On Fantastic Horror and Cosmic Nihil


The Fantastic is situated between the Marvelous and the Uncanny… Horror lives in that space that draws from all three: and presents the faces of the sublime and disgust, beauty and the ugly.

The Sublime was originally the elevation of that which is so horrible and fascinating at the same time that it cannot be described nor reduced to the images of mundane existence, but rather must enter into the music of the word, the dance or gleam on the edge of things, the invisible that becomes almost for a moment visible; not to our sight, our eyes, but rather to our mind.

The ugly and the distasteful or disgusting bring us back down into the revolting mass of our toxic envelopment in the Real, in the bodily farce of existence itself. Disgust reminds us of that which surrounds us and would deign to kill us at each and every moment of our lives, to corrupt us and degrade us into a massive slime entity without thought or sentient existence – only the vibratory electricity of death interminable.

Cosmic Horror seeks the ineffable corruption of all things absolute and beyond (transcendence), while the tentacular horror brings you to the monstrous mutations of your earthly dance in the slime (immanence). If one can bring both together not in fusion but in fission then one collapses all things into the immanent transcendence of the Real, the horror of the Void; the utter indifference of the Universe.

It is here that the fatalism of laughter begins…

More thoughts…

I don’t know about the public intellectual per se, but for me it was the great literary critics from Samuel Johnson, Hazlitt, Wilde, and others who opened me to a world beyond my own nose… I think like a lot of people (especially working class like I was – retired now!) when delving beyond the occasional novel or short-story, etc. soon lose their way in a library. I know I did. As a young man I used to wonder: who wrote all these books? Each book seemed like a new world to me… an uncharted territory, and I was without map or compass in such a realm. I’d pick up a book here and there not knowing if it was good or bad (not in the moral sense, but in the sense of – good writing, ideas, history, fiction, science, philosophy, etc.). I just didn’t have a way of telling, of deciding what was worth reading or not. Even my teachers in grade school didn’t really go into it much. Oh we’d read a few books from time to time in class, but no one in grade school, Jr. High, or High School taught much more than the usual fare of safe and narrow books I think we’ve all come to know as the classics of one’s country or nation, etc. What lay outside of that was like a jungle full of unknown beasts.

So one day I happened on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. I was amazed at the power of his words to capture for me some of the feelings and thoughts I’d always held and believed to be true (at least for me). His verse was simple, clear, and imaginative; and, it held me, fascinated me, kept me wanting more; wanting to know how he could put words together like that, how the spell he cast over me suddenly awakened laughter or tears. So I asked a librarian about Blake, and if they had any books on his life, etc. I was directed to Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry. That was the first critical work I ever read. Suddenly I was thrown into a world that exposed me to critical thought for the first time. I was hooked. He made Blake’s poetry come alive, it made sense. I was now able with the help of Frye’s commentary on work and life of Blake to understand the message of the poetry as well as its music. Blake had many strains from lyric to epic to prophetic, etc. But it was this world of poetry that opened my eyes to language itself. From then own I wanted to know more, so I began reading all the poetry and critical lives and works on poets throughout the ages.

After that came my need to know the actual history and thoughts of people that informed much of this poetry. In school we’d been taught mainly dates and dull facts about the past, and most text books were boring and neutered of excitement. So for me school was dead and deathly for a growing mind. I only remember a handful of teachers that seemed truly excited about teaching and the subjects they taught. My literature, mathematics, and science teachers in several cities we lived in all seemed to care about their subjects and made me interested. And, that above all is what keeps one going, curiosity and interest.

I have to admit that philosophy came late in life. Most of these old books just didn’t make much sense at all. Like many undergraduates I probably got my inkling of philosophy from reading the philosophy of histories by Coplestone. Having been raised a Christian it took a while to overcome many of my doubts and feelings about what I read, but I persisted and much of what I read opened my mind to contrary thoughts and doubts concerning the validity of my upbringing and the Church. Needless to say it took years to work through these doubts and tribulations. Having been raised in Southern Baptist and Methodist ideology since childhood I was bound with the old notion of sin and death, hell and eternal punishment of the wicked, etc. Mentally it took me years to overcome my fear of eternal damnation, and the idea that that God and Devil alike were priestly lies; a way to control the mass mind of their tribes and nations.

Sorry to be so long winded… but for me literature, philosophy, sciences, history – the culture of the West gave me a new perspective and ballast against the ignorance and fear of my childhood world. I remember James Joyce once saying

“When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”

Maybe in the end that is something we all must do or remain in the prison house of fear and trepidation… never knowing our own thoughts, but rather trapped in the cage of an Other who decides for us what is true and good. I’d rather die alone, and with my own thoughts than be bound to the lock and stamp of some dogmatic world of ritual and repetition that seeks to control my mind. But, that’s me… I don’t suggest others follow me, but to follow their own path.

Further thoughts…

Further thoughts on … whatever…

I know nothing of x-Buddhism… I think I’ve had posters or followers that have mentioned it in the past. But since I was never a Buddhist, how could I be an ex-Buddhist? Tell the truth personally I’ve always tended toward the skeptical naturalist world view, and yet over time I’ve modulated between a non-dialectical inquiry and a dialectical materialist inquiry of life, things, and what some now term – the Real (Lacan). I am an Iconoclast, and hate labels, hate being pegged to any one specific modality or philosophical heritage. Being a singularity (Guattari) I do no like being trapped in other people’s systems (William Blake). I’ve always gone with the notion that language cannot describe everything, that there are aspects of reality that remain open and unknown. The sciences are problematic at best, working on a reality that is always changing never set in stone, and never will be. There can be no totalized system of description or knowledge. Reality is ongoing… a process without end. And even though we end as these specific vehicles I cannot conclude what comes next… that is to be decided. No one has come back from the dead to tell us. Even though we have testimony from many traditions, they are just that, testaments of the beyond… not being of a belief that we need transcendence, but rather an affirmer of an open ongoing universal system that has as one of its axiomatic principles: a system that is in movement, swerving toward the new and unbounded. We have no definitive statements on anything at all. Words are not the things they point too… they are merely signs in the darkness of the human mind struggling with the unknown within which it finds itself. All the great metaphysical systems of the past whether of religious or philosophical origins have yet to give us a definitive statement about reality. I doubt they ever will… humans are the restless animal, half-demigod, half-beast… we live in-between worlds where we remain dissatisfied with ourselves and our neighbors. I doubt humans will ever be at peace, I tend to agree with Heraclitus on that point: “Time is a game children play in innocence and beauty.” Poetry? Philosophy? A non-sense statement… a hyperbole onto the realm of the unknown or non-known? I think the key here is “children”, and even as Jesus once said: “The keys to the kingdom or in the hands of children.” We can observe in the curiosity and wonder of a child’s eyes the path we should all take in approaching the universe within which we live and have our being. There is none other…

As far as reducing anything to pop-cultural reference… I think most people live at that level. Why should I try to speak in arcane or even technical terms to the average reader of blogs? I hated post-structuralist bullshit linguistic elitism during the post-modern era, and still hate those who use such abstruse terms. Yet, sometimes it is difficult not too. I understand it, but for the most part I try to translate the arcane and abstruse into common parlance. Simplify, abstract out the difficulty… maybe it’s a part of my skeptical heritage? I can’t say… but why speak as if you were above people, better than them because you have some specialized vocabulary and technical jargon? That to me defeats the purpose of communication. If I lose something in the translation because of it… that’s the point. I, like many of the literary critics before me, seek to both entertain and instruct, not to bludgeon people with some truth.

If anything I still follow the Socratic dictum of the “unexamined life is not worth living”. More than anything words can never capture the excess of one’s life. I’ve for the most part been an iconoclast. I hate labels, or being reduced to some specific modality or perspective. Why should we be part of some school of thought, a follower? I think that was probably one of the great lessons I gathered in my romantic rebellion period as a youth reading Nietzsche was the notion that one does not need followers.

What does it truly mean to become individuated now? How to attain singularity? The age of autonomous norms is dead, we are now driven by technologies of self (Stiegler/Foucault) that broker our lives intrinsically and extrinsically. Transitional beings at best, we are caught in an age when one Symbolic Realm is exploding or imploding around us, and the next has yet to come into its own metastable power. We use terms like post-human, post-capital, post-socialist, post post post… this or that… all shifting, sliding terms that offer us no stable relation, but rather hint at this transitional process in-between, an apocalypse – or revelation or revealing of things about to be but not yet… etc. As we forget ourselves, our cultural references slip into disrepute day by day as scientists and philosophers plow under the ancient dead who have guided civilization up to this point. They no longer offer us living thought onto what we are going through, so we stumble into the future like children … But maybe that is the best, maybe we need to attain that innocence and wonder at the unknown and frightening worlds around us. Begin again from the beginning…. asking the questions of self and world without reducing it to the known…. maybe we need to open our eyes again, our minds, to the blank before us, to the unnamed and unnamable… to shape a new name for the impossible.