Enigma One

Enigma One

There are places, zones of despair, slinking, wet miserable alleys and back streets, corners of abandoned buildings, spots of pooling darkness; fluidic as night, where the stars flow among black channels roaming an abyss deeper than midnight. Most will never know of such places hiding in plain sight. Pedestrian creatures whose busy lives distracted by the minor apocalypses of daily routine go about their petty existence without a thought of what lies right next to them. The unknowing ones, sleepers of time, trivia artists whose only delight is the boredom of family life. Couch potatoes, mindless and passive, shifting in a sea of death like happy campers oblivious of the deadly hues of this dark zone of madness. I know, I was once like them…

Sometimes I wish I could go back to sleep, enter that safe harbor of mindless simplicity as if all this had not happened. It would be so much easier. But there is no return for creatures such as I. None now, none ever.

When did it happen? When did I slip into this strange void in between things, suddenly awaken to this insidious existence? Time? Time had nothing to do with it. Time’s an illusion like everything else. The casual violence and sex no longer bother me. Like others I’ve found such rituals and bloodletting to be beneficial if only for a solitary night. The oppressive atmosphere of the zone offers no reprieve or deliverance from our secret knowledge. Condemned by our own curiosity we wander among each others dreams like forlorn ghosts of a forgotten world.

I met her in one of the lesser known clubs that seem to come and go in the shifting reality of the zone. The first time we met neither of us was really interested in conversation, but the knowledge that we shared a secret complicity allowed us to enjoy the evening in silence. No one bothered us, and left each other to our own misery. Her eyes had that inner darkness that speaks of unreal dreams and visions. Most of us slept little. We all knew what happened when one shut one’s eyes.

Her name was Sarah. Her skin was pale and tattooed. She had short frag hair, shaded cotton snow, jet streaked filigrees dangling down like seared tears from a dark angel; edged and boyish it was razored against her scalp giving one the impression she’d seen too many old cyberpunk movies. And, yet, there was something that seemed right about it; like it matched something in her, a ghosted presence surfacing from a haunted inscape that like a fungus touched the deep-rooted curse of the land we inhabited. I was tempted to start up a conversation. But as she glanced furtively at me from time to time I could see that conversation was the last thing she wanted from me.

Our eyes met and locked. Communication. Does anyone really know what passes between flesh and flesh in such moments. A knowing almost magnetic, an intensity that seems to distill time, softening its edges so that whatever is real seems to fall away leaving this unreal afterglow. Not so much meaning as a melding of two voids. We both knew. Nothing had to be spoken. I got up and she followed.

© S.C. Hickman (2021)

Alien Modernity

“As I sat there, catatonic but incredibly present, plugged into the pulsating grid that enveloped me, I realised I’d forgotten my humiliation…”

—Simon Sellars, Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe

The truth is we all love energy, vibrancy and full-tilt danger; as long as that danger isn’t too real. We enter our alternate realities, our game worlds, video avatars strung with metalloid dreams of violence and adventure. We go to clubs that smell of sweat and sex, the violence of the soundscapes roiling us in ancient worlds of ritual and sacrifice. Like initiates of some dark religion we seek to comfort ourselves in dystopian nightmares because those we can deal with unlike the droning imbecility of our everyday lives spent in dread of our actual all too real world of sociopathy and psychopathy. Thomas Ligotti was wrong… what people really want is a dystopian paradise, a holodeck full of adventures and danger without all the bodily violence it entails. Set Theory as an infinite video game; rhizomes to virtual elsewheres where avatars romp among the hyperworlds like alien visitors from a forgotten universe. The enhanced distractions of some sublime nightmare realm that energizes us and keeps us treading the glitz of violent mindscapes. Obsessed, dammed, and full of lurid energy we’re like “a motley band of revelers picnicking in the graveyard of the Real, leaving behind all manner of rotting delicacies and toxic baubles in their wake. ” (Neo-Decadent Reader)

Rereading Simon Sellars novel of the cyberdelian culture of the mid-90’s when utopian desire melded with the dystopian rage of artificial worlds he speaks to us of this temporal void where energy, music, and desire mix in the hollows of memory like temptations to exit reality for the alien raptures of some dark hellish paradise:

“The club was a shrine to jungle, the new and thrilling dance music that was unlike anything anyone had ever known. The five-level building was a rabbit warren of different dance floors. Each floor contained different beats per minute. Different dancers. Different pills. Different ideals for living. Yet all were linked in a cornucopia of psychic energy, a multiverse of mind-bending complexity. The DJs were incredibly exciting, their hyperfast hands wired to the decks. The music was phenomenal. Clattering metallic percussion that injured the brain. Skittering, liquid-synthetic bass lines that ruptured the bowels. Helter-skelter rhythms pierced with dialogue samples from Blade Runner, Predator, Robocop and The Terminator. It was a sci-fi dystopian soundscape, an alien planet brought to life by artificial mindstates and synthetic beats.”

—Simon Sellars

Pick up a copy today: Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe

Ponderings Upon Paul Nash, The Ancient Soul With A Surrealist Heart, And How Art Enables New Ways of Seeing Archaeologically

Rebecca ponders the surrealist work of John Nash… excellent read!

Lady Liminal's Wanderings

“The great stones were in their wild state, so to speak. Some were half covered by the grass, others stood up in cornfields or were entangled and overgrown in the copses, some were buried under the turf. But they were wonderful and disquieting, and as I saw them then, I shall always remember them”

Nash remembering back to his first encounter with the Avebury Megaliths in 1933 (1942); (Nash 1951, 11 – posthumous publication)

Paul Nash (1889 –1946) and I have a history. I vividly remember the first time I saw one of his works, The Menin Road (1918), painted during his tenure as an Official War Artist, during the Great War. It made an immediate, and profound, impact on me. To my young eyes, the burnt out, broken trees, reminded me of the standing stones which I was lucky enough to see peppered throughout the landscapes I roamed as…

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Slavoj Zizek’s Confusion

For years I’ve listened to Slavoj Zizek’s misunderstanding of Gnosticism as he confuses it with the whole tradition of Hermeticism. Hermeticism and its Magical systems would culminate in John Dee’s ideology of the ‘exaltatio’ or the self-divinization of humanity. As György E. Szonyi tells us the Magus was central to the Hermetic tradition of Occult in the West, and the whole struggle of Alchemy and the Hermetic Arts culminated in the Great Work. György E. Szonyi in his magisterial John Dee’s Occultism – Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs states:

“This is, the ideology of exaltatio, that is, the deification of man, which I see as the intellectual foundation of magic, a foundation that even today validates magical aspiration and its scholarly research. I also argue that it was the desire for exaltatio which framed and tied together the otherwise amazingly heterogeneous thoughts and activities of John Dee.”

John Dee and the magickal traditions arose out of Hermetic and Alchemical thought rather than Gnosticism proper. At the heart of both Hermetic and Alchemical thought and praxis was the ‘Great Work’ which as Szonyi explores it is this process of exaltation or self-divinization or immortalization, etc. Gnosticism is not the exaltation of self but its opposite. The Gnostic’s soteriological thought and praxis was the erasure and decreation of self, while releasing the hidden god or spark through the power of negation or unnaming in an apophatic process. Whereas the Hermetic Magus sought to reinforce the self and exalt it into absolute godhood and divinity, the Gnostic sought to void the self releasing the god-spark of the Alien God. Two completely different metaphysics and meta-techniques. It’s this difference that makes the difference between the Transhumanist adventure which is steeped in the Hermetic-Alchemical Great Work metaphysics of self-divinization and exaltation that separates it from many Posthumanisms. This is where I disagree with Zizek who confuses Gnosticism with Hermetic-Alchemical traditions in his new work and thereby gets it all wrong.

Confusing the Hermetic-Alchemical traditions with the Gnostic-Kabbalistic traditions has been one of those undercurrents in scholarship and culture that pervades philosophical speculation in Transhumanism, Posthumanism, and Rational Inhumanism. It’s this lack of clarity between the various counter-cultural or underground traditions that have accrued errors over the years.

I’ve seen the same argument from Zizek about New Age obscurantism and his incessant confusion of the the positive Hermetic traditions with negative Gnostic apophatic traditions. As in this passage from his new work on the Wired Brain and Neuralink:

“Today, this theological dimension of the wired brain is making a spectacular return, just (as expected) deprived of the Communist underpinning. The sublime obverse of Musk’s cynical insight “let’s try to catch up with the machines so that we will not become apes in a zoo” is the gnostic New Age reading of Singularity as not only the new stage of post-humanity but a key cosmic event, the accomplishment of the divine self-actualization: in Singularity, not only we, humans, become divine, god himself becomes fully divine. Insofar as Singularity also implies a kind of synchronicity of minds, no wonder it calls for theosophical speculations. That is to say, when synchronicity is debated, the obscurantist temptation is almost irresistible – no wonder Jung loved this notion.”

Funny that he brings up Jung who in my own opinion did the same confusing and merging the Gnostic and Hermetic-Alchemical traditions producing a literalist objectivization of Hegel’s notions of Spirit-Geist as the Objective Psyche or Collective Unconscious. Instead of separating Gnostic Soteriological thought from the Exaltatio of the Great Work in Hermetic-Alchemical lore and techniques Jung became one more obscurantist as Freud knew all too well. Freud was a dualist, Jung a monist. Freud followed Schopenhauer and took the blind Will as Drive and developed all his scientific mythology of pleasure/pain (Lacanian jouissance) into eros / thanatos etc. While Jung would objectify and literalize it as real agents or entities existing in the Objective Psyche. Freud internalized it as a dualist, while Jung externalized it as a monist.

Gnostics being dualists did not internalize the entities (i.e., psychologize them as part of psyche, etc.) … the Gnostics believed the Archons were part of what Kant would term the noumenal or our later sense of the Outside. Not the inside… it is the Hermetic-Alchemical traditions that Jung used to internalize and symbolize the various objective entities of his Objective Psyche later Collective Unconscious. Two different things… Jung’s epigones and disciples would confuse this as well. But Freud would impersonalize these entities as trieb-drive, while Jung would personalize the entities as archetypes. For Freud these entities were the irrational drives (Trieb), while Jung literalized and personified them not as impersonal drive but as actual archetypal persons. This is why Freud is a dualist and saw these as impersonal and irrational forces playing havoc with humanity. Jung was a monist and literalist seeing like Plato’s realism archetypal powers as actual Ideas-Forms and Agents internally in the Objective Psyche, etc. This is why Freud and Jung parted ways…

Barbarism Rising

“Barbarianism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is the whim of circumstance. And barbarianism must ultimately triumph”
― Robert E. Howard

Most of us are ill-prepared to face that hard truth, but under the veneer of our civilized façade humanity is just as barbarous now as it ever was. The pathology of human evil lives in each of us, and no matter what we may think otherwise people under the right circumstances would and will commit the darkest atrocities. We have all the technological gewgaws one can imagine, and yet the slip-shod civilization within which we blindly live as if this is all normal is declining moment by moment into the darkest worlds imaginable. What is normal? Normal is this blind world of distraction and denial we all pretend will last, a safe haven against the bitter fruits of our inane leaders and economics of destruction. No this too will pass… and the nightmare of our blindness will be stripped away as the illusion of civilization falls away from our eyes revealing the beast in all its ferocious savagery.

Post-Apocalyptic Novels that will wipe the veneer of human civility from your blinkered normalcy, and give you back the vision of what lies ahead of us:

Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Death of Grass by John Christopher
The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Inhabited Island by Strugatsky brothers
Doomed City by Strugatsky brothers
The Time Trilogy:
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
The Drought by J.G. Ballard
The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard
The Children of Men by PD James
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Jerusalem Man Trilogy by David Gemmell
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Age of Paranoia, Hate and Persecution

Carl Schmitt, fascist and right-wing theorist, in his political theology would follow Tertullian against the Gnostics in creating his notion of friend / enemy distinction and decisionist thought. Basing it on a secularization of the Inquisitorial notions of faithful / heretic and all its legalisms. A politics of conflict and agonistic dualism would enter the fray. Has it ever left? Are we not even now still living under this daemonic politics of Left/Right Order and Chaos, Friend (those who side with our politics – Progressive/Conservative, etc.?), and Enemy (all those heretics and hate-mongers of our political stance, etc.).

So much hate, paranoia, and persecution is still the major threat even as mediocre mainstream democracy enters the arena of the American Presidency. The supposed right-wing enemies will not go away quietly into that political night. No. We’ve only begun to enter a decade of struggle and turmoil as the age-old battles of Left and Right transition into a new decade of paranoia, persecution, and hatred of each other.

I’ve often wondered why we fall back into ancient dualistic scenarios, whether we truly are driven by deep forces as Freud and his disciples once mythologized in their drive theories. As Byung-Chul Han in Psychopolitics suggest:

“We are living in a particular phase of history: freedom itself is bringing forth compulsion and constraint. The freedom of Can generates even more coercion than the disciplinarian Should, which issues commandments and prohibitions. Should has a limit. In contrast, Can has none. Thus, the compulsion entailed by Can is unlimited. And so we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Technically, freedom means the opposite of coercion and compulsion. Being free means being free from constraint. But now freedom itself, which is supposed to be the opposite of constraint, is producing coercion. Psychic maladies such as depression and burnout express a profound crisis of freedom. They represent pathological signs that freedom is now switching over into manifold forms of compulsion.”

Freedom as the production of coercion pervades our moment, and the pathology of hate, paranoia, and persecution is with us still. Sadly.

On Failure

Most of us live with the possibility of failure, if not its consequences. Failure is that pinnacle of overreach in which flesh taps mind at the point of its plunge from sun to sea; and, yet, to have seen the glint of wings desperately clinging to the fractured rays of light is a darkness to great to dispel.

Old Age and Dreams

As I grow older I’ve begun dreaming more lucidly again as I did when a child, and do find myself at times waking up speaking to someone in my dreams… it’s always eerie, as if I had been roaming through other lives, on other worlds, and strange landscapes, foreign cities with alien beings who seem to implant information and speak to me of things in our own future… it’s this eerie feeling that we are being warned of coming tragedies that we are ill-prepared for and that we need to act on now. When I do awaken from such dreams I feel haunted, this sense of great loss as if I had seen the end of things and my inner sense had still felt the lingering pain of some horror that I feel deeply but cannot remember: a fleeting series of after-images always follows and I try to sit and place them in memory but they just dissolve in nothingness…

The Great Interregnum

The only dangerous and radical critique is the political critique of democracy. Because the emblem of the present age, its fetish, its phallus, is democracy. So long as we do not know how to construct a large-scale creative critique of State democracy, we will remain, stagnate, in the financial brothel of images.—Alain Badiou, The Pornographic Age

“The basic premise of the Hegelian dialectics is that the path to truth is a moment of truth itself: truth is ultimately nothing other than the systematic articulation of a succession of errors.” —Slavoj Žižek, Hegel in A Wired Brain

Badiou calls it the interval, the gap between a failed world of images and our subtraction from that hall of mirrors. Market democracy rules the planet under various guises of political corruption. But let’s be clear there is no exit, no place to go, no island or safe haven from its ugly face. We are all trapped in the prison house of an economic system of State Democracy. As long as we collude with it we will all fall-fail with it. Badiou would like us to subtract ourselves from this false system of images, bound as we are in a world of social media that entraps us like victims of our own success.

Russia and China have returned to despotism with a capitalist face. The EU is a stateless State of austerity in which economics rules rather than democracy. America is in ragnarok, eclipsed by its own blindness, overreach, and corrupted dreams of globalism. Both reactionary and progressive politics is dead with only the semblance of a farcical comedy of corporate controlled minions left to do its bidding. We pretend with ourselves that we can change it, reform it, modify it by political means… we can’t. But those who still believe in it will continue to merge with its images till the mirror world finally folds them in its dark economic enslavement.

The Pandemic is a natural and unnatural process that in itself is only one pebble in a slow but methodical avalanche of disasters coming our way on this planet. Already we see how the façade of market democracy has failed us, and will continue to fail us. Oh, don’t get me wrong, people will cling to the sinking ship till they drown… people don’t really want to change. They want their utopian dreams, their little petty lives to go on as before, as if their little lives mattered. They don’t. No one gives a shit about your petty lives. Especially those who mask power in the halls of government. True, I’m pessimistic about our prospects because people for the most part are like compliant and passive prisoners awaiting a judgment that will never come. They’ve judged themselves.

Oh, sure, people will protest this or that, but revolt… revolution? No. People have become domesticate animals entrapped in the comforts of false desires, minions of a technocratic worldview that offers them simple distractions and images of freedom rather than freedom itself. Justice. How can there be justice in a world of images?

Posthuman Control

Unlike his friend Badiou, Zizek accepts that the technocratic worldview will replace our current chaotic interval, that we are already in the midst of this transitional phase, moving in that demarcated zone of Singularity beyond which no one can see but the wise among us can at least speculate:

“The prospect of total digital control of which we are not even aware confronts us brutally with the basic philosophical question: is our only chance of freedom in isolation from the space of Singularity, or is there a dimension of being-human which in principle eludes Singularity even if we are fully immersed in it?”

–Slavoj Žižek, Hegel in A Wired Brain

Broken Dreams, Broken Promises

At the moment that Spengler wrote The Decline of the West modernity was in decline… WWI had devastated Europe and the supposed Great Powers were all losing or had lost their pirate Empires across the Third World. Mechanistic science and philosophy were under attack from all sides as Einstein’s revolutions began to modify and take hold of Newton’s worldview that would soon fragment into an array of competing theories leading to the Quantum revolution of the 30’s…

So the vitalism of Goethe and Nietzsche seemed to flow into such prequels of fascism with its notions of Eliot’s Wasteland, Pound’s Cantos, Yeats nostalgic Celtic Twilight… visions of ancient utopias that never existed but that could still hold sway over an age of bitter defeats and late romanticism, decadence, and disenchantment…

The postmoderns would later try to destroy the metanarratives of modernity, try to relativize history and all its theories; its historicist mythologies… did it accomplish its task. No. Humans are in love with the Mind’s inventions, and even now people project their wants and fears into dreams of past or future narratives. One reason Fantasy and Science Fiction still hold sway over a vast swath of readers imaginations.

I think one thing most fear above all is that modernity, progress, and democracy all arose with this strange amalgam of the Enlightenment’s dreams of Reason, Disenchantment, and Western Civilization. That this seems now to be crumbling around us due to our ill-choice in an economic system that embodied both the central motif of this worldview, along with all its ruinous consequences for the planet and for the stability of Western Civilization is coming to fruition.

We attack it and label its economic engine, and yet we do not see that one cannot rip out the engine without destroying the vehicle within which it has mobilized its forces. Spengler along with his mentor Nietzsche believes that somewhere in the decades of this new century we are living in that Western Civilization would enter it’s last stages of decline and fall… is this myth, metanarrative, or just a mental fiction about a process we still do not have much control over but that the Mind in its inventive powers dreams forward? As Spengler said:

“At last, in the grey dawn of Civilization, the fire in the Soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, half-successful, effort of creation, and produce the Classicism that is common to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism looks back piteously to its childhood; then finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses its desire to be, and, as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong daylight and back in the darkness of protomysticism, in the womb of the mother, in the grave.”

Valhalla Steel by Sean Crow


Enjoyed the hell out of this one. Sean knows how to pack a punch, a cybergrim speed bolt of thunder ripping down the whale road of a post-apocalyptic death road. What a twist to match ancient Norse and Brit mythologies of Vikings vs. Fae into a high-tech world of augmented gun jockeys and net runners, Mongols with Sky-Seekers roaring across the skies on grav boats, and Primordial kin with weregelded eyes of amber smoking pure fire across streetscapes of Twilight City.

It’s a tale of revenge and survival, of a dead father and the last of his Clan seeking vengeance in a new world far removed from their Icelandic enclaves. Angus – Jarl of the Clans leading a remnant from the Fae wars to make their way in a brutal world where only the strong and intelligent hope to survive. Forging alliances between monstrous creatures and a city of shadows where nothing is ever as it seems.

About the only thing I found lacking was a longer work, it was just way too short and need three times the length we were given. The narrative arc itself is perfect, but I felt like this was a trial run of a much longer work to come, a prequel or preamble of an epic fantasy done up in noir and grimdark world of cyberpunk tech. I just hope Sean will take his time and not rush the next one, spend more time of creating more detail in landscape and characterization. Otherwise this is the start of something empowering and quite different from anything out there in this sub-genre.

Visit Sean’s site: Home – (lordofcrows.com)
By Valhalla Steel on amazon: buy it!

Philosophers of Irrationalism, Will, and Vitalism

Most who have followed my blog have probably gathered that most of my thought goes under the lineage of philosophical voluntarism, irrationalism, and vitalism; all with a reserved qualification. That aside the following are the main influences in that tradition as opposed to all Rationalist Philosophies of all persuasions. Each of them touches aspects of the lineage without all being of the same pedigree. Some are of opposing political stances, and even at the extreme opposite of the political spectrum. I could have added many others. Some tend toward non-dialectical thought, others dialectical; some Idealist, others Materialist; but all touch base with the Irrational driven nature of human beings over those philosophers who believe humans are guided by Intellect and Reason. It doesn’t take much to realize that our immediate human world is driven by irrational forces more than Rational. Not all are voluntarist, not all are vitalist, but all are part of that Irrationalist worldview. Irrationalism has always stressed the dimensions of instinct, feeling, and will as over and against reason, intellect, and Geist (Spirit). In our own time the Rationalist philosophers seem to be in the ascendant, but there are still those of the Irrationalist mode to be found…

Below are a few of the Philosophers of Irrationalism, Will, and Vitalism (this is not an exhaustive list):

Saint Augustine
John Duns Scotus
Blaise Pascal
Immanuel Kant
Johann Georg Hamann
Friedrich Schelling
Arthur Schopenhauer
Julius Frauenstädt
Eduard von Hartmann
Philipp Mainländer (Batz)
Julius Bahnsen
Wilhelm Dilthey
Frederich Nietzsche
Søren Kierkegaard
Charles Sanders Pierce
William James
Sigmund Freud
Henri Bergson
Ludwig Klages
Oswald Spengler
Jean-Paul Sartre
Albert Camus
Georges Bataille
E.M. Cioran
Jean Baudrillard
Gilles Deleuze
Nick Land
Franco (Bifo) Berardi
Slavoj Zizek