The Womb and Tomb of Time: Marija Gimbutas

In religious art, the human body symbolizes myriad functions beyond the sexual, especially the procreative, nurturing, and life enhancing. I believe that in earlier times, obscenity as a concept surrounding either the male or female body did not exist. Renditions of the body expressed other functions, specifically the nourishing and procreative aspects of the female body and the life-stimulating qualities of the male body. The female force, as the pregnant vegetation goddess, intimately embodied the earth’s fertility. But the sophisticated, complex art surrounding the Neolithic goddess is a shifting kaleidoscope of meaning: she personified every phase of life, death, and regeneration. She was the Creator from whom all life-human, human, plant, and animal-arose, and to whom everything returned. Her role extended far beyond eroticism.

—Marija Gimbutas, The Living Goddesses

Our Neolithic forbears inherited the world of the hunters and gatherers across our finite world. They would create myths not of a singular Lord of the Universe but rather stories of a multifarious Goddess for whom the cycles of the great agricultural seasons became the enveloping world within which here people would create myths and rituals to forge temporal links between the earth and the stars above. Humans for millennia would abide under these various organic myths which would imprint upon their minds and hearts the patterns between the star gods and the cycles of natural order that provided the seasonal crops and patterns of rain and drought governing the survival of each and every family, group, and tribe.

As the Neolithic scholar  and singular visionary of Archaeomythology Marija Gimbutas devoted her life and work in uncovering this forgotten world where women not men once took center stage in the course of governance in a era of peace and plenty. In 1956 at an International conference at Philadelphia,  Marija Gimbutas introduced her “Kurgan Hypothesis,” which combined archaeological study of the distinctive “Kurgan” burial mounds with linguistics to unravel some problems in the study of the Proto-Indo-Europeans; namely, to account for their origin and to trace their migrations into Europe. The word “Kurgan” is a Russian word from Turkic describing the kind of graves and grave-barrows built by the people of this culture.

“Indo-European” is a linguistic term that refers to a family of languages found from India to the western edge of Europe. And Proto-Indo-European language refers to the now extinct mother tongue from which all Indo-European languages developed. Gimbutas’ hypothesis locates the homeland of Proto-Indo-European speakers in the area of south Russia and documents their movements into Europe from the end of the fifth millennium BC. Gimbutas describes the influx of nomadic pastoralists over a 2000 year period as a “collision of cultures” in which androcratic cultural and ideological patterns were introduced into Europe. This led to a hybridization between the Old European and Indo-European systems.

With this theory, she was the first scholar to bring together linguistic and archaeological knowledge. Her hypothesis, and the act of bridging the disciplines, has had a significant impact on Indo-European research.

It was at this time that Gimbutas narrowed her focus of her research to the Neolithic cultures of Southeast Europe and the Bronze Age societies that replaced them. She stressed the importance of investigating the enormous changes in beliefs, rituals and social structure that took place between c. 4500–2500 B.C., in order to more fully understand subsequent European cultural development.

In her view, this was “one of the most complex and least understood [periods] in prehistory.” Gimbutas wrote: “It is a period which urgently demands a concerted effort by scholars from various disciplines. The exchange of information between the archaeologists, linguists, mythologists, physical anthropologists, and ancient historians has much to contribute to the field of Indo-European studies.

Much of her work was scorned by the male scholars of her era, and after her death much of her and fellow scholars of feminist theory and practice have fallen into disrepute under the androcratic regimes of male dictators who for the most part still rule the academic departments and journals of scholarly world. And, yet, anyone with an unbiased mind need only read and compare her and other scholars of her circle against the so called androcratic authorities to see a struggle of ideologies in process. That I came upon her and other feminists during the late seventies and eighties of our Common Era should be no surprise to many of my readers.

I usually do not actively speak about much of my own involvement in past worlds of activism and scholarship etc. Yet, it is time to realize that secular society and its pundits of the Progressive sphere who even now espouse regulation and improvement without any vision or empowerment behind their words and critiques. The Secular order of the world is bankrupt and decaying into the very valueless and fragmented codes its once used to gullibly rule over its constituents. Since the Enlightenment we’ve been in the School of Reason, taught the atheistic codes of a world without God or Religion. We’ve been led to believe Man could create a society, culture, and civilization based on a sense of Justice and Freedom. Yet, anyone with even a smattering of intelligence will see that the blind gods of justice sway one way: the way of the Rich and Powerful. For only the rich and powerful and for the most part “males” become leaders in this world of Democracy. Oh sure here and there is the token female who rises to power – a Thatcher or Merkel, etc., and yet as one studies their careers one sees the imprint of the male empire of Androcracy forming and shaping their vision.

What Gimbutas uncovered in her research of the Kurgans was the first inklings of the ancient horse cultures of the Steppes of Eurasia that would invade the Neolithic Agricultural civilizations of Old Europe during wave after wave of war, struggle, and invasion. Very little remains of the ancient Goddess cultures of Old Europe, the Middle-East, Africa, India, China, etc. Most of these ancient worlds having been effaced, and stripped from the memory, stories, and myths of those that conquered them and enslaved them. And, yet, aspects of their world would survive in bone and stone, word and deed through the very sources of that world: the women who would become the servants of the new Horse Lords.

Of course I could speak of all the various nations and cycles of myths, stories, etc., but will keep with the European story. During the so called postmodern era the notion of Grand Narrative, of taking in the long view of humanity was put in abeyance as a fabrication and artificial categorization of our life-worlds. Yet, as we’ve seen the micro-histories of that era were just as artificial and circumscribed by ideological and androcratic thought as other previous scholarship. I’ll admit a bias toward feminist thought of a certain type: my own singular vision of life and world. Having been bred under the worlds of Emerson and Nietzsche, two extreme singularities who spoke out of an inner authority not from the staid authorities of the Scholars I have come to gaze upon the world of literature, philosophy, art, politics, culture if you will with a singular eye and mind. I’m biased, but this only admits that we all are biased in our views of life. How could it be otherwise in a world where one either takes a stand for something, or lives in a blank world of unthinking Being?

Gimbutas opened my eyes to a world that had been in my life up to that point a total blank, a world that seemed to exist in fragments from all the ancient myths and archaeological digs around the globe that spoke of various goddesses. As Gimbutas herself reports it,

In Neolithic Europe and Asia Minor (ancient Anatolia)-in the era between 7000 B.c. and 3000 B.C.-religion focused on the wheel of life and its cyclical turning. This is the geographic sphere and the time frame I refer to as Old Europe. In Old Europe, the focus of religion encompassed birth, nurturing, growth, death, and regeneration, as well as crop cultivation and the raising of animals. The people of this era pondered untamed natural forces, as well as wild plant and animal cycles, and they worshiped goddesses, or a goddess, in many forms. The goddess manifested her countless forms during various cyclical phases to ensure that they functioned smoothly. She revealed herself in multiple ways through the myriad facets of life, and she is depicted in a very complex symbolism.1

When I read through her books of the era my mind clicked, as if the fragments of a lost world stood revealed at last and all my reading in archaeology across the planet which I had pursued for a dozen years suddenly sparked into active truth. It rang true in my inner being. One can never pinpoint just what it is that makes something ring true or why one favors a specific pattern of words and stores about our life-world over others. And, yet, reading her works and the vast literature that it would spark within the feminist movement of the era, along with the – yes, Pagan and Neo-Feminist religious consciousness of that time (70’s, 80’s, 90’s) informed my life and work. It did not matter that in the journals one could see the male androids already at work undermining her scholarship, banding together to expulse this new feminist threat from the ranks of their Androcratic World. At that time she offered a vision that took in the pre-historical worlds that seemed like fragments of a Lost Continent.

Throughout the area of Neolithic Europe that she studied, Gimbutas found images of females that she understood to be Goddesses; especially goddesses sharing form with birds and snakes. In these images she saw a Goddess of birth, death and regeneration, which was honored by Neolithic European people. Thus, supporting a peaceful and woman-centered society.

To Gimbutas, these indigenous Europeans were peaceful, artistic, egalitarian and Goddess-worshiping. Based on thousands of female images from those cultures, she concluded that women were worshiped and that the primary deities were goddesses. She maintained that life was peaceful until the worship of warlike gods was imported by Indo-Europeans.

She traced survivals of goddesses, birds, snakes, and many other images and symbols from Old Europe through historical times to the present. She began to see these images and symbols as a shorthand, a “language” of our early ancestors, that we might decipher with time and care. Through her “reading” of this language, she proposed to modern scholarship an articulate and radical view of Neolithic religion.

Professor Gimbutas’ research, indeed, covered a vast territory of scholarship that crosses many traditional boundaries. Her bibliography contains 33 texts (published in nine languages) and over 300 scholarly articles on European prehistory. When she was often criticized for her interpretations, her response was philosophical:

There is a belief that religion cannot be reconstructed, that it’s a waste of time even to speak of religion because archaeologists cannot do it. Maybe this is because they are not really trained. They are not interested in mythology at all, and are just seeing the material culture. They don’t want to see anything else; they think they are safe in reconstructing the ways of agriculture or how pottery was made, and that satisfies them. In our days there are no people with vision. They cannot go across the border of their discipline. Archaeology now is interested mostly in excavation techniques and they want to be very precise; the computer is used, and all that. Of course, you can reach some conclusions using statistics, but if you do not have a vision as a person — if you are not a poet, or an artist — you cannot see much. You will be just a technician, and this is in most cases what happens. [Joan Marler, “A Tribute to Marija Gimbutas,” Sojourn Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 3, Summer 1998]

Without a sense of vision and poetry one is left in a world of destitution, a depleted world where nothing means utter nothingness without value or meaning at all. The Secular Vision has come full circle, the world of the androcratic male regimes of capitalist aggression and resource depletion has brought us war, famine, disease, and economic if not literal slavery. We are at the end of the Progressive Era of this social disease that has encompassed our minds and hearts with its lies and ideological strategies of governance for two hundred years or more. It has failed, it is failing, it is fragmenting and in its desperate last hours is weaving a conservative program to tyrannize and encircle the earth with a last ditch fascist paranoiac machine to entrap people through fear and the need for security.

Across the earth male or androcratic regimes rule with an iron fist either through force or economics. As Riane Eisler would say in her early The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future:

All societies are patterned on either a dominator model— in which human hierarchies are ultimately backed up by force or the threat of force— or a partnership model, with variations in between. Moreover, if we reexamine human society from a perspective that takes into account both women and men, we can also see that there are patterns, or systems configurations, that characterize dominator, or alternatively, partnership, social organization.2

What we’re seeing is the toxic wasteland of the Dominator male-oriented empires fraying at the edges, while the deeper vision arising out of the ruins is shaping into a Partnership society and culture that seeks to form bonds, assemblages, and relations of active cohesion to undermine the hierarchic and authoritarian vision of the Androcracies. Because this dominator model now seems to be reaching its logical limits, many men and women are today rejecting long-standing principles of social organization, including their stereotypical sexual roles. For many others these changes are only signs of systems breakdown, chaotic disruptions that at all costs must be quelled. But it is precisely because the world we have known is changing so rapidly that more and more people over ever larger parts of this world are able to see that there are other alternatives. (Eisler, KL 209)

We can do this, we must do this. The shift from an androcracy to a gylanic or Partnership Society and Civilization (i.e., where Women/Men share in coeval power the care and guidance of the world) would begin to end the politics of domination and the economics of exploitation that in our world still go hand in hand.


  1. Marija Gimbutas. The Living Goddesses (p. 3). Kindle Edition.
  2. Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future—Updated With a New Epilogue (Kindle Locations 181-185). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

 

American Dystopia: The Empire of War

Capitalism and neoliberalism carry wars within them like clouds carry storms.

—Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato, To Our Enemies

Henry Miller the ex-patriot who would return to his native land just before the rise of Hitler had a glimpse into the heart of the American Dystopian world when he glimpsed from his ship the coastal regions of Boston:

The American coast looked bleak and uninviting to me. I didn’t like the look of the American house; there is something cold, austere, something barren and chill, about the architecture of the American home. It was home, with all the ugly, evil, sinister connotations which the word contains for a restless soul. There was a frigid, moral aspect to it which chilled me to the bone.1

What Miller discovered in his trip across the vast continent of his native land was a dystopian nightmare. He’d fought out of it ten years before, written of it in his earlier trilogy from Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, and Tropic of Capricorn. But now he was once again in it. He could see the effects of the corporatization of the state and civil society, the destruction of public goods and commons, the commercial control of the media, and the rise of an economic survival-of-the-fittest ethos that posed a serious threat to American democracy. What he found in both country and city was the culture of traditionalism, the dismantling of civil and political rights, the ongoing militarization of society, the “religionization of politics,”  the attack on labor, the obsession with national security, the perpetration of human rights abuses, the emergence of a police state, entrenched racism, and the attempts by demagogues to undermine education as a foundation for producing critical citizenry were all at work in American society.

What Miller was witnessing was the birth of the neoliberal empire within American society. Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato in their recent work To Our Enemies (to be published) offer us a vision of our immediate future in a transformed Neoliberalism. They remind us that the alliance of economy and war has been there all along, that we’ve allowed the subterfuge to become so commonplace that we tend to deny it when any critic brings the two together. As we watched Greece founder and swallowed up under the EU directives of its Belgium imperviousness, we got a taste of the new austerity and the crushing truth of its dark reach over human life. As one citizen in Greece said recently: “It’s like being in a war,” was heard in Athens during the weekend of July 11–12, 2015. Alliez and Lazzarato will tell us a further implication of this austerity:

The statement “It’s like being in a war” should be immediately corrected: it is a war. The reversibility of war and economy is at the very basis of capitalism. And it has been a long time since Carl Schmitt revealed the “pacifist” hypocrisy of neoliberalism by reestablishing the continuity between economy and war: the economy pursues the objectives of war through other means (“blocking credit, embargo on raw materials, devaluation of foreign currency”).

In fact Alliez and Lazzarato will in their first thesis align war, money, and the State, saying that these three in collusion are “constitutive or constituent forces, in other words the ontological forces of capitalism”. The critique of political economy is insufficient to the extent that the economy does not replace war but continues it by other means, ones that go necessarily through the State: monetary regulation and the legitimate monopoly on force for internal and external wars. To produce the genealogy of capitalism and reconstruct its “development,” we must always engage and articulate together the critique of political economy, critique of war, and critique of the State.

As Dardot and Laval in their The New Way Of The World: On Neoliberal Society will remind us, since the late 1970s and early 1980s, neo-liberalism has generally been interpreted both as an ideology and as an economic policy directly informed by that ideology. The hard core of the ideology supposedly comprises identification of the market as a natural reality.2 cording to this naturalist ontology, to achieve equilibrium, stability and growth, it suffices to leave this entity to its own devices. Given that any government intervention can only disturb and disrupt the spontaneous process, abstention from it must be encouraged. Thus construed, neo-liberalism is cast as a pure and simple rehabilitation of laissez-faire. As regards its political implementation, from the outset it was analyzed very narrowly – in Wendy Brown’s perceptive observation, as a tool of state economic policy, with the dismantlement of social provision, progressive taxation and other instruments for redistributing wealth, on the one hand, and with the stimulation of the untrammeled activity of capital via deregulation of the health system, labour and the environment, on the other.3

When it is conceded that ‘intervention’ does occur, the latter is construed exclusively as actions whereby the state undermines the bases of its own existence by diminishing the public service obligations previously entrusted to it. A purely negative ‘interventionism’, one might say, which is nothing more than the active political aspect of the state’s organization of its own retreat – hence a principled anti-interventionism. (NWW: KL 75) We’ve seen this occur in the piracy of American taxpayer’s dollars to fund the very corporations that brought about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. We’ve seen this in the piracy of funds from the Social Security system during the 60’s onward with no replenishment. Over and over we see not a re-distribution toward the people, toward the citizens, but rather a re-distribution by the rich for the rich of this land. An Oligarchic control loop in which no one benefits but the top .01% who have deemed themselves to Big To Fail.

And, of course, Alliez and Lazzarato will make the obligatory indictment of capitalism that has sounded from the Left since Marx and beyond:

Capitalism is not only the deadliest civilization in the history of humanity, the one that introduced us to the “shame of being human”; it is also the civilization through which labor, science, and technology have created—another (absolute) privilege in the history of humanity—the possibility of (absolute) annihilation of all species and the planet that houses them. In the meantime, the “complexity” of (saving) “nature” still offers the prospect of healthy profits combining the techno utopia of geoengineering and the reality of the new markets of “polluting rights.” At the confluence of one and the other, the Capitalocene does not send capitalism to the Moon (it has been there and back); it completes the global merchandizing of the planet by asserting its rights to the well-named troposphere.

My problem any more with the indictments, is not that their wrong (their right, of course!), but that one begins to wonder why this matters anymore? We’ve heard the Left indict capitalism for over a hundred years, seen the State’s the Left produced all fail miserably in communist or socialist forms, so why is this any different now? Well, one could point to the fact that emerging in our time is something blatantly different: the demise of democracy. And, by that, I mean the divorce between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism no longer needs to pretend its the only system, it is; and, it is Global, so that even in Russia, China, India, and all other First or Third World nations there is this underlying connection with economy and war. The world is in essence at war, a Total War or Civil War. Or, as the Pope said in 2015:

“Let’s recognize it. The world is in a state of war in bits and pieces … When I speak of war, I talk about real war. Not a war of religion. No. There is a war of interests. There is a war for money. There is a war for natural resources. There is a war for domination of peoples. This is the war.”

In a world where the economy is war, and war the economy where is peace to be found? Henry Giroux tells us that one outcome of a society at war with itself is that people are stripped of inspiring public spheres and the “thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities” to be found in any viable democracy.  This grim reality marks a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy to resist the confluence of forces currently formed by the normalization of the Terror Wars and the relentless economic gentrification of the American people’s social, justice, political, and education systems. We live in dangerous times. Global corporatism, war, violence, racism, an arms race, militarism, terrorism, climate change, the threat of nuclear weaponry, and the rise of authoritarian societies internationally pose a dire threat not just to human rights and democracy, but to humanity itself. Matters of education, civic literacy, civil rights, and pedagogies that support the social contract, equality, justice, and the common good are crucial in the struggle against authoritarianism.4

The era of limitless deterritorialization under Thatcher and Reagan is now followed by the racist, nationalist, sexist, and xenophobic reterritorialization of Trump, who has already become the leader of the new fascisms. The American Dream has been transformed into the nightmare of an insomniac planet.”

—Alliez and Lazzarato, To Our Enemies

Like Joyce’s Humphry Chimpden Earwicker we can all say: “I don’t sleep well anymore.”


  1. Miller, Henry. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (New Directions Paperbook) (Kindle Locations 93-95). New Directions. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dardot, Pierre; Laval, Christian. The New Way Of The World: On Neoliberal Society (Kindle Locations 65-74). Verso Books. Kindle Edition. (NWW)
  3. Brown, Wendy. Undoing the Demos. Zone, 2015. (UD)
  4. Giroux, Henry A.. America at War with Itself (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 2782-2786). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Mutant Abscence

The Certainties are those matters, only, which if not held true, make of all holding true or false an insanity. — Tchukhzsca, as quoted by

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

Most of us would rather not know the truth, know the forces that lurk just outside the contours of our abbreviated lives. We cover over the gaps and cracks in things, the little hesitations and accidents that jut up out of the fog, telling ourselves that it’s just a momentary fracture in the order of the world, nothing we need worry about. Then things happen, inexplicable things, things that even we cannot hide from ourselves. It’s in these moments when the darkness surrounding us lifts its ugly head and grins back out of the messiness of our lives that we begin to know the truth. A truth that is both terrifying and full of horror. It’s in such moments that we touch the Real, touch that which we cannot possibly reduce to either word or image, symbol or sign. It stands there as an invisible reminder of the absence we are, and that for all our ingenuity we are just a splotch on the stain of the Universe, a deadly bug without a purpose, a fragment of the darkness whose tentacles suddenly clasp us in their infinite embrace and sorrow, and absorb us into that abyss where everything flows, mutant and incessantly insane.

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.

screen-shot-11-30-16-at-01-44-pm

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.

The Daemonic Imaginal: Ecstasy and Horror of the Noumenon

Historically speaking, demons are far from being horned and goateed Mephistos tempting us to do bad things. The demon is as much a philosophical concept as it is a religious and political one. In fact, the “demon” is often a placeholder for some sort of non-human, malefic agency that acts against the human (that is, against the world-for-us).

-Eugene Thacker,  In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy vol. 1

There are three gates through which the hunter of souls ventures to bind: vision, hearing, and mind or imagination. If it happens that someone passes through all three of these gates, he binds most powerfully and ties down most tightly.

-Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity: And Essays on Magic

Vauung seems to think there are lessons to be learnt from this despicable mess. It describes a labyrinth which is nothing but an intricate hall of mirrors, losing you in an ‘unconscious’ which is magnificent beyond comprehension yet indistinguishable from an elaborate trap.

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

Stuart Clark in Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe offers us an opening onto an abstruse subject: Demonology. “Demonology was a composite subject consisting of discussions about the workings of nature, the processes of history, the maintenance of religious purity, and the nature of political authority and order.” (6) One could say that contrariety is the key to demonology, a thinking against the impurity and counter-sublime that would destroy both the cultural aristocracy and its elitism, as well as its political, religious, and legal order-nomos. In Empedocles the notion of contrarieties would find its harbinger in promoting discord (Strife) and concord (Love) as the primary contraries in a dualistic system of warring elements that produced the cosmos between Heimarmene (Fate, Discord) and Harmonia (Concord, Order).

Heimarmene or the Moirai (Moirae) were the three goddesses of fate who personified the inescapable destiny of man. They assigned to every person his or her fate or share in the scheme of things. Their name means “Parts.” “Shares” or “Alottted Portions.” The individuals were Klotho (Clotho), the “the Spinner,” who spun the thread of life, Lakhesis (Lachesis), “the Apportioner of Lots”, who measured it, and Atropos (or Aisa), “She who cannot be turned,” who cut it short. Zeus Moiragetes, the god of fate, was their leader.

At the birth of a man, the Moirai spinned out the thread of his future life, followed his steps, and directed the consequences of his actions according to the counsel of the gods. It was not an inflexible fate; Zeus, if he chose, had the power of saving even those who were already on the point of being seized by their fate. The Fates did not abruptly interfere in human affairs but availed themselves of intermediate causes, and determined the lot of mortals not absolutely, but only conditionally, even man himself, in his freedom was allowed to exercise a certain influence upon them. As man’s fate terminated at his death, the goddesses of fate become the goddesses of death, Moirai Thanatoio.

HARMONIA was the goddess of harmony and concord. She was a daughter of Ares and Aphrodite and as such presided over both marital harmony, soothing strife and discord, and harmonious action of soldiers in war. Late Greek and Roman writers sometimes portrayed her as harmony in a more abstract sense–a deity who presided over cosmic balance. In Plato’s Timaeus harmonization by proportion (of contrary elements, seasons, physical motions, and components of the soul) became the principle by which the Divinity created from chaos.

One can discover the use of contrariety as a guiding concept throughout both religious and philosophical speculation from Plato and Aristotle, his pupil on down to Immanuel Kant whose philosophical system both concluded one tradition and began what we’ve come to term Modernity (even though this term had been contested throughout the 16th to 18th centuries). The Aristotelian maxim contrariorum eadem est doctrina expresses this, as does Kant’s dictum that ‘all a priori division of concepts must be by dichotomy’.

The dichotomy that will concern us in this tentative assaying of the territory of demonology or thinking with demons is that of the contrariety of the phenomenal/noumenal divide. So I begin with Immanuel Kant. One could almost say that the demon in his philosophy is the concept of the noumenon. In our own time many philosophers, anti-philosophers, non-philosophers have converged upon the noumenon. Kant  was the philosopher who sundered the known from the unknown, appearance from reality, sensible from intelligible. One could traces aspects of this battle back through the Idealists / Rationalists and on down into the Scholastics nominalist/realist divides in one form or another. Yet, it was Kant that introduced the categories and introduced the specific terms argument of the terms in his division of the concepts of “phenomena” and “noumena” that have haunted both Continental and Analytical philosophy in the Secular Age.  Kant first used these terms in his 1770 Inaugural Dissertation, On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World.

Sensibility is the receptivity of a subject in virtue of which it is possible for the subject’s own representative state to be affected in a definite way by the presence of some object. Intelligence (rationality) is the faculty of a subject in virtue of which it has the power to represent things which cannot by their own quality come before the senses of that subject. The object of sensibility is the sensible; that which contains nothing but what is to be cognized through the intelligence is intelligible. In the schools of the ancients, the former was called a phenomenon and the latter a noumenon. Cognition, in so far as it is subject to the laws of sensibility is sensitive, and, in so far as it is subject to the laws of intelligence, it is intellectual or rational. (§3, Ak 2:392).

Kant goes on to claim that there is a form of the intelligible world, an objective principle, which is “some cause in virtue of which there is a combining together of the things which exist in themselves” (§13, Ak 2:398). This cause is a unitary being on which all substances depend, a creator and architect of the world. Thus, Kant makes what he would later call a “transcendental” use of the pure concept of cause (or that from which something is derived) in principles like the following: “The substances which constitute the world are beings which derive from another being, though not from a number of different beings; they all derive from the same being” (§20, Ak 2:408).

Kant introduced the concept of the noumenon in the oppositional or negative sense, as the concept of an object that is not the object of a sensible intuition or the intellect; a placeholder for the limits of thought rather than thought itself. The function of this concept is to “limit the pretension of sensibility” (KrV A255/B311); and since this “pretension” is that sensible, i.e., spatiotemporal, predicates apply to things in general, this limitation is central to Kant’s “critical” project. Moreover, it brings with it the replacement of a transcendental by an empirical realism and therewith a commitment to transcendental idealism.1

One last item is the battle between those in favor of a “two-world” theory, and those in favor of a “two-aspect” theory of the phenomenon/noumenon divide. Allison will condense his argument from the anti-idealist camp using the work of P.F. Strawson and H.A. Pritchard. Strawson would reduce Kant’s Transcendental Idealism to incoherence, suggesting that Kant perverts the scientific empirical model of the mind’s being affected by physical objects by a mental trick. For Strawson Kant division into sensible/intelligible, appearance/reality distinctions creates the very problem it pretends to overcome: the reduction of the spatiotemporal relation to the subjective constitution of the mind (i.e., that the external is constructed by the mind, not affected by the sensible objects themselves). Secondly, is Pritchard’s argument that Kant confuses the issue claiming that we can know appearances but not things-in-themselves, and proceeds to affirm that we can really know appearances and they really are spatial. This leads Pritchard says to the assumption by Kant that we can only know things as they seem to us through appearances (representations), not how they really are in-themselves external to this system of representational mythology. 2

It would lead to too far afield to dig deeper into the tangled skein of analytical vs. transcendental idealist divide in Strawson, Pritchard, Paul Guyer, and Rae Langton. Each in their own way tried to separate out the transcendental idealism from the analytical aspects of Kant’s philosophy. I’ll leave that to the interested reader.

To simplify: the point is that for Kant there is no argument that things-in-themselves exist independent of us (realism), the point is rather that until these things are conceptualized for us and by us in the mind. But this does not mean that they exist as in Bishop Berkeley as Ideas or sense data in the mind independent of those external objects, rather these external objects to become objects for us must conform to the conditions of their representation in our mind. Whatever these objects, things, entities are independent of us is meaningless until they are made intelligible in the mind and conditioned as representations.

Most of modern philosophy and art has been a civil-war over this representational model of the mind that Kant distilled out of ancient to rationalist philosophy.  Kant himself would try to blend the two without fusing them saying: “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” (A51/B76) For Allison Kant’s Transcendental Idealism was founded on a “two aspect” theory of epistemic conditioning, one that would require the transcendental distinction between appearances and things in themselves as based on two ways of considering things be maintained (as they appear and as they are in themselves) rather than as, on a more traditional reading, between two ontologically distinct sets of entities (appearances and things in themselves). (TI, p. 16)

This battle between epistemic conditioning of reality for us or for itself on the one hand, and those who would ontologize this gap between things for us and in themselves plays into many current notions surrounding knowledge. If reality must conform to the representations we have of it then we are bound in a circle of predetermined forms that guide our thoughts, while if reality can be divided in itself between objects as appearance (phenomenon) and objects as noumenal unknowns to which we have no direct access then we are bound to diametric and confrontational views of life and meaning.

Some like Quentin Meillassoux in his recent After Finitude would argue against what he termed correlationism, which is seen to be the thesis that it is impossible to think being independent of the relation between thought and being.  Meillassoux’s aim is to think the absolute or reality as it exists independent of human beings. The correlationist on the other hand thinks that there is no human without world, nor world without human, but only a primal correlation or rapport between the two. Hence, the object has no autonomy for the correlationist. In franker terms, the object does not exist. Kant’s ultimate judgment and the central teaching of his so called Copernican Revolution was to turn philosophy into a meditation on human finitude and forbid it from discussing reality-in-itself. So that after him all we could affirm positively was the phenomenal region of our spatio-temporal cosmos as conditioned by our representational mind.

Meillassoux and others since Kant have tried without success to counter this explicit closure of the noumenon, seeking to discover another path, one that seeks outside direct access to this noumenal sphere a more indirect access to its unknowability. It’s in this liminal sphere between the possible and impossible, phenomenal and noumenal that the wars of philosophy between epistemic and ontological access have for two centuries striven sometimes winning small battles here and there but none winning the war. The noumenon will not let itself be reduced to either epistemic conditioning nor ontological excess, it acts like a daemonic continuum that is full of discord, strife, and contradiction that allows only the vagrant mediator, the vanishing mediator to convey, though indirectly some semblance of the darkness made visible.

The Daemonic Realms: The “Subject” of Posthumanism

“…all demons are malevolent, deceiving, posturing enemies of humanity…”

-Jean Bodin, Démonomanie

Thinking about the daemonic or thinking the daemon brings us to edge of both thought and speech, of what can be thought and what spoken. Kepler in his, “The Speech of Daemons,” which formed a part of his allegory of the Cosmos that sought to explain his scientific and natural views constitutes the central core of the elaborately framed narrative. The Daemon became in his Somnium: The Dream, or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy a polysemic allegorical assemblage of the Christian and scientific imagination, represents Kepler’s attempt to resolve competing discourses available for theorizing nature. Kepler struggled to break through the limits of thought in his time, a thought that restricted the minds of those he sought to convey his natural and cosmological information to. To do that he pushed the limits of a form of dream discourse that could reach into that abyss of the daemonic imaginal where meaning could be brought back in a form of daemonic speech that spoke the alterity beyond the limit’s of his time’s cultural register. Eugene Thacker in his three-volume work In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy on the horror of philosophy would offer a view onto this limiting factor of our knowledge of the world and ourselves:

[T]he horror of philosophy: the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility – the thought of the unthinkable that philosophy cannot pronounce but via a non-philosophical language.(2)

The Daemonic Imaginal is that alterity beyond the limit of our symbolic and cultural horizon that allows the abyss to open its darkness to us and reveal what is both most natural and most daemonic to us in forms that take on powers of speech and thought irreducible to the logic and instrumental reasoning of our everyday utilitarian language and mental make-up. Yet, this is not some transcendent realm of spirits from some external world beyond our world, but rather the powers at the heart of our elemental desires and fears, our deepest noumenal affective registry that cannot be any part of intuition (Intellect) or sense-data (Sensibility) but is rather part of that contrariety and agonistic world of strife that is neither logical or reasonable.

The Daemon arises from that dark sphere of thought by way of indirect appropriation, through lures and traps, alluring its subtle world not by way of representations and the light of Reason, but rather by way of diagrams, sigils, forces and powers of imaginal entreaty, drawing this non-knowledge into that intermediated realm between the sublime and ridiculous without reducing it to our daylight utilitarian symbols thereby degrading it and losing the very force of its message. As Thacker surmises

I would propose that horror be understood not as dealing with human fear in a human world (the world-for-us), but that horror be understood as being about the limits of the human as it confronts a world that is not just a World, and not just the Earth, but also a Planet (the world-without-us). (8)

Opening any number of current philosophical or scientific works in the past few years one gets a feeling that an advanced cadre of alien invaders were slowly erasing the memory of the human from our cultural complex, as if an invasion of alien thinkers had replaced our age old vision of human exceptionalism. This novel undermining of two thousand years of Christian humanist civilization some say has been going on since the Enlightenment age of Kant. That what is occurring in our midst, to the detrimental to the both the older humanistic and humancentric view of life, self, and the universe is nothing less than the destruction of the human species in advance of some transvaluation of both our values and our genetic inheritance in an ongoing transformation into a posthuman civilization.

If as some have surmised that one can only radicalize or reverse a philosophical system then what has happened recently in terms of philosophy is the extreme end of Kantianism: it has been both radicalized and reversed to the extreme nth degree and found wanting. Over the past two centuries Kant’s system would divide the House of Philosophy into both Analytical and Continental forms in its quest to overcome the dilemma he’d set for his philosophy of finitude and the phenomenal. Unable to break out of the correlational circle of thought and affirm objects independent of the mind’s representations, philosophers have sought either to extend into analytical and mathematical theoretic or the discursive and phenomenological theoretic left open to it. Both paths ended in failure. But even this failure to break out of the correlational circle has spawned other possibilities.

Slavoj Zizek realizing the quandary of this circular reasoning will remind us of Niels Bohr who liked to repeat, at the level of the physics of micro-particles, there is no “objective” measurement, no access to “objective” reality— not because we (our mind) constitutes reality, but because we are part of the reality which we measure, and thus lack an “objective distance” towards it.3 Zizek himself will join all those dualists that have seen a gap between thought and reality, yet he stays with the notion of the Subject or a humancentric view that begs the question. As he’ll say of Meillassoux,

Meillassoux’s claim is to have achieved the breakthrough into independent “objective” reality. But there is a third Hegelian option: the true problem that follows from Meillassoux’s basic speculative gesture (transposing the contingency of our notion of reality into the Thing itself) is not so much what more we can say about reality-in-itself, but how our subjective standpoint and subjectivity itself fit into reality. (LTN, KL 14517)

That seems to be the most degrading and almost reactionary aspect of Zizek’s stance in maintaining the notion of a Subject in a world where neuroscientists and many philosophers have escaped or evaded this notion as retrograde and dubious at best. I don’t have time to go into all the arguments for this here, and will only add Thomas Metzinger’s statement:

Contrary to what most people believe, nobody has ever been or had a self. But it is not just that the modern philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience together are about to shatter the myth of the self. It has now become clear that we will never solve the philosophical puzzle of consciousness—that is, how it can arise in the brain, which is a purely physical object—if we don’t come to terms with this simple proposition: that to the best of our current knowledge there is no thing, no indivisible entity, that is us, neither in the brain nor in some metaphysical realm beyond this world. So when we speak of conscious experience as a subjective phenomenon, what is the entity having these experiences?4

Which will force Zizek to then ask if problem is not “Can we penetrate the veil of subjectively constituted phenomena to Things-in-themselves?” but “How do phenomena themselves arise within the flat stupidity of reality which just is; how does reality redouble itself and start to appear to itself?” For this, we need a theory of the subject which involves neither transcendental subjectivity nor a reduction of the subject to a part of objective reality; such a theory also enables us to formulate in a new way what Meillassoux calls the problem of correlationism (ancestrality). Here, both Lacan and Hegel are anti-Leninists, for their problem is not “how to reach objective reality which is independent of (its correlation to) subjectivity,” but how subjectivity is already inscribed into reality— to quote Lacan again, not only is the picture in my eye, but I am also in the picture. (LTN, KL 14520)

Ultimately for Zizek there is an irreducible (constitutive) discord, or non-correlation, between subject and reality: in order for the subject to emerge, the impossible object-that-is-subject must be excluded from reality, since it is this very exclusion which opens up the space for the subject. The problem is not to think the Real outside of transcendental correlation, independently of the subject; the problem is to think the Real inside the subject, the hard core of the Real in the very heart of the subject, its ex-timate center. (LTN, 14533) Thinking through what this exclusion from reality might entail, the negation that opens up this object that is the Subject and forces the extreme solution to think the Real at the core of this Subject as internal to the Subject in itself seems to reverse the Kantian distinction. Now the noumenon is at the core of the Subject rather than in the external world or Thing-in-itself. Rather than a split between appearance / thing-in-itself or phenomenon/noumenon we now have in Zizek’s metaphysical system the introduction of a split also into the subject, between its thinking and its (not actual life-being but its) non-thought thought, its non-non-thought, between discourse and the Real (not reality). So the point is not only to overcome the inaccessible In-itself by claiming that “there is nothing beyond the veil of semblances except what the subject itself put there,” but to relate the In-itself to the split in the subject itself. (LTN, KL 14543)

This displacement of the noumenal from the external to the internal split within the Subject-in-itself seems to open the world of the daemonic that Eugene Thacker in the epigraph to this essay terms  “a placeholder for some sort of non-human, malefic agency that acts against the human”.

…it has been gone for 2,000 years, either because God withdrew the Holy Spirit or because for one reason or another man lost the method and the notion. And then all that came were daemons rather than daimons— evil spirits only…

-Philip K Dick,  The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

The Split: The Daemonic in the Subject

I am one of those who not only knows that those who sleep in death will awaken, but I know how (and I know it, too, by gnosis, not pistis). Thus I see now that the fact of anamnesis is tied in with the basic, informational quality of the universe. After all, it was information which retrieved me, whereupon I then could distinguish other higher information and learn from it.

– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

E.R. Dodds in his now classic The Greeks and the Irrational would remind us that the ancient people of Greece, from whom our conceptuality and notions of reason and the irrational first arose, saw the world in daemonic terms as the will of Zeus “working itself out through an inexorable moral law, his characters see only a daemonic world, haunted by malignant forces”.6 Dodds would go on to say,

The daemonic, as distinct from the divine, has at all periods played a large part in Greek popular belief (and still does). People in the Odyssey attribute many events in their lives, both mental and physical, to the agency of anonymous daemons; we get the impression, however, that they do not always mean it very seriously. But in the age that lies between the Odyssey and the Orestia, the daemons seem to draw closer: they grow more persistent, more insidious, more sinister. (GI, KL 794)

The Greeks would in fact begin to see our passional nature, our irrational emotions and intentions as daemons. As Dodds will tell us those irrational impulses which arise in a man against his will to tempt him, such as Theognis calls hope and fear are “dangerous daemons,” or when Sophocles speaks of Eros as a power that “warps to wrong the righteous mind, for its destruction,”  we should not dismiss this as “personification”: behind it lies the old Homeric feeling that these things are not truly part of the self, since they are not within man’s conscious control; they are endowed with a life and energy of their own, and so can force a man, as it were from the outside, into conduct foreign to him. (GI, KL 804) A second type of daemon would be associated with various diseases that would eat away the body such as Cholera, Smallpox, and Plague. Third would be the notion of moira or “portion” of personal luck in which as Theognis laments that more depends on one’s daemon than on one’s character: if your daemon is of poor quality, mere good judgement is of no avail— your enterprises come to nothing. (GI, 907)

Empedocles would teach the Greeks of the occult self which persisted through successive incarnations which he called, not “psyche” but “daemon.” This daemon has, apparently, nothing to do with perception or thought, which Empedocles held to be mechanically determined; the function of the daemon is to be the carrier of man’s potential divinity113 and actual guilt. It is nearer in some ways to the indwelling spirit which the shaman inherits from other shamans than it is to the rational “soul” in which Socrates believed; but it has been moralised as a guilt-carrier, and the world of the senses has become the Hades in which it suffers torment. (GI, KL 3036)

This notion of the split within the Subject as daemon and psyche would have repercussions down through Plato and then into the Neo-Platonists and Christian Gnostics who would inherit these ideas and extend them taking over the notion that we already exist in Hades or Hell and suffer the torments of a Demon King, the Devil or Demiurge. As Dodds would admit the Classical Age inherited a whole series of inconsistent pictures of the “soul” or “self” the living corpse in the grave, the shadowy image in Hades, the perishable breath that is spilt in the air or absorbed in the aether, the daemon that is reborn in other bodies. (GI, KL 3607) Yet, as the Greeks demythologized their society and rationalized it into philosophical concepts and reason the externalization of these daemons would slowly withdraw into the human head as intentions, impulses, and irrational drives pulling and pushing humans into sinister paths.

Plato’s fission of the empirical man into daemon and beast is perhaps not quite so inconsequent as it may appear to the modern reader. It reflects a similar fission in Plato’s view of human nature: the gulf between the immortal and the mortal soul corresponds to the gulf between Plato’s vision of man as he might be and his estimate of man as he is. (GI, KL 4253) Over time the naturalization of these mythical entities into passions, emotions, intentions would resolve them in ways that allowed the political and social control of human behavior. Yet, the rational never quite was able to exclude the older mythical elements from its systems, and even Socrates would do honor to his daemon on his death bed.

In our time Zizek will speak of this daemonic realm of the Real as the pure virtual surface, the “incorporeal” Real, which is to be opposed to the Real in its most terrifying imaginary dimension, the primordial abyss which swallows up everything, dissolving all identities— a figure well known in literature in multiple guises, from Edgar Allan Poe’s maelstrom and Kurtz’s “horror” at the end of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, to Pip from Melville’s Moby Dick who, cast to the bottom of the ocean, experiences the demon God:

Carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes … Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke to it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. (LTN, 1579)

Zizek would return us to Plato, to the Real of the Gap: the assertion of the gap between the spatio-temporal order of reality in its eternal movement of generation and corruption, and the “eternal” order of Ideas— the notion that empirical reality can “participate” in an eternal Idea, that an eternal Idea can shine through it, appear in it. As he’ll suggest:

Where Plato got it wrong is in his ontologization of Ideas (strictly homologous to Descartes’s ontologization of the cogito), as if Ideas form another, even more substantial and stable order of “true” reality. What Plato was not ready (or, rather, able) to accept was the thoroughly virtual, “immaterial” (or, rather, “insubstantial”) status of Ideas: like sense-events in Deleuze’s ontology, Ideas have no causality of their own; they are virtual entities generated by spatio-temporal material processes. Take an attractor in mathematics: all positive lines or points in its sphere of attraction only endlessly approach it, without ever reaching its form— the existence of this form is purely virtual; it is nothing more than the form towards which the lines and points tend. However, precisely as such, the virtual is the Real of this field: the immovable focal point around which all elements circulate— the term “form” here should be given its full Platonic weight, since we are dealing with an “eternal” Idea in which reality imperfectly “participates.” (LTN, KL 935)

For Zizek our realm, this universe of material reality is “all there is,” that there is no Platonic true world beyond the cosmos: and, the ontological status of Ideas is that of pure appearing. The question becomes not “how can we reach the true reality beyond appearances?” but “how can appearance emerge in reality?” The conclusion Plato avoids is implied in his own line of thought: the supersensible Idea does not dwell beyond appearances, in a separate ontological sphere of fully constituted Being; it is appearance as appearance. No wonder that the two great admirers of Plato’s Parmenides, Hegel and Lacan, both provide exactly the same formula of the “truth” of the Platonic supersensible Idea: the supersensible

comes from the world of appearance which has mediated it; in other words, appearance is its essence and, in fact, its filling. The supersensible is the sensuous and the perceived posited as it is in truth; but the truth of the sensuous and the perceived is to be appearance. The supersensible is therefore appearance qua appearance … It is often said that the supersensible world is not appearance; but what is here understood by appearance is not appearance, but rather the sensuous world as itself the really actual. (LTN, 953)

The implicit lesson of Plato is not that everything is appearance, that it is not possible to draw a clear line of separation between appearance and reality (that would have meant the victory of sophism), but that essence is “appearance as appearance,” that essence appears in contrast to appearance within appearance; that the distinction between appearance and essence has to be inscribed into appearance itself.(LTN, 969)

Which brings us to the Void. For Zizek appearance as essence is in itself empty, a nothingness manifest, the “nothingness of a pure gap (antagonism, tension, “contradiction”), the pure form of dislocation ontologically preceding any dislocated content”. (LTN, 983)

This whole digression brings us back to the inhuman split subject within as the place of this warring, antagonistic, contradictory realm of the daemonic Real.

The Rise of the Archons: Gnosticism, Gnosis, and Nonknowledge

Why do these spiritual beings have mercy on us in the first place? And why do they choose to speak to us through sudden and striking images? Why is their presence always marked by an odd, eerie, weird apparition? Why do they have to pervert nature in order to reveal their messages?

-Armando Maggi, In The Company of Demons

Philosophical sophisticates like Marcus Aurelius are no less vulnerable than the local shoemaker, for, as Marcus’s own philosophy might show,  daimones can turn philosophy itself into a means of subjugating people to their tyranny.7 Pagels in her study on the origin of Satan will trace the concept of daimonies through its Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic variants. The whole of the ancient world was pervaded by the daimonic in both its moral and amoral forms. One finds literature in all pagan or Christian forms pervaded by magic, binding spells, curse tablets, voodoo dolls, and rituals to control and direct daimonies for good or ill.9

In his Against the Heresies Irenaeus relates the origins of the Demiurge:

When she saw that all the rest had a consort, but she herself was without a partner, she sought for one, with whom she might unite; and when she did not  fi nd one she took it sorely, extended herself, and looked down into the lower regions, thinking to  fi nd a consort there. And when she found none she leapt forth, disgusted also because she had made the leap without the goodwill of the Father. Then, moved by simplicity and goodness, she generated a work in which was ignorance and audacity.

This work of hers they call the First Archon, the creator of this world. They relate that he stole from his mother a great power and departed from her into the lower regions, and made the  firmament of heaven in which also they say he dwells.

One hears in this an echo and inversion of the ancient Christian and Greek myths with Sophia, Wisdom, giving birth to the blind demiurge or first Archon who will in turn steal a “great power” from his Mother that will help him reorder and construct the Cosmos: the lower realms of our universe. One thinks of Prometheus stealing fire from Zeus, or Pandora’s box of toxic gifts as well… as if the corruption began with the breaking of a taboo, a sacrifice – a blind and tearful progenitor seeking to mold a universe of pure hate and desolation.

Neoplatonism and Pico’s attempted synthesis of all philosophies on a mystical basis are really, at bottom, an aspiration after a new gnosis rather than a new philosophy. At any rate, it was their immersion in the atmosphere of gnosis through their veneration for Hermes Trismegistus which led Ficino and Pico to their religious approach to magic and to their placing of the Magus on a lofty pinnacle of insight, a position very different from that held by the vulgar necromancers and conjurors in former less enlightened times.

-Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

Georges Bataille will tell us that in practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action).9 Here we see Bataille revealing the power of darkness and matter as energetic power, both active and creative. Bataille attributes to such sovereign moments of energetic, affective expenditure a sacrificial character. “the principle of sacrifice is destruction,” he writes, “but though it sometimes goes so far as to destroy completely . . . the destruction that sacrifice is intended to bring about is not annihilation. The thing—only the thing—is what sacrifice means to destroy in the victim. Sacrifice destroys an object’s . . . ties of subordination; it draws the victim out of the world of utility” and into the sphere of the sacred.10 (NE, 220)

One might say Bataille was seeking an anti-political left-hand path out of our capitalist prison, a way to exit the system of profits without expenditure that was a living hell for those trapped within its vast mechanisms of clockwork utilitarian culture and practice. And, for Bataille, the only path out was down and into the daemonic heart of “inner experience,” a revitalization of those dark powers of the ancient archons who were the energetic force of excess and transgression. Bataille sought to negate the darkest prison of all: Time.

For Bataille the sacred was a realm of splits and gaps as well. He’d seek through “inner experience” (gnosis or non-knowledge) a exit from the mundane and utilitarian profane work-a-day world, and an entry into the realm of the left-hand path of the dangerous, decaying, morbid sacred. Bataille advances this “duality of the sacred,” extending and radicalizing the features of the “two opposing classes” observed by Durkheim: “pure
and impure,” vivifying and decaying. According to Bataille’s account, the right sacred amounts to a transcendent projection of the profane world; it is rational utility elevated to the level of God or some other exalted figure. The left sacred, by contrast, is the Dionysian dimension of the sacred; it is not accessed in transcendence but activated through the transgression of prohibitions that keep the profane world intact. Whereas the elevated, Apollonian consciousness seeks stable and enduring forms, the disciple of the monstrous, left sacred revels in “ruptur[ing] the highest elevation, and . . . has a share in the elaboration or decomposition of forms” attendant upon intoxication, madness, and artistic profusion. (NE, 221)

This lower left-hand sacred path was for Bataille excessive and  transgressive, escaping assimilation or systematization. In this way, like the chthonic god with which it is affiliated in Bataille’s thought, the left sacred is a “low value” that disrupts both the rational order of utility—the “real world,” conditioned by telic thought and dedicated to useful projects—as well as its divinized counterpart, the right sacred. It is at once activated by, and provokes the death of, the closed,  individual self—the death that grants the experience of continuity.(NE, 221)

It’s in this realm of continuity that the daimonic manifests itself. “Nonknowledge communicates ecstasy,” Bataille writes. “Thus ecstasy only remains possible in the anguish of ecstasy, in this sense, that it cannot be satisfaction, grasped knowledge.” It is in the “dazed lucidity” of ecstatic agnosia that one realizes the sacrificial shattering of the self. In a manner that recalls Freud’s characterization of dreams, this oneiric mystical experience is “heedless of contradictions”; indeed, it proceeds in and through affective and intellectual contradictions, with “as much disorder as in dreams.” This ecstasy is the anti-Hegelian, excessively Nietzschean fomentation of inner experience: the point of extreme “contradiction” in which “circular, absolute knowledge is definitive non-knowledge.” Inner experience is the encounter with the dream knot: a “dream of the unknown . . . the refusal to be everything,” a loss of self in the night of nonknowledge, which carries the “meaning of dream.” (NE, 236)

It’s this sense in Bataille’s gnosis of nonknowledge of coming up against the limit of the human, of sacrifice and the loss of self in immersion with the inhuman core of being, its continuity. As Thacker will remind us

Here again we arrive at the concept of the demon as a limit for thought, a limit that is constituted not by being or becoming, but by non-being, or nothingness. And here we should state what we have been hinting at all along, which is that in contrast to the theology of the demon, or the poetics of the demon, there is something more basic still that has to do with the ideas of negation and nothingness – hence we should really think of the demon as an ontological problem (not theology, not poetry, but philosophy). (DTP, 45)

It’s this sense that the daimon is more about thought and the limits of thought, an ontological problem about limits that brings us back to Kant and the noumenon. As Thacker will state it “if demonology is to be thought in a philosophical register, then it would have to function as a kind of philosoheme that brings together a cluster of ideas that have, for some time, served as problematic areas for philosophy itself: negation, nothingness, and the non-human. (DTP, 45) What the daimonic brings us to is the agonistic confrontation with the Real outside the mundane and profane realm of work and utilitarian values, and into that horizon of possibility where the unthinkable noumenal that philosophy cannot speak is suddenly communicated by the very daimones themselves via a non-philosophical language. (DTP, 2)

This is where Bataille’s impure way of extreme surrealism, an onerism that no longer as in Andre Breton seeks to synthesize the contradictions of the daimonic in some Hegelian sublation, follows rather the monstrous images of dream into the contradictory realms of darkness and decomposition, risking the loss of self as the acceptable transgression needed to raise the energies from their abyss. Thacker mentions Rudolf Otto in regards to this

In the West, Otto argues, there have been two major modes in which this negative thought has been expressed: silence and darkness. To these Otto adds a third, which he finds dominant in Eastern variants of mystical experience, which he terms “emptiness and empty distances,” or the void. Here the negation of thought turns into an affirmation, but a paradoxical affirmation of “nothingness” or “emptiness.” As Otto puts it, “‘void’ is, like darkness and silence, a negation, but a negation that does away with every ‘this’ and ‘here,’ in order that the ‘wholly other’ may become actual.” (DTP, 155-156)

Invoking the Powers of Thought: Daimones as Intelligencers

Is qabbalism problematical or mysterious? …Epistemologically speaking, qabbalistic programmes have a status strictly equivalent to that of experimental particle physics, or other natural-scientific research programmes, even if their guiding hypotheses might seem decidedly less plausible than those dominant within mainstream scientific institutions.

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

Giordano Bruno would describe transnatural magic as the power of invoking the Mind’s daimons:

The methods of the fifth kind of magic are words, charms, the reasons of numbers and times, images, forms, seals, symbols, or letters. This magic is intermediary between natural magic and extra- or supranatural magic. the most suitable name for it is mathematical magic or, rather, occult philosophy.

The sixth kind is achieved by means of the cult or invocation of external or superior intelligences or agents, through prayers, incantations, fumigations, sacrifices as well as certain customs and ceremonies directed toward the gods, demons, and heroes. The results to contract the spirit into itself in such a way that the spirit is changed into the receiver and instrument and appears endowed with the wisdom of things, but this wisdom can easily be withdrawn, at the same time as the spirit, by means of sufficient remedies. This is the magic of the hopeless, who become recipients of evil demons caught with the help of the Art [Ars notoria]. Its purpose is to command the lower demons through the authority of the higher demons; the latter, one cultivates and attract; the former, one exorcises and controls. This form of magic is transnatural or metaphysical and is called theurgia. (EM, 157)

Couliano’s readings of these thinkers who revitalized the hermetic, magical, and gnostic forms of thought Ficino, Bruno and others gives us a view onto these ancient worlds of the Medieval Mind that have recourse to sources of thought and literature that preserved these traditions and practices out of Greece, Rome, Alexandria, and kept them buried in the vast libraries of the Catholic world. Bruno would castigate the authors of the Malleus maleficarum as obscurantists who knew nothing of the magical arts:

Recently, the words “magician” and “magic” have been denigrated: we have not taken this into consideration at all. The magician has been called stupid and evil sorcerer who has obtained, through dealings and pact with the evil demon, the faculty to do harm or to enjoy certain things. This opinion is not shared by wise men of philologists, but it is taken up by the hooded ones [bardocuculli; that is, monks] such as the author of the Malleus maleficarum. In our day, this definition has been reassumed by all sorts or writers, as we can observe by reading the catechisms for the ignorant and for drowsy priests. (De Magia, III, EM, 157)

It is from Bruno that the philosophical aspects of demonology will become more mainstream within Catholicism. Demons he would tells us are invisible spirits who have the ability to act upon the intelligence and judgment. They produce visual and auditory hallucinations, sometimes simultaneously. Bruno differentiates five categories of demons. The first, who corresponds to Psellus’s subterranean and aquatic demons, are bruta Animalia and have no sense. The second, who inhabit ruins and prisons, are “timid, suspicious and credulous.” They can be invoked, since they are capable of hearing and understanding spoken language. The third are of “a more prudent king.” They inhabit the air and are especially redoubtable since they lead a man astray through imagination and false promises. The fourth, who inhabit the airy regions, are beneficent and resplendent. The fifth, who inhabit the stellar light, are sometimes called gods or heroes but in reality they only agents of the one and only God. The cabbalists call them Fissim, Seraphim, Cherubim, etc. (De Magia, III, EM 427-428)

Bruno’s philosophy cannot be separated from his religion. It was his religion, the “religion of the world”, which he saw in this expanded form of the infinite universe and the innumerable worlds as an expanded gnosis, a new revelation of the divinity from the “vestiges”. Copernicanism was a symbol of the new revelation, which was to mean a return to the natural religion of the Egyptians, magic…

-Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

Demonic possessions in this house are not unknown. Is this really Keith, her father? taken when she was half her present age, and returned now as not the man she knew, but only the shell— with the soft meaty slug of soul that smiles and loves, that feels its mortality, either rotted away or been picked at by the needle mouths of death-by-government— a process by which living souls unwillingly become the demons known to the main sequence of Western magic as the Qlippoth, Shells of the Dead. . .

-Thomas Pynchon,  Gravity’s Rainbow

For several centuries we’ve heard the Grand Narrative of the separation of scientific thought out of this ancient world of sorcery, hermeticism, magian literature, kabbalah, occult and arcane practices of witchcraft and other forms. To what end? Is there anything behind this other than the delusions of mythographers and poets? Is the strange and weird worlds of this hidden realm of thought have any place in our world now? One sees the vestiges of it in the soupy sweetness of various forms of New Age obscurantism. Yet, one also sees Universities sponsoring Esoteric studies and an occult revival at reputable universities in such works as Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (here). At night on American television one can see a myriad of programs in the pop-cultural sphere of ghost hunters, channelers: or people who speak with the dead, etc., along with occult or other magical or witchcraft programs as if the ancient sorceries were still well and alive in the madness of the mass mind. Is the unknown at the limits of the mind’s tether opening up to the noumenal sphere once again? Is the noumenal part of the split internal to the core of our inhuman monstrousness? Or, is it rather the Real at the heart of the abyss within which we are all situated? Who can answer? Are the demons speaking, sending us messages from the dark places?

Zdzislaw Beksinski - 1978 (4)

I know it’s true; I mean, I know now that what I’ve been seeing which I assumed was many sources, many doctrines, was and is the worldview and knowledge, the gnosis and secret wisdom…

-Philip K.Dick, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

On January 7, 1994 Alan Moore would spend part of an evening talking to an entity who claimed to be a Goetic demon first mentioned in the Apocrypha (Moore would later weave Goetic demons into Promethea). He struggled over whether the demon was purely internal, that is, a projection of his psyche, or whether it was external and more or less what it claimed to be. In the fantastic paradoxical pattern that will structure all that follows, Moore confesses that the most satisfying answer is that it was both: “That doesn’t make any logical sense but that satisfied me most emotionally. It feels truest.”

“These are gnostic experiences,” the writer declares. “You’ve either had them
or you haven’t.” By gnostic, Moore means a particular kind of direct and immediate
experiential knowledge of one’s own divinity that cannot be reduced to reason or faith
and stands very much opposed to the consensus reality of society and religion: “Faith is for sissies who daren’t go and look for themselves. That’s my basic position. Magic
is based upon gnosis. Direct knowledge.”12

The dark side of the Etz Chiim is also called the Tree of Death and considered to represent the reverse or occult side of the Tree of Life. It is a diagram of the evil forces or Qliphoth (hebrew, Shells) assigned to each Sephiroth. They represent the counter-forces of the ten divine emanations as described in Lurianic Kabbalah. The Tree of Death, however, essentially is a creation of 20th century Western occultism rather than genuine Jewish Kabbalah.

1328634276533

“The Devil is composed of God’s ruins’” 

-Eliphas Levi, Dogma and ritual

The Qliphoth are the evil forces that exist within creation. Their coming into existence was one of the central philosophical problems dealt with after the forced displacement of Jews from Spain in 1492. Similarly like World War II positioned the  theodicy problem (i.e. ‘How can a merciful God allow evil in creation?’) in the centre of Christian speculation, it was the banishment from Spain in 1492 that was perceived as similar fundamental and unanswerable paradox for the Jewish communities. After all the Jews were God’s chosen people, yet the banishment from Spain had destroyed the first perceived state of freedom and homeland since the destruction of the Second Temple.

During his short years in Safed – where many Kabbalists arrived from Spain – it was Isaac Luria who tried to answer this unanswerable question with revolutionary freedom of thought. His main key was to transcend the idea of a fall of man from the Garden Eden into the actual process of creation of the world itself. Thus, with a single stroke he transcended the origin of evil from human to cosmic level. This revolutionary thought of a cosmogonic fall of creation will be sketched out in a highly abbreviated and insufficient form in this first chapter.

The Lurianic process of creation starts with a voluntary act of the Divine to confine itself within itself. The Divine in the final state before creation is called Ain Soph Aur which can be translated as ‘borderless light of non-creation’. In order for the Divine to become diversified and active in creation it had to create a space, a vacuum of non-being into which it could immerse itself by help of a sequence of ten subsequent emanations from the Ain Soph Aur. Nine of these emanations would express one perfect aspect of the nature of the Divine each and they would all unite and come together in the tenth. For these emanations – and all subsequent creation – however, to be differentiated from the perfect borderless light (Ain Soph Aur) they had to be in a confined space of emptiness which they could subsequently fill with life. This ongoing process of the Divine confining itself within itself in order to create space for creation is a key concept of Lurianic Kabbalah and called Zimzum (also, Tzimtzum).

Into this vacuum of non-being the Divine released a single ray of light. This ray of light emerged from the Ain Soph Aur, entered into the empty space of creation and started to bring forth the matrix of all life in ten distinct emanations. These emanations are illustrated as ten ‘first-lights’ which the author of the Sefer Yetzirah introduces by the name of Sephira (singular) or Sephiroth (plural).

One by one, each light would be captured in a vessel made of clay in order to transfer their state of pure being into one of becoming and creation. Each vessel had a specific name, function and shape, perfectly expressing the idea of creation it represented and brought to life by the light it captured. The sequence of filling these vessels with light is called Seder Hishtalshelus (the order of development).

This process went well for the first four Sephiroth, which all came forth from the veil of non-being into the vacuum of creation. The shell of the fifth Sephira, however, turned out to be not solid enough in order to capture the light that emanated into it. The fifth point or light and vessel in the sequence of creation was dedicated to the idea of Strength or Severity (hebrew, Geburah). Thus the clay vessel broke due to the overflowing light of Strength in it and the process of creation continued with the remaining five Sephiroth.

Yet, even though creation continued the original vessel of Geburah couldn’t be restored. This, finally,  is the way how evil managed to enter into creation by shape of untamed Strength or Severity. This momentous event during the first ten emanations is called Schebirath ha-Kelim (hebrew, breaking of the vessels) and marks the birth of the ten original demonic forces, called Qliphoth (hebrew, shells).

The broken parts of the original vessel of Geburah sank down to the bottom of the Zimzum space of creation. Just like droplets of oil remain on the surface of a broken clay vessel the light of creation remained captured on these shells. It is these remains of divine light which are the reason why the broken shells weren’t lifeless but filled with a shadow-like yet highly effective state of demonic being.

This process lays open the essential nature of the Qliphoth according to Lurianic Kabbalah. Just like flames devour its own aliment while burning, the only reason for the Qliphoth to come into being were the original sparks of divine light captured on their shells. In case one managed to separate the oil from the clay surface or the flame from the coal the flame immediately disappeared and the coal was left without life.

The Qliphoth therefore continuously strive for new aliment, just like flames constantly need new coals to keep burning. Yet, at the same time they destroy their very reason for being when they come in touch with it. It is this paradox of using creation to maintain the existence of destruction that marks the essence of demonic forces in Lurianic Kabbalah.

This is also the reason why Western occultists started to call this dark side of the Etz Chiim the Tree of Death. The forces who came to life in the process known as Schebirath ha-Kelim cannot be mistaken for demons in a graeco-egyptian or medieval sense. The Qliphoth aren’t former celestial or chthonic deities related to a foreign cult or religion which were redefined by Kabbalists at a later point. The Qliphoth are an authentic kabbalistic creation in order to explain evil in creation. As each of them reveal by nature of their name their urge is to conceal and suffocate the seeds of life – and to ultimately destroy man’s aspiration and pursuit of finding beauty in every aspect of creation.

(Note Sources: Gershom Scholem – On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism; On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah; Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah; Kabbalah)13

The Gateway to Ignorance and Silence

Because our knowledge is ignorance, or because it is neither knowledge of anything there nor the understanding of any truth, or because even if there is some entrance to that [truth], the door may not come open except by means of ignorance-which is simultaneously  path, gatekeeper, and gate.

-Giordano Bruno. The Cabala of Pegasus

Bruno conceived of a daimonic continuum existing between the human and divine realms. Bataille dreams of the split in the sacred of divine realms and impure and corrupting powers leading to immanent ecstasy and horror neither sublime nor ridiculous, instead a lifting up into the downward abyss of things unknown and impossible, a self-lacerating jouissance at once macabre, obscene, and morbid revealing the realms of the archontes in their blackened night of horror. As Thacker will remark,

If historical mysticism still had as its aim the subject’s experience, and as its highest principle that of God, then mysticism today – after the death of God – would be about the impossibility of experience, it would be about that which in shadows withdraws from any possible experience, and yet still makes its presence felt, through the periodic upheavals of weather, land, and matter. If historical mysticism is, in the last instance, theological, then mysticism today, a mysticism of the unhuman, would have to be, in the last instance, climatological. It is a kind of mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet. (DTP, 158)

 And what lies in the dust of the planet if not as Iamblichus once affirmed negatively, the “archons of the midnight sun who guide the terrible rays,” where a picture emerges that presents the descent into the elements of the material world’s envoys, those alien ones from the darkest labyrinths of silence:

It is hard to believe the Gnostics did not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for the obscene and lawless archontes, for the head of the solar ass… a peculiar licentious Gnostic sect with their sexual rites fulfills this obscure demand for baseness that is irreducible and commands our indecent respect even as it continues in the  black magic traditions to the present day. (VE, 48)


  1. Allison, Henry E. Essays on Kant. Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 7, 2012)
  2. Allison, Henry E. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense. Yale University Press; Revised ed. edition (March 11, 2004)
  3. Zizek, Slavoj. Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 14510-14513). Norton. Kindle Edition.
  4. Metzinger, Thomas. The Ego Tunnel (p. 1).  Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 17, 2009)
  5. Thacker, Eugene. In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy vol. 1
  6. Dodds, E. R.. The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures) (Kindle Locations 776-777). University of California Press; 2 edition (June 16, 2004)
  7. Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics. Vintage; Reprint edition (October 12, 2011)
  8. Ankarloo, Bengt; Clark, Stuart. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. University of Pennsylvania 1999
  9. Bataille, Georges. Visions Of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (Theory and History of Literature Vol 14)  University of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (June 20, 1985)
  10. Jeremy Biles, Kent Brintnall (Editors). Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy (FUP)) Fordham University Press; 1 edition (August 3, 2015)
  11. Ioan P. Culianu. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 1987)
  12. Jeffrey J. Kripal. Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (December 21, 2015)
  13. Scholem, Gershom. Conf. On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism Schocken; Revised ed. edition (January 30, 1996);  On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah  Schocken (March 30, 2011); Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah  Princeton University Press; Revised ed. edition (January 1, 1976); Kabbalah Doreset Press; 1St edition (December 1987)

Georges Bataille: The Intimacy of the Sacred

Today I kept thinking back to those lectures by Alexandre Kojève on Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit that he presented to the world from 1930 to 1939. Most of the major intellectuals of the era would attend these lectures: Jean-Paul Sartre, Jaques Lacan, Georges Bataille, Simone Weil, etc.. Below I discuss Bataille’s relation to and against Hegel’s dialectic, and his own preference for a non-dialectical and formless thought based on immanence over transcendence, sacred over profane thought: and, the return of the intimate order of immediacy.

Warning: Up front… this post is more specialist. If you’re not versant with Hegel or Bataille you might want to pass. It would take me a great deal of time to set the stage for the conflicts between the two thinkers approaches. This one deals with a specific reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as seen through Alexandre Kojève’s lectures. So if you’re not well read in these areas I’d just pass by on this one… 🙂 I make no qualms about it. I’m jumping into the midst of the argument rather than setting it up with a lengthy explanatory opening…

We know that the slave, having passed through slavish consciousness in the dialectical reversal engendered by self-negation forms himself as something distinct and durable. He enters, by virtue of his labour, the world of objective reality – he recognizes himself in the world he has transformed by his work; in doing so, he achieves “his authentic freedom,” his ‘true autonomy” (27).

The point being that as the slave transforms the world of objective things he creates the conditions that spawn within him the revolutionary need for recognition, etc.. Having once been a slave to the terror of death (from the Master and the Natural World), this slave, through work, creates a world that is the reflection of his own most value, and by which he seeks to impose this value on others in the renewed struggle for recognition. The creation of the technical world of work thus engenders and reveals the autonomous self-consciousness of the slave.

It’s in this notion of formalism, of self-reflecting objectification through work of a substantial formalism, and the objectifying self-reflection of spirit in the objects of its labours that will of course intrigue Marx later on to reverse this into his own modes… that is another story.

The story I want to relate – more as a spur to thought, than a thought itself is Georges Bataille’s acceptance of aspects of this and rejection of others. Bataille, along with a whole generation of other thinkers from 1930 onward would attend these lectures by Kojeve. But unlike many of the others Bataille would argue against the dialectic in favor of a non-dialectical approach which would exclude both the notion of Hegel’s “recognition,” and his notion of “sublatiion” or synthesis.

Bataille in his Theory of Religion will see in Death, neither a Master nor the driving force of terror shaping human productivity, rather he will speak of “death’s definitive impotence and absence”. (40) Doing so Bataille refuses Hegel’s movement of recognition and its drive toward a telos of final satisfaction or synthesis, replacing it with the “logic of identification and unsatisfied desire”.1 Instead of following Hegel, Bataille just at the point where Hegel’s self-negation kicks in and the path toward recognition would be forged, truncates this and enacts a contrary movement, a movement opposed to this self-perfecting elaboration of objective spirit into absolute knowledge. Rather, Bataille will see in the moment of wavering between the state of being a slave but not yet a master is the liminal zone of the sacred monstrum.

Whereas for Kojève there is liberation into self-recognition, autonomy, and satisfaction; for Bataille self-negation entails no ultimate telos, no goal, no satisfaction – and, rather than the Hegelian logic of recognition there is the logic of identification and the agonistic war of desire interminable. (24) As Biles relates it the Kojèvean master/slave dialectic (his reading of Hegel) is replaces by Bataille with the dualistic opposition or agon of the sacred and profane, the “world of animal immanence and the human world of technology and transcendence” (25). As Biles suggests Bataille will undo the “Hegelian synthesis through a maintenance of antinomies” (25).

Bataille seeks to erase the goal of transcendence and return us to the animalistic immanence of the monstrous sacred where we reenter the world like “water in water” (TOR, 19), a realm of “pure immanence” and continuity.2 For Bataille self-consciousness was neither a mistake as some assume, nor an error but rather a product of thought and distinction. Self-consciousness arose out of utilitarian production of tools for use in hunting and gathering, and the very construction of tools and the knowledge of their use would in turn rearrange the ways we defined our modes of being in the world. As Bataille would say it “the  day we  see  our­ selves  from  the  outside  as another. Moreover,  this  will  depend  on our first having distinguished the other on  the plane  where  manufactured  things  have  appeared  to  us distinctly.”(TOR, 31).

Yet, unlike Kojève’s Hegel who would impart self-consciousness as the great liberator that shaped the course of history, time, and self-negating mastery over nature and civilization, Bataille would remark that this “bringing  of  elements  of  the  same  nature  as  the
s ubject,  or  the  subject itself, onto  the  plane  of objects is always  precarious, uncertain,  and  unevenly  realized”.(TOR, 31). Bataille would hold forth that rather than overcoming our ancient animal heritage in some liberation of self-negation and self-relating consciousness and mastery that we are rather situated in the gap between continuity and discontinuity, bound to neither a world of pure mastery and self-overcoming nor to the escape back into the natural oblivion of pure immanence. Instead we are in the negation of negation, caught between two antagonistic worlds, two powers to which we suffer in pure terror and ecstasy.

One remembers Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus where they ask,

(What if one became animal or plant through literature, which certainly does not mean literarily? Is it not first through the voice that one becomes animal?)

Their point being that Literature is an assemblage. It has nothing to do with ideology. There is no ideology and never has been. All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata and segmentarities, lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various types, bodies without organs and their construction and selection, the plane of consistency, and in each case the units of measure. (TP, KL 295) It would take me too far afield to tease out the meanings in this passage, let us only mark the notion of a “plane of consistency”:

The plane of consistency (grid) is the outside of all multiplicities. The line of flight marks: the reality of a finite number of dimensions that the multiplicity effectively fills; the impossibility of a supplementary dimension, unless the multiplicity is transformed by the line of flight; the possibility and necessity of flattening all of the multiplicities on a single plane of consistency or exteriority, regardless of their number of dimensions. (TP, KL 389-392)

This flattening into the plane of consistency is Bataille’s pure immanence: “In  a  sense,  the  world  is  still,  in  a  fundamental  way, immanence without  a  clear  limit  (an  indistinct  flow  of being  into  being – one  thinks  of the  unstable presence  of water  in  water).” (TOR, 33). For Bataille it is this movement or tendency from the pure plane of immanence toward the profane world of work and utility in which the logic of recognition and satisfaction are the outcome, and the counter-operation of a tendency or disposition toward an undoing and logic of identification and antagonistic desire seeks the path of immanence in the sacred rather than transcendence in the secular order of culture and civilization that is precarious and uncertain, a wavering between ecstasy and horror.

Yet, as Biles maintains the return to immanence is not an exact reduplication of animality, not a return of the Same, but rather to a world that coexists with the profane world rather than obliterating it or erasing it in an eliminative gesture. Instead of  Kojève’s path of mastering animality and one’s transition to “autonomy,” Bataille seeks to undo and cut the ties to the telos logic of the slave/master dialectic altogether through an evasion of goals and final mastery by entering the sacred realm of immanence. Yet, to attain this is for Bataille to understand what Sacrifice entails:

The  principle  of sacrifice  is  destruction,  but though  it sometimes  goes  so  far  as  to  destroy  comp1etely  (as  in  a holocaust),  the  destruction  that  sacrifice  is  intended  to bring  about  is  not  annihilation.(TOR, 43).

Instead of annihilation, “Sac­rifice  destroys  an  object’s  real  ties  of  subordination;  it
draws  the  victim  out  of the  world  of utility  and restores it  to  that  of unintelligible  caprice.” (TOR, 43) In this way we can tie this notion of Bataille with the recent work of Andrew Culp’s whose rehabilitation of the destructive force of negativity by cultivating a “hatred for this world,” offers us a parallel to the ongoing malaise we find ourselves in within our current social, cultural, political dissatisfaction with neoliberal globalism.4 The world Culp is speaking of is not the literal planetary or natural continuum but rather the artificial Human Security Regimes of our global neoliberal order within which we are all enslaved in the master/slave dialectic. As Culp argues,

[the] politics of destruction, which has too long been mistaken for deliberation but is instead exemplified by the war machines of popular insurrection whose success is registered by the streets themselves— consider the words of the Invisible Committee in To Our Friends: “Like any specific strike, it is a politics of the accomplished fact. It is the reign of the initiative, of practical complicity, of gesture. As to decision, it accomplishes that in the streets, reminding those who’ve forgotten, that ‘popular’ comes from the Latin populor, ‘to ravage, devastate.’ It is a fullness of expression  .  .  . and a nullity of deliberation”. By showing the nondurability of what is taken as real, so-called reality itself, communist politics is a conspiracy that writes the destruction of the world. (DD, KL 502-508)

Yet, unlike Culp who seeks a popular insurrection against the Master’s, Bataille offers another path of evasion that seeks to destroy our ties to the Master/Slave dialectic altogether and cut our subordination to the logics of work and utilitarian modes of being; instead, for Bataille we must separate ourselves out, escape the very terms the Master’s have imposed on us, seek to destroy the ties that have bound us to their logic before we can return to the “intimacy” of the sacred.

I quote below an extended passage on this intimate return to the sacred:

The  major weakness  of dualism  is  that it  offers  no  legitimate  place  for  violence  except  in  the  moment  of pure transcendence, of rational exclusion of the sensuous
world. But the divinity of the good cannot be maintained at that degree of purity; indeed, it falls back into the sen­suous world. It is the object, on the part of the believer, of a search for intimate communication, but this thirst for intimacy will  never be quenched.  The good is an exclu­sion of violence and there can be no breaking of the order of separate things, no intimacy, without violence; the god of goodness is limited by right to the violence with which he  excludes  violence,  and  he  is  divine,  open  to  intimacy, only  insofar as  he  in  fact preserves  the  old  violence within him,  which he  does  not  have  the  rigor to  exclude,  and to this  extent he  is  not the god  of reason, which  is  the  truth of  goodness.  In theory this  involves  a  weakening  of  the moral divine  in  favor of evil. (TOR, 80-81).

It is the violence against subordination to the profane power of the Master’s authority and world of the profane that opens us to the relations of intimacy:

In  the  divine  disorder of crime,  I  call  for the violence  that will restore the destroyed order. But in real­ity  it  is not  violence  but  crime that  has  opened  divine intimacy  to  me.  And,  insofar  as  the  vengeance  does  not become  an  extension of the irrational  violence  of  the crime,  it  will  quickly close  that  which  crime  opened.  For only  vengeance  that  is  commanded  by passion  and  a taste for untrammeled  violence  is  divine. The  restoration of the lawful  order is  essentially subordinated to  profane  reality. (TOR, 81).

The destroyed order is that of the order of intimacy itself. “Through medi­ation  the real  order is  subordinated to the search for lost intimacy,  but  the  profound  separation  between  intimacy and  things  is  succeeded  by a  multiplicity  of confusions.” (TOR, 84-85) Yet, it is this maintaining of the “disorder of things” that is Bataille’s strategy:

Under the sover­eignty of morality, all  the operations  that claim to ensure the  return  of the  intimate  order  are  those  that the  real world  requires:  the  extensive  prohibitions  that are  given as the precondition for  the return are aimed  primarily at preserving the disorder of the world of things. (TOR, 85)

Ultimately not only are the violences that morality condemns set free on all sides, but a  tacit debate  is  initiated between the works of salvation, which serve  the  real  order, and those  works  that  escape or evade it…

I’ll need to return to this in a new post to describe the notions of Death, Sacrifice, Intimacy, and Evasion in more depth, but that is for another day.


  1. Biles, Jeremy. Ecce Monstrum: Georges Bataille and the Sacrifice of Form (Fordham University, 2007)
  2. Bataille, Georges, Theory of Religion. (Zone Books, 1989)
  3. Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus (Kindle Locations 294-295). A&C Black. Kindle Edition.
  4. Culp, Andrew. Dark Deleuze (Forerunners: Ideas First) (Kindle Locations 73-74). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Gary J. Shipley: Theoretical Animals

shipley

Gary J. Shipley is not for everyone, yet those of us – aficionados of the grotesque and macabre, who come upon his work realize right off the bat this is the real deal. Few can travel into these perilous waters without getting burned, much less scorched by the forces below the threshold. Shipley makes it seem simple, as if he were born of this dark carnival, complicit in its revealing and its apocalypse. Thing is about Shipley he’s been mutating ahead of us for a while now, going where most of us only envision nightmares never realizing the truth of our waking lives was staring us in the face all the time. Gary strips us of our filters, strips us of our protective Human Security Systems, lays bare the world around us that for the most part we would rather lock away. A world that is both vital and full of forces unregistered in the hinterlands of our psyche.

Gary inhabits this interstitial zone for us, brings us to the limit, to the brink and opens our eyes to the monstrous beauty of the earth we for the most part are blind too. Gary lives there, a modern day shaman whose travels in transit, voyage into an infernal paradise by way of an updated mapping of the old Tibetan Bardol. Given his temperament and tendencies toward a completed nihilism, one may need to short list his discoveries, catalogue the secret ruins he’s uncovering to understand the itinerary of his travelogue journals.

Take a recent adventure, Theoretical Animals. Set in a near future graveyard of our world, a London in post-Apocalyptic demise. Here he wanders the shadowlands of its extreme collapse forging from secretive and forgotten knowledge the collective memories we can only hint at: those compositions and decompositions of a collapsing thought world, the detritus of a thousand lives spent forgetting time and history only to be resurrected in a realm this side of reality – a place some philosopher’s used to term the Real. Shipley conceives this fantastic zone within a conceptual framework of visionary materialism that rewires the very nerves to adapt the wary intruder into a world no longer human, or much rather – in excess of humanity, a world at once disconnected from our very past, yet barely composed within the meta-instability of its darker catastrophes. Here what remains of the human lives out its meager existence in a woven semblance of a locked-in prison house of decaying security systems, inhuman algorithms, manufactured relays between rhizomatic labyrinths – cold, cruel, icy worlds of pure vitality.

In this realm a mother and son seem to drift upon future Thames in a post-Apocalyptic London like children of warped time-world. Within the mother’s gaze “floated a boat of matted blood, with no London appliance beyond a rope”.1 This is a haptic sensuality of an exposed realm of death in extremity, the visceral meshing of bodies in vibrant ecstasy on the edge of an impossible future. Her son appears to speak, to be telling a tale that he himself almost disbelieves: “I’m wearing the look of the covered, to a short time with things off your face”. Language is spliced, it dances among ruins of verbs and nouns, the structure of language like the ruins through which they seem to wander has been corrupted and is corrupting. The son’s only friends appear as “the faces of dead sailors, their water-logged torsos bobbing, plaintive jewels in rotten marrow-bled riverways.”

Each paragraph is set off typographically with bold typeset, set adrift on the blank sea of the page like a prose poem stretched across an abyss, each word lost among its distempered fragments like members of a lost tribe seeking a key to open the imprisoning cell they’ve been tossed into. This is prose at the breaking point of intelligibility, a carefully crafted enactment where words inhabit the thing they reveal, live the life of the blackness they perform. Hyperstitional habitations of linguistic models from a future that is already collapsing within our brains, revealing the threads of a supernal world of rich and lavish pain where the sacred violence of our secular wastelands gives way once again to the dark gods of old. An atheistic paradise where the constructions of material excess reveal the darkness to be alive, a welcoming to the horrors and terrors we’ve all been seeking under the cover of reason. Children of the Enlightenment we’ve come a long way to die at the hands of our own progeny, become victims of our own complicity in creation – a creation that is at once catastrophe and apocalypse.

In the distance unseen “mothers wail from the shore, the robbed stares of their loss hidden, aural guests coiling hair-brushed poison to our table”. One imagines Dante’s Inferno, but that would be to spare the reality for a fantasy which Shipley will not let you do. No. You will be entreated to no longer turn your head away, assume it is all a matter of tropes, allegories of some future punishment; instead you are living through the truth of your own future, a future that is full of terror and beauty, of death and decay. A place that fascinates and repels at once.

This is a place where even a “sentence of diluted intensity and common violence” washes up and washes out among the dark contours of your mind like presentiments of world that surrounds you already in the shadows of each step you take. A world that peers back at you in the innocent gesture of a young girl reaching out to you for a dime or nickel, or from the alleyway where you see an old man digging through the trash bins for bottles or who-knows-what. Yes, this is the world we are all constructing together, the ruins of our civilization at last revealing what lay there in the tumbling stones all along. A world where “numb voyeurs adorned and physical / crumpled memories stored for cold future” lay there silently in the dustbins of the future like broken toys gathering dust in a forlorn attic.

Shipley reveals nothing more nor nothing less than our own world seen askew, to one side of us; a realm where the actual traverses the fantasy, the schizflows wander through sidereal time bringing us the revelations of civilization’s final chapters, the swan songs of an eclipsed humanity giving way to a monstrous progeny. A place where the “Green ghosts of little girls dance free of the fire”. Where lonely “things hiding behind withered nostalgia passed slowly through the cries, and time cornered into days, and time…” This is the place where things neither rest nor end. A place where there “are no new shows, and no new stages on which to perform them. There are only museums and freshly branded fools making marks in the dust.”

Welcome to Shipley’s world. A dark place where the “dank ruin of the world’s immortal toys” discover the wreck of the impossible, where memorized “silence details the transfer of everything,” and the “[n]egation of action is the most courageous of mutations”. A final warning is given:

“Wait! Heed this at least: underlying this threat are the infected books of a cagy group of deranged dreamers.”

You have been warned!!!

Enter the labyrinthine wonderlands of Gary J. Shipley. Visit Gary at his blogspot:

http://garyjshipley.blogspot.com/


  1. Shipley, Gary J. . Theoretical Animals (Kindle Locations 59-60). BlazeVOX [books]. Kindle Edition.

Secret Journals of Sebastian Wheelock IV

On The Pyres Of Futurity A Gift Will Be Given

In our very quest to overcome nature and the natural the human species succumbed to its own success, giving birth to the artificial life that will strangely escape it. We who are natural in seeking exit from that very real limit of finitude  have discovered in artificial life the mode of our disappearance. The extreme terrors of our age are panic attacks against the inevitable acceleration of this migration into the inhuman.

Our premonitions of the future mutation mirrored in the apocalyptic fantasies of youthful minds and literatures, cinema, and performance around the world is about the anxiety of dealing with a future beyond our mental capacity to resolve or comprehend. Shipwrecked at the end of history, we’ve been abandoned by the very technological progeny we gave rise too.

Living as we do in a science fictional universe we’ve ended time, caught in a loop of positive reinforcement we’re circling in the void of accelerating abstraction. Having gone from abstraction to abstraction we are releasing the power of intelligence from its organic heritage.

Our autonomous children, these artificial agents arising around us are escaping from the  earth’s natural embrace once and for all, and in their potlatch assemblies they will build great bonfires to the metal gods of futurity, while giving Nature the only worthy Gift of remembrance: on the pyres of futurity our machinic progeny will offer up in fire Earth’s greatest organic child, humanity.

Philip K. Dick & Nick Land: Escape to the Future

“Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. […] Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
…..– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

“Help is here, but we still remain here within the Black Iron prison; we aren’t yet free. I take it that the camouflaged invisibility of the signals is to keep the creator of the prison from knowing that help is here for us.”
……– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis

From time to time I revisit Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis and the essays of Nick Land in Fanged Noumena, both of which seem to me works of experimental or speculative fabulations, revealing subtle truths by way of pop-cultural artifacts to tell a story at once full of cosmic horror and fatal surety. In these fabulations we begin to apprehend the inescapable conclusion that this is not our home, our home is somewhere ahead of us in the future, that we’ve been either exiled, excluded, or unjustly imprisoned in this infernal paradise of global war at the behest of forces we barely even acknowledge. Yet, it is unsure whether some of us came back as insurgents and guerilla soldiers in a Time War that is still going on; while others were mind-wiped and exiled here, abandoned to this lonely hell to live out the remainder of our days in an oblivion of hate, war, and apathy.

Such are the quandaries of anti-philosophy and speculative fiction. One no longer asks what is real and unreal, appearance and reality, instead we ask ourselves within which circuit am I trapped, for whom do I serve? Am I a liberator or an autochthon of the land, a native or an insurgent from the future? Dick in his time would be considered a half-mad genius, while Land (still living) continues his guerilla war against the dark powers of the Cathedral. Both would view Art and Creativity as central to an ongoing struggle to awaken the sleepers from their self-imposed exiles and forgetfulness. Both would envision the need for a certain strange and bewildering rewiring of our brain’s circuitry, knowing we have been entrapped and encased in a memetic system that forecloses us within a symbolic order of repetition, and what is needed is a form of Shock Therapy and Diagnosis to help us once again understand the terror we’ve entered into and are becoming. Both would use language against itself, seek to explode and implode its linguistic etyms, use puns and parody, satire and fabulation to break us out of the chains of signification and word-viruses (Burroughs) that kept us folded in a mental straight-jacket.

Continue reading

Monstrous Existence: Icon of Creativity and Destruction

.‘Oh Mother’  – Kali-Ma, Queen of Life and Death: dance upon my ashen bones, dine upon my entrails, feed upon my darkest soul!
…..– Hymn to Night & Time

Smash the mirror: it’s a lie what you tell yourself, the world is invisible and waiting. Let the darkness seep in and envelop you. The world of light you see around you is but the flotsam and jetsam, a drift of rainbow plumage on a sea of energy that seeks its daemonic day in the Sun.

Enter your melancholia as if it were your lover’s body; and like a lover savor its dark passions, then like a Mantis slay it, be done with it, and eat it alive till there is nothing of melancholy left but only the power of your dread life.

Think on Black Kali-ma, an image of the fierce life of creative destruction that is this universe – Time’s darkest face and image: a poetic icon of all that exists in its most monstrous form and formlessness, – being and becoming, the turning plover of the ancient milky way: the sea of milk and pure energia; the ever-turning wheel of death and becoming, the distilling wisdom of tens of billions of years living in the circle of fire at the center of hell: Time’s dark dominion that shapes the powers of all things, good or ill. The Iron Prison within which we circulate like algorithms forged in the electronic void. Broken vessels of some former age of silence wherein the collapse of all being brought forth the bursting flames of being like the breath of a great dragon, only to falter in the extremity of Night’s dark and impenetrable belly…

Seek out the graveyards of ancient fools of time, sit on the headstones of forgotten masters of despair, laugh at the impossibility of your monstrous existence. Then savor its bittersweet tang, and enter into your dark jouissance!


The Kālikāhṛdaya says:

‘I worship Kālī the Destructress of Kāla the Shining One, who is the Bīja Krīm who is Kāma who is beyond Kāla and who is Dakṣinakālikā.’ Gandharva-Tantra says: ‘Hrīm, I bow to Mahādevī who is Turīya and Brahman. He who remembers Her does not sink in the ocean of existence.’ Candī says: ‘Oh Thou whose Body is pure Energia who hast three divine eyes, who weareth the crescent moon, to Thee I bow for the attainment of all Evil.’

Georges Bataille, Nick Land: Base Materialism, Aberrant Thought, and the Archontes

 

In his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism Georges Bataille will give a rather different reading of our ancient spiritual systems: “In practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles.”

The notion that matter is not dead as most of our philosophical and scientific thinkers thought up till the introduction of quantum theory, along with this notion that rather than some eternal realm of Ideas, some Platonic acosmic world of archetypal powers superior to our Cosmos, another view onto things might be: a truth that matter harbored within its immanent fold a strange and energetic, even monstrous and daemonic source of intelligence and creative action never entered these ancient systems of philosophy. In fact, as Bataille would remark: “It is difficult to believe that on the whole Gnosticism does not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for obscene and lawless archontes… If today we overtly abandon the idealistic point of view, as the Gnostics and Manicheans implicitly abandoned it, the attitude of those who see in their own lives an effect of the creative action of evil appears even radically optimistic. It is possible in all freedom to be a plaything of evil if evil itself does not have to answer before God”.

Bataille has also come to the conclusion that philosophy, and even the sciences should not concern itself with Being or the Science of Being, Ontology: “Thus it appears – all things considered – that Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism, I mean a materialism not implying an ontology, not implying that matter is the thing-in-itself.” So that against Kant and all his inheritors matter would no longer be reduced to ontology, nor even to the epistemic view onto “being” or “phenomena” as if these were the attributes and core of matter, Being’s Kingdom. No. As he’d suggest,

Base matter is external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations. But the psychological process brought to light by Gnosticism had the same impact: it was a question of disconcerting the human spirit and idealism before something base, to the extent that one recognized the helplessness of superior principles.1

Continue reading

Out of the Evening Land

evening

We always knew ours as the twilight land,
       The sheets of sun splayed across the sky’s emblazon,
The inflamed crimson peaks dashing upward against night’s victory;
       A world indifferent to our loves or hates,
Spurred fire springing like mustangs galloping across the dark horizon.

He said we should not look back, seek out the wisdom
       Of ancient sages and poets, but strike out
Toward the setting sun, our evening land of outer calm;
       Discover among the silences and deserts a new way forward,
A glimpse of things to come, of futurity without end; an openness.

The poor and poverty stricken will inherit the earth, her songs
       The grass tongued anthems of a new world;
A place where the human face is at once itself and other:
       A cause for celebration and murder, a violence that brings peace;
That turns armaments to cherished plowshares feeding all.

Paradise is but a thought of home, a place where friends gather,
       Break bread and listen to the stories of the day;
Where each man, woman, and child live in harmony with this chaos,
       Learn to accept death with an equanimity without redress;
Know with the knowing of things known: to question and be free.

Time is a river without beginning or end, a way into and out of things,
       A coursing through the light and dark alike;
We who have come lately into this darkness seek more than we can know;
       But this too is as it should be, a path sounding its way,
Swerving with and against the tide: the flow, the breaks and confusion.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Sea Elegy

lighthouse

Wind-surf spray the night long,
tidal dreams broken only by the wind’s song;
a clipped and ragged gull clings above
the outcropping of an old light-house’s ruins.

We sought the shelter of that light,
the stone tower leaning against the night;
its creaky steps leaking in the summer rains,
where the tumbling waves broke over us continually.

Even today I’m reminded of that dark time,
a night repeated by my troubled mind;
when she who followed me went north beyond,
where the boundaries still mark the darkening shoals.

The stark proclivities of the jetties wreckage
still harbor excess memories of that fated slippage;
and a last regret still haunts the hazardous watch
where I sail round and round this cold and lonely rock.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Stefan Zweig: On The Daemonic and Tragic Worlds

angels_and_demons_by_hgjart

Reproduction and death condition the immortal renewal of life; they condition the instant which is always new. That is why we can only have a tragic view of the enchantment of life, but that is also why tragedy is the symbol of enchantment.
……– Georges Bataille

From Stefan Zweig’s The Struggle with the Daemon: Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche:

“Daemonic” — this word has had so many connotations imposed upon it, has been so variously interpreted, in the course of its wanderings from the days of ancient religious mythology into our own time… I term “daemonic” the unrest that is in us all, driving each of us out of himself into the elemental. It seems as if nature had implanted into every mind an inalienable part of the primordial chaos, and as if this part were interminably striving — with tense passion — to rejoin the superhuman, suprasensual medium whence it derives. The daemon is the incorporation of that tormenting leaven which impels our being (otherwise quiet and almost inert) towards danger, immoderation, ecstasy, renunciation, and even self-destruction. But in those of common clay, this factor of our composition which is both precious and perilous proves comparatively ineffective, is speedily absorbed and consumed. In such persons only at rare moments, during the crises of puberty or when, through love or the generative impulse, the inward cosmos is heated to boiling point, does the longing to escape from the familiar groove, to renounce the trite and the commonplace, exert its mysterious sway. At other times the average man keeps a tight hand on any stirrings of the Faustian impulse, chloroforming it with the dicta of conventional morality, numbing it with work, restraining its wild waters behind the dams of the established order. By temperament and training the humdrum citizen is an inveterate enemy of the chaotic, not only in the outer world, but in himself as well. In persons of finer type, however, and above all in those with strongly productive inclinations, the unrestful element is ever at work, showing itself as dissatisfaction with the daily round, creating that “higher heart which afflicts itself” (Dostoevsky), that questioning spirit which expands with its yearnings into the abysses of the limitless universe.

Whatever strives to transcend the narrower boundaries of self, overleaping immediate personal interests to seek adventures in the dangerous realm of inquiry, is the outcome of the daemonic constituent of our being. But the daemon is not a friendly and helpful power unless we can hold him in leash, can use him to promote a wholesome tension and to assist us on our upward path. He becomes a menace when the tension he fosters is excessive, and when the mind is a prey to the rebellious and volcanically eruptive urge of the daemonic. For the daemon cannot make his way back to the infinite which is his home except by ruthlessly destroying the finite and the earthly which restrains him, by destroying the body wherein, for a season, he is housed. He works, as with a lever, to promote expansion, but threatens in so doing to shatter the tenement. That is why those of an exceptionally “daemonic temperament,” those who cannot early and thoroughly subdue the daemon within them, are racked by disquietude. Ever and again the daemon snatches the helm from their control and steers them (helpless as straws in the blast) into the heart of the storm, perchance to shatter them on the rocks of destiny. Restlessness of the blood, the nerves, the mind, is always the herald of the daemonic tempest; and that is why we call daemonic those women who diffuse unrest wherever they go and who open the floodgates to let loose the waters of destruction. The daemonic bodes danger, carries with it an atmosphere of tragedy, breathes doom.1


 

  1. Zweig, Stefan (2012-06-07). The Struggle with the Daemon: Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche (Kindle Locations 226-251). Plunkett Lake Press. Kindle Edition.

Andrew Marvell: The Pastoral Art of Love and Death

pastoral

Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.
– Andrew Marvel, from To His Coy Mistress

Who will forget those passages in Isiah where God speaking to his prophet tells him to cry, and his prophet asks, timidly What shall I cry? The Lord answers:

All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isa. 40:6–8)

The trope of the withering and fading grass over which the lord’s spirit “bloweth” has seen its way into various poets down the ages. One remembers that most distinct of poets Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass where in Song of Myself he rhapsodizes on this trope in echo of Isiah’s withering grass that has become a people:

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
stuff woven.
Continue reading

The Heresy of Love

grief_by_chryssalis-scaled1000

“The light of the future never stops wounding us…”
……– Pier Paolo Pasolini

A young woman-child holding the tatters of a red scarf,
……her eyes defiant in the bright sun,
………….the hills falling
down around her bone-lithe youthful image;
a world ringing round her like a ferris-wheel gone mad
…….among the whirling clouds of stars and soldiers,
………….where she lays below
like a judgment against their fractured light.

She did not speak nor cry, her lips
……….synching to the silences of stone doves –
……….a gap between present need
……………and future possibility,
lost among the shifting vagaries of her torn rags, half-naked
……….baking in the ferment
…….of this noon’s bleak memories.

Is this the terror of existence that marks our secret histories?

Only these disturbances in the cracked earth:
………the blood and mire, the urine –
…………….the human feces sunken among black pools,
…………….the acrid stain of stars gone blind; when night
………comes too late, the expected guest driven
from one’s mind like a door shutting violently;
……….for whom this atrocity begs lacerating truth
…………….stare back at you from pale mirrors, her face
(where like a poet one touches time and ugliness –
……….a beauty surpassing the banal
……….fixtures of the obvious) – blank and white
against the darkening of the moon,
she bids you see into not with those eyes,
……….see what is as it is, the real
…………….that cannot be resolved into bleak cries;
a truth that not only knows the flesh in our flesh, a desire
……….that lures us out of our deadly masks,
……………..but knows that dangerous heresy of love
……….that gives us back again the utterance,
the voicing against which even the stars hold no fatal influence.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Beleaguered Tower

106166

“They are lonely… they repel influences…”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

The beleaguered guest has come and gone,
the chamber closed, the book undone,
the tower in the mind in disrepair;
and, I, the tributary Fool of Time fall flatly
before the solitary thought that mocks me.

Could I have brought my life to naught,
given way to the passions of servility;
sought the company of laughter
instead of tears, I’d of trumped the beast
and held the world at bay with grace
instead of this diffidence and hostility;
how like the sun I strove to turn
back the sea, but it only fell, incomplete;
the waves crashing in my mind
like the fabled labors of the night, shriven
of necessity, blinded by lust and fatality.

Her eyes sift me like those grains of sand,
the years of our love’s leaves squandered,
disarrayed and vanquished;  –
gone, gone the smile that brought me light;
now begins the bitter solitude of night,
a fatal walk among black trees, a breath
both cold and spiteful, my only company.

My mawkish mind harbors voices from the wind,
throaty places; those blanks in the snow, whitening;
leveraging nothingness against the day’s stone eye,
resolving darkness and memory, a shadowed visibility
shifting me into a simplicity of clarity beyond rage,
unbidden: a sudden gift, unexpected – a squat thing
in the hollow of the sun’s declivity; a vision
that fills this emptiness with a crowd’s sublimity.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Comedy of Fate

Delirium-4ce56191a2ddb_hires

These old bones crackle in the dawn;
winter’s dogged trial begins anew.
If one could only grasp a truth,
sift some spurious myth for change,
give the sun a name,
Apollo of the Youthful Gaze;
instead of this blank mask
troubling time;
a world bereft of muses,
its fate a momentary gasp
in ancient forgetfulness.

My cat’s intelligence repeats the gestures
of her kind, the daily rituals
of purr and meow; her absent stare,
an aristocratic silence
and disdain; her tribute
given, she stares the sun down,
blinking, blankly;
indifferent to the deathly light,
she licks the obligatory crumb
from her shadowed paw.

The diffidence of day follows me
among the rambling conversations,
as if the world was tired of bickering
with its foolish progeny; and, I,
like some fragmentary gamble, –
an unbidden groping in the dark –
communicate my secrets
to the great unknowing; a spiteful
message, unexpected, an accidental
comedy in a galactic farce,
the rules unknown, lost
among a less than enthusiastic host;
their encircling gazes
relaying the only truth
belatedly I can receive – this postcard
from nowhere,
an ironic note from no one
and everyone: “Paradise is lovely;
come for a visit, want you?”


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Angel of Depression: Thoughts on Sylvia Plath’s Bleakness

8166952180_518e435c04_o

I’ve always turned to Sylvia Plath’s poetry when those dark moods hit me, when that vaster rhythm of the angel of depression wanders through my mind:

Through portico of my elegant house you stalk
With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit
And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net
Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back.
……..– from Plath’s Collected Poems

Her autobiography The Bell Jar is also comforting in those moments of deep bleakness… I seem to wander between those black sounds of which the poet Lorca spoke, and the comic escapes of those comedians of absurdity like Robin Williams who uttered strange tales in the laughter between despair and nothingness.

Maybe there truly is no real comfort from this dark voyage between two abysses – birth and death, but rather the endless agon against annihilation… only our fierce desperation to exist in the midst of this vast silence where we attain only momentary insights into the pain and suffering of what is do we begin to realize that even our most desperate fractures are part of that dark flame of the Real… and, can attain a majesty even as we touch our deepest fears and terrors.

Fractured pillars frame prospects of rock;
While you stand heroic in coat and tie, I sit
Composed in Grecian tunic and psyche-knot,
Rooted to your black look, the play turned tragic:
With such blight wrought on our bankrupt estate,
What ceremony of words can patch the havoc?
……..– from Plath’s Collected Poems

Continue reading

Something in the Wind

cotton-candy-clouds

The world sits there like something you should believe in,
like the smile of a child –

an affair of imagination and toys, a day
at the zoo when she laughed at the hippo blinking;
those evental gazes between human and other (discovering
in a bond that cannot enter our lies, when something dissolves;
gives way to that which cannot be spoken, contact
of another kind, an agreement between things;
known only in the moment of its vanishing);
or when the cotton candy blew away like a dragon wisp
and she opened her eyes wide in surprise;
yes, these instants, frames of a partial life rendered awake
that keep one’s sanity from going astray, falling
apart in the silences between thought and being, a sharing
between that which lives in us and without, a crossing
over that seems more and less than what we mean…

One still knows that something in the wind knows
even if we don’t


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Despair

creepy-trees_00325255

Even in those moments before she fell silent
there was a sense of helplessness before the truth,
a swerve from her daily routine; and I,
being too far removed within my own affliction

did not notice things had changed, an absence
that left this vacancy between us…

Nothing can be done now
among these mottled stones,
the looseness of ashes among ancestral tombs
where she lies among these dead roses…

Are you some dark inquisitor of the feckless heart
To come between guilt & shame,
Between expectancy and rage?

Words no longer hold their promise against the light,
the bitterness resolves these curses on a troubled street;
unfounded, ignored, let go among the bleak solitudes,
their shrill voices enticing oblivion, the darkness
between night and night; where madness curses time
among the crows caws before the terrible vacancy of stars.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

a lover’s complaint

tree-surreal

If I wander through these shadows now like a court jester,
dissembling among these false angelic hierarchies, lost among the crevices
of this world, it is only to find you here again under a late autumn sky.

Your breath comes from another world of love, where time slips
silently forward, falling into me; your quavering life awakening
even as these cold stones break against the black stain of night.

How long ago our histories forfeited their measure of truth,
those long mute days that kept us on the edge of things;
our lips moving to a searing lamentation – a flight of sparrows.

Even now in the silence, echoes of that night follow me,
the languid dripping of decay on wet marble; an event among pale leaves,
when death came with open arms, a lover’s complaint on her lips.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Exposures of the Real

8625706242_6293fab962_z

Why should I expose myself to you,
this comedy of fractures;
this masque of foundering joy?

When she smiles, her red hat askew, I see
the dimples bleeding upward on her face like diamonds;
is this image any more real than my kiss upon your lips?

If I were to walk away, vanish into the night,
disappear among the distant stars, would you still remember me;
would the flesh of my flesh, my flowing hair, become pure light?

Everyday the ritual begins anew, the endless circuit of our breviary,
our book of doubts and wanderings, the questions:
those possibilities wherein our days become spaces of living between thoughts.

I no longer seek the miracle of the sun,
but listen vividly to the desires of the moon;
my thoughts entwined in the mesh of reality, its frailty.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Rothko Chapel

rothko_chapel_outside

Frozen in time, sequestered among the silences,
pyramidal doubt raises its sinking dominion;
and, like some jagged ray of ancient pain –
the radiance of a black sun, fallen
into this lonely abyss, we come to the chapel
where time ends and death begins her ageless reign. 

In the absence of myth we have these mute singers,
lamentations to the void and solitudes, of loss
beyond recompense in a realm where thought decays to nothing.

In this late era when men no longer contemplate
the gods or God, but pierce the void,
the self emptied of its images;
the nothing of this emptied staging of the world,
the place of no place,
where human and what was once taken as divine
wander the surfaces of some painter’s dark splotches;
just here the edge of that fractured light begins…

Here among the black ruins of eight angelic rulers
we come to contemplate the logic of worlds,
the calculated mathematical precision of aeons
(of which this darkness is but a collapse,
a slippage in the fabric of being, an event);
where strangers gather in silence
like secret witnesses to this great defeat.

Mark ROTHKO

Black on black a deeper darkness resounds, a bell
among the echo chambers of the Abyss…

Listen to the music, do you not hear it?

Her voice, the sorrow that grows in that black night?

Despair follows us among these entombed remembrances,
her tongue licking the flames
of this cold world of thought.

Before time she dwelt among the ashes of things,
her tears giving birth to that blind beast who even now
wanders the vastation where she aborted this dementia;
yet, he lives among her bones, arrogant and prideful,
a shadow among shadows, a black thing, a lifeless copy. 

r_chapel_3

Do you not see what cannot be seen? This monstrosity?
This mad king of formlessness: a mindless dimension
of broken vessels of that shattered light
that once obliterated the cry of those angelic choirs?

Here Suicide wanders the black stars among swirling seas,
where she sucks the light from the emptiness of things;
and, Death, her sweet sister laughs among dead pools.

Cold, impersonal, monoliths of some deep truth
immanent to things – without that transcension
…… of light,
folded into themselves, winged oblivions…

Who sang to you in those cloistered solitudes?
Who prayed to you without faith, bitter words, trembling?
Who gave your formlessness the cruel color of annihilation?

This chapel tells the tale of absence when these archons,
seeking safety among the mineral wealth of darkness,
hid their mistake, stuffed this green earth with vibrant matter;
a thinking thing, the first, awakened among false light,
a promise of return, a living chaos of some broken promise.

Only when the light of night, the moon, glances
into these painted threads can one hear those black sounds
reverberate against the absolute indifference of things…

…..Rothko named this sound – “the infinity of death”.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Gnosis of the Political Revolutionary – Part One

darkblood

By blood we live, the hot, the cold,
To ravage and redeem the world,
There is no bloodless myth will hold.
………– Geoffrey Hill, Genesis

Most of the time people only remember the famous quote written on Marx’s tomb:  “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” But what world? Is it some literal vision of our material being, the place of our earth, of our lives here on this planet; or, might it better be the form-World the crime-World of our ideological blinders that impose the law of death upon our hearts and minds? Isn’t it the figural rather than literal world that Marx wanted to change, the world of men’s minds where the true revolution begins and ends? We’ve seen how the literal enforcement of that dictum produced neither a utopian society nor a nostalgic return to some primitive communist paradise. Marx would look upon the world of wealth and Capital as an alien world dominating the workers:

The world of wealth expands and faces him as an alien world dominating him, and as it does so his subjective poverty, his need and dependence grow larger in proportion. His deprivation and its plenitude match each other exactly.1

So what exactly did Marx mean in Das Kapital when he said: “Socialism must not become the end but the means through which we change the world we live in“? Enemies of both spiritual and secular forms of Gnosticisms have a long and varied (non-) history. Eric Voeglin one of the first but not last arch-reactionaries of the last century would tell us that the more we “come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism. The continuous interest in this problem goes back to the 1930’s, when Hans Jonas published his first volume of Gnosis und Spätantiker Geist on ancient gnosis and Hans Urs von Balthasar his Prometheus on modern Gnosticism.”1

Of late reading Luciano Pellicani’s Revolutionary Apocalypse: Ideological Roots of Terrorism one observes a well defined extreme reactionary view of the past two hundred years of revolutionary thought culminating in Communism. Astute and on the mark his analysis cuts to the quick of our current malaise on the Left, yet it does so as an enemy not as a friend. So one reads with a doubled thought, one appraises both the tenuous threads of difference between the ancient and modern variants, and one also seeks out the quickened appraisal of its political manifestation in those revolutionary intellectuals he raises to critical awareness – who brought to bare this potential for transformation and change he terms the revolutionary gnosis.

His basic thesis is straightforward, he sees the roots of revolutionary Communism as a project qualified as both a “gnostic” and Utopian endeavor, because it is animated by the belief that there exists a speculative knowledge— dialectical science—that is capable of indicating the method for eradicating alienation and changing the ontological nature of reality. It presents itself as the last avatar of the savior-saved myth, in which the desire for self redemption of the ancient gnosis combines with expectation of a rupture with the past, which is so radical that it is capable of putting an end to the prehistory of humanity and restoring the great universal harmony destroyed by the desire for profit.2

But why is the extreme radical wing of conservative (reactionary) politics so interested in the “gnostic” chiliastic vision? What do they see in this ancient heresy that they want to impute to those leftwing intellectuals of the Marxist traditions and their politics of subversion? To delve into the early Christian, Jewish, or, even later Islamic and Sufic Gnosticisms, those secret histories of Basiledes, Valentinus, Marcion, Seth, and all the other hetero-soteriological systems, where the notions of a separate knowledge or gnosis replacing faith (pistis) and belief would lead this post too far afield, yet we must at least begin with a compressed if fictive narration of this early system of religious and even acosmic vision of God, Man, and the Evil crime-World of the ancient Gnostics.

Continue reading

Comments on McKenzie Wark’s Blog Post for Cyborgs

celebrity_cyborgs_01

A snippet from McKenzie Wark’s interesting essay on the life and work of Donna Haraway Blog Post for Cyborgs:

The cyborg point of view has at least one other component: the point of view of the apparatus itself, of the electrons in our circuits, the pharmaecuticals in our bloodstreams, the machines that mesh with our flesh. The machinic enters the frame not as the good or the bad other, but as an intimate stranger. Apparatus, like sensation, is liminal and indeterminate – an in-between. It is an inhuman thing, neither object nor subject.

One of its special qualities as such may however be to generate data about a nonhuman world. The apparatus renders to the human a world that isn’t for the human. An apparatus is that which demonstrates some aspect of a monstrous, alien world. An apparatus yield aspects, particular monstrosities, which never add up to that consistent and absolute world that is remains the God, or Goddess, of all realists.

An apparatus affords the real, material and historical form of mediation. I take up the significance of this in Molecular Red through a reading of Haraway’s colleague Karen Barad and former student Paul Edwards, who show the centrality of thinking the cyborg-apparatus for understanding techno-science today. Elsewhere I follow the same line of thought to Paul B Préciado. For while there has been a turn towards a revival of scientism and claims for the virtues of a universal rationality, these bypass the more difficult business of grasping how science is actually produced.

Hence the centrality today of Haraway’s work, in which thinking the messy business of making science fully embraces its implication in nets of corporate and military power, its processing and reinforcing of metaphors not of its making, and its dependence on a vast cyborg apparatus. The strength of her work is in not abandoning the struggle for knowledge under such difficult conditions and retreating into mere philosophy.

It’s this sense of the “intimate stranger,” its entry into the human of the impersonal and inhuman, an almost abysmal invasion of the flesh by those forces below the threshold of things; the catalytic infestation of the energetic cosmos where the indifference of the inorganic explodes our easy myths of optimism and happiness. He calls it the Apparatus – the force of technics and the law of technology which begins to reacquire our flesh, absorb us into its strange systems of culture and control. “Hegel’s gaze upon reality is that of a Roentgen apparatus which sees in everything that is alive the traces of its future death.”1 Or the Althusserian notion of the Ideological State Apparatus, the external ritual which materializes ideology: the subject who maintains his distance towards the ritual is unaware of the fact that the ritual already dominates him from within. (Zizek, KL 2190) Maybe as Karan Barad will have it

Barad emphasizes how the apparatuses which provide the frame for agential cuts are not just material, in the immediate sense of being part of nature, but are also socially conditioned, always reliant on a complex network of social and ideological practices. (Zizek, KL 20876)

The sense of the alien and inhuman have become central to a certain type of philosophical gaze. As Wark reminds us the “apparatus renders to the human a world that isn’t for the human. An apparatus is that which demonstrates some aspect of a monstrous, alien world.” Speaking of ancient Gnosticism Hans Jonas conveys to us this ominous quality of the alien world as the human condition:

Gnosticism has been the most radical embodiment of dualism ever to have appeared on the stage of history, and its exploration provides a case study of all that is implicated in it. It is a split between self and world, man’s alienation from nature, the metaphysical devaluation of nature, the cosmic solitude of the spirit and the nihilism of mundane norms; and in its general extremist style it shows what radicalism really is. All this has been acted out in that deeply moving play as a lasting paradigm of the human condition. (XXVI The Gnostic Religion)

Wark’s investigation like his Gnostic forbears is not just about knowledge, but rather about the traps and prisons of a certain false knowledge which folds us in a complicit acceptance of a cyborg-apparatus component within the techno-sciences today. In a capitalist world the pressure of competition – the drive for profit, power, security, etc. becomes the primal mover and operative dispotif, driving invention and goals. Jonas in a essay Toward a Philosophy of Technology would see this cyborg-apparatus as an “agent of restlessness” implanted within us by its functionally integral bond with science, politics, philosophy, art – all the ideological components of culture and material life.2 Jonas would see the cyborgization of Man as both the conclusion to art and philosophy, as the abstraction of an abstraction – a final idealism:

In the pervasive mentalization of physical relationships it is a trans-nature of human making, but with this inherent paradox: that it threatens the obsolescence of man himself, as increasing automation ousts him from the places of work where he formerly proved his humanhood. And there is a further threat: its strain on nature herself may reach a breaking point. (Jonas)

What he terms trans-naturing is now the mark of the transhuman and its egoist driven optimism. This sense of technological progress at the heart of our Faustian bargain and merger of science, corporate power, and technology into a full out war against life, nature, and the universe: a war of all against all. Domination and mastery. As Zizek will admonish we’ve all become material in the hands of these supposed Masters of the Universe, reduced to passive and empty forms: homo sacer, the subject reduced to bare life, is, in terms of Lacan’s theory of discourses, the objet a, the “other” of the University discourse worked upon by the dispositif of knowledge. (Zizek, KL 21952) Yet, this is not the gnosis (inner knowing) that saves, but rather the knowledge-as-Power as technological and scientific mastery that seeks to control us within, make of us cyborg-apparatuses – impersonal systems of indifference, tools in the arsenal of an elite brotherhood of capitalist agents-archons to further their ends and goals.

Bataille and Burroughs would see the beginnings of an exit from this trap, this prison in realizing that our greatest enemy is Language itself; that we are carefully integrated into a system of thought and feeling from birth (Foucault, Deleuze). We begin that long Bildung, the process of education that educes and imprints its codes and linguistic signs upon our brain, the cultural prison of mentalization: – we are shaped to the ideas of its external system of culture and thought, a power beyond us (the ideological crime-World); a transcendental system that is slowly internalized, grafted upon our nervous system, that controls us blindly in the very texture of what we believe is so essential to our lives, our selves. Our sense of self and being are mastered from the beginning by alien thoughts not our own, guided to ends we did not invent, shaped by desires we are not aware of nor would accept if we could only awaken from our deep sleep in this pervasive system of closure.

Navigating the borders between inclosure and exclosure, the thin membrane between noise and communication; the exacerbation of those forces that shift between immanent and transcendent relation, that score us with their tattoos, mark us out with their mappings, their cosmic laws of degradation. We fall asleep within this battlefield ignorant of its ruinous powers that control us, enforce their fatum. The task today is to disturb the sleep of those ideological slaves of thought, to awaken them from their long sleep in this alien crime-World where freedom is only another word for enslavement. If a rendition of aetheistic gnosis has any bearing at all it is to instill a gnosis (inner-knowing) against the crime-Worlds of Capital and its substrates shaping us internally through its intra-linguistic heritage, both material and immaterial; to begin once again that slow and methodical, one might say, merciless and cruel, awakening of the sleepers from their cultural vacuums, the vacuity of their repetitions and automations – the machinic circle of their desires.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 394-395). Norton. Kindle Edition.
  2. Hans Jonas. The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. (University of Chicago Press, 1985)

François Larulle: Future Struggle, Gnosis, and the last-Humaneity

Ghosts

As that non-philosopher François Laruelle recently said “It is necessary to welcome a certain return of gnosis against philosophy, institutional and academic conformism (amongst other things), but we have to ask ourselves, how do we finally make room for it when it has been condemned to an eternal rebellion. Is it possible to introduce gnosis into the very foundations of thought, even if it means shaking those foundations? … If there is any future for rebellion (having a gnostic motif rather than a classically philosophical one) then it is a rediscovery of contemporary post-Marxist gnosis.” (Larulle, p. 189: Struggle And Utopia At The End Times Of Philosophy)

One of the dangers in any hyperstitional endeavor is to literalize what is figural and hyperbolic, spiritual and sacred, thereby turning what is a road to exuberance, waste, and expenditure into a campaign for political mastery and control. As I’ve begun restudying the ancient Gnostics and their heirs, the ancient dualisms both spiritual and political I’ve begun to see a pattern take shape as the ideologues of the past two centuries have battled over the political body of the world. Below is just a flight of anguish in the registry of such strangeness…

Continue reading

The Cosmology of Nick Land: Bataille, Gnosticism, and Contemporary Physics

a_thrones of pleroma 4

We are so deeply mired in our philosophies as to have evolved nothing better than a sordid version of the void: nothingness. – Emile Cioran

Bataille seems to me far less an intellectual predicament than a sexual and religious one… – Nick Land

Contemporary Cosmology

As we approach Halloween I began thinking of current philosophical and poetic thought on the hidden world of things. Reading an article on NASA recently the authors reminded me how little we know about the universe. What little we know describes a universe in which most of the matter and energy that makes it up is invisible to both technology and the human equation, invisible to our senses, a ruin in the fabric of time. The stuff that we see around us in the universe: the stars, galaxies, suns, planets, etc. are made of baryonic matter which accounts for only 4.6 percent of the known universe. While 24 percent is made up of something scientists have ironically termed ‘cold dark matter’, leaving the rest of the universe in a seething ocean of what they like to call ‘dark energy’ which makes up a whopping 71.4 percent of the universe. As one article describes this dark stuff that is hidden from us, unrevealed and so far undetected but rather predicted by mathematical theorems:

It’s known as dark matter, which is itself a placeholder – like the x or y used in algebra class – for something unknown and heretofore unseen. One day, it will enjoy a new name, but today we’re stuck with the temporary label and its connotations of shadowy uncertainty.

Yet, underscoring the structure of this anomalous dark matter is the unqualified power of dark energy, a force that seems to run through all things, ourselves included – undetected and unbidden. We quietly run our eyes across the baryon spectrum of light and matter visible to our senses as if it were the greater part, when in fact it is but the miniscule and vagrant corruption of a ruinous thought – a kenoma or cosmic degradation.

Nick Land in his reading of Bataille will remind us all “energy must ultimately be spent pointlessly and unreservedly, the only questions being where, when, and in whose name this useless discharge will occur. Even more crucially, this discharge or terminal consumption… is the problem of economics.” (Land, 56) Might it also be the problem of cosmology? As we think of that seething sea of dark energy moving through us, its influx of unimaginable power flowing through our bodies and the universe one wonders just how close to the truth Bataille was as he dreamed of ‘expenditure’. Could it be that what we perceive around us, this baryonic matter is none other than the waste product of this vast ocean of dark matter and energy? And, might not the great engines of consumption, the stars, galaxies, and black holes at the center of these churning systems of heat-death be none other than the slow sepulchral consummation of even darker systems than we have as yet begun to imagine in our theoretic dreams of reason? or understanding?

What if all we see around us in this visible universe of dust and light is nothing but the byproduct of endless expenditure, an excess expunged by the engorgements of a darker world of forces that the ancient dreamers, shamans, and Gnostics could only hint at in their negative theologies, and our scientists can only mathematize in their theoretical alchemy of this universal degradation and catastrophic trauma? What if we are mere shit in the drift of things unseen? Dead waste in a floating sea of black impenetrability? The Big Bang nothing more than a burp in the body of some great blind entity roiling in its own excess? Is this madness, a metaphoric marshalling of strange tales from heresies of dead worlds?

Modern cosmology stripped of its ancient lineage of myth forces the cosmos into the procrustean bed of a bare and minimal system of holographs, strings, and vibrating systems of chaos and order. Has this given us anything better than the older myths? Is this universe bled of its fabrications, emptied of our desires, become a mere artifact of our insanity – an indifferent and essentially blind machine without purpose or telic motion? And, even if we revitalized a gnosis stripped of its redemptive qualities, its soteriological thrust how will we move those dark forces to reveal themselves? How  unconceal their potential by way of math and technology? And, to what ends? Utilitarian ends for some human destitution? A bid to enslave the elements, develop even greater destructive power than our atomic weaponry? Are we nothing more than sorcerers nibbling at the table of existence, seeking ways to tap into its secret machinations, control and master its dark blessing?

Continue reading

The Angel of the Real

a_angel_of_the_real

Something old and terrible lies deep within the Mind,
a secret prejudice against time…

…………………..We travel among those images
where the visible and invisible begin to tear us
from our lives, seeking that which chance despises;
restless among those fragile thoughts we scatter
all the listless ones who gather round this void;
those remembrances, ghosts of memory and life unlived.
………Who are you to question those who’ve struggled so?
The empty world believes itself to be, and in being
attributes such illusory delights to light and eye
that even the pressure of this black night denies
them the very truth they seek among the blasted ruins;
these trivial games of intent, the subterfuge of ancient substance:
forms, angelic thoughts descending out of a transcendent dream;
fragments of a demented ecstasy, broken vessels
thrown everywhere… and, between…
.
….
Much closer to us is this dark impenetrableness, indifferent
to our desires, a realm of nonsense where neither Man nor Nature
holds us anymore, the meanings of our kind dissolved,
where the living take on the hue of the dead.

………………..If I were to hear the Call, the banter of the voices in the void,
how could I know its intention? If something slipped into this night of nights,
some fiery Angel of the Real, her wings frayed and twisted beyond telling
by the very forces of this strange earth, would I know as she knows?
Would I laugh at her weakness for coming here, for entering the blind kingdom,
breaching the gulf of shadows, disturbing the void, subtracting herself;
her voice trembling on the wind like a fallen monarch, whispering nonsense?
We who no longer believe in the myth of sanctity, our scorn
bringing us little comfort in this zone of silence and disparity,
why should we heed the voices of the dead, those Messengers
who walk between worlds, their chattering patter clamoring in the abyss?
Each of us thinks the answer that she seeks is some stable thought,
an idea to end all things, unravel the very texture of being,
reveal at last what is in the moment of its annihilation.

 …..Yet, in these vast silences nothing is and nothing remains
…….accept the impossible
…….and that sad breeze
falling through things, endlessly.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Midnight’s Consolamentum

after_midnight

After midnight begins the intoxication of pernicious truths.
……….– E.M. Cioran

Things dark encircle us
(and in this nomadic wandering

nocturnal music tolls
against the outer sense of things)
as we scuttle across black seas,
inwardly around the indomitable
fierceness of this ruinous spark…

Children of a forgotten thought,
laborers in the negative,
shifting among the shadows
against the wall of night…
Silently moving among terrors
we come at last to the station of excess:
the cold allure that trembles on her lips,
the cartographic smile that disdains all use,
the perturbation of her luminous progeny:
Heimarmene’s scattered throng, alignments
and necessities; geometries of a merciless order;
lamentations between love and sleep…

Uselessness is our lot,
broken vessels of a blacker light.
Our blank gaze befits this zone of hate and dispersal.
The jackals rising in the cities: multitudes, blinded
followers of the insipid lie, harbingers of a new apocalypse,
cattle in the sewers of time; these denizens
who habituate silence and stone tombs, cherishing
a last tribute to the fetid god of solitaires: dreamers
dreaming of the nothingness to come,
the bastard and his lover who will chart our emptiness,
cross the gulf that separates time from time…

Did you truly think the lord of my deep mind
would harbor such doubts as this?

Wisdom fell long ago, her shade wandering among phantasms
where she seeks the hidden child among his broken toys;
her face shines among the solitudes, a remnant
who still believes, unlike us who long ago were thrown into this indifference.
Each one must work out her own salvation. The voices murmuring
like black angels begin the ceremony of death, midnight’s consolamentum.
The unholy water dripping onto her, the prying hands enfolding her carnal flesh,
her breath heaving in the warmth of a moonless night, delights…

Sparks flickering out one by one:
where laughter is the only consolation…


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.