Metaloid Dreams of Mutant Intelligences

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.

—Nick Land,  Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

Strip the world of its illusions and delusions and you’ll only hasten the suicidal tendencies we’ve already as a species acquired. Predatory though we are, we are more prone to annihilating ourselves in a bout of self-mutilating hatred and pure religious fervor than not. Religious dogmatism – and, I count the Secular Church of Atheism in this – is the cornerstone of an anthropathological condition that breeds purity as the obliteration of all enemies. If only we could inhabit the enemies perspective would we realize the mirror of our hatred is itself impure.

We have yet to escape our Puritan heritage. Capitalism itself is this beast of purity spread across the face of the earth like an omeba, gobbling everything in its path, immolating the commodities and resources of the planet to the futurial disciplines of technics that have yet to find their slime festivals embarkation. Like fetid worms we are habitues of intricate foreplay, our sexual ecstasies bounded only by our murderous crash sequences with technology. Formulating and garnering an ultimate plan for inhuman takeover we bid the human species a grand bon voyage, stripping ourselves of the last veneer of humanistic entrapments we devote ourselves to the extreme experimental psychopathologies which will produce a final solution. Our closure of nature in this age and the irruption of the artificial as lifestyle has led us into that end game in which nothing natural will remain on earth.

No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive, describe these foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and heterogeneous surface.

—Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Once again the most unnatural creature on the planet triumphs, but in an unexpected way: it will stand atop the ruinous folds of a billion skulls screeching in the technomic voices of those who have become the thing they most dreaded: machinic gods of the metalloid Void. Brokered in a hell of abstract horror, these inheritors of the primal scream will walk the dead earth in what remains of the dustbowl windlands and scorched cities along the black sands of depleted oceans and lakes, where hybrid creatures scuttle in the shadows of temporal wars; and, deforested wastelands of spiked acropolises, and necromantic anti-life scurries amid the crumbling decay of human civilization: – like the visitors of an alien enlightenment, each singing in an oracular voice with the angelic pitch and plum disharmonics of solar sirens beckoning us toward the far shores of an anterior futurity.

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Bataille’s Solar Economy of our Anti-Culture

Bataille interprets all natural and cultural development upon the earth to be side effects of the evolution of death, because it is only in death that life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss. … Poetry, Bataille asserts, is a ‘holocaust of words’. A culture can never express or represent (serve) capital production, it can compromise itself in relation to capital only by abasing itself before the philistinism of the bougeoisie, whose ‘culture’ has no characteristics beyond those of abject restraint, and self-denigration. Capital is precisely and exhaustively the definitive anti-culture.

-Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

Mark Fisher On Depressive Hedonia

Excerpt from Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? –

Reflexive impotence amounts to an unstated worldview amongst the British young, and it has its correlate in widespread pathologies. Many of the teenagers I worked with had mental health problems or learning difficulties. Depression is endemic. It is the condition most dealt with by the National Health Service, and is afflicting people at increasingly younger ages. The number of students who have some variant of dyslexia is astonishing. It is not an exaggeration to say that being a teenager in late capitalist Britain is now close to being reclassified as a sickness. This pathologization already forecloses any possibility of politicization. By privatizing these problems – treating them as if they were caused only by chemical imbalances in the individual’s neurology and/ or by their family background – any question of social systemic causation is ruled out.

Many of the teenage students I encountered seemed to be in a state of what I would call depressive hedonia. Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it is by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle. In large part this is a consequence of students’ ambiguous structural position, stranded between their old role as subjects of disciplinary institutions and their new status as consumers of services. In his crucial essay ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’, Deleuze distinguishes between the disciplinary societies described by Foucault, which were organized around the enclosed spaces of the factory, the school and the prison, and the new control societies, in which all institutions are embedded in a dispersed corporation.1


  1. Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) (pp. 21-22). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.

 

William S. Burroughs: Drugs, Language, and Control

Bill Burroughs:

The writer does not yet know what words are. He deals only with abstractions from the source point of words. The painter’s ability to touch and handle his medium led to montage techniques sixty years ago. It is to be hoped that the extension of cut-up techniques will lead to more precise verbal experiments closing this gap and giving a whole new dimension to writing. These techniques can show the writer what words are and put him in tactile communication with his medium. This in turn could lead to a precise science of words and show how certain word combinations produce certain effects on the human nervous system. (The Job Interviews)

Burroughs believed language to be the first and foremost control machine. A machine that constructed and shaped the naked ape called man into its present form, and that any future exit from the human would incorporate a breakup of this control machine and its present system of signs. The normalization and comforming of the human child through a series of modulated cycles of cultural and social enducements begins at childbirth. Nothing new here, except that for most of human history this went on unconsciously for the most part, but at some point certain tribal members realized that words harbored power over the minds and hearts of people. These shamans became the keepers of this knowlege of power, inventing relations between tribe and word these dreamkings began to bridge the unknown and known in a linguistic web of power relations that would become the cultural background of a time-machine.

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On Becoming Machinic: Intelligence of the Machine

Urban Future drew my attention to an article on the Wall Street Journal about Google’s AI beating the best GO players of China. Being an in-debted man I am unable to afford the luxury of a subscription to the Journal so found Nature’s rendition to my satisfaction. In Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players Elizabeth Gibney reports:

A mystery player causing a stir in the world of the complex strategy game Go has been revealed as an updated version of AlphaGo, the artificial-intelligence (AI) program created by Google’s London-based AI firm, DeepMind.

What’s always amazing is this notion that technics and technology, and especially the thinking machines we’ve lately pursued are not human: technics and technology is the inhuman core of our being, so that these intelligent systems are nothing but an extension of our core inhumanity. Rather than there being some dualism between human and machine, which is what such articles continue to suggest, we should acknowledge that the emergence of intelligent machines is in truth what the transitional being we’ve termed the ‘human’ was all along, and that in the long heritage of growth in intelligence, its optimization and extension, externalization of memory and technique has been part of the off-loading our inner core into external prosthesis from the beginning of recorded history. These external systems reveal our inner nature, mirror our actual and virtual desires, show us as we are and are becoming machinic (Deleuze/Guattari).

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The Violence of Capitalism

What saves us is efficiency-the devotion to efficiency.

—Marlow, in Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Life appears as a pause on the energy path; as a precarious stabilization and complication of solar decay. It is most basically comprehensible as the general solution to the problem of consumption.

—Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

The belief that all things should act efficiently is at the core of both Fordist and post-Fordist forms of capitalism. Why should this be so? One could say that the concept of efficiency arose out of its opposite: inefficiency, as its negation. Most of modern economic theory grew out of this battle for efficiency and has been based on optimizing time, motion, and waste. One might say that the whole Progressive era of which we remain tied was bound by this pursuit of efficiency (perfection, growth, optimization) in the political, economic, social, and engineering (technics/technology) realms. Ultimately the central motif of modernity is the zeal for efficiency, and the desire to control a changing world, by bringing it into conformity with a vision of how the world does or should work.1 One might go further and Weberize it saying that modern global capitalism is the child of Christian perfectionism.

The terms “perfect” and “perfection” are drawn from the Greek teleios and teleiōsis, respectively. The root word, telos, means an “end” or “goal”. In contemporary translations, teleios and teleiōsis are often rendered as “mature” and “maturity”, respectively, so as not to imply infallibility or the absence of defects. Rather, in the Christian tradition, teleiōsis has referred to progressing towards spiritual wholeness or health. In the secular form that would enter into the concept of efficiency this movement from defect to wholeness or completion, would end in capital accumulation: profits, surplus, excess, etc. would take priority in engineering machines, assembly lines, and the mereology of the machinic or the techno-commercial sphere that in our moment is leading to total efficiency in digital economy and the autonomy of the machinic in robotics and AGI. The elimination of inefficiencies has led to the final struggle of eliminating the human from the equation. Capitalism perfected is a process in which humans are annihilated and expulsed as inefficient.

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Adam Curtis on Vladislav Surkov: Perception Politics and Dark Gnosis

Adam Curtis

Charlie and I discussing the Russian Vladislav Surkov who is behind the constrution of misperception politics of Putin. Also a link to small youtube vid by Curtis on Surkov. I’ve always felt that much of the crackpot narratives of conspiracy theory are the shadow mirror of our fears and trepidations not seen through the eyes of the liberal academic elite, but rather the world of reactionary thought-forms that permeate the illeterate and destitute who we’ve castigated and maligned. One need only study this whole strange almost science fictional world of thought to understand how deeply entrenched we are in a Counter World of the Christian, Muslim, and Hebraic monotheisms which seem like shadow vipers to continue controlling major chunks of the populace.

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What Surkov represents is the ability to create the illusion of change – (Mis)Perception Politics, to stage conflict, to create oppositions that seem to undermine the politics and social structure, but are in themselves tools in the hand of power without even knowing it. The notion that Surkov has funded both extreme Left and Right Wing movements in Russia as subterfuge, to keep people guessing, to undermine peoples sense of reality. To allow Putin to seem the saviour figure to balance both sides of the opposition.

In his Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia Peter Pomerantsev describes Surkov us:

Though we are expecting Vladislav Surkov, the man known as the “Kremlin demiurge,” who has “privatized the Russian political system,” to enter from the front of the university auditorium, he surprises us all by striding in from the back. He’s got his famous Cheshire Cat smile on. He’s wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket that is part Joy Division and part 1930s commissar. He walks straight to the stage in front of an audience of PhD students, professors, journalists, and politicians.

 “I am the author, or one of the authors, of the new Russian system,” he tells us by way of introduction. “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and . . . ” here he pauses and smiles, “modern art.” He offers to not make a speech, instead welcoming the audience to pose questions and have an open discussion. After the first question he talks for almost forty-five minutes, leaving hardly any time for questions after all. It’s his political system in miniature: democratic rhetoric and undemocratic intent.

As former deputy head of the presidential administration, later deputy prime minister and then assistant to the President on foreign affairs, Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who are trained for street battles with potential prodemocracy supporters and burn books by unpatriotic writers on Red Square. As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. The Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for twenty minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind. They repeat the great mantras of the era: the President is the President of “stability,” the antithesis to the era of “confusion and twilight” in the 1990s. “Stability”—the word is repeated again and again in a myriad seemingly irrelevant contexts until it echoes and tolls like a great bell and seems to mean everything good; anyone who opposes the President is an enemy of the great God of “stability.” “Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the President as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: no one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.1

 Reading the mantra of “Stability” I was reminded of the new vision for America at Trumpland U.S.A.: “We’re going to make America Great Again!” Then I ask: But, for who?

Years ago, all the so called Color Revolutions in the Balkans were done the same way from powers behind the scenes in America: funding both Left and Right wing oppositional parties who sought to bring down the old rearguard Communists regiemes, etc. We know that George Soros and even the Koch Brothers helped fiance many of these Color Revolutions, etc. Our on Left and Right Establishment working together behind the scenes to topple regimes for profit, and Mitchell’s The Color Revolutions.

As Lincoln A. Mitchell explains in The Color Revolutions, it has since become clear that these protests were as much reflections of continuity as they were moments of radical change. Not only did these movements do little to spur democratic change in other post-Soviet states, but their impact on Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan themselves was quite different from what was initially expected. In fact, Mitchell suggests, the Color Revolutions are best understood as phases in each nation’s long post-Communist transition: significant events, to be sure, but far short of true revolutions.

The Color Revolutions explores the causes and consequences of all three Color Revolutions—the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan—identifying both common themes and national variations. Mitchell’s analysis also addresses the role of American democracy promotion programs, the responses of nondemocratic regimes to the Color Revolutions, the impact of these events on U.S.-Russian relations, and the failed “revolutions” in Azerbaijan and Belarus in 2005 and 2006.

Sreeram Chaulia’s article Democratisation, NGOs and “colour revolutions”  is worth reading.

Adam Curtis on Surkov:


  1. Peter Pomerantsev. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (Kindle Locations 981-985). Perseus Books, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Civil War of the Mind: Adam Curtis and Hypernormalisation & Algorithmic Tyranny

Watching the recent elections and of various artists confrontations, along with the reaction on the Left, I’m beginning to see that our moment has opened a great gap or crack between these opposing views of our life world, a gap so huge that those on each side of this divide can no longer tolerate the other’s perspective or stance. We are truly in the midst of a Civil War of the Mind, one I hope will not become a civil war across the planet, Yet, as a pessimist I do not hold out on hope, it always being a vanity of the optimistic mind. Rather it appears the next stage of our collapsing civilization will be this dark and abiding war that no one has yet to acknowledge at the level of cultural awareness.

Lately watching some friends posts about the collapse and chaos in India and surrounding nations as they seem to be struggling through all the varied problems of politics, climate change, drought, famine, disease, overpopulation, racism, gender issues, class struggle, etc. I’ve wondered when the civil war for the human soul of the planet will reach the proverbial butterfly effect? We seem to be on the tip of the iceberg, and it is melting fast. Violence seems to pervade the breath of FB in its hatred of each other’s views in the extremophile sections. While even those of moderate cast seem to be turning to the panic stream of thought and turning up the volume. Horror writers seem in vogue, because they speak of the inherent inhumanity of man to man, our darkest desires running rampant in the resurrected myths of our ancient fears and terrors.

In conversation with Glyn Daly, Slavoj Zizek said that even in our age of philosophy “we are confronted more and more often with philosophical problems at an everyday level” (58). It is not that you withdraw from daily life into a world of philosophical contemplation. On the contrary, you cannot find your way around daily life itself without answering certain philosophical questions. It is a unique time when everyone is, in a way, forced to be some kind of a philosopher.

One of the greatest notions floating around at the moment is that the past is no longer available to us as a guide or resource. The literature, philosophy, art, etc. of the past is truly dead to us who face such strange and overpowering future catastrophes. Our nostalgia for the past is on the rise, while the very function and structure of that world lies in ruins all around us. Politics of the traditional and the safe, the conservative and the reactionary is on the rise because people are seeking to stabilize their lives, revitalize the old mythologies in the wake of despair and economic collapse and change. People no longer trust the scholars, the artists, the politicians — Authority and legitimization in all its varied guises. The Symbolic world we’ve enclosed ourselves in is under siege from within and without by the an almost self-serving elite caste of Oligarchs, Plutocrats and the varied Military-Media-Industrial Complex of academic, think-tank, foundation, and media pundits and their minions that support the collective consensus reality system, and secure its defined perimeters: ethics, politics, sciences, educational, legal, and other institutions in a Telecommunications systemic network of Global Reach.

“I love the poorly educated.”
—Donald J. Trump

He would, wouldn’t he. In one sentence he underlines the whole reactionary approach of the extreme right, punctuates its stance toward literature, philosophy, and thought per se. What we are facing is not a crisis of Republican implosion or political deform; this is not your MSNBC smug defense of the Democratic Party’s sanity in the face of Republican insanity. We should harbor no such illusions: “The spirit of authoritarianism cuts across both political parties.” Both parties have sold us out, and Trump is not the answer, but just the embodiment of our frustration with the staid and cool, corporate fascism of the neoliberal jet set. As Zizek admitted, Trump is a nasty old racist, and yet a vote for Hilary would have just returned us to the illusionary politics of neoliberal slavery. So a vote for Trump was ultimately a vote for some kind of change, any change, even for the worse. Personally I detested both candidates as the worst choices of the Presidency in its entire two hundred years plus. Such seems to be the effect of our times and our bland indifference and ignorance.

The point here is that we shouldn’t be interested in Trump the clown, Trump the narcissist, Trump the racist, or even Trump the con artist. Instead, he turns his critical sights on the society that produced and legitimized him. From his rabid and rapidly growing right-wing  and left-wing of both parties following to the channel surfers seeking a good chuckle to the liberal elite or republican yokels of Establishment quick to dismiss The Donald with smug indifference, our country and its democracy is in steep decline. After all, this is the same society that holds 2.5 million in cages, most of whom are black and brown and poor; whose military budget is larger than that of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the U.K., India, and Japan combined; where the killing of unarmed Black people by police, security guards, or vigilantes has become almost a daily occurrence; where the toxic mix of privatization, free-market ideology, and a “punitive state” has turned our schools into high-stakes testing grounds and human warehouses in which the administration of discipline has shifted from teachers and principals to the criminal justice system; where the War on Drugs, with “zero tolerance” policing, turns some neighborhoods into open-air prisons, strips vulnerable residents of equal protection, habeas corpus, freedom of movement, even protection from torture; and where, in states such as Michigan, local governance has been replaced by so-called Emergency Financial Managers whose primary objective is to privatize public resources and basic needs (e.g., water). And the band plays on . . . or, as Giroux so aptly puts it, we move “from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting.”2

I remember growing up where the Preacher (Southern Baptist) would hold up the Bible in one hand, and Darwin’s Origins of the Species in the other and ask the congregation: “Which of these books would you put your trust in?” At the time (I was eleven!) I’d only vaguely ever heard of Darwin or his book, so I went to the school library to find it. The librarian told me it was much too controversial a book for a sixth grader to read.

So I asked my Father (an atheist), not my Mother (who was devout, but not dogmatic) to get me that book. I remember him looking at me, wanting to say something, but not saying because he’d promised my Mom he’d not inculcate her children with his atheistic ideas. (He’d later laugh about it all. His compromise was that if we ever inquired into his beliefs he wouldn’t hide them or his learning. He had a large library of books he left me, that as I grew up were safely locked away from us by my Mother). So it goes… He gave me the book by Darwin. I read it, puzzled over it, asked him questions.

After a few months it dawned on me why this Preacher man was so afraid of Darwin: If he was right then every aspect of the Bible would prove to be a fiction, a nice story about a particular tribe of people who needed a system of Law and Regulations, Stories and Parables, to keep their culture ongoing. Religion appears to be this binding back upon one’s cultural heritage, which oddly is the meaning of Torah. The People of the Book. But are not all the monotheistic religions about the one true Book, rather than the books of men, they hold their Book to have been written once by God in Heaven, etc.

I learned that there were other ideas in the world that spoke of a different truth. It was this first book by Darwin that began my long voyage into what we so mistakenly term Western Culture and Civilization (another of those umbrella concepts that should go away someday!). The past is multivalent and a site of competing voices and utterances rather than as in religion of recieved tradition. History is important because it is not monolithic, but rather a contested realm of memory and temporal voicing and writing that helps us discover not our origins but rather how we produced and invented ourselves from such fragments as these.

Adam Curtis: HyperNormalisation

Adam Curtis’s new BBC project reminds me of this strange paradox. The aim of the film he is making—HyperNormalisationis to bring that new power into focus, and show its true dimensions. It ranges from a giant computer high up in the mountains of northeast America that manages and controls over 7 percent of the worlds total wealth, to the complex algorithms that constantly monitor every move and choice you make online, to modern scientific ideas about what the normal human being should be—in their weight and in their feelings and moods.   As he states:

What links all these systems is an overriding aim is to keep the world stable. To avoid all change. The giant computer constantly compares events happening around the world to events in the past. If it sees a dangerous pattern, it immediately adjusts its trillions of dollars to keep things stable. That is real power. The algorithms on social media constantly look at the patterns of what you like and then feed you more of that—so you enter into an echo chamber that constantly feeds you back to you. So again nothing changes—and you learn nothing new that would contradict how you feel. That too is real power.

What results is a system which cocoons us and makes us feel safe. And that means we have become terrified of all change. But that fear of change is in the interest of a system that wants to hold everything stable. And stops us from ever challenging it.

But it is impossible to keep things frozen forever. The world is dynamic. Things happen that you can never predict just by reading the past. This is why more and more we are being hit by events—the horror in Syria, Brexit, Trump, the waves of refugees—that neither we nor our leaders have the mental map to understand let alone deal with. Because we have bought into the dream that the world can be held stable and safe.

The short film I have made for VICE is about how, if you pull back and look at the everyday life all around you, you can see the cracks appearing through the shiny surface of the cocoon we are living in. So much of the modern world is beginning to feel odd, unreal, and sometimes fake. I think these are the dynamic forces outside beginning to pierce through as the system begins to fail.

It will fail – because a system of power that has no vision of the future can never last. It cannot deal with change. We have to begin to look outside. Because there is more out there…

After watching the clip I was reminded of Axël a drama by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam published in 1890. It was influenced by his participation in the Paris Commune, the Gnostic philosophy of Georg Hegel as well as the works of Goethe and Victor Hugo. It begins in an occult castle. The Byronic hero Axël meets a Germanic princess. After an initial conflict they fall in love. They speak of the amazing journeys they plan to have. But they realize that life will never measure up to their dreams. They then commit suicide.

Our elite rulers are like these romantic gnostics, closed off in their corporate enclaves, living out their occult praxis and magical economic systems in a world of presentism where everything remains the same and nothing changes. The most famous line in that play was “Vivre? les serviteurs feront cela pour nous” (“Living? Our servants will do that for us”). This sense that the upper echelons and .01% percenters are truly Vampires, of which Marx once stated: “Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.”

What so many on the Left term ‘neoliberalism,’ a term that means nothing or too much, is just this sense of the fake world we live in with all its sense of futility, market driven, global, and enclosed in debt without any end: an absolute hell for the workers (Third World or First!), who must suffer through the extreme degradation of being spoon fed media fantasies of the Rich and Stupid in their Hollywood Towers that the worker herself will never ever have access too. We return from our part-time jobs to our local pubs and bars, our drug infested dens, our shanty town tin roofs and dream of escape. Knowing deep down there is not end to this eternal round of the Same, to endless days of work and labor ahead in either factory, service industries, or even the veil of upper white collars who on call 24/7 to their masters by way of mobile lives lead lives of gray despair: these dividuals (indexical lives of wire and fleshscape dream) who exist not as flesh and blood organics, but as fragments of a corporate personality and inforgs (informational organisms) whose lives are not lived in real-time, but in the hyperchaos regions in-between circulation and profit, greed and expenditure.

In ancient Greece the Paideia or the education of the Citizen took in both body and mind, teaching and educing out of the naïve and ignorant young the physical and mental prowess and intelligence to understand what it meant to be part of the public way. We’ve lost our Public Sphere, it having slowly been privatized and dismantled by the very instruments of technology we once thought would gain us more freedom: the internet and its mindless chatter of media driven repeats, twits, and links into the ever same message of the day. From Reuters to the most radical publication the Same has become the Order of the Day in which we live, an echo chamber of our isolation being fed our likes and dislikes in packages of bits and data already massaged and filtered for our absorption like the commodity fetish it is.

As Kelley said in his preface to Henry Giroux’s recent America at War with Itself:

America at War With Itself demolishes the pedestrian (and dangerous) argument that Trump appeals to legitimate working-class populism driven by class anger. The claim that Trump followers are simply working-class whites expressing class resentment ignores both the historical link between whiteness, citizenship, and humanity, and also the American dream of wealth accumulation built on private property. Trump’s people are not Levelers! (Nor are they universally “working-class”— their annual median income clocks in at about $ 72,000.) They strongly believe in private property and the right to bear arms to protect that property. They don’t just ignore Trump’s wealth; they are enamored with it. They embrace the dream that if only America can be restored to its mythic greatness— which is to say, to return to its status as “a white MAN’s country” (as if it is not now)— they, too, can become a Trump. But their racism, reinforced by civic illiteracy, has convinced them that it is the descendants of unfree labor or the colonized, or those who are currently unfree, who are blocking their ascent to the world of Trump and the billionare Koch brothers. (see below)

What he’s saying is that the bland blanketing by the Left misses the point, these followers of Trump are and remain the central players of what was once the American world view. It is the Left that has tried, in vein, to displace this older America and over the past sixty years unsuccessfully to take over the Academy and teach the progressive world view without realizing that the majority they needed to educate were being ostracized, dammed to illiteracy by the very institutions of the Left elite themselves. The Left have only themselves to blame for this situation. Not Trump, not his followers, but the Left who in their snobbish elitism and belief in their more intelligent cultural world of academia did not need to bend low, to reach out, to speak to all the rest of America about America. They forgot the others who also live here and are also Americans.

It is these others that the Left has repeatedly demonized and left to rot in their dying country towns and lower worlds of poverty and isolation. The Left alone is responsible for this ignorance and apathy. The Left sold out to the Neoliberal world long ago, and worked closely within its Cathedral of academia, think-tanks, and white collar precincts shielded by a false ideology and security system. And now that it is unraveling around them they are even more entrenched and reactionary than the right-wing thinkers ever were. They react to the change going on around them without any new thoughts, ignorant and repeating the shibboleths of the 1930’s on Fascism and Populism as if that explained anything at all. It doesn’t. We are not in some Hollywood or some German Propaganda film narrative. We are not those people. Do not think their thoughts. This is something else, but as long as people continue to fall for the old myths and staid critiques of ancient fascism nothing will transpire.

People need truth, not some vein bullshit about ours is a an age of “Post-Truth”. What a crock of horseshit that is. But one hears that from Oxford:

Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious “Brexit” referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press.

The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

What a crock? That used to go under the rubric of Ideology. Pure and Simple. What Marx to Sartre to Adorno and Jameson termed false consciousness:

False consciousness is a term used by some Marxists for the way in which material, ideological, and institutional processes in capitalist society mislead members of the proletariat and other class actors. These processes are thought to hide the true relations between classes and the real state of affairs regarding the exploitation suffered by the proletariat.

In other words they construct a narrative to hide the truth from the public at large, one that is then presented by the Media-Tainment Industrial Complex through news, papers, journals, reports, broadcasts, TV, movies, books, literature, art, music, dance, theatre, etc. Post-truth is nothing but a euphemism for the older Marxists notion that the Symbolic Order of the Economic World Order tries to Control the Reality Systems under its Laws and Regulations.

What many on the Left or Right will not admit to themselves is that they have both been duped. Yes, that’s right. The very narratives of the Left and Right are scripted and presented under the careful guidance of well-planned network of thinkers, foundations, think-tanks, academic and political groups that work both sides of the fence, while the average person is gulled into the illusion that what their being taught is learning rather than the propaganda that goes by the name education in America. This isn’t some conspiratorial theory, not magic men behind the screens pulling the wires. No Soros or Koch Brothers working the fabric of reality. All that is staged play more akin to such things as Alien History on History Channel of Gaia; or the libertarian front of conspiracy from Glenn Beck to Alex Jones. All these are well funded fronts to keep people off the real ball, the real power hidden not behind some secret curtain, but right in front of their noses, everywhere.

As Curtis is trying to do in his film, the immersive world of our everyday life is this conspiracy world fulfilled. We are so immersed in a false world of conscious invention empowered over the years by trillions of dollars in public opinion and advertising and front men of corporate and government Leadership that we no longer call it propaganda, because it is our lives. Of late one of the ploys is that we no longer need critique of society and civilization, that critique and theory are dead, mute. Where is this coming from? Who is instigating this non-interventional non-philosophy, non-theory, non-critique. I wonder what my old barbs Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would say to all we see now. My touchstones has always been the great satirists who tried to punch through the facades and illusions that encompass us, that make us stupid. As Twain once admonished: ““Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” One that sums up to me the truth we need most is this from Twain:

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

Even Twain was keen to realize why we’ve become stupid: “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.” On the media of his day: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” And on Education: “Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.”

These humorous quips had an edge that also spoke truth, a truth that we need dearly. We do not live in a ‘post-truth’ age, we live in an age that has forgotten that truth exists and we can know it and it can set us free of these Symbolic Chains encompassing us. There is no such thing as absolute freedom without necessity, which means we are social beings encompassed in immersive worlds of language and thought. No way around this. All we can muster is a way to build our Symbolic House where the inmates are no longer bound by the extremes of the Super Rich and the Desolate. We can and must encompass a world of change, that can see with open eyes the truth of the world, one that will openly understand the issues we face in the 21st Century without letting the few and powerful elites and Oligarchs control 98% of the world’s wealth. This must end… all the other major problems from Climate degradation to race, gender, and class war are secondary to the economic inequality of the World’s great populace.


  1. Daly, Glyn; Zizek, Slavoj. Conversations with Zizek (Conversations) by Slavoj Zizek (2003-12-30) Polity.
  2. Giroux, Henry A.. America at War with Itself (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 71-82). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Simulated Life of Citizen Avatar

So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity; to remember the stories told by our ancestors, to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them.

—The Book of Remembrance

Your data is more important than your body in the techno-commercial sector. Simulated avatars will activate your digital signature globally. What is left of substance is erased, only the data is of import. The world of the artificial has begun… you’re no longer a victim, but a commodity in an false infinity.

The ten thousand flowered servers in Utah, south of Salt Lake are even now grinding simulations on your data archive, recreating your life as an avatar, seeking answers to impossible questions. Ready to release data points to the highest bidder – whether military, or corporate. You’re virtual self – or shadow is more important to the electronic gods of the new machinic society, and will archive you for their twisted games of commerce till electricity is no more. Once your digital self is archived there is no turning back, they have locked you into an image that no matter how false becomes real for their modeling purposes, so that the fleshly being out of which it was born is lost among the data traces as ashes on a battlefield.

At a certain point, your Shadow Self will contain so much data that this unique packet of information will be placed in a cyber version of a particular environment or system so that the computer can run simulations that will predict your behavior. This “modeling” will be used to answer questions. Will you buy this product? Will you vote for our candidate? What is the lowest possible salary you will accept for a particular job? Each time you do something, information from your actions will flow into the database, and the Shadow Self will become more detailed and particular— more useful for predicting your future actions than the fleshly counterpart.

If our brains are predictive as Andy Clark (Surfing Uncertainty) and Jakob Hohwy (The Predictive Mind) show in their works, then the future of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be even more so. The AGI’s will predict and constrain all human behavior, simulate every move and counter-move, strategize and intercept your needs, wishes, and gulliblity at every step; drive you in directions you did not foresee, control your habits ubiquitously. You will be controlled without even knowing that it is happening till you wake up and realize it is too late, you have become enmeshed so willingly in the web of such worlds you would die trying to free yourself. This is not only P.K. Dick, William Burroughs, and Thomas Pynchon writ large, this is our world in the making…

As the novelist and figure in anonymity, John Twelve-Hawks tells us:

NSA’s Utah data center is nestled in the low hills south of the Great Salt Lake. It’s a cluster of large, windowless buildings attached to power lines on pylons and surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and security lights. Blueprints of the site reveal that an administrative center, a dog kennel, and a building with emergency batteries and backup generators are clustered around four identical “data halls” where the information is actually stored.

The data halls are huge, box-shaped rooms with exposed ceilings. When people aren’t in the halls, the only illumination comes from the blue and yellow LEDs set in the tall racks of servers and central processing units. Brewster Kahle, one of the engineers who designed the Internet Archive for the public web, estimates that the four halls hold approximately ten thousand racks of servers. There have been various estimates that the center can store five zettabytes of information or even a yottabyte (the equivalent of five hundred quintillion pages of text). This ocean of information has to be kept cooled and connected, so the halls are chilled by a refrigerator plant that uses a water-storage tank and a pumping station.1

Even now the Global Elite and hierarchy within both governmental and corporate spheres are seeking a system that emphasizes efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and the replacement of humans with nonhuman technology. The gathering of big data by the surveillance states and the use of analytics to make choices that change people’s lives mirror these new normative rule-sets of the machinic gods. The new system depends on nonhuman surveillance and calculations made by machines. For those in power, big data results seem more controlled and efficient.

On Google.org, the company described its big data approach:

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.

Much like a P.K. Dick short story our future will be policed by machines. One characteristic of the modern surveillance states is that people are going to be arrested, imprisoned, and killed based on computer-driven conclusions that the authorities won’t be able to explain. And if for some reason the wrong data has been placed in the system, it’s very difficult to challenge or change these errors. Much as in Identity Theft now, the future will look to your avatar data rather than you as a substantive embodied being for its information, and if it has been tampered, replaced, hacked the AGI’s running the show will not care on iota.

The above scenario may seem gloomy in retrospect, yet now that you are aware of it you can begin to rethink your situation in the world. Ask yourself how did we come to such a state of things? The truth is there was no plan, no secret organization behind it, no conspiracy, it is in the small accumulative details of a few hundred years of capitalism itself driving competition in towns, cities, nations, and the global commons. It was small innovations here and there that became part of other innovations and practices, and the slow transformation of society in gradual moves to govern and shape itself, and the environment around it. Some might try to say there is some dark telos behind it all, but they would be wrong. There is no dark intent, no intentional agency that has put all this into effect. No. It is the price we’ve paid for buying into a society and civilization of greed and profit. Profit has driven all the forces at work in the world today. Nothing so banal as a human was behind it all. Nor a God, only the intricate and blind forces of the market preying on humans and environment alike. We are the victims of our own success.

Yet, like some horror novel much more grandiose than an H.P. Lovecraft could ever imagine, we’ve allowed the beast of techno-commercialism to be driven by fear and terror, the need for security and persistence. The age old need to be safe, protected, and secure has driven the excess of power and force to invent devices of command and control to fight imaginary and real enemies of society. Once these were bound then the same tools have been turned back upon society itself to other more commercial ends, so that between war and peace we are enslaved to a circulatory system of profit that secures us like all other commodities within its data banks for future use.

Above all the assault on the notion of privacy has been ongoing for decades. The notion that your life is no longer a private affair, but is now completely transparent to all is seen both as a normative adjunct, but also part of this new trend toward machinic society in which everyone is digitized, stamped, traced, and recorded. Wearable devices are becoming prevalent in corporations that monitor every aspect of the bodily movement, temperature, conversations, and time-work aspects of one’s day. One is no longer free, but part of a plug-in world. Even on the drive home one is becoming more and more passive, fed into driverless cars and automated shops, banks, cafes. The human is being automatized along with her gadgets.

The Virtual Panopticon of the new surveillance states are no longer a dystopian vision but a prevalent path of the current Globalist Agenda: an interconnected system that is invisible, pervasive, automatic, and permanent. The humans who live within this system are increasingly responding to orders given to them by machines. In the future our children will no longer belong to us as private property, but to the State and it will suborn and control the education and behavior of these future children to the point that the past we share now will have been erased, vanished, expulsed. A new world of enslavement will have been assured then, because no one will remember what is and was…

The question now is: Will we continue to let this happen? What is a life that is no longer private, but is watched 24/7 by smart devices connected to a global grid? As John Twelve-Hawks reminds us:

Anyone who steps back for a minute and observes our modern digital world might conclude that we have destroyed our privacy in exchange for convenience and false security. That private world within our thoughts has been monitored, tabulated, and quantified. Our tastes, our opinions, our needs, and our desires have been packaged and sold as commodities. Those in power have pushed their need for control one step too far. They turned unique individuals into data files, and our most intimate actions have become algorithmic probabilities.

The possibility of living off the grid is near impossible for those without the wealth to do so. One cannot get far enough away from the electronic worlds anymore. Nothing is anonymous anymore unless one has the wealth to make it so. But for many of us this path is not an option, and all the protests in the world will not stop the system being put in place in incremental pieces day by day by day…

So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity, to remember the stories told by our ancestors; to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them. Maybe then we might begin to incrementally change the very function and structure of society not in some grandstand revolution, but in the small day by day incremental ways of being human rather than inhuman.

—The Book of Remembrance


  1. John Twelve-Hawks. Against Authority: Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance States

Our Future / Our Past

Crash Space: The Coming Age of Machinic Intelligence

We exchanged a flurry of texts. We weren’t idiots. We knew full well the gravity of what had happened. But we also knew we had nothing to fear, and very little to cover up.

—R. Scott Bakker, Crash Space

Anyone still believing that the “blunt tool” of mass surveillance is protecting us from terrorists should read the Washington Post’s two-year investigation of “Top Secret America.” The detailed series of articles suggested that the United States’ massive surveillance system could possibly make us more vulnerable to terrorism:

“Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year— a volume so large that many are routinely ignored. In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials— called Super Users— have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. “I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other (Super User) recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled “Stop!” in frustration. “I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.

Billions of personal details about the general population, collected by computers, can overwhelm those officials looking for a particular suspect. As the New America Foundation report indicated, most terrorists are caught using “traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations . . .”

In the coming years all human intelligence will become mute, AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) machinic systems and the decisions made upon such data depend will be done more “efficiently” through rule based normative functional algorithms, making matrices that will be invented by the artificial minds themselves. All surveillance and Global Security Systems will be in the hands of the AGI’s, since humans such as the SuperUser above will not have the necessary processing power to absorb, much less decide on, filter, collate, and analyze such massive Big Data as will be collected in such great Data Centers as the one being built in Utah.

We’ve entered that strange transitional age when we are as humans obsolescing our own intelligence in favor of machinic gods who will have no sense of our cultural or social value systems, only the algorithmic targeting capabilities of seek and destroy policing of the animal called man. We are building the cages of the future, and enforcing a new breed of policing agents in the frontiers of our brave new worlds of machinic being. Through our fear of terror, we are producing greater terrors. From economics to security the deep-learning algorithms and other plasticity based systems of self-transforming and feed-back systems based on endless rhizomatic loops will surpass our capabilities and move beyond our ability to control or constrain. What then?

Stephen Hawking fears it, saying: “It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” Tesla CEO and famous technology innovator Elon Musk has repeatedly warned about AI threats. In June, he said on CNBC that he had invested in AI research because “I like to just keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is a potential dangerous outcome there.” He went on to invoke The Terminator. In August, he tweeted that “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” And at a recent MIT symposium, Musk dubbed AI an “existential threat” to the human race and a “demon” that foolish scientists and technologists are “summoning.” Musk likened the idea of control over such a force to the delusions of “guy[s] with a pentagram and holy water” who are sure they can control a supernatural force—until it devours them. As Musk himself suggests elsewhere in his remarks, the solution to the problem lies in sober and considered collaboration between scientists and policymakers. So much for Enlightenment? But these are the extremes, other voices say other things, and the process of making such systems seems inevitable with so many nations and corporations investing so heavily into every aspect of robotics, war machines, and AGI related systems for profit or sex or power.

Mass surveillance programs are run by machines or persons trained to act like machines. Targeted intelligence operations are run by experienced security agents who are allowed to use the knowledge gained through years of training. In the future our urban zones will become more and more integrated into smart infrastructures where the electronic eyes, ear, scent, and prosthetic appendages of sensory outlays once part of the human body will become externalized into the very objects of common everyday work around us. The systems that will shape and secure our systems of command and control within the urban workplace will be a part of a vast integrated system of artificial intelligent centers that will run everything from our basic needs to the most criminal policing enterprise the world has ever seen. It will be invisible, part of the background, so virtualized that we will not even be aware that we’ve become part of a Planetary Prison system that we ourselves built and handed over to the Great Artificial General Intelligent systems to come. To call this paranoiac is to enter into inhuman territory of mind and thought which that term was only a simplified interdiction onto the human, not the machinic.

Watching the recent craze of mobile to mobile Pokémon Go we’ve entered the moment when the virtual is seeping into our world, when men, women, and children stare into the screens of their hand held systems as if they were more real than the world around them. Even criminals have hopped on the wagon. Armed robbers used the game Pokémon Go to lure victims to an isolated trap in Missouri, police reported on Sunday. Pokémon Go warns players to keep aware of their surroundings during their virtual treasure hunt, but after only a few days since its release it has already led people into a string of bizarre incidents. People have ended up in hospitals after chasing nonexistent animals into hazardous spots, and schools, a state agency and Australian police have warned people not to break the law or endanger themselves while “Pokemoning”. The game has also led wanderers to at least one home misidentified as a church, a venue the app considers a public space.

We are so desperate to fill the gap of our meaningless world with meaning, that the virtual worlds of our electronic media are beginning to supervene onto reality and control our very bodies and behaviors. We’ve allowed the virtual to become our reality and left the old worlds of natural existence behind, and yet those world impinge upon our false realms in dangerous and untold ways. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher who directs the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, describes the following scenario in his book Superintelligence, which has prompted a great deal of debate about the future of artificial intelligence. Bostrom believes that superintelligence could emerge, and while it could be great, he thinks it could also decide it doesn’t need humans around. Or do any number of other things that destroy the world. The title of chapter 8 is: “Is the default outcome doom?” As Paul Ford recently at MIT stated: “No one is suggesting that anything like superintelligence exists now. In fact, we still have nothing approaching a general-purpose artificial intelligence or even a clear path to how it could be achieved. Recent advances in AI, from automated assistants such as Apple’s Siri to Google’s driverless cars, also reveal the technology’s severe limitations; both can be thrown off by situations that they haven’t encountered before. Artificial neural networks can learn for themselves to recognize cats in photos. But they must be shown hundreds of thousands of examples and still end up much less accurate at spotting cats than a child.” (Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence)

Others like Rodney Brooks tell us hogwash, we have nothing to fear. Extrapolating from the state of AI today to suggest that superintelligence is looming is “comparable to seeing more efficient internal combustion engines appearing and jumping to the conclusion that warp drives are just around the corner,” Brooks wrote recently on Edge.org. “Malevolent AI” is nothing to worry about, he says, for a few hundred years at least. Yet, others like Stuart J. Russell, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley disagree with Brooks, saying: ““There are a lot of supposedly smart public intellectuals who just haven’t a clue.”  He pointed out that AI has advanced tremendously in the last decade, and that while the public might understand progress in terms of Moore’s Law (faster computers are doing more), in fact recent AI work has been fundamental, with techniques like deep learning laying the groundwork for computers that can automatically increase their understanding of the world around them.

As Ford concludes we have no technology that is remotely close to superintelligence. Then again, many of the largest corporations in the world are deeply invested in making their computers more intelligent; a true AI would give any one of these companies an unbelievable advantage. They also should be attuned to its potential downsides and figuring out how to avoid them. This somewhat more nuanced suggestion—without any claims of a looming AI-mageddon—is the basis of an open letter on the website of the Future of Life Institute, the group that got Musk’s donation. Rather than warning of existential disaster, the letter calls for more research into reaping the benefits of AI “while avoiding potential pitfalls.”

Agency: Human or Artificial?

It is not that reality entered our image: the image entered and shattered our reality (i.e. the symbolic coordinates which determine what we experience as reality). What this means is that the dialectic of semblance and Real cannot be reduced to the rather elementary fact that the virtualization of our daily lives, the experience that we are more and more living in an artificially constructed universe, gives rise to the irresistible urge to ‘return to the Real’, to regain the firm ground in some ‘real reality.’ THE REAL WHICH RETURNS HAS THE STATUS OF A(NOTHER) SEMBLANCE: precisely because it is real, i.e. on account of its traumatic/excessive character, we are unable to integrate it into (what we experience as) our reality, and are therefore compelled to experience it as a nightmarish apparition.

—Slavoj Žižek. Disparities

This sense of loss of reality and the nightmare quality of our lives in this weird world of the artificial seems to pervade every aspect of our socio-cultural lives. Our politics has turned south, gone under into a nightmare zone of strangeness across the First World. People that have sensed this nightmare surrounding them have been desperate to return to the old ways of our ancestral realms in any form or fashion. Ergo, the reason for traditionalist values and pundits on the Right of the spectrum have arisen because of this vacuum in peoples lives living in the artificial worlds of the modern urban megacities where every form of existence has become plastic and plasticity as a thought form has become all too real. Sex and Race pervade our politics now because the barriers of the fantasy worlds of the old mythologies of Monotheism no longer hold, not longer feed people what they need to give their lives meaning. We’ve been demythologizing and leaving these ancient systems behind for a few hundred years. Yet, in small pockets they  hold on fiercely and adamantly in certain traditionalist camps.

Catherine Malabou explains in Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing, the concept of plasticity, whose scope and stakes are firmly inscribed in those of our era, has overtaken the schemas of text and the trace. Plasticity “takes over” and “becomes the resistance of difference to its textual reduction.” In The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage, Malabou expands her reflection to cerebral pathologies, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. She hosts a dialog between philosophy, psychoanalysis and contemporary neurology, offering to demonstrate how cerebral organization presides over a libidinal economy in current psychopathologies. She also proposes a new theory of trauma and defends the hypothesis of destructive plasticity. In her latest book, Self and Emotional Life, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, written with Adrian Johnston, Malabou continues her exquisite crossing of disciplines, this time in order to explore the concept of wonder.

Without using all the jargon of postmodern shibboleths neuroplasticity in brain and mind is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. When people say that the brain possesses plasticity, they are not suggesting that the brain is similar to plastic. Neuro represents neurons, the nerve cells that are the building blocks of the brain and nervous system, and plasticity refers to the brain’s malleability. There’s both a functional and structural aspect to this neuroplasticity, one which allows other parts of the brain to take over the functions of diseased or traumatized areas (functional); and, the other (structural) refers to the brain’s ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning.

Our notions of agency have over the years changed, and the notions of Subject and Self have come under great scrutiny in philosophy and neurosciences. N. Katherine Hayles once suggested that if on the one hand humans are like machines, whether figured as cellular automata or Turing machines, then agency cannot be securely located in the conscious mind. If on the other hand machines are like biological organisms, then they must possess the effects of agency even though they are not conscious. In these reconfigurations, desire and language, both intimately connected with agency, are understood in new ways. Acting as a free-floating agent, desire is nevertheless anchored in mechanistic operations, a suggestion Guattari makes in “Machinic Heterogenesis.” Language, emerging from the operations of the unconscious figured as a Turing machine, creates expressions of desire that in their origin are always already interpenetrated by the mechanistic, no matter how human they seem. Finally, if desire and the agency springing from it are at bottom nothing more than performance of binary code, then computers can have agency fully as authentic as humans. Through these reconfigurations, Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan use automata to challenge human agency and in the process represent automata as agents.1

If our binary and / or algorithmic systems can already be thought to have agency, what of the more advanced AGI’s that even in their primitive beginnings during our experimental age are already surpassing human intelligence? Many guffaw such surpassing of the human as wishful thinking, as imposing upon the machinic world of things our anthropomorphic thought forms. But is this so? Are we not actually following the trajectory of two thousand years of technics and technology that has always gone hand in hand with human culture and civilization? Isn’t there always a sense of a two-way interactive oscillation between human agency and its creations? Isn’t this dialectical interplay between machine and human always already been a part of the human instrumentalism that was to eventually be termed science?  Our elite pundits have tried to spin a story that the Enlightenment was an aberration, that instrumental reason was no more than culturally bound entity, and that it too would be sloughed off for something else. What is this something else if not the AGI’s we are now inventing out of necessity at our own unsurmountable finitude? Building such superintelligences because our own abilities as creatures of finitude and limitation cannot surpass certain barriers due to evolutionary bindings? Because we have created such a desperate need for decomplexifying the data of our world in all its multifarious complexity?

The notion of Agency and Subject developed by Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan, is a subject in which consciousness, far from being the seat of agency, is left to speculate on why she acts as she does. She is increasingly aware that the origin of agency lies beyond the reach of consciousness, enacted by a computational program that is ultimately controlled by the external agent that has programmed the code to operate as it does. Even at this deep level the ambiguity of agency continues, for program is perceived to act both as an agent on its own behalf and as the surrogate for the will of the human. The ambiguity is repeated within consciousness, where she perceives herself to be exercising agency in the margins, as it were, the grey areas where the objectives of code might be implemented in ambiguous ways. In these complex reconfigurations of agency, the significance of envisioning the unconscious as a program rather than as a dark mirror of consciousness can scarcely be overstated, for it locates the hidden springs of action in the brute machinic operations of code. In this view, such visions of the unconscious as Freud’s repressed Oedipal conflicts or Jung’s collective archetypes seem hopelessly anthropomorphic, for they populate the unconscious with ideas comfortingly familiar to consciousness rather than the much more alien operations of machinic code. (43)

Blindness and Insight: Beyond the Hum of Machines?

Antonio Damasio, argue that body and mind are inextricably linked through multiple recursive feedback loops mediated by neurotransmitters, systems that have no physical analogues in computers. Damasio makes the point that these messages also provide content for the mind, especially emotions and feelings: “relative to the brain, the body provides more than mere support and modulation: it provides a basic topic for brain representations” (xvii). As Hayles tells us ”

The central question … is no longer how we as rational creatures should act in full possession of free will and untrammeled agency. Rather, the issue is how consciousness evolves from and interacts with the underlying programs that operate analogously to the operations of code. Whether conceived as literal mechanism or instructive analogy, coding technology thus becomes central to understanding the human condition. (44)

That great atheist dialectical materialist, Slavoj Zizek in his recent work Disparities will humor us saying that “Einstein was right with his famous claim ‘God doesn’t cheat’ – what he forgot to add is that god himself can be cheated. Insofar as the materialist thesis is that ‘God is unconscious’ (God doesn’t know), quantum physics effectively is materialist: there are microprocesses (quantum oscillations) which are not registered by the God-system. And insofar as God is one of the names of the big Other, we can see in what sense one cannot simply get rid of god (big Other) and develop an ontology without big Other: god is an illusion, but a necessary one.”2

Can we say that this necessary illusion is central to our quest to build the God Mind in our AGI’s? Are we not in fact and deed actually trying to create a god? Isn’t this truly at the heart of the artificial intelligent holy grail quest? To become machinic, to enter into the transitional stage of superintelligence, make our own pact with the impossible? For Zizek we have never been human, we’ve always been in transitional movement, that humans are in themselves absolutely nothing, without any fixed agency or stable self, that nothing pre-exists our being in the world, and that the notion of Subject is of movement toward something else. For Zizek we live in-between the Subject which is nothing in itself, and the world that we do not have direct access too. There is a crack in the world between us and reality, and all of our grand tales, our visions, our fantasies are ways in which we seek to bridge the gap between ourselves and reality. Yet, time after time our bridges built out of mathematics or language cannot bridge the gap so we build even more fantastic schemes:

This is why, from the strict Freudian standpoint, fantasy is on the side of reality, it sustains the subject’s ‘sense of reality’: when the fantasmatic frame disintegrates, the subject undergoes a ‘loss of reality’ and starts to perceive reality as an ‘irreal’ nightmarish universe with no firm ontological foundation; this nightmarish universe – the Lacanian Real – is not ‘pure fantasy’ but, on the contrary, that which remains of reality after reality is deprived of its support in fantasy.(Kindle Locations 285-288)

So once our human illusions, our fantasies are stripped from the world, what is left is the bottomless pit of nightmare —the Universe of machinic life. The endless sea of process and chaos churning on and on and on…

Reality is impenetrable not just because it transcends the constrained horizon of finite human being but also because we humans are unable to control and predict the effects on our own activity on our natural environs. Therein resides the paradox of anthropocene: humanity became aware of its self-limitation as a species precisely when it became so strong that it influenced the balance of the entire life on earth. It was able to dream of being a Subject until its influence on nature (earth) was marginal, that is, against the background of stable nature. The paradox is thus that the more the reproduction of nature is human mediated, the more humanity becomes a ‘decentred’ agent unable to regulate the process of its exchange with nonhuman nature. This is why it is not enough to insist on the nontransparency of objects, on how objects have a hidden core withdrawn from human reach: what is withdrawn is not just the hidden side of objects but above all the true dimension of the subject’s activity. The true excess is not the excess of objectivity which eludes the subject’s grasp but the excess of the subject itself, that is to say, what eludes the subject is the ‘blind spot’, the point at which it is itself inscribed into reality.3

My friend R. Scott Bakker calls this ‘blind spot’ of the Subject our inability to turn back upon ourselves and view the very processes that create consciousness —the Brain. We have no direct path toward reality, nor upon our own processes. We are blind to both reality and ourselves. Bakker defines a crash space as “a problem solving domain where our tools seem to fit the description, but cannot seem to get the job done” (p. 203). Bakker argues, plausibly, that the cognitive and emotional structures that give meaning to our lives and constrain us ethically can be expected to work only in a limited range of environments — roughly, environments similar in their basic structure to those in our evolutionary and cultural history. Break far enough away, and our ancestrally familiar approaches will cease to function effectively. As Bakker reminds us:

Herein lies the ecological rub. The reliability of our heuristic cues utterly depends on the stability of the systems involved. Anyone who has witnessed psychotic episodes has firsthand experience of consequences of finding themselves with no reliable connection to the hidden systems involved. Any time our heuristic systems are miscued, we very quickly find ourselves in ‘crash space,’ a problem solving domain where our tools seem to fit the description, but cannot seem to get the job done. (21)

We are living in such a domain now. We have for a few hundred years moved from our ancient heritage of Hunter/Gatherers, Agriculturalists, and emerged into a new realm both artificial and outside the confines of the natural world environments that were our base and support for millennia. Our philosophies, religions, cultural forms, our mythologies and even our instrumental reasoning powers – both cunning and rational, are no longer bound to the natural earth and environs, but rather have become unmoored within realms unforeseeable by our ancient systems of constraint and reason, our modern civilization. We’ve entered the Crash Space of Modernity in transition and our fantasies that have partially filled the gap of meaning have fallen into fragments and disarray across the planet. Our modern lives in this artificial world or urban cities, mobile to mobiles, electronic virtual realities, etc. has overtaking our ancient ties to the jungles and swamps of our ancient ancestry. Our minds have become unhinged from the natural environments, and have yet to make new ties to the urban zones of our future lives in artificial worlds.

And now we’re set to begin engineering our brains in earnest. Engineering environments has the effect of transforming the ancestral context of our cognitive capacities, changing the structure of the problems to be solved such that we gradually accumulate local crash spaces, domains where our intuitions have become maladaptive. Everything from irrational fears to the ‘modern malaise’ comes to mind here. Engineering ourselves, on the other hand, has the effect of transforming our relationship to all contexts, in ways large or small, simultaneously. It very well could be the case that something as apparently innocuous as the mass ability to wipe painful memories will precipitate our destruction. Who knows? The only thing we can say in advance is that it will be globally disruptive somehow, as will every other ‘improvement’ that finds its way to market. ( Bakker, 22)

I remember back in the seventies at university my English teacher (we still had an English Department back then! long before humanities) once said that Science Fiction was the mythology of our Age of Reason and Modernity. I still believe that is true. We are in the thousands of fictional scenarios of science fiction inventing a path forward, creating stories and tales that seek to understand and immerse us not in the past, not in character studies of Novels, but in the tools necessary to help us move steadily, calmly, and with reasoning awareness into the most impossible region of all —the Future.

As we move forward we realize we are not alone, that around us is a great host of stars, planets, galaxies unbound. The only thing stopping us from change and developing viable paths in cultural, social, politics and life is our own defective and maladaptive minds, blinded by our own immersion in these processes we have no control over and yet control us in ways beyond telling. We live by fantasy, we always have… we create meaning not out of blindly stripping reality of our minds, but by weaving meaningful fantasies based on our awakening to the new and unbidden. Only when we allow our fantasies to rule over us, to suborn us and enslave us as in ancient thought of religious and socio-cultural systems of power and knowledge that weave us into their larger frameworks like so many insectoids to do the bidding of the few rather than the many do we begin to lose sight of the power of mind and its place in the universe at large. As Bakker ominously surmises “Human cognition is about to be tested by an unparalleled age of ‘habitat destruction.’ The more we change ourselves, the more we change the nature of the job, the less reliable our ancestral tools become, the deeper we wade into crash space.” (22)


  1. Swirski, Peter. The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem (pp. 28-29). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.
  2. Slavoj Žižek. Disparities (Kindle Locations 1086-1090). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. ibid. (Kindle Locations 721-729).

Christopher Slatsky, Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales

Christopher Slatsky, Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales

Been hearing about Slatsky for a while now, and downloaded his debut collection today! Glad I did, he’s got the dark touch on him, the one that tells you this is the real McCoy. 518wrnjce4lDark, gritty, atmospheric – suspenseful: his little jeweled nightmares remind me of those old collectors of curiosities one finds rarely except by accident, and usually in some off-beat district of an out of the way town or village; down some dank wet alley cobbled with slime and gunk, moldy, black, dense with years of detritus; hidden behind some dilapidated trash bin or piled mass of rusting and decaying poultry, fish, or fruit – pus laden lushness, corroding in the some forgotten corner of a lost world; where – the door  – and, not just any door, but the door: the one meant only for you, marked with your name, the one only you can open if you dare, with its small ill-lit lamp above wired faulty, blinking, glimmering in some eternal twilight or dusk; a sign just above the door, with most of the letters missing, hinting at treasures and rarities beyond your wildest imaginings if only you’ll step this way, step inside, visit the last place on earth you’d like to be right now; and, yet, there it is – in the windows: these unique little nightmare curiosities, the intricate and detailed realms of some deformed nightmare world, the morbidity of forgotten galaxies, toxic wastelands of hellish desire and craftsmanship, universes of constructed horror filled with infinite passageways into endless labyrinths of perversity. A horror collectors best nightmare come true…

Slatsky’s tales inhabit that dark space, deliver the goods you relish, a ghoulish festival of aberrant delights that should let your night be broken and twisted till you crave reprieve from such demented realms and secret mindless miseries. Over the top? Hyperbolical? Am I shitting? No, its actually that good. If you crave atmosphere, if you like the visceral slime-pit of the grotesque and the macabre, a waltz into the scatological worlds of decay and organic demise this is your guy. He doesn’t pull any punches, and he weaves tales that are neither pastiche nor a silent send off to the great masters of the past, but rather let’s those influences – and, remember influence was once a term of astrological import of letting in the star power of dark light mingle with your own – then this is the book of weird tales for you. I say run, do not walk – let your big fat fingers outpace themselves – to your nearest online retailer and get a copy today. Now! Don’t wait!

I’ll probably have more to say after I allow myself time to absorb these nightmares into my own curiosity cabinet. Another time, another day…

Visit Christopher Slatsky at his site: here. Find his book here: Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales

The Tales:

Loveliness Like a Shadow
An Infestation of Stars
Corporautolysis
No One is Sleeping in this World
Making Snakes
The Ocean is Eating Our Graves
This Fragmented Body
Tellurian Façade
Film Maudit
A Plague of Naked Movie Stars
Scarcely Have They Been Planted
Intaglios
Alectryomancer

The Folds of Horror: Notes on Ligotti, Lovecraft, and Philosophy

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I began this set of notes to bring in a specific philosophical concept (“Fold”) that struck me as pertinent in my recent reading of Thomas Ligotti’s book The Conspiracy against the Human Race. Thomas Ligotti in a side note speaking of Lovecraft’s model of the supernatural horror tale, which he portrayed in its archetypal form in the short story, “The Music of Erich Zann”, commented:

In composing the … work, Lovecraft came up with a model supernatural horror tale, one in which a subjective mind and an objective monstrosity shade into each other, the one projecting itself outward and the other reflecting back so that together they form the perfect couple dancing to the uncanny music of being.1 [italics mine]

When I read this passage I was struck by it’s uncanny resemblance to two notions of import I’ve read in the past few years. One referencing Deleuze’s notions surrounding the concept of the “Fold” in his work on Leibniz and the Baroque; and, the other concerning the notions of how objects relate to one another in Graham Harman’s Weird Realism. If in the passage above by Ligotti we replace “shade into each other” with “fold into each other” we begin to connect both Deleuze’s notion of fold with Harman’s notion of the objects relating through a third object of which they form and fold into one another. I’ll address a couple quotes from Harman, then move on to Deleuze’s work. Admittedly for Harman it’s about ontology in the real as it folds things into itself or is folded into the other; and, for Deleuze the fold is about the sensual epistemic and pervasive folds as the eye follows the surfaces through their becomings.

Graham Harman in Guerrilla Metaphysics tells us that the theory of objects “exists not just at some ultimate pampered layer, but all the way up and down the ladder of the cosmos, so that all realities gain the dignity of objects”. He continues, saying,

Objects have surprises in store as well: lemon meringue, popsicles, Ajax Amsterdam, reggae bands, grains of sand. Each of these things remains a unitary substance beyond its impact on others—and obviously, none of them is an ultimate tiny particle of matter from which all else is built. They are not ultimate materials, but autonomous forms, forms somehow coiled up or folded in the crevices of the world and exerting their power on all that approaches them. This is my definition of substance, a term well worth salvaging: an object or substance is a real thing considered apart from any of its relations with other such things.2 Commenting on Merleau Ponty he’ll also mention that to “have a body is already to be folded into the things rather than to stand at a distance from them: “the thickness of the body . . . [is] the sole means I have to go unto the heart of the things, by making myself a world and by making them flesh.” (GM, 53) [my italics]

I’ll leave this here and move on to Deleuze’s work.

From the Translator’s forward to Gilles Deleuze’s Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque we learn:

Focillon notes that the Romanesque and Gothic, two dominant and contrastive styles, often inflect each other. They crisscross and sometimes fold vastly different sensibilities into each other. The historian is obliged to investigate how the two worlds work through each other at different speeds and. in tum. how they chart various trajectories on the surface of the European continent. … The experience of the Baroque entails that of the fold. Leibniz is the first great philosopher and mathematician of the pleat, of curves and twisting surfaces. He rethinks the phenomenon of “point of view,” of perspective, of conic sections. and of things. folded are draperies. tresses. tesselated fabrics, ornate costumes: dermal surfaces of the body that unfold in the embryo and crease themselves at death; domestic architecture that bends upper and lower levels together while floating in the cosmos; novels narratives or develop infinite possibilities of serial form; harmonics that orchestrate vastly different rhythms and tempos; philosophies that resolve Cartesian distinctions of mind and body through physical means – without recourse to occasionalism or parallelismgrasped as foldings; styles and iconographies of painting that hide shapely figures in ruffles and billows of fabric. or that lead the eye to confuse different orders of space and surface.

 The key here strangely is not just the concept of the fold but rather the notion of causality as referenced in “without recourse to occasionalism and parallelism”. I’ll deal with this later. I still need to reread this work by Deleuze again and take notes…

Before I go any further I want to reference a post by Levi R. Bryant of Larval Subjects whose work of recent has taken him away from Object-Oriented philosophy and towards the notion of the “fold” as well. In a post in which he describes to his Barber the notion of the fold he has a discussion about bricks, saying,

Me:  A brick is a form of origami, like a crumpled piece of paper.

B:  Say what?

Me:  It folds the forces of the cosmos into it, invaginates them.  It folds the pressure of the other bricks about it into it, if it has lots of iron it folds the oxygen into it giving it that red color, it folds gravity and temperature in it, becoming brittle when it’s cold and molten when very hot.  Sound, light, pressures, air, all of these things are folded into it and it unfolds these things in the unique event that it is according to the structure that it has.  This conversation that we’re having, see those bricks over there on the wall?  The timber of the sound of our voices, the acoustics of this room, is an origami of our voices and those bricks.  Our voices have folded the bricks into themselves and unfolded it in a new vibration of sound.  Everything is a fold or folding, both individual and continuous with what it folds.

It might be better– I haven’t decided yet –to say that everything is a wave.  A wave is continuous with the water in which it occurs, yet distinct.  It both folds the currents of wind and water into itself and unfolds them in a rolling pattern across a plane.  It both arises from that plane but is distinct from it and changes it.  The dreams you told me about earlier are now a wave in me, folded into me, becoming something other yet remaining those dreams.

B:  [The scissors pause, stunned silence]  That’s so cool, man!  [He looks at his scissors and about the room]  It’s like everything is digesting everything else.  These walls have the past, music history [they’re covered with music posters], all these conversations and happenings folded into them.  That’s so cool, man.  Wow.

When the Barber said, it’s “like everything is digesting everything else” I almost croaked: this very notion that the universe is itself nothing but appetite, a great machinic feeding and ingesting machine, churning, grinding, folding, eating, regurgitating, etc. seemed more like one of Jonathan Swift’s satires; and, yet, much of the cosmic horror is of just that sense of a Darwinian blood and claw, predatorial universe of pure appetitive energy – and endless festival of death, the grotesque, and the macabre. Along with the notion or concept of fold one should bring in the sense of absorption, too.

In his work on Kabbalah, Absorbing Perfections, Moshe Idel in relating how texts and objects absorb each other we discover the absorbing quality of Shakespeare or of Joyce. Strong authors, like sacred texts, can be defined as those with the capacity to absorb us. To “absorb,” in American English, means several related processes: to take something in as through the pores, or to engross one’s full interest or attention, or to assimilate fully. Idel defines his use of “absorbing” as follows:

I use this term in order to convey the expanding comprehensiveness of the concept of the text of kabbalah or torah which, moving to the center of the Jewish society, also integrated attributes reminiscent of wider entities like the world or God. This expansion facilitated the attribution of more dynamic qualities to the text conceived of as capable of allowing various types of influences on processes taking place in the world, in God, and in the human psyche.3

In this he is conceiving his text as influencing what takes place in the world and in the human psyche (i.e., extrinsic and intrinsic relations), and even in God, if there is God. Shakespeare, like the Bible or Dante or the Zohar, absorbs us even as we absorb him, or them. Historicizing Hamlet or Lear breaks down very quickly: they themselves are the perfections that absorb us all.

This notion of being absorbed even as we absorb is a different twist on the old Gnostic notion or insight of knowing even as we are known which entails not a mental but appetitive act of intellect that both projects and introjects without dissolving the other, but rather as in digesting, mulching, thinking through and absorbing the sparks or vagrant fugitive thoughts – as substantive rather than immaterial – of the other, and making them part of one’s physical as well as mental being. One can imagine how this might play out in a supernatural horror scenario. One can as well think of the origins of life, cellular life of the membrane: the early introjection/projection of substance interactions that shaped the autonomy of a form necessary to both absorb and be absorbed; absorbing sustenance and nutrients, as well as expulsing them as byproducts to be absorbed by another substance. An endless mulching and scatological defecation is life at its raw minimal. One thinks of books like Nick Lane. The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is?; or, Johnjoe McFadden. Life on the Edge; or, David Toomey,  Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own… and many others.

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Such notions of absorption and folding make me think of a film from my childhood, The Blob, with Steve McQueen. The plot of this film depicts a growing corrosive alien amoeba that crashes from outer space in a meteorite and engulfs, absorbs, and folds in, and dissolves citizens in the small community of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. But before I get away with myself let’s hone back in on Levi’s post: the key here is when Levi says: “Everything is a fold or folding, both individual and continuous with what it folds.” That brings me by circuitous route back to Ligotti’s statement on Lovecraft’s model of supernatural horror as the shading or folding into each other producing this coupling of both in a dance of being; yet, not dissolving or fusing them together where their unique and unitary forms or substance is compromised beyond repair, but rather as a dark gnosis in which they both form a relation to each other that is itself a new (non?)knowledge of things and each other; or, a folding or absorbing or non-knowing even as folded, absorbed, non-known (i.e., think of Bataille’s System of Non-Knowledge rather than Laurelle’s concept), etc.. This sense of horror as the overcoming of fear through ecstatic enmeshing and folding between the known (subject) and the unknown (object); or, even object to object relations, is the central motif of Lovecraftian model of horror: or, as I want to term it after Eugene Thacker, model of abstract horror – a horror of ideas/concepts beyond the emotive drag of terror and fear; or, rather the end point or telos of which fear is the active defense measure of the body’s protective systems, and the abstract as thought’s resistance to the force or drag of the body’s own counter-measures – a way of overcoming the basic reactions of flight or death.

I’ll stop for now… I need to begin a new research project to trace this down, dig deeper into the notion of the fold, and develop this connection or disconnection between the various philosophies and notions of how it applies to the model of horror – or, even to philosophy as horror (Thacker/Land).

Things to research:

  1. The theme of fold itself across various philosophers, histories, usage, domains, etc.
  2. Absorption and its history and uses in various critical and scientific forms, etc.
  3. The notions of causality: fold vs. occasionalism/parallelism
  4. Further research on the model of horror (reread Lovecraft’s works and his book length Supernatural Horror), and Ligotti’s texts, Deleuze’s The Fold, and works of other philosophers…

  1. Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (p. 210). Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things (p. 19). Open Court. Kindle Edition.
  3. Professor Moshe Idel. Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation (pp. xiii-xiv). Yale University Press (June 10, 2002)

 

 

 

 

The Dark Gnosis of our Malignant Uselessness

I’ve often wondered if there is a dark gnosis (and, there might be!), a gnosis that disavowed the a-cosmic generalities of the ancient Gnostics, or the apophatic disquietism of the desert monks; that was closer to the erotic and sadeian art of immersion in the sacral and scabrous art of murder and mayhem; a forbidden knowledge – or should we say, non-knowledge (Bataillean rather than Laruelleian) of the seeping malignancy at the core of things and the Universe: the blind and insipid processes that creeps into every aspect of time and space – there being no extreme elsewhere, no beyond, no transcendent realm outside these gyrating processes; and, to know and be known by this insanity of things: the violent and ecstatic terror of its catastrophic unknowing systems of endless churning and scatological inebriation; this thermospasmic mindlessness of nothing and emptiness: this, and this alone would be the intimate corruption my being has sought against all that is sunny and optimistic, and kept me tied to the world of life and all those secret sharers of this “malignant uselessness” (Ligotti).

In the The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror Thomas Ligotti remarks:

Phenomenally speaking, the supernatural may be regarded as the metaphysical counterpart of insanity, a transcendental correlative of a mind that has been driven mad. This mind does not keep a chronicle of “man’s inhumanity to man” but instead tracks a dysphoria symptomatic of our life as transients in a creation that is natural for all else that lives, but for us is anything but. The most uncanny of creaturely traits, the sense of the supernatural, the impression of a fatal estrangement from the visible, is dependent on our consciousness, which merges the outward and the inward into a universal comedy without laughter. We are only chance visitants to this jungle of blind mutations. The natural world existed when we did not, and it will continue to exist long after we are gone. The supernatural crept into life only when the door of consciousness was opened in our heads. The moment we stepped through that door, we walked out on nature. Say what we will about it and deny it till we die— we are blighted by our knowing what is too much to know and too secret to tell one another if we are to stride along our streets, work at our jobs, and sleep in our beds. It is the knowledge of a race of beings that is only passing through this shoddy cosmos.1


  1.  Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (pp. 211-212). Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition.

 

THE SECRET OF VENTRILOQUISM by Jon Padgett

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For those of you that don’t know Jon Padgett, he’s the progenitor of Thomas Ligotti Online a public forum for all those fans of that dark light of the grotesque and macabre, horror and weirdness. Jon a one time ventriloquist who now lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter, and two cats,  has been the first publisher for a number of Ligotti’s prose works, including My Work is Not Yet Done and Crampton. His first short story collection,  The Secret of Ventriloquism  with Introduction by Thomas Ligotti, is also forthcoming – very shortly, and you can pre-order it: here at Dynatox Ministries – or from Dunhams Manor Press, May 2016. Jon was once asked how he’d become involved with Dunhams and Dynatox Ministries:

I had heard about the excellent and unusual weird fiction published by Dunhams Manor Press for the past couple of years from such superb writers as Nicole Cushing, Clint Smith, Michael Griffin, Christopher Slatsky, Willum Pugmire, Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy, Joe Pulver and John Claude Smith among others.

How did I become associated with the press? I simply wandered onto the DMP website and queried editor Jordan Krall by email (or web form — I forget). Krall quickly replied that he’d be interested in reading my work, I sent several tales to him, and soon he accepted and offered to publish my long story, THE INFUSORIUM, as a chapbook.

As Matt Cardin tells us on Teeming Brain, another excellent site to wander through for those of the weirdness (a term I use to invoke the uncertainty between the marvelous and the uncanny, yet with a slightly more pessimistic blend of speculative insouciance), Jon’s new book of short stores and essays The Secret of Ventriloquism will keep you up at nights wanting more:

With themes reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ligotti, and Bruno Shulz, but with a strikingly unique vision, Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism heralds the arrival of a significant new literary talent. Padgett’s work explores the mystery of human suffering, the agony of personal existence, and the ghastly means by which someone might achieve salvation from both. A bullied child who seeks vengeance within a bed’s hollow box spring; a lucid dreamer haunted by an impossible house; a dummy that reveals its own anatomy in 20 simple steps; a stuttering librarian who holds the key to a mill town’s unspeakable secrets; a commuter whose worldview is shattered by two words printed on a cardboard sign; an aspiring ventriloquist who spends a little too much time looking at himself in a mirror. And the presence that speaks through them all.

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction by Matt Cardin
  • The Mindfulness of Horror Practice
  • Murmurs of a Voice Foreknown
  • The Indoor Swamp
  • Origami Dreams
  • 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism
  • Infusorium
  • Organ Void
  • The Secret of Ventriloquism

 

Pre-Order Jon’s work The Secret of Ventriloquism

 

Discovering Crypt(o)spasm – Gary J. Shipley: The Madness of Abstract Horror

Discovering Crypt(o)spasm: The Madness of Abstract Horror; or, A Pessimist’s Labyrinth of Laughter

I am reading the book I am always reading: Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet.

-Gary J. Shipley, Interview with David F. Hoenigman

As I’m reading through Gary J. Shipley’s Crypt(0)spasm which recently was rereleased I began seeking some trace of its madness, a penchant of its epileptic thrust into a cataleptic disgruntlement, a mere morsel of sense from the dark diver’s corporeal agon – something, anything, that might bring me a dribble, here or there, out of the millions and millions of bits of data crunched by the googlemeister machines and threaded display tags of monstrous inveiglements, that could assuredly spawn and generate some semblance or preparation, some tribute or defamation of this grand and impossible nightmare of a work. To my dismay the work of Mr. Shipley – one of those that Thomas Ligotti – that corrupter of the young and old alike, would deem a Connoisseur of the Pessimist’s Dark Art is barely visible in the cultural limelight, much less entrenched in the daft anarchy of trivia and inane knots of intellectual fare one typically discovers on the net; rather he seems to have gone down into the declivities where fellow agonists of the corruption follow the trail into madness and despair,  the lair and shadowed circle of compeers who seek not the famed exigencies of the tribe of light, but rather of the impossible excess of that abyss from which nothing will ever – and, I say, ever return. But does this dismay Mr. Shipley? Doubtlessly, not. Like many of us he is knowing of his (non)place in the social lights – a mere surface tension of disreputable intelligence, rather than a site of gaming wit and intellect as one will find in his extravagant divagations and crepuscular nocturnes. It’s as if the liberal press in some great consort of suspicion has gone to great lengths to filter and silence such works as Shipley and other pessimistically inclined purveyors of our dark estate, who generate with such equanimity and calculated risk the artifacts of disillusionment and the grotesquerie of twisted enlightenment, publish for the select few. And, yet, it is in such texts as these that those who seek a worthy guide into the intricacies of the unbinding from illusions, those very wary readers who slip nightly into the interminable zones of abject horror: – abstract layers where the analytical and continental mind thrive in the interstices of a forlorn universe of multiplicity, would find in the thermospasms of conjectured confabulation the unbinding circuits of madness and death that generates the energetic creativity that is our catastrophic universe and the glory of our literature of terrors and awakenings to the insane truth.

Continue reading

The Tick-Tock Man: A Weird Tale

“Only a cynic can create horror — for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving demonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them.”

-Letter from H.P. Lovecraft to Edwin Baird

Maybe I should’ve realized then that my life was going nowhere fast, but as in everything I did I tried to hide that fact from myself. I’d get up, shower, shave, put on a decent gray suit and black tie – the usual invisibility shell I’d been using for years. I’d enter work and smile my masked smile, joke with the guy in the cubicle next to me – Frank was him name, I believe? – for a few minutes; and, then I’d go into my own cube as if it were a monastic cell and shut the rest of the world out of my mind for the rest of the day.

I’m not sure when I noticed things were beginning to change. It wasn’t like I could see a physical difference in the objects around me. I didn’t. It was more a feeling – a vague one, at that. It’s like those strange moments when you catch a glimmer of something out of the corner of your eye, but it is moving so fast that by the time you turn to see what it is – it’s gone, poof. Then you have to ask whether it was just your overactive imagination; believe me, you don’t want to go there, but we’ve all been there – haven’t we?

Then there was the clock on my desk. After all these years – I noticed it. Not that I hadn’t noticed it before. No. I looked at it all time, looked at the one on my computer, looked at the one up on the office wall above Judy’s cube. Time was a preoccupation with me. No. This was different – it wasn’t so much about looking as hearing. Suddenly I kept hearing the tick-tock of the clock over and over and over again to the point I had to stop it or else. I picked it up and slammed it down as hard as I could on the desk. It seemed to stop, or at least it wasn’t as noisy. Then I thought to myself: “What am I doing, this is sheer lunacy?” So I picked the clock up examined it carefully to see if the crystal was cracked or the facing scratched, wound it back up and locked it away in my drawer and left it there.

I remember going to the lavatory for a few minutes. I wasn’t gone that long at all. When I returned there it was – the clock. Sitting there on the desk as if I’d never put it away. A friend had given it to me years ago as a gift. She said it was a rare item. A one of a kind. She’d found it in one of her travels to some country of the Far East. She didn’t remember where. Said it came with a curse; or, at least that is what the shop owner had told her. They’d both laughed at such antics. He told her the clock once belonged to a Princess of ancient China. That a famous toy and clock maker had made it especially for her, and that it was built to keep her alive as long as she took care of it – and, didn’t anger it. It was said that the Princess kept the clock safe for years and years, that she’d put it in an alcove just above her bed where it kept time to the Dragon never yielding to its flames. That is until she fell in love with a young Prince.

The Prince had moved her to his palace and she’d brought her dowry and her clock with her. Everything had gone on fine for many cycles of the turning wheel of time, but then a day came when the Princess had accidentally discovered her lover, the Prince, in the arms of another woman. She’d been so enraged she’d come back to her quarters and begun shredding everything, her clothing, her art, her furniture, her bed, until she came to the object she valued most in her life: the clock. She knew of the curse, and she knew she wanted to get back at the Prince. She picked up the device and without thinking she threw it from the balcony of her room onto the rocks and sea far below.

From that day forward the Princess became ill and a few days and weeks later, even after the Prince had called in the best and brightest doctors, sorcerers, witches, and ancient necromantic seers: she died of unknown causes in an excruciating form – she turned to jade, to stone. The Prince so distraught over the death of his beautiful lover felt there was some ancient curse upon his House. He summoned all his soothsayers and wise men to discover the problem; and they told him of the old toymaker’s clock, and of this man who had loved the young Princess from afar, but due to his age and station in life could only offer the one thing he had to give – the promise of immortality. The clock held the ancient powers of chaos and creation within its mechanical works, a magickal device of cunning and sorcery that bestowed the semblance of life for a price; that price being the dark and terrible secret of death itself which would extol a malignancy upon those who betrayed its confidence. For those who betrayed the device it meant becoming a living death in stone; an immortal statue of jade within which one would be aware for all eternity.

The Prince had the old toymaker and all of his clocks summoned before him. The old man was forced to share the story of his corruption and of the device. The Prince entreated him to break the spell upon the Princess, to release her from her living abomination. But, sadly, the toymaker said this was beyond his power; that the daemon of the clock held the power, and that only it could release her. The Prince angered beyond his young years had without warning slid his katana out and swiftly sliced the head off of the toymaker. He’d wrapped the clock up – which had reappeared after his lover’s mutation in her jade hands – and wrapped it in the old man’s shawl and floated both down the Yellow Yangtze River. That was the last anyone had heard of the clock and its tale till the shop keeper’s great uncle who’d been a traveling merchant had found it and the slain toymaker in the river. The clock seemed such a wonderful object that the old merchant had scooped it from the dead man and hidden it among his things. The merchant had a dream that night and the old toymaker had come to him and told him the tale of the clock and of its curse, that anyone who angered it would surely die as it would die at the appointed hour of the tiger: absolute zero. There and only there did time stop, and freeze into nothing; to remain there throughout all eternity along with its victim alone with the daemon of the clock.

The shop owner Pooh-poohed such old wives tales, said it was just one of those tales to tell your children on a late night when the moon was dark, and the owls and mice in the rafters were hooting and pattering. And, yet, she’d felt a little uneasy about it later, even made sure she wrapped the clock up safely and stowed it away in her traveling chest nice and tight. By the time she’d arrived back home after her journey she’d forgotten all about it. Until she’d given it to me, along with the unnerving tale of Princesses and demons and owls and mice and dark moons and curses.

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The Suicide Machine

The Universe is nothing else than a suicide machine created by a blind and fugitive monstrosity, whose veritable death throes generated the body of this universal catastrophe we now live in as fragments or shards of its dying embers, ash of its black light.

-©2016 S.C. Hickman, The Infernal Journals of Thaddeus Long

Thomas Ligotti will offer a surmise onto the strange necrotheology of the German philosopher Philipp Mainländer (born Phillip Batz), echoing a strain of Gnostic or Buddhist thought underpinning much of 19th Century Philosophy, saying: “Perhaps the Blind God was an unreliable narrator of weird tales. He did not want to leave a bad impression by telling us He had absented Himself from the ceremonies of death before they had begun. Alone and immortal, nothing needed Him. Yet, He needed to bust out into a universe to complete His project of self-extinction, passing on His horror piecemeal, so to say, to His creation.”1 He’ll comment on this amalgam of Catholic, Gnostic, and Pessimist speculation of Mainländer’s – remarking,

No one has yet conceived an authoritative reason for why the human race should continue or discontinue its being, although some believe they have. Mainländer was sure he had an answer to what he judged to be the worthlessness and pain of existence, and none may peremptorily belie it. (CHR,

The inability to posit an optimistic or a pessimistic reason for the continuation of the human species has left humanity in a quandary, oscillating between two poles like dark divers from some infernal picture show; members of a cult of death that keep on keeping on, only because of the ennui and the lack of vital thought or action necessary to decide one way or the other. So instead we have ritualized our world around certain age-old fetishes that our desires can grasp onto to maintain the status quo – if nothing else. As Ligotti delightfully relates: “Ontologically, Mainländer’s thought is delirious; metaphorically, it explains a good deal about human experience; practically, it may in time prove to be consistent with the idea of creation as a structure of creaking bones being eaten from within by a pestilent marrow.” (CHR, 38)


1. Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition. (CHR)

 

The Labyrinth of Night

I imagined a labyrinth of labyrinths, a maze of mazes, a twisting, turning, ever-widening labyrinth that contained both past and future and somehow implied the stars.

-Jorge Luis Borges

No one knows when they built the Labyrinth of Night. Some say it has always been here, but that no one knew of its existence because the time was not right; people were not ready to receive its mysteries, its secrets. Others say that the labyrinth is always and everywhere and only for the few – a small elite, those tormented souls who seek eternal solace in the dark and lonely nights of oblivion; that seek the secretive ways of the abyss that are neither a part of time nor a part of space, but rather of that unique and specific territory of powers of an integral obscurity and rotten sentience. These wanderers of a forlorn thought, miscreants of perversity, would rather follow the patterns of this dark desire than meet the physical needs of its tenants; knowers of the labyrinth, caterers of those delicate strains of the hidden art of pain: tempters,  alluring a design, a mystery out of the insane mysteries: a lost art of despair, debauches of cruelty and insanity; transgressors, excessive militants and renegades of the abyss: all, each and every one, – locked away, solitary, in some far creation bounded only by an infinite void, the void; a last and merciless confrontation, an agon with the blacknesses, willing accomplices to the unraveling of all things: the unweaving of  stars and worlds and darkness itself; creatures of absolute nihil unbound. I do not know the truth of it, all I know is that I’ve been here for a very long time.

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Thomas Ligotti: Dark Phenomenology and Abstract Horror

Of course, mystery actually requires a measure of the concrete if it is to be perceived at all; otherwise it is only a void, the void. The thinnest mixture of this mortar, I suppose, is contained in that most basic source of mystery—darkness.

-Thomas Ligotti

Dark Phenonmenology and the Daemonic

Thomas Ligotti in his essay The Dark Beauty Of Unheard-of Horrors (DB) will tell us that “beneath the surface utterances of setting, incident, and character, there is another voice that may speak of something more than the bare elements of narrative”.1  He’ll emphasize as well the notion that “emotion, not mind, is the faculty for hearing the secret voice of the story and apprehending its meaning. Without emotion, neither story nor anything else can convey meaning as such, only data”.  Stephen Zweig in his study of daemonism in the arts once told us that great art cannot exist without inspiration, and inspiration derives from an unknown, from a region outside the domain of the waking consciousness. For me, the true counterpart of the spasmodically exalted writer, divinely presumptuous, carried out of himself by the exuberance of uncontrolled forces, is the writer who can master these forces, the writer whose mundane will is powerful enough to tame and to guide the daemonic element that has been instilled into his being. To guide as well as to tame, for daemonic power, magnificent though it be and the source of creative artistry, is fundamentally aimless, striving only to re-enter the chaos out of which it sprang.2

Isolation, anchoring, distraction, and sublimation are among the wiles we use to keep ourselves from dispelling every illusion that keeps us up and running. Without this cognitive double-dealing, we would be exposed for what we are. It would be like looking into a mirror and for a moment seeing the skull inside our skin looking back at us with its sardonic smile. And beneath the skull— only blackness, nothing.

-Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror

Ligotti makes a point that horror must stay ill-defined, that the monstrous must menace us from a distance, from the unknown; a non-knowledge, rather than a knowledge of the natural; it is the unnatural and invisible that affects us not something we can reduce to some sociological, psychological, or political formation or representation, which only kills the mystery – taming it and pigeonholing it into some cultural gatekeeper’s caged obituary. As Ligotti says “This is how it is when a mysterious force is embodied in a human body, or in any form that is too well fixed. And a mystery explained is one robbed of its power of emotion, dwindling into a parcel of information, a tissue of rules and statistics without meaning in themselves.” (DB) The domesticated beast is no horror at all.

In the attic of the mind a lunatic family resides, a carnival world of aberrant thoughts and feelings – that, if we did not lock away in a conspiracy of silence would freeze us in such terror and fright that we would become immobilized unable to think, feel, or live accept as zombies, mindlessly. So we isolate these demented creatures, keep them at bay. Then we anchor ourselves in artifice, accept substitutes, religious mythologies, secular philosophies, and anything else that will help us keep the monsters at bay. As Ligotti will say, we need our illusions – our metaphysical anchors and dreamscapes “that inebriate us with a sense of being official, authentic, and safe in our beds” (CHR, 31). Yet, when even these metaphysical ploys want stem the tide of those heinous monsters from within we seek out distraction, entertainment: TV, sports, bars, dancing, friends, fishing, scuba diving, boating, car racing, horse riding… almost anything that will keep our mind empty of its dark secret, that will allow it to escape the burden of emotion – of fear, if even for a night or an afternoon of sheer mindless bliss. And, last, but not least, we seek out culture, sublimation – art, theatre, festivals, carnivals, painting, writing, books… we seek to let it all out, let it enter into that sphere of the tragic or comic, that realm where we can exorcize it, display it, pin it to the wall for all to see our fears and terrors on display not as they are but as we lift them up into art, shape them to our nightmare visions or dreamscapes of desire. As Ligotti tells it, we read literature or watch a painting, go to a theatre, etc.:

In so many words, these thinkers and artistic types confect products that provide an escape from our suffering by a bogus simulation of it— a tragic drama or philosophical woolgathering… to showcase how a literary or philosophical composition cannot perturb its creator or anyone else with the severity of true-to-life horrors but only provide a pale representation of these horrors, just as a King Lear’s weeping for his dead daughter Cordelia cannot rend its audience with the throes of the real thing. (CHR, 32)

So we seek to cover it over, isolate it, anchor ourselves in some fantastic illusion of belief, and distract ourselves with Big Brother episodes or Kardashian hijinks, else read or watch tragic portrayals of the horror as a way to purge the effects of these dark emotions that we just cannot cope with. All to no avail. For in the end they will not stay locked up in the attic, but begin to haunt us, begin to find ways to make their presence known, to escape their dark dungeons and enter our lives in surprising and unexpected ways till in the end we discover we are overwhelmed by their dark necessity. Even Ligotti admits that after all his own short narratives, his art, his horrors are little more than escapes from the ennui – merely providing an “escape from our suffering by a bogus simulation of it”. (CHR, 32)

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Cosmic Horror: Spinoza, Poe, and Lovecraft

Nothing exists of which it cannot be asked, what is the cause (or reason), why it exists.

-Baruch Spinoza

Spinoza: Sufficient Reason

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) stipulates that everything must have a reason, cause, or ground. Spinoza would add to the epigraph above that since “existing is something positive, we cannot say that it has nothing as its cause. Therefore, we must assign some positive cause, or reason, why [a thing] exists—either an external one, i.e., one outside the thing itself, or an internal one, one comprehended in the nature and definition of the existing thing itself.”1

Spinoza in Axiom 7 appeals in his  explanation – previously stated, that it is a variant of the “ex nihilo, nihil fit” (“from nothing, nothing comes”) principle, and stipulates that an existing thing and its perfections (or qualities) cannot have nothing or a non-existing thing as their cause. So would this for Spinoza preclude any form of relation with an inexistent? We know that in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Spinoza allows for one unique item to be without a cause. In §70 of this treatise, Spinoza argues:

[T]hat Thought is also called true which involves objectively the essence of some principle that does not have a cause, and is known through itself and in itself. (II/26/33–4.)

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