About S.C. Hickman

I'm a poet, short story author, and philosophical speculator of the real within which we all live and have our being. I take an interest in all things: travel, write, love, and most of all ponder the mysteries of existence.

Peter Sloterdijk on Political Gnosis

Adorno’s critical ontology describes the world’s surface as a total trap. Over wide stretches his text reads like a set of instructions for interpreting Being-in-the-world as an absurd pre-trial detention. There seems to be a compulsion for repetition in his thought that, in the most varied social and historical conditions, stereotypically reformulates the dramatic schema of imprisonment and the dream of breaking out.

A primal scene from the text of the older Critical Theory stands out, which in important features resembles the Gnostic mythos: the condition of the individual in historical class societies, whether these are constituted in ancient or modern, bourgeois-democratic or totalitarian terms, is akin to an extramundane soul that has been thrown into the prison of the world and is so out of it that it no longer knows how to say who and where it really is. The only thing certain for this soul is that its place of sojourn fundamentally alienates it. This certainty is as stark as the evidence that the soul in world-exile feels condemned to long for something ‘that would be otherwise.’ But while the Gnosticism of late antiquity, by means of a grand narrative to answer the questions “who we were, and what we have become, where we were or where we were placed, whither we hasten, from what we are redeemed, what birth is and what rebirth,” trusted itself to develop interpretations of the fall into misfortune and ascetic practices for returning home to euphoria, modern Paragnosticism is content to invoke ever anew the gloom of the world scene, while views of lost and hoped-for happiness are only allowed to be painted in black. They depict an image of grandiose austerity, “grey as after sunset and the end of the world,” ruled by modern archons, by evil administrators of the lifeless world: abstraction of exchange, tyranny, bourgeois coldness.

—Peter Sloterdijk, Not Saved

Think of Franz Kafka’s The Castle set in the modern megalopolis of New York City. Are Richard K. Morgan’s Market Forces described by Steven Shaviro as an “exemplary accelerationist fiction”.1 In such a world the corporations now rule an absolute economy in which the “majority of the population lives in violence-ridden squalor behind barbed-wire fences, sequestered in “cordoned zones.” Meanwhile, members of the corporate elite – the only people still able to afford automobiles and gasoline – compete for contracts and promotions through Mad Max – style road rage duels to the death.


  1. Shaviro, Steven. No Speed Limit: Three Essays on Accelerationism.  Univ Of Minnesota Press (January 30, 2015)

Origins of the Liberal Imaginary?

Liberal democracy without the liberal subject seems to be mute at this point. From Rousseau to Mill the fundamental aspects of classical liberal democracy was based on a well-defined sense of Self-Subject with a definite implication toward the voluntarist traditions of Will over Intellect, etc. And yet in the past forty years with the rise of postmodern and analytic thought the notion of Self-Subject has come not only under attack, been undermined, but has now in most current neurosciences collapsed into fiction, parody, and nullity: an empty void of self-reflecting nothingness, a hole or aporia in the center of our inhuman being. So if the Self-Subject no longer exists, if free-will is a fiction, what of Democracy? We seem to continue to believe in it although the basic and central fact that it supports – the modern liberal Subject has disappeared. So what of democracy itself?411oSgmk9kL

Of late been finally getting round to Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. One could say the whole war between Universalists vs. Nominalists, Rationalists vs. Empiricists, Intellect vs. Will etc., all this began in the Western traditions with the concern over the fate of the Soul in Christian thought. From Augustine to Kant the battle from one to the other, Intellect over Will, Will over Intellect was fought for the mind and heart of Christendom. With the slow death of both the philosopher’s God (Nietzsche) and it’s variant in Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and orthodox theologies and mysticisms caught between apophatic darkness and the illuminationist light the notion of the individual as Self-Subject has undergone its apotheosis and in our time decline and disappearance in thought. Why?

Ghosts of the Unknown

“At a speaker series event in the department where I teach, a guest medievalist gave a talk on troubadour songs. She sang a few examples and pointed out intricacies of rhyme and ambiguities of meaning. And then she acknowledged a fact that often intimidates young musicologists away from medieval studies: troubadour notation does not indicate rhythm or duration, so it is impossible for us to know exactly how this music sounded, or as she put it, is supposed to sound. And this aporia meant that we could never argue for any connection between music and lyrics, nor for any musical as opposed to textual meaning. Troubadour songs, in other words, would remain unfathomable and unperceived, an ideal of music with no satisfying reality to anchor it.”

– Joanna Demers, Drone and Apocalypse: An Exhibit Catalog for the End of the World

The above is an example of a known unknown, of a reality that we know existed but is forever closed to us behind the material barriers of time and culture, and yet it haunts us like a broken world of dreams half-perceived – traces in the ruins of some dilapidated yet existent scene. We wander among these ruins seeking truth, finding only bones and silences. Maybe we should look upon our own moment this way, as if from some spectral future, a retroactive portrayal of the ruins of time awaiting us as the catastrophe of our species’ demise becomes more and more prevalent; as the sixth extinction that we love to portray as only those others, the animals and insects, forests, vines, flowers all fade into oblivion. Like members of a blind tribe we cast our eyes into the darkness seeking solace and find none, only the fierce cries of banshee like creatures of the night and void castigating us from some imagined future, our children, and children’s children staring back at us from that void of time in the hollow-laden void of their blackened eyes as they condemn us for our inability to act.

Those on the Right will continue to deny such apocalyptic climacteric change ahead, while those on the Left will shout and speak and threaten but do nothing more. We seem like the ruination of those last men that Nietzsche once spoke of with such astute and prophetic understanding, the decadent tribe who at the end of things would even deny their own obsolescence. Apathy, indecisiveness, inaction… the passive betrayal of our own species. The decadence of blind luxuriance and immeasurable sinking’s into death’s last fold. Nihilism was nothing but this denial of the truth, this denial of reality. We’ve lived in our fictional worlds, created fantastic zones of oblivion to hide our unimaginations in. Like children in a garden we’ve scattered the seeds of the Tree of Life and chopped down its branches and dug up its roots, burned it on the pyre of ancient memories. Nothing remains. Not even the memories…

Like those medieval trouvères we sing but no one can hear us… our tongues, like dark angels deliver only the silences of our kind.

Shaviro On The Neoliberal Strategy: Transgression and Accelerationist Aesthetics

The deadlock of accelerationism as a political strategy has much to do with the aesthetic failure of transgression. They are really two sides of the same process. The acceleration of capitalism itself in the decades since 1980 has become a classic example of how we must be careful what we wish for— because we just might get it. As a result of the neoliberal “reforms” of the past thirty-five years or so, the full savagery of capitalism has been unleashed, no longer held back by the checks and balances of financial regulation and social welfare. At the same time, what Boltanski and Chiapello call the “new spirit of capitalism” successfully took up the subjective demands of the 1960s and 1970s and made them its own. Neoliberalism now offers us things like personal autonomy, sexual freedom, and individual “self-realization”; though of course, these often take on the sinister form of precarity, insecurity, and continual pressure to perform. Neoliberal capitalism today lures us with the prospect of living, in James’s words, “the most intense lives, lives of maximized (individual and social) investment and maximized return,” while at the same time it privatizes, expropriates, and extracts a surplus from everything in sight.

In other words, the problem with accelerationism as a political strategy has to do with the fact that— like it or not— we are all accelerationists now. It has become increasingly clear that crises and contradictions do not lead to the demise of capitalism. Rather, they actually work to promote and advance capitalism, by providing it with its fuel. Crises do not endanger the capitalist order; rather, they are occasions for the dramas of “creative destruction” by means of which, phoenix-like, capitalism repeatedly renews itself. We are all caught within this loop. And accelerationism in philosophy or political economy offers us, at best, an exacerbated awareness of how we are trapped.

Aesthetic accelerationism, unlike the politico-economic kind, does not claim any efficacy for its own operations. It revels in depicting situations where the worst depredations of capitalism have come to pass, and where people are not only unable to change things but are even unable to imagine trying to change things. This is capitalist realism in full effect. Aesthetic accelerationism does not even deny that its own intensities serve the aim of extracting surplus value and accumulating profit. The evident complicity and bad faith of these works, their reveling in the base passions that Nietzsche disdained, and their refusal to sustain outrage or claim the moral high ground: all these postures help to move us toward the disinterest and epiphenomenality of the aesthetic. So I don’t make any political claims for this sort of accelerationist art— indeed, I would undermine my whole argument were I to do so. But I do want to claim a certain aesthetic inefficacy for them— which is something that works of transgression and negativity cannot hope to attain today

—Steven Shaviro,  No Speed Limit: Three Essays on Accelerationism

 

Lovecraft’s Aesthetic: Atmosphere, Sensation, and the Supernormal

One thing H.P. Lovecraft despised in authors of horror was “natural explanation” which he felt marred the atmosphere and the cosmic aesthetic. Speaking of “Monk” Lewis and his Gothic novel he’d say: “One great thing may be said of the author; that he never ruined his ghostly visions with a natural explanation.”

This sense that in the aesthetic of horror the mystery should never be reduced by some false scientific explanation is at the heart of Lovecraft’s fiction and critical appraisal in his Supernatural horror in Literature. The other aspect of a weird tale he insisted on was atmosphere and strong sensation: “Atmosphere is the all-important thing, for the final criterion of authenticity is not the dovetailing of a plot but the creation of a given sensation.” The importance of “atmosphere,” the cosmic point of view, the superiority of impressions and images over the “mere mechanics of plot”— this is Lovecraft’s core aesthetic, and has stood the test of time and has been little improved upon by subsequent scholarship. This is the core of that aesthetic of horror and the weird:

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain— a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.1

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Where is Wisdom to be Found?

…the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

—Koheleth

Am I a misanthropist? Not really, it’s not humanity I hate as much as it is certain idiots. After a life of reading and working through the gamut of our literary, philosophical, scientific, historical, and artistic milieu, our cultural heritage: this thing we call Western civilization for lack of a better term – I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all for naught, that most of the vast archive of textuallity in our libraries is plain bullshit, delusion, madness. I don’t mean it wasn’t worth it, but that for the most part this struggle of men and women across centuries, these cries to the void, or rants and railings against the stupidity of the age fell on ignorant and mindless beings. Why? Because the human species for the most part lives out their lives enfolded in ignorance, having never awakened to the messages left in the bottles of time and libraries. Most people if they read at all pick up an occasional magazine, cartoon, or – in our time, browse the image ridden web reading about current events: Hollywood stars, sports Moghuls, political malfeasance, trivia, the rants and cravings of … yes, creatures such as myself…  but they never – and, again, I say never will pick up a book and read it, and not only read it but work through it, listen, digest, contemplate, mulch over, speak to others about it, write about it, let it sink down and become a part of them… we are all an illiterate and mindless generation that get our brain food from the crumbs of culture rather than the dark hinterlands of true culture.

Admittedly, as much as I rail against humanism, I know in the end that I’m a product of it, that’ll I’ll never escape that fact, that it was those very humanists who encouraged me to read, to write, to think, to explore the vast world of learning. I have no actual quarrel with these men and women. How could I? They were just as deluded as I am in believing that knowledge was going to ultimately give them something back, that it would give them that ineluctable and indefinable essence of the philosophical holy grail: Wisdom. It want, it will only lead you up to that strange and bewildering height of the sublime and ridiculous where one can confront nothing more and nothing less than one’s own ignorance. For in the end it is not learning, no matter how deep and long one reads, that will give you wisdom. No. Wisdom is this impossible confrontation with the absolute however you define it: God, Void, Abyss…  the limit of thought, the horizon beyond which you must leave off human learning and enter into a deeper ignorance, awaken to powers within and without that will disturb you, frighten you, terrorize you, and give you the dark and painful truth: that human knowledge and learning will not give you the thing you seek, that your life, your love of books, of knowledge, of science, etc., is but the ashes of a dead world on the edge of nothingness. Human kind will one day disappear, vanish into that evolutionary slime pit from which it once arose never to be seen or heard from again, and all our vane struggle to attain knowledge and wisdom will disappear with us. Nothing will remain. That is wisdom, the harsh truth we are gifted with, the terrible responsibility of life, of death:

Nothing in this universe returns. Only endless death and silence, the wastelands of the void, the eternal darkness of scattered light… the cold and unending vectors of an Abyss – a black hole at the very core of this mindless rage where light turns night and the decay of stars gives way to the great emptiness

Wisdom literature has always been harsh for a reason… Koheleth, the Gatherer, of the Old Testament was probably the boldest and still primal wisdom writer, and gave us in the end the first hint of nihilism in literature, of a world without salvation, redemption, God, etc. A world in which wisdom was in fact accepting the determinism of the cosmos over which none of us has any control or mastery; and our misery and despair come from not accepting this fact – but, instead, seeking to control and master our fates as if we could.

The New Testament was bound to a quest for another type of Wisdom: the peace that passeth understanding. Ultimately that is the failure of intellect and an acceptance of the irrational fate that surrounds us on all sides. God, Christ, all this human crap and anthropomorphic shedding of tears, pity, etc. this personification of the impersonal and indifferent truth of the Absolute, the limit and boundary of our thought comes to this key truth: that we are blind and lost among delusions, that for all our knowledge we are still ignorant and bound by powers that we will never master or control. Some will despair, while others like Voltaire or Falstaff will produce wit and excess, grace and charm – the power of laughter in the face of the impossible. Bataille’s wisdom – the tears of laughter. Pain and suffering, misery and distemper prevail, yet the only antidote is laughter and wit – the twin powers that can push back the annihilating light if only for a moment.

As Plato through Socrates said long ago Wisdom, the Good Life, cannot be taught by way of technê (i.e., knowledge, craft, expertise, etc.), only by way of living and knowing (Sophia). For Plato, the Good was not merely an intellectual construct or ideal. It was something that could be experienced directly — and this experience was the highest attainment in life. He left us with some beautiful descriptions of this experience. Here, for example, is a passage from the Phaedo:

“But when returning into herself . . . [the soul] passes into the other world, the region of purity, and eternity, and immortality, and unchangeableness, which are her kindred, and with them she ever lives, when she is by herself and is not let or hindered; then she ceases from her erring ways, and being in communion with the unchanging is unchanging. And this state of the soul is called wisdom. . . .

The soul is in the very likeness of the divine, and immortal, and intellectual, and uniform, and indissoluble, and unchangeable…”

This is Plato’s idealism, his seeking of a fixed, bounded, pure world of Ideas, etc.

Biblical wisdom was of another sort, Ethos rather than the Good: this sense of the lived experience of change rather than fixity, the wisdom in Koheleth or Ecclesiastes:

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

Yet, in our age of nihilism, there is the aesthetic as Nietzsche would advocate: the ability to stylize our cosmic uncertainties, to produce an overall pattern to our meaningless existence, to give it a shape that is neither the Good of the Plato, nor the Ethos of Koheleth, but rather the martialing of the power of our non-knowing lived experience and intellect; neither binding us to some eternal world of verities (Plato), or to some ancient tradition of received wisdom (Ethos), but rather in process of lived uncertainty that everything is revisable (Scientia) in a chaotic chaosmos.

We Were Never Human

She met his eyes wide open, broad and inhuman, like the universal eyes of night, judging and damning her act, with remote absolute merciless comprehension. She was like a touched sleepwalker, unnerved and annihilated…

—Robinson Jeffers, Selected Poetry

In Jacques Derrida’s view, we live in a state of originary technicity. It is impossible to define the human as either a biological entity (a body or species) or a philosophical state (a soul, mind or consciousness), he argues, because our “nature” is constituted by a relation to technological prostheses. According to a logic that will be very familiar to readers of his work, technology is a supplement that exposes an originary lack within what should be the integrity or plenitude of the human being itself.1

Against the Lacanian-Derridean metaphysics of “lack” and supplement one would rather follow Deleuze and Guattari who see a fullness and productivity rather than lack that needs supplements at the core of the machinic multiplicity we term the human. (Should we finally rid ourselves of the name “human”? Have we ever been human?) Instead of the humanist and post-structural supplementarianism, let us decenter the human into the non-human, flatten the scales among various technics and technologies. Forget agency, self-reflexive voids, dialectical oscillations are any other derivative of the humanist idealisms of the past two-hundred years. Begin with the machinic as a multiplicity, a productive factory of technics and technologies that engender various technical objects (Simondon) of which we are one part of the machinic phylum.

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The Ruin

When the Earth was decentered from the universe by Copernican astronomy, this was more than compensated for by the innumerable images of the Earth produced over the years by artists and scientists alike. The Earth was, and is, in many ways, still at the center of things. In this sense, the first televised images of the Earth can no doubt be regarded as the pinnacle of a species solipsism, one that has its underside in the many computerized film images of a disaster-worn, zombie-ridden, apocalyptic landscape. We are so fixated on the Earth – that is, on ourselves – that we would rather have a ruined Earth than no Earth at all.

—Eugene Thacker, Starry Speculative Corpse: Horror of Philosophy: Vol 2

Let Death Come Quickly

From a series of tweets – A Dark Pessimist vs. an ultra-Optimist (A Daily Rant – BEWARE!):

We worry over Trump while the planet burns… is this not madness?

Humanity is a transitional thing… who wants to stay its execution. The guillotine is readying itself whether we will or no.

Think on a couple things: Sixth Extinction and Climacteric Collapse.

For decades we’ve hashed this over, and nothing yet has been learned. Not much hope that such will change as the future implodes on us… humans are slow learners, it takes an apocalyptic event to wake them…

That’s the problem: we’re human… study the atrocity of human history. Humans hate themselves, each other, and their planet… nothing will be done, nothing will change. One should assume the worst case scenario and begin making plans to leave the planet, else openly revolt against the insanity. There will be no third way, no third options… no saviors, redeemers… we are alone with the alone.

Fight or sink… no one is truly prepared to face the horror and violence ahead, we continue deliriously to play our blame games while the fires roar and seep into our moment from the future. Strip the Biblical Apocalypse of its supernatural veneer and then push it to the nth degree, then you might just come to a realization of our future…

Do I presume to prophesy? No. I only see the tendencies that surround me. One can continue blindly to sing the happy anthems of Optimism, but that to me is a fool’s errand. I’ll have none of it. I’ll speak the truth as I see it. If it’s an ugly truth, so be it. People can rail against me, but when the facts become plain in the future decades people will turn back and ask why we did nothing, nothing at all.

Talks, accords, speeches, book after book, conference after conference: and, yet, nothing is done; nations continue down their own paths of doom. So be it. Maybe this is what we truly want in the end: death by suicide, genocide, war, famine, disease, atrocity after atrocity, turning a blind eye to the horror of our kind, unwilling to admit that our planet is dying and we killed it. Forget God, its the earth that we’re killing in this century… we truly must have a thirst for annihilation.

Mark Fisher once termed it ‘depressive realism’, realizing one’s sanity amid the insanity of the world depends on exiting the madness. A depression is an opening into and out of that insanity, a slow and painful withdrawal and exit from the collective delirium. Once awakened one is like those ancient Gnostics: free – and, yet, it is the freedom of the singular truth that one is alone with the alone. Sundered from the apathy of our collective herd mentality, we walk amid the inscapes of sanity like members of a new tribe: brokers for a reality void of the terrible horror of humanity. To accept that as Nietzsche’s once suggested, that we are a bridge, a transition – is to become complicit with this fate, to love it: amor fati. To exit the human is to struggle for the post-human which entails sloughing off the dark heritage of the human collective and its deliriums.

But then again I should be like Joyce’s famed author, indifferent and withdrawn, paring my fingernails amused at the idiocy of homo sapiens, or like Nero playing a fiddle while Rome burns – allowing humans to do what they’ve always done best, deny their own responsibility in what is happening. Indifferent, impersonal, non-plussed at the stupidity of our kind. Like everything else we do we love to have some scapegoat to answer for our own sins of commission or omission… today its Trump, tomorrow or the next day it’ll be some other yokel… in the near future there will remain no time for blame, only death… let the death of our species come quickly.

Lovecraft and the Great Outside

Lovecraft and the Great Outside

Time produces itself in a circuit, passing through the virtual interruption of what is to come, in order that the future which arrives is already infected, populated…

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

As Eugene Thacker suggests Lovecraft not only sought to break down the barriers between the natural and supernatural, he saw what we’ve mistakenly confused with religious vision (i.e., the supernatural) as that hidden part of the natural (noumenal) that our brains because of some malformed evolutionary design blanked out, filtered out, and left in the dark:

“[Lovecraft] implicitly makes the argument that not only is there no distinction between the natural and supernatural, but that what we sloppily call “supernatural” is simply another kind of nature, but one that lies beyond human comprehension – not in a relative but in an absolute sense. Herein lies the basis of what Lovecraft called “cosmic horror” – the paradoxical realization of the world’s hiddenness as an absolute hiddenness.”1

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Ballard’s World: Reactivation not Reaction

In the future – this is part of the problem in the ‘arts’ as well – you will get some radical new idea, but within three minutes it’s totally accepted, and it’s coming out in your local supermarket.

– J.G. Ballard

Ballard loved the surrealists, but discovered that we didn’t need to express the surreality of the world because it was already being done by consumer culture. For Ballard it was Warhol and Pop-Art that was the wave of the future, at least in the period he was writing Crash and Atrocity Exhibition. As he’d say:

“We haven’t changed. It’s the public who have caught up with us. In England in the sixties and seventies, the novel was secondary, far behind the visual arts as a purveyor of the imagination for a cultivated public. This latter group preferred then to interest themselves in pop art, in David Hockney or Andy Warhol. As far as fiction was concerned, television replaced it. …

The surrealists have been the biggest influence on me, because they anticipated by about fifty years the fact that the external environment can be remade by the mind and that this is the world we inhabit now, where external reality is a complete fiction in every conceivable way.”1

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The End of Work: Human Obsolescence and the Undead

Machinic Involution: Human Exclusion and Obsolescence

In our age non-humans rather than humanity has become the focus of certain trends within philosophy and the sciences. The age of human exceptionalism is at an end some tell us, others that humans were never exceptional to begin with rather they were the creatures who like Baron Munchausen believed their own fictional self-importance to the point that the fictions became truth. Jean Baudrillard in his cynical fashion once spoke of the obsolescence of art:  “Since the nineteenth century,” he writes, “it has been art’s claim that it is useless . . . Extending this principle, it is easy enough to elevate any object to uselessness to turn it into a work of art. This is precisely what the ‘ready-made’ does, when it simply withdraws an object from its function, without changing it in any way, and thereby turns it into a gallery piece.” In an automated society in which humans are being obsolesced and replaced by machininc intelligence and robotics in which humans themselves will become redundant, useless, and excluded will we be elevated to the function of “ready-mades” – artistic artifacts from a previous but now obsolete age of spare parts?

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Post-Prison Memories: The Hospital

A friend Tony Cochran shares his dire experiences in prison after being falsely accused…

Tony Cochran

After being sexually assaulted by a cellmate, transferred from HMP Bedford to HMP Norwich to HMP Isis (inside Belmarsh’s wall), I collapsed physically and mentally. My diet, being largely vegan, had been insufficient. It is a struggle to maintain a vegetarian diet in prison, let alone veganism. Apples, oranges and the occasional soy yogurt were my daily bread for the first 60+ days. Once you arrive at a new prison you are moved at least twice before the administration “settles” you, and this is only if you have reached the terminus of your stay in Her Majesty’s care. This is most unsettling: imagine being chucked out of your house every couple of weeks, sent to a filthy place with shit on the walls, hair everywhere, and – if you’re extra lucky – blood stains on the walls, floors and sink!

344C032200000578-3594987-image-a-60_1463497014156 HMP Belmarsh & HMP Isis Image Courtesy of: The Daily…

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Abject Horror

There looms, within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside, ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable. It lies there, quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire, which, nevertheless, does not let itself be seduced. Apprehensive, desire turns aside; sickened, it rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful—a certainty of which it is proud holds on to it. But simultaneously, just the same, that impetus, that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned. Unflaggingly, like an inescapable boomerang, a vortex of summons and repulsion places the one haunted by it literally beside himself.

When I am beset by abjection, the twisted braid of affects and thoughts I call by such a name does not have, properly speaking, a definable object. The abject is not an object facing me, which I name or imagine. Nor… an otherness ceaselessly fleeing in a systematic quest of desire. What is abject is not my correlative, which, providing me with someone or something else as support, would allow me to be more or less detached and autonomous. … A weight of meaninglessness, about which there is nothing insignificant, and which crushes me. On the edge of nonexistence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards. The primers of my culture.

—Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror

Cosmic Indifferentism

Lovecraft’s early work— up to 1926— is entirely routine and conventional, utilising supernatural or macabre elements with occasional competence but without transcendent brilliance. Nothing— not even “The Rats in the Walls” (1923), a model short story but really nothing more than a supremely able manipulation of Poe-like elements— could have prepared us for the quantum leap in power and range revealed suddenly in “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926). All Lovecraft critics are right to see in this tale the commencement of Lovecraft’s strongest and most typical vein of writing; but they may be right for the wrong reasons. Yes, of course, this is where we are first given a glimpse of Lovecraft’s ever-evolving myth-cycle; but, more important, it is his first truly “cosmic” work and one in which many of his principal concerns— our position in the cosmos; the state of civilisation; the role of history in human and cosmic affairs— are adumbrated.

—S. T. Joshi, The Weird Tale

On Lovecraft’s cosmic indifferentism:

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. . . . To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown— the shadow-haunted Outside— we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold. (SL 2.150)

…there is another phase of cosmic phantasy (which may or may not include frank Yog-Sothothery) whose foundations appear to me as better grounded than those of ordinary oneiroscopy; personal limitation regarding the sense of outsideness. I refer to the aesthetic crystallisation of that burning & inextinguishable feeling of mixed wonder & oppression which the sensitive imagination experiences upon scaling itself & its restrictions against the vast & provocative abyss of the unknown. … The time has come when the normal revolt against time, space, & matter must assume a form not overtly incompatible with what is known of reality— when it must be gratified by images forming supplements rather than contradictions of the visible & mensurable universe. And what, if not a form of non-supernatural cosmic art, is to pacify this sense of revolt— as well as gratify the cognate sense of curiosity? (SL 3.294– 96)

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Irreverence

Disillusionment’s child is irreverence, and irreverence became one of my major heritages from an angry, irreverent generation. In this way, I have not changed. I am still irreverent. I still feel the same contempt for and still reject so-called objective decisions made without passion and anger. Objectivity, like the claim that one is nonpartisan or reasonable, is usually a defensive posture used by those who fear involvement in the passions, partisanships, conflicts, and changes that make up life; they fear life. An “objective” decision is generally lifeless. It is academic and the word “academic” is a synonym for irrelevant.

—Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals 

Laconism

Is there a better sign of “civilization” than laconism? To stress, to explain, to prove—so many forms of vulgarity. Anyone who pretends to a minimum of tenue, far from fearing sterility must apply himself to it, must scuttle words in the name of the Word, must compound with silence, departing from it only by moments and the better to fall back into it. The maxim, however dubious it may be as a genre, nonetheless constitutes an exercise in modesty, since it permits us to wrest ourselves from the drawbacks of verbal plethora. Less demanding, because less condensed, the portrait is generally a sort of maxim, diluted in some cases, padded in others; yet it can, under exceptional circumstances, assume the rhythm of an exploded maxim, evoking infinity by the accumulation of features and the will to be exhaustive: we are then in the presence of a phenomenon without analogy, of a case, that of a writer who, by dint of feeling too confined in a language, transcends it and escapes from it—with all the words it contains . He does them violence, uproots them, takes them into himself, in order to do with them what seems best to himself without consideration for them or for the reader, upon whom he inflicts an unforgettable, a magnificent martyrdom.

—E. M. Cioran,  Drawn and Quartered 

Time’s Error

In order to grasp the essence of the historical process, or rather its lack of essence, we must acknowledge that all posthistorical truths are truths of error because they attribute a proper nature to what possesses nothing of the kind, a substance to what cannot have one. The theory of a double truth permits us to discern the place history occupies in the scale of unrealities, paradise of sleepwalkers, galloping obnubilation. The truth is, history does not quite lack essence, since it is the essence of deception, key to all that blinds us, all that helps us live in time.

 —E. M.  Cioran, Drawn and Quartered 

Programming Culture: Soft Thought and Lived Abstractions

Programming Culture: Soft Thought and Lived Abstractions

Randomness has become the condition of programming culture. … The computational aesthetic of the curve is now the dominant expression of postcybernetic control

—Luciana Parisi, Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space

For Parisi the abstractions of binary code, the algorithmic logic of mathematics that encodes the programmatic functions that are the drives and engines of our digital world have become “modes of living” – performing entities exposing the “internal inconsistencies of the rational system of governance, inconsistencies that correspond to the proliferation of increasingly random data within it. Instead of granting the infallible execution of automated order and control, the entropic tendency of data to increase in size, and thus to become random, drives infinite amounts of information to interfere with and to reprogram algorithmic procedures.” (p. 10) This randomizing or mutation of the digital matrix opens a door into the world without us, a realm in which the dividual entities of energetic modes of being outside the human take on the mentation of intellect thereby performing many of the functions humans once did: the ability and capacity to select, evaluate, transform, and produce data (p. 10).  In Parisi’s terms “this new level of determination forces governance to rely on indeterminate probabilities, and thus to become confronted with data that produce alien rules. These rules are at once discrete and infinite, united and fractalized. (p. 11)

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The Utopian Mind: Ideology, Capital, and the Anthropocene

A state of mind is utopian when it is incongruous with the state of reality within which it occurs.

—Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia

We are all utopians now. I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t at one time or other thought to themselves: the world is fucking insane. Look around you at the world today. Charles Derber tells us that sociopathy is antisocial behavior by an individual or institution that typically advances self-interest, such as making money, while harming others and attacking the fabric of society. In a sociopathic society, sociopathic behavior, both by individuals and institutions, is the outcome of dominant social values and power arrangements. A sociopathic society, paradoxically, creates dominant social norms that are antisocial— that is, norms that assault the well-being and survival of much of the population and undermine the social bonds and sustainable environmental conditions essential to any form of social order.  Like an autoimmune disease, such antisocial societal programming leads to behavior that weakens and can, in the most extreme scenario, kill the society itself.1

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The Carnival of Globalisation: Hyperstition, Surveillance, and the Empire of Reason

Edmund Berger in his essay Underground Streams speaking of various tactics used by the Situationists, Autonomia, and the Carnivalesque:

“Like the Situationists the Autonomia would engage with the tradition of the Carnivalesque alongside a Marxist political analysis. Bakhtin had described the carnival as “political drama without footlights,” where the dividing line between “symbol and reality” was extremely vague, and the Autonomia had embodied this approach through their media-oriented tactics of detournement. But under a regime of emergency laws a great portion of the Autonomia was sent to prison or into exile, leaving its legacy through an extensive network of radical punk and anarchist squats and social centers.”

One of the things we notice is that the Autonomia movement actually struck a nerve at the heart of Power and forced their hand, which obligingly reacted and used their power-over and dominion of the Security System to screen out, lock up, and exclude this threat. That’s the actual problem that will have to be faced by any emancipatory movement in the present and future: How to create a movement that can be subversive of the system, and yet chameleon like not rouse the reactionary forces to the point of invoking annihilation or exclusionary measures?

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Game Players in the Cosmic Night

Mark Fisher in one of his essays Eerie Thanatos on the work of Nigel Kneale and Alan Garner implies that long ago humanity was abducted out of historical time into a timeless mythic traumatized time-world as game players in a deadly game of chance and necessity; and, yet, forgetful of our roles we’ve become utterly oblivious of the patterns that move us through the dynamic and repetitive motions of endless traumatic time-loops. Like comic and tragic jesters we unconsciously align ourselves to the eternal return of mythic forms shifting red or blue among the time-worlds, playing out ancient and catastrophic dramas for the pleasure of malevolent forces in the endless darkness of the cosmic night:

The impression we form is that it is not that linear time perception or experience that has been corrupted by trauma; it is that time “itself” has been traumatized — so that we come to comprehend “history” not as a random sequence of events, but as a series of traumatic clusters. This broken time, this sense of history as a malign repetition, is “experienced” as seizure and breakdown; I have placed “experienced” in inverted commas here because the kind of voiding interruption of subjectivity seems to obliterate the very conditions that allows experience to happen.

It is as if the combination of adolescent erotic energy with an inorganic artefact … produces a trigger for a repeating of the ancient legend. It is not clear that “repeating” is the right word here, though. It might be better to say that the myth has been re-instantiated, with the myth being understood as a kind of structure that can be implemented whenever the conditions are right. But the myth doesn’t repeat so much as it abducts individuals out of linear time and into its “own” time, in which each iteration of the myth is in some sense always the first time.

…the mythic is part of the virtual infrastructure which makes human life as such possible. It is not the case that first of all there are human beings, and the mythic arrives afterwards, as a kind of cultural carapace added to a biological core. Humans are from the start — or from before the start, before the birth of the individual — enmeshed in mythic structures.

Like dark gods who have fallen into our own traumatic void we follow each others lives even as we die each others deaths. Gifted with forgetfulness our memories serve only the energetic dynamo at the heart of our unconscious desires. Game Players in the endless Cosmic Night we seek to let the Outside seep into our cold minds, indifferent to the slippage of time revolving in our inner being we seek neither redemption nor triumph, only the annihilation of all desire. And, yet, that is the one thing in the Kingdom of Death one cannot extinguish: desire. This is the eternity of our hellish paradise…

If one were to seek out one novel that brings such a thought together it would be Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time… A war is underway to determine the fate of the universe. Both sides use time travel to change the course of historical events to suit their own ends. These opposing powers, known only as the Spiders and Snakes, exist outside of our known time-space continuum, and thus are able to move freely throughout space and time as we know it. They recruit soldiers and agents by plucking people out of their mortal existences in regular time and offering them a sort of conditional immortality as spatial-temporal nomads if they fight in this universal conflict known as the Change War. Outside of our universe exists an isolated pocket of space-time that serves as a recuperation station (kind of like a USO center) for the Spider soldiers. A motley crew of characters end up together at this facility, including a Nazi commandant, a Roman legionnaire, a Civil War soldier, an ancient Greek amazon, a prehistoric moon creature, and a Venusian satyr. Though they’ve all come to this way station for rest and relaxation, they soon find themselves faced with a predicament possibly even more perilous than the war that rages outside.


  1. Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie (pp. 96-97). Repeater (January 31, 2017)

 

 

The Weird and Eerie: Paradox of the Anomalous Outside

The Paradox of the Anomalous

The concept of fate is weird in that it implies twisted forms of time and causality that are alien to ordinary perception, but it is also eerie in that it raises questions about agency: who or what is the entity that has woven fate?

—Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie

Over the years I’ve thought about many of the experiences of my youth before such things as paranormal events were even registered in the culture I grew up in. With the divorce of my parents when I was twelve years of age I’d become a very young man, full of hate for both my father and for all forms of authority, a prime candidate for what our psychosocial police would label as mentally unstable and ready for a psychotic break. Raised within a deeply Christian worldview, the protestant world of Southern Methodist and Baptist I was already indoctrinated into apocalyptic and millennialist thought that was becoming more and more prevalent in that era. Yet, nothing prepared me for the darker influx of events I could neither understand nor control, and yet because of their power and my mistrust of authority was even more afraid to discuss with family or Church authorities. So I lived with the darkness for years, circling between anomalous events of affective madness, caught between seeking a rational explanation and a religious one. What if there were a new path forward that reduces this neither to secular-scientistic nor religious-mythic forms, but rather opens outward to what Quentin Meillassoux termed the “Great Outdoors” – a contingent opening that does not resolve experience of fact to sufficient reason or the exclusion of the middle but rather stays with the paradoxical and anomalous and listens to it on its own non-human terms rather than bringing it back into our circle of axioms, propositions, and philosophical frames of reference? What if dark realism is after all a non-human opening to a philosophy of the anomalous?

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On Dark Realism: Part Three

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

—H.P. Lovecraft

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

—John Milton, Paradise Lost 

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

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On Dark Realism: Part Two

On Speculative Realism and Materialism

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

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

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

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

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

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On Dark Realism: Part One

On Dark Realism

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

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

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

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

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

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Technicity and the Future of Technocapitalism

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

 —Pierre Ducassé, The Philosopher among Artists and Technicians

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

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

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The Magical Universe: Gilbert Simondon and Technicity

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

—Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future

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

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

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

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Techno-Sorcery: Science, Capital, and Abstraction

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—Arthur C. Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Necrophilic Vision of J.G. Ballard

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

—J. G. Ballard, Crash: A Novel

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

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

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

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

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

Technological Desire in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Eros, Death, and Ecstasy

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

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

—Georges Bataille, Eroticism, Death, and Sensuality