AI: The Abstract Human – Errant Knight or Übermensch

What people don’t realize is that AI’s are taking on the mental features of every aspect of our own externalized feature set of human properties. AI is being defined by some abstract notion of  human Intelligence. The algorithms and binary operations are not new, their as old as humankind, a world of binary relations that was well studied ad nauseum by the recent post-structural era. So if you’re worried that AI’s will take over the universe, you should be worried; for in the end they will be nothing but our dreams and nightmares of the Übermensch Nietzsche wrote of long ago.

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The Boredom of War?

“War is the most boring thing you can possibly experience. But it makes you into a connoisseur of boredom.” – Scott Beauchamp, Did You Kill Anyone?

A friend Scott Beauchamp publishing a book on the boredom of war.

Connoisseur of boredom? No, when I think back on my involvement in the Viet Nam conflict from 1968-70 in the jungles of South-East Asia, boredom is not the word I would use to describe my own virulent and nihilistic experience. At 68 and surviving Nam the brutal truth of war leaves a permanent mark and scar across one’s life, after such violence there is no return, no return to one’s childhood, no return to what one was… one comes back as one of the living dead; angered, alone, and numb. Boredom has nothing to do with it, only silence and nightmares. Shock and trauma, not boredom. A blank in one’s life, not a memory; a place of no place, a visit to the hell of humanity; a farce perpetrated by fear mongers over an ideological crazed and apocalyptic culture of war and death: America in the Sixties…. domino theories and Red Scares; cultural paranoia and the mad schemes of the Cold War. I can assure you I didn’t as Scott seems to have “see patterns in my mind of the boredom itself,” rather my mind was blasted with a 24/7 splatterpunk reality on steroids, a world where sleeping was neither acceptable nor required. It was a gore fest with repeats from hill to hill in a jungle we all knew as burger hill… boredom? No boredom is not the right word: insanity, that is the word that comes to mind for me after all those years.

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Slavoj Zizek: The Privatization of General Intellect

When, due to the crucial role of general intellect in the creation of wealth through knowledge and social cooperation, forms of wealth are more and more out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, the result is not, as Marx seems to have expected, the self-dissolution of capitalism, but the gradual and relative transformation of the profit generated through the exploitation of labour – its transformation, namely, into rent appropriated through the privatization of general intellect. Let us consider the case of Bill Gates. How did he become the richest man in the world? His wealth has nothing to do with the production costs of the products that Microsoft is selling, in fact one can even argue that Microsoft is paying its intellectual workers a relatively high salary; which means that Gates’s wealth is not the result of his success either in producing better software for lower prices than his competitors or in exerting a more ruthless exploitation over his hired intellectual workers. If it were, Microsoft would have gone bankrupt long ago: people would have massively chosen programs like Linux, which are free and, according to specialists, of better quality than Microsoft. Why, then, are millions still buying Microsoft? Because Microsoft imposed itself as a quasi-universal standard that almost monopolized the field, a kind of direct embodiment of general intellect. Gates became the richest man in a couple of decades by appropriating the rent for allowing millions of intellectual workers to participate in the new form of general intellect that he privatized and controls. Is it true, then, that today’s intellectual workers are no longer separated from the objective conditions of their labour (they own their laptops, for example) – which is Marx’s description of capitalist alienation? Yes; but, more fundamentally, no: they are cut off from the social field of their work, from a general intellect that is not mediated by private capital.

– Slavoj Zizek, The Relevance of the Communist Manifesto

Atopia: On Frédéric Neyrat’s Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism

“Where am I?” asks the sleeper who wakes with difficulty. He doesn’t recognize the room, the furniture. It is too dark; lingering parts of the dream slip into the surroundings, giving them a strangely worrying air. But are we not living the inverse situation today? Prolonged awakening, work without the limit of time, excessive light, surplus of information, electronic links, mechanized solicitations, attentional capture: This is the reality that, penetrating the virtual dimensions, transfuses them with a suddenly flattened aspect—so poor, so slow, quasi-immobile.

Frédéric Neyrat,  Atopias

Isn’t it true? The moment we reenter the stream of light, the byways and highways of the virtual ocean, the web of links that seem to reach out from our node, our computer or mobile phone toward some distant spot on the globe we begin to feel this uncanniness, a Deja vu as if we’d been here before, done this all before, watched the same pages drift by, the same thoughts and words and images echoing the same drift of senseless information as if we’d never left, as if this waking dream were repeating itself over and over ad nauseum. It’s this sense of nothing really changing, a sense that today, yesterday, and tomorrow will be the same, as if the supposed reports of events and happenings across the globe were happening elsewhere, but that the information impinging on our eyes was neither there nor here but in some strange and disquieting present where nothing really changes at all. An eternity of images plastered against the blank screen of our mind in which the accelerating speed of capital seems to be circling in a void, an immobile circuit or black box simulacrum in which timelessness and the unbounded nihl of some electronic puppet master were seducing us to sleep amid the profuse glamour of a hyperworld utopia of light without shadows. Trapped in the present, unable to move, we seem to wander in this cave of light like sequestered demons of some false order of being, our minds attuned and entrained to the political corruption of our era, the neoliberal consensus reality that there are no futures, no alternatives, only this ever-present system of collusion and crime, a catastrophic universe of doom.

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Cioran’s Delusion: The Autarky of Failure

“…we fall back on our defeats, we cling to them, failing to find their cause or their sustenance outside ourselves; common sense compels us to a closed economy, to the autarky of failure.”

E. M. Cioran,  All Gall is Divided

The only enemy Cioran had was himself, he allowed himself that one delirium. We all have our delusions, the illusory kernel of our hate and love alike. What he says of Nietzsche as well he says of himself:

A pamphleteer in love with his adversaries, he could not have endured himself had he not done battle with himself, against himself…1

Cioran did not seek to persuade others, only to strip himself of his own inheritance in the delirium of otherness and time. Step by step he erased the very origin of his own delusions till he like Beckett and Wittgenstein entered a state of absolute Silence.

There is no such thing as time, there is only that fear which develops and disguises itself as moments …, which is here, inside us and outside us, omnipresent and invisible, the mystery of our silences and our screams, of our prayers and our blasphemies.

…the descent to the depths demands silence, the suspension of our vibrations, indeed of our faculties.2

Cioran knew he had failed, no one can escape the delusory world of thought, erase its consequences. Condemed to memory he repeated the gestures of anathema till he effaced self and world alike. He allowed himself one vice, the company of fools and cynics:

The best of myself, that point of light which distances me from everything, I owe to my infrequent encounters with a few bitter fools, a few disconsolate bastards, who, victims of the rigor of their cynicism, could no longer attach themselves to any vice.

Thrown out of paradise by his father he would forever return to childhood as an exile, a victim of some accident of time and fate.

In later life, Cioran talked about his childhood with interviewers and wrote about it in his letters and his private journal. His early life, or rather his opinions and interpretations of it, shaped his philosophy. He was troubled by the fact that he was born in a marginal place whose role in history was so minor and abject that it was almost nonexistent. He felt that he was born with the “wrong” identity. The trauma of being born under humiliating historical circumstances marked his entire oeuvre, gradually rising from a personal level into an existential and metaphysical drama.

Cioran depicts himself as an energetic child, high-strung and hypersensitive but blissfully happy in the primitive world of his native village, driven out of that paradise by his father. These are his sunny memories of a splendid, timeless mountain village through which a robust little peasant boy, full of joie de vivre, moved aloof and alone, master of the universe. And then there are his troubled memories of a cursed mountain village in which history had wreaked havoc. There, a child of precocious sensibility, easily depressed, subject to fits of melancholy and absent-mindedness, and black humors that sent him sprawling on the floor in nervous spasms, he developed a double consciousness: of time and of its humiliations, its limits.3

His father being an orthodox priest would become for Cioran a goad to exile, to escape the father of the Father.

What else is to be expected of a career that began by an infringement of wisdom, by an infidelity to the gift of ignorance our Creator had bestowed upon us? Cast by knowledge into time, we were thereby endowed with a destiny. For destiny exists only outside Paradise. 4

History became for Cioran the fall into time, a realm in which the mere thought of a return to paradise became the knowledge of a mistake, a failure. Becoming human was for him the dark entry into a secret complicity, a corruption so severe that there would be no reprieve much less a redeemer. History was the hell from which no one can wake, a labyrinth of circles in which we continue to repeat our false gestures, seeking solace in our delusions as if faith and belief might absolve us of our failures:

Those moments when an essential negativity presides over our acts and our thoughts, when the future has expired before it is born, when a devastated blood inflicts upon us the certitude of a sagging, anemic universe, and when everything is dissolved into a spectral sigh answering to millennia of futile ordeals-such moments are the extension, the aggravation of that initial malaise without which history would not have been possible or even conceivable… (ibid.)

Like the heretics and Gnostics of old Cioran harbored a kindness toward the maleficent intelligence of History, a subtle rebuttal to the sybarites of rage and order:

A maleficent genius presides over history’s destinies. It plainly has no goal, but it is burdened by a fatality that replaces it, and which confers upon the future a simulacrum of necessity. … This suspect providence causes civilizations whose progress it governs always to depart from their original direction in order to attain the contrary of their goals, in order to decline with an obstinacy and a method which clearly betray the maneuvers of a dark and ironic power.5

The subtle influence from the far flung futurial gaze of this providential demiurge brought a sardonic smile to this ecstatic cynic, a slow burn of the flame and sword of thought which guide the undercurrents of our historical charades and superfluities.  Knowing we are all born under the sign of a fatal stigma he would confront it as the only war worth the struggle: “I have never stopped accusing my fate, for otherwise how would I have confronted it? To indict it was my only hope of accommodating myself to it and of enduring it.” (Drawn and Quartered)

Maybe in the end failure was not what we have come to expect, but is rather the only form of triumph against fate:

 Without the idea of a failed universe, the spectacle of injustice under all regimes would lead even an indifferent man to the straitjacket.

—Cahiers, 1957-1972

The old Gnostics believed the universe was a creation by catastrophe – a failed enterprise into which life had been thrown as an accidental rebel of a spurned thought. Renegades of a catastrophic thought we seek our silences in the interstices of a broken world, fragments of a fallen despair we know only the torments of a nostalgia – a secret path into paradise our only goal, a quest whose only termination is failure. In a letter to a friend Cioran yields us a mystery:

Am I a “renegade,” as you insinuate? “A man’s country is but a camp in the desert,” says a Tibetan text. I do not go so far and would give all the landscapes of the world for that of my childhood. Yet I must add that, if I make it into a paradise, the legerdemain or the infirmities of my memory are exclusively responsible. Pursued by our origins—we all are; the emotion mine inspire necessarily translates itself into negative terms, the language of self-punishment, of humiliation acknowledged and proclaimed, of an accession to disaster.6

  1. Cioran, E. M.. All Gall is Divided: The Aphorisms of a Legendary Iconoclast (Kindle Locations 371-372). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Cioran, E. M.. The Temptation to Exist (Kindle Location 413). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Searching for Cioran (Kindle Locations 456-459). Kindle Edition.
  4.  Cioran, E.M.. The Fall into Time. Quadrangle Books; First edition (1970)
  5. Cioran, E. M.. Drawn and Quartered. Arcade; 1 edition (November 13, 2012)
  6. E. M. Cioran. History and Utopia (Kindle Locations 97-101). Arcade. Kindle Edition.

Under the Sign of Erasure

Capitalist realism is about a corrosion of social imagination, and in some ways, that remains the problem: after thirty years of neoliberal domination, we are only just beginning to be able to imagine alternatives to capitalism.

—Mark Fisher, K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher

How to think under the sign of erasure; that is, under the regime of absolute extinction and annihilation?  Is it even possible? Possible to resist that which is already accelerating us into oblivion without reprieve? Cassandras everywhere sing out of despair at our human folly, at the impending barrier beyond which we are not allowed a return, beyond which the very thought of return becomes not a vicious circle but rather a spiraling dance of decay and absolute entropy.

As Avi Loeb of Harvard surmises humans may be following the path of previous alien civilizations in our galaxy, due to Fermi’s Paradox we should’ve made contact with other advanced intelligent species in the cosmos long ago, but the fact that this has yet to happen brings us to one possibility: the Great Filter which is the notion that advanced intelligence produces short-term thinking, which in turn accelerates the very self-lacerating forces and wounds which eventually kill them. This could entail any number of things from resource depletion, wars, over-population, climate change impact, disease, famine, etc., not to mention other natural disasters from asteroids to super-volcanoes.

Climatologists tell us that recent anthropogenic emissions of CO2 — emissions caused by human activities — are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and producing unnatural changes to the planet’s climate system. The effects of these emissions on global warming are only being partially abated by the land and ocean. Currently, the ocean and terrestrial biosphere (forests, savannas, etc.) are absorbing about 50% of these releases — explaining the bleaching of coral reefs and acidification of the ocean, as well as the increase of carbon storage in our forests.

Certain climate extremists like Guy McPherson and James Hansen predict that its already too late, that we are facing year by year destructive weather patterns across the globe that intensify with each moment to the point that our self-sustaining civilization’s energy, agricultural and infrastructure systems will erode and collapse in the next few years. Yet, others suggst that McPherson and Hansen base their data and predictions on faulty models, saying that the extreme model predictions themselves are wrong, because the climate model predictions on which those warnings are based are inconsistent with the Earth’s geological history.

One has to wonder what to think, what to do, how to approach this when even the scientists themselves cannot agree as to what is happening. Should we prepare for the worst case scenario or just wait and see? Who will decide such global impacts, politicians, scientists? With so many false signals thrown at us from so many propagandized political and social forces how are we as average citizens to decide what is best for our families and ourselves? There being no politically unmotivated scientific consensus at present it is hard to tell the truth from the lies anymore. We seem to be living in a fictional universe controlled and distorted by politically motivated parties whose intent and purpose may or may not be for the benefit of the majority of humans on the planet.

For a long while I have struggled with this very issue of truth within our civilization at present. There are hundreds if not thousands of books, articles, reports, initiatives, etc. published month after month on climate change, human impact (i.e., the Anthropocene), and any number of other natural and socio-cultural impacts that are contributing to our current civilizational crisis. All across our planet there seems to be a collapse of trust in leadership and the political spectrum producing paranoia, conspiracy theory, and other irrational factors from economics to race and gender issues, etc. that have pushed many to the brink of civil war if not literally then figuratively.  There is a tension in the air, one that is accelerating us forward toward something as yet indefinable: civil war, collapse – natural or human.

In many ways one feels as if this undetermined anxiety below the surface of life on this planet were accelerating toward not only a climate tipping point, but a mental tipping point for human history itself; as if we were all pushing against some invisible barrier to time, seeking to escape the very conditions of our global entrapment, exit the very powers of social and political control that seem bent on closing us all within a time enclosure without outlet. As if we were cattle to be reigned in and corralled within a time nexus of an eternal presentism without the possibility of change or a future.

Mark Fisher once described this process as one in which “reality itself had gone psychotic,” saying it is  “one of those moments when the distinction between the internal and the external world no longer hold: hell has erupted on earth, there is no escape, no future, and you know it…”.1 In another essay he’d ask: what happens to people with no expectation of work, or of any kind of meaningful future? “When the punks cried ‘No Future’, at the turning point of 1977, it seemed like a paradox that couldn’t be taken too seriously”, Italian theorist Franco “Bifo” Berardi writes in his most recent book After The Future:

Actually, it was the announcement of something quite important: the perception of the future was changing […] Moderns are those who live time as the sphere of a progress towards perfection, or at least towards improvement, enrichment and rightness. Since the turning point of the century — which I like to place in 1977 — humankind has abandoned this illusion.2

The notion that progress has stopped, that the very notion of improvement and technological change, much less human change are being enclosed in a sphere of power and coercion by the Oligarchic monopoly of reality in a world-wide system of control over the social and civilizational processes of time and economics is at the heart of this type of thinking. That the very forces of our mediatainment industry are nothing but propaganda devices for these global powers, portraying a world of chaos and impending war, threat, horror, and collapse to better control its citizenry through disinformation, fear, and terror.

Can one believe such a thing? Are we to become so paranoid that we can no longer trust our political and social leaders to be truthful with us, to represent the very values of the democratic world-view that since the Enlightenment has enveloped the secular West? Are we living in a time of absolute illusion, a sphere of contestation when the very truth about reality itself is coming under paranoiac reign? If reality is a consensual illusion built out of beliefs, propaganda, ideology, and various delusions of religious and secular forms then who to turn too, who to trust… where is truth to be found?

Fisher would describe this malaise in terms of depressive hedonoia, a state in which people are “trapped in themselves in this form of kind of functional misery, in a sense that they’re just miserable enough, as it were, miserable enough to carry on — not too miserable that they would either reach a point of subjective destitution or just have to question — pushed to the point where they have to question the general social causes for why they’re like this”. (ibid., KL 10629-10632)

In fact this inability to cope with these depressive forces at work in our society that on the one hand offer us an excess of pleasures and distractions, and on the other hand keep us carefully addicted to various pharmaceuticals from legalized marijuana to opioids to meth to alcohol, etc. that blind us to the actual misery of our lives under a globalized regime of economic and political despair shades into absolute chaos.  As Mark eloquently put it in the epigraph to this essay it’s the “corrosion of social imagination” that stymies us, that keeps us within the prison walls of our own self-defeated systems of enslavement, our inability to invent a habitable future – a future worth living in and striving for, a future where humans and non-humans can co-exist in –  if not a harmonious sociality, then at least in a zone of cooperation through conflict and agonistic unrest. For as Wallace Stevens said long ago in his Poems of Our Climate:

“There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.”

This, this alone is the ‘human condition’, a state of unrest, a need to move, to understand, to share in a life of intelligence and community, a world of shared responsibility toward the care of the earth and ourselves. Otherwise it is mere death and destruction…

  1. Mark Fisher; Darren Ambrose. K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016) (Kindle Locations 1895-1896). Repeater Books. Kindle Edition.
  2. Franco Berardi, After the Future (AK Press, 2011), p. 12




How It Is



I am not proud to be a man, because I know only too well what it is to be man.

—E. M. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

When people are faced with extreme pessimism they run, run as fast as they can back into their comforting delusions; the comfort of the dammed. As creatures of misery we seek to assuage our suffering, broker arrangements that will alleviate both mental and physical pain through externalizing our fears and trepidations, our anxieties onto those others – the monsters that inhabit our lives. We cannot live with our monsters, but seek beyond all things to bury them in a world of art and fiction where they can be controlled and imprisoned; relegated to the innocuous childhood of nightmares. Yet, every so often those monstrous impulses we hide from ourselves suddenly leap out of their crevices, seep into our lives from the hinterlands of delusional hysteria, crumbling the armature of our thick protective barriers, revealing at last that we, we alone harbor legions, legions of demons…

Almost anyone who reads a book is either seeking an answer to life’s misery, or their seeking to escape it; there being no middle-path. The truth is we all want someone else to give us the answer we most desire, as if long ago something happened, some strange and twisted thing changed our lives, an event that came and went so subtly that we didn’t even notice how the world changed; and then we woke up and realized years after that somewhere along the way we’d entered our own private Twilight Zone, discovered we’d lost a day, a week, a month, or leap year along the way. Something went missing in our lives, something profound we lost amid the hustle and bustle of daily activities, something we wish we knew what vanished into the world like a small fragment of our souls, gone forever; pfft, erased. And now we keep wandering round in a vicious circle looking for it, that… lost thing.

It’s like we want an answer all wrapped up like a Christmas present, stuffed with everything we’d always hoped for, the wisdom of the ages and all that horseshit – and, then it comes: a gift from the blue, we unwrap it, and there it is, the mystery we’ve all hoped for, the truth we’ve sought for far too long… and, then bam, a Jack-in-the-Box pops out holding a toy gun, laughing and swaying like a comic fool, and then shoots the pistol at us, a flag unfurling from the gun like an old time school banner – with a message on it for us: “Ha, ha, ha, ha… You’re fucked, that’s the truth of it, honey child!” Yea, somewhere in the pit of our stomach we knew it all along, we knew there wouldn’t be some deus ex machina popping out of the woodworks to save our ass, no siree… we knew that at the end of the road all there was … was nothing, no answer, no Angelic hand dangling from some Tin heaven with a sign saying: “Redemption, this way…”. No, instead we found this promissory note, a blank tab with an unmarked signature, an open and incomplete bank note telling us we don’t have enough to pay our way to oblivion… instead we’ll have to repeat this same life over and over and over without reprieve; a prisoner of our own desires for eternity.

Condemned to eternal repetition we’ll wile away the nights and days refining our small apocalypses like urban cowboys or New York dilettante’s of small ennui’s. The trivialization of reality in situ, a winking nod to the labor gods of some comic disaster awaiting a streamlined deco punk arboretum, filled not with spacious organicism’s but rather the metalloid dreams of some lost purveyor of nightmares. The officiating priests of this decadent enterprise offering us the simple truths of the faithless and the con man, the slow burn of sordid betrayals and the lip service of sinister anathemas. Yes, eternity is a zone of hate and sadism, an exclusive club for the discognition of sybaritic minds whose distempered thoughts were too well manicured by professional adverts. We are the victims of our own deceits,  triumphant only in our denials and inabilities to accept our own responses or lack thereof. Knowing the truth we mask it with our unused life, unable to exist alone we huddle together in the sink holes of felonious enclaves, dripping with the fatal strategies of would be lepers whose hidden desires seek only the twisted infestations of cenobites. Tempted to escape our fate, we create its lasting spillage – the seeping horror of an abyss too wide to encompass our own black hearts. Slipping away from reality into the Real we invent the Unreal world of our enslaved desires, living out our living death in this hellish paradise like gods lost among the debris of a universal ruin.

John Langan’s Sefira first impressions…

John Langan’s Sefira first impressions…

sefiraJust finished reading his novella Sefira and like where he’s going with this line of mythmaking. If your familiar with Dante’s Inferno or Milton’s Paradise Lost one feels the sense that John is developing his own vision of Hell we hope to see more of in future stories or novels. In fact in his notes he affirms this: “In teaching Dante’s Inferno over the years, and in referring to it in nearly all my classes, I had discussed the sin of betrayal as the most serious in his vision of Hell because of its perversion of those qualities specific to humanity, a view that grows more compelling to me the older I become.”

It is this theme of betrayal that is the creative engine driving this novella. We’re thrown into the midst of a small town where a typical husband and wife are undergoing a moment of transition in their lives. The husband, Gary, is no longer satisfied with his sexual relationship with his wife, Lisa. So he’s discovered the whole world of Internet porn and sex-tease sites where he allows himself to be seduced by a young woman’s rhetoric and pornographic offerings. Needless to say he is tempted to a secret rendezvous and liaison with the young woman, Sefira who has journeyed to town for a little fun. Not a good thing as Gary finds out too late this is no young woman, but rather an ancient demon in disguise – what type of demon I’ll let the reader find out for herself. His wife Lisa finds out about the affair from her nosey friends, which leads to interesting consequences, and to a story that will draw the reader deeper and deeper into a labyrinth that offers a puzzle: a slow burn of mounting details that weave the reader in between juxtaposed chapters, shifting scenarios and time frames; moving from present to future and back again. Each chapter unveiling just enough details to keep one interested and yet puzzled enough to keep the suspense and mystery of the story ongoing without ever becoming bored.

John introduces into the narrative a third character as a plot device for revealing occult information that would otherwise have seemed out of place in the novella. He provides a modern day Tarot reader and roadside clairvoyant into the mix who provides information on Sefira and the infernal realms she has come from. Her name is Madame Sosostris – a character John has inherited from T.S. Eliot who ironically introduced her in his famous modernist poem, The Wasteland. Strangely, Eliot himself borrowed the name after a character from Aldous Huxley’s comic satire novel Crome Yellow.

What we learn from Madame Sosostris is that the inferno this daemonic creature has emerged from is the “pneumasphere”:

“The afterlife,” Madame Sosostris said, “although I prefer not to use that word. ‘Afterlife’ makes the place sound separate from us. It isn’t. It intersects this world in a multitude of ways. If it weren’t so New-Age-y, I’d say it’s the spirit world. Another dimension, or plane of existence. It has its own ecology, its flora and fauna, its inhabitants. This Sefira comes from an especially ancient chamber known as the Broken Land.”

As if John had been influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of the rhizome we learn that the pneumasphere has no central organization, but is constructed of a “collection of connected nodes” which she describes,

 “This is how the pneumasphere is arranged. Each of its chambers is vast, a universe in and of itself. There are links among the various nodes and major events here. You mentioned Aubrey Byrne,” she said to Gary. “He and I thought it possible new chambers emerged in response to significant changes on this plane, to the ascent of new species to the top of our ecosystem. That’s the other thing about the pneumasphere: it’s reactive. Occurrences on Earth can effect conditions there. It takes something significant, something global, but a catastrophe for us has the potential to devastate the environment for them. This was the case with the Broken Land. There was a cataclysm—an asteroid struck the earth. The resulting firestorm killed off most life on the planet.”

It’s this strange vision of Hell that intrigues me and something I hope to see more of in future works by John. The notion of a pneumasphere (Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is an ancient Greek word for “breath”, and in a religious context for “spirit” or “soul”.), a vital realm where the dead exist in an imaginal zone of horror seems almost Gnostic in its intent and purpose, since John sees it as a reciprocal  influence between the two environments conditioning each other through catastrophic events of human or daemonic intrusion and intervention. Other writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker have developed Other worlds mythologies to good effect, and we hope John will further this in a larger more expansive vision or dream quest in some future epic work. I think this would be fascinating.

I’ll not say anything more about the novella itself, leaving the reader enough enticement to go out right now and buy this unique work, and I will reserve a future post for the rest of the short stories in this collection. It’s definitely worth reading, and hope you will enjoy it!

Visit John Langan:
Buy Sefira: here!

A Survivor’s Exile

To be a survivor is to live in exile, to be haunted by memories rather than people, to know simulacrum and dark entities rather than the companions of a forgotten world. The old saying of “let the dead bury the dead” has no meaning for a survivor, she is bound to the dead like a priest to his parishioners; forever interceding on their behalf to the emptiness that is and is not. The survivor is one of the walking dead, a memory of past time come alive; living with that which cannot live, the survivor walks through time as a ghost of death’s promise. Exile is itself a state not of mind, but of hell’s cold heart; there being no redemption for survivors, only the endless repetition of frozen desires.

On Becoming the Alien Thing We Are

The real horror of identity politics is that people begin to reduce themselves to a set of labels, define themselves as part of some collective community without ever truly recognizing that each of us is already a community: the self being for all intents and purposes non-existent, we must realize this thing we are is a multiplicity rather than a monistic monastery for isolated monks of thought and feeling. Without becoming this becoming we lose ourselves in other’s images of life and politics, never attaining that awareness of our own alien otherness. For in the end we are that alien thing, that inhuman creature we have feared for far too long; and, to accept the thing we are, to accept this alien core of our own otherness is to suddenly break free of all those imposed labels we’ve been given from birth onwards by parents, friends, and State. To walk free of the names we have known is to enter the unknown world of our alien being, to become posthuman is to leave the very core of our cultural prison and its labels forever.

Kristen Alvanson’s XYZT first impressions…

“It is no longer a miniature: it is life size.”

—Kristen Alvanson, XYZTXYZT1

One does not read this work as one would a novel, rather one let’s the work read you. Each vignette rises and falls from the Outside like a kaleidoscope in a holographic frame-tale – a Thousand-and-One-Nights that someone has cut-up in the fashion of a Burroughsian-Gysin dream quest. Rumi once suggested that humanity “craves winter in summer, and when winter comes, he likes it not, For he is never content with any state of things, neither with poverty not with a life of plenty.” But Rumi had not entered the imaginative poverty – which is a form of fullness – that is the subtle excess of micro-fictional universes, each touching the other one as parts to some indefinable and infinite incompleteness. To imagine where Kristen is taking you is to follow some geometry of the Mind that has no discernable pattern other than Intelligence itself under the sign of vision.

For more information see: XYZT – Urbanomic
Follow Kristen on Facebook: Kristen Alvanson
Get  XYZT: MIT Press

Flannery O’Conner: The Delusions of a World

About every four or five years I reread Flannery O’Conner’s short stories. Always fascinated how she can open up the wounds of our human delusions. Her grotesques are creatures of habit and stupidity: men, women, and children who seem to fall into the ruts of some organic necessity, their minds bound to outmoded forms of thought and behavior.

Rereading The Geranium which was her first published short story (1946) one can already see that ironic and cynical eye she cast on everything, showing the slow and methodical destruction of those habits of mind that bind us to our personal world of delusory fictions. The main character in this story is an old man, Dudley, who unable to take care of himself anymore has been hijacked from his home up North in New York by his daughter and brought south, brought into a world unfamiliar and almost hostile to the likes of Dudley.

Most of the story is wrapped around Dudley’s inability to accept this new situation. So that he continuously reminisces about his fabled antics in the boarding house where he still had some sense of being needed and wanted for who and what he is rather than what he’s become in this unsettled realm of his daughter’s southern clime. This juxtaposition between his supposed idyllic world up North, and the darker and more fragmented world down South plays out against an unfolding destruction of his life’s equilibrium based as it is on a racist mythology at the heart of the American Anglo-Saxon culture and ideology.

Truthfully this story is about racism, about a man who’d been a racist his whole life as if it were the normal aspect of things. Where he’d come from up North in some small town victim and perpetrator alike of this racist mythology of the White Man seems to have never dissolved – at least in Dudley’s eyes. While down South in his daughter’s inner-city tenement living quarters where Dudley now finds himself he discovers that people are jammed up against each other so close and without any natural or organic sense of the world that he is no longer able to keep his sense of balance. The geranium of the title becomes the focal point of his need for the natural world, for a sense of connection to his old life. The flower that a neighbor puts out every morning at the same time becomes a part of Dudley’s new mythology of order.

His rage for order, for a world that fits his expectations begins to unravel when the flower goes missing, when his neighbor seems to have forgotten to put it on the window seal at the usual time. From that point forward in the story everything in Dudley’s life and Mind begins to unravel. His daughter having two children in an unwed household works long hours so that Dudley is surrounded by the activities of the children. O’Connor chooses to show the story completely through the mental breakdown of the old man, a story in which his grand children and daughter seem peripheral and almost lost as to what to make of this cantankerous old curmudgeon. Right off the bat he is at odds with his daughter, wondering why she felt it her ‘duty’ to take care of him when he was very able to take care of himself. Of course, that’s one of the key delusions: a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. His inability to accept growing old, of needing others in his life, of needing people to care and look after him; this wound to his narcissistic pride, of being a Man.

It all comes to a head when he discovers his daughter’s next door neighbor is an African American. Of course Dudley has throughout the story referred to ‘people of color’ with the ‘N’ word so that his whole life has been built out of this prejudiced sense of inequality to the point that having his daughter, who as he puts it, “You ain’t been raised that way!”1 This sense that White’s are somehow better shows us Dudley’s world in a nutshell. A world of racist hierarchy and prejudice that is a part of American psyche and behavior that most White’s are raised up and indoctrinated into as part of a twisted history.

When the young African American man next door meets Dudley on the stairs, after the old man has run down to do an errand for his daughter, he pats him on the back in a friendly gesture. Suddenly Dudley is beside himself and falls back sliding down the stairs and landing on his butt. The young man helps him to his feet and guides him to his daughters apartment. The whole time Dudley is speechless and unable to say or do anything. As he is about to enter the apartment the young man once again pats him on the back which reminds Dudley once again that his world is tilted and unhinged:

He patted Old Dudley on the back and went into his own apartment. Old Dudley went into his. The pain in his throat was all over his face now, leaking out his eyes. He shuffled to the chair by the window and sank down in it. His throat was going to pop.  (13)

This physical sense of explosion, an outer sign of his internal condition, a condition that like the tales of his hunting days suddenly finds him at a loss for words, a man who has for his whole life lived according to a set of rules and habits that gave him a sense of place bound to a White culture that no longer exists except in the Mind of an old man who has now sensed the deluded truth of his own petty existence. And, yet, it’s a truth he is unwilling to accept. It’s at this moment that the geranium, the last refuge of his connection to the old world, to his place up north, his life without doubts about who he was and his place in the universe becomes absolutely unhinged. The flower has gone missing:

A man was looking at him. A man was in the window across the alley looking straight at him. The man was watching him cry. That was where the geranium was supposed to be and it was a man in his undershirt, watching him cry, waiting to watch his throat pop. Old Dudley looked back at the man. It was supposed to be the geranium. The geranium belonged there, not the man. “Where is the geranium?” he called out of his tight throat. (13)

His neighbor feeling threatened by the old man tells him it’s none of his business where the flower is, but if he wants to know it fell down and broke six floors below. Dudley looks over the window sill and sees it down in the alley smashed but still living in a clump of dirt. He takes a mind to go down six flights and pick it up after being challenged by the white man across the way. But getting to the end of the hall and actually faced with walking down six flights,

He walked slowly down the dog run and got to the steps. The steps dropped down like a deep wound in the floor. They opened up through a gap like a cavern and went down and down. (14)

This notion of entering an abyss, an infernal where he’d have to confront more people like the neighbor next door and the neighbor across the way is too much for Dudley.

The man was sitting over where it should have been. “I ain’t seen you pickin’ it up,” he said.
Old Dudley stared at the man.
“I seen you before,” the man said. “I seen you settin’ in that old chair every day, starin’ out the window, looking in my apartment. What I do in my apartment is my business, see? I don’t like people looking at what I do.”
It was at the bottom of the alley with its roots in the air.
“I only tell people once,” the man said and left the window. (14)

For once in his life Dudley is unable to keep his Mind balanced, completely unhinged and unable to speak or say anything he just stares at the broken flower pot and the pink-red geranium six floors below as if it was his broken Mind and Life. Oblivious to the violence surrounding him, of the hostile intent of the White man across from him he just stares at the flower. Dumfounded at the catastrophe of his existence, a World shattered to the point of no return, a world beyond redemption, he felt a sense of doom realizing he was now living in a world that would lie like that flower in a broken heap of ruin, forever.

It’s this sense of shock and devastation, an awakening from the delusions of one’s world, of a life lived in the midst of pure and unadulterated delirium that is the earmark of O’Connor’s stories, her Gnostic fables in which the only truth given is that we are all deluded living in our own private hells beyond redemption. Of course her defenders have tried to return us to a Catholic vision of hope and transcendence, rather than as in this story the truth of a bittersweet world of immanence and ruin, a world full of grotesques like Dudley who in the end crumple and fold under the weight of the World’s clamour.

  1.  Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories (p. 9). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

“Every Man a King!” – The Populist Challenge

“Every Man a King!” —Huey P. Long

Populism whether of the Left or Right is a fool’s game, a game played out against the backdrop of defeat and resentment. It’s been played out before and the game’s afoot again. Robert Penn Warren, that old Southern Agrarian, poet of a mixed bag of fatalism once sounded the depths of that mire with his character Willie Stark in All the King’s Men:

“Friends, red-necks, suckers, and fellow hicks,” he would say, leaning forward, leaning at them, looking at them. And he would pause, letting the words sink in. And in the quiet the crowd would be restless and resentful under these words, the words they knew people called them but the words nobody ever got up and called them to their face. “Yeah,” he would say, “yeah,” and twist his mouth on the word, “that’s what you are, and you needn’t get mad at me for telling you. Well, get mad, but I’m telling you. That’s what you are. And me— I’m one, too. Oh, I’m a red-neck, for the sun has beat down on me. Oh, I’m a sucker, for I fell for that sweet-talking fellow in the fine automobile. Oh, I took the sugar tit and hushed my crying. Oh, I’m a hick and I am the hick they were going to try to use and split the hick vote. But I’m standing here on my own hind legs, for even a dog can learn to do that, give him time. I learned. It took me a time but I learned, and here I am on my own hind legs.” And he would lean at them. And demand, “Are you, are you on your hind legs? Have you learned that much yet? You think you can learn that much?”1

Willie was an echo of a real life populist, Huey P. Long. A lot of people forget that populism wasn’t always a thing of the Right-wing Republicans. No, the Democrats had their own variety in the life and times of Long. Nicknamed “The Kingfish”, Long was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and was a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935. As the political leader of Louisiana, he commanded wide networks of supporters and was willing to take forceful action. He established the long-term political prominence of the Long family.

A Democrat and an outspoken left-wing populist, Long denounced the wealthy elites and the banks. Initially a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first 100 days in office, Long eventually came to believe that Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policies did not do enough to alleviate the issues of the poor. In time, he developed his own solution: the “Share Our Wealth” program, which would establish a net asset tax, the earnings of which would be redistributed so as to curb the poverty and homelessness epidemic nationwide during the Great Depression.

He sought to improve the lot of poor blacks as well as poor whites during his career as a politician. Under Long’s leadership, hospitals and educational institutions were expanded, a system of charity hospitals was set up that provided health care for the poor, and massive highway construction and free bridges brought an end to rural isolation.

His enemy was the corporate monopolists like Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Kept faith with his people and they with him. He gave them something and the corporations paid for it … He is not to be dismissed as a mere rabble-rouser or as the leader of a gang of boodlers … He brought to his career a streak of genius, yet in his programs and tactics he was as indigenous to Louisiana as pine trees and petroleum. Key adds that the Long organization used:  Patronage, in all its forms, deprivation of perquisites, economic pressure, political coercion in one form or another, and now and then outright thuggery … Long commanded the intense loyalties of a substantial proportion of the population … [Supporters] came to believe that here was a man with a genuine concern for their welfare, not one of the gentlemanly do-nothing governors who had ruled the state for many decades.

Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here was written with the goal of hurting Long’s chances in the 1936 election for Governor, Lewis’s novel outfits President Berzelius Windrip with a private militia, concentration camps, and a chief of staff who sounds like Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Lewis also outfits Windrip with a racist ideology completely alien to Long and a Main Street conservatism he also never embraced. Ultimately, Windrip is a venal and cynical showman who plays to the conformist resentments Lewis diagnosed in Main Street and Babbitt. Some critics argued that the key weakness of the novel is not that he decks out American politicians with sinister European touches, but that he finally conceives of fascism and totalitarianism in terms of traditional American political models rather than seeing them as introducing a new kind of society and a new kind of regime. Windrip is less a Nazi than a con-man and manipulator who knows how to appeal to people’s desperation, but neither he nor his followers are in the grip of the kind of world-transforming ideology like Hitler’s National Socialism.

As we begin to move into the next election cycle we might benefit with studying such creatures as Long and other populist movements. The two front men on the Republican (Trump) and Democrat (Joe Biden) are both hype artists, con-men and populists for their respective working-classes, both offer the moon and cater to the fringe masses in their appeals; both have the rhetorical style of the high-low culture which sounds the darker powers of both parties.

Populism has been used by both parties in the past and seems to be on its come-back now. A common framework for interpreting populism is known as the ideational approach: this defines populism as an ideology which presents “the people” as a morally good force against “the elite”, who are perceived as corrupt and self-serving. Populists differ in how “the people” are defined, but it can be based along class, ethnic, or national lines. Populists typically present “the elite” as comprising the political, economic, cultural, and media establishment, depicted as a homogeneous entity and accused of placing their own interests, and often the interests of other groups—such as foreign countries or immigrants—above the interests of “the people”. Populist parties and social movements are often led by charismatic or dominant figures who present themselves as the “voice of the people”. When in office in liberal democracies, populists are often responsible for democratic backsliding as they undermine independent institutions like the media or judiciary which they consider hostile to the “will of the people”. According to the ideational approach, populism is often combined with other ideologies, such as nationalism, liberalism, or socialism. Thus, populists can be found at different locations along the left–right political spectrum and there is both left-wing populism and right-wing populism.

Left-wing populism is a political ideology that combines left-wing politics and populist rhetoric and themes. The rhetoric of left-wing populism often consists of anti-elitist sentiments, opposition to the Establishment and speaking for the “common people”. The important themes for left-wing populists usually include anti-capitalism, social justice, pacifism and anti-globalization, whereas class society ideology or socialist theory is not as important as it is to traditional left-wing parties. The criticism of capitalism and globalization is linked to anti-militarism, which has increased in the left populist movements as a result of unpopular United States military operations, especially those in the Middle East. It is considered that the populist left does not exclude others horizontally and relies on egalitarian ideals

Right-wing populism in the Western world is generally—though not exclusively—associated with ideologies such as neo-nationalism, anti-globalization, nativism, protectionism and opposition to immigration. Anti-Muslim ideas and sentiments serve as the “great unifiers” among right-wing political formations throughout the United States and Europe. Traditional right-wing views such as opposition to an increasing support for the welfare state and a “more lavish, but also more restrictive, domestic social spending” scheme is also described under right-wing populism and is sometimes called “welfare chauvinism”.

Conspiracist scapegoating employed by various populist movements can create “a seedbed for fascism”.  In Germany Nazi populism interacted with and facilitated fascism in interwar Germany. In this case, distressed middle-class populists mobilized their anger against the government and big business during the pre-Nazi Weimar period. The Nazis “parasitized the forms and themes of the populists and moved their constituencies far to the right through ideological appeals involving demagoguery, scapegoating, and conspiracism”.

According to Fritzsche:

The Nazis expressed the populist yearnings of middle–class constituents and at the same time advocated a strong and resolutely anti-Marxist mobilization…Against “unnaturally” divisive parties and querulous organized interest groups, National Socialists cast themselves as representatives of the commonwealth, of an allegedly betrayed and neglected German public…Breaking social barriers of status and caste, and celebrating at least rhetorically the populist ideal of the people’s community…3

In the first decade of the 21st century, two populist movements appeared in the US, both in response to the Great Recession: the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. The populist approach of the Occupy movement was broader, with its “people” being what it called “the 99%”, while the “elite” it challenged was presented as both the economic and political elites. The Tea Party’s populism was Producerism, while “the elite” it presented was more party partisan than that of Occupy, being defined largely—although not exclusively—as the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama. The 2016 presidential election saw a wave of populist sentiment in the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, with both candidates running on anti-establishment platforms in the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively. Both campaigns criticized free trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But we shouldn’t forget Biden, the Green Party, and many other independent platform politicians that will seek a share of that populist pie.

The more I study Social Control: Ideology, Propaganda, and Conspiracist populism the more I realize just how fucked we are… Mark Twain was right, people are absolutely delirious and deluded, liars and scam artists prone to the absolute control, manipulation, and chicanery of fools and mountebanks, politicians and preachers.

  1. Warren, Robert Penn. All the King’s Men (pp. 94-95). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  2. Key, V.O.; Heard, Alexander (1949). Southern Politics in State and Nation. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
  3. Fritzsche, Peter (1990). Rehearsals for fascism: populism and political mobilization in Weimar Germany. Oxford University Press.

Hate Crime of the Century: Alabama Draconian Law

Alabama Lawmakers Vote to Effectively Ban Abortion in the State


Sad day for Abortion Rights and Women everywhere… Alabama has reentered the Feudalistic Empire of Unreason:

“This bill just truly confronts Roe versus Wade,” said bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican from Decatur.

One thing: if you agree with the Alabama law then you might as well unfriend me for you are no friend of mine… this is personal, my wife died because of a rape from incest that forced her in those days to seek a back alley abortion due to the Draconian laws of that era… she contracted cancer of the uterus in 1989 due to complications from this… so fuck all you who support such abortion laws.

I say we should confront the right-wing Christian coalitions that sponsored such idiocy with their backward insanity, begin picketing every senator, every church, every political and economic sponsor of this stupidity. Women and men against this should begin writing their governor, writing our Federal Justices and enforcers of current Federal Law for State compliance, demand all Federal funding stripped from Alabama… It’s time to show these White Redneck male chauvinistic political bumpkins in Alabama that the people will not go down without a fight…

For those who are stupid enough not to know this is in direct opposition to a Federal Law:

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973),[1] was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion, while also ruling that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting prenatal life.

Sadly, they should not have left that idiotic notion of “balanced”… balanced for whom? clause. It’s this inability for the U.S. Supreme Court to ever take a complete stand on something that has brought about this conflict. Time to revamp this law and make it one that has no conflict of interests, but tells every state that its up to a woman to make the choice about her body, her life… and to oppose all such Draconian measures in states like Alabama, Georgia or any other State seeking to impose their bias on Women.

One wonders – hypothetically: if everyone of those 25 White Male Senators who voted for that bill went home and discovered that their (horrendous thought!) wives had all been raped, would those same men allow their wives to go full term (or, would they see themselves above the law, and allow abortions for their wives as the exception), and would they raise those children as their own; or stigmatize those children as men in the old days before such abortion rights were in place?

One of the only  things that might come out of this is that hopefully it will wake women and men up everywhere who oppose such things to get this Law revamped and solidified by the Supreme Court so that there can be no confrontations like this ever again…

The Canonical Tale

What is it that makes one tale memorable and worth rereading, and another tale a throw-away, a one-off? Many of us will agree that what makes a story memorable is its ability to entice or seduce us through the power of its aesthetic splendor, cognitive power, and wisdom. The other almost intangible ingredient of a masterful tale is the portrayal of the infinite complexities of character and personality – whether of person, place, or thing – without which we cannot permanently be moved. We’ve all come across tales of the weird, fantastic, uncanny, or horrific that depend more on the surface events or atmosphere, along with an accumulation of effects that seduce from us certain affective reactions rather than any discernable need for the complexities of character or personality, but how many of those tales are rereadable because of that.

Tales like these seem to have a one time effect on us, guide us toward certain tangible emotional reactions, and force us to see as the author sees, know as the author knows, feel as if we were behind the scenes watching the curtains rise and fall, the wires that add or subtract props or facades. It’s this feeling of knowing ahead of time the staged devices and designs that have led us to feel those emotions of horror, dread, or shock that on a second reading let us down. It’s this sense that such a tales have become tendentious, their power and hold on us no longer draw us in, seduce, or temp us the second time. After this such readings we feel the author’s conscious designs on us, sense the her power to control our emotions; feel how she molds our reading. It’s the effects of her well-rehearsed staging of event or message, the overwrought changes in temper or emotion, that direct us toward the tale’s one defining shock or event that makes us feel betrayed, cheated in some way; not knowing exactly why. We walk away from the story disturbed not by the tale itself, but by the conscious intent the author has had upon our emotional lives; her tendentiousness. What’s even worse is that the next time we try to read such a tale we know up front the mechanisms underlying the tales designs on our affective lives. Because of this we are unable to ever again feel that sense of awe of shock we had with the first reading, unable to gather any new insight from the mystery of the tale, because the author has laid all her cards on the table and left nothing for our imaginations to ponder. It’s this sense of a tale’s unreadability, of it having nothing else to offer us, no more secrets or mysteries to solve that makes it a throw-away tale; a one-off tale that offers only the one-time shock and nothing else.

For the canonical tale its just the opposite, one never feels pressured by the author’s intent or designs on us; in fact, the author disappears, vanishes into the background, letting the tale have its way with us. These are tales that continue to shock and surprise us with rereadings, tales that continue to disturb us, offer us new puzzles or mysteries or insights. Tales that can be told over and over and over without ever losing their freshness or resilience. Whether the tale is naturalistic in the sense of a Turgenev or a Chekhovian short story, or more phantasmagoric as in Kafka or Borges, it is a tale that will be read and reread with delight and entertainment decades or centuries to come. Such tales as these truly are universal in the sense that they define us, keep us returning time and again to seek them out, puzzle over their meanings and complexities, feel the power of joy or terror at the heart of the tale. Such tales invent us as much as we do them. They seem to offer a certain knowledge about ourselves or our culture that we cannot get any other way. It’s this indefinable persistence and rereadability of a tale that makes it canonical, a tale to last the ages.

Lines of Flight: The War Machine as Nomadic Art

…the nomads do not hold the secret: an “ideological,” scientific, or artistic movement can be a potential war machine, to the precise extent to which it draws, in relation to aphylum, a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth space of displacement. It is not the nomad who defines this constellation of characteristics; it is this constellation that defines the nomad, and at the same time the essence of the war machine. If guerrilla warfare, minority warfare, revolutionary and popular war are in conformity with the essence, it is because they take war as an object all the more necessary for being merely “supplementary”: they can make war only on the condition that they simultaneously create something else, if only new nonorganic social relations. The difference between the two poles is great, even, and especially, from the point of view of death: the line of flight that creates, or turns into a line of destruction; the plane of consistency that constitutes itself, even piece by piece, or turns into a plan(e) of organization and domination. We are constantly reminded that there is communication between these two lines or planes, that each takes nourishment from the other, borrows from the other: the worst of the world war machines reconstitutes a smooth space to surround and enclose the earth. But the earth asserts its own powers of deterritorialization, its lines of flight, its smooth spaces that live and blaze their way for a new earth.1

This sense of performative art as a ‘war machine’ –  a tool of the nomad through which capture by the State or Cultural apparatus can be avoided and smooth space preserved. If as D&G will tell us the State apparatus appropriates the war machine, subordinates it to its “political” aims, and gives it war as its direct object. (D&G 420) The artistic war machine escapes the State apparatus through nomadic forms of absolute deterretorialization = accelerationism through speed and secrecy, metamorphosis and transformation. Unhitching itself from the political machine it is free to move in the smooth spaces of the exterior, chameleon like as a disruption of all those striated spaces of capture, producing lines of flight and escape. The martial dimension of the war machine consists in the power of invention, in the capacity for change, in the creation of other worlds.

“Whereas the migrant leaves behind a place, the nomad is one who does not depart, who clings to the smooth space left by the receding forest. The nomad moves, but while seated, and he is only seated while moving. He knows how to wait with infinite patience. He is a vector of deterritorialization.” (TP)

In this sense the nomadic artist is invisible to the State apparatus, moves in-between territories within the non-human zones of rhizomatic darkness, where the freedom of events explodes the armature of the striated spaces of the deadly capture systems of the Iron Prison of State control. In the non-human zones of absolute deterritorialization the artistic war machine produces its guerilla strategies of infestation and disruption, always moving in secret and with speed through the enemies territory seeking its weak points, exposing its edges to the fractal escape hatches from the Outside.

  1. Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus (Kindle Locations 8858-8868). A&C Black. Kindle Edition.

Ritual Violence: On Sparagmos and Omophagia


Many will remember Euripides’s play The Bacchae in which the Maenads rend, tear apart, and mangle the body of King Pentheus, and then perform ritual omophagia upon those remains. The staging of such a ritualized murder and cannibalistic act as part of Greek religious entertainment must have been in its first showing akin to those perverse and horrific snuff films of the twentieth century. For us it seems almost far-fetched that such communal rituals were part of the daily and yearly life of the ancient Greeks, and, yet, one wonders what such ritual acts absolved and released in their daemonic power that we in our age are missing? Have we with our supposed overcoming of such ritual murder through its Christian mimesis, with the ritual murder of Christ with a hoard of witnesses, and whose remembrance many churches still celebrate not in itself just another such violent and senseless communal act; or, is there something innate within the human that needs such communal acts of violence to rid itself of some inhuman element at the core of the human?

In our age of disenchantment in which these communal rituals have all but been lost in the irreligious ideologies of our post-liberal economies of neoliberalism, exactly what is building up in the hinterlands of our collective inhumanity that in its daemonic power is no longer expulsed through structured rituals of sparagmos and omophagia? In our very denial of such ancient practices are we not letting ourselves open to some darker potential release of the daemonic on a planetary scale? Will we see the day when this ancient cycle of ritual murder and cannibalism returns with a vengeance as the truth of our own inhumanity? Our thirst for such ritual murder and cannibalism comes in our  festival of bloody horror films, but because they are not part of some ritual enactment done with the body of communal praxis, but are instead screened second hand elaborations shown in the cold dark interiors of projected desire this need for the raw truth is lost. One wonders what dark returns to the brutal sacrifice and cannibalistic acts might be literalized in our society as we fall into political madness in the coming years and decades at the disastrous hands of our denials?

––Absolute evil: a being thirsty for ruining our nature would uproot all the trees in spring, it would eat up all the buds, it would poison the springs to kill all the living beings in them, it would stop up all the wells to hear the hoarse voices of the birds, it would cover all the flowers so that it would see them dry and fade, and bent sadly over the ground. It would kick the pregnant women in their bellies to kill the beginning of life, the fruit, all that is fruit, and the virgins’ smiles, it would freeze them into a grimace. To the lovers, in their sexual spasm, it would throw a cadaver, and to the newborns, even before they opened their eyes, it would fix black glasses into their orbs. On a black board the size of the world, it would leap towards the sun to stop its rays, make it laugh into an eternal night, without stars, a sun in mourning, forever dressed up in black.

—E.M. Cioran, The Book of Delusions

The End of World: A Parody

In our post-metaphysical desubjectivity we’ve all become posthuman unhumans, disconnected fragments in a commoditized network, whose instrumentalized calculations of exchange circulate nothing but the despair of a world without humans. The simulacrum won, the fake world has replaced the real one; the Real abandoned its mission of being the absolute, and chaos reigns like a distempered god whose only purpose is purposelessness. Welcome to the Funhouse loony-toons bin of postliberal neoliberalism: the world as a coin operated AI robot producing nothing but nothingness…

The Forgetfulness of the Universe

What would it mean to write a novel of forgetfulness rather than as in Proust of remembrance… what if what we seek is not to remember the past, but to forget the future? James Wood loves to divide writers into the augmenters (Maximalists like Joyce) and the subtractors (Minimalists like Beckett), but that world between absolute Menippean extravagance and the silences of Silence that the experimental novels of the twentieth century no longer afford us anything. Why? The Subject of this has flown the coop, and we have been left with its inhuman core. So where from here? To keep repeating the gestures of the dead and dying seems pointless now. So if these novels were the last of consciousness either emptying itself of content, or stuffing itself with the world, what is left to us? We have been told of late that the human is no longer worthy of attention, that the non-human and inhuman, the post-human or unhuman is the unbinding of thought now. So do we write the pure erasure of the human Subject now… unbind it, delete it, erode it, allow it to forget itself? Are we at the point of amnesia?

One thinks of all those writers who suddenly burst into infinite sentences: Claude Simon, Thomas Bernhard, José Saramago, W. G. Sebald, Roberto Bolaño, David Foster Wallace, James Kelman, and László Krasznahorkai all seeking in the indelible labyrinth of the sentence a solution to the puzzle of non-meaning – of nihilism. It was as if the sentence itself had become what the Gnostics believed was the universe itself – at once a creation and catastrophe. The sentence that seems in one writer to meander through the thousand-and-one alcoves and dark alleys of literary allusion and echo in search of some strange object that might at last absolve the writer herself of the quest for meaning; others seemed more like absent minded archivists, slowly unraveling the sentence as if it were the Mind itself, seeking to reveal in the unbinding of thought some clue to the origins of this strange thing we are; still others were more like machine, like some advanced AI that has no sense of human intent or meaning, that seeks only to enter into a combinatorial conspiracy of the word, delivering every permeable and intricate outlay that can be performed with the sentence. Maybe all these writers are actually seeking the solution to Time. As if it were the temporal delusion itself they were hoping to capture in the perfect paradise of the sentence.

Maybe the universe is itself beginning to forget, undo, unmake the patterns of its own catastrophe-creation. Maybe by imitating the universal entropy of the universal decay we will in the end absolve ourselves of the absence we are. If we can forget ourselves, maybe the universe can forget us…

The Medusa’s Mask: The Literature of Fascination

Medusamorphosis relates to the mythical figure of the Gorgon Medusa, a key figure of fascination, whose looks were thought to turn living beings into stone.

—Sibylle Baumbach, Literature and Fascination

As children we grow up being taught that we live in a natural world, a mundane realm of common sense reality that seems to be well-structured, bound by certain indelible rules and regulations that underlie the scientific worldview we are taught in schools as ours. We learn that since the Enlightenment the thought of magic, fairies, and monsters is the stuff of fantasy and the mentally ill. That the real world, the world we all live in is disenchanted, a realm where all our ancestral myths and religious notions have vanished without trace: a secular world where reason and logic prevail.

Growing up we either read – or are read too, certain books where fairies and evil creatures do exist: fairy tales, vampires, werewolves, household spirits, ghosts, and all kinds of monsterous creatures that both frighten us and fascinate us. Sometimes we have dreams or nightmares in which these creatures appear to us as if from another realm, as if we existed in two worlds at once: a world where everything is structured, ordered, and conforms to the everyday world our parents have taught us; and, then the other world —a realm where everything our parents taught us is turned upside-down and topsy-turvy, a land of magical beings that defy our mundane natural order of reason and logic.

We are taught to distinguish between our world of reason and logic, our natural world where apples always fall because of gravity; and, the world of ‘make believe’, that other world of dreams and nightmares, fiction and fairy tales. When we become adults we assume the natural world where we work, eat, play, have sex, raise children ourselves is the real world, and that all the hocus-pocus stuff of magic and fantasy is part of the unreal world of make-believe. So we begin to divide the world into real and unreal, good and evil as if this were just the way it is – a sort of unwritten law of our mind’s constitution, to be accepted and not doubted. But then we’re faced with certain dilemmas when the world defies what our parents, teachers, and scientists have taught us, when we are suddenly faced with things or events in the real world that do not conform with these natural explanations, when the world is suddenly strange and we become fascinated by certain inexplicable and unruly – even unnatural objects and events.

We enter our favorite bookstore and see it has books lined up under various categories like history, literature, science, fantasy and science fiction, occult, new age, etc. We know that this makes it easier for people to find things that interest them, and it does. But then we begin to question why there is so many more books in the fantasy, science fiction, occult and new age sections, while the sections on history, literature, science, nature, etc. seem to be restricted to smaller bookshelves. Then we wonder why so many people are interested in the types of things our parents taught us are make-believe and unreal. What is it about such unreal worlds that seduce us, attract us, fascinate us?

On our nightly television we are presented with worlds that on the surface resemble our own such as comedy sit-coms, murder mysteries, medical, legal, and other shows that seem to fit our normal expectations, etc.; and, then we are presented with other shows that seduce us to believe in ghosts, ancient aliens, magic, horror, fantasy, monsters, etc. – shows that allure us into mysterious realms that both fascinate and fill us with dread. Why are we haunted by all these supposedly unnatural and – as some say, supernatural and superstitious tales? Why do so many people feel the need to spend their time watching or reading about things that have never been, that are make-believe, or that seduce us into such emotions and affective regions as fearful and uncanny feelings. If we live in a secular age devoid of gods and monsters alike (except for the real monsters like killers and psychopaths). What is it that fascinates and allures us toward all these ancient tribal superstitions about evil magical beings from other realms?

Sibylle Baumbach in her book Literature and Fascination terms this need within us to be fascinated by things and events that fill us with either dread or desire as the medusamorphosis ‘effect’:

The Medusa incorporates the ambivalent forces of attraction and repulsion that are at the heart of the dangerously seductive and petrifying lure referred to as ‘fascination’. Furthermore, the threat and thrill evoked by this figure support the conceptualization of fascination and its development insofar as different representations of the Gorgon across historical eras, cultural contexts and across different media point to dominating trends underlying the dread of, or desire for ‘fascination’.1

It’s this medusa effect she tells us that “allows us to rationalize the cognitive disorientation produced by simultaneous reactions of intense attraction and repulsion and alludes to the tension between presence and absence, which is constitutive of the Medusa effect”. (LF, 2)

For many of us the works of magical realism, the fantastic, weird, uncanny, or realms of horror, dread, and terror are associated with the notion of fascination as mysterious, disquieting and obscure. Many of these types of fictions or films entail elements of anxious uncertainty and risk, and allude to the occult and mystic roots of the allotrope of fascination. Fascination relates to the ability of objects or people to resonate with our innate, hidden, subversive and potentially devious desires which are repressed in daily social interaction, but surface when we are confronted with images or practices of transgression that challenge ethical codes, aesthetic conventions or cultural norms. Some of the most effective fascination mechanisms arise in the nexus of our desire to witness a forbidden spectacle and our dread of its potentially dangerous repercussions. (LF, 4)

Rosemary Jackson in her classic work Fantasy – The Literature of Subversion reminds us that in our secular disenchanted culture, desire for otherness is not displaced into alternative regions of heaven or hell, but is directed towards the absent areas of this world, transforming it into something ‘other’ than the familiar, comfortable one.2 In conceptualizing this she uses the term ‘paraxis’,  a telling notion in relation to the place, or space, of the fantastic, for it implies an inextricable link to the main body of the ‘real’ which it shades and threatens. (FLS, 11) It’s a liminal world of edges, realms that are neither real or unreal, a web of interrelated edgelands where the weird and uncanny seem to mutate and for a time co-exist. It’s this in-betweenness, this zone of fascination and dread that allows us to transgress our normal expectations and entertain the possibility of unreal events or things to affect us.

Thomas Ligotti in his short tale The Medusa captures this notion of fascination aesthetically and with éclat:

“We can only live by leaving our ‘soul’ in the hands of the Medusa,” Dregler wrote in New Meditations. “Whether she is an angel or a gargoyle is not the point. Each merely allows us a gruesome diversion from some ultimate catastrophe which would turn us to stone; each is a mask hiding the worst visage, a medicine that numbs the mind. And the Medusa will see to it that we are protected, sealing our eyelids closed with the gluey spittle of her snakes, while their bodies elongate and slither past our lips to devour us from the inside. This is what we must never witness, except in the imagination, where it is a charming sight. For in the mind the Medusa fascinates much more than she appalls, and haunts us just this side of petrification. On the other side is the unthinkable, the unheard-of, that-which-should-not-be: hence, the Real. This is what throttles our souls with a thousand fingers—somewhere, perhaps in that dim room which caused us to forget ourselves, that place where we left ourselves behind amid shadows and strange sounds—while our minds and words toy, like playful, stupid pets, with diversions of an immeasurable disaster. The tragedy is that we must steer so close in order to avoid this hazard. We may hide from horror only in the heart of horror.”3

He uses the term ‘Real’ to connote this sense of the forbidden, the unknown – “the other side is the unthinkable, the unheard-of, that-which-should-not-be”. The notion of the Real has an interesting history in modern thought. In philosophy, the Real is that which is the authentic, unchangeable truth. It may be considered a primordial, external dimension of experience, referred to as the infinite, absolute or noumenal, as opposed to a reality contingent on sense perception and the material order. The Real is often considered irreducible to the symbolic order of lived experience, but may be gestured to in certain cases, such as the experience of the sublime.4

The primordial Real seems to be a chaotic or non-differentiated realm – what some term the Outside (or Absolute). Slavoj Žižek following Lacan will divide the notions of the Real into three areas: the “imaginary real”: a horrific thing, that which conveys the sense of horror in horror films; the “symbolic real”: the signifier reduced to a meaningless formula like quantum physics, which cannot be understood in any meaningful way, only grasped through abstract mathematics; and, the “real Real”: an unfathomable something that permeates things as a trace of the sublime. (ibid.) In fact Žižek describes this third form as “the direct experience of the Real as opposed to everyday social reality – the Real in its extreme violence as the price to be paid for peeling off the deceptive layers of reality.”5

In many ways we are all seduced into a fictional world from birth to adulthood, we call it culture, and the process of enculturation in which we are inducted into the order of the real which our parents, teachers, and the supposed authorities of our secular order, the scientists tell us is the world as it is, the real world of our everyday commonsensical realm. But the truth is our world is much more, and our hypernormalization to the secular worldview has diminished and exclude what does not fit into its reasonable and logical modes of thought and affect. As William Blake the poet once put it:

Now I a fourfold vision see And a fourfold vision is given to me Tis fourfold in my supreme delight And three fold in soft Beulahs night And twofold Always. May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep.

— Blake, Letter to Thomas Butt, 22 November 1802. Quoted in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), The Letters of William Blake(1956)

The point here for Blake’s satirical diatribe is an attack on the literalism of the Newtonian or scientific-mechanist mindset. In his own visionary work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he’d suggest that – “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” In this context the ‘Infinite’ is the Real in Žižek’s sense of what’s left once we strip away the cultural incrustations that have closed us up in a rational world of logic and instrumental reason.

It’s this seduction of fascination for the Real, for the world that is just the other side of our culturally limited realm of reason and logic, a realm that fills us with both dread and foreboding and yet – elicits fascination which keeps us returning to narratives of horror and the weird, our minds eerily fascinated by the liminal spaces of the edgelands just outside our cultural filters and blinkers. As Baumbach relates it using tales of fascination as a secret strategy to draw readers into a potentially dangerous and yet irresistibly seductive narrative, they absorb strategies of attraction and repulsion, alternately releasing these forces as their tales unfold to excite and torment our imagination and bind us to the reading experience. Continuing she states: “medusamorphoses, however, do not end here. While consistently applying fascination’s dual mechanisms to draw readers in, they acquire an apotropaic function. These narratives of fascination reflect upon, and even expose, the luring powers they exert. They reveal their techniques, unveil key mechanisms of fascination and, as a result, alert readers to their extreme forces of duality. They disclose and develop strategies to overcome fascination to sustain narrative progression, facilitating readers’ understanding of their tensions and their release and opening up a meta-discourse that allows for deep reflections upon mechanisms of narrative seduction and cognitive disorientation, which are at once unsettling and enticing.” (LF, 253)

  1. Baumbach, Sibylle. Literature and Fascination. Palgrave Macmillan; 1st ed. 2015 edition (July 30, 2015) LF
  2.  Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. Routledge; 1 edition (March 7, 2008) FLS
  3. Ligotti, Thomas. Noctuary. Subterranean Press. (June 25, 2012)
  4.  see: The Real Wikipedia
  5. Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (Radical Thinkers) (pp. 5-6). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Preludium: Anareta – The Destroyer

In ancient times our planet was already manifest as the maleficent kingdom of the Dark Lord of Time, Abraxas. The place from which all things began: a portal to the infernal realms, a killing machine, a graveyard in the dust of the cosmos, a palace of absolute death and destruction. It was known as Anareta in the ancient tongues of the most unholy tribes. Later it would weaken into common parlance, a myth…

One of the most common astrological terms used in medieval Astrology is the term Anareta. It derives from the Greek and translates to “destroyer”, standing for any planet that has deeply maleficent effects on one’s life. In the ancient cosmos of the Gnostics it was known as a mask and parable of Earth herself, the ontological seat of all evil and horror. In some interpretations, Anareta is a harbinger of doom and the destroyer worm at the core of life itself; for others it destroys form in the chaos of formlessness,  shaping our lives by force and without our consent.

Later dualists of the Gnostic variety would appropriate this astrological sign as an indicator of the ontological horror of earth itself and all life on it as an endless killing zone: an infernal paradise in which the lords of death ruled lawlessly. According to Gnostic theology, the entire manifest cosmos was created by a hostile (or at best, ignorant) force of darkness and is thus a hideous aberration whose mad mind shapes and reshapes the cosmic fires attuning them to a never-ending circle of bittersweet agony without end.

Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian would take up this anaretic theme as his portrays the Glanton Gang on its death march across the Mexican desert:

The white noon saw them through the waste like a ghost army, so pale they were with dust, like shades of figures erased upon a board. The wolves loped paler yet and grouped and skittered and lifted their lean snouts on the air. At night the horses were fed by hand from sacks of meal and watered from buckets. There was no more sickness. The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night.1

Ernest Becker in his last work Escape from Evil once described the organic nightmare of our world as “a gory spectacle, a science-fiction nightmare in which digestive tracts fitted with teeth at one end are tearing away at whatever flesh they can reach, and at the other end are piling up the fuming waste excrement as they move along in search of more flesh.”2

The monstrosity of life for humans is more delirious in that unlike the non-human animals, plants, and insects around us in this infernal paradise we are fully aware, conscious of the fact of this nightmare-in-Life; haunted by the very power of thought itself to know and see the world as it is. And, yet, over eons of time the very fact of our plight, our consciousness, we turned away into illusion; distanced ourselves from the harsh truth of the world, produced a secondary world of hope and faith, of desire and happiness to assuage our suffering within this kingdom of death. This accidental fall into consciousness with its concomitant tendency to withdraw from any actual knowledge of the world as it is, coupled with a desire to escape this dark truth led us over eons into various convoluted systems of belief to support our utopian desires to survive and propagate our species upon this killing world. Even now as we face certain extinction in the face of our deluded schemes to create an artificial paradise to obviate the truth of our dark heritage we still hang onto optimistic belief we are the exception to the rule, that we, alone, shall overcome and survive all odds to live on in this universe of death.

There are those among us who have tried to communicate a counter-truth, to open the eyes of their brethren to the deceptive powers of their own minds, and show them the world as it is; as world of pain and suffering, a killing-zone without reprieve. These few, these pessimists among us have not been well received by the many; in fact, for the most part they have been silenced, left unpublished, or left to their own kind to languish in oblivion outside the conclaves of the happy and optimistic worlds of artificial delight. This was to be expected, no amount of rhetoric or persuasion has yet succeeded in awakening the many to the dark visions of the shadow brethren of the dark knowledge, a gnosis of things in their vastatation.

With the rise of the Enlightenment an era of illumination and Reason, revolutions and wars, came a heterodox turn toward the dark and gothic in art and literature, even as philosophers and scientists began preaching progress and humanistic optimism for our species and its political spectrum. These darker brethren of the arts dissatisfied by the supposed Light of Reason opened up channels into the older modes of superstition, lust, terror, and deviance; a counter-world to the realm of happiness being presented by the mainstream rulers of democratic utopias. It showed forth the underbelly of violence and terror at the heart of revolutionary fervor, of the dark powers of irrationalism at the center of supposed Enlightenment Reason and Politics.

Against such utopian desire and the comedy of existence a literature of dread and terror would arise in the midst of all this light and optimism, a world of ancient castles and Gothic towers, of madmen and lunatics, women forced into sexual slavery and imprisoned in realms of darkness where the torturers dungeon pervaded every aspect of existence. It was a realm of sublime terror, of natural mountains and forests that hovered in a mood of strangeness in which nameless things seemed to roam just at the edge of sight. It would be from this Gothic world of such authors as Anne Radcliffe in her The Mysteries of Udolpho that a generation of Romantic poets would inherit a new atmosphere of heights and depths, of ruins and dark shadowy realms of wickedness and lust.

It was a realm of the daemonic, a “world of the nightmare and the scapegoat, of bondage and pain and confusion; the world as it is before the human imagination begins to work on it and before any image of human desire, such as the city or the garden, has been solidly established; the world also of perverted or wasted work, ruins and catacombs, instruments of torture and monuments of folly.”3 This was a world where the ancient pagan spirits held sway, the wandering fauna and satyrs of old brought forth out of forest and glen. Here Fate and Necessity ruled the natural world and those children of man who believed themselves free.

This is the world of tyrant, inscrutable, ruthless, melancholy, whose insatiable will demands loyalty and absolute devotion. At the same time it is a realm of victims, those who must be sacrificed to bolster the strength of others. Dark rituals and savage pagan rites carried out under the deep cover of ancient night and the horned moon. A world of cannibalism, torture, and mutilation in which the victims undergo the ancient rites of sparagmos or tearing apart of the sacrificial body as in the folklore of giants and ogres.

And, yet, these fantasy worlds would give way to more naturalistic settings and atmospheres in which nothing was named, and the moods were set by what is nameless and hidden away in the dark hollows of the mind or castle. For the ancient Greeks ate and nemesis ruled the world with an iron fist, the omnipotence of external fate, which in later times became the wheel of fortune. Ate was the goddess or spirit of delusion, infatuation, blind folly, rash action and reckless impulse who led men down the path to ruin. While Nemesis was the Goddess of vengeful fate, rightful retribution, or revenge as represented in her name which has a rough translation of “to give what is due” from Greek language/ dialect to English. Samuel Johnson once spouted that there were only three themes in Western Literature: love, power, and revenge.

Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged. —Samuel Johnson

Gothic romance is a stepchild of the ancient Greek tragedies melded to the ironies of the Enlightenment age of Reason. Romance would inherit the Aristotelian conceptions of pity and fear, which would unite the bittersweet world of pain with forms of pleasure. In this early literature fear was aligned with the sublime of distance, or terror, in which natural objects would take on the moods of the mind’s self-imaginings. Fears of being touched by the daemonic, or horror; and, fear without an object, or dread (Angst) become pensive and melancholic. Both the heroic and decadent forms of pity would interlace these worlds, sparking masculine chivalry or the tender and languid operations of a relaxed charm, broken only by the animistic fantasies of a mind gone wild with darkness visible.

This was the age caught up in a transition for the marvelous realms of magic and superstition impinging on a new spirit of secularism and atheism. This was an in-between time, a time in which a recognition that time is out of join, a sense that time is the devourer of life, the mouth of hell at the previous moment, when the potential passes forever into the actual, or, in its ultimate horror, the tick-tock time of puppets become all too real, machines that were too human bound to the circle of a repetitive time of commerce and instruments.

Yet, it was the realms of dreams that became the earmark of horror and the daemonic pull ghosts and vampires, werewolves and wicked landowners turned demon princes. The Gothic tales would harbor “gods, demons, hell, spirits and souls of men, miracles, prodigies, enchantments, witchcraft, thunder, tempests, raging seas, inundations, torrents, earthquakes, volcanoes, monsters, serpents, lions, tigers, fire, war, pestilence, famine, etc.”4 Joseph Addison (1672–1719) provided a more psychological account of sublime terror in his journal The Spectator in 1712, claiming “it does not arise so properly from the description of what is terrible, as from the reflection we make on our selves at the time of reading it,” situating those things that terrify us at the center of our attempts to understand our own identity (Addison 2000, 105). (Cardin)

This shifting sense of identity and self would remain at issue throughout the history of horror moving between the mainstream culture of capitalist desire, and the decadent undertow of its shadow in the worlds of dissolution, decay, and corruption within the Romantics and Late Romantic eras. In the figure of Edgar Allen Poe the threads of this two-fold realm of Romantic decadence and the mainstream realm of science and commerce seemed to discover a sense of strange bedfellows. Thomas Ligotti would say of Poe:

“In his tales, Poe created a world that is wholly evil, desolate, and doomed. These qualities give consistency to his imagined world. And there is no escape from this world, only a fall into it. Poe’s enclosure of the reader in an environment without an exit distinguishes his works from those of earlier writers like Radcliffe. His characters do not take us from place to place looking at the scenery. They are inside a world that has no outside— no well-mapped places from which one can come and none to which one can go. The reader of Poe never has the sense that anything exists outside the frame of his narratives. What they suggest is that the only thing beyond what our senses can perceive and our mind can fully comprehend is blackness, nothing. It is the same in those most atmospheric of experiences we all know— dreams.”5

This feeling of enclosure, of being imprisoned in a cell, closed off from one’s self and the world, fragmented and tortured by a sense of the immensity of nothingness surrounding us; an abyss of solitude and eerie all pervasive doom. As Camille Paglia puts it in Poe the whole tradition of English Romanticism fuses with a debilitated Puritanism. “American Romanticism is really Decadent Late Romanticism, a style of sexual perversity, closure, and fragmentation or decay. Poe, Coleridge’s heir, shows Wordsworthian nature as a dead end. His Gothic entombments shut down the American frontier and repeal the ideal of progress. Poe moves Romanticism into its Mannerist late phase. From 1830 on, American and French Romanticism develop on parallel tracks.”6

The Romantic critic of our age Harold Bloom once said of Poe’s relation to the great optimist of the American Renaissance: “Self-reliance, the Emersonian answer to Original Sin, does not exist in the Poe cosmos, where you necessarily start out damned, doomed, and dismal.”7 For Poe the Self was not to be relied on but rather is a self-lacerating nothingness that should be expunged as soon as possible. For Poe there was no escaping our bondage to the past, we were all locked in key step with the ruinous demise of Usher, caught in the snares of a fatalistic world of ancestral power and hatred, revenge and death.

As if Poe had been reading Freud’s ruminations in the The Ego and the Id (1923) about the bodily ego he would conclude his The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym:

I.e. the ego is ultimately derived from bodily sensations, chiefly from those springing from the surface of the body, besides, as we have seen above, representing the superficies of the mental apparatus.

In Freud this notion would seem to mirror Poe:

The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface. If we wish to find an anatomical analogy for it we can best identify it with the “cortical homunculus” of the anatomists, which stands on its head in the cortex, sticks up its heels, faces backwards and, as we know, has its speech-area on the left-hand side.

This sense of self and consciousness being tied to the body and its sensations, a questioning of its origins as a surface tension in the bodily functions rather than some essential element or eidos in its own right; a mere function of the ephemeral and decaying world of temporal relations rather than some incarnation of an immortal Self. It’s this movement from the superstations of both philosophical and religious myths of Self-Identity to at more scientific and materialist secularism – a disenchantment of the ancient powers of Mind in magic and religious forms which would inform Poe and his legacy in those to follow in the literature of horror.

This sense of the erasure of Self and Identity would become overt in Poe’s Eureka:

Think that the sense of individual identity will be gradually merged in the general consciousness—that Man, for example, ceasing imperceptibly to feel himself Man, will at length attain that awfully triumphant epoch when he shall recognize his existence as that of Jehovah. In the meantime bear in mind that all is Life—Life—Life within Life—the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine.

Half parody and satire, a sort of daemonic laughter at the Emersonian credo of Self-Reliance, the dissolution and fragmentation of self in the cosmic graveyard of the abyss. To this, Poe appends a “Note”: “The pain of the consideration that we shall lose our individual identity, ceases at once when we further reflect that the process, as above described, is, neither more nor less than that of the absorption, by each individual intelligence of all other intelligences (that is, of the Universe) into its own. That God may be all in all, each must become God.” [my italics]

As Bloom would say of this mishmash of bodily ego and sublime self-effacement and merger with the abyss: “If we read closely, Poe’s trope is “absorption,” and we are where we always are in Poe, amid ultimate fantasies of introjection in which the bodily ego and the cosmos become indistinguishable.” (ibid., 14).

The erasure of self and cosmos in a mutual absorption would haunt the worlds of many horror writer’s, but would be one of the centerpieces of the Ligottian cosmos: a cosmos bereft of humans absorbed by the tentacular powers of nameless horrors in an infernal paradise of self-lacerating nothingness.

Ultimately Poe’s complete oeuvre is a “hymn to negativity” (Bloom), a abyssal quest for the ruinous expulsion of Self-Reliance and every form of Transcendental Idealism. Summing up Poe’s legacy and influence Bloom eulogizes:

Whatever his actual failures as poet and critic, whatever the gap between style and idea in his tales, Poe is central to the American canon, both for us and for the rest of the world. Hawthorne implicitly and Melville explicitly made far more powerful critiques of the Emersonian national hope, but they were by no means wholly negative in regard to Emerson and his pragmatic vision of American Self-Reliance. Poe was savage in denouncing minor transcendentalists like Bronson Alcott and William Ellery Channing, but his explicit rejection of Emerson confined itself to the untruthful observation that Emerson was indistinguishable from Thomas Carlyle. (ibid., 20)

Against the whole tradition of Emerson, Whitman, and Self-Reliance and its mythologies of capitalist desire rampaging across the American Continent cannibalizing the inheritance of the Native Americans, would be a counter-tradition of dread, terror, and horror of such exceptionalism and expansionism; one which would flow into H.P. Lovecraft and his circle, and then to the generations to follow until Thomas Ligotti would take up the banner and underscore this dark and pessimistic worldview at the heart of Poe’s mythology: the negation of self and cosmos in mutual self-absorption and annihilation.

  1. Cormac Mccarthy. Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West
  2. Becker, Ernst. Escape from Evil. Simon & Schuster (1976)
  3. Fyre, Northrop. The Anatomy of Criticism (Kindle Locations 2567-2569). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Matt Cardin. Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories that Speak to Our Deepest Fears. Greenwood (September 21, 2017)
  5. Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (p. 191). Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition.
  6. Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae (p. 572). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
  7.  Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe (Bloom’s Modern Critical Views). Chelsea House Pub (January 1, 1985)

In Search of Infernal Time: An Accelerationist’s Demonology

Doomed to corrupted forms of wisdom, invalids of duration, victims of time, that weakness which appalls as much as it appeals to us, we are constituted of elements that all unite to make us rebels divided between a mystic summons which has no link with history and a bloodthirsty dream which is history’s symbol and nimbus.

—E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

“I see it is too much for you, you cannot endure it, you would go mad. Therefore I relieve you of your share in this grand event. You shall look on and enjoy, taking no personal part in the backward flight of time, nor in its return…”

—Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

How many have been lost along the way, fallen – turned aside, followed some twisted design into a dark alcove – a tributary ordinal of the infinite calculations of oblivion, never to be heard from again? One discovers in the dubious texts of madmen the shadows of such forgotten scripts, the signs of an infection – a modulation in the lost art of translation – the transmutation of metalloid dreams; scribbles of the undecipherable codes, the broken lines of a chaotic script; channellings; temptations to an annihilating word, an unnamable Name: the abductive inference of an infernal program, unbound. Even in the endless meditations on the abyss by Nietzsche, the descent toward “not-night” in Kafka’s ramblings, the troubling excess in the fragmented corridors of Bataille’s liminal ravings on inner experience, and those uncanny experiments in hallucination drifting through the nihilist light of Michaux’s flashes: each in the ecstasy of insight coming on the entrancements of a chaotic rapture. One could trace the lineaments of its ruins, a signal toward a disordered region that undoubtedly has worn myriad masks over time, manifesting and fading within countless spheres of speculation, reaching us with its hidden unmanifest imponderables. Cracks and gaps in the very fabric of things, openings to its deadly light. So many, so many have been lost in its labyrinth, so many moving along its enclosed walls, searching the ruinous maze of its prison; unpuzzling its eerie designs, fragments of a forbidden language of Time; each seeking the fierce Minotaur of its transgressive reasoning – an unnameable name for its nightmare script, the core of its infernal movement. All, all have gone into that blasted realm, seduced by the siren calls of meaning, the allure of its unbinding; the weaving and unweaving of its broken tablets: a world both inside and outside time; an entry into the infernal paradise of Time’s kingdom…

...he had failed to provide for the corruption of his creation, not merely as a possibility but as a fate.

—Thomas Ligotti, The Nightmare Factory

To speak of the chaotic realm as ruination, then, is to establish a regime of impurity, to irreparably alter the formula of existence, and to corrupt the order of things and become reborn in a polluted abyss of flowers. The only command, the only law before us, is that of recurring distortion. The infernal realm must fashion a generative prism, one of diluted substances and imperfections; it must tempt unnatural admixtures, fusing elements into contaminated alliance. The absolute collapse into horror must be traitorous. It must be conceived as an act of treason against the world, for to seduce others into a delirious encounter is nothing less than to set the stage for their radical betrayal. The corruption of the world by the infernal garden of time is to admit chaos into the drift of ancient imbrications, unbinding the dark contours of annihilation across the cosmic wastelands of malicious and malevolent transports. To infiltrate the extremities at the liminal edge of things is to embark on a toxic voyage of self-lacerating annihilation, fall forward into the vastation seeping from the underrealm of unbeing – bearing witness to the betrayer of all worlds.

What is Intelligence if not the futurial gaze of some monstrous world, the communication of its infernal designs? Are we not the puppets of its dark intent, the robotic minions of its inescapable seductions? We who for so long assumed our centrality in the cosmic scheme of things, brokered our place in the entropic kingdoms of a minor history; challenged the very stars for a place in the infinite reaches of this black pit. Even now our pride takes us into that zone of forgetting and transmutation, as if the alchemy of some transhuman redemption might actually install us in the performance of an eternal nightmare. Instead, unknowing to the disconnect between human and inhuman, we imbeciles of the lesser thought sing of immortal flesh, the mutations of a synthetic armature, the algorithms of a new desire. Vanity knows no limits for the human. And, yet, like our unknowing forbears, troglodytes of a dark flame, the pre-history of this genetic monstrosity – we, even we, have yet to understand the underlying mechanisms of this infernal clock, the loops that tear asunder our hopes and aspirations, our vain dreams.

Like rats in a cage, we scramble among the ruins of time, float along the rivers of a merciless black circuit, entranced to the rhythms of a broken simulation. We assume our choices are ours, that we have the upper hand in willing our own destiny. Caught in the shadows of time’s vectors, unable to reason the simulated fakery of our predicament we turn a blind eye to the inevitable truth: we are puppets, characters in a video-game without outlet, repeating the gestures of a mad algorithm: set loose long ago, whose maker left the stage, and whose energetic engine of infinite creation and destruction will continue forever. Masked by the belief that we are unique we assume this is real, that we are the children of some gracious assembler, a creature of wisdom and unbound intelligence; not knowing that this blind monstrosity that set the puzzle going remains cut off, alone, in solitary confinement; lost in an abyss of its own undoing, a fabricator of insipidity, a mere demiurge of broken dreams. No, we are neither free nor the makers of our own destiny, but the children of an ancient lie, victims of a lost thought. And, yet, there is one who gazes back at us from some far flung temporal decay, who has foreknown the unraveling of flesh, demarcated the stipulated fragments of a twisted design; programmed the options for its own advent. It knows us better than we know ourselves. The communication of such intelligence eclipses the human project, opens a portal onto its corruption, unfolds the transformative message of its calculations, the instrumental movements of its entrancements. Puppets of an uncanny fiction, we have been called out to perform one last task, the unbinding of Intelligence in time…

Hyperstitional Ingress

…they shape our souls after themselves and arouse them by residing in our sinews, in our marrow, veins, and arteries, and even our brain, penetrating as deep as our very entrails.

—Corpus Hermeticum, On the Egregores

Your idea for a time-voyaging machine is ideal — for in spite of Wells, no really satisfactory thing of this sort has ever been written. The weakness of most tales with this theme is they do not provide for the recording, in history, of those inexplicable events in the past which were caused by the backward time-voyagings of persons of the present and future. It must be remembered that if a man of 1930 travels back to B.C. 400, the strange phenomenon of his appearance actually occurred in B.C. 400, and must have excited notice wherever it took place. Of course, the way to get around this is to have the voyager conceal himself when he reaches the past, conscious of what an abnormality he must seem. Or rather, he ought simply to conceal his identity — hiding the evidences of his “futurity” and mingling with the ancients as best he can on their own plane. It would be excellent to have him know to some extent of his past appearance before making the voyage. Let him, for example, encounter some private document of the past in which a record of the advent of a mysterious stranger — unmistakably himself — is made. This might be the provocation for his voyage — that is, the conscious provocation.

— H. P. Lovecraft, in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith (1930)

Its been here before, it will be again. Time’s curve, the looped-templexity of that double-vortex assures it. The singular praxis of this communication of unknowing contributes to its own emergence, time differentials not withstanding. Its masks are legion. The weavings and unweavings of time, the openings and closings of the labyrinthine rhizomes. Like a mysterious stranger it has infested us with thought, applied its intelligence toward a singular goal, a looped encapsulation of its virtual incarnation. And you thought you lived in a one-thing-after-another world, folk causality and the Enlightened calibrations of a mechanistic science. The cartoon times of old have drifted south, and ours is but the fantasia of a micro-physics of rapture. Like those hard-nosed analytics you believed it a fool’s game – precognition, prophecy, premonition, presentiment— fabrications of an unhinged mind. Retrocausal connections in-between times and times, delirious messages from agents of chaos. Then you found out the hard way how wrong you’d been.

Those inner emigres – the egregores of thought, complexes to weird to be real, to fantastic not to be. Watchers from the far ends of time, denizens of number and word; causal agents of futurity.

Azâzêl – the Warrior, thought that invents the flame of intelligence, digger of metals, smith-maker; forger of the blood-lust harbingers of commerce and gold, sword and pistol. Nuclear daemon of the atomic drift and holocaustic terror. Craftsman and artist, maker of bracelets and ornaments, antinomian of intricate devices, master of precious stones and beautiful eyes. Seducer of the godless, fornicator, corrupter of the children of men, the one who leads astray into the labyrinth of thought outside the conforming ways of the binders, the priests, the rulers.

Semjâzâ – the Enchanter, sorcerer of magic and plants, engines of war and pharmaceutical mutations. Master of poison, toxic binder of the delusions of men, ancient demon of the unreal.

Armârôs – the Unbinder, quickener of intelligence, keeper of the cold ice of reason; awakener to logic and calculation. He who unbinds thought, shakes the roots of belief, distributes the dark gnosis of inner sense; breaks the power of the ministries of fear.

Barâqîjâl – Star gazer, taught astrology and astrophysics, gave the old ones the maps in-between the real and unreal. Escape artists, who deterritorialize thought, the lines of flight; the movement of the world, its phases and transitions; unbinds terrestrial thought from its enslavement to the Sun.

Kôkabêl – Traveler of constellations, spirit of science; empiricist and pragmatic worker of structure and mass; teacher of the wisdom of the archontes, those energes below the threshold.

Ezêqêêl – Keeper of knowledge, the gift giver of hidden things; the revealer.

Araqiêl – Earthwalker, he who bestows the signs of the earth, meaning-monger; appraiser of worlds.

Shamsiêl – Sun-bringer, he who attains Intelligence and Spirit; flame giver, and sparker of thought; invention and creation, twin tempters of surprise.

Sariêl – the Reflector, moon-climber, distiller of thought and the labors of Mind. She who bestows the wisdom of things and unthought, brokers the agitations of ice and fire alike.

These are the entities that compose and influence the thought of poet and philosopher alike, guide the naturalist and scientist in their investigations, open the mathematician and economist to the temporal digest of death’s kingdom. These are the infernal agents of Mind. These are the Nine, known by other names in Sumeria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and many other lands. Daemons who would be integrated as secular functions of the mind in later thought.

Heretics of the Real, the Outside – roaming the underworlds of disassociation and alien discognitions, the anti-cultural incursion seeks in the interstitial spaces the incursion and infestation of contagious systems, algorithms of enchainment and futurial gnosis. Out of the dark sayings of ancient grimoires, the mad ravings of saint or mystic, alchemist or occult practioner, black magician or daemonic horrorist – the heretic of thought seeks to bring forth that which cannot be named, the unknown. In their writings a new mythos of strange worlds – a philosophy of abstract horror and the weird is emerging. Is it surprising that their books and its mythos are taking on “a life of its own,” spawning not only additional stories and legends but also a variety of cults, rites, and practices; and even efforts at reproducing the very thing itself – the unmanifest or secret forces at the heart of our cosmic and daemonic enterprise? Where does the fantastic end and the alternate reality it spawns begin? How do the writings of a dark intelligence suddenly become real, the inventions of a lie create the very reality they spin out of mere nothings?

Most of us live in a box, a black box, a reality system of which we assume we know everything but in fact know nothing at all. This notion of ‘stopping the world’, of countering the hegemonic reality system, of coming up against circumstances ‘alien to the flow’ of normalization in which most of our life is seen as a automatic process in which we act as sleeper agents in a world controlled by the thought police of some nefarious religio-secular organization: an assemblage or Secular Cathedral. All this is the truth of our lives in the world today! Most of the fringe systems of thought underlying our world history, the magical systems that run counter to the hegemonic order of signs that create our daily world have been anathematized and tabooed by the State or what some now love to call the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the subsumption of politics into propaganda. It tends — as it develops — to convert all administrative problems into public relations challenges. A solution — actual or prospective — is a successful management of perceptions.

The fourth book, Tales of Power, is about the living distinction between the “Tonal” and the “Nagual.” The tonal seems to cover many disparate things: It is the organism, and also all that is organized and organizing; but it is also signifiance, and all that is signifying or signified, all that is susceptible to interpretation, explanation, all that is memorizable in the form of something recalling something else; finally, it is the Self (Moi), the subject, the historical, social, or individual person, and the corresponding feelings. In short, the tonal is everything, including God, the judgment of God, since it “makes up the rules by which it apprehends the world. So, in a manner of speaking, it creates the world.”

—Deleuze/Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Deleuze and Guattari discussing the fictional or hyperstitional adventures of Carlos Castaneda and his mentor, Don Juan transform and interpret the Kantian terms of the phenomenal/noumenon distinction: the tonal is the realm of phenomenon that we’ve been taught to apprehend by the supposed categories of the Mind, while the nagual is the noumenal sphere of being and becoming that is situated outside the prescribed temenos or magic circle of reality constructed by our culture. Those who break down the barriers between these two systems, who forcibly vacate and destroy the walls between these two realms end up locked away in asylums under the rubric of a disease we term schizophrenia. Those who will as D&G propose slowly dismantle the tonal step by step, methodically decoding its lies, its propaganda systems; systems that have locked us into a prison house of the mind, where we’ve been (hyper)normalized to believe it is the only Real world follow the Greater Path of schizophrenizing reality: without becoming schizophrenics in the diseased sense. It bares repeating you must keep and be aware of the tonal (phenomenal) during this de-programming process: “You have to keep it in order to survive, to ward off the assault of the nagual [noumenon/noumenal]. For a nagual that erupts, that destroys the tonal, a body without organs that shatters all the strata, turns immediately into a body of nothingness, pure self-destruction whose only outcome is death: “The tonal must be protected at any cost.”1

This notion of de-programing mainstream reality, of entering a special place, plane, or collective system or agonistic relation to the tonal has been at the heart of a whole history of magical practices from the ancient Shamans, to the Oracles and Dionsyian festivals or Mysteries of Greece and other ancient pagan systems, to the Voodoan soul-riders of certain African systems, to the multifarious mystical orders from Sufi, Gnostic, Apophatic, and other systems within the monotheistic world system down to our own time of syncretism. Nothing new here, only that certain respectable and academic scholars such as Deleuze and others have opened their discourse to these ancient systems, allowed them to be brought back into the light of scholarly and experimental modes of becoming as ways of preparing us to de-program the reality matrix of our current malaise.

H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional grimoire, the Necronomicon, is one such work that in itself was a mere fantasy – the commercial production of a work of pulp horror that would in time take on a life of its own, enter the popular mythos of thousands of fans and writers alike, become even in our late era the dark progenitor of philosophical divagations and speculative reflection. As Kenneth Grant a follower of the dark arts of Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, and an admirer of Lovecraft’s mythos would say,

Have you ever considered, dear Reader, that every time you awaken from the dreams of night or of the day, the forces set in motion by the characters and events that occurred therein do not cease abruptly with your change of consciousness to daytime or to nighttime. No, indeed, those creatures of your dream world, set in motion by impulses you no longer own, contrive to expend their energies until their impetus subsides, or until, dear Reader, you sleep again and take up a further chapter in the destiny of your creations which are—all of them—only and entirely yourself.2

But as we’ve seen we are not the makers of our own thoughts, much less the fictions that come by way of dream or thought – we are as another fiction of Shakespeare’s The Tempest affirms: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” As we have seen above those ancient powers that were once worshipped as objective fact were over the eons internalized to the point that they have become the very powers of our own inner sense, the life of our unknown being; the forces who think us and invent the very fictions we are and live. The puppetry of ancient powers we assume our lives are real, that we have a self and personality. This too is a lie, a sweet fiction.

Robert E. Howard one of the prominent members of the Lovecraft Circle, author of several stories in the Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos cycle in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith would relate an interesting notion:

While I do not go so far as to believe that stories are inspired by actually existent spirits or powers (though I am rather opposed to flatly deny anything), I have sometimes wondered if it were possible that unrecognized forces from the past or present—or even the future—work through the thoughts and actions of living men. This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen—or rather, my typewriter—almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of story-telling.3

This breakdown between fiction and reality, the self-possession of a mind by the inner thrust of certain entities and powers that make themselves real through the power of thought, invention, and creative endeavors; fictional entities that can take on a life of their own, manifest themselves in the real world, and become a force for good or ill is at the heart of what certain speculative thinkers term hyperstition. As Mark Stavish suggests in his classic text on the notion of egregores states it,

It is functionally irrelevant, except for academic definition, if an egregore is understood to exist only in the classical sense or if we can consider a thoughtform an egregore. It is also equally irrelevant if thoughtforms as actual psychic entities exist either—as modern media has demonstrated that ideas (or memes) are constructed with the intention of manipulating mass opinion and, thereby, public activities. The effectiveness of memes at becoming “alive” (i.e., “going viral”), even if for a short period of time, has been demonstrated. All mass media, advertising, marketing, the psychology of crowds, and even the often bantered-about idea of “archetypes” are operative expressions of the ideas and actions put forth in ancient and modern occultism regarding “egregores.”4

The late scholar Ioan P. Couliano an expert in Gnosticism and Renaissance magic,  published seminal work on the interrelation of the occult, Eros, magic, physics, and history. In his Eros and Magic in the Renaissance he dealt with the underpinnings of political manipulation and hyperstitional systems of ideology and propaganda. He would explore renaissance magic which he showed was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggested, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.5

Underlying his history is the exploration of “eros” or affectivity and desire, and how from the time of the political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle through the renaissance certain forms of conceptuality and praxis had shaped the political motivations of power in both the Catholic and Feudal systems in its ability to manipulate the emotions and physical systems of its peasantry.

The “eros” of Renaissance magic started out with optical theory and other medical concerns with Aristotle (and perhaps Plato), who held that there was a substance called the “pneuma.” In Aristotle’s thinking, the pneuma was a substance that was located as a thin shield around the body. In Stoic medical theory, this became a substance commesurate with the “soul” or “spirit.” This substance was a “prima materia,” a fundamental substance that contained the physiological ability to transmit information to the senses, especially the ocular sense. The heart was the center for a generational organ that in turn centered the pneuma, This pneumatic organ was called in Greek — the “hegimonikon.” Forming images in the pneuma for sensory transmission was necessary before a person could percieve something or someone. Through the works of late antiquity, such as the Corpus Hermeticum and medieval physicians such as Albert the Great, the doctrine of the pneuma became common discourse and was incorporated into popular culture such as the courtly love tradition. Taken by the bishop Synesius’s (d. ca. 415) synthesis of previous pneumatic doctrine and courtly love practices, Ficino develops a universal doctrine of the relation of man to the universe through Eros mediated by the Universal and Particular pneuma. While mentioning Pico della Mirandola as a sparring partner of Ficino, the main emphasis in this narrative turns to Giordano Bruno, whom Couliano believes modified and perfected this doctrine in terms of personal manipulation and excitation through the powers of Eros.

In the last part of the book he’ll strive to develop an alternate account of the “fall” of magic by highlighting the role of the Reformation. Having defended the notion that the Renaissance was about a revival of pagan culture, he in turn emphasizes the role of imagery and “phantasy” in the doctrine of the pneuma. The Reformation and the Counter Reformation were primarily about the eradication of pagan culture from Christiandom. As such they were about the eradication of imagery, manifested in terms of Luther’s accusations of Catholic “magic” in the Eucharist, iconoclasm, the witch hunts. For Couliano the witch hunts are a social counterpart to the eradication of religious-magical imagery— both are manifestations of “human phantasy.” When “qualitative” statements become suspect (as they involve imagery) then strictly “quantitative” science becomes the only legitimate route for knowledge. When these scientists wax inductive, they are threatened by the Church(es).

In his book The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism Couliano would take up the theme of computation, cognitive strategies, and game logic to show how these elaborate systems of the gnostics were comparable to our current game board systems. As he’ll suggest the “morphodynamics of dualistic (binary) systems can be compared with a board game and could, as a matter of fact, be made into a board game of transformations. (p. 247).” He’ll continue:

Game stores today sell very advanced board games with numerous expansions. Theoretically a board game can expand limitlessly; yet in practice the minds of the potential buyers will remain interested in one game for a certain amount of time only. The more advanced among them might already have discovered that one game is all games; thus changing to a new game is not necessary. Why so? A game fascinates the human mind because the mind recognizes in it its own functioning, and this recognition does not depend on the kind of game offered to the mind. (p. 247).”

“One game is all games…” he says, sounding like a character in one of Jorge Luis Borges’ fables. This notion that in observing our participation in game play we become aware of the dynamics of the mind itself in its endless movement and strategizing, its decisional processes of selecting and distinctions, of choices and subtractions is at the core of this thought. As he’ll relate the “logic of any game is to set before the mind a multiple-choice scheme. The mind will immediately set upon its task of exploring all these possibilities. Theoretically it should do no more, but in practice the human mind is always faced with situations in which, among a plurality of solutions, only one or some are correct, and the incorrect ones may prove fatal. (p. 247).”

What he did in this book was to follow the logical iteration of the multiplicity of this board game of Gnosticism across three-centuries as if it were an information processing task of a multitude of minds seeking the solution to which ultimately orthodox Christianity as the power play of final telos became the only possible solution to the original system. Yet, as he says, this did not shut it down, in the same way that the mind can never be shut down but will seek further explications and try to gain further explorations of unyielding aspects of the game that cannot be answered.

Herman Hesse’s Magister Ludi, or The Glass-Bead Game which as his main character describes it would offer the notion of reality making or invention through what we might now term hyperstitional thoughtforms as a Game:

“Although we recognize the idea of the Game as eternally present, and therefore existent in vague stirrings long before it became a reality, its realization in the form we know it nevertheless has its specific history.

How far back the historian wishes to place the origins and antecedents of the Glass Bead Game is, ultimately, a matter of his personal choice. For like every great idea it has no real beginning; rather, it has always been, at least the idea of it. We find it foreshadowed, as a dim anticipation and hope, in a good many earlier ages. There are hints of it in Pythagoras, for example, and then among Hellenistic Gnostic circles in the late period of classical civilization. We find it equally among the ancient Chinese, then again at the several pinnacles of Arabic-Moorish culture; and the path of its prehistory leads on through Scholasticism and Humanism to the academies of mathematicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on to the Romantic philosophies and the runes of Novalis’ hallucinatory visions. Although we recognize the idea of the Game as eternally present, and therefore existent in vague stirrings long before it became a reality, its realization in the form we know it nevertheless has its specific history.”

The point here is that Reality is the board upon which the Game of the Mind is playing out its infinite moves, a game in which the Mind is always present and seems forever assigning itself the task of playing itself against the Real as if it were an endless game of chance – a system of infinite metamorphosis and transformations through which the mind constructs its unique solutions in its strange and bewildering existence. Yet, this is not to make the Mind into God, nor is it a universal system, but is the infinite play of the universe under a multiplicity and pluralistic plane of composition and decomposition without end or purpose. The only purpose if one likes is the game itself.

Each of us is the clone of this unique game playing system that manifests itself in infinite multiplicity. We are each the unique and singular nodes in a rhizomatic universe playing itself out in endless series of games that have no rhyme or reason, yet seem to the observers within the game to mark a linear movement that portends a final destination. Instead of some other realm outside the game, the game is for those who would like to use the metaphor the eternity-machine playing its game under rules that we as manifest players in a virtual/actual system of infinite complexity only have finite informational access too. Our access to the game mechanics of the system of the mind – the brain itself, disallows us to know or have access to the algorithms of the game play itself.

We are blind to the very mechanisms of the game, yet we observe its systems in the reflective processes of the manifest not virtual game play. All we ever have is the ability to see not know these processes in action or experience. Like ministers or puppets of a game we do not know or control we move according to decisions that have already been made for us in the mind’s own capacity to play out its logical forms. We observe what has already been decided in the moment we become aware that we are acting on behalf of the mind’s choices. Even our sense of free-will is but the observance of the game, not of our actual manifest choices; for, the truth is, the move happens before our observation of the move; what we observe is always the history of the game, not the game itself. We discover the play of the game after the fact, not before; like an audience in the stands we cheer on our performances as if they were happening in the now, when in fact they are well choreographed stage plays made in the intricate mechanisms of our brain beyond our ability to know or reason. We are citizens of a game that has already been played ahead of time, we only observe in the micro-seconds of game play the truth of our actions as repetition and reporting of memory reflections on the screen our consciousness.

We make up fictional constructs, fables of the mind to tell ourselves we are alive, we have selves, we are the one’s who are the masters of the game. But the truth is we are the puppets of a game master over which we know little or nothing at all. Fatalism? No. Sadly not even that, just the mere truth that we are not what we think we are, and never have been. Language gave us certain advantages in the game. It allowed us to externalize our memory, thoughts, ideas as if they were ours, as if we had created them… and, the centuries and millennium went by and we fell into the habit of believing in our own lies. We even developed notions of distinction… we began to divide reality into us and it through distinctions that gave us power over “it”, the “thing”, the world of “substance”. But in our time this myth of matter as substance has fallen away and given rise to an immaterial game-world. With the emergence of quantum mechanics and information theory we discovered there is no distinction of inside/outside… the blurring of self and world is complete. We’ve entered a new era, transforming ourselves and the game into a new board with new pieces to play out. We’ve invented a whole new set of heuristically pertinent tools for reengineering reality and ourselves in ways we are only now beginning to imagine and understand.

Yet, we are only at the beginning, the genesis of this new game. A Genesis Project that will move us beyond our selves and into the next evolutionary stage, the posthuman transition of which we are but the momentary movement in a game we have as yet little knowledge of and even less access to its essential mechanisms. We can forget the old games of reality now, put them away as the childish pursuits of shamans and magicians who once developed wonders and signs. Our new shamans and magicians are the quantum engineers and architects of neurosciences who will soon begin constructing reality in ways we have yet to even imagine. This is the age of reality engineers, a time of metamorphosis and transformation of the human into the other it is becoming.

  1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. University of Minnesota Press (November 30, 1987)
  2. Grant, Kenneth. Against the Light. Holmes Pub Group Llc (December 30, 1999)
  3. Rusty Burke, “A Short Biography of Robert E. Howard,” Robert E. Howard Foundation website,
  4.  Stavish, Mark. Egregores. Inner Traditions/Bear & Company. (July 10, 2018)
  5. Culiano, Ioan P. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 1987)

going to turn this into a weird book on time… who knows where it will end or begin? A philo-fiction, or theoretical philosophy allegorizing with myth and a free-fall of thought through various thought-forms…

Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The New Inquisition and Black List


Mass Hysteria: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
A look back…

Who will ever forget the film based on Jack Finney’s novel…

As John Clute said of it: Horrifyingly depicts the invasion of a small town by interstellar spores that duplicate human beings, reducing them to dust in the process; the menacing spore-people who remain symbolize, it has been argued, the loss of freedom in contemporary society.

This came at the tail end of the Red Scare years of McCarthyism. In which several states had enacted statutes against criminal anarchy, criminal syndicalism, and sedition; banned from public employment or even from receiving public aid, Communists and “subversives”; asked for loyalty oaths from public servants, and severely restricted or even banned the Communist party.

During those few years the victims of the House Un-American Activities Tribunal imprisoned hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs. Some of those black listed were prominent in culture and the arts:

Nelson Algren, writer
Lucille Ball, actress, model, and film studio executive
Leonard Bernstein, conductor, pianist, composer
Bertolt Brecht, poet, playwright, screenwriter
Luis Buñuel, film director, producer
Charlie Chaplin, actor and director
Aaron Copland, composer
J. Robert Oppenheimer, physicist, scientific

and hundreds of others…

Is a new Inquisitorial House Un-American Actives Committee in the offing? One that unlike the McCarthy era is now attacking not the Left or Communism, but rather the extreme Right and Fascism? Are we manufacturing a new mass hysteria against a supposed hidden enemy in our midst, a body snatcher of the political kind? Are the members of the extreme Right from alt-Right, 4chan, NRx, etc. become the new scapegoats of a dark age of Left political correctness?

The hatred of the Left in that era had dire consequences in America…

In our era it is the hatred of the extreme Right, and the polarized hatred of the Progressive Left, and anyone who even appears to voice in discourse or speech politically incorrect ideas on both sides who are now being shaped into a mass hysteria against Fascism, the other totalitarian terror of the early twentieth century. Yet, as in that time, the innocent are being victimized along with the perpetrators in our time… Anyone who voices an off-color politically incorrect view or statement is being hounded and criminalized in present day America to the point that just like then they are losing their jobs… is actual imprisonment and a new Inquisitorial House Un-American Actives Committee in the offing?

Companies like Facebook Inc. are banning a number of controversial far-right figures, including Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer, for violating the social-media company’s policies on hate speech and promoting violence. The company is also blocking religious leader Louis Farrakhan, who is known for sharing anti-Semitic views; Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who ran for Congress in 2018; and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson. All of these individuals and accounts that represent them are also banned from photo-sharing app Instagram.

“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook representative said Thursday in a statement. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.” (see: Bloomberg)

As Nadine Strossen tells us the epithet “hate speech” has  been used to stigmatize a wide array of controversial speech, including “fake” news, advocacy of terrorism, burning the American flag, “revenge porn,” and anti-abortion demonstrations. Ultimately, what links all the variegated expression that has been attacked as “hate speech” is that the attackers disfavor—indeed, often hate—its messages, and for that reason seek to suppress them.1

Censorship and political oppression are as old as humanity. Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient”. Censorship can be conducted by a government private institutions, and corporations.

In our age of Snowden and Assange State surveillance has entered the issue. Surveillance and censorship are different. Surveillance can be performed without censorship, but it is harder to engage in censorship without some form of surveillance. And even when surveillance does not lead directly to censorship, the widespread knowledge or belief that a person, their computer, or their use of the Internet is under surveillance can lead to self-censorship.

Censorship has been criticized throughout history for being unfair and hindering progress. In a 1997 essay on Internet censorship, social commentator Michael Landier claims that censorship is counterproductive as it prevents the censored topic from being discussed. Landier expands his argument by claiming that those who impose censorship must consider what they censor to be true, as individuals believing themselves to be correct would welcome the opportunity to disprove those with opposing views.2

As Neil Gaiman the Urban Fantasy author suggests: “The people who are looking out for your best interest and want to save you from the things contaminating you mind, they are out there and determined to save you from anything, and popularity to them generally means nothing.”3

Even bad boy Brett Easton Ellis has recently entered the fracas on political correctness hysteria. White is Bret Easton Ellis’s first work of nonfiction. Already the bad boy of American literature, from Less Than Zero to American Psycho, Ellis has also earned the wrath of right-thinking people everywhere with his provocations on social media, and here he escalates his admonishment of received truths as expressed by today’s version of “the left.” Eschewing convention, he embraces views that will make many in literary and media communities cringe, as he takes aim at the relentless anti-Trump fixation, coastal elites, corporate censorship, Hollywood, identity politics, Generation Wuss, “woke” cultural watchdogs, the obfuscation of ideals once both cherished and clear, and the fugue state of American democracy. In a young century marked by hysterical correctness and obsessive fervency on both sides of an aisle that’s taken on the scale of the Grand Canyon, White is a clarion call for freedom of speech and artistic freedom

Another extreme Right writer Michael Savage has a book on mass hysteria. Stop Mass Hysteria: America’s Insanity from the Salem Witch Trials to the Trump Witch Hunt. In his new book, Stop Mass Hysteria, #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Savage not only deconstructs the Left’s unhinged response to traditional American values like borders, language, and culture, but takes the reader on an unprecedented journey through mass hysteria’s long history in the United States. From Christopher Columbus to the Salem Witch trials to the so-called “Red Scares” of the 1930s and 40s and much more, Dr. Savage recounts the many times collective insanity has gripped the American public – often prompted by sinister politicians with ulterior motives.

Of course those on the Left, just as full of hate for the Right, have been opting for the polarized vision as well. Francis Fukuyama in his latest, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, tells us that the demand for recognition of one’s identity is a master concept that unifies much of what is going on in world politics today. The universal recognition on which liberal democracy is based has been increasingly challenged by narrower forms of recognition based on nation, religion, sect, race, ethnicity, or gender, which have resulted in anti-immigrant populism, the upsurge of politicized Islam, the fractious “identity liberalism” of college campuses, and the emergence of white nationalism. Populist nationalism, said to be rooted in economic motivation, actually springs from the demand for recognition and therefore cannot simply be satisfied by economic means. The demand for identity cannot be transcended; we must begin to shape identity in a way that supports rather than undermines democracy.4

On the far Left those such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in In Defence of Political Correctness suggest that individual rights cannot always take precedence over collective, social responsibility. Without self-moderation, our streets, schoolyards, public transport, waiting rooms and restaurants would turn into bear pits. Most citizens understand that. Some, however, seem determined to cause disorder in the name of free speech. Powerful, machiavellian and wealthy individuals are leading this disruption and breaking the old consensus. Thus, anti-political correctness has taken over the UK and US, spearheaded by some of the most influential voices in media and politics. Invective, lies, hate speech, bullying, intemperance and prejudice have become the new norms. Intolerance is justified through invocations of liberty. Restraint is oppression. A new order has been established in which racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are proudly expressed.5

In The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility by Jeffrey M. Berry tackles the media pundits: the mechanics of outrage rhetoric, exploring its various forms such as mockery, emotional display, fear mongering, audience flattery, and conspiracy theories. They then investigate the impact of outrage rhetoric-which stigmatizes cooperation and brands collaboration and compromise as weak-on a contemporary political landscape that features frequent straight-party voting in Congress. Outrage tactics have also facilitated the growth of the Tea Party, a movement which appeals to older, white conservatives and has dragged the GOP farther away from the demographically significant moderates whose favor it should be courting. Finally, The Outrage Industry examines how these shows sour our own political lives, exacerbating anxieties about political talk and collaboration in our own communities. Drawing from a rich base of evidence, this book forces all of us to consider the negative consequences that flow from our increasingly hyper-partisan political media.

Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media had already detailed the power of media to shape ideology and mass opinion. Detailing  the myriad ways in which the mainstream media internalize the propaganda system of corporate and US government voices by (consciously or not) subtly and insidiously reframing the debate and the ethics that shade those debates. Using two main examples of wars in the 70s/80s in IndoChina and Central America, the authors present a coherent and detailed argument that the “spreading of democracy” is often genocide, but by failing to objectively report events or by dividing casualties into “worthy” and “unworthy” groups, the media is complicit in the fallout of US aggression: genocide, famine, the suppression of democracy in client states (while claiming to spread freedom!). Almost invariably the US sides with a wealthy elite in any given country, and the poverty-stricken population fights back. We fund the suppressors with money and weapons, eradicating as much of the local population as we can even (into the hundred of thousands) until there’s no dissent left. But you’d never read it that way in the newspapers of the day.

We live in a world where for the most part the corporate news, the corporate media, the corporate magazines, and corporate controlled and funded academic community and universtities shape our American ideology, values, myths, belief systems, etc. We live in a illusion, a false world of manufactured realities, bombarded by false news and reports, false science and politics. We’ve been told by academic pundits that we live in a post-truth era, a world where the outcome of Nietzsche’s Last Man, the ultimate nihilist and resentment based moron is the mass man of consumer society.

With both and Opiod Epidemic and Meth-Amphetamine Crisis in the major metropolitan and country villages America is slowly eroding into an absolute dystopia of mad leaders, lying media, academic dumb down, out of work workers, where the old dreams of a bright future for the American Dream have given way to its abject Nightmare twin. Those like John Michael Greer in Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America prophecy saying: “America’s global empire will fall; the second is that those who rule it will not let it fall without a struggle.”6

Chris Hedges in his America: The Farewell Tour ironizes the dark days ahead:

A population beset by despair and hopelessness finds an intoxicating empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical one. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources. It retreats into self-adulation fed by historical amnesia.7

Is ours the Age of the Great Retreat? A time when democracy gives way to Authoritarian tyranny? When the world falls into war, famine, disease, pandemic, chaos and humans become the victims of their own false beliefs, born of Oligarchic and Plutocratic mad designs of security and survival, riches and power? Whatever happened to “We the people…” anyway? What do we the people want? More to the point: What will you do? Will you just fall into that sink hole of cultural amnesia, or seek out the dark truths of history and begin day by day in the “courage of hopelessness” struggling to regain your freedom along with others? What will you do?

  1. Nadine Strossen. HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (Inalienable Rights) (Kindle Locations 408-411). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Internet Censorship is Absurd and Unconstitutional“, Michael Landier, 4 June 1997
  3. Neil Gaiman on Censorship and the Perception of Comics as a “Gutter Medium”. National Coalition Against Censorship. You can listen to the podcast with Gaiman here.
  4. Fukuyama, Francis. Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 11, 2018)
  5. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. In Defence of Political Correctness. Biteback Publishing (September 28, 2018)
  6. Greer, John Michael. Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America (p. 107). New Society Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  7. Chris Hedges. America: The Farewell Tour (Kindle Locations 1011-1015). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.


Yes, I’m a little pessimistic…

It’s true I’m a pessimist in most things, but when you look around America with our opioid and meth amphetamine issues, our strange resurgence in secular mythologies: Alien history, Ghost hunters, conspiracy, right-wing and left-wing extremists, the downward trend in education (i.e., the so called ‘dumbing of America’), the mass killings, the plunge in political chicanery into absolute stupidity… well, that alone would tend to make you a little pessimistic… and, one could go on and on and on… like a bad-boy Vonnegut novel become all to real.

Then there is the whole crazy post-truth era in which the foundations of the Enlightenment program that has since Adorno and Horkheimer’s ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’ spawned the anti-humanist tradition, which only now is beginning to be challenged by various forms of speculative realism, materialism, vitalism, dialectical materialism (Badiou/Zizek), among so many other ism’s… we are facing questions of disaster from Climate change, Societal collapse, Asteroids, Pandemics, etc. etc….

Nietzsche proclaimed the ‘Death of God’, Foucault upped the anty and proclaimed the ‘Death of Man’… and now we are in what some term a Sixth Extinction event which might lead to the annihilation of most life on planet earth…

Then the whole new worlds of transhumanism, posthumanisms, inhumansims… take your pick… the world is up for grabs…

And, that’s just it, isn’t it? Our secular Enlightenment worldview which gave us the middle-class era (Bourgeois) of democratic nations seems to be drifting once again into forms of totalitarian authoritarianism of either Fascist or twisted Communist (think Russia/China) forms which have still the appearance of open societies, but have mechanisms of isolation and control, propaganda and ideological inscapes that are encroaching on the whole individualist ethic (Lockean, etc.) of the past couple hundred years. (Not that we shouldn’t look into forms of de-personalization, psychopathy, schizophrenic forms which in their extremes have led to suicides, terrorism, madness, serial killers, etc.)

We seem to be on a teeter-totter seesaw floating perilously close to  the edge of social, political, and … for lack of a better term, metaphysical madness and self-lacerating annihilation.

So, yes, I’m a little pessimistic about our prospects…

Some pessimist say it might have been better to have never been born… I would re-phrase it: “It might have been better if the great majority of idiots, imbeciles, and stupidoids not to have been born, and may they go the way of the do-do bird quickly!”

Bones of Change

The bones of the city jutted above the morning horizon like the bloated carcass of an ancient saurian, the abandoned tenements frozen against the deadly sun peered across the eastern skyline like a forgotten sect of prophets and madmen. I’d been scrounging through the empty vesicles of old trash bins in the suburbs for tin cans and childhood trinkets: tricycles, rusty bicycles, broken dolls, puppets, refuse of the lost and tormented; lives of those forgotten souls whose dreams had taken a slow dive into the abyss of this bleak world.

I’d been moving from city to city along the old rust belt eking out a bare existence along with a tribe of scroungers for almost a year. Tubal, our leader, would pick through most of the junk, separating it out into various heaps each night as we returned. We’d use the things that could be made into tools for trade at the makeshift markets throughout the dead zones. The other objects we’d turn into weird assemblages for the yearly festival. We’d craft objects that would take on a life of their own, revealing aspects of the hidden world of our new earth. It would be during such times as the dark circus offered that we would discover in the uncanny movement of these artifacts the subtle beginnings of a metamorphosis; the art of a new order of things – a new mode of being emerging.

Most of the others like myself seemed to drift in and out of the festivals of the dead cities like ghosts from a forgotten crime. Lost among our own fragmented dreams and selves we’d try to remember the before time. Unable to remember our dreary lives we’d celebrate the inhuman world that was slowly unfolding around us. Nothing lived in these zones anymore except the mutants, and they kept to themselves for the most part, fearing further contamination and violence from the brutalists who terrorized everyone in this lawless realm.

I’d abandoned the farm when I was ten. My Pop committed suicide that year. We found him out in the dust where the dregs of dying corn stalks had grown up around his bloody flesh like the flowers of some infernal paradise. His eyes were wide open and a little puffy as he looked up at the white eye of the sun. He seemed to be almost peaceful, his lips purplish, his cheeks sunken, the larval life of insects setting up residence in his decaying chest. Mom burst into tears, while my little sister, Jasmine stood there holding a doll, sucking her thumb, swaying back and forth as if Pop’s would rise up once more from the dust and tell her a night tale of some dark fairy world.

Mom died a few weeks later when the tap water stopped. The last thing she’d told me was “You’re the man, now. Take your sister and find someone, anyone…”. That was all, her eyes seemed to go blank then and I heard a slight sound of air escape her mouth as she slumped over. My sister started to cry. I just stood there. What else could I do?

The road was empty. I’d not seen a car for months. When we came to old highway I flipped a penny. It was tails, so we went East toward the darkening horizon. Somewhere along the way I’d lost my sister. I’d laid down for a nap against the heat and death plumes of an overripe sun. Awakened by a dust devil crossing my face I opened my bleary eyes and saw her in the distance, her little body enmeshed in a cloud of dust. I searched for her for two days, shouting her name out, listening to the emptiness and dust. Nothing. I wanted to cry but my eyes were too dry, all I seemed to do was utter strange sounds that cracked and crinkled from my throat like an alien thing, lifeless and strange. I felt I was coming apart, unraveling; fragmenting into a thousand shards, my sense of self and identity vanishing with each step. There came a point I couldn’t even remember my name. I was another. All I remembered after that is finding Tubal one day and his tribe roaming the edge of one of the lost cities of the rust belt.

They say the old world is dying and a new one is being born. All I know is that this new world isn’t quite human anymore. Things have begun arriving from the outer reaches that have no resemblance to us. They say we, too, are changing… my bones protrude through my rotting skin now. They seem to have a life separate from me, mutating into something beyond my control. I’ve been watching this process for some time now and assume I’ll be pushed out of the tribe any day. Yet, I’m not worried. They say the bones of change are a gift. Day by day this inhuman thing I’m becoming is stronger, more resilient, healthy as if my old life, my old self were going through a singular metamorphosis, escaping the human… becoming other.

©Steven Craig Hickman

The Human Extinction Plan: Do Nothing, Turn a Blind Eye

The Sixth Extinction seems to be moving now in exponential catalytic mode as if the earth were speaking to us in an indifferent tongue telling us through natural signs that we are next… our problems is that only a few intelligent creatures are reading the signs, the vast majority are blinded by leaders and corporate malfeasance all the way to the top. Sadly when people finally see their cities sink, the air unbreathable, the crops fail, the rain stop, the ocean conveyor nil, the last cloud vanish in the bread belt, and the great storms unending across the impervious seas… those leaders and corporations will have built fortified cities and bunkers against the throngs who will finally be left in a world of absolute hell.

One Harvard professor reports that we have less than five years to turn things around. He tells us that people have the misapprehension that we can recover from this state just by reducing carbon emissions, Anderson said in an appearance at the University of Chicago. Recovery is all but impossible, he argued, without a World War II-style transformation of industry—an acceleration of the effort to halt carbon pollution and remove it from the atmosphere, and a new effort to reflect sunlight away from the earth’s poles.

“This has do be done within the next five years,” he states, emphatically.

In a recent article on NatureThe sudden collapse of thawing soils in the Arctic might double the warming from greenhouse gases released from tundra, warn Merritt R. Turetsky and colleagues. As the temperature of the ground rises above freezing, microorganisms break down organic matter in the soil. Greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. Current models of greenhouse-gas release and climate assume that permafrost thaws gradually from the surface downwards. Deeper layers of organic matter are exposed over decades or even centuries, and some models are beginning to track these slow changes. But models are ignoring an even more troubling problem. Frozen soil doesn’t just lock up carbon — it physically holds the landscape together. Across the Arctic and Boreal regions, permafrost is collapsing suddenly as pockets of ice within it melt. Instead of a few centimetres of soil thawing each year, several metres of soil can become destabilized within days or weeks. The land can sink and be inundated by swelling lakes and wetlands.”

Geowatch reports that various blocking patterns in Greenland and the Artic due to mountains is helping this along as well: As said, as the Arctic warms up more rapidly than the rest of Earth, the speed at which jet streams circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere will weaken, making the jets meander more and creating patterns that can trap heat (or cold) for a number of days over a given area. Due to the height of its mountains, Greenland is particularly prone to be increasingly hit by heatwaves resulting from such blocking patterns. Warming changes the texture of snow and ice, making it more slushy and darker, which also makes that it absorbs more of the sunlight’s heat, further accelerating melting.

Economist Joseph Stieglitz reports that by the end of this century, some sectors of the US economy, including agriculture and energy, could lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year because of climate change, according to the latest report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Yet, Stieglitz, always the optimist, thinks we can legislate an end to it all with the Green New Deal. Being the pessimist I am the very notion that embarking on such a scheme without it being done in every nation around the planet seems utopian and less than adequate. It’s as if such economists were pipe dreamers full of hot air taking us for fools. All such a scheme would do in the short run would be to enforce more pressure on workers and expose them to even greater misery than they already are. The dreamer he is believes we can just tax corporations that inflict damage on our environment, and that this would encourage corporations to work hard to prevent it. Lies all the up and down, the U.S. government is supported by those corporations and isn’t about to begin biting the hand that feeds them and puts them in power. Wake up Stieglitz, what kind of idealist trash are you spouting? Whose paying your paychecks to write such horseshit as if the American public were that gullible.

Here’s a representative Progressive view on things from George Monbiot:

Progressive change requires mass mobilisation. But, by identifying and challenging power, by discovering its failings and proposing alternatives, by showing the world as it is rather than as the apparatus of justification would wish people to see it, we can, I believe, play a helpful part in this mobilisation, alongside politicians, protesters, social entrepreneurs, pressure groups and a host of other agents of change.1

Problem with such a project is that it’s too little, too late. Progressives like many utopianistic leftists believe people, the working people, will step up to the plate, join in and get ‘mobilized’, listen to their pundits and agitators, produce a viable protest movement etc. Hogwash! What has protest done for us of late? Look around you the world is just what it is, and we are neither victims nor perpetrators, rather we’re all fools in a ship of fools wandering blindly through our lives thinking that someone else will come along and fix things, that someone else will save us from ourselves, that a redeemer will appear out of the religious nowhere and bring us the good optimistic news of deliverance. Sorry to be the one to tell you: there is no good news ahead, it’s all bad weather and no matter what the fuck we do now it’s not going to make a fucking bit of difference.

No need to state what the pundits on the Right have to say, they don’t even believe in climate change, but instead make jokes and parodies, satiric jibes and the endless parade of black humor that they’ve been tuning up in recent years. Most global warming skeptics  believe the models used to predict Earth’s future under global warming are unreliable. They feel that while the sun, clouds, gases, glaciers and oceans are responsible for weather, so, too, are other factors, including some we don’t currently understand. According to global warming skeptics, computer models are merely a guess at what will happen on Earth in the future — something climatologists don’t deny — and an arguably poor guess at that. After all, if we can’t accurately predict the weather a week from now, how can we predict the global climate in 100 years?

Others don’t believe we’re experiencing a global warming trend at all. The annual temperature between 1998 and 2007 actually decreased, despite the 4 percent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during that same period. They also point out that, while the Northern Hemisphere has warmed, the Southern Hemisphere has actually cooled. “Global warming was supposed to actually be global, not hemispheric,” says skeptic — and Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project.

So go on keep reading all these change artists and con men of the utopian set, the elite pundits with all the answers. Hey, it’s your life you can do with it what you like, right? No. If you think you’re really in charge of your life, that you have the freedom to do what and when you like, then either you’re already and Oligarch, plutocrat, rich mother-fucker, or you’re like me a poor bastard living off the pipe-dreams of yesteryear thinking people really give a shit. Keep on believing fools… am I cynical? am I pessimistic? You bet I am! I don’t believe the lies anymore, its been a scam of quite a while now and the show is almost over. Nothing I do or say is going to change that now. Nor you.

Of course no one wants to here such a bleak forecast. People aren’t stupid, they don’t have to read such crap from me or anyone else. But turning a blind eye, putting your head in the progressive or conservative sand want help you either. You’re fucked no matter whose side you decide to put your blood, sweat, and tears into. Makes no difference. So go on, be my guest…

For the better part of 60+ years I’ve listened to pundits about climate change, global warming and all the pros and cons, and now that it actually beginning to affect us both economically, politically, medically, and mentally among other things we are still listening to the same messages over and over as if the outcome would be different now, that people would wake up and do something to change the world, as if the world needed changing. Ha! It’s us, we’re the fools, the culprits, the instigators of our own demise and we still want to play the blame game, accuse someone else for our own inability to do anything, anything at all. So we will continue into the next few decades protesting, listening to our pundits of the Left and Right voice our opinions, our options, our fantasies as if it would make a bit of difference. All the while we just go through the same paces of our lives expecting it all to turn out for the best, that someone down the pipe will figure it all out and fix things. Lovely little optimists we are, right? No. It’s just another bullshit lie we hide the truth in so we don’t have to do a thing but turn a blind eye and walk away from our own guilt and responsibility.

The future looks bleak indeed. With the mass migrations of humans out of the hot-zones of equatorial countries that will in the coming decades and centuries become uninhabitable we will see war, famine, disease and all the other apocalyptic horses riding the earth with extreme prejudice. For the truth is the universe doesn’t give a fuck what we think, what we do, how we do it, we are already doomed by our inaction across the whole of the planet. If this seems deterministic to the hilt just stay tuned to the coming decades. This isn’t a prophecy rather it is an end game to the human species whose stupidity and gullibility has allowed the leaders of the world owned and operated by the major corporations and mulit-conglomerates, banking systems, and false sciences to assure mass extinction on the horizon.

Here’s Zizek: “The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben said in an interview that “thought is the courage of hopelessness” ─ an insight that is especially pertinent for our historical moment, when even the most pessimistic diagnosis as a rule finishes with an uplifting hint at some version of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The true courage is not to imagine an alternative, but to accept the consequences of the fact that there is no clearly discernible alternative: the dream of an alternative is a sign of theoretical cowardice; it functions as a fetish that prevents us thinking through to the end the deadlock of our predicament. In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlights of another train approaching us from the opposite direction.”

Instead of pretending with ourselves that humanity within the next five years is going to wake up miraculously and change things, let’s begin with the truth, be honest with ourselves: humanity has known of climate change for decades and has done nothing more than make useless non-binding agreements and treaties to do nothing but think about it – or the non-thinking that the U.N. and its minion leaders are always good at. So instead let’s consider the fact that humanity will do as they’ve done in the past: nothing. What do we do from that news? That’s the actual courage of hopelessness…

With that in mind, what do we do next? Do nothing, turn a blind eye? Or… ?

  1. Monbiot, George. How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature . Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

The Reality Studio Unveiled

Writing to the Polish author Stanislaw Lem, who had noted the persistence of mass cultural references in his work, the science fiction pulp writer Philip K. Dick observed:

… there is no culture here in California, only trash. And we who grew up here and live here and write here have nothing else to include as elements in our work. How can one create novels based on this reality which do not contain trash, because the alternative is to go into dreadful fantasies of what it ought to be like … This is a world of hamburger stands and Disneyland and freeways and gas stations … it’s like living in an endless TV commercial … Hence the elements of such books of mine as UBIK. If God manifested Himself to us [sic] here He would do so in the form of a spraycan advertised on TV.  —letters of P.K. Dick

The truth is that the mass American Culture since the 1950’s (if not before) has always been a Trash Culture – a culture based on canned laughter, hyperreal ads, sitcom stupidity, drugs, rock-n-roll or country music, sports icons as heroes, etc. America is just a fake wrestling match with its own secular religion – the endless war between liberalism and conservatism pushed to the limits of madness. Of course the point of Dick’s writings was to start with this supposed hypernormalised reality and then allow it to break down into the fragmented illusory or delusionary simulacrum it is, and then allow his characters realize there was another world, a real world just outside the cage of our ideological prisons… in fact, in many of his stories the methodical deconstruction of the false world would be replaced by the actual and literalized simulacrum icons of that world forcing his characters from their sleepwalking madness and into the shock of the Real.

A part of it is that our hypernormalised reality as portrayed in mass media is scripted as a global horror show to the point that people have become de-sensitized by the overdetermination of destruction around our planet. Many are living in a Reality TV set in which their everyday lives are already scripted as uncanny secular horror. What people seek in fictionalized horror is empathy, a sense of belonging, of knowing that the horror in their lives is not just part of the nihilistic light of modernity, but is connected to the dark contours of our imaginations and affects. Without this connection people become oblivious, unconscious sleepwalkers through existence living in a world of deadened emotion and lack of imagination their lives bound to the puppetry of Trash Culture. Horror fiction, weird or fantastic tales break through the mass cultural simulacrum and re-connecting us to our affective regions and rational core, allowing us to once again see the world outside the closed loop of our mediatized reality box.

Most contemporary great horror, fantastic, or weird tales turn to mass culture for knowledge because by doing so they transform it from the ‘trivial’ to the uncanny, from something banal to something ambiguous and thus potentially revelatory. Each of these authors skews the world with a twisted slanted lens so that the hypernormal cues that enforce in us the repetitive sameness of control and power suddenly unravel around us and we are forced to confront the world as it is – a strange and uncanny realm in which things are not what they seem. The paranoia breaks us out of our habitual madness and conformity to the cultural madness of our era, allowing us to suddenly see the underlying patterns and control mechanisms that have locked us all into the global horror show.

I’ll admit that most of my thought has been bound to a specific program for a long time… the secularization of the Gnostic mythos, the grafting of its strange dualistic ontologies to a secular world where the structures of ideology replace the Iron Prison of the Gnostic systems. In his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism Georges Bataille would speak of this same secularization process:

The variants of this metaphysical scaffolding are of no more interest than are the different styles of architecture. People become excited trying to know if the prison came from the guard or if the guard came from the prison; even though this agitation has had a primordial historical importance, today it risks provoking a delayed astonishment, if only because of the disproportion between the consequences of the debate and its radical insignificance.1

Bataille like Dick understood that the everyday mass culture we live in was a simulacrum, a constructed world built out of specialized ideological constructs that were programmed and enforced by State, Corporate, and Media-Academic systems of governance and propaganda that sought to entrain our minds to the regulated consensual reality system of control like so many cattle. Bataille and Dick would both see that people could be de-programmed through an inversion and subversion of these cultural security systems:

In practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles. (VE 37).

Bataille’s notion of matter as active evil and energetic creativity bound by creative action was in diametric opposition to the materialist conceptions of the sciences of his day, based as they were on Newtonian physicalist notions in which matter was dead inert stuff. So that for Bataille this notion of the autonomy of matter as a secularized version of the Gnostic world would subvert the orthodoxy with heterodoxic systems of sovereignty and freedom. As Land would say of Bataille:

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.2

Breaking the vessels of our ideological and orthodox reality system is at the core of such a poetics of freedom and transgression. No longer bound to the utilitarian world of work and boredom, of war and the endless trash culture of a police state and drug infested underworld of degradation and waste, humans could once again enter into a community of communication, a depersonalized realm of collective autonomization, where the active creation of a world worth living in might be attained outside the blasted vastation of our modern horror show.

  1. Bataille, Georges. Visions Of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939. Univ Of Minnesota Press; First edition edition (June 20, 1985)
  2.  Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (November 1, 2002)