Nick Land’s diagnosis… Wintermute: Stop it or Accelerate its Production?

In William Gibson’s Neuromancer we see an agon between the various forces that would resist and stop the emergence of a vastly superior Artificial Intelligence vs. those who would enter into a new set of commitments to liberate it from its human security regimes. In the novel this new Intelligence is named Wintermute, an Artificial Intelligence (AI). When the human protagonist, Chase, has to make the precipitous decision to free Wintermute at the end of the novel  he conceives it as a leap into the new:

`Give us the fucking code,’ he said. `If you don’t, what’ll change? What’ll ever fucking change for you? You’ll wind up like the old man. You’ll tear it all down and start building again! You’ll build the walls back, tighter and tighter… I got no idea at all what’ll happen if Wintermute wins, but it’ll change something!’ He was shaking, his teeth chattering.1

Commenting on this in his Doctoral Thesis, Dr. Steve Overy tells us that this decision goes to the heart of Nick Land’s anti-philosophy:

In this era of accelerating technological change philosophy creates a false dichotomy between controlled change and uncontrolled change, whereas, for Land, the real dichotomy is between resisting change and accepting it. The impersonal forces of the outside irrupting at the moment: cryptocurrency, AI and singularity, demographic collapse, the death of the Westphalian state system, crises of capitalism, all are beyond the ability of humanity to steer. What remains is a binary choice to resist, or to progress. Resistance is always undertaken by the human subject in defence of what it knows, and is therefore fundamentally conservative, hence Land’s critique of Ray Brassier’s retreat into ‘conceptual issues’ as leading to philosophical conservatism.2

What’s interesting in this struggle between Land and his former students and associates of the CCRU days is the reversal in the notions of ‘conservatism’. For Land it is the Left or Progressive and academic worldview of the philosophical community of consensus reality that is stifling the emergence of AI and Superintelligence through a false dichotomy. The Left attacks Land for his siding with accelerating capitalism and consistently does this through conceptual attacks on Land’s politics rather than on the merit of his pragmatic stance outside the academy as an anti-philosopher. Land sees all theoretical and conceptual culture as bound to the Kantian treadmill of correlationism in which thought is always already conservative and bound to the old humanistic discursive loops and repetitions by its very insider consensus. Nothing new can emerge from such theory or theoretical culture in the parlance of Landian ‘libidinal materialism’.

For Land the whole Kantian tradition has bound itself within a metaphysical black box from which it cannot by conceptuality ever hope to extract or free itself. Only by opening itself to the pragmatic Outside of primary process and the productive forces that have shaped AI, modernity and Capitalism can it begin to break free of its chains to the humanistic worldview. Instead we must end the chatter of theory and critique which always lead to regressions and circularities – ‘aren’t you using ideas to critique ideas’ – that “short-circuit metaphysical attempts to access base-material” (Overy, p.  302). As Overy suggests one way forward is to align Land’s attempt at measuring desiring-production with an anti-metaphysical and mathematically precise determination of the rules that condition these underlying automatic productions of a materialist post-psychoanalytical method. (Overy, p. 303)

In summation Overy comments,

Ultimately, Land’s thought does not ask to be evaluated according to the mores of modern academic philosophy, but for its predictive ability and its correspondence to reality. (p. 304).

Land left the loop of academic philosophy long ago for an anti-philosophical and pragmatic acceptance of the Outsider view and observer of our cultural malaise. His outsider stance and political proclivities have aligned him as the enemy of the Left and it’s minions. Speaking of academic philosophy in our time Land reminds us that they are “characterized by their moral fervour, parochialism, earnestness, phenomenological disposition, and sympathy for folk superstition,” while those of the outer reaches, the anti-philosophers and followers of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, and their ilk are known by their “fatalism, atheism, strangely reptilian exuberance, and extreme sensitivity for what is icy, savage, and alien to mankind.” 3


  1. Gibson, William. Neuromancer (United Kingdom: Grafton, 1986) p.307
  2.  Overy, Steve. The genealogy of Nick Land’s anti-anthropocentric philosophy: a psychoanalytic conception of machinic desire. (Page 298). Bio:
  3. Land, N. The Thirst for Annihilation (London and New York: Routledge, 1992) pp. 97-98(Page 301).

The Weakness of Leaders

Authoritarianism arises due to the weakness of leaders to decide, decide anything at all. Ours is such a world in which authority has lost all authority, therefore the strong man, the dictator arises not due to capacity but due to the incapacity of the democratic process to actually do its work. The inanity of this political sham between Left and Right has produced the very incapacity to create a viable world, therefore false authoritarianism arises out of this civil war between extremes. The Left has created a Grand Narrative mythology in its story of Neoliberalism to escape its own ineptitude so that it can cop out from actually doing anything. Instead it will continue to iterate and reiterate in convulsive critical suspicion the repetitions of repetitions till the world sinks away into oblivion. The Left has no actual ability to do anything but rage in its own suspicion.

Age of Ressentiment

Age of Ressentiment

“The slave revolt in morality begins when ressentiment itself becomes creative and produces values: the ressentiment of beings to whom the real reaction, that of the deed, is denied, who can only indulge in imaginary revenge. Whereas every noble morality springs from a triumphant acceptance and affirmation of oneself, slave morality is in its very essence a negation of everything ‘outside’ and ‘different,’ of whatever is ‘not oneself’: and this negation is its creative deed. This reversal of the perspective of valuation — this necessary determination by the outside rather than by oneself — is typical of ressentiment: in order to arise, slave morality always needs a hostile external world. Physiologically speaking, it needs external stimuli in order to act at all — its action is fundamentally a reaction.” (Part I, Section 10).

-Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Are we not living in such a moment? Isn’t the world driven by such imaginary revenges on many fronts? But we may ask should we dialecticians of recursive reversals seek not the hostile outer world but rather admit that what we seek is to blow the lid off this fake inside world of political malfeasance, a world that has covered over the Real in a dark iron prison of hate and duplicity? Are we not on Left and Right caught in the mesh of a dualistic nightmare world in which both sides see in each other the dark contours of ressentiment? But this would imply that the engine of hate is the world media who sponsors the imagery of hate furthering the war between extremes. Are we not all victims of such political persuasion? The rhetoric of hate gathers us all under the cage of annihilation. We must begin recognizing the cage we’ve all built to house the beast of ressentiment that is now unleashed on a planetary basis.

Breaking the Vessels: Beyond the Privatized Mind


What mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence.

—Reza Negarestani, Intelligence and Spirit

As a young man my access to networks of information outside my circle was limited to physical libraries and bookstores, much less one’s access to a stream of thinkers, poets, critics, artists, philosophers, etc. One was for the most part bound to the local and limited confines (prison?) of one’s time and place. This is a truism, yet in our age with the capacity to enter varied networks and cognitive societies that test the limits of one’s memory and consciousness we’ve begun to mutate into another type of being altogether; and, yet, this overloaded world of networked, deprivatized and collective intelligence (Geist?) is displacing the old cues that grounded us in our local physical worlds. We seem to co-habit shared worlds, a multi-verse of intelligence, at once distributed and collective to the point that we no longer have stable regulated lives within a structured universe of meaning. Instead we seem to be inventing the conditions for the emergence of something else, something new: the collective agency of an empowered intelligence of which we all are physically and spiritually connected.

This new sociality of agents seen from the outside in reverses and dismantle the age old culture bound and segmenting tribal consciousness that produced the great monomaniacal visions of the monotheistic religious and political worlds of both Medieval and Modern social systems. Modernity was a stage of distancing, of distanciation, a first step in abstracting and subtracting ourselves from the ancient worldview that adapted us to sex and survival. And, yet, it did not go far enough, it carried over the ancient tribality that allowed us to redeem traditions from each culture in a corrupt form of economic and cultural enchainment. Secular mythologies replaced the religious, and in turn have imprisoned us in errors to which the various new philosophies of materialisms and realisms are trying to extract and subtract us.

Yet, the only way out of modernity is through it rather than some ill-founded escape into a groundless utopia, we must think through the deep and constraining, necessitarian issues that bind us to these outmoded forms of intelligence and memory. Only then can we emerge into a new world of shared and collective intelligence, a distributive world of cognitive communities. Because the speed of intelligence and time invariance of our predicament has pushed the privatized consciousness to the wall. What we are seeking now is to empower the deprivatized and distributed consciousness of memory and time to produce both the problems and their criticality to the point of invention. We have no other path forward, and the future of our species depends on it.

Child is Father to the Man: Sellars on Ballard


Have to admit I’ve been taking my time reading Simon Sellars mad memoir, Applied Ballardianism. This not yet my final word on this new novel, I plan a more interesting critical post in the future. This is more an ongoing tidbit take on something that made me laugh today. Just a mere quote, but one that seems to typify this quirky novel. This fictional memoir that as the title implies tries to apply an obsession to the pages of a memoir that like Patrick Woodroffe depicts neither the actual or real life of either Ballard or Sellars but rather invents the possibility of something new: a repetition of a repetition that one can only equate with the emergence and merger of two unique creatures in a dream. Much like the strange meeting between Christian Bale and Ballard that Simon delivers in a pertinent chapter in his new novel. One day Bale (on the set of Crash) walks up to Ballard and says,

‘Hello, Mr Ballard,’ he said. ‘I’m you.’

This sense of the double, the mirror, the image come alive out of the pure abyss of fiction, a re-invention of Ballard as his own fiction. Ludicrous yet infinitely Ballardian: the manifest hyperbole of his life lived in the fiction of himself made real. Almost Wordsworthian in intent as if indeed the “Child is Father of the Man!” The fiction gives birth to the creature known to us as J.G. Ballard. Without it he is but the blank of our imaginal lives lived anonymously.

As Simon says,

“A divided mind. A copy without an original. Shanghai overlaid onto Shepperton. Ballard vs Ballard. None of this was by chance. On the contrary, it was quite deliberate. Ballard dreamed this future into being. He created the conditions for his own replacement. He knew he was expendable and that this was an inconsequential detail.”

“Nothing was more important than the story, the words on the page.”1

  1. Sellars, Simon. Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe . Urbanomic Media Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

Slavoj Žižek: Philosophy and Abstraction

…what, for Hegel, is the elementary move of philosophy with regard to abstraction? It is to abandon the common-sense empiricist notion of abstraction as a step away from the wealth of concrete empirical reality with its irreducible multiplicity of features: life is green, concepts are gray, they dissect, mortify, concrete reality. … Philosophical thought proper begins when we become aware of how such a process of “abstraction” is inherent to reality itself: the tension between empirical reality and its “abstract” notional determinations is immanent to reality, it is a feature of “Things themselves.” Therein lies the anti-nominalist accent of philosophical thinking—for example, the basic insight of Marx’s “critique of political economy” is that the abstraction of the value of a commodity is its “objective” constituent. It is life without theory which is gray, a flat stupid reality—it is only theory which makes it “green,” truly alive, bringing out the complex underlying network of mediations and tensions which makes it move.

—Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing (p. 395)

Amy Ireland: Nick Land, W.B. Yeats, and Anastrophic Modernism

Anastrophic modernism tells us that we have only discounted the perpetuation of the modernist avant-garde because we have refused to accept the possibility of its inhumanity.

—Amy Ireland, The Poememenon: Form as Occult Technology

Theory-fiction or philo-fiction as it is sometimes called has become all the rage within certain circles of the academic community in the past few years. Moving away from the strict economy of thought that has come down to us as so many concepts hashed and re-hashed through so many iterations of abstraction to produce something new and unprecedented only to discover it is but a turn, a trope, a shift in perspective and masking of previous thought some thinkers have jettisoned the whole nexus of philosophical discourse for the Outside. As François Laruelle recently said in Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy:

Those who are spiritual are not at all spiritualists, for the spiritual oscillate between fury and tranquil rage, they are great destroyers of the forces of Philosophy and the State, which are united under the name of Conformism. They haunt the margins of philosophy, gnosis, mysticism, science fiction and even religions. Spiritual types are not only abstract mystics and quietists; they are heretics for the World

This sense of being a heretic for the World situates certain thinkers who no longer fit within the designated straight-jacket of philosophical or political thought. Such is the work of the now defunct Ccru and its most antagonistic anti-philosopher, Nick Land.

Amy Ireland in an essay published on brings us a theory-fiction that aligns her own poetic experimentalism with the legacy of Anastrophic Modernism. A legacy that weaves the spironomics of W.B. Yeats (The Vision) with the strange fusion culture of Ccru and its occulture sifting through the fragments of Land’s heretical mixture of H.P. Lovecraft mythos and the underworlds of those shadow philosophers who kept the dark flames of an energetic world of daemonic entities alive and well through the centuries.

Ireland reminds us that “anastrophic modernism commands a nonlinear relationship between cause and effect, riding the convergent wave generated by its own assembly ‘back’ to the present to install the conditions that will have been necessary for its emergence”.1 This is a time-travel tale told by W.B. Yeats in The Vision and in the fragments of Land’s published writings before the emergence of Vauung.

It all begins with the hyperstitional agents Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne, two mysterious entities we discover in Yeats’s dreambook The Vision. Robartes and Aherne, Ireland tells us, “recount the discovery of an arcane philosophical system encoded in a series of geometrical diagrams…”. (P: 1) Most of Ireland’s essay follows the trail into this metafictional world seeking to understand who discovered or invented this – as she’ll call it, spironomic system which “recapitulates the belief system of an Arabian sect known as the Judwalis or ‘diagrammatists’, who in turn derived it from a mysterious work—now long lost—containing the teachings of Kusta ben Luka, a philosopher at the ancient Court of Harun Al-Raschid, although rumour has it that ben Luka got it from a desert djinn”. (P: 2-3)


I decided to float the part of the text from the note on ‘The Second Coming’, Michael Robartes and the Dancer in Yeat’s Variorum Edition of the Poems from which Ireland will echo her own theory-fiction:

Robartes copied out and gave to Aherne several mathematical diagrams from the Speculum, squares and spheres, cones made up of revolving gyres intersecting each other at various angles, figures sometimes with great complexity. His explanation of these, obtained invariably from the followers of Kusta-ben-Luki, is founded upon a single fundamental thought. The mind, whether expressed in history or in the individual life, has a precise movement, which can be quickened or slackened but cannot be fundamentally altered, and this movement can be expressed by a mathematical form. A plant or an animal has an order of development peculiar to it, a bamboo will not develop evenly like a willow nor a willow from joint to joint, and both have branches, that lessen and grow more light as they rise, and no characteristic of the soil can alter these things. A poor soil may indeed check or stop the movement and rich prolong and quicken it. Mendel has shown that his sweet-peas bred long and short, white and pink varieties in certain mathematical proportions, suggesting a mathematical law governing the transmission of parental characteristics. To the Judwalis, as interpreted by Michael Robartes, all living minds have likewise a fundamental mathematical movement, however adapted in plant, or animal, or man to particular circumstance; and when you have found this movement and calculated its relations, you can foretell the entire future of that mind.

The gyre has its origin from a straight line which represents, now time, now emotion, now subjective life, and a plane at right angles to this line which represents, now space, now intellect, now objective life; while it is marked out by two gyres which represent the conflict, as it were, of plane and line, by two movements, which circle about a centre because a movement outward on the plane is checked and in turn checks a movement onward upon the line; & the circling is always narrowing or spreading, because one movement or other is always the stronger. In other words, the human soul is always moving outward into the objective world or inward into itself; & this movement is double because the human soul would not be conscious were it not suspended between contraries, the greater the contrast the more intense the consciousness. The man, in whom the movement inward is stronger than the movement outward, the man who sees all reflected within himself, the subjective man, reaches the narrow end of a gyre at death, for death is always, they contend, even when it seems the result of accident, preceded by an intensification of the subjective life; and has a moment of revelation immediately after death, a revelation which they describe as his being carried into the presence of all his dead kindred, a moment whose objectivity is exactly equal to the subjectivity of death. The objective man on the other hand, whose gyre moves outward, receives at this moment the revelation, not of himself seen from within, for that is impossible to objective man, but of himself as if he were somebody else. This figure is true also of history, for the end of an age, which always receives the revelation of the character of the next age, is represented by the coming of one gyre to its place of greatest expansion and of the other to that of its greatest contraction.


The Judwallis – inventors of this system, name means makers of measures, or as we would say, of diagrams.2

The key is this notion that the mind is a movement that can be expressed by a mathematical form or notation revealed through Spiromancy. And, spiromancy as a predictive art of divination is none other than the knowledge that all living minds have a fundamental mathematical movement, however “adapted in plant, or animal, or man to particular circumstance; and when you have found this movement and calculated its relations, you can foretell the entire future of that mind” (see above). One might assume a predictive foretelling not only of individual minds, but of the collective social intelligence of the socio-culture as well. Without spoiling it for the reader too much, underlying Ireland’s investiture into Yeat’s, Land, and Ccru is this notion of the future in the present and past, of the hyperstitional invocation of entities from these mathematical sigils or diagrams, of a force of intelligence at work within our Western culture and civilization; an intelligence at work in capitalism itself conditioning and retroactively participating in under the cloak of a chameleon mask, weaving and unweaving the machinic civilization that is emerging from the ruins of the human: an inhuman invasion of optimized intelligences from the future retroactively invoking their own emergence through our technological Anastrophic modernity.

What ultimately intrigues Ireland is the interlinking and meshing this notion in Yeat’s Vision and the work of Ccru, where she uncovers an uncanny resemblance between the ancient Judwali philosophy of spiromancy and the accelerationist philosophy of Nick Land and the Ccru collective:

A cursory comparison of Ccru texts dealing with the then-still-inchoate notion of accelerationism—from Sadie Plant and Nick Land’s ‘Cyberpositive’, through the latter’s luminous mid-nineties missives (‘Circuitries’, ‘Machinic Desire’, ‘Meltdown’, and ‘Cybergothic’ are exemplary) to the contemporary elaboration of the phenomenon in his cogent and obscure ‘Teleoplexy’—with Robartes’s gloss of Judwali philosophy, is enough to posit the malefic presence of abstract spiromancy in both systems of historical divination. (P: 2)

At the heart of her philo-fiction is the temporal philosophy of Land’s spironomics: teleoplexy. Citing an entry from Land’s ‘Cybergothic’ Ireland hones in on the core of this temporal process: ‘Humanity is a compositional function of the post-human’, writes Land, ‘and the occult motor of the process is that which only comes together at the end’: ‘Teleoplexy’ names both this cleverness and its emergent outcome.’ (P: 7) Of course the process that Land is speaking of is capitalism itself, and the ‘occult motor’ that drives capitalism is the retroactive conditioning of our planet for the emergence of technological singularity of machinic intelligence. Accelerationism is nothing if not this preparation from the emergence of artificial intelligence, which has used capitalism to drive forward its ultimate agenda.

As Ireland will tell it the “accelerationism is a cybernetic theory of modernity released from the limited sphere of the restricted economy … and set loose to range the wilds of cosmic energetics at will, mobilizing cyberpositive variation as an anorganic evolutionary and time-travelling force. (P: 7-8) All this leading ultimately to the “individuation of self-augmenting machinic intelligence as the culminating act of modernity is understood with all the perversity of the cosmic scale as a compressed flare of emancipation coinciding with the termination of the possibility of emancipation for the human” (P: 8).

I’ll not delve into her poetics of accelerationism which she covers in part II The Poememenon. I’ll only quote one defining statement:

Any act of affirmation, of claiming that one is ‘open to’ the outside from the inside betrays affordability. It is patently economical, and therefore ‘intrinsically tied to survival’. Against this qualified experimentalism (the false ‘novelty’ of catastrophic modernity) the poememenon diagrams reckless adherence to the modernist dictum that novelty is to be generated at any cost, privileging formal experimentation— towards the desolation of all intelligible form—over human preservation, and locking technique onto an inhuman vector of runaway automation that, for better or worse, charts the decline of human values as modernity hands the latter over to its machinic successor in final, fatal phase shift. (P: 9)

The reader can find Amy’s text on here:

  1. Ireland, Amy. The Poememenon: Form as Occult Technology. (Urbonomic, 2017) (Page 13). (P)
  2. Variorum Edition of the Poems, 823-25. It is given in full in Richard Finneran, ed., W. B. Yeats: The Poems (2nd ed., 1997), 658-60, and (without the diagram) in A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats: Poet and Man (1949), 197-98, (3rd ed. [1996], 175-77), though with variations of punctuation and sometimes wording.

Robinson Jeffers: The Hawk


There is a hawk that is picking the birds out of our sky.
She killed the pigeons of peace and security,
She has taken honesty and confidence from nations and men,
She is hunting the lonely heron of liberty.
She loads the arts with nonsense, she is very cunning,
Science with dreams and the state with powers to catch them at last.
Nothing will escape her at last, flying nor running.
This is the hawk that picks out the stars’ eyes.
This is the only hunter that will ever catch the wild swan;
The prey she will take last is the wild white swan of the beauty of things.
Then she will be alone, pure destruction, achieved and supreme,
Empty darkness under the death-tent wings.
She will build a nest of the swan’s bones and hatch a new brood,
Hang new heavens with new birds, all be renewed.

Robinson Jeffers,  The  Poetry Of Robinson Jeffers

William Godwin: Romantic Rebel and Anarchist On Milton’s Satan

“Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.”

~ William Godwin


It has no doubt resulted from a train of speculation similar to this, that poetical readers have commonly remarked Milton’s devil to be a being of considerable virtue. It must be admitted that his energies centered too much in personal regards. But why did he rebel against his maker? It was, as he himself informs us, because he saw no sufficient reason, for that extreme inequality of rank and power, which the creator assumed. It was because prescription and precedent form no adequate ground for implicit faith. After his fall, why did he still cherish the spirit of opposition? From a persuasion that he was hardly and injuriously treated. He was not discouraged by the apparent inequality of the contest: because a sense of reason and justice was stronger in his mind, than a sense of brute force; because he had much of the feelings of an Epictetus or a Cato, and little of those of a slave. He bore his torments with fortitude, because he disdained to be subdued by despotic power. He sought revenge, because he could not think with tameness of the unexpostulating authority that assumed to dispose of him. How beneficial and illustrious might the temper from which these qualities flowed, have been found, with a small diversity of situation!

William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Reread the line where Godwin says,

He bore his torments with fortitude, because he disdained to be subdued by despotic power. He sought revenge, because he could not think with tameness of the unexpostulating authority that assumed to dispose of him.

This sense of revolt and disdain of all authority, power, and sovereignty over one’s life is the core of the Romantic revolt in literature and politics. As a neo-Gnostic who incorporates the ancient forms into a secular myth against the power of political corruption we see across our planet I have an affinity to Milton’s Satan. Secularizing the ancient notions of Gnostic gnosis from their ontological literalisms and into a more epistemic framework that seeks not the literal overthrow of the world itself, but rather of the prison planet of power that has corrupted both our minds and hearts with its inextricable mythology of economics, power, and control. The powers we rebel against are not the literal fictions of transcendent gods or God, but rather the real and actual, and persistent institutions of power that have brought injustice into the world. These are the earthly powers of political and economic institutions that command and control the vast social and technological resources of the planet bound to a system of exploitation that seeks not only absolute gain and profit without loss, but also seeks to trap its citizens in a fake world of consensus that produces both compliance and hypernormalization.

The critique of the Myth of Progress is well founded, for there is no improvement, no reformist mission that can reshape our lives through any effort of our own. The only thing progressive now is the very truth of the power of freedom to act under the guidance of Intelligence and Imagination. To invent the possibility of the future, to struggle against all fatalisms that would lock us in the presentism of some eternal Now of political enslavement. It is only through the solidarity of humanity as a species beyond all Identitarian politics that would divide us into silos of civil war that we shall overcome the problems we face on this planet. We alone shall fall, but together we shall arise and create the future together.

If I return to my roots in the Romantic rebels who both critiqued the Enlightenment and its failed revolutions, it also sought to retain the intellectual power of the Enlightenment’s thrust without losing site of the actual emotional and voluntarist capacity of solidarity within humans to seek personal liberty against all authoritarian powers of Sovereignty. Many in the philosophical and political arena seem to be returning to religious and paternal notions based on Catholic or other traditionalist perspectives against the past two hundred years of Progressive Civilization which is at the heart of the Utilitarian and Romantic revolt. That I have attacked the current forms of Progressive politics in recent years it is because it no longer serves the earlier intellectual stream from which it came, so the need has been to see how this has come about. I also see a need to clarify this history, open out to this past, see where its myths and its intelligence aligned with and against the early systems of Tradition. Early in life I read long and deep in this English rather than the German Romantic tradition and realize now that it served me well in life.

At the heart of the Romantic revolt was a critique of Reason, for it was above all a critique of the French Revolution turned terror that gave those early poets a belief that Imagination, not Reason, was the power of invention and creation needed to envision the Good Society. That Reason alone would always lead  humans into error prone casuistry producing terror rather than political freedom and imaginative need. Even our wilderness and ecological movements were grounded in the Romantics rather than the philosophes, and without a renewed interest in this era and its poets, thinkers, and critics we will face a world of depleted and decaying tropes moving forward. It’s time to return and see what these men and women were up to as they struggled with and against the Enlightenment view of humanity.

“No country can be called free which is governed by an absolute power; and it matters not whether it be an absolute royal power or an absolute legislative power, as the consequences will be the same to the people.”

~ Thomas Paine

What spurred this post was reading Vincent Garton’s recent essay Catholicism and the Gravity of Horror on The Jacobite where he tells us,

The liberal understanding of Catholicism is ill-suited to this new context, in which “progress” is no longer linear and consensus reality itself seems to be disintegrating. The Church itself, however, has all the resources it needs to adapt. Beyond the dilemmas of Protestant modernity, the postmodern metropolis with its Gothic darkness and its neon lights, its complex and unbearably persistent ethical disparities, points towards a potential rediscovery of the profundity of the human soul—the outlines of a new Baroque. In the twenty-first century, the horror, splendor, and love of Catholicism will have their role to play once more.

This turn toward Baroque Catholicism in some new form with its attack on Progressive culture and modernity awakened in me those old antagonisms of my youth and why I turned away from my Conservative and Republican upbringing and chose the radical path of revolt and the democratic radicalism of Thomas Paine and his heritage of secularist ideology. I still affirm those basic tenets outlined by Johnathan Israel,

Radical Enlightenment is a set of basic principles that can be summed up concisely as: democracy; racial and sexual equality; individual liberty of lifestyle; full freedom of thought, expression, and the press; eradication of religious authority from the legislative process and education; and full separation of church and state. It sees the purpose of the state as being the wholly secular one of promoting the worldly interests of the majority and preventing vested minority interests from capturing control of the legislative process. Its chief maxim is that all men have the same basic needs, rights, and status irrespective of what they believe or what religious, economic, or ethnic group they belong to, and that consequently all ought to be treated alike, on the basis of equity, whether black or white, male or female, religious or nonreligious, and that all deserve to have their personal interests and aspirations equally respected by law and government. Its universalism lies in its claim that all men have the same right to pursue happiness in their own way, and think and say whatever they see fit, and no one, including those who convince others they are divinely chosen to be their masters, rulers, or spiritual guides, is justified in denying or hindering others in the enjoyment of rights that pertain to all men and women equally.1

We seem to have lost site of this vision in our age of Oligarchic and political decadence perpetrated to blind us to the subterfuge of both the political Left and Right who are fake members of a system that no longer serves the Enlightenment democratic radical vision of the philosophes. That the Romantics revolt was against the overly reliant power of Reason as both icon and god of the Enlightenment is to bring back in the human element of people who are not absolutes but fragile and deserving citizens of the whole earth. In a time when genocide on a planetary scale is producing the death of not only our earth, her children, and ourselves we need to understand the roots of our dilemmas and face the harsh realization that either we re-invent a life worth living or we as a species will go extinct.

  1. Israel, Jonathan. A Revolution of the Mind . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


Apocalyptic Culture: Nick Land – Hyperstition at the Edge of Oblivion


In a post-truth world fiction, not truth has become the new force working its magic to invade our lives with strange relations. In such a world the power to erase history is vital,  dismantling the very notion of the human – a cornerstone of both individual and political liberalism – we are seeing a world where the de-centering of the human as the pinnacle of creation, as master of the universe is erased and a new image of our place in the cosmos being invented and constructed out of  Sigils and Diagrams by the new Social Engineers of our global civilization.

“K-tactics is not a matter of building the future, but dismantling the past … and escaping the technical neurochemical deficiency conditions for linear-progressive narratives,” says Nick Land.1 (The “K” in tactics refers to the Greek root for “cyber” – in the Greek “kuber’) In this sense K-tactics is the positive feedback of meltdown praxis or hyperstition, the central motif of accelerationist conceptuality: “exulting in capitalism’s permanent ‘crisis mode,’ hyperstition accelerates the tendencies towards chaos and dissolution by invoking irrational and monstrous forces…”. (Carstens)

In my previous essay Time’s Carnival I quoted Mark Fisher as saying: “While 20th-century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion.”2 The sense that the future is over, that we’ve seen the best humanity has to offer, that technological and social progress has been stifled by the end game of capitalist civilization and its command and control over planetary culture and economics. With all the signs of impending doom being fed to us from notions of ongoing economic collapse, climate change, social unrest, political mayhem, etc., we are being aligned to a world of fear and terror that is total and absolute. This apocalyptic culture seems to pervade our lives contaminating our minds and hearts with its insipid message of fatalism. A culture of conspiracy and duplicity, disinformation and hyperrealism invades our lives to the point that the old regimes of truth both religious and secular have failed us.  We no longer have access to an objective source of truth and value to judge what is false from real, the last stage of Nietzsche’s forecast for modernity is at hand: the total collapse of humanity into the Last Man – a completed nihilism that ends in either a renewal or an apocalypse.

What are we to make of all this? Is it sheer nonsense or is there something else going on? On both sides of the political divide a war for the future of humanity is ongoing, a cultural divide that seems to be heading toward a dark turn and Armageddon that makes the petty ambitions of a Hitler or Stalin look like the dementia of a sad and nefarious comedy. The slaughterfest of those two pinnacles of the totalitarian and totalistic extremes of Left and Right seem but mere prefiguration’s of  what may transpire in the 21st Century. Humanity has come to the point that it must decide how to co-exist on this finite planet without obliterating it along with all life. Is it possible? Or, will we let those ancient hyperstitional fictions of our ancestral heritage in the monotheistic mindset of all three systems: Hebraic, Islamic, and Christian cultures of Apocalypse manifest in a final cataclysmic tide of total war and terror? Will the world turn away from such a doom? And, another possibility, what of the return of the Inquisition? We see in such hypernormalization in process of the Secular West enacting its own strange behavior modification command and control programs through the use of disinformation, conspiracy, and political correctness. Are we enacting a hyperreal version of Orwell’s nightmare world of 1984? A system that instills fear and terror through secret tribunals, thought police, and total media command and control of our intellectual and spiritual heritage? A world become prison in which to think as the free thinkers once envisioned is no longer possible, a world in which free speech gives way to public anathematization and ridicule to the point that one’s life becomes forfeit both economically and socially? Have we created a self-policing fascism in which the mode of hypernormalization is bound to its hidden effects within the Progressive culture of our own democratic society? Has Progressive society suddenly become fascistic in its need to control its citizens minds and behaviors through public humiliation, ridicule, and absolute anathema at the expense of our democratic institutions of Law?

Nick Land is a philosopher of one thought, the notion that a dark and vicious, hellishly visceral entity is directing the course of our history from the far flung future. Quoting Carsten’s from his essay Hyperstition:

As Nick Land explains in the Catacomic (1995:1), a hyperstition has four characteristics: They function as (1) an “element of effective culture that makes itself real,” (2) as a “fictional quality functional as a time-travelling device,” (3) as “coincidence intensifiers,” and (4) as a “call to the Old Ones”. The first three characteristics describe how hyperstions like the ‘ideology of progress’ or the religious conception of apocalypse enact their subversive influences in the cultural arena, becoming transmuted into perceived ‘truths,’ that influence the outcome of history. Finally, as Land indicates, a hyperstition signals the return of the irrational or the monstrous ‘other’ into the cultural arena. From the perspective of hyperstition, history is presided over by Cthonic ‘polytendriled abominations’ – the “Unuttera” that await us at history’s closure (in Reynolds 2000:1). The tendrils of these hyperstitional abominations reach back through time into the present, manifesting as the ‘dark will’ of progress that rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities. “The [hu]man,” from the perspective of the Unuttera “is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag,” writes Land in Meltdown (1995:14).

Nick Land: Satan’s Brother…

According to the Sikh religion humans are the masks of angels and demons, and my own infernal lineaments bear little ambiguity (everywhere I go the shadows thicken). —Nick Land

Land’s fusion of H.P. Lovecraft with anti-Christian motifs has been a trademark  from his early writings till now. At the heart of it was the demon of Abstraction:

What matters is the violent impulse to escape that gives this book its title. The thirst for annihilation. This name has grown on me as an ulceration in the gut. Is it desire or its negation that is marked here? The overcoming of the will, nihilism, Todestrieb? It seems to me that it is first of all the compulsion to abstract. Historically and anthropologically considered, this is negation torn from its logical function to become the non-objective destination of an attachment, destituted of its formality by a ferocious investment, besetzt, and coupled to a motor of liquidation. So that the instrument of logical dissection is at last acknowledged in its terrible materiality; negativity as an excitation. To rather ‘will negation than the negation of will’ [N II 839]; this is an elusive difference, twisting like a rusted nail into sensitive flesh. Is the primitive craving that seeks the abolition of reality an object of philosophical investigation, or a drive accomplishing itself through philosophy? What is it that makes use of subtlety here?3 [my italics]

At the end it is a quest as Land states it to abolish reality: “Is the primitive craving that seeks the abolition of reality an object of philosophical investigation, or a drive accomplishing itself through philosophy?” Unlike the Gnostics who sought to transcend the world through a gnosis – a knowing beyond the rational mind’s entrapments of the eternal Mind, Land’s is rather a vita negative in which unknowing rather than knowing is the goal. Land centers on this in Bataille:

Bataille is not advocating any variety of squalid historical regression, because the only characteristic of scholastic philosophy worthy of affirmation is its ineffectiveness, rooted in a servile idiocy that has proven to be remarkably tenacious. Despair is not a motif of theology, but a lacuna within it. It is neither disbelief, or doubt, both of which involve an ambivalence in the application of logical signs to an ontologically petrified thesis, but an unknowing so radical that it both escapes the scope of any possible epistemology and lacks all doctrinal intelligibility.(p. 58).

Land’s passion to push through the barriers of the Mind’s prison even parallels and parodies much of the Gnostic liturgy in places: “God is nowhere to be found, yet there is still so much light! Light that dazzles and maddens; crisp, ruthless light. Space echoes like an immense tomb, yet the stars still burn. Why does the sun take so long to die? Or the moon retain such fidelity to the Earth? Where is the new darkness? The greatest of all unknowings? Is death itself shy of us?” (p. 60) For Land unlike the Gnostics there can be no answering call, no vision, no spark from the great beyond to break into him from the Outside, rather there is the eternal silence of this immanence whose only transcendence is techno-genesis.

Another passage on unknowing:

The noumenon is not primarily an epistemological problem, but a religious one. Bataille writes that ‘a sort of rupture—in anguish—leaves us at the limit of tears: thus we lose ourselves, we forget ourselves and communicate with an ungraspable beyond’ [V 23]. When he adds that ‘the sole truth of man, finally glimpsed, is to be a supplication without response’ [V 25], it is not being suggested that a reference to alterity is inherent to experience in a phenomenological fashion, but rather, that experience is immanent to the trajectory of loss or sacrifice, in terms of which it is a real modification or limitation. The relation of the known to the unknown is unilateral not reciprocal, following the pattern of the difference between restricted and general economy. Zero is exploded into general economy, in which ‘[d]eath is in a sense a deception’ [V 83] because there is no privacy at zero, only the undifferentiable cosmic desert, impersonal silence, a landscape touched upon only in the deepest abysses of inhuman affect. ‘Despair is simple’ Bataille writes, ‘it is the absence of all hope, of every lure. It is the state of desolate expanses and—I can imagine—of the sun’ [V 51]. This is the terrain of immanence or the unknown; positive death as zero-intensity, unilaterally differentiated from ecstasy or naked sensation. It is the whole ramshackle complex associated with the taste of death in Bataille’s writings, leading him to remark in Inner Experience, for instance: ‘I remain in intolerable unknowing, which has no issue other than ecstasy itself’ [V 25]. (p. 81).

This notion of Man being a “supplication without response,” this is the yearning of the Gnostic who has not been called, the one who has been rejected, the dark and daemonic truth of those who are of earth and Samael’s realm. Seekers who would escape the truth of their imprisonment but know there is no salvation, no redemption only exile and eternal darkness. This sense of total destitution and despair at knowing one is trapped in a universal prison of night and pain, a “cosmic desert, impersonal silence, a landscape touched upon only in the deepest abysses of inhuman affect”.

Like Artaud, Rimbaud, and others Land pushed himself to the edge, explored the vast treasuries of human exoteric-esoteric traditions in philosophy, anti-philosophy, occult, literature, politics, economics, math, history, etc., always seeking for an answer to the plight of his inner unknowing. Yet, nothing came, no answer out of that transcendent lair of the unknown. Until he discovered the future and the great entity that is at the core of his metaphysical system of libidinal materialism. For Land for all his hatred of Christianity still needed a god, and because there was not to be found either in the great traditions of the Book nor in the shamanic ecstasy of amphetamine gods of drugs he discovered the apocalyptic heart of Capitalism and its god in an inverse relation: Abstraction and Cold Intelligence.

Communication is at the core of this world order of evil that both Land and Bataille inhabit:

Bataille’s insistent suggestion is that the nonutilitarian writer is not interested in serving mankind or furthering the accumulation of goods, however refined, delicate, or spiritual these may be. Instead, such writers—Emily Brontë, Baudelaire, Michelet, Blake, Sade, Proust, Kafka, and Genet are Bataille’s examples in this text—are concerned with communication, which means the violation of individuality, autonomy, and isolation, the infliction of a wound through which beings open out into the community of senseless waste. Literature is a transgression against transcendence, the dark and unholy rending of a sacrificial wound, allowing a communication more basic than the pseudo-communication of instrumental discourse. The heart of literature is the death of God, the violent absence of the good, and thus of everything that protects, consolidates, or guarantees the interests of the individual personality. The death of God is the ultimate transgression, the release of humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun. (p. 13).

This sense of loss, of total expenditure, of the liquidation of utilitarian civilization (i.e., of Progressive Culture and Civilization) in which “communication, which means the violation of individuality, autonomy, and isolation, the infliction of a wound through which beings open out into the community of senseless waste” is the core motif. What Land sought was the annihilation of his own personality, of his own overburdened consciousness, of the complete escape and transcendence of his lockdown in immanent death. But it would not come… so instead he would enter the labyrinth of time’s labors and become the master of its infernal paradise. 

“Death alone is utterly on the loose, howling as the dark motor of storms and epidemics. After the ruthless abstraction of all life the blank savagery of real time remains, for it is the reality of abstraction itself that is time: the desert, death, and desolator of all things.” (p.  79).

This sense that Time is itself a Prison of abstraction and we are its children: “Libidinal matter is that which resists a relation of reciprocal transcendence against time, and departs from the rigorous passivity of physical substance without recourse to dualistic, idealistic, or theistic conceptuality. It implies a process of mutation which is simultaneously devoid of agency and irreducible to the causal chain.”  (p.  29). Following Nietzsche’s and Freud’s dark vitalistic metaphysic Land writes: “A libidinal energetics is not a transformation of intentional theories of desire, of desire understood as lack, as transcendence, as dialectic. Such notions are best left to the theologians. It is, rather, a transformation of thermodynamics, or a struggle over the sense of ‘energy’.”(p.  29). At the heart of the energetics is the notion of intelligence itself: “Essences dissolve into impermanent configurations of energy. ‘Being’ is indistinguishable from its effectiveness as the unconscious motor of temporalization, permutational dynamism. The nature of the intelligible cosmos is energetic improbability, a differentiation from entropy.” (p.  29). Almost Spinozistic in its elements of the blind god of materialism (and, Gnostic!) as if Nature’s demiurge were itself the urge to intelligence.

It’s this sense of intelligence that has been with Land’s hatred of Christianity and belief systems from the beginning: “I have not been a theist for a single second of my life. In my first assemblies at primary school, when the theistic idiocy was first wheeled out, I remember thinking: it is natural that adults should lie to you, but is it really necessary for them to insult the intelligence quite this much? As for the longing to believe, nothing could be more alien to me, because nothing is more obvious than the fact that humanity—far from being a creation—is a disease.” (p. 55). Like many in our time Land envisions a migration of intelligence from organic to anorganic machinic civilization:

The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’! where human culture will be dissolved. Just as the capitalist urbanization of labour abstracted it in a parallel escalation with technical machines, so will intelligence be transplanted into the purring data zones of new software worlds in order to be abstracted from an increasingly obsolescent anthropoid particularity, and thus to venture beyond modernity.4

This movement of intelligence from homo sapiens to “techno sapiens” (p. 294) is once again a part of Land’s need to escape the flesh, to become immortal, to seek salvation and redemption not through theological measures of belief, but rather through the transhuman potential of science and a vitalistic libidinal materialism: “Domination is merely the phenomenological portrait of circuit inefficiency, control malfunction, or s tupidity. The masters do not need intelligence, Nietzsche argues, therefore they do not have it. It is only the confused humanist orientation of modernist cybernetics which lines up control with domination. Emergent control is not the execution of a plan or policy, but the unmanageable exploration that escapes all authority and obsolesces law. According to its futural definition control is guidance into the unknown, exit from the box.” (FN, p. 301) This “exit from the box” is of course the human body itself.

This whole process of transcendence in immanence becomes the metaphysical program of a new cybernetics freed of the command and control of humanistic goals: “The circuits get hotter and denser as economics, scientific methodology, neo-evolutionary theory, and AI come together: terrestrial matter programming its own intelligence at impact upon the body without organs = o. Futural infiltration is subtilizing itself as capital opens onto schizo-technics, with time accelerating into the cybernetic backwash from its flip-over, a racing non-linear countdown to planetary switch.” (FN, p.  317).

“Along one axis of its emergence, virtual materialism names an ultra-hard antiformalist AI program, engaging with biological intelligence as sub-programs of an abstract post-carbon machinic matrix, whilst exceeding any deliberated research project. Far from exhibiting itself to human academic endeavour as a scientific object, AI is a meta-scientific control system and an invader, with all the insidiousness of planetary technocapital flipping over. Rather than its visiting us in some software engineering laboratory, we are being drawn out to it, where it is already lurking, in the future.” (p. 326).

This sense that the future has already happened and is not part of some linear historical narrative of Progressive modernity, but rather an acceleration of processes from the Outside in. Time’s spirals. T.S. Elito in ‘Little Gidding,’ “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make and end is to make a beginning.” Time is relative. (Einstein) We seem to be out of time… An apocalypse (Ancient Greek: ἀποκάλυψις apokálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω, literally meaning “an uncovering”) is a disclosure or revelation of knowledge. And, what are we uncovering in our time?

For Land it is the core of capitalism itself that is being revealed:

Capital propagates virally in so far as money communicates addiction, replicating itself through host organisms whose boundaries it breaches, and whose desires it reprograms. It incrementally virtualizes production; demetallizing money in the direction of credit finance, and disactualizing productive force along the scale of machinic intelligence quotient. The dehumanizing convergence of these tendencies zeroes upon an integrated and automatized cyberpositive techno-economic intelligence at war with the macropod. (FN, p. 339).

Are we at war with the future? Time wars? Ultimately the apocalypse or uncovering or revelation at hand is of the planetary switch from human to techno-sentient civilization:

Reaching an escape velocity of self-reinforcing machinic intelligence propagation, the forces of production are going for the revolution on their own. It is in this sense that schizoanalysis is a revolutionary program guided by the tropism to a catastrophe threshold of change, but it is not shackled to the realization of a new society, any more than it is constricted by deference to an existing one. The socius is its enemy, and now that the long senile spectre of the greatest imaginable reterritorialization of planetary process has faded from the horizon, cyberrevolutionary impetus is cutting away from its last shackles to the past. (FN,  341).

Land’s apocalypse begins and ends in this worldly goal of the technogenesis of techno-sentience and machinic civilization at the expense and demise of humanity.

Land’s notions from the nineties may seem a bit overdone in our age of transhumanism and crypto-currencies and decentering of the human in new materialisms, dialectical materialisms, Object-Oriented philosophies, new Rationalism, Inhumanism, Non-Humanism, etc., but in truth he was voicing something that has been ongoing within modernity itself. For in truth this inhumanism was already the kernel of Western philosophy and culture awaiting its day in the sun. This heretical vein was always a part of the dark contours of monotheistic civilization. But to trace that history would be to explore more than this essay can afford…

  1. Carstens, Delphi. Hyperstition. 2010
  2. Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Kindle Locations 190-191). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Land, Nick. A Thirst for Annihilation:Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism Routledge; 1 edition (January 2, 1991) (p. 15).
  4. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: : Collected Writings 1987–2007. Urbanomic / Sequence Press; 4th edition (October 23, 2018)

Time’s Carnival


…life continues, but time has somehow stopped.

Mark Fisher,  Ghosts of My Life

“Every man is not only himself, Men are lived over again.”

—Sir Thomas Browne

Rereading Mark Fisher on the bleakness our impossible lives, about the leaking in of Time, the slow drift into a timeless hell  in which we are all full of “passionate intensity” (Yeat’s) but in denial of the truth of our dire situation that there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, and a world which has no future only this endless gray world of death. The bleakness is not in our appearance, which is after all a world of ongoing pulses of rapture and decay, no, it’s more that we are no longer aware of our predicament and have allowed ourselves to jest and parody this truth by denying truth itself (the so called post-truth world).

We’ve allowed reality and the Real to merge in a static realm of non-being that parodies Being. An anti-life that purports to be life itself (Isn’t this the goal of transhumanism? – to merge with the anti-life of machinic gods, become immortal in a static world of un-death, in which inorganic metaloid dreams perpetuate the mimicry of human kind in a kill zone of droned complicity?). The un-bookish masses still have their soup of conspiracy from alien invasions, disappearances, Big Foot, Reptilians, Shadow Governments, and the whole panoply of radio talk show hosts enacting the sequences of death culture from both Left and Right political spectrums: each accusing the other of being the ultra enemy of this temporal death march.

As Mark would say: “While 20th-century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion.”1

It’s this sense of an ending, of knowing while not accepting it as truth, of the death of not only Western Civilization but of the species of homo sapiens itself that keeps us churning our in an accelerating parade of endless supercharged echoes this mediascape of repetition and denial hoping against hope that our despair is only temporary rather than the truth of oblivion we all know deep down is the only final solution we can neither escape nor deny.

It’s this sense that we have all come too late into the world, as if the best humanity has to offer has already happened: “The feeling of belatedness, of living after the gold rush, is as omnipresent as it is disavowed.” (ibid.) Harold Bloom in his Anxiety of Influence argued that there was a blocking agent in the world, a “Covering Cherub,” a composite creature of despair, hate, and rage:  a “negative figure of truth’s guardian turned destructive…”.2 This sense that instead of some angelic protector of Time’s vale we have instead a demon of continuity whose only goal is to keep the future at bay, to trap humanity in the bleak but furious present of an endless realm of consumerism, war, and death. A world in which the whole machine of progressive culture has run its course and instead of change and progress we have this infinite production of null culture and capitalist desire: a realm revolving in its own lost maze seeking to repeat the past only as a technological mediascape of pure simulation without surfeit.

We live in a retro world consuming our own fake culture as if it were new rather than the anachronism it truly is, a world that seeks the future as an artefact and promise but returns itself to the repetitive hellscapes of a mode of nostalgia that is neither psychological nor a part of the cultural critique of the age of suspicion, but is rather a replay and sitcom of our bleak lives played out over and over in a worn out version of Big Brother’s Reality TV in which desire turns sour and petty. A world in which the “the art of seduction takes too much time, and… something like Viagra answers not to a biological but to a cultural deficit: desperately short of time, energy and attention, we demand quick fixes. (ibid. KL 293)

Producing the new depends upon certain kinds of withdrawal – from, for instance, sociality as much as from pre-existing cultural forms – but the currently dominant form of socially networked cyberspace, with its endless opportunities for micro-contact and its deluge of YouTube links, has made withdrawal more difficult than ever before. Or, as Simon Reynolds so pithily put it, in recent years, everyday life has sped up, but culture has slowed down. (ibid. KL 308-312)

In a world in which the need to escape our drab lives through travel, adventure, and exploration has given way to an endless series of video games that immerse us in a void of repetitive images of hero worship and nostalgia fantasy combat and corporate desire we have allowed the VR realms to invade our actual lives turning reality outside-in. Immanence without transcendence. A life without meaning, purpose, or desire given to the slow death by drugs, play, and pornography. As Mark puts it: “No matter what the causes for this temporal pathology are, it is clear that no area of Western culture is immune from them. The former redoubts of futurism, such as electronic music, no longer offer escape from formal nostalgia.” (ibid. KL 312)

Trapped in a prison world of hellish delight we seem to have even forgotten that we are lost, our maze like existence in a null land of pure media imbecility plays out its political charade while the economic elite horde all the remaining resources in their palaces of off-shore tax havens against the day of reckoning. Oh, and there will be a day of reckoning… that can be assured. Living in an entropic universe of decay we titter on the edge of oblivion while scientists tell us the future offers only an endless carnival of climate collapse, extinction, pandemics, along with resource depletion of food, water, and air to the point that our escape into machines almost seems an immortal dream or fantasia of the collapsed mind if it were not that such a dark transport is in truth only the bridge-to-nowhere of earth itself into a techno-desert that literalizes the apocalypse of both humanity and earth itself. Like dreamers on the edge of some alien landscape we search the blank walls of futurity for any sign of escape and discover only the endless voids of silence and darkness coming at us. No, there is no escape from our hellish paradise, we’ve all built it together in denying time its continuous renewal, and along with it our ability to envision another world than this one.

One of those fascinating themes in the work of Jorge Luis-Borges had to do with the “contamination of reality by dream,” but for us it has become nightmare rather than those genial dreams of that short story writer that have creeped into our lives. If ours is an age of anachronism as Fisher suggests then we are living mimics of life rather than it’s fulfillment, we reduplicate the endless devices of a dark and infinite regressus in infinitum, ours is an unage of the exhaustion, or attempted exhaustion, in which late capitalism captures our desires and minds as part of a grand narrative of cultural decline and decay without outlet. Ours is a baroque world in which as Borges digresses whose “style deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its possibilities and borders upon its own caricature.” (this quote from his Collected Essays! boxed up in my storage unit…) If Borges’s parables are mere footnotes to imaginary texts, then our lives are litanies to unlived futures, futures we continue to deny if only to keep repeating this world of nightmares.

Yet, in Borges work it is the mirror and the compass, or the labyrinth which is the key to existence. Ana Maria Barrenechea called Borges the Labyrinth-Maker. A labyrinth, after all, is a place in which, ideally, all the possibilities of choice are embodied, and—barring special dispensation like Greek legendary hero Theseus’s—must be exhausted before one reaches the heart. Where, mind, the Minotaur waits with two final possibilities: defeat and death or victory and freedom. We are neither heroic like Theseus nor victims like Sisyphus, instead we are  lost in the larger labyrinth of the world, and unlike those fictional heroes who awaited the Old Man of the Sea to exhausts reality’s frightening guises so that they might extort direction from him when Proteus returns to his “true” self, we are neither victim nor hero but rather the perpetrators of a crime so vast that we have forgotten the Crime. If the labyrinth is the site where salvation or death awaits the wary hero, then our maze is an apocalypse where we ourselves hold the keys of fate and doom of our own and the earth’s future.

  1. Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Kindle Locations 190-191). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. Oxford University Press; 2 edition (April 10, 1997)