Psychosis and the Quest for Infinity: The Seduction of Madness

Psychosis itself can be subdivided into many different types, such as manic, depressive, and schizophrenic psychosis; drug-induced psychosis and psychosis brought on by trauma; chronic, acute, short-term, and mass psychosis; catatonic and paranoid psychosis, psychoses not otherwise specified,

it. It is not my purpose to improve psychiatric classifications by adducing empirical experiential facts. My reason for using the terms “madness” and “psychosis” is precisely to circumvent medical-psychiatric classifications and, in so doing, to clear the way for the admission of madness to a domain of philosophy, culture, and spirituality.

—Wouter Kusters. A Philosophy of Madness 

One reason Wouter Kusters Philosophy of Madness might appeal to those who have undergone one of the various forms of psychotic break is that he, too, underwent it and came back from that strange world with a message. I know my own break began early on in in puberty or adolescence when my parents got divorced. The shock of this threw my mind into a realm of darkness that would haunt me for years. Later my experience of Viet Nam after being drafted and sent to those jungles. It was a living nightmare I still keep at bay. Returning from it I began questioning everything about my beliefs, my up bringing, the world we live in. I began a long road into every counter-cultural praxis from Crowley’s magick, drugs (LSD, uppers-downers, mescaline, mushrooms, etc.), the various New Age crazes, etc. till I discovered philosophy and the pre-Socratics along with literature of horror, decadence, and surrealist underworlds. These spoke to me of my own horrors of existence, gave me an understanding of what drove me into psychosis to begin with. And through it I found my own way out by pushing myself through it rather than denial I pursued the deeper extremities of my psychosis into those impersonal zones of utter chaos and madness and came out the other side. Changed forever. As Kusters puts it,

“Essentially, every bend in the via mystica psychotica is a negation. Travelers on the mystical-mad path pass through the larger stations of detachment, demagination, delanguization, and dethinking and the less conspicuous way stations of dislocation, degradation, disillusionment, and deep emotion.”

In his book he explicates each of these various stations along the way of this “psychotic praxis” as he terms it. “”Being in a condition of madness means you are trying to resolve the most fundamental questions of existence but in an uncontrolled, wildly associative way. You want to know what it’s all about, what good and evil are, what is at the very heart of existence: you want to know the meaning of life and the cosmos. Such existential questions should not be denied but pondered, not stifled but lived through— even if you risk madness by pursuing them. After all, it is our fate to be confronted by unanswerable questions. You can try to evade them, you can anesthetize yourself or deny their relevance, but sooner or later they will catch up with you, only to haunt you the more you suppress them.” (Kusters)

There is a sense in his book that I, too, affirm: “my book contains more formulas for going mad than for avoiding madness. It is aimed more at “psychotizing” thinkers and philosophers than at re-educating or psycho-educating the mad. It is not about a specter of madness but about the seduction of madness.”. Indeed, the point of his book is not to cure us of madness so much as to guide us into its dark domain: “The wonderful thing about this book is that everything is turned on its head: the madman comes to occupy the chair of the philosopher— and the philosopher ends up in the isolation cell.” A dangerous book? Sure. Unless your prepared to face your darkest intent, uncover the deepest layers of your own existence, understand your own psychosis then walk away, go back to sleep in your normal day to day existence as one of the sleepers of time. As he suggests this book is not for the faint of heart: “The spark that usually ignites our thinking, that propels our existence, is like a wildfire in the mad, if not a bolt of lightning. But paradoxically enough, the ferocity of that inner blaze seems to extinguish life itself. In this book, we pull out all the stops in an effort to make contact with that fire, that luminosity, that warmth.”

The creature I am now is part of this ancient tribe of the mad and insane who learned one thing that old adage: “healer, heal thyself”. I never entered a mental institution, although I came close many times. I somehow lived through almost sixteen years from age thirteen till I was in my late twenties tittering on the edge of not coming back. Many never do. Strangely I cannot put the cause of this reversal into normality on any one thing except that I pushed everything into its extreme, left no stone unturned in my pursuit of an answer, my own quest for as Wouter terms it ‘infinity’. What I discovered for myself which ultimately brought me sanity is the simple nihil that there is no God, no absolute, no answer, no meaning. Existence just is. Either you accept this or you go mad seeking something that is and never will be there. It’s just that simple. The nub is getting to that point and accepting it. Most never do. Most continue to wallow in their unacceptance of a world that is meaningless and seek to fill it with their mad thoughts, dreams, and unfounded delusions.

To be free is to accept the nothingness of existence. The emptiness that will never be filled. There is nothing to be revealed in existence, only that it is. We are just a part of an inexplicable and unfounded thing: the universe. There is no answer to it. There is no question. We alone question it, question ourselves, and unable to find an answer to our own inexplicable presence in this nothingness seek an answer to that strange disquieting question: “Is Life worth living?” It’s a question that will never be resolved because it is already answered: we exist, we live. Asking “why” is what leads to all the sorrow and madness, because there is no one who can answer why we are here. No God. No Absolute of the philosophers. No jokester or Trickster behind the screen. No Wizard of Oz bumbling with the machinery of existence… nothing. Nada, Nada. Nada. But those who cannot accept this go mad, psychotic, insane. They want an answer for their misery, pain, and suffering. They curse the day they were born. They will not be assuaged. They blame this nothingness for being. They demand the impossible, and when it is not forthcoming they turn into that darkness from which there is no return, no respite. At the end is either the gateway to one’s freedom or an endless repetition of the insane loops of reversal into madness. As the ancients mythologized it: the “Gates of Dream” or the “Gates of Ivory” – the first leading to a life lived in freedom and ecstatic derangement absolved of all madness, attuned to the existence we all share in; the second, to an even darker realm of utter chaos and madness without end in a solipsistic void of self-imposed exile and isolation. So which gate will you walk through? 

The Human Security Machine: Kant’s Safety Net and the Escape Velocity of the ‘Dark Power of Will and Desire’

“…the most important philosopher of the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant, seems to have constructed his grand philosophical design, an architecture of concepts and arguments, to sustain and safeguard the reliability of the world, the certainty of knowledge, and the stability of experience. Kant’s philosophy protects the reasonable individual from his mad counterpart. His system guards modern man from thoughts of bottomless skepticism, experiences of unfathomable depths, and the seductions of animal sensuality.”

—Wouter Kusters. A Philosophy of Madness

“Kant’s theory of the spontaneous inventiveness of genius presents the same figure as that of pathological animality, the violent, feral urge towards becoming-inferior that must be suppressed by practical philosophy: an impersonal, energetic unconscious emerges as the as-yet unacknowledged problematic of Occidental philosophy. Non-agentic, lacking the intentional intelligibility of Kant’s ‘will’, and with no regard for architectonic order, this transcendental unconscious is an insurgent field of forces for whose cunning – as Nietzsche would discover – even ‘reason’ itself is but an instrument. Anticipating the psychoanalytical conception of ‘desire’, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche consummate the collapse of intentional transparency into the opacity of a contingent and unknown ‘will’, a ‘purposiveness without purpose’ whose unmasterable irruptions are in fact dissipations – pathological by definition – of energy excessive to that required for (absorbed by) the ‘work’ of being human. At once underlying and overflowing the ‘torture chamber of organic specificity’, or ‘Human Security System’, this inundation creates ‘useless’ new labyrinths, unemployable new fictions that exceed any attempt to systematise knowledge or culture.”—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007  

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