rather than a dark knight of its strange mysteries of unbinding. To know what cannot be known is to enter the sacrifice of one’s own mind, become a part of that unhuman sphere where no thought can save us nor is salvation even an option. In this realm only the erotic violence of excess is allowed. A metamorphoses of mutant thought both indifferent and inhuman can only come by way of divestiture, by sacrificing the human to a thought that has strangled us and kept us bound to a false image of the universe. Maybe this is the horror of philosophy that it must become horror – enter its own mad chambers of impure thought, divest itself of any sustaining “principle of sufficient reason”, walk free of the ground and enter the groundless ground of its own forgotten existence, enter the hellish paradise of unbounded thought where freedom is nothingness outside beings and Being.


One can find all of Eugene Thacker’s works here…

  1. Thacker, Eugene (2011-08-26). In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy vol. 1 . NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
  2. Carroll, Robert; Stephen Prickett (2008-04-17). The Bible: Authorized King James Version (Oxford World’s Classics) (Kindle Locations 21398-21400). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Thacker, Eugene (2015-04-24). Tentacles Longer Than Night: Horror of Philosophy: Vol 3 (Kindle Locations 2863-2870). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Seeping Into Blackness

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Seek not the night, it will not find you.

Leave your skin on the shores of day,
For night will not walk away.

Seeping into blackness;
wings,
screeds of dead stars;
fragments: degradation’s sacrifice –
pain and silence,  – a vita negativa

an excess in squalor and torpor
leading to nocturnes and lamentations, knives and daggers;
before the shadows fall,
breath of time;
a slow immersion, decay and absorption:

effacement of the human…

quietly sifting databanks of nothingness,
slipping into forgetfulness

until the sun blanks out


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

John Ashbery: Love and Remembrance

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Funny the way the sun can bring you around to her.
– John Ashbery, Flowchart

John Ashbery would admit in the preface to his Charles Elliot Norton lectures published in Other Traditions the difficulty of “transforming a lecture into an essay, the spoken language and the written one being subtly at odds with one another”.1 He would add that it might have been even harder for him since the “spoken language is the one I use when I write poetry”.

It was their choice, after all, that spurred us to feats of the imagination.
……….– Hotel Lautréamont, John Ashbery

As history would have it John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuler would form the nexus of a timeworld that seemed to connect New York and a specific mindset later to be described as the New York School of Poets. As David Lehman will describe it this era would define a generation, and bring the friendship, artistic collaboration, and the fervent impetus of a maximum creative and intensive explosion that would not only define an era but would become the last authentic avant-garde movement of the twentieth-century. (p. 1) As he reports it the “liberating effect of their writing became increasingly evident in the passionate, experimental, taboo-breaking” movement of the mind chronicling its own estranged relations in a virtuosity that would efface the world and replace it with the tones of wit and irony, jest and calibrated prankishness. (p. 2) Escaping the New Critical idioms they explored the strangeness of the new in their own way, creating a poetry that absorbed the Real of a revitalized modernity – that like the Beats, crossed pop-art with a hyperaesthetic appeal and, yet, thumbed its poetic nub at polite decorum; but unlike them the New York School was not exactly apolitical but rather not overtly political in the Beats sense; instead theirs was more of an undermining of the linguistic straight-jacket imposed on poetry of the era by the New Critical idioms regulatory systems of rhetoric and rules, and a breathing back into the life of the streets once again a poetry where language once more spoke as people speak rather than in the false and artificial tones of some refined and rarefied aesthetic snobbery.

So much that happens happens in small ways
That someone was going to get around to tabulate, and then never did…
– Someone You Have Been Before, John Ashbery

Ashbery’s oeuvre is so large and prolific it would be unsound to plumb its depths in one essay. I wouldn’t even try. No. I just happened to take up one of my favorites, Flowchart this morning because of its seeming natural patterns of thought and remembrance. As he will remind us in part V “Nothing is required of you, yet all must render an accounting.”2 If it’s not required then why must we all render this accounting? Who requires it? There being no God to judge us, who else requires the mind’s accounting of its life, its history? The mind itself, history? As if history were itself some formidable judge, a sort of anonymous angelic thought of time (History? Benjamin) that holds all the sanctioned facts of knowledge deep within its textual menagerie; some stone slab of marble marked out by its slow and methodical erasure of the non-necessary? (But isn’t everything necessary and fated in history?) And how does one give an account anyway? Narrative, fragment? A pure transcription of the brain’s neuronal record? Or some filtered artistic expression brokered by certain aesthetic marmalade, an iconic artifact hiding the allegory of the soul like some dark enchantment that must be deciphered layer by layer?

One might like to rest or read,
Take walks, celebrate the kitchen table,
Pat the dog absentmindedly, meanwhile
Thinking gloomy thoughts…
…………– Ostensibly, John Ashbery

Is this a hermetic art or realist, a bare reckoning of facticity or iconic embellishment? A reckoning that would absorb the mind’s own accounting, tabulate or compute the carefully weighed and sorted gold of the mind itself? A sort of cost analysis of one’s depleted thought, the amnesia of one who has lost so much, the drift of days spent mindlessly moving along some hidden line or trajectory, a line of flight from the mind rather than into its darker chambers? An entry into the Abyss of a vast labyrinth where the brain’s synapses trace the narrow corridors of a ‘space of thought’ without a center or periphery? But of course to render an accounting or reckoning is to restore or yield up something that has been excluded, hidden, covered over; to repeat again what was once so vivid and pertinent, to bring back that moment of time’s secret rendezvous where the iconic images of one’s life floated among the shadows; those patterns folded in some neuronal knot like so many memories waiting in silence, prisoners of time that have been locked away in a chest in the Mind’s Attic like so many ghosts or specters awaiting their blood gift: those ancient festivals of the dead in ancient Greece where the old ones returned to life, and were celebrated in feasts of plenty where Dionysian libations abounded and psychotropic leaves of hawthorn were chewed.

What kind of mentality
causes men to commit suicide in their air-conditioned glass boxes?
………..– Korean Soap Opera, John Ashbery

a

Or maybe like of one Giorgio De Chirico’s metaphysical period pieces its a shadowy veiling, a revealing of something that must be “happening beyond the point where they turn and become mere fragments”; a framing or enframing of the world as if seen through a window in a passing train. A glimpse of the hidden life that is never complete but always in movement and process: a narrative stream of the mind’s own secret quest as an endless dialogue among the fragments of a life between the boundaries of the seen and unseen Real.

In the real world things were going along about as well as could be expected, that is, not quite satisfactorily.
– Flowchart, John Ashbery

Like that shadow image of the young girl playing hoops, traveling between worlds of light and dark, her body dematerialized into the night bound formlessness shocks us as it arises from the sun fright of an emptied world. Is she traveling into this world of light; or, is she making her way toward the shaded comfort of oblivion? The geometries of silence move into the distance taking the eye with it as if to imprison our mind along a line of consistency that is also a flight from the shadows out of which the framed vision is surmounted; a flowing into a seamless wall of night from which there is only the knowledge of nothingness and endless blackness. Off in the distance a figure falls into the light like some forlorn god, a shade of a shade, shadowed by the sun’s weight as if gravitas were instilling a heaviness and density into the world, enforcing its rule of death before the solitude of light. Above is the green horizon shading into darkness as if it were a lid, a black eye folding the scene in its forbidden gaze. Is this not the Cosmocrator’s realm, the Demiurge who traps man in his shadows proving that only semblance moves through the silences and the violence of this world of light that is pure darkness where blackness begins to seep into the emptiness of things. A world riven of mind, born of a heaviness that pulls one into the entropic void of a labyrinth without outlet where shadows speak only to their images in a realm where communication has become absolutely inhuman, devoid of both meaning and purpose. A realms where light is no longer a negation of the night, but a night without light, a darkness on darkness where the abyss radiance shines within its own blight and degradation, the unreal becomes irreal and the dance of the void begets nothingness as a subtraction of nothingness. This is the place of darkening thought’s limit, the fractured boundary zone of the unknown and unknowing darkness where nonknowledge stirs below the threshold of being… abyss radiance!

What would we have said?
That we confronted the monster eyeball and blinked first but only after a decent interval had elapsed and were then excused from completing the examination before defenestration became an issue?
– Flowchart, John Ashbery

Or maybe it is as simple as turning around and absorbing or being absorbed by the “shock of hearing the truth told, once more, on an unforgettable day in early June, which shall be all we need ever know of hearing quarrels inside out and then reversing them so the abstract argument is pure and just again, a joy to many” (p. 36).


  1. John Ashbery. Other Traditions. (Harvard University Press, 2001).
  2. John Ashbery. Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems. (Harper Collins, 2008)

Grungy “Accelerationism”

Edmund Berger as always follows a thought into its rhizomatic mindscapes… here the trail leads from William Gibson’s Neuromancer down the magic hole where thought and history communicate to each other in accelerating notes that disturb and produce liminal discordian knots of darkness and light… worth a trip into that darklight.

Deterritorial Investigations Unit

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At a crucial turn in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, we’re introduced the Panther Moderns – a guerrilla subculture in a world where subcultures flicker by like disconnected frames of some montage film. The Panther Moderns specialize in hallucinatory simulations – in a world dipping into the “consensual hallucination” of cyberspace, they build hallucinations on top of it, subverting a reality that is already subjected to constant reconfiguration through digitalization, genetic body modification, and psychotropic drugs. If cyberpunk, as Lewis Call insists, picks up where Baudrillard’s delirious hysteria over the becoming-simulation, becoming-simulacrum of reality leaves off, figures like the Panther Moderns show the escape route. They embody the old ‘Mao-Dadaist’ slogan of the Autonomists rallied around Radio Alice: “false information produces real events.”

The political ramifications of the Panther Moderns, beyond the literary depiction of our very real world, did not go unnoticed. A group of theory-heads involved with ACT UP…

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H.P. Lovecraft: Quote of the Day!

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“Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests are emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form – and the local human passions and conditions and standards – are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all…but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown – the shadow-haunted Outside – we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.”1


 

  1. Letter from Lovecraft to Farnsworth Wright, 5 July 1927, in H.P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters II, 1925-1929, ed. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei (Sauk City: Arkham House, 1968), p. 150.

 

 

For a Tomb of Gilles Deleuze

AVT_Gilles-Deleuze_5249

For a Tomb of Gilles Deleuze
– for Alain Badiou

A man thinking,
a philosopher? –
of life, perhaps…

the thin line between thought and chaos:
flesh of thought, thought of flesh, a heresy.

Amid the stones of fire, naked and sublime,
an idea arranges itself almost like a lover dancing;
a virtual movement – darkness upon darkness
touching what is most transient, a smile, laughter,
a child’s eyes so full of innocence and time;

a river so black and full of ancient allure, traversing
such madness, a line of flight so pure and full of desecration;

man is not the measure of man: the inhuman in us so alien – becoming-animal
like a tree or a rhizome, a plant, a heap – singular, unique, distinct;
sensations that last and follow us like flowers on a marble urn, forever…

We walk among these stones intensely
involved in an event which will later define us,
immanent in the thought of him who silences us now:

all stories travel so fast we are not moving, lines intersect
in an instant both in and out of times, in the flesh of action
the story incarnates what will succeed us,
make of us a challenge to those others…

What remains? – ‘New links among people.’

Folded among his thoughts he dreams for us
as we link and connect to the impossible –

…………………………….a gift of dignity and friendship…


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Deleuze & Guattari: The Eternal Return of Accelerating Capital

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Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale. The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.
……………– Karl Marx, Capital

the civilized capitalist machine

“The only universal history is the history of contingency.”1

In developing their theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized flows Deleuze and Guattari will surmise that capitalism in its present form may be the exterior limit of all societies (p. 230). They’ll go on to tell us following Marx that  “capitalism for its part has no exterior limit, but only an interior limit that is capital itself and that it does not encounter, but reproduces by always displacing it” (p. 231). So that this continuous cycle of schiz and flow from break to barrier and return through the movement of displacement “belongs essentially to the deterritorialization of capitalism” (p.231).

In this same section they will remark that the banking systems control the investment of desire in this cycle of breaks and flows, that it was Keynes himself that contributed a reintroduction of desire into the “problem of money,” and that Marxism must revise and include a more thorough understanding of banking practices in regard to financial operations and the circulation of credit money (i.e., Marxism needs a new theory of money). (p. 230)

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Thomas Ligotti: The Frolic and the Wyrd (Weird)

frolick

…you get the horrors you deserve.
………  – Thomas Ligotti

“The accursed one may thus be understood as someone outside the law, or beyond it.”
………..– Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacre

Michael Arnzen in his post of (2008) on “The Frolic” by Thomas Ligotti mentioned a small film adaptation of this story that was part of a limited edition bundled with a DVD — a 24 minute adaptation of that story directed by Jacob Cooney. I never knew about this particular filmic adaptation. It seems (as a commenter suggests) it is on Vimeo: here. Either way the story itself was the first one I read in the original The Nightmare Factory, and its uncanny infiltration and contamination invaded my mind channeling that ancient power of cosmic strangeness we associate only with the weird tale.

In the carnal act, in desecration – and in desecrating himself – man crosses the limit of beings.
……..– Georges Bataille, The System of Nonknowledge

How many of us would admit to being accursed? I don’t mean living outside the law of man, or even if one did believe – outside the law of God; no: I mean the law of one’s own being, the law that keeps one safe and sound, the wild things at bay locked out in the dark hinterlands of the mind devoid of their terror and despair. What if one had been thrown not into the world – as Heidegger would have it, but rather into the void beyond one’s own inaccessible life, a life that continues sleepwalking through existence without you? What if that part of your being wandered beyond the hedge separating wilderness from civilization, sanity from insanity: beyond the civilizing sociality of your everyday self-subjectivation – that avatar mask you present to your wife or husband, or your children – who depend on the kindness of your gentle ways; as well, your boss, your friends, your social partners and after hours consorts; all these of which the self that meets the world, that masks its dark intent within the circle of sanity of this dog day world we all share? What if that self found its way back into the wilderness of beginnings, in the realm of myth and terror where the wild things live? What then?

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Ray Kurzweil: Dreaming of the Posthuman Rapture

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 Soon I will put my dreaming in the hands of greater forces, and I’m sure there will be some surprises for both of us. That is one thing which never changes.
………….– Thomas Ligotti, The Chemyst

Kurzweil dreams of electric children, of meme machines extracting souls from cadavers, of augmented lives lived out in quantum hiveworlds. Listening to Kurzweil reminds me of Thomas Ligotti’s short story The Chemyst whose delicate dreams come alive in the metamorphic deliquescence of his beautiful victims. Like a mad scientist or prophet of the alchemical Great Art he seems to have conned his way into the minds of an empire of transhuman dreamworlds; an entrepreneur of the new Soulcraft, a maker of steel babies and hyperwired artifacts of desire. With Google and the military-industrial complex behind him he dips into the collective madness of robotics, AI, and the ultimate transformation of human kind into Nietzsche’s Übermensch. For Rüdiger Safranski, the Übermensch represents a higher biological type reached through artificial selection and at the same time is also an ideal for anyone who is creative and strong enough to master the whole spectrum of human potential, good and “evil”, to become an “artist-tyrant”. Kurzweil a transhumanist moves among the elite hyping his soulcraft techniques like a carnival barker to all and sundry.

What strange dreams we weave with the backing of the nouveau riche and the forces of elite capitalism? Whereas the desert monks once dreamed of demons, Kurzweil dreams of posthuman life beyond us like a nightmare Magus full of dark visions of splendor and immortal machines.

Kathleen Myles reports on Kurzweil’s latest fantasia:

“We’re going to be funnier. We’re going to be sexier. We’re going to be better at expressing loving sentiment,” Kurzweil said at a recent discussion at Singularity University. He is involved in developing artificial intelligence as a director of engineering at Google but was not speaking on behalf of the company.

Kurzweil predicts that in the 2030s, human brains will be able to connect to the cloud, allowing us to send emails and photos directly to the brain and to back up our thoughts and memories. This will be possible, he says, via nanobots — tiny robots from DNA strands — swimming around in the capillaries of our brain. He sees the extension of our brain into predominantly nonbiological thinking as the next step in the evolution of humans — just as learning to use tools was for our ancestors.


Read: In The 2030s, Nanobots In Our Brains Will Make Us ‘Godlike’

Alain Badiou: Beyond the Dead God’s Shadow

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Reading Badiou’s Briefings on Existence: A Short Treatise on Transitory Ontology we come across the Third God, the God of the Poets: “The central poetic expression concerning It is as follows: this God has withdrawn and left the world as prey to idleness. The question of the poem is thus that of the retreat of the gods. It coincides neither with the philosophical question of God nor with the religious one.”1

Badiou like many atheist philosophers seems to need God. Why? Like Nietzsche Badiou reiterates the endless series of statements on the Death of God: the death of Religion’s God, of the Metaphysical Prime Mover as God of Philosophers, the Fundamentalist God of Literalists, etc. But then he links this to the other god, the third god, the God of the Poets he finds in Holderlin. He finds in this other god a sense of a reenchantment of the world. One is almost tempted to refer him to C.G. Jung who named this god the Anima Mundi or World Soul, etc. Of course this had a long pre-history as well. Yet, what he finds is not this sense of an animate Nature, but rather its withdrawal which leads to pure idleness and nostalgia for the loss of the ancient gods. This sense that it is neither a philosophical nor a religious question, but rather a literary one brings one back to those secular priests of the Book who sought during the 19th and 20th Centuries to displace the sacred books with a secular one. Was this not the goal from the Romantics through the Late Romanticism and Symbolists. Isn’t this a tradition stemming from the poet Stephen Mallarme who created a sort of secular poetry of the sacred: a symbolic world in almost pure and mathematical sublimity, an alchemical vision as complex as it was metamorphic.

I think here of such philosophers as Quentin Meillassoux with his The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarme’s Coup De Des. In which as the blurb tells us: “The decisive point of the investigation proposed by Meillassoux comes with a discovery, unsettling and yet as simple as a child s game: All the dimensions of the Number, understood progressively, articulate between them but a sole condition that this Number should ultimately be delivered to us by a secret code, hidden in the Coup de des, like a key that finally unlocks every one of its poetic devices. Thus is also unveiled the meaning of the siren that emerges for a lightning flash among the debris of the shipwreck: as the living heart of a drama that is still unfolding.” Even Jacques Ranciere in his Mallarme: The Politics of the Siren “presents Mallarmé as neither an aesthete in need of rare essences and unheard-of words, nor the silent and nocturnal thinker of some poem too pure to be written. Mallarmé is the contemporary of a republic that is seeking out forms of civic worship to replace the pomp of religions and kings.”

This notion of a secular religion seems fitting for an age that wants to do away with God but still wants the accoutrements of its ritual ties to ancient forms of existence. As Badiou will say of Holderlin: “The poet’s task-or as Holderlin wrote, his courage-is to bear in language the thought of the God that has withdrawn as it is also to conceive the problem of Its return as an open insertion into that of which thought is capable.” (KL 412) Years ago M.H. Abrams would define this whole tradition in his excellent study: Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. He shows that central Romantic ideas and forms of imagination were secularized versions of traditional theological concepts, imagery, and design, and that modern literature participates in the same process. As Badiou will add:

Essentially, the relationship to the poetic God is not of the order of mourning, as the obscure relationship to the dead God can often be. Nor is it of the order of critique, or the conceptual defection fection of totality, as the philosophical relationship to the First-Principle Principle God can be. Strictly speaking, it is a nostalgic relationship. It melancholically envisages a chance to re-enchant the world through the gods’ improbable return. (KL 413-415)

Yet, for Badiou our contemporary age is defined not as the romantic poets envisioned as a return of the pagan gods, but rather “our times are undoubtedly those of the disappearance of the gods without return. But this disappearance stems from three distinct processes, for there have been three capital gods, namely, of religion, metaphysics, and the poets.” (KL 442) That these ancient paths are no longer viable Badiou admits:

Committed to the triple destitution of the gods, we, inhabitants of the Earth’s infinite sojourn, can assert that everything is here, always here, and that thought’s reserve lies in the thoroughly informed formed and firmly declared egalitarian platitude of what befalls upon us here. Here is the place where truths come to be. Here we are infinite. Here nothing is promised to us, only to be faithful to what befalls upon us. (KL 449-452)

It’s as if he were preaching a new gospel of total destitution in which we are now condemned to sojourn an empty paradise riven of the sacred, the metaphysical, and the poetic; condemned to live out our bare existence in the immediacy of our own unknowing, eclipsed of any transcendence we are condemned to the truth of our bare lives “Here”:

It is this `here’ that a poet, born so far from us in a language closer to us than any other, the Chouvash poet Guennadi Aigui, celebrated in a song to the glory of what about the here cannot be replaced.’ Divine guidance is not what this song celebrates, which is why it is called, “Here” It leads us toward understanding that the here is gained once the search for the dead God’s shadow anywhere and under any name is renounced. In this song, even the death of man, a transitory configuration of dispersing infinities, can be envisaged as maintaining and receiving these infinites. I end this prologue with his song:

Here everything answers itself
In a primordial and high language
As one part of life answers
The contiguous indestructible part
Here at the curling extremities
Of branches in the appeased garden
We seek not the horrible clot of sap
That resembles the afflicted silhouettes
Embracing a crucifix in the evening of calamity
And we know of no word or sign
That would be higher than another
It is here that we live, here that we are beautiful
And it is here that we trouble the real when being silent
But if our farewells to it are rough
Life is a part of it as well
As if on its own
A novelty inaudible to us
And parting from us
As the reflection in the water of a shrub
It shall remain aside
To afterward occupy
Our place
So that the places of men be replaced
Only by the spaces of life
Forever more. (KL 455-460)

Much like the poetry of Rilke in his Elegies this seems to celebrate a certain power inherent in existence itself that will survive the human, a continuance of the “spaces of life” even if we as a species vanish into the night. Would one call this the poetry not of the Death of God, but rather of the Death of Man? Does it not celebrate pure existence without humans? A universe emptied of thought itself, and poetry beyond poetry? Is Badiou seeking a form of transcendence after all? Only one in which we are emptied of ourselves forever? This sense of the transitoriness of being, of the vanishing and of saying goodbye in an infinite passing is celebrated rather than mourned.

  1. Alain Badiou. Briefings on Existence: A Short Treatise on Transitory Ontology (Kindle Locations 406-412). Kindle Edition.

Thomas Ligotti: The Horror-Maker

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from Allan and Adelaide: An Arabesque (1981) by Thomas Ligotti

Straight toward heav’n my wondering eyes I turned
And gazed a while the ample sky, till raised
By quick instinctive motion up I sprung …
…………“Thou Sun,” said I, “fair light,
And thou enlightened Earth so fresh and gay,
Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and plains,
And ye that live and move, fair creatures, tell,
Tell, if ye saw, how came I thus, how here?
Not of my self; by some great Maker then,
In goodness and in power preeminent;
Tell me, how may I know him, how adore,
From whom I have that thus I move and live,
And feel that I am happier then I know.
………..– John Milton, Paradise Lost

Unlike Milton’s orthodox God of Creation who appears so full of goodness and wisdom, the Gnositcs – or, at least the Sethians – would envision the dark force of universal catastrophe as the Maker of Horrors rather than Paradises, a blind and terrible force at the heart of the cosmic degradation who is neither good nor evil but is the force of matter as active principle of unending existence. Ligotti’s Horror-Maker revitalizes this ancient mythos of a darker Gnosticism as an atheistic paradigm that removes both gods and angels and puts the blind forces of natural existence and the sciences at the heart of his allegory of cosmic catastrophism. Situated in that same cosmic abjectness as H.P. Lovecraft he explores a realm where the void harbors nothing more than the energetic powers of our own unconscious mind, a realm where the outer moves inside like a ravenous beast seeking a consuming ecstasy in excess of its own broken vessels.

In the ancient Gnostic mythos Samael is the third name of the demiurge, whose other names are Yaldabaoth and Saklas. In this context, Samael means “the blind god”, the theme of blindness running throughout gnostic works. His appearance is that of a lion-faced serpent. In On the Origin of the World in the Nag Hammadi library texts, he is also referred to as Ariael, the Archangel of Principalities. An allegory of Time and Matter, of the endless return of an active principle, an undying and unyielding immanence at the heart of things: the living power that enfolds us and delivers us to the nightmare of the universe.

Think of Shakespeare’s great play The Tempest where Ariel is a spry spirit or angelic creature that the evil witch Sycorax imprisoned in a tree because the “delicate” spirit didn’t have the heart to do her bidding. Prospero the Magus frees the spirit who then gifts him with unearthly wisdom and power; yet, under this guise we see a hint of the old blindness working its way out in a new form. Of course Shakespeare turns the myth to more comic and changeful pursuits. Prospero is tricked into changing his mind, a puppet handled by Ariel gracefully to do this spirit’s bidding under the guise of an autonomous act of the Mind, bringing with it a happy conclusion to love and romance. Yet, even here in Shakespeare a knowledge and gnosis of the old paths cross mind-wise in the allegory of comedy and romance.

Georges Bataille in his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism would see in this ancient mythology a notion of matter as active principle: “It is possible to see as a leitmotif of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action).”

Jacque Lacan sometimes represents what he would term the Real as a state of active matter, as a time of fullness or completeness [what Gnostics would term the Pleroma] that is subsequently lost through the entrance into language. The primordial animal need for copulation similarly corresponds to this state of active matter. There is a need followed by a search for satisfaction. As far as humans are concerned, however, “the real is impossible,” as Lacan was fond of saying. It is impossible in so far as we cannot express it in language because the very entrance into language marks our irrevocable separation from the real. Still, the real continues to exert its influence throughout our adult lives since it is the rock against which all our fantasies and linguistic structures ultimately fail. The real for example continues to erupt whenever we are made to acknowledge the materiality of our existence, an acknowledgement that is usually perceived as traumatic (since it threatens our very “reality”), although it also drives Lacan’s sense of jouissance.

Yet, what if instead of being driven by “need” as in Lacan, we are driven not by a lack, but an overflowing immanent power, an ecstatic plenitude that needs to overflow the boundaries of all limits, otherwise become sick and destitute? Wasn’t this at the heart of Freud’s theory of drives? Lacan muted this and introduced need and lack into an otherwise Freudian universe of catastrophe and chaos. What if instead of a lack at the heart of being there is a fullness, a darker truth of an active principle of production that needs to flow, needs to escape the boundaries of reason and civilization? Wasn’t this at the core of Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of Lacan? What if our very laws that bind this ancient power within humanity is what has made us sick and nihilistic? What if we need to escape these old laws of morality and normativity, to explore our ancient heritage in the worlds of libertine ecstasy?  What if instead of Stoic reduction of pleasure and pain, we need to push pleasure and pain to the extreme limits of our human capacities, to overflow the barriers that keep us tied to outworn forms? What is what we seek is to transgress the limits of self-imposed exile, rejoin the universe of power and eros? Consume the riches of the universe in its glorious excess? As Nick Land would eloquently put it:

Excess or surplus precedes production, work, seriousness, exchange, and lack. The primordial task of life is not to produce or survive, but to consume the clogging floods of riches – of energy – pour down upon it.2

Jouissance has been noted  as a transgressive, excessive kind of pleasure linked to the division and splitting of the subject involved. One might see it as a form of commingling of eros and thanatos, a pleasurable pain or painful pleasure – an excess that brings the sensual and orgasmic delights to a limit that bursts beyond and into that voidic delight where annihilation and opposites endure beyond human endurance. Rather than the apathy and affectlessness of cold embittered logic and mental masturbation of priestly sadists we should listen to the great Sufi mystic Rumi who once said:

Pain renews old medicines and lops off the branch of every indifference. Pain is the alchemy that renovates—where is indifference when pain intervenes?1

Ariel Glucklich in her study of Sacred Pain will argue that religious pain produces states of consciousness, and cognitive-emotional changes, that affect the identity of the individual subject and her sense of belonging to a larger community or to a more fundamental state of being. More succinctly, pain strengthens the religious person’s bond with God and with other persons. Of course, since not all pain is voluntary or self-inflicted, one mystery of the religious life is how unwanted suffering can become transformed into sacred pain. (p. 6) But what of sexual ecstasy, what of the gnostic libertines who sought out the extremes of physical and mental jouissance, the pleasure-pain or joyful sorrow of ecstatic immanence: a darker gnosis than that of the later mystics of the Light? What of the powers of darkness and active matter, of the archons and their endless measure of immanent bliss and pain, the jouissance that brings about a horrible mercy and excessive delight in nightmares?

What of the atheist, the unbeliever, the wandering tribe of Cain? What of those who seek not God but the extremes of physical jouissance, the excess where pain and pleasure merge in a physical and mental event of exquisite power and breadth. What of the tradition from Baudelaire to now of the drug induced visionary gleam of those immanent realms of dream and nightmare, the offering of glimpses into a cosmic degradation and contamination of a dark gnosis. Where being “alone with the alone” is not some transcendence of the cosmic fun house, but rather a deeper involvement in its bleak voidic energy – an immanent degradation and awakening to our relation to our eternal life as twitching vibrant matter? (This is not a vitalism!)

There is no pantheistic god hiding in the darkness, no living allegory of the Gnostic Blind One. Instead this is the atheism of eternal return of which Nietzsche dreamed forward. Where things merge in the dark alcoves of matter, a matter that is no longer dead but active and excessive and transgressive. Where the cosmic anguish and spasms of dying galaxies, and the immeasurable drift of a trillion nightmare scenarios engender a writhing plenitude of pleasurable pain, a jouissance bringing forth such endless wonders and monstrosities that one seeks not some salvation by way of transcendence, but rather the slow and methodical merging with the immanence of power that is already flowing through every nook and cranny of one’s being and the universe? Metamorphic transformation in a spiraling movement of endless Time.

What if we ourselves are the blind gods set adrift in a universe of death where only the nightmares break through the barrier and gap of the Real, and with each step we take we enter another chapter in our already endless death-in-Life? An eternal return of the great round of eros and thanatos: the universe as catastrophe and pure jouissance. What if we ourselves are the very powers who squander our lives in trivial games of human degradation, while in truth our task is to set free the horror of the Real and let the games of love and death begin in transgression and ecstasy? Maybe as Ligotti affirms: “There is no refuge from the living void, the terror of the invisible.” We are the void, and the terror is of our own making, for we are the Horror-Makers of this charade, this catastrophic universe of pure death and jouissance, of erotic ecstasy in endless degradation and corruption. Sepulchral metamorphosis and transformation, the dark energy of an active principle in matter moving through all things invisibly – as in Blake: “Energy is eternal delight!”

Catastrophists of nightmares and wonders, monstrosities and cosmic degradation: the endless play of eros and thanatos in a realm of pure jouissance – matter at play with itself in eternal delight. Civilization and Language were invented to stave off this very truth, to build walls, gaps, and cracks in the cosmic movement; to bind it and keep it at bay. Yet, it will not go away. You cannot hide from what you are, neither can you exclude the terror of your own inner being. The mythologies of the Real are nothing more than one more mask for this dark energy that labors both within and without us doing what it has always done from the beginning of time; for indeed it is the labor of Time.

We are the very monsters we so fearfully project into our allegorical mythologies. We are the terrors and powers of this universal crime, who have forgotten our sad estate in the cosmic palace of horror. Like minions of a deadly deed we create fictions to hide from ourselves. We are slaves to impulses we once owned as our own. We are afraid to enter the stream of continuous degradation and be as we are, the heirs of a vast catastrophe that we ourselves made. For we are the Horror-Makers. The dark gnosis is to know that we are in the place of nightmares without knowing it. A place from which we have sought exit for so long through all our mythologies of salvation beyond despair, when all we needed to do was to enter the final stage of our metamorphosis and be transformed by the active principle at the core of this universal composition and decomposition. To know and be known by the blindness that is our degradation and our glory.

Do you understand me now?

The one eye of the Godhead is blind, the one ear of the Godhead is deaf, the order of its being is crossed by chaos. So be patient with the crippledness of the world and do not overvalue its consummate beauty.
……………– C. G. Jung,  The Red Book


  1. Glucklich, Ariel (2001-10-18). Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul (p. 4). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge, 1992).