The Anti-God in the Sewers: Werewolves, Rats, and Poetry

“Let us not forget that philosophy is also primate psychology; that our loftiest speculations are merely picking through a minuscule region of the variegated slime encrusting a speck of dust.”      – Nick Land, Spirit and Teeth

“Your words, Euthyphro, are like the handiwork of my ancestor Daedalus; and if I were the sayer or propounder of them, you might say that my arguments walk away and will not remain fixed where they are placed because I am a descendant of his.”      – Socrates


Nick Land finds neither a god in the sewers and underworlds, nor even the ancient leprous visage of a comic Yahweh hiding in shadows, so much as he does his poseur, an imposter and fretful son, a shapeshifting shaman or Loki of the dark labyrinths – a werewolf and Rat King of an “inferior race” (Rimbaud). Such a creature is neither prodigal nor charmed, but rather the last fragmentary hope of a broken and threadbare messiah, not of truth and life, but of death and despair: a god of mud and slime living among the black and brown rats like a subterranean king in the cesspool of a tumorous thought. No longer the great god of the Old Testament, this forgotten shadow Yahweh mimicry lives among his own brethren and inferiors, regressed to his true form as the King of Rats and Werewolves: his vermin-core eating alive all those false religions and philosophies that still inhabit this dark bunghole of our globe.

This is the vision of poets, one such as Georg Trakl (the lycanthropic metamorphosis of god into beast, into rat, being fed by a young boy during those twilight moments between day and night):

“In the evening, the father became an old man; in dark rooms the mother’s face petrified, and the curse of the degenerated race weighed on the boy. Sometimes he remembered his childhood filled with sickness, terror and eclipse, secret games in the garden of stars, or feeding the rats in the dusking courtyard. From the blue mirror the narrow figure of the sister stepped and he fell as if dead into darkness. At night his mouth burst open like a red fruit and stars gleamed over his speechless grief. His dreams filled the ancient house of the fathers. In the evening he liked to walk over the ruined cemetery or watch the corpses in the dusking crypts, with green stains of rot on their beautiful hands” (Georg Trakl, Dream and Derangement).

Land tells us that “animality is not a state, essence, or genus, but a complex cross – cut by voyages of all kinds” (54). [1] This is the black world of dead-ends and stagnant sumps, open flows: a world in which things emerge multiple, fluid, unpredictable, shadow realms in which the enemy of humankind is a mutable excess metamorphosing, lupine and murine, a volcanic eruption of pure productivity without closure. As Land says, these “intensive sequences cannot be isolated or determined” (54). The darkness of one speaks to the darkness of the other. Meaning wanders from slime to slime like the hidden remains of strange creatures that have gone extinct only to emerge as something else, form within form evolving under the guise of some other form, masked only by the predatory gaze of their ferine eyes. Like everything else we have little time to ponder the niceties of either poetry or philosophy, Land explodes; and, in Trakl we discover the “lycanthropic vectors of  impatience, of twitch disease, because they are the virulent relics of an indecent precipitation, an abortion, a meteoric impact” (44). Dead a twenty-seven Trakl “took very little time over anything”, unlike philosophical purveyors of ‘spirit’ (Geist) like Derrida for whom time was an interminable trace of a trace never to be closed off.  For Derrida there is infinite patience, a staying off, a tomorrow into which one can spin the meanings of meaning, impress them in their moment of passage between the abyss and sky. With such a man there is no sense of urgency, only the “prescription of painstaking care, deliberation, conscientiousness, and reverential textual devotion” (44).

Languorous and methodical “inspired by principles of decency and justice. Everything is mediated by elucidations, re-elucidations, elucidations of previous elucidations, conducted with meticulous courtesy, but never inattentive to the complicity of the concept of elucidation with the history of metaphysics from Plato to the previous paragraph of De l’esprit” (44).  This is a man for whom even God must wait, be put off, stubbornly refused his day in the sun until just the right moment when the appropriate and appropriated words can be found: formed, shaped, and spun into a web of deceit, a lie against all anteriority, against both past and future – a staying of the hand of that impossible possible finitude (44), which only the interminable passage of ghosts can differ within the silence between two mourning alterity’s…

For Trakl and Rimbaud there is only the beast, the instinctive knowledge of the forest and the jungle, the emergence of slime in a dust born germ: the human into wolf, a darker force measuring itself against all darkness. The nihil gazing into the Void out of which the Nihil gazes back: a black thought in a black void silenced only by its own merciless capacity to destroy that which is not void. The broken dream of a broken god, a force that is at once life and death: the emergence of an entwined progeny – dueling twins warring against all that is, bringing with it the strange things that have no name or meaning. The positing of a non-meaning that gives rise to all meaning. Out of the gaze of humans emerges that which is not human, a force of the void that calls each to each from within the very core of a volcanic eruption that is our feral being: the ferocity of dust.

As Land tells us Derrida is not a werewolf (44). No. Werewolves “are dissipated within homolupic spiral that distances them utterly from all concern for decency or justice. Their feral physiologies are badly adapted to depressive states conducive to ethical earnestness. Instead they are propelled by extremities of libidinal tension which fragment their movements, break up their tracks with jagged discontinuities, and infest their nerves with a burning malaise, so that each gesture is baked in the kiln of ferocity” (44). Hermeneutics and deconstruction are of an other order than the dark materials of werewolves. No. One must follow the likes of Trakl to know the fast lane of the libidinal drivenness of werewolves, a philosophy of mutability and metamorphosis, a materiality that explodes all recursions to Geist. Or with Rimbaud one must affirm that one has always already been a subspecies “an inferior race” (45). As Rimbaud says: “I am not able to comprehend revolt. My race never stirs itself except for pillage: like wolves at the beast they have not killed” (45).

We werewolves of poetry are an “accursed race,” as Trakl told us; or, as his brother Rimbaud, we are a lost tribe “communicating its dirty blood in wilderness spaces of barbarian inarticulacy” 45). As Land tells us in one last dark epiphany: “Eternally aborting the prospect of a transcendental subjectivity, the inferior ones are never captured by contractual reciprocity, or by its attendant moral universalism” (45). These dark ones crave “pagan regressions”: it “is only with the greatest strictness that the superior ones repress the violent drives which lure them into inferior becomings; becoming female, black, irresponsible and nomadic, becoming an animal, a plant, a death spasm of the sun” (45). Only the cold bone moon can save such creatures from the dark nomadic wanderings of this feral abyss; the rest is Time’s cruel markings, the fragments of a void churning in an ocean of blackness:

The moon shines with such blue light
Upon the city,
Where a decaying generation
Lives, cold and evil –
I
cy winds quarrel in the darkness.

–  Georg Trakl, from both The Evening and The Rats

As Land would surmise in a sister essay,

The death of God is a religious event – a transgression, experiment in damnation, and stroke of antitheistic warfare – but this is not to say it is pre-eminently a crime. Hell has no interest in our debauched moral currency. To confuse reactive dabblings in sin with expeditions in damnation is Christian superficiality; the Dantean error of imagining that one could earn oneself an excursion in Hell, as if the infernal too was a matter of justice. Our crimes are mere stumblings on the path to ruin, just as every projected Hell on Earth is a strict exemplar of idolatry. 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. (my italics)


  1. Of Derrida, Heidegger, and spirit ed. David C. Wood, Spirit and Teeth by Nick Land (Northwestern University 1993)