Clark Ashton Smith: Tsathoggua, the ancient god of hunger and Sloth

Tsathoggua, the ancient god of hunger and sloth sat in the depths of his slime infested temple worshiped by his minions who bring him fresh offerings of flesh and blood. The lord of darkness and decay, his eyes red and glowing, held a sceptre made of bones and skulls in one hand, and a human sacrifice in the other. His bloated body barely fits in the stone throne, carved of ancient symbols.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Consolations of Madness

“That which others hear or read of, I felt and practised myself; they get their knowledge by books, I mine by melancholizing.”
― Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

The true melancholic never recovers from his condition, and if he notices that things have an unknown face as well, he will feel eternal nostalgia for the unknown landscape toward which that face is looking. From then on, sadness, that “enigmatic pleasure,” will not only catch hold of him every now and then but will attach to him like a shadow. Sadness, the attraction to evil (ill humor), cannot be clarified with the aid of reason; it is inexplicable (on the basis of sociology, anthropology, theology, or the philosophy of history) because the enigma of evil, of nothingness, is precisely that it is elusive: if one were to force it into concepts, one would be doing violence to oneself. The melancholic is incapable of hanging on to anything; he feels that existence has cast him out, and he takes the view that his life is a fatal mistake, for which he condemns the whole of existence. The mysterious naïveté that separates him from everyone else is precisely what makes him incapable of distinguishing his self from existence. Whatever he touches, he is thrown back on himself; and if he looks into himself, he catches a glimpse of a miniature copy of the world. Endless deprivation makes his loneliness unbearable, but only he knows of what he had been deprived: for him, lack is a kind of fulfillment, just as in losing himself he arrives back at himself as an ever-more ephemeral imprint of his ego. As if we were looking through a telescope, bewildered, to see whether the outside world continued inside us, or as if we were looking back from outside at our ego, wielding the telescope in confusion. But let the telescope be reversed and aimed at the by-now barely discernible figure of the melancholic, letting our eye rest on him for a while— only then to reverse the perspective again and look out at the overpoweringly magnified world. Who is right? The melancholic or the world? It is no use swinging the telescope— like Nietzsche’s restless boatman, we will never be able to decide whether we should feel that infinity is a cage or, in fact, freedom.1

  1. László F. Földényi. Melancholy. Yale University Press (April 26, 2016).

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Nightmare Town

“Houses dream, did you know that?” I asked the shock-haired boy who followed me, head bowed (perhaps in prayer). “All things dream, to one degree or another. And sometimes our waking selves share dreams of the darkened hollow, the deep forest, city squares. Like them, houses dream, and when those dreams are nightmares, we call them haunted. This is such a house.”
― Jon Padgett, The Secret of Ventriloquism

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Posthuman Futures

Posthuman Futures

As I take the rabbit hole into my posthuman landscape with the help of David Roden and Justin Isis I begin seeing strange things…

In fashion a contamination of period styles from all aspects of earth history, an influx of male_autocrat_19genetic hybridity from predatory insectoids (i.e., the greatest predators of the insect kingdom: Arachnocampa luminosa, Dragonfly, Siafu ant, Praying mantis, Japanese hornet), an Autocratic predatory society based on abstraction and absolute sensation of surface male_autocrat_13tensions based on bionomic-nanotech body armor and resilience, a world not based on inheritance of blood-lines but of mood and ambition (Justin Isis – on in which the ancient sense of heraldry, sigil-suits, Holographic tags, drone eyes), artificial flesh and clothing incorporating ai and quantum matrix infusions. An architecture as well that shifts as the winds of climate change transform, mobile, ready to move, based on extensive and elaborated, elegant and heraldic systems of male_autocrat_16biotech-solar-nanotechnolgy that will construct itself out of local environmental needs and designs. This is not a near future world but will obviously place it in the concept abstract category of speculative futures incorporating the posthuman and neo-decadent paradigm.

There is much to do, much to work through, much to design as one incorporates a mutligenetic hybridity, mutlicultural refractions, multihistorical infusions, mutlitechnological incorporations, and neo-economic futurism based on letting the abstractions of the Outside in. I’m only at the conceptual stage and elaborating tentatively the tendencies toward such a male_autocrat_30world. Of course, I’m incorporating and as always beholden to the current posthuman scholarship, artists, architects, designers, fashion, etc. I’d have to name a hundred names that over the past decade have influence my thought. I need to gather a list. But two have hit me from different though parallel thought and moods: Justin Isis, David Roden, and Neo-Decadence,

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with blender 3D, Photoshop, Midjourney ai, and other digital tools.

A Nice Little Miniature Globe: Have a Horror Holiday!

I just love miniature globes with all the little scenes carefully crafted in them… maybe we are just a scene in some horror merchant’s hellish paradise… what strange beast hides among the bones of the earth twitching and squirming among the tidepools of time…

Happy Holidays in infernal paradise…

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with blender 3D, Photoshop, Midjourney ai, and other digital tools.

Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories


Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories

“q-thinks Nessa Map’s sandy hair pale freckled, her skin’s persistent taint of cellulose from rotting books. Ligotti renders such things equivalent and useless: libraries, care homes, monasteries, cemeteries, craters, parking lots – ‘starless cities of insanity,’ the back-street medicine shop where his narrator loiters. ‘Medicine-shop situations’ without exception. I cannot, but if I could, I might except the periodic visits from a floating puppet in an anachronistic Pierrot costume.”

—David Roden, Snuff Memories

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with blender 3D, Photoshop, Midjourney ai, and other digital tools.

Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories

Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories

David’s work is forcing me to think against myself. I see figural, and not abstract; and, yet, I need to turn myself inside out or outside in and see without seeing. New concepts, new techniques. Reading the passage below one can visually see it as physical, but how to see with the unseeing eye the conceptuality in it? This is my task:

“The Editor bursts from our belly and probes the air with lacy, silky antenna. We sponge the area defensively, soaking up blood and scraping something hard and pliant, like a soft shell below my thorax. This body is an enduring mystery.”

I let you decide…
©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Visions of a Fantastic Future: Posthuman Visions of the Weird

The anti-representationalist strategies, this aesthetic of ‘abstract horror’, and the fantastic realist use of a conceptual terror fused in sensual abstraction. Along with use abstract concepts rather than metaphors to describe and think the physical against the transcendence mode in metaphysics of two thousand years. —My Aesthetics of the Dark Fantastic

I’ve always been a devotee of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realists whose works unlike the surrealists was not wholly irrational and absurd but dealt with a fusion of consciousness with the unconscious of the world itself. Their philosophy is of a dualistic nature, echoing the philosophies of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and the psychological theories of Freud and pessimal_2Jung, but one can also detect traces of ancient myths and religions, especially those of Mesopotamian origin and belief-systems and the classic struggle between Apollonian and Dionysian characteristics.

These artists of the Vienna School draw their inspirations from the layered labyrinthine underground which represents the other side of life and psyche, the darker layers of dream and nightmare. I’ve attempted in digital art to bring this out through the use of various omnicide_1techniques and styles always with the intent of fusing my own philosophical preoccupations with pessimism and posthumanism. This other side, which is an inner imaginative-inspirational counterpart to the real outer world, expressed with the help of logic-alogic associations, analogisation and symbolization could be seen as an alternate reality. Like in dreams, the categories of outer reality and of space and time are dissolved, and past and future blends with the present. Cause and effect are interchangeable, and the infinite realm of the soul is traversed with the help of imagination and fantasy, explored, ecstatically experienced and presented through artistic-creative activity. Continue reading

I Have Been Scorched

I have not slept; the darkness would not let me. I have met the daemon within, and he would not let me go till I released him in form…

I’ve been down this path before in my life, but not as intensely as this. I have been scorched by the flames of this dark power and lived. I know I need sleep, and I will. He is burning in me.

Those who have been touched by the daemon within them know of what I speak. It is not a spiritual disease, nor a physical sickness. To be touched by the daemon is to know the unknown as unknown and unknowable. It is, and it rides you like firestorm, it’s wings beating, beating…

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Self-Portrait in Darkness

The prince of darkness is a gentleman!
—William Shakespeare

“What hath night to do with sleep?”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

“Perhaps the maniac is the only true keeper of the promise.”
–Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh, Omnicide

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories

“We see but do not see, since there is nothing to which the sight can be compared.”

David Roden, Snuff Memories

Art Inspired by David Roden’s Snuff Memories

“We as future corpse. In the wake of the infantas, viscera moths pop and circle in the thermals above the refrigerated cradle. Belleypedes skitter over the floor. Abreactive traumas burst as Hazmats gawp like groggy pugilists at the blind editors, unsure of their next move.”

David Roden’s Snuff Memories is the Posthuman Dream Quest, a 21st Century romp through the futural maze where the algorithms bleed and humans are mere flotsam and jetsam in the black circuits of the new machinic civilization. Written as if William Blake had been resurrected in the Secret Forges of the Demiurge, given the opportunity to rewrite his epic worlds as virtual lore for the Machine Gods: a cross between David Cronenberg and J.G. Ballard in a Deleuzian Nightmare where Dante and Johnathan Swift travel as machinic companions into Death’s Kingdom.

Truthfully… Roden’s work is one of those strange crossover texts somewhere between theory-fiction and scrying on the wall of Time. It cannot be interpreted, only survived. Like those strange maximalist concoctions of James Joyce or Thomas Pynchon one does not so much read this work as assemble it in one’s nightly dreams as one enters the liminal interzones of the Unreal yet possible future. Each fragment is a Deleuzian rhizome forging new links in a bubble multiverse where the time-wars make and unmake us under the various masks of a plasticity unbound…

Minimalist in intention and design Roden’s Snuff Memories replaces our time-worn memories with its own, shaping us to an hyperaccelerating vector of imaginative need, shifting us into spectrums of dark light where the impossible folds us into the labors of the Abyss.

Check out these links for more quotes and art:

One ||

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

She Could Not Forgive

Couldn’t sleep yet, my mind drifted to my dead wife, remembering the abuse she’d suffered earlier in life at the hands of those in her family… and, brought on the mental and physical disease that finally took her… some nightmares never go away… maybe creating such art is like Patrick Woodroffe another favorite artist once suggested: “Painting is a way of exorcising one’s demons…”

I have my share….

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.



“Planet earth (terra firma) is a giant time machine for consuming time, a fake delusional prison planet of machines consuming humanity as dead toys…” it said.

Woke up with someone whispering the above to me… and, plugged it into my mad codebase of parodic satire.

A while ago I found someone’s full concordance of all the words used in Cormac McCarthy’s time_prison_8Blood Meridian. So that’s an exhaustive catalog of where in the text and how many times every word gets used — which is pretty intense. This wasn’t a glossary mind you, so I’m gonna start busying myself with giving definitions for all the words I was unsure/ completely in the dark about.

“The survivors lay quietly in that cratered void and watched the whitehot stars go rifling down the dark. Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night.”

Anareta is one of my favorite words from Blood Meridian, it’s an old astrological term for a time_prison_6planet that signals ill-fortune in your horoscope — the ‘interficient’ planet, the Destroyer, the ruler of the Eighth House, considered the House of Death.

Apparently, the planets you looked to as beneficial and health-giving were the planets in your first house, and perhaps to either side of the eighth, so the seventh and ninth. The chief of these positive influencers was referred to as the Hyleg or Apheta, the Giver of Life.

the word Hyleg traces back to Middle Persian, hîlâk, meaning nativity. Apheta comes from greek, aphienai, to ‘spring forth’ (hienai ) + ‘from’ (apo-). Aphetic and hylegiac indicate life giving qualities.

Anareta — from αναιῥιω — gets used in ancient greek to mean murderer and assassin but I can find no further breakdown of its etymology. I love that in its original use, whatever planet time_prison_7occupied the ‘anaretic degree,’ the region of evil influence in your horoscope, was the Anareta, so different planets could assume the title of ‘Destroyer’ — but in McCarthy’s passage he posits the existence of a planet of pure danger and death, named Anareta.

Reread one of my mad essays on Bill Burroughs:

What Burroughs envisioned was an early version of the Internet of things: Smart cities, AI, Robotics, and intelligent objects and artifacts which will one day anticipate, modify, modulate, and ubiquitously decide and make decisions moment by moment at the accelerating speed of light to produce around us an artificial world so meshed in fabricated and up-to-the-momenttime_prison_11 resolution that the natural world will have long ceased to matter and the Reality Studio of our Virtual Existence will have overtaken the external and substituted its fake systems and machinic life. A time when the nanosystems that inhabit our bodies will have replaced each aspect of our organic for anorganic substratum’s and we will be processed desiring machines bounded by the pure systems of command and control of a Total Algorithmic Environment (TAE).

It’s as if the ai feeds me back a vision of the Gnostic cosmos written by Theodore Sturgeon and P.K. Dick in a strange new language of imagery as mad as I am. 🤣
time_prison_12Is this the world we really live in, while the one we’ve been deluded into accepting is just a fake insanity and delusion of machines? Yes and no…. like the mad-hatter lost in the insane underworld of posthumanity I follow the lead of my daemon.

We are already living in a lie, living in a Reality Studio of fabricated fictions, part of an assemblage of fake worlds in which we have one use value: as desiring machines whose sole purpose is to feed the Authority, System, Unity, etc. with our energetic desires. As Burroughs described it, we are amusing ourselves to death in a Reality Studio Entertainment System,

The Amusement Gardens cover a continent—There are areas of canals and lagoons where giant gold fish and salamanders with purple fungoid gills stir in clear black water and gondolas piloted by translucent green fish boys—Under vast revolving flicker lamps along the canals spill The Biologic Merging Tanks sense withdrawal capsules light and soundproof water attime_prison_13 blood temperature pulsing in and out where two life forms slip in and merge to a composite being often with deplorable results slated for Biologic Skid Row on the outskirts: (Sewage delta and rubbish heaps—terminal addicts of SOS muttering down to water worms and gloating vegetables—Paralyzed Orgasm Addicts eaten alive by crab men with white hot eyes or languidly tortured in charades by The Green Boys of young crystal cruelty).

Ultimately, we are as a civilization reaching an escape velocity of self-reinforcing machinic intelligence propagation (i.e., The Singularity), the forces of production are going for the revolution on their own. It is in this sense that schizoanalysis is a revolutionary program time_prison_18guided by the tropism to a catastrophe threshold of change, but it is not shackled to the realization of a new society, any more than it is constricted by deference to an existing one. The socius is its enemy, and now that the long senile specter of the greatest imaginable reterritorialization of planetary process has faded from the horizon, cyberrevolutionary impetus is cutting away from its last shackles to the past.

©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

The Cinematography of Time-Scape Wave Convergence

We now ‘see’ that technocommercial systems, who’s catallactic being is strictly analogous to a convergent wave, belong indubitably to the world of horror, and await their cinematographers.

—Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

A Continuous Slide Toward the Future

Monstrosity is a continuous slide, or process of becoming, that does not look like anything.

—Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

The Fabled Alexian Mantis

In comparison to the humanoid figure of intelligent being, they exert a preliminary repulsive force, which is already an increment of abstraction. Insectoid forms (such as the fabled Alexian Mantis) have a comparable traditional role.

—Nick Land. Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Beyondness, Considered as a Leading Characteristic


When the others (whose positive nature need not delay us here) are first registered by certain technical indications, they are identified only as “something not us.” In this respect, they reach the initial stage of monstrosity, which is ‘simple’ beyondness, considered as a leading characteristic.

—Nick Land. Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

The Path of the Unnameable


“We can nevertheless avail ourselves of these guides, whose monstrosity — ‘properly understood’ — says much about the path to the unnameable.”

—Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Cosmic Alienage


“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. The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.”

—H.P. Lovecraft

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Love is Forever


“To isolate the abstract purpose of horror, therefore, does not require a supplementary philosophical operation. Horror defines itself through a pact with abstraction, of such primordial compulsion that disciplined metaphysics can only struggle, belatedly, to recapture it. Some sublime ‘thing’ — abstracted radically from what it is for us — belongs to horror long before reason sets out on its pursuit. Horror first encounters ‘that’ which philosophy eventually seeks to know.”

—Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

©2022 S.C. Hickman Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the images above without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

Falling out of Love – Experimental Abstract Horror


When conceived rigorously as a literary and cinematic craft, horror is indistinguishable from a singular task: to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown. Only in these terms can its essential accomplishments be estimated.

—Nick Land, Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator

Beginning experiments in abstract conceptual horror, developing conceptual moods through various entrapments in base materialism. Rereading Land’s essay on abstract horror and adapting it to ai generated conceptual relations through an ongoing playful dialogue with this abstract idiot god of artificiality. Trying to develop my own unique style rather than referencing anyone at all other than the datasets within the matrix of possibilities of the ai itself.
©2022 S.C. Hickman All images were created with Midjourney ai and are licensed by them for personal or commercial use.

The Light of Nihil

The cold embrasure of the sea,
The taste of brine laced flesh;
Death’s embattled forfeiture,
Giving way to Love’s dark histories;
Where tomb fed birthings rise,
And night gaunts cross black stars.
Sweet the fanged necessities
That hold us dearly to the departed,
Whose memories like honeyed languishments
Distill in us the bitter pangs of gravitas.
Slow the day that suckles us in its darkness,
The slippage seeping of the grave’s hollow soundings;
For here amid the sleepers walk the knowing ones,
Who from their heights fall to raise such light as this.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019

Gnostic (Sufi?) influence on Sadegh Hedayat’s “The Blind Owl”?

In the Blind Owl Sadegh Hedayat speaks of a disease that has cut him off from others in agony and suffering as if he’d been branded and marked by this secret and obscure ailment:

“Will anyone ever penetrate the secret of this disease which transcends ordinary experience, this reverberation of the shadow of the mind, which manifests itself in a state of coma like that between death and resurrection, when one is neither asleep nor awake?

I propose to deal with only one case of this disease. It concerned me personally and it so shattered my entire being that I shall never be able to drive the thought of it out of my mind. The evil impression which it left has, to a degree that surpasses human understanding, poisoned my life for all time to come. I said ‘poisoned’; I should have said that I have ever since borne, and will bear for ever, the brand-mark of that cautery.”1

Then Hedayat speaks of fears, along with his course of action (a decision to “remain silent and keep my thoughts to myself” etc.). Then reveals that the only one he will open himself up to is his “shadow”: “It is for his sake that I wish to make the attempt. Who knows? We may perhaps come to know each other better.”* Continue reading

Death’s Mask

Finally began my latest tale… a Grimdark Fantasy to allow me to work through many of the pessimistic themes I’ve been studying for so long this year. Just a snippet from the opening…

Death’s Mask

My first thought was, he lied in every word…
—Sayings of the Outcasts

Watching over the world like an indifferent god, the sun treats the impermanence and fragility of human lives with utter indifference and contempt.
– Book of the Nine

I studied his malicious eyes, seeking in that hoary darkness some sign of deceit, death prone maggot of the lower streets; this cripple, beggar, thief was known to me from womb-days past. We were both of the corruption, born of shadows and broken stones, creatures of the towers long hiding. Even now as I stretched my neck upward to the harsh steel sky where the bone moon shed her skin like a defrocked maiden I listened to the old man as he croaked his tale.

“We know these things. We do! We seen these things, and more; oh yes, we seen too much. We did. They came you know. The ones who do not speak. They came…”

He rambled on in that curved tongue like a swarthy rat chirping from its hole in the wall. I let him go on; it mattered not, I’d heard it before. I knew the tale. I knew where it was going. We both did. And, yet, I let him go on as he must; it was all he had left. These old tales; old illusions. How many deceptions we all live by. We all tell ourselves it’s truth we seek, when what we truly seek is a great lie against the world. We don’t want to know the truth. The truth kills, maims, tears us from our self-deceiving lies; our past. Most of all we don’t want to know that past… the pain is too real. Continue reading

On Carlo Michelstaedter’s “Persuasion and Rhetoric”

Along the usual ways men travel in a circle with no beginning or end; they come, go, compete, throng like busy ants, change places, certainly, since no matter how much they walk, they are always where they were before, because one place is as good as another in the valley without exit.

—Carlo Michelstaedter, Persuasion and Rhetoric

In this book he develops Hegel’s master/slave thesis not as a political thought, but as an existential thesis in which the master is she who living fully in the present has no need of past and future, and therefore has no need to fear death; for death is swallowed up in the present of living. While those who are slaves fear both past and future, because they lack the presence of the present, and therefore are but shadows being sucked forward and backward in time like forgotten ghouls of a lost thought… having no life, they fear death – having no death, they fear life: caught in the trap between past and future they cannot enter the present because they are its shadows.

Read his book… here!

The Horror Story

The horror story, by obeying the terms of the nightmare, is a way that, deviously, some people use to think about the unthinkable, to face what we otherwise would not choose to look upon, and, more importantly, to control and give meaning to that which can neither be controlled nor harbors any meaning. It is a perverted mode of defending ourselves from what would demean and destroy us, from what cannot be helped and should never have been—life itself in all its inane grotesquerie.

– Thomas Ligotti, The Shadow at the Bottom of the World

Rereading Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race

This is sixth reading of Ligotti’s Conspiracy book, and every time something new pops out or a new perspective on various angles of vision suddenly rise up while others fall back into the background. With this reading I honed in on his stance of pessimism and anti-natalism. His vision pushes Schopenhauer’s vision of extreme menace and hooks it with the early rather than late Lovecraftian horror reality. To say the least it is an explosive and somber view of life and cosmos, a view that leaves us in no doubt as to what underpins his corpus of tales. His vision is definitely not for everyone, it’s probably the darkest vision of existence I’ve seen in my sixty-eight years. But that’s only to say that his is a vision very few will ever accept, for the central core of his vision is that 99% of humanity is in denial of this horror reality within which we are all situated.

As he surmise from Zapffe and others it’s not actually our fault either, we have since the origins of consciousness been the victims of our own success. Consciousness gave rise to certain repressive and defensive measures against our natural existence, a “denial of reality” syndrome if you will. As T.S. Eliot once suggested: “Human cannot bare too much reality!” That’s an understatement. As Ajit Varki and Danny Brower in their book Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind suggests somewhere along the way humans were became aware of their own mortality, and the anxiety, terror, and dread of physical death shaped their psyches to the point of madness. To counter this “humans needed to evolve a mechanism for overcoming this hurdle: the denial of reality.” As a consequence of this evolutionary quirk we now deny any aspects of reality that are not to our liking-we smoke cigarettes, eat unhealthy foods, and avoid exercise, knowing these habits are a prescription for an early death. And so what has worked to establish our species could be our undoing if we continue to deny the consequences of unrealistic approaches to everything from personal health to financial risk-taking to climate change.

Optimism, confidence, and courage in the face of these harsh truths are the markers of our denial, defensive and self-deluded deliriums of our escape and evasive tactics to leave our natural world of mortality and degradation behind. We are the mad creatures who have invented artificial worlds to hide ourselves from the truth of our cosmic predicament. As Ligotti says:

“As a species with consciousness, we do have our inconveniences. Yet these are of negligible importance compared to what it would be like to feel in our depths that we are nothing but human puppets—things of mistaken identity who must live with the terrible knowledge that they are not making a go of it on their own and are not what they once thought they were. At this time, barely anyone can conceive of this happening—of hitting bottom and finding to our despair that we can never again resurrect our repressions and denials. Not until that day of lost illusions comes, if it ever comes, will we all be competent to conceive of such a thing. But a great many more generations will pass through life before that happens, if it happens.” (TCHR, pp. 79-89)

What I believe?

I’m more of an Anti-Gnostic Gnostic – or a pessimist who no longer ontologizes the universe as pure evil per se as in the Gnostics, but rather as a part of our epistemic inheritance: a mood and temperament, not a realism. The only horror being consciousness itself. I’m not a religious creature and like Ligotti I believe there are no objective values (moral anti-realism), only the indifference and impersonalism of a dynamic universe without gods or God. We are part of the insanity of processes that have no rhyme or reason as attested by the various evolutionary histories in our planetary history, all bound to various cataclysmic events which have cycled through time producing a myriad of different species. All of which (or some estimate 90%) have for the most part seen their day and gone extinct just as we will in some future time to be determined. Even now the notion of our replacement or substitution is in the offing with all the various philosophies and sciences of the post-human divide. Who knows what will come? Certainly not I. I’m no prophet or even doomsayer. Just someone who has by temperament and situation been drawn to the pessimistic worldview rather than optimists.

The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents non-living matter from undergoing abiogenesis, in time, to expanding lasting life as measured by the Kardashev scale. The concept originates in Robin Hanson’s argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable; this observation is conceptualized in terms of a “Great Filter” which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human). This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are. (wiki)

As Ligotti suggests:

Consciousness is an existential liability, as every pessimist agrees—a blunder of blind nature, according to Zapffe, that has taken humankind down a black hole of logic. To make it through this life, we must make believe that we are not what we are—contradictory beings whose continuance only worsens our plight as mutants who embody the contorted logic of a paradox. To correct this blunder, we should desist from procreating.” The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (p. 49).

Do I believe that will ever happen? No. Humanity will continue as it always has in denial and self-deception, full of optimistic hope and dreams of either some heavenly paradise or earthly one just beyond our present degradation. All religions are based on the notion of transcendence for the most part, the notion of a beyonding… hoping for some form of soteriological or redemptive clause in the sad state of affairs that will allow them to overcome human organic depletion and death. Sadly they are wrong. But, hey, I’m in the minority here. So I’ll just let it sit or stand at that.

Summing up the pessimistic imagination Thomas Ligotti in his The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror states:

Here, then, is the signature motif of the pessimistic imagination that Schopenhauer made discernible: Behind the scenes of life there is something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world. For Zapffe, the evolutionary mutation of consciousness tugged us into tragedy. For Michelstaedter, individuals can exist only as unrealities that are made as they are made and that cannot make themselves otherwise because their hands are forced by the “god” of philopsychia (self-love) to accept positive illusions about themselves or not accept themselves at all. For Mainländer, a Will-to-die, not Schopenhauer’s Will-to-live, plays the occult master pulling our strings, making us dance in fitful motions like marionettes caught in a turbulent wake left by the passing of a self-murdered god. For Bahnsen, a purposeless force breathes a black life into everything and feasts upon it part by part, regurgitating itself into itself, ever-renewing the throbbing forms of its repast. For all others who suspect that something is amiss in the lifeblood of being, something they cannot verbalize, there are the malformed shades of suffering and death that chase them into the false light of contenting lies.

That says everything that needs to be said on the subject.


A Great Horror Philosophy: “The Will-to-Die” in Philip Mainländer’s Philosophy of Redemption

“But at the bottom, the immanent philosopher sees in the entire universe only the deepest longing for absolute annihilation, and it is as if he clearly hears the call that permeates all spheres of heaven: Redemption! Redemption! Death to our life! and the comforting answer: you will all find annihilation and be redeemed!”

― Philipp Mainländer, Die Philosophie Der Erlosung

Thomas Ligotti mentions Philipp Mainländer one of Schopenhauer’s followers whose Philosophy of Redemption exposed an inverted Gnosticism, one in which the supposed alien god of the Universe decides long ago to vacate his Outside Exile and die through his creation in a great festival of annihilation. The myth that Mainländer envisions is one in which this God rather than seeking to save humanity decides on another plan of redemption, one in which his secret wish to end himself becomes the path to redemption. This God sacrifices himself and his sparks are spread throughout the known universe, secret energeia or egregores that inhabit every living thing in the universe with this God’s corruption and horror reality of the “Will-to-Die”. So that unlike Schopenhauer’s Will-to-Live, this universal method of self-suicide or Deicide is instilled in every aspect of natural existence.

As Ligotti puts it: “Mainländer was confident that the Will-to-die he believed would well up in humanity had been spiritually grafted into us by a God who, in the beginning, masterminded His own quietus. It seems that existence was a horror to God. Unfortunately, God was impervious to the depredations of time. This being so, His only means to get free of Himself was by a divine form of suicide.” (TCHR, p. 35)

Mainländer was so sure his ideas would be adhered too that on the day of publication of his magisterial edifice he committed suicide. Ligotti concludes:

“In Mainländer’s philosophy, “God knew that He could change from a state of super-reality into non-being only through the development of a real world of multiformity.” Employing this strategy, He excluded Himself from being. “God is dead,” wrote Mainländer, “and His death was the life of the world.” Once the great individuation had been initiated, the momentum of its creator’s self-annihilation would continue until everything became exhausted by its own existence, which for human beings meant that the faster they learned that happiness was not as good as they thought it would be, the happier they would be to die out.” (ibid. p. 35)

  1. Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 2, 2018)