On Dark Realism: Part Three

Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear.

—H.P. Lovecraft

At once as far as Angels kenn he views the dismal situation waste and wilde, a Dungeon horrible, on all sides round as one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames no light, but rather darkness visible serv’d only to discover sights of woe, regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace and rest can never dwell, hope never comes that comes to all; but torture without end…

—John Milton, Paradise Lost 

Why do we fear darkness more than light? Why have we locked ourselves away from the unknown and strange, the weird and eerie? What do we fear in the darkest regions of space and time? Our reliance of sight, on our eyes has been central from the beginnings of philosophical reflection? Why? Even our colloquial sayings speak of such warm and kindred beings who are suddenly known by the “light in their eyes”. Why this fascination with light, eyes, knowledge? What if the tyranny and reliance of this one supreme sense has covered over aspects of the Real that could bring us another kind of knowledge, a non-knowledge at the heart of darkness?

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On Dark Realism: Part Two

On Speculative Realism and Materialism

…speculative realists …are committed to the view that there is a reality that exceeds the bounds of perception and phenomenological intuition; that human thought is capable of transgressing the limits of phenomenological evidence; and that being is not identical to knowing. In short: speculation, they maintain, is theoretically capable of disengaging objects from subjects in nonarbitrary ways, some of which approximate science fiction but none of which are, in the last analysis, fictitious.

—Tom Sparrow,  The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism 

Ray Brassier who coined the term Speculative Realism as part of a weekend seminar at Goldsmith’s back in 2007 recently addressed this strange beast quoting Graham Harman from his essay ‘The Current State of Speculative Realism’ in Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism IV (2013), 22:

Though there are still tough tests ahead concerning the breadth and durability of Speculative Realism, it has long since passed the ‘existence’ test to a far greater degree than most of its critics.2

To this Brassier asks: “Has Speculative Realism passed the existence test?” For Brassier the answer was an unqualifiable “no”. For him the originality of SR began with Quentin Meillassoux’s questioning of the Kantian tradition of Continental Philosophy and its Anti-Realist tendencies; otherwise known in Meillassoux’s parlance as “correlationism” (which we discussed in the previous post).  So that Brassier will ask: “The question then arising is whether anti-correlationism is indeed a sufficient condition for Speculative Realism. I do not think it can be.” Ultimately Brassier’s dissatisfaction with SR comes from his disagreement with Graham Harman and his brand of speculative realism or Object-Oriented Ontology.

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On Dark Realism: Part One

On Dark Realism

The question for speculative realism then becomes: of what does speculation consist? The answers to this are as diverse as the field of speculative realism itself. What they have in common, however, is a desire to break with the recollective model of knowledge as well as the authority of phenomena, and to engage problems that are, roughly speaking, metaphysical in nature.

 —Tom Sparrow, The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism 

For me there is no natural or supernatural, we’ve been imposing human categories on the Real for so long that the these categories of thought have become reality rather than Real. Now that the actual Real is resisting our categories of thought we are left pondering all our idiotic axioms. The Real is what resists our explanatory explanandum; that is the only viable realism. It’s so dark and unknown that we must start from the beginning, erase the human categories of thought and begin negotiating and communicating with the resisting forces of the Real. This is not a War but an admission of absolute alterity in all relations. The non-human other is speaking to us, but we are not listening. Time to enter the dark…

Reading a recent essay by Eugene Thacker on Mark Fisher’s last book before his untimely death The Weird and the Eerie, he reminds us of a statement by H.P. Lovecraft from that horror writer’s short story “The Call of Cthulhu”:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

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Technicity and the Future of Technocapitalism

If bad faith is “the need not to see what one sees,” how can the philosopher, without deceiving himself, not accept the challenge presented by the world of techniques, a world that is regarded as meaningful?

 —Pierre Ducassé, The Philosopher among Artists and Technicians

Protagoras was the first humanist, saying: “Man is the measure of all things.” But since his time we’ve come to another conclusion, the inhuman truth: “It is not man but technology that is the measure of all things.” By this we mean that the inhuman core of Man is and has always been the condition of his own technicity, not as originary but rather as the non-dialectical affirmation of difference by which he has constructed himself through technics and technology. There is no opposition here, no dualism; rather the differential affirmation of a hybrid becoming, a productive becoming other immanent to the technicity of his being.

In Gesture and Speech (Le geste et la parole, 1964), the paleoanthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan advanced a theory of the codevelopment of manual articulation (i.e., tool-based existence) and symbol-making that determined that the species homo comes into being precisely because of its technicity. If we began speaking not of the human condition but rather of the technological condition a new and surprising non-human philosophy emerges, one that shifts our perspective from the human to non-human relations as primary.

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The Magical Universe: Gilbert Simondon and Technicity

The old idea that man invented tools is … a misleading half-truth; it would be more accurate to say that tools invented man.

—Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future

Long ago in that pre-history of the hominid ancestral narrative an ape picked up a pointed stick realizing for the first time it might help her dig up a tuber she was trying to pull out of the ground to feed her children. So goes the anthropological myth of human beginnings and evolution.  The evidence for making and using tools dates back to half a million years before the origin of our genus. Making tools almost certainly helped toolmakers survive. Toolmaking would have facilitated access to a wider range of foods and the ability to process those foods more intensively or efficiently, likely making them more palatable and yielding more calories. In the case of meat and marrow eating, toolmaking would have opened up new sources of food higher in protein, fat, and calories than many other foods available in African savanna landscapes.

According to thinkers such as Gilbert Simondon the process of toolmaking would form part of a phase shift in the process of technicity underpinning one of the two modes of existence leading to homo sapiens:

This study postulates that technicity is one of the two fundamental phases of the mode of existence of the whole constituted by man and the world. By phase, we mean not a temporal moment replaced by another, but an aspect that results from a splitting in two of being and in opposition to another aspect; this sense of the word phase is inspired by the notion of a phase ratio in physics; one cannot conceive of a phase except in relation to another or to several other phases; in a system of phases there is a relation of equilibrium and of reciprocal tensions; it is the actual system of all phases taken together that is the complete reality, not each phase in itself; a phase is only a phase in relation to others, from which it distinguishes itself in a manner that is totally independent of the notions of genus and species. The existence of a plurality of phases finally defines the reality of a neutral center of equilibrium in relation to which there is a phase shift. (The Genesis of Technicity )

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Techno-Sorcery: Science, Capital, and Abstraction

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—Arthur C. Clarke

When, under the authority of the sciences, one speaks of the uncanny and weird effects of particles acting at a distance in quantum mechanics; or the anomalous existence of temporary particles that come into and out of existence; or the entanglement of particles across vast worlds one never mentions the word magical. Instead we mask it with both mathematical equations and technological measurements and speak of the power of science as true, while the old magical universe of sympathy is shriven of its ancient power. If magic is at heart the discovery and manipulation of sympathy: action at a distance – then isn’t science after all a theory of magic that disguises it’s magical praxis?

Have we not been hiding our modern magical world view under the secular guise of a demythologized and abstracted magic? Are we not techno-sorcerers enabling the ancient arts of black magic, or the manipulation of matter and the release of ancient daemonic powers from the abyss-energy fields of darkness? Is modern secular society after all a mere magician’s ruse that has initiated several generations into believing magic is not magic, but something else? Is science a pure abstraction from the principles of ancient Neoplatonic theurgists, released from the images and myths of those symbolic relations and purified of its religious trappings? Are the sciences nothing more than a pure abstraction of magical praxis under the guise of a demythologized pantheon of dark powers we term dark matter and dark energy? Have we truly left the ancient worlds behind, or merely staged our own cartoon version reducing the height and breadth of their symbolic worlds to a mathematical puzzle and technological praxis? With all our supposed sophistication isn’t science a mere stage show for the ritual magic of techno-capitalist power, a power that seeks to master the universe like the dark sorcerers of old for profit and control?

Nick Land reminds us that in the “literary and cinematic craft, horror is indistinguishable from a singular task: to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown“. What is it then to actually experience an object of the unknown, as the unknown? If the noumenal suddenly winked into existence, showed its true form or formlessness to our perceptive faculties what shock of unworlding of our reality systems would take place? When faced with the enigmas, anomalies, and strange or weird features of the unknown what effects transpire in our minds and bodies? The dark sorceries of elder days would call such unknown forces up from their abyss allowing them to be manifested in the craft of magical statues that would sing and become operative of daemonic spheres beyond the zones of human will or intelligence. Later Christian thinkers such as Marsilio Ficino when studying these Egyptian theurgists would feel both a sense of terror in discovering such oddities, as well as a fear and horror of those who could and would burn him at the stake if he believed in the efficacy of such tales of magic. Even more so was the fear and horror that such magical praxis was truly efficacious. It was this forbidden knowledge of such ritual practices that would shape Western magical thought for the next few hundred years.

In the ancient world of the Chaldeans and Egyptians the manipulators of matter were considered demonolaters. Those who sought to raise the powers of demons into the visible universe, rather than call down the angelic gods of the spheres. Such dark sorcery was seen as criminal and to be eschewed by therapeutae and theurgist alike. In our own age the cosmology of Aristotle and the ancients is dead, and has been replaced by the modern sorcery of the sciences which through the power of technology and abstraction have under Protestantism purified the world of its ancient symbolic mythologies. The Age of the Enlightenment might be better termed the Age of Disenchantment. The severing of our connections to the symbolic web of sympathy and the magical worldview of the ancients and their cosmologies of concentric circles and the Great Chain of Being has led to a universe unbound. The slow but methodical cleansing of the world of its human ties and symbolic meanings, the deconstruction of our linguistic associations and mental entrapments to a magical world of animated systems has been at the heart of a centuries long campaign against religious and superstitious illusion and delusion. Yet, even as mainstream culture and its new Secular mythologies gained control of the educational and propaganda systems of reality control systems there was and has always been a criminal element of underground and counter-cultural currents and forces that have disputed this new dispensation.

The revival of these ancient traditions in 19th century France with the work of Eliphas Levi who would undertake a review of the extant work within Catholic figures such as Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, Cornelius Agrippa, John Dee, and so many others would awaken in many counter-currents a knowledge of these ancient links to both Greek, Arab, and Jewish sources, along with others in the 19th Century who would awaken the magical traditions of Eastern thought under the auspices of Theosophical and other esotericisms. All this would lead into strange and bewildering forays into the dark lore of the past and its religious-magical worldview. For mainstream bourgeois culture this way lay madness and criminality, but for the counter-revolutionary it opened the doors of perception onto a world strangeness that no longer bound the mind to the limits of Kantian restrictions. For these voyagers into the Impossible had brought back the world of noumenal experience where the dark hinterlands of gods and demons still lived in the wilderness of ancient thought.

H.P. Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature would describe this node of experience: “Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear.” This sense of the Outside and daemonic, the abysmal darkness of the unknown and unknowable register of powers and forces just below the threshold of consciousness that at certain moment impinge upon our waking minds as shocks of pure and utter terror are as old as magic itself. In such moments one suddenly awakens to the ontological terror of existence, suddenly feeling the ground below one’s feet give way as if the world one exist in is but a subbasement or lower level of some unfathomable systems of the Real. Magic like a program to be run works with the computational complexity of our ontological predicament, it calls forth powers from both the lower levels and higher levels of some simulated program. It’s this realization that we are but bit players in a simulated universe, programs of some vast digital universe which shocks us into an alienated sphere of thought and feeling. Knowing that we are not real but delusions and illusions of some complex system of programmed realties unsettles our minds. And, yet, the knowledge that we can with the right rituals and codes call down powers or raise daemonic agencies makes us realize that this thing we call reality is larger and more mysterious than we suspect or can suspect. That we are part of the very unknowing of things, and that our access to it is by way of non-knowledge rather than knowledge.

In our own time we’ve begun divesting ourselves even further of the old symbolic cosmologies and their links to Christian and religious fear and terror. One could say the old gods and demons, or the pagan flora and fauna of ancient Celtic and other pre-European and Eurasian worlds, not to mention the realms of Africa, India, Middle-Eastern, and Far Eastern thought and praxis dealing with magick is being rerouted into new forms and systems. Much of the cyber-punk and post-cyberpunk science fiction incorporates a hypermagical techno-capitalist vision both dark and light that weave the threads of posthuman and transhuman Neoplatonist theurgical praxis, whether self-conscious of these ancient worlds or not.

The cultural crack-up of Western mainstream reality systems has become apparent to any and everyone who has any intelligence at all. Across the years we’ve seen the martialing of underground artistic systems from the early modernist era of the Celtic Twilight, Dada, Surrealism, etc. which would lead to the postmodern worlds of abstractionism, situationism, and the various counter-worlds of rebel music from the Rock-n-roll era to the end games of punk and cyber-punk nihilism. In our own era speculative realists and materialists seek a way out of the capitalist divide of universalist Enlightenment and Secular progressive culture in the extreme view of techno-anarchism to jet-pack communism. Both absolute individualism and absolute collectivism seem sparking new and strange amalgams. The old guard is on the defense within the mainstream liberal duopolies of the last vestiges of democratic civilization, even as capitalism itself abandons politics and reformist liberal measures for the freedom of off-shore and off-planet libertarianism of Exit.

Humans as humans will probably not accept the future coming at us (i.e., throughout history we’ve tended toward conservative and traditional lines, fighting change and the future, etc.). So that the civil war among ideologies of progressive / conservative will in the coming century reach a breaking point. This, too, could lead to many dire effects. One need only look back at the long dark ages after Greece and Rome that were brought to us by the conservative Christian/Catholic feudalistic authoritarian rule based social systems… because we’ve become enamored of an Image based Culture now we’ve lost the ability to empathize and feel the truth of our past. Specifically the generations that lived through the horrors of WWI and WWII and the genocidal world of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc. see all this as a Hollywood movie (even with films from that era). For the new generations the norms and rules of social interaction are closer to anarchist now, in that they don’t believe in the liberal progressive world view anymore than in the conservative libertarian worldview. The generations growing up since the 1990’s are evolving into other forms that have yet to take on a political shape that one can truly know and understand… they’ve lived in the nihilist acid bath of the post-punk era. One might say this is the remix era of the fake, a decadent moment of too muchness. This generation will have to step out of this and formulate its own politics against our liberal and conservative past. It’s this I see going on. The whole world I grew up in is dead, we’ve all become zombies now. A great sacrifice is in the offing… the whole Enlightenment universalist ideology is dead and something else has yet to take its place…

Breath through of break-down is the prognosis for the near term, with fragmentation and the slow break away civilizations of minoritarian revolt and displacement across both first and third world nations. Globalism is dead even as capitalism itself seems to rise above the planet re-inventing itself in a Galactic push outward toward Mars colonization and off-world technics of techno-industrial mining, harvesting, and exploration. Chaosmos. A new order of the ages is being formed even in the midst of this transitional stage from the secular to the post-secular civilization. The birth pangs of a hyper-civilizational process that is at once undermining old and new forms in an acid bath of formlessness, while at the same time allowing advanced intercultural civil war and strife to play out its genocidal madness. It’s as if we are at the intersection of a Time-War of which we are both ignorant and as well its progenitors; as if the future past is infesting our present with its retroactive programs, reprograming humanity to enact a transitional phase shift of which it is itself the product and producer.

We need new experimental maps that can reweave the old and new forms of social navigation in our time if we are to break free of the current malaise of our civilizational slide into suicide and genocidal madness. My blogging up to now has stayed with the base line philosophical heritage, even if it has pushed the limits of that world. We need more, we need to push past the safety nets of thought that bind us and keep us within the secure circle of civilization as we’ve known it. Yet, we need to swim back at the same time and understand the counter-praxis of all those intellectuals of the past who formed counter-hegemonic theories of reality against the mainstream cultures of their era. We are no alone in this endeavor, many have died and sparked the hatred and animosity of mainstream reality makers across the past two-thousand years. When ancient Rome aligned State Power and Religion under Constantine a fierce reality system would be shaped that would shape the forces of Western Civilization for thousands of years. Only in the past two-hundred years has that old regimes of religious and state power been challenged by another extreme: Secularism. And, yet, in our own moment the secular atheistic worldview seems teetering on the edge of apocalypse. Why? In some ways because it did not go far enough, it kept the old forms of elitism, power, and structures in place that bound the greater populace in systems of entrapment and closure that were as prison like as the Feudal orders of the older Catholic autocracies. It is this challenge to the false democratic worldview that has cloaked power and elite oligarchs under the guise of liberty and equality that is coming apart at the seams. Even as the duopolies of State and Corporate fascism which prevail in the world today under the guise of democracy are falling under the pressure of their own success, the other cultures both within and without are breaking down and exploding under the oppression of this dark world of capital enslavement.

In many ways it was the severance of cosmology and the sacred that brought about the methodical demythologization of religious worlds that ultimately ended in the Enlightenment. What we’re seeing in our time is the reweaving of our new cosmologies with a re-evaluated notion of the sacred. One sees in the great festivals of our era, especially in America (Burning man – though commercialized) which has always been god haunted, the resurgence of many of these ancient systems under new guises. The whole of the counter-cultural thrust of the sixties and New Age movements was this desperate attempt to break out of the clusterfuck of reduced existence that corporate fascist technocracy had instilled. And, strangely it was the very core of that tyranny and its secret systems of control (the CIA, etc.) which in their bid to develop psychological warfare (psyops, MKUltra, etc.) that unleased the various pharmakons of the enthenogenic revolution in consciousness which is still with us in many strange twists and designs. Whatever comes our way will be due to the repressive and oppressive reality systems of our current failing globalist vision of existence. Reweaving new narratives and stories will be the aim of our new more positive agenda, along with the diagnostic and destructive critique of the monomyth of reality constructed by the Cathedralism of American Globalists.

Where will it take us? The old mythologies of secularism of which Democracy and Communism and Fascism were the outgrowth are dead and dying, but nothing is in the offing, no plan, no initiative, no map or program. Both the Left and Right are bankrupt and they know it. Isn’t this what the Singularity truly means? This movement into the impossible and unknown, uncharted waters of non-thought? Are we not moving into a realm that has no map, no navigational system to guide us. All the ideologies spawned since the Enlightenment are of no use, the maps of anarchist or communist, democracy or autocracy will not help us now. We are alone, unbound by the old legacies of Western philosophical anchors or religious-magico systems. For man this is a good thing, for it means we must invent out of our own ignorance a new way forward. Experience the new as a force of chaos and creation. We must for the first time in history invent the possibility of possibility. If magic was a form of binding, then maybe what we need now is a meta-magical system of unbinding. One that can unbind our minds from the illusions and delusions of both ancient and modern systems of enslavement, and allow us to create and invent something new beyond the human enclaves of this prison world we live in. As Wallace Stevens once said it’s time to let the “black waters of the impossible seep into the possible.” Humanity is just a computer virus in the galactic hive-mind, a planetary blip in the re-tuning of the cyberfeeds of universal silence.

  1. Nick Land. Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator (Kindle Locations 850-851). Time Spiral Press. Kindle Edition.

The Necrophilic Vision of J.G. Ballard

For Vaughan the car-crash and his own sexuality had made their final marriage. … During his studied courtship of injured women, Vaughan was obsessed with the buboes of gas bacillus infections, by facial injuries and genital wounds.

—J. G. Ballard, Crash: A Novel

In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973) Erich Fromm argues that ‘contemporary industrial man’ is necrophiliac in that any genuine interest in people, nature and ‘living structures’ has been suppressed, in favour of an attraction to ‘mechanical, nonalive artifacts’.1  Fromm includes the pride taken in cars, the obsession with taking photographs (especially when on holiday) and the liking for gadgets (today, he would no doubt include mobile phones, personal computers and other electronic equipment in this category) as symptomatic of the necrophiliac character of modern humanity, fixated as it is on what Sebald terms ‘dead objects’.

In The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928), Walter Benjamin places the corpse at the heart of his theorization of baroque allegory; in the 1930s, he proceeds to identify the allegorical as Baudelaire’s primary mode; and, in his later work towards the uncompleted Arcades Project, he presents the fetishism of mid- nineteenth- century capitalism as essentially necrophiliac in nature.2

Another thinker of the era Georges Bataille in such works as Erotism: Death and Sensuality would present the case that all forms of eroticism can only be understood in terms of a relation to death, Bataille identifies necrophilia as the underlying principle of all genuinely erotic experience.3 Which according to one critic would signal in our late capitalist era a diminishing of the experience of sovereign heterogeneity, and the coming to dominance of a servile, accumulative, homogeneous culture, so his privileging of necrophilia is a deliberate attempt to achieve cultural renewal through a valorization of precisely that form of the erotic which sexology considered to be both the most extreme and the most unacceptable… (Schaffner, p. 173).

For Bataille arguing against an entire tradition of psychoanalytical literature would admit that it is not the use of reason that distinguishes the human from the non- human animal, but rather, alongside work, ‘the repugnance for death and dead persons’. (Bataille) What we fear is not death in the abstract, but rather as Bataille repeatedly insists, the corpse that disgusts us is a decomposing substance. It is in process, liminal, between two states of fixed and stable being, neither one thing nor another. (Schaffner, 174)

It is this formlessness of the decomposing corpse that would lead Bataille to realize that it is not simply matter that is becoming unstable, but rather the founding metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic distinctions between life and death, animate and inanimate, formed and formless being. The corpse is, in short, the place where contraries meet, where order, identity and unity decompose, where all that makes the world intelligible and masterable is threatened. (Schaffner, 174) Bataille would see in the necrophilic impulse the central human condition of nostalgia for political restoration and revalorization. In this sense the slow decay and decomposition of modern democracies as they fell into WWI and WWII became the example of a fusion of eros and death in the form of technological sublime. Speed, acceleration, and the technological progress of war had fused in the necrophilic society of Fascism.

Technological Desire in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard

In an interview Ballard would be asked if his early medical training influenced his use of doctors and hospitals throughout his oeuvre. Ballard would say,

Maybe it is. Doing anatomy was an eye-opener: one had built one’s whole life on an illusion about the integrity of one’s body, this ‘solid flesh’. One mythologises one’s own familiar bits of flesh and tendon. Then to see a cadaver on a dissecting table and begin to dissect it myself and to find at the end of term that there was nothing left except a sort of heap of gristle and a clutch of bones with a label bearing some dead doctor’s name – that was a tremendous experience of the lack of integrity of the flesh, and of the integrity of this dead doctor’s spirit. Most cadavers, you know, are donated by doctors; and the doctors can visualise what’s going to happen to their bodies after death, because they’ve done dissection themselves.4

This sense of fragmentation and decomposition at the heart of Ballard’s aesthetic permeates his view of eros, death, and technology. In another interview based on his recent publication of Crash Ballard would inform us that

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinaesthetic factors, the stylising of motion, consumer goods, status – all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really, a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing). That’s why the death in a crash of a famous person is a unique event – whether it’s Jayne Mansfield or James Dean – it takes place within this most potent of all consumer durables. (Sellars, KL 708)

This fusion of base materialism (“a liberation of human and machine libido”) with the technological sublime can be see throughout Ballard’s stories and novels. This necrophilic desire of the organic for the inorganic, flesh for machine seems to pervade our current eras fear and fascination with the artificial. Yet, for Ballard it wasn’t this sense of the erotic and machinic in fusion, but rather the disaffective division between our older primitive environmental associations of violence and sex that were being lost in this new technological world that pervades us. As he’d say it in another interview: “Although our central nervous systems have been handed to us on a plate by millions of years of evolution, have been trained to respond to violence at the level of fingertip and nerve ending, in fact now our only experience of violence is in the head, in terms of our imagination, the last place where we were designed to deal with violence.” (Sellars, KL 849)

This disconnection from our organic heritage, the loss of our physical relations to the Real; to the natural world around us, is leading us into a crash space of artificial emotion that is both passive and unable to remember its environmental triggers. So that “our whole inherited expertise for dealing with violence, our central nervous systems, our musculature, our senses, our ability to run fast or to react quickly, our reflexes, all that inherited expertise is never used. We sit passively in cinemas watching movies like The Wild Bunch where violence is just a style.” (Sellars, KL 852)

The fear and horror for Ballard is that our desire for artificial lives is decomposing our natural affects to the point that we are affectless, having no feelings but for the technological objects around us and that we’ve become ourselves:

Everywhere, all over Africa and South America, if you visit you see these suburbs springing up. They represent the optimum of what people want. There’s a certain sort of logic leading towards these immaculate suburbs. And they’re terrifying, because they are the death of the soul. And I thought, My God, this is the prison this planet is being turned into. (Sellars, Kl 2775)

He’ll go on to say that in The Atrocity Exhibition, “I had already shown how technology kills feeling,” which would in his later work foreshadow the death of affect brought about by systems of mass communication. (Sellars, KL 3852) Because we’ve left off living our own lives people have become more and more obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous, which has led to an obsession “with violent death, particularly of well-known figures (presidents, film stars and the like). (Sellars, KL 4144) He’d continue, saying:

It seems self-evident that people are immensely fascinated by the lives and deaths of public figures and have been since the nineteenth century. I remember reading American magazines as a boy in Shanghai that were full of gory photographs of gangsters and politicians who were gunned down and minor film stars who died in terrible road accidents or shootings in Hollywood. I see Kennedy’s death as a kind of catalyst of the media planet that exists now. There was something about the way in which this young president (who was himself a media construction) was dismantled by the same media landscape that created him, that generated a kind of supernova that’s still collapsing. (Sellars, KL 4150)

After the death of his wife Ballard once admitted in an interview that his necrophilic quest became an full time obsession against time, a nostalgia for his wife that seemed to fuse eros, technology and death in a mad vision:

if I could prove to myself that the car crash was not a giver of death but a giver of life, that somewhere beyond the collision of the human body and technology, between the human imagination and technology, there was a happier uplands … If I could do that, I don’t know, in some sort of crazed way I could bring my wife’s spirit at least back to life. (Sellars, KL 4931

  1. Fromm, Erich. The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Open Road Media; 1st edition (February 26, 2013)
  2. Schaffner, A. Modernism and Perversion: Sexual Deviance in Sexology and Literature, 1850-1930. Palgrave Macmillan; 2012 edition (December 15, 2011)
  3. Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death and Sensuality. City Lights Publishers (January 1, 1986)
  4. Ballard, J.G; Sellars, Simon; O’Hara, Dan. Extreme Metaphors (Kindle Locations 654-659). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Eros, Death, and Ecstasy

Eroticism, it may be said, is assenting to life up to the point of death.

With the presentation of this over-all picture as my starting point, nothing has intrigued me more than the idea of once more coming across the image that haunted my adolescence, the image of God. This is certainly not a return to the faith of my youth. But human passion has only one object in this forlorn world of ours. The paths we take towards it may vary. The object itself has a great variety of aspects, but we can only make out their significance by seeing how closely they are knit at the deepest level.

—Georges Bataille, Eroticism, Death, and Sensuality 



Still alive. Just taking time off, reading sci-fi, horror, noir, non-fiction, etc. Working on our new home in the mornings, taking long walks with my Lady along the reservoir and Shoshone river in late afternoons. Piddling. Sometimes you just have to turn the motor off on writing and relax. 🙂

Georg Trakl: The Way of the Rat King

“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

The Rat King reminds us not so much of a god in the sewers and dank underworlds, nor even the ancient leprous visage of a comic Yahweh hiding in the slime-infested shadows of ruinous cities, so much as he does his poseur, an imposter and fretful son, a shapeshifting shaman or Loki of the dark labyrinths – a werewolf  Lord of ferocity and an “inferior race” (Rimbaud). Such a creature is neither prodigal nor charmed, but rather the last fragmentary hope of a broken and threadbare anti-messiah — not of truth and life, but of death and despair: a god-king of in the mud and slime, living among the black and brown rats like a subterranean Outlaw King of cesspools and a tumorous thought of Night and Chaos. No longer the great god of the Old Testament, this mimic King and fetid Yahweh of the Sewers 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 political religions and philosophies that still inhabit this dark bunghole of a globe.

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The Suicidal Civilization: Technopessimism and the Coming Collapse

…suicide is the decisive political act of our times.
― Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody
It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.
― Emile Cioran, The Trouble with being Born

Base materialism begins in the tomb, a world of death that presents itself as life —or, a-life, take your pick: the automatons of an atomistic world unleashed. This is neither Plato’s Cave, nor the scientific infinity of stars and the abyss. This is rather an ocean of energy, a realm of annihilating light and inexistence. Following Nick Land we promote a diagnostic truth against the “speculative, phenomenal, and meditative” philosophers of a false intuitionism, following instead the underbelly of those criminal outcasts of thought: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille among others toward a materialism that seeks not the phenomenal surface of things, but rather the ‘noumenon’ – the impersonal death and unconscious drive of an “energetic unconscious”. This is an experiential turn toward an heretical empiricism not of knowledge, but of collapse.

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Deleuze/Guattari: The Four Schizoanalytical Thesis

[W]hy do many of those who have or should have an objective revolutionary interest maintain a preconscious investment of a reactionary type? And more rarely, how do certain people whose interest is objectively reactionary come to effect a preconscious revolutionary investment?

-Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Deleuze and Guattari in their introduction to Schizoanalysis in Anti-Oedipus will offer us four thesis: (1) Every investment is social, and (2) within the social investments we will distinguish the unconscious libidinal investment of group or desire, and the preconscious investment of class or interest; (3) third, schizoanalysis posits the primacy of the libidinal investments of the social field over the familial investment, both in point of fact and by statute: an indifferent stimulus at the beginning, an extrinsic result at the point of arrival; and, (4) finally, the distinction between two poles of social libidinal investment: the paranoiac, reactionary, and fascisizing pole, and the schizoid revolutionary pole. (see AO: pp. 361, 362, 375, 385)

Those who have read us this far will perhaps find many reasons for reproaching us: for believing too much in the pure potentialities of art and even of science; for denying or minimizing the role of classes and class struggle; for militating in favor of an irrationalism of desire; for identifying the revolutionary with the schizo; for falling into familiar, all-too-familiar traps. This would be a bad reading, and we don’t know which is better, a bad reading or no reading at all. (AO, p. 398)

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The Schizorevolutionary Project : Escaping to the Future of New Earth

Good people say that we must not flee, that to escape is not good, that it isn’t effective, and that one must work for reforms. But the revolutionary knows that escape is revolutionary—withdrawal, freaks—provided one sweeps away the social cover on leaving, or causes a piece of the system to get lost in the shuffle. What matters is to break through the wall…

…the first thesis of schizoanalysis is this; every investment is social, and in any case bears upon a sociohistorical field.

—Deleuze/Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

For Deleuze and Guattari we are all caught in the glue of a temporal machine whose labors are those of Eternal return of the Same: a presentism that seeks to close us off in a dark world of capitalist familial aggression and theatre of cruelty. A social, political, and economic world system that seeks to freeze time in an eternal present of absolute presence. Within such a static world the powers of command and control  manipulate and modulate the desires of their slaves without fear of reprisal; for they’ve created a system of such utter destitution and austerity that no one escapes or withdraws without hitting zero degree intensity (i.e., death). With the separation of politics and the economy, the last linkage of democracy was severed and what remained was an iron clad prison of circulating capital sucking at its citizenry from center to periphery of the earth the surplus value and profit it needed to continue in its isolated world of speed. In such a world the populace is fed just enough to keep them alive till such a time as the machines will replace them, and then they too will become obsolesced and excluded from the world system.

The schizo is not revolutionary, but the schizophrenic process — in terms of which the schizo is merely the interruption, or the continuation in the void — is the potential for revolution. To those who say that escaping is not courageous, we answer: what is not escape and social investment at the same time? The choice is between one of two poles, the paranoiac counterescape that motivates all the conformist, reactionary, and fascisizing investments, and the schizophrenic escape convertible into a revolutionary investment.1

There are such moments when the two poles snap, the center does not hold and the forces of fascism and revolution collide in massive upheavals rivaling the darkest periods of genocide and holocaust. We are entering such an age, and yet it will not be based on ethnic or racial modes of horror but will be shown to be a confrontation between superior and inferior descendants of Homo sapiens sapiens. As the rich and powerful invest in human enhancement for their children in the coming century there will develop a separation of wide (supernormal) humanity from its predecessor and parental branch or clade. The ensuing clash between biological castes – of those with enhanced intelligence and physical features versus the narrow humanity of our own era (i.e., the un-enhanced normals of clade Homo sapiens sapiens). Sadly such conflictual relations may end badly for our species.

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