Georges Bataille, Nick Land: Base Materialism, Aberrant Thought, and the Archontes


In his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism Georges Bataille will give a rather different reading of our ancient spiritual systems: “In practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv 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). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles.”

The notion that matter is not dead as most of our philosophical and scientific thinkers thought up till the introduction of quantum theory, along with this notion that rather than some eternal realm of Ideas, some Platonic acosmic world of archetypal powers superior to our Cosmos, another view onto things might be: a truth that matter harbored within its immanent fold a strange and energetic, even monstrous and daemonic source of intelligence and creative action never entered these ancient systems of philosophy. In fact, as Bataille would remark: “It is difficult to believe that on the whole Gnosticism does not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for obscene and lawless archontes… If today we overtly abandon the idealistic point of view, as the Gnostics and Manicheans implicitly abandoned it, the attitude of those who see in their own lives an effect of the creative action of evil appears even radically optimistic. It is possible in all freedom to be a plaything of evil if evil itself does not have to answer before God”.

Bataille has also come to the conclusion that philosophy, and even the sciences should not concern itself with Being or the Science of Being, Ontology: “Thus it appears – all things considered – that Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism, I mean a materialism not implying an ontology, not implying that matter is the thing-in-itself.” So that against Kant and all his inheritors matter would no longer be reduced to ontology, nor even to the epistemic view onto “being” or “phenomena” as if these were the attributes and core of matter, Being’s Kingdom. No. As he’d suggest,

Base matter is external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations. But the psychological process brought to light by Gnosticism had the same impact: it was a question of disconcerting the human spirit and idealism before something base, to the extent that one recognized the helplessness of superior principles.1

So against both epistemic and ontological forms Bataille would opt for formlessness (“informe”). In  “L’informe” (“Formless”) 1929 Bataille would offer us a most peculiar definition of a dictionary’s function: ”

A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks. Thus formless is not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm. In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape. All of philosophy has no other goal: it is a matter of giving a frock coat to what is, a mathematical frock coat. On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit.”2

Under the auspices of epistemology and ontology philosophy becomes a system of homogenous relations of Idea and matter that seems forever to revolve in its own glorious vacuum. Against such presumption Bataille will inform us of another view of this System and its Homogeneity (VE, p. 45):

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Already we get a sense of prefiguration of Bataille’s influence on later thinkers. This sense that a signifier is a verbal abstract entity, a constructed thing in the Symbolic Order of the socio-cultural matrix of linguistic hell; or, what some would later term the Prison House of Language, etc., a derivative of those inheritors of German Idealism and its abstractions: the Idea (“abstract God”) and Matter (“abstract matter”): “the chief guard and the prison walls”.

For Bataille the whole metaphysical debate surrounding the who came first the “chicken or the egg,” the Idea or Matter was a mute point, an idol conversation among erroneous conclusions; and, better yet, erroneous questions. For him the whole architectural edifice of metaphysics was a construct of a false question to begin with, so that the marker stone, the key cornerstone had never been placed, and therefore the whole edifice was crumbling down around its imprisoned members: all those philosophers who, after Plato and Aristotle – and some say, Parmenides – had built their foundations not only own false premises, but on an empty place of formlessness.

(Interlude: Benjamin Noys: Bataille, Derrida, Land and Base Materialism)

If you followed such thinkers as Benjamin Noys in his Georges Bataille’s Base Materialism you’d get the feeling that his true heir was Jaques Derrida and his notion of the ‘undecidable’. Speaking of Derrida and Bataille he’ll say,

“This is what gives them their power as direct and violent interventions into metaphysics, but it is also what makes it possible for them to be re-coded within metaphysics.”

He would compare Derrida to a quotation artist, who merely provides a commentary, a delicate operation against the panorama of a universe of intertextual display without end, a seeking for those indefinable elements and gaps in the edifice, those moments of disruption when the Real breaks through the architectural elegance of the metaphysical temple – the points of darkness or undecidable black holes in rhetoric that cannot be defined or imprisoned, translated or transposed into terms of the temples guardians, the philosophers. While in Bataille we see the proverbial “bull in the china closet” performing a violence and sacrifice against the body of the text, committing sacrilege and Dionysian excess, allowing the violent instabilities of base matter to shine through the black holes and chinks in the armor of metaphysical architectonics, releasing the archontes into the metaphysical House of Being like harbingers of chaos. Of course Noys will try to forge a link between these two masters of catastrophe, saying they “share points of contact, unstable communications that leap across these textual bodies like an electrical charge, and one of these points is the communication of base matter”.3

Of course Noys favors Derrida in the equation much more than Bataille, and will in the guise of praise begin to tear down Bataille’s arguments for a politics of excess, etc., but this is not the time or place to belabor that point. No. In fact, he’ll castigate others such as Nick Land as metaphysical reductionists with his “libidinal materialism”, saying that Land and others try “to force it [base materialism] to appear, to become present,” admitting that all such efforts elude the systematic exploration and disquisition of base materialism: “it disappears absolutely from these attempts at philosophical capture” (Noys, p. 511). He’ll argue that Land despite recognizing the ‘line of flight’ (Deleuze) at the base of matter in his early The Thirst for Annihilation:

Matter is in flight from the possibility of essence as if from an original pertinence of ontology, and life is merely the most aberrant and virological variant of this flight: the convulsive fringe of being’s vanquishment. (Bataille, 1992, p. 181)

Noys will criticize Land for stabilizing the formlessness of base materialism within the confines of a libidinal materialism (non-teleological desire), saying that “far from evading ontology (as he supposes), Land has instead reconstituted base materialism as an anti-philosophical libidinal ontology” (Noys, p. 512).  It is true that for Land “the ‘science’ of drives, which has been named ‘libidinal economy’, is thus foundational for physics, as Schophenhauer meticulously demonstrates” (41-42). Yet, libidinal materialism cannot be reduced to the science of thermodynamics: “this is because it does not distinguish between power and energy, or between negentrope and energy” (43). Against reductionary physicalism of particle theory libidinal materialism offers only chaos and composition. Against substantive ontologies libidinal materialism reformulates being as composition ‘one acquires degrees of being, one loses that which has being. (44) Against the notions of the Real that are based on substance and being, system and homogeneity, libidinal materialism offers change and becoming, the heterogeneous: the economy of desire, force, energetics.4

Yet, against Noys reading of Land’s “libidinal materialism” as just one more ontology of ‘science of being,’ as a reading of thermodynamics in its statistical and probabilistic interactions, Land tells us that we must realize that it has no ontology, it does not predicate any substantial or subsistent being: in “contrast to the energy of physical thermodynamics, libidinal energy is chaotic, or pre-ontological” (43). There is no sense of a science of being or ontology: of energy, particles, space/time dynamics, etc.; instead there is only ever utter “chaos and composition” (43), thermospasm: ““The thermospasm is reality as undiluted chaos. It is where we all came from. The death-drive is the longing to return there, just as salmon would return upstream to perish at the origin. Thermospasm is howl, annihilating intensity, a peak of improbability.” (p. 43)  Being is an effect of chaos rather than the first cause stabilized in some ungrounded ground. With a theory of composition at the core of this there is no sense of a substantial formalism involved, there are only layers and degrees of pre-ontological flux becoming-in-process, collapsing on time from a field of possibilities not some static fixed ratio of solid Being.

Bataille’s Gnosis: Base Matter and the Archontes

Bataille will find it remarkable that both scientific naturalism (non-dialectical materialism) and dialectical materialism (Marxian inversion of Hegelian dialectics) have both been based on Idealism. (VE, p. 45) Even more odd is that these Idealisms lead us back to all those false dualisms (that even the Gnostics succumbed too) and “therefore strangely abased cosmogonies” (VE, p. 46). Instead of the seriousness of the philosophers Bataille, like Nietzsche, will offer excessive laughter against their stern conceptual reductions of matter to ontology: “Thus the adoration of an ass-headed god (the ass being the most hideously comic animal, and at the same time the most humanly virile) seems to me capable of taking on even today a crucial value, the severed ass’s head of the acephalic personification of the sun undoubtedly represents, even if imperfectly, one of materialism’s most virulent manifestations” (VE, p. 46).

For Bataille there is a sense of our needing to slip below, descend toward what he calls “le bas” or “le tout bas”: this absolute depth, complete low is the world of archons, the acephalous gods Bataille discusses in “Base Materialism and Gnosticism.” The acephalous gods who, as Rodolphe Gasché tells it, “represent matter are precisely the images of dismembered bodies that the substitutions of the series are rushing toward. If the dismembered body represents one of these primal images that sets in motion the chain of images, and if the series is once again inclined toward an approximation of this image, with regard to the movement of the chain, we are dealing with a form of circulation. With the dismembered body, a circle closes itself but only to unroll itself once again.”5

In this sense James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake inhabits the space of base materialism: “No longer a well-structured organism, as Aristotle expected discourse to be, the body of the text has neither a head nor a center around which it could organize itself in a harmonic order. The text (itself) (is) acephalous. Hence even the body of the text is pulled into the circular movement in which not only the individual signifiers but also complex formations like phantasms rotate.” (Rodolphe, p. 165) One might think of the universe, this prison house of Being as the body of a headless text, we the signifiers in circulation through the cosmic dance of a phantasmatic drama of complexity and monstrous existence. Hegel would in his metaphysical horror say of it: “Universal existence, eternally unfinished and acephalic, a world like a bleeding wound, endlessly creating and destroying particular finite beings: it is in this sense that true universality is the death of God.” (Hegel: Philosophy of Mind, p. 171) Of course this brings Hegel back to the thought of Spinoza’s “On God” where the pre-critical philosopher would tell us: “By God I understand a being absolutely infinite, i.e., a substance consisting of an infinity of attributes, of which each one expresses an eternal and infinite essence.” Spinoza presents the basic elements of his picture of God as the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused), unique substance of the universe. There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God. Hegel would only add, that this God had been sacrifice, beheaded, and was now laying dead and acephalic, like a wounded animal, bleeding, restless, monstrous, endlessly creating and destroying in a blind rage everything in an infinite realm of immanent catastrophe.

Bataille in his resuscitations of “classical antiquity” would find in this period, “hideous as chancres and carrying the germs of a bizarre but mortal subversion of the ideal” an image of the “disorders which at that time affected the representation of the world” (VE, p. 46). So that such dualistic systems seemed to find in their monstrous brew of mythological and horrific images of disgust and abjection as way into the virulent truth of base materialism. Bataille lived in a time when the Nag Hammadi were yet to be registered within the indexing of these ancient and heterogenic systems and heretical writings, and relates only a picture of how the history of these Gnostics were described by their enemies, the Orthodox Christians; as well as the reception of these views by Protestant reformers of modern times. For Bataille Gnosticism was a descendent of Zoroastrian dualism, a sometimes “disfigured dualism… not emasculated by an adaptation to social necessities,” but rather was free of the taint of socio-cultural legalisms and a State Religion such as in the older Iranian or Manicheanism. (VE, p. 47)

In fact, for Bataille (as mentioned previously) the leitmotif of Gnosticism is its conception of matter as an “active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which is not 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)” (VE, p. 47). The Hellene’s of Greece across the ancient world, but especially in Alexandria above all cities – the home of many of the major Gnostic’s, would see such strange and monstrous notions of matter as both evil and degradations of their own superior principles of the Comos as both harmonious and an artifact of the Demiurgos (or Maker and Craftsman). (VE, p. 47)

Yet, as Bataille admits even without all the Orthodox oppression and misreadings of the ancient Gnostic texts, etc., we would be hard pressed not to acknowledge that the “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces seems irrefutable, as much in its metaphysical speculation as in its mythological nightmare” (VE, p. 48). As he’d conclude:

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This admission of the black arts were still among us, that it is in the abstruse realms of magicians, and occultists that the underground lineage of those ancient licentious Gnostics with their sexual rites still carried on a certain obscure and demand for darkness and the baseness of these ancient archontes or powers of active matter. Was Bataille after all a harbinger of New Age obscurantism, or much rather did he see in the strange labors of this underground passage of Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kabbalah, and other occult (dark, hidden) streams, which during the Renaissance would once again come to the fore in such prime exemplars as Mirandolo, Ficino, Bruno, and later Magus’s as Agrippa and John Dee? And in such works of poets as Spenser, Marlowe, Chapman, and Shakespeare? Was it not the backlash of the Reformation and Protestant era that such underground movements were pushed back down into the darkness from which they’d sought escape?

Beyond such hypothetical concerns and mystifications Bataille will return us to the matter at hand seeing in Gnosticism a comparison to “present-day materialism,” as “not implying an ontology, not implying that matter is the thing-in-itself”? That rather than limiting or reducing matter to conceptuality or “thought to being” as the Idealists do, and thereby returning us to the “value of a superior principle (which this servile reason would be only too happy to establish above itself, in order to speak like an authorized functionary)” (VE, p. 51). No. Base matter cannot be confined to concepts, it is “external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to be reduce to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations” (VE, p. 51). Instead these so-called “superior principles” are in fact “helpless” before base matter’s formlessness. As he’ll admonish us “it is a question above all of not submitting oneself, and with oneself one’s reason, to whatever is more elevated, to whatever can give a borrowed authority to the being that I am, and to the reason that arms this being” (VE, p. 51). No. In fact just the opposite these superior authorities of the Idea are in fact dependent on their borrowed authority to what is lower, and must submit to that which “exists outside of myself and the idea” (VE, p. 51).

The point of this is that base materialism allows us to escape the prison of Idealism, of this interminable labyrinth of linguistic signifiers, these traces of traces caught in the mirrors of their endless gestures of deconstructive nihil, wanderings and wavering in the dance of intertextual self-narcissistic jouissance. Yet, this is not an anti-representational materialism, rather Bataille would see in those Gnostics a conception of base materialism that would lead “to the representation of forms in which it is possible to see the image of this base matter that alone, by its incongruity and by overwhelming lack of respect, permits the intellect to escape from the constraints of idealism”(VE, p. 51). He would see in certain forms of artistic expression in “plastic representations” an expression of an “intransigent materialism, of a recourse to everything that compromises the powers that be in matters of form, ridiculing the traditional entities, naively rivaling stupefying scarecrows” (VE, p. 51). He would also emphasize a dislike and anathema to the descriptive reduction of matter to linguistic form as in analytical philosophy that would literalize and elide the very anomalous and unanalyzable elements through a purification of form thereby eliminating the excess and remainder that is the very active element in base materialism: the argontes.

Ultimately, it is these active entities, the argontes we will need to understand if we are ever to submit ourselves to a gnosis of base matter in its full potential to embrace a new materialism that is neither dialectical or naturalist, but rather an excess that cannot be reduced to any form or concept whatsoever.

Inner Experience and Bataille’s Shamanic Atheism

Bataille’s Nietzsche is not a locus of secular reason but of shamanic religion; a writer who escapes philosophical conceptuality in the direction of ulterior zones, and dispenses with the thing-in-itself because it is an item of intelligible representation with no consequence as a vector of becoming (of travel). – Nick Land, Shamanic Nietzsche

Bataille as modern Magus or Shamanic voyager and explorer of the pre-ontological realms of base matter seems fitting for one who led an experimental life, whose very involvement in base materialism would lead him to reject all forms of philosophical presumption as too safe, too academic. Instead he would follow those renegade and outlaw forms of thought that had never been accepted within the precincts of the academy of light and enlightenment. Forms of thought that would defy the apparent authority and transcendence of academic philosophy. As Land comments,

Shamanism defies the transcendence of death, opening the tracts of ‘voyages of discovery never reported’. Against the grain of shallow phenomenalism that characterizes Nietzsche readings, Bataille pursues the fissure of abysmal scepticism, which passes out of the Kantian Noumenon (or intelligible object) through Kant and Schopenhauer’s thing in itself (stripping away a layer of residual Platonism), and onwards in the direction of acategorial, epochal, or base matter that connects with Rimbaud’s ‘invisible splendours’:5 the immense deathscapes of a ‘universe without images’. 6

For Bataille as for Land the “Nietzschean problem with the Ding an Sich was not its supposed dogmatic materialism, but rather that it proposed ‘an ideal form of matter’, as the transcendent (quarantined) site of integral truth, a ‘real world’. There are no things-in-themselves because there are no things: ‘thingness has only been invented by us owing to the requirements of logic’ (which ultimately revert to those of grammar). The Ding an Sich is a concept tailored for a God (supreme being) desperately seeking to hide itself: a cultural glitch turned nasty, but on the run at last. ‘Root of the idea of substance in language, not in beings outside us’! (Land, KL 2848)

The awakening of those lower powers, those daemonic forces, the argontes – that the “authoritarian tradition of European reason tried to pull the plug on,” keeping the intrepid ones from the “great voyages at exactly the point they first became interesting, which is to say: atheistic, inhuman, experimental, and dangerous” (FN, KL 2770-2772). These defenders of the lie, the Christian enslavement to the Ideal, the superior principles of a transcendental thought that harbored escape and exit into the universal system: all those German Idealists and their minions down to this day. As Land would say, “The war has barely begun!”

For Land what Kant and his followers feared most was the dangerous sceptics,  ‘a species of nomads, despising all settled modes of life’ who come from a wilderness tract beyond knowledge. They are explorers, which is also to say: invasion routes of the unknown. It is by way of these inhumanists that the vast abrupt of shamanic zero – the Éποχή of the ancients – infiltrates its contagious madness onto the earth. (FN, KL 2809-2813).

Beyond the touted antagonisms of phenomenon/noumenon, or the world of appearances and the indirect realm of things-in-themselves that has supposedly kept us in some circular prison since Kant’s time – what Meillassoux would term as “correlationism,” Land after Bataille offers us base materialism. Against such crass divisions Land tells us we should be asking not “what is the thing in itself,” but rather “how could we know that things exist?” He’ll explicate: ‘Thingness’ was first created by us. The question is whether there could not be many other ways of creating such an apparent world. (FN, KL 2825-2829).

Against philosophy, regulation, conceptuality, all forms of reduction of thought to being or Idealism we have base materialism which “yields no propositions to judge, but only paths to explore” (FN, KL 2855). This is delirium not philosophy:

Complicating thought strengthens the impetus of an active or energetic confusion – delirium – against the reactive forces whose obsessive tendency is to resolve or conclude. Rebelling against the fundamental drift of philosophical reasoning, it sides with thought against knowledge, against the tranquillizing prescriptions of the ‘will to truth’. (Kindle Locations 2859-2861).

Rather than a ‘will-to-truth’ ala Foucault, etc., we should follow a ‘will-to-unknowing’. we should all be voyagers, adventurers, ‘free spirits’ – unbound from the chains of reason and the dogmas of the philosophers. Land: The death of God is an opportunity, a chance. It makes sense to ask what is meant by the word ‘noumenon’, but ‘chance’ does not function in this way, since it is not a concept to be apprehended, but a direction in which to go. ‘To the one who grasps what chance is, how insipid the idea of God appears, and suspicious, and wing-clipping’!  (Kindle Locations 2878-2882).

If there are places to which we are forbidden to go, it is because they can in truth be reached, or because they can reach us. In the end poetry is invasion and not expression, a trajectory of incineration; either strung-up in the cobwebs of Paradise, or strung-out into the shadow-torrents of hell. It is a route out of creation, which is to each their fate interpreted as enigma, as lure. (FN, KL 2882-2886)

Break free of the taboos, enter the forbidden zones beyond the regulated realities of prescribed marketing, philosophers safety nets, the world of enlightened Reason. Go for broke, rebel against the agents of a false world – not some other world Outside, but this world as it is locked away from us by the very Symbolic Order Policeman of Reality who as Priests of Religion and Science would keep you under the Law, constrained by rules and secular or religious mystifications. Bataille’s writings are a furious impulse to dissociate theism and religion, and thus to return the sacred to its shamanic impiety, except that nothing can ever simply return, and Hell will never be an innocent underworld again. (FN, KL 2909)

Be dammed, enter the infernal regions, catch fire and be singed by the darkness of base matter – realize that the flames all around you are those you have created by the power of your vision – the shamanic ecstasy that breaks free of the reality systems of this belated realm of aberrant humanity. “Transgression is not criminal action, but tragic fate; the intersection of an economically programmed apocalypse with the religious antihistory of poetry. It is the inevitable occurrence of impossibility, which is not the same as death, but neither is it essentially different.” (FN, KL 2925).

Enter the Circle of Fire, the eternal recurrence of an infernal paradise:

Philosophy is a ghoul that haunts only ruins, and the broken croaks of our hymns to sickness have scarcely begun. Borne by currents of deep exhaustion that flow silent and inexorable beneath the surface perturbations of twitch and chatter, damned, shivering, claw-like fingers hewn from torture and sunk into wreckage drawn with unbearable slowness down into the maw of flame and snuffed blackness twisted skewerish into fever-hollowed eyes. Eternal recurrence is our extermination, and we cling to it as infants to their mother’s breasts. (FN, KL 2982)

This a voyage from the known to the unknown, there are no maps, no cartographic markers, no guides along the way – unless those shaman-poets like Rimbaud who found his way “la bas” down there into the inferno by way of a making that is also an ‘unmaking’: ‘The poet makes himself a visionary by a long, immense and rational deregulation of all the senses’, and this deregulation is a source of ‘[i]neffable torture’, ‘the sufferings are enormous’ Rimbaud insists. (FN, KL 2994)

We must rediscover poetry as hideous communication, as the ultra form of ‘base communication’: an utter risk and an unfathomable degradation, associated with repellent affect. (FN, KL 3008) Those aberrant thoughts, those infernal messages you receive from the darkness, the nightmare realms that expose themselves to you in the depths of night, those cryptic and crypt-mutterings  from hell are “something other than an inverted scene, concept, or belief. In their infernal lineaments words are passages, leading into and through lost mazes, and not edifications. Acquisition is impossible in hell. There is nothing en bas except wandering amongst emergences, and what is available has always come strangely, without belonging. Infernal low-life has no understanding for property. Even the thoughts of the inferior ones are camouflage and dissimulation, their beliefs mere chameleon dapplings of the skin. (FN, KL 3049)

This is viral infestation, contagions of hellish broods, of the infernal powers of the argontes (archons), those lower powers and dispotifs that slip from being and knowing into the aberrant realms of thermospasm and unknowing, that allure and lure us, fascinate and repel us at the same affective point of no return. ‘[W]ords, books, monuments, symbols, and laughters are nothing but the paths of this contagion, its passages’. (FN, KL 3057) I never could conclude anything… At best we circle the frozen regions of Absolute Zero where in the infernal depths dwell the aberrant argontes of the Abyss.

Zdzislaw Beksinski - 1978 (4)


(As an aside: I remember how quickly the powers of authority, even the military complex would in the 50’s to the 70’s release those forgotten substances, the entheogens, the plants of former shamanism: the psilocybin, rye extracts (LSD), sacred vine, peyote, and other natural shamanistic substances. Strange how all these non-addictive natural substances would become outlawed and removed. How they would then shut them down, outlaw them, try to put the genii back in the bottle. Allowing only the downers and uppers, barbiturates, etc., and the notorious killers, Heroin and Cocaine both remain as commodities in the underground world of commercial capitalism: all the drugs that kill, maim, and keep the body controlled and addicted.  Even now you can easily find the addictive substance, but it remains difficult to find the mind-expansive and natural substances.)


  1. Bataille, Georges. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press “Base Materialism and Gnosticism”, p. 45)
  2. “Formless” by Georges Bataille, Documents 1, Paris, 1929, p. 382 (translated by Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie Jr. Georges Bataille. Vision of Excess. Selected Writings, 1927-1939, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press “Formless”, p. 31)
  3. Noys, Benjamin. Georges Bataille’s Base Materialism. Cultural Values Number 2 Volume 4 1998
  4. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge 1992).
  5. Gasché, Rodolphe (2012-10-24). Georges Bataille: Phenomenology and Phantasmatology (Cultural Memory in the Present) (pp. 163-164). Stanford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  6. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 2830-2848). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

14 thoughts on “Georges Bataille, Nick Land: Base Materialism, Aberrant Thought, and the Archontes

  1. “Great systematic philosophers, like great scientists, build for eternity. Great edifying philosophers destroy for the sake of their own generation.” -Richard Rorty


  2. Brings to ind Sabbatai Zvi, and his disciple, Yaakov Frank… performing evil with pure heart to redeem the hidden spark from its dark shell.


    • Isaak Luria was of course in the background there… 🙂 Of course Zevi was an imposter… converso to Islam… Scholem’s biography is good. Moshe Idel, heir to Scholem is worth a read, too.

      After Jonas, Ioan P. Couliano (who died too young) was great on the basics of Gnosticism history… of course after Nag Hammadi there are scores… and I’m more of an inverter of even these inverters… a sort of perverse reading of the Gnostics themselves as materialists rather than acosmic … immanent undercosm… on the side of the energetic archons… mere rhetoric rather than hypostatization…


  3. Really, enjoyed this. As we were saying there seems to be a relationship between Batiallian base materialism and the direction I’m thinking or writing in at the moment, so this tissue of references and commentary is extremely useful for me. Interesting that Gasche has lately written on Derrida – his Tain of the Mirror was kind of my introduction to thinking systematically about Derrida. Looking forward to follow this up more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some of Arthur Kroker’s work like The Will to Technology & The Culture of Nihilism dabbles in aspects of this in his usual poetic thought forms… readings of Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Marx. His latest on Posthumanism is more a mishmash up of current paradigms… almost as if his years on CTheory have left him a little dry…


  4. Absolute stimulating text, one of the best that I’ve found on Bataille and “Base Materialism”. Our next issue will concentrate both on “Base Matters” and the subversive heritage of Bataille’s “Documents” magazine project. We would like to (re)publish the text and to cooperate with the author of the text with pleasure. Please feel free to contact us:

    Liked by 1 person

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