In the absence of love…

“Tears do not burn except in solitude.”
― Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

I felt you touch me softly
in the night

the silence of your breath
reaching across the chasm of my sleeping ear

awakened I reached out for your absence


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2020 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Night: A Philosophy of the After-Dark

“There has been an ancient war across the fields of philosophical inquiry, and in this violent conflict two diametrically-opposed sides: on the one front, those movements aligned with perceiving philosophy as enlightenment, and thus inescapably tied to discourses of truth, absolutism, and idealism that would render ours a radiantly serious, legitimate discipline. Tradition, structure, reason, and systemic orders of the mind follow in their wake; and on the other front, those movements aligned with perceiving philosophy as dark trek, and thus inescapably tied to discourses of chaos, exception, obscurity, and fragmentation that would render ours a deviant, criminal enterprise. Originality, distortion, tremor, and rogue speculation follow in their wake. For one alliance, the light promises a certain stability of Being (desire for groundedness); for the other alliance, the night provides gateways and trajectories of becoming (desire for flight or freefall). In this way, it is a war between the throne and the open sea, a war between significance and the ingenious manipulation of meaning within the folds of pure meaninglessness. The conceptual schism between day and night therefore marks the existential border between those with a pathological need to rule and those with a diabolical impulse to abandon, subvert, and reinvent the game of mortal experience.”

—Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh, Night: A Philosophy of the After-Dark

Being alone does not mean being bored.

Reading many twitter and FB feeds from friends and acquaintances one gets the feeling that some people have never been alone with the alone. Having been a Solitaire most of my life in the Emerosonian sense I’ve never been lonely. As Montaigne in his essay On Solitude put it:

“From books all I seek is to give myself pleasure by an honourable pastime: or if I do study, I seek only that branch of learning which deals with knowing myself and which teaches me how to live and die well…”

When one is in the company of great minds one is never lonely. This social distancing has forced many people to confront themselves in the state of solitude. Many of us have for years interacted with the world through a screen, a medium that is for the most part a tool of image and language. The nuances of language and linguistic prowess, rhetoric and the subtle art of significance comes from that wider cultural frame of book culture where women and men have externalized their minds for millennia. Codifying their thought into various categories of cultural transmission we have all been the recipients of hundreds of years of this process of cultural formation. In our short age of digital externalization and AI we are drifting away from Book culture. As we do this I wonder what we are losing? And, what are we gaining? Book culture was always an elite affair which gathered the great minds into a nexus of influence.

Western Culture – as what I’ve been a part of not discounting or relegating other cultures to some backwater – has been a part of that central formation of intellectual life for at least two thousand years through scripted works. If we had not had such works what would our world look like now? If writing had been outlawed what would we be? For a generation or better the humanities and humanistic learning has been slowly critiqued, pulverized, immiserated, and castigated into oblivion for its human-centric vision and Christian heritage, etc. But without it and its learned practioners we would be lesser beings. For better or worse we are products of this heritage, and have in one generation begun undermining and castigating it to the outer regions of human thought and culture.

What is replacing it? Philosophers battle even now over terms from posthuman, inhuman, transhuman, etc. as if struggling to give birth to something beyond the human. Why are we so ashamed of ourselves that we want something else? When we look back on the great minds, musicians, artists, craftsmen, engineers, scientists, etc. Are we so willing to throw it all out? It’s all we have, it’s what we are… in an age of absolute nihilism when all thought has been put in abeyance where do we turn for wisdom and guidance if not this rejected past?

“In reality every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have perceived in himself. And the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its veracity, the contrary also being true, at least to a certain extent, for the difference between the two texts may sometimes be imputed less to the author than to the reader. Besides, the book may be too learned, too obscure for a simple reader, and may therefore present to him a clouded glass through which he cannot read.”
– Marcel Proust

A Politics of the Accident

 

In the very near future, and I stress this important point, it will no longer be war that is the continuation of politics by other means, it will be what I have dubbed ‘the integral accident’ that is the continuation of politics by other means.

—Paul Virilio

Paul Virilio once called for the creation of a Museum of the Accident to fight our habituation to horror and violence, and our daily overexposure to terror, in the name, not of some preventive war, but of a preventive intelligence that would help us deal with both natural and artificial disasters. Maybe what we need in our age is not a museum but a Politics of the Accident to envision a society of the Pharmakon that provides solutions against the entropy of our blind and foolish human proclivities to deny the accident coming at us from so many future worlds.

Not to diminish the impact of this viral infestation I’ve been thinking through the notions of the ancient Greek use of Pharmakon. Pharmakon, in philosophy and critical theory, is a composite of three meanings: remedy, poison, and scapegoat. The first and second senses refer to the everyday meaning of pharmacology (and to its sub-field, toxicology), deriving from the Greek source term φάρμακον (phármakon), denoting any drug, while the third sense refers to the pharmakos ritual of human sacrifice.

Taking the Covid-19 virus into consideration as a wake up call for our civilization one imagines an actual political and social change across the board of the known world in this three-fold event. As said above, not to diminish the actual and real impact to human suffering and lives we should as well see this as an opportunity to open a world dialogue on how best to proceed with other and even more deadly futurial impacts. How to remedy this situation? How to set in place international and global protocols to stem the spread of such dark impacts? Nothing was in place until after the fact. Why is humanity so slow in anticipating and defending itself against the various well-known and unknown impacts arising out of natural (actual and organic/anorganic) and unnatural (artificial and technological) environs? We always seem to end up in a reactionary mode when such things happen, rather than being proactive and protentive. Why?

For thirty years at least the impact of a viral infestation has been discussed in book after book with dire warnings, but only when it has happened do we discover how the entire planet was ill-prepared for such an event. No protocols in place for travel, emergency funds for study and remedy, etc. And the unexpected impact on economics across the board. Why do humans always react rather than act? Why do we continue to live in denial of so many futurial impacts and dismiss the political and social need for protocols in a civilization that for all intents and purposes is blind to its own future demise in the face of such dark portents?

Maybe this is the moment we need to force political leaders to take the various world impact threats seriously and enact world legislation (real protocols with political, economics, legal and social ramifications)? Why are humans so slow to act? Why do they live in denial of such deadly impacts? Faced with a global scientific community that has reiterated for sixty years of the coming impact of Global Warming and Climate Change we do nothing but talk talk talk… now that we are faced with a pandemic we realize that there are no protocols in place even for known and accepted threats of viral impact. Isn’t it time for us to act responsibly for the future? Realize that many of the natural and technological impacts of humans in the Anthropocene are real and actual and that we have made only lip service to this futurial threat against life and humanity?

One doesn’t need to be a pessimist to realize we as humans live mainly in denial and delusion. We always act after the fact rather than in anticipation. Why?

The Ancient Sublime

What about those devoured by the flames within them?

—E. M. Cioran On the Heights of Despair

As you know if you’ve followed me for a while I’ve studied both the deep routes of pessimism and nihilism to their conclusion. That we are living in the age of completed nihilism under computational and surveillance capitalism etc. I’ve realized in the end one can either live with the bare and unadulterated truth of our insignificance in an indifferent cosmos or not. We all have our delusions and anchors, diversions and false trails; and, yet, without these we are nothing, nothing at all. So what if all our ancestral struggles for knowledge and wisdom comes to naught? What if it was all a nice pretty lie to keep us going? So? Shall we just sit in this nothingness and weep? Or shall we begin again to reconnect to these deep roots and routes of the human mind and intellect, affect and the irrational? Or just hollow out the linguistic traces like good late idiot philosophers and horror writers and strip the world of its human meaning, and along with it humans themselves? I guess in the end this path is no longer of use to me while the sublime world of art and thought keeps me interested.

If one is not enthused about something one is already dead. I choose to continue… and, yes, I’m not an anti-natalist nor a full blown heroic or unheroic pessimist. Both these lead to uncreation and suicide of the singular and universal thing we call the human. In many ways pessimism is the central philosophy of capitalism rather than its antagonist. Sadly capitalism in the extreme leads to both an anti-life and a world indifferent to human want and need. At heart it is driven by calculation and risk the twin operatives of a world of pure death in the Freudian sense of absolute circulation and repetition. Maybe it comes down to William Blake’s notion “70 years a worm and then we die,” that’s the truth of it nothing more. But what we do with those seventy years is produce something that is not the universe… an anti-world filled with art, music, and life. That’s our truth… accept or reject it. It matters not. But it gives our life meaning even if it is all a sweet lie. That’s all we have: our lies against time and death. That is the central truth of the ancient Sublime…

Death is Inevitable, but life…

To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

—Walter Pater

Luckily I’ve lead a solitary existence for years so it’s never been much of an issue up here in the mountains. I’m in that over the hill club of risk for this dang Coronavirus, having diabetes and certain chronic ailments along with a nod to age 68. About the only people I see are my sister and her children from time to time, my own living far off in various cities. For me it’s the bi-monthly jaunt to the grocery store that is the only source of contact with the unknowns. The way I see it if it’s my time to part the earth so be it. As for fear who has time for it… I have too many things to occupy my time in reading, writing, and just working through this thing called existence. In many ways I’ve become Stoical in the last years accepting life on its terms not mine, realizing that come what may I as a singular creature will in the end die like all creatures. It’s not about death or fear, it’s about life and how much one can put into it with what little time one has. Maybe I’m still a Paterian at heart:

“One of the most beautiful passages of Rousseau is that in the sixth book of the Confessions, where he describes the awakening in him of the literary sense. An undefinable taint of death had clung always about him, and now in early manhood he believed himself smitten by mortal disease. He asked himself how he might make as much as possible of the interval that remained; and he was not biassed by anything in his previous life when he decided that it must be by intellectual excitement, which he found just then in the clear, fresh writings of Voltaire. Well! we are all condamns, as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve--les hommes sont tous condamns mort avec des sursis indfinis: we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion–that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness.  Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.”1


  1. Walter Horatio Pater. The Renaissance: Studies In Art And Poetry

Redefining Materialism

The predominant philosophical struggle occurs today within materialism, between democratic and dialectical materialism—and what characterizes dialectical materialism is precisely that it incorporates the idealist legacy, against vulgar democratic materialism in all its guises, from scientist naturalism to the post-Deleuzian assertion of spiritualized “vibrant” matter. Dialectical materialism is, first, a materialism without matter, without the metaphysical notion of matter as a full substantial entity—in dialectical materialism, matter “disappears” in a set of purely formal relations. Second, despite being materialism without matter, it is not idealism without an idea—it is a materialism with an Idea, an assertion of the eternal Idea outside the space of idealism. In contrast to idealism, whose problem is how to explain temporal finite reality if our starting point is the eternal order of Ideas, materialism’s problem is how to explain the rise of an eternal Idea out of the activity of people caught in a finite historical situation.1

As Adrian Johnston – a close reader of Zizek’s work, suggests: “I would suggest reading this assertion alongside Žižek’s thesis, central to Absolute Recoil, that “the only way to be a true materialist today is to push idealism to its limit.” In this instance, the only way to be a true Marxist historical and dialectical materialist today is to push Hegelian absolute idealism to its limit.”2

Against the Platonic notion of an eternal realm of Ideas, Zizek harbors the notion of Ideas arising out of a very real and concrete event and interaction between actual material participants (i.e., rather than Ideas as possibles to be realized, he portrays Ideas as the production of actuals). Against non-dialectical forms of scientific naturalism (i.e., democratic materialism in his parlance) dialectical materialism enters the maelstrom of Idealist thought and pushes it from within till it becomes its opposite much like the ancient I Ching pushes through the cycles and poles of male/female in a veritable enantiodramia.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj. Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (p. 73). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  2.  Johnston, Adrian. A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek, and Dialectical Materialism. (p. 134)  Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (September 3, 2019)

The Age of Unthought

Our tears squander nature, as our terrors do God . . . but in the end, they squander ourselves.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

There are no thinkers anymore, only algorithms perpetrating disruption of all thought. The digital externalization of knowledge has liquified memory, mixing it with predigested formalisms that replace thinking with collective barbarism and madness. Julius Caesar was the first to understand that cultures were based on memory and mimetic ritual, so destroyed the great groves of the Celts tribal knowledge centers where the Druids had transmitted and internalized thousands of years of cultural thought. After that the Celts dissolved into fragmented cells easily reformed by the progressive warlords of Rome. We have done the same in digital time, synchronizing minds through a process of externalization and divestment of singular thought into a massive electronic data world controlled by algorithms and filters.

The age of Books is dead, now comes the mathematical time of synchronous minds controlled by artificial selection and social Darwinism the likes of which will leave humans mindless and without reason. Our progeny will be devoid of thought and live under the assumed world of external masters of data. Already the slow growth of filters (censors) guide our media systems through carefully hidden algorithms that shape our minds to the economic control vectors of a world of dread and apprehension. We are no longer shaped by the memory of cultural symbols, but by the protentive algorithms of artificial thought measured not in time but light.

Why I love Weird Tales

Nothing can change our life but the gradual insinuation within us of the forces which annihilate it.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

One reason I love weird tales and the horror community is that it anchors one in despair; it does not try to absolve it or deny it, rather it heightens it and allows one’s despair a voice and a community of travelers who share the dark forebodings of our decaying era. Dread has been a central feature of human existence ever since the first panthers stalked our ancestors in the long nights of the jungle, and now in our late hour in the midst of nameless terrors abounding we all cling to the anchors and diversions of shared memory and vision we term horror not as escape but as a coping mechanism and defense against the mindless zombification of life under capitalism.

High Priest of the Hyperstitional Complex

Capture

“Even if we think of religions or psychedelic ideations as little more than fictions, fictions have a self-engendering power to shape reality. The play of as if, which is very similar to the science-fiction premise of what if, can produce remarkable reality-warping effects. Indeed, the intertwining of reality and fantasy has become a crucial feature of what some scholars of religion now identify as “postmodern” or “hyper-real religion”—”

—Erik Davis, High Weirdness

Having grown up in the sixties in all its excess, traveling and thumbing my way from city to city across America like most hippies of my generation, and partaking in the psychedelic ensemble of various drugs LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Vine, etc. this new book by Davis is like a vintage exploration of what psychedelia did to open our awareness to the plant kingdoms and its consciousness changing powers of awestruck wonder. That the world of such things was outlawed by the prevalent reality police, and the world moved on to a dead heap of capitalist death camps for sleepers is beyond the point. In this book one meets the fringe and their inner light, the changes of a few who carried the madness into our world like troubadours of some strange realms where heaven and hell begin to shake hands like old friends. Most of us live in sub-worlds of lesser fiction now, bounded by the ideological blinkers of dark lords of commerce, not knowing that the prison keepers are themselves fools and con men whose day is coming to an end. May works like Eric’s once again shape us to an awakening of the psyche from its lethargic sleep and allow humans to seek out the mad worlds of psychedelia and high weirdness.

On Pessimism

And it is death, the most intimate dimension of all the living, which separates humanity into two orders so irreducible, so removed from each other, that there is more distance between them than between a vulture and a mole, a star and a starfish.

Emile Cioran: A Short History of Decay

On Pessimism

The central dictum of pessimism is that life is futile, that the universe is indifferent too all our wants and needs – even hostile to every human aspiration; and, that humanity is a “meat puppet” (Ligotti) whose mind is controlled by malevolent forces just below the threshold of awareness. Born into this menagerie of existence humans seek solace in myth, religion, and tribal customs no matter how sophisticated to stay them against the world’s harsh truths. Reality is a nightmare from which none of us shall awaken, and the only hope is none at all; it being but an anchoring fiction to fill our futures with meaningless imaginings of progress and futurial redemption. Bound by determinate forces of unreason humanity has built the cage of reason as a defense against this universe as it is, living out their lives in sublime ignorance and bliss of the dark and bitter truth of a chaotic and inhuman world.

Some would say if this is all true then why continue. The pessimist would say why not end it now and be done with this madness. Yet, being bound by the interminable puzzles of our existence we assume our fictions and trite narratives will save us even from this dark truth. We are sadly mistaken.

Of course the pessimist is rejected outright by all but fellow laborers in the outlands of human imaginings, for humans cannot bare such absolute indifference to their blind faith and will to life. They see in the pessimist an enemy of life and their sublime dreams of salvation and redemption. And as in days of old they would seek to slay the dark harbingers of such hopelessness, and make of them a sacrifice to their unknown futures. The pessimist merely nods that it does not matter either way, life will have its own way with humanity willing or not. There is no defense against the truth of the uncreated.

Breaking Free

Men can be classified according to the most whimsical criteria: according to their humors, their inclinations, their dreams, or their glands. We change ideas like neckties; for every idea, every criterion comes from outside, from the configurations and accidents of time.

Emile Cioran: A Short History of Decay

Most of us live in a world programmed by our culture, indoctrinated from an early age, one that sets the basic limits of our reality and allows us to feel at home in the world. Whether through social, philosophical, or religious indoctrination we all succumb to certain well-defined road maps to life’s course. We in the West have for two-thousand years lived under the tutelage of a Christian worldview for better or worse, and yet as we all know this world of tropes, images, icons, thought, etc. has for several hundred years come under scrutiny and a critical gaze. The lineaments of its framework and inherent substance found lacking by certain counter or heretical thoughts and interpretations from the rise of the sciences, Enlightenment, and two hundred years of inward gazing psychological pondering ending in the quasi heritage of Freud and Lacan.

The crumbling edifice of Christian culture and society as it frayed into a myriad of sects during the so-called Protestant succession has brought us to the point of extreme awareness of its failure to hold our attention and frame our worldview. Most of modern and postmodern art and philosophy began the slow and methodical undermining and deconstruction of our Western civilization and its conceptual frameworks over the past sixty years or so. Stripped of the old anchors we’ve been flung into the weird seas of a world whose conceptual frameworks have lost their luster and entered what Nietzsche and others after him termed the Nihilist stage of unmaking in which even the common man sees through the fictional constructs that have kept him safe and guided his life. For better or worse we no longer trust authorities who would shape our lives with the old worldviews, and yet we have nothing else to anchor us and hold our lives together in some semblance of human community. This is an age of transition, an interregnum; and world between worlds, a wavering world of competing ideologies, philosophies, religious and social credos that all seem to be struggling against the chaos and unnamable horror of the future we face.

It’s as if we are all waiting for something, waiting for something new and different, something that we all know will reveal a sense of change; a change that will redefine what it means to be human and alive on planet earth freed of the old worlds crumbling around us, and opening us to something more stable and alive and fulfilling. We go about our daily lives, the humdrum of existence like automatons without will or purpose. Each in his/her own private hell trying to make sense of this deep malaise and anger at the heart of our lives. We pretend with each other that it’s all okay, that the future holds promise and hope. Yet, underneath the veneer of our facades of white lies we tell ourselves each morning we know that it isn’t alright, that nothing is alright, and everything is tilted, off-center, wrong… the world seems to be falling ever further into madness and chaos around us. We pretend that our leaders will figure it all out. We pretend that someone else will know how to fix this shambles of a world we all share. Yet, underneath it we know better. We know that no one can fix it, that it needs to go, fall, break…

We all know that this break with the lies of the past is something we all seek even if we do not exactly know why. It’s there in the back of our mind like a bad dream; and, yet, like many nightmares we also know there is a way out, a way forward. We know that it will take all of us together to do it. We must all wake up together and enter this new as yet undiscovered country of the Mind. If we do not we know the alternative is to harsh to believe.

The Universe of Precision

… how is this time to be measured? Is its measure to be that of what Alexander Koryé calls “the universe of precision”? Obviously we live in this universe, but its advent for man is relatively recent, since it goes back precisely to Huyghens’ clock — in other words, to 1659 — and the malaise of modern man does not exactly indicate that this precision is in itself a liberating factor for him. Are we to say that this time, the time of the fall of heavy bodies, is in some ways sacred in the sense that it corresponds to the time of the stars as they were fixed in eternity by God who, as Lichtenberg put it, winds up our sundials?

—Jaques Lacan

The Human Catastrophe

All family life is organized around the most damaged person in it.

—Sigmund Freud

Very few study Freud these days, but if they did they’d soon realize that his scientific mythology centered on the great war of the psyche: a secular psychomachia. For Freud the human mind in its split from the world of ignorance into that of awareness or consciousness was a catastrophe. A catastrophe that he relates to repetition-compulsion, to the drive-towards-death, and to the defense of life as a drive toward agonistic achievements (the Sublime) of anteriority, of others, and even of one’s own earlier self. Our late age of capitalism is not an aberration, but rather is the outcome of this dark heritage of aggression and sublimation. We are at heart all contaminated by this heritage rather willingly or not.

One could say that civilization is a death wish, an achieved anxiety, a creation-by-catastrophe that seeks to stave off death through its repetitive-production. Capitalism is a death-machine or factory. Some ancient cultures literally made this anxiety a part of the great show of ritual and religious praxis through its yearly cycle of repetition through sacrifice. All ancient cultures were built on this sacrificial techniques. Scholars such as René Girard and Walter Burkett trace this sacrificial heritage through its various twists and turnings down the centuries. Both conclude that at its core blood sacrifice and violence are at the heart of religion and society alike.

Sacrifice is a form of collective murder, and even in some forms of cannibalistic behaviour. Think of that grand ceremony performed by both Catholic and Protestant alike as the eucharist in which the body of Christ is transubstantiated into the very wine and wafers to be eaten by all the varied participants on a Sunday morn. This is cannibalism of a god, a savage act of violence that people enact without even a the blink of an eye. Most of these believers would deny such a thing, and explain it away; and, yet, under the surface glow of smiles is the wariness of this act of violence that will not go away.

To understand how a collective murder could stand at the beginning of human culture, how an act of violence could possibly define both the problem and the solution for social formation, Girard suggests the following scenario. Humans have no braking mechanism for intraspecific aggression. This means that rivalries and conflicts, once unleashed, cannot stop short of manslaughter. Violence, therefore, is endemic. Since the only answer to murder is another murder, cycles of reciprocal retaliation create unending series of revenge killings. To bring the series to an end, a “final” killing is necessary. The final killing is achieved in the “mechanism of the surrogate victim,” From within the group, one person is separated out as victim. The selection is arbitrary and spontaneous, though there are requisites. The victim must be recognizable as a surrogate for the guilty party (or parties, and ultimately for the group itself); he must be vulnerable, unable to retaliate, without champions to continue the vengeful violence; and there must be unanimity within the group that he is the one at fault. When this unanimity is achieved the victim is treated as a criminal, killed, and expelled. This brings the violence to an end. The group has redirected its aggressions and its members are now able to cooperate.1

Humans are violent and murderous, and sacrifice and ritual killings came about to curtail and legitimize law as the only form of protection against absolute mayhem. Rivalry and mimetic desire are at the core of Girard’s notions. Humans seek to be like the ones they admire, to imitate the other in ways that will bring both pleasure and the thing desired whether material object or behavior. The one among us who is beheld in such a light as an object to be imitated says: “Be like me, but not too much like me.” For those who seek this path of rivalry there begins a course of antagonistic relations. The so called spirit of competition in our age of sports and capitalist excess begins and ends in this rivalry prone mechanics. One could cite scholar after scholar in various disciplines but I have no time to catalogue such works at the moment. Most of it if you think about it is just plain commonsense information wrung out of tons of data and ancient texts to bone up arguments that at heart humans are aggressive and murderous overreachers. Religion as a form of communal binding offered a way to ritualize and focus those dark energies into sacrificial shows. The sordid likes of a Hitler or Stalin would do the same in secular forms of sacrifice and glamour. We need not go there…

That humans are partially aware of their own origins in the realm of organic life goes without saying. Sensitive souls have reacted with shock to the elemental drama of life on this planet, and one of the reasons that Darwin so shocked his time-and still bothers ours-is that he showed this bonecrushing, blood-drinking drama in all its elementality and necessity: Life cannot go on without the mutual devouring of organisms. If at the end of each person’s life he were to be presented with the living spectacle of all that he had organismically incorporated in order to stay alive, he might well feel horrified by the living energy he had ingested. The horizon of a gourmet, or even the average person, would be taken up with hundreds of chickens, flocks of lambs and sheep, a small herd of steers, sties full of pigs, and rivers of fish. The din alone would be deafening. To paraphrase Elias Canetti, each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.2

Try as we might to repress or deny this sordid truth we come to realize only too late that it is the bloody reason we are so aggressive and murderous. So we have created civilization and its defense systems against this dark world of organicism. For thousands of years we’ve prepared ourselves through art and religion a way to escape this organic world. Most of our current crop of transhumanists and other transcenders seek to overcome the organic stench of our past through either some form of religious elevation to the heights of paradise; or, through a more earthly program of transcending the human into an inhuman inorganic form of life. But there is no escape, only a series of dark turns.

Doom ridden to the end humans will sacrifice everything to live. They will in their darkest dreams sacrifice every other soul on the planet to become the one who will survive, and not only survive but become a god, immortal. This need to continue and do it with sublime excess is at heart the driver of global civilization and its destruction of all organic life. Deny this if you will. Deny this if you can. We are the fruit of a dark dream, harbingers of a science of transcendence that has driven humanity to the excess of posthuman worlds. Where will it lead us?


  1. Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford University Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1988)
  2.  Becker, Ernest. Escape From Evil. Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (March 1, 1985)

The Solace of Nothingness

We must be thankful to the civilizations which have not taken an overdose of seriousness, which have played with values and taken their pleasure in begetting and destroying them. Who knows, outside of the Greek and French civilizations, a more lucidly facetious proof of the elegant nothingness of things?

Emile Cioran A Short History of Decay

For thousands of years humans have gathered the wisdom of the tribes and inscribed this into scrolls and books that have been carefully codified, commentated, and guarded by priests and layman alike. At the heart of these ancient traditions was a deep yearning toward the beyond. For humans looked upon their lives here and now in this world as full of pain and hopelessness. These high priests of the ancient world offered only the comfort of release from this earthly realm in a myriad of forms. I want bore you with the details of all these major systems of belief and hygiene. Why should I? I have little to add to these worlds of words that have come down to us out of ages past. I have little comfort for those who seek in those traditions and books some salvic knowledge that would hint of something beyond this life. No I’ll not belabor the so called “transcendental perspective” of those who know. I only offer you the solace of nothingness and extinction.

Arthur Schopenhauer, a philosopher of the Nineteenth century, arch-pessimist and curmudgeon, once told us that  life is no more than a “constant dying,” a perpetual misery machine, entirely lacking in any meaning or purpose—that is, apart from its own blind, stupid self-consumption. H.P. Lovecraft plunged into the heart of darkness and came back with a perspective on our cosmic predicament that offered little solace beyond the knowledge of human fear of the unknown and unexplained. For him the namelessness of our darkest fears cannot be allayed. For better or worse humans live in an inexplicable and horrific universe that is absolutely indifferent to our existence. These men lived in realms devoid of gods of God, atheists who would not condone the cherished wisdom of the tribes, but offered us rather a stark and cold intelligent view of the universe and ourselves. What we did with it was none of their concern, and furthermore they were indifferent to our acceptance or rejection of their hard won truths.

As one author on such views recently states it ”

for all that doom and gloom, stylistically, such typical histrionics border on the laughably repellent, providing those who find pessimism otherwise irksome a convenient excuse to write it off as the self-indulgent ramblings of middle-aged, bourgeois cranks. Pessimists would be so lucky, however, if popular objections to pessimism were primarily driven by aesthetic preferences. But one suspects that resistance to pessimistic sentiment runs deeper than concerns for style and expression, that it stems principally from a disagreement over fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes. For as a philosophical orientation, pessimism runs counter to majority dispositions that regard life and living as, in some way, meaningful and purposive, as justifying—even if against all odds—hope in a brighter future, in a better, or at the very least livable, tomorrow.1

One could dismiss those of us who accept such dark consolations to our cosmic predicament as the vanity of old age and sickness, a culture too long grown tired of its traditions and religious beliefs. Having thrown off the yoke of the tribes and gone their own solitary way the pessimists among us know there is little comfort to be had. They offer none. If you seek hope and comfort they would, as I, return you to your worlds of deception with a smile and a shake of the curmudgeon’s hand. Then they would return to their own indifferent world of solitude. Pessimists are solitaires, they seek neither disciples nor to impart some profound wisdom to the ages. Rather they would strip us of the last vestiges of our illusions and deceptions, allow the dark truth of this indifferent cosmos to unveil its meaninglessness. Pessimists know that most people will never accept their pronouncements nor their perspective on life and the cosmos. So be it.

A latter day writer and author of horror fiction Thomas Ligotti in his short work on pessimism suggests:

Longevity is without question of paramount value in our lives, and finding a corrective for mortality is our compulsive project. Anything goes insofar as lengthening our earthly tenure. And how we have cashed in on our efforts. No need to cram our lives into two or three decades now that we can cram them into seven, eight, nine, or more. The life-span of non-domesticated mammals has never changed, while ours has grown by leaps and bounds. What a coup for the human race. Unaware how long they will live, other warm-blooded life forms are sluggards by comparison. Time will run out for us as it does for all creatures, true, but at least we can dream of a day when we might elect our own deadline. Then perhaps we can all die of the same thing: a killing satiation with our durability in a world that is MALIGNANTLY USELESS.

For Ligotti the dream of finality, of human extinction is the only solace left for those of us caught in the trap of life. Knowing as we know that our existence is of no value to the universe at large is the only solace to be found. This is the solace of nothingness.

The human being delivered to himself, without any partiality for elegance, is a monster; he finds only dark regions there, where terror and negation, imminent, prowl To know, by all one’s vitality, that one will die, and to be unable to conceal it, is an act of barbarism.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay


  1. Packer, Joseph. A Feeling of Wrongness . Penn State University Press. (November 1, 2018)
  2.  Ligotti, Thomas. A Conspiracy Against The Human Race. Hippocampus Press (April 30, 2011)

 

The World Killer

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This is the mind’s frivolous, funereal debauch. …The vice of defining has made it a gracious assassin, and a discreet victim.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

To name a thing is to destroy it, annihilate it beyond thought or deed. We name things to control them, have power over them and deliver them to the funeral march of definitions. To wipe the slate clean, to let the black light of nihil roam the universe once again, and allow the beast of reason a reprieve from the offenses of thought is to once again misunderstand the world not as it is but as it is not. We have lived in a tamed world, a world known and given to our desire to control it, make it safe. To break out of our cage of tamed idiocies is to once again realize the world, the universe is not us.

We have enslaved ourselves to the viral infection of ancient thoughts, given ourselves over to the impact of rigid meanings that twist us and shape us to their power; their rhetoric and persuasion. We are the children of an ancient curse: language is the graveyard of broken dreams and promises. But that is all over now. Now we begin to reforge the links, not to some ancient screed of timeless truths, but to the emptiness of things without us.

What would you do in a universe devoid of thoughts and words alike? Would you look upon the face of your lover in derision and silence, or mumble meaningless endearments that gesture and screech the indecipherable torment of your heart. If you woke tomorrow in a world without thought or language to carry it how would you proceed? The simplest efforts to be understood would be so complexified that only the gesticulations of a mime in endless movement could begin to connect the tissues of a defined world. How would you proceed?

 

The Seeker of Annihilation

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The ideally lucid, hence ideally normal, man should have no recourse beyond the nothing that is in him. . . . Nobility is only in the negation of existence, in a smile that surveys annihilated landscapes.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Like others I, too, was once a seeker, a believer in answers and solutions. Driven as we are by our nullity we as humans have sought an absolute beyond reckoning. A factory of doubt and despair has driven us to murder and mayhem. We the children of nothing have annihilated even thought in our pitiful attempt to enforce this dark secret of time upon others. What is God but the sinkhole of our ultimate fabrications, a fiction whose temptation was to end all quests for answers and solutions. But in the end like all fiction he was murdered for his nullity.

Believers will tell you that you’re a fool wandering in an endless labyrinth of madness beyond recall. They will offer you a promise of happiness and paradise if only you will believe like they do, accept the lie of their truth. No matter what name it is that this absolute goes by it is always the same, it offers you redemption and salvation from yourself. What these saviors of the self forget is that there is no such thing. We are nothing through and through, mere tools of a shared world of thought that would keep us trapped in the mirror of language and meaning. Even that Book of Books spouts it: “In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1.1) As if language was the only hope of humans, rather than its doom.

Confronted with our nullity we reach out for anything to bring us into existence. We call this deliverance, to be redeemed from our nullity; to actually exist… that, too, is the last temptation. What is existence but the emptiness of things? Where would you look for something immovable, unchanging? In a universe of pure change, we who are the children of movement and time; the most changing vapor and emptiness, make of ourselves a world of stories to comfort us and tempt us to rebel against this change, this universe. All the prophets and preachers of wisdom have only ever offered you reprieve in annihilation. Die to yourself they say and be free. But what is this self that must die? Nothing. A mere fiction and tale of madness in the eternal night and silence of the Void.

The Deadly Game

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In itself, every idea is neutral, or should be; but man animates ideas, projects his flames and flaws into them; impure, transformed into beliefs, ideas take their place in time, take shape as events: the trajectory is complete, from logic to epilepsy . . . whence the birth of ideologies, doctrines, deadly games.

—Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Between the Silence and the Void

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ON THE day of the thirtieth anniversary of his private life, Voshchev was made redundant1 from the small machine factory where he obtained the means for his own existence. His dismissal notice stated that he was being removed from production on account of weakening strength in him and thoughtfulness amid the general tempo of labor.

In his lodgings Voshchev took his things into a bag; he then went outside so as better to understand his future out in the air. But the air was empty, motionless trees were carefully holding the heat in their leaves, and dust lay boringly on the deserted road—the situation in nature was quiet. Voshchev did not know where he felt drawn, and at the end of the town he leaned his elbows on the low fence of a large house where children with no family were being habituated to labor and use. After that the town stopped; there was only a beer room for workers from the villages and low-paid categories. Like some official building or other, this stood without any yard, and behind it rose a clay mound, and an old tree grew on its own there amid bright weather. Voshchev made his way to the beer room and went inside, towards sincere human voices. Here were untempered people, abandoned to the oblivion of unhappiness, and among them Voshchev felt more cut off and at ease. He remained present in the beer room until evening, until the noise of a wind of changing weather; he then went over to an open window, to take note of the beginning of night, and he caught sight of the tree on the clay mound—it was swaying from adversity, and its leaves were curling up with secret shame. Somewhere, most likely in the Soviet Trade Workers Park, a brass band was pining; getting nowhere, the monotonous music was carried off by the wind, across the empty waste by the gully and into nature. Voshchev listened to the music with the pleasure of hope, since joy was seldom his due, but he was unable to accomplish anything equivalent to the music and so he spent this evening time of his without moving. After the wind, silence set in again, to be covered by a still more silent gloom. Voshchev sat down by the window, in order to observe the tender darkness of night, listen to various sad sounds, and feel the torment of a heart surrounded by hard and stony bones.

—Andrey Platonov, The Foundation Pit

Roots of Hyperstition: William Sims Bainbridge

Members of The Process, founded mainly by students from an architecture school, referred to the creation of their cult as religious engineering, the conscious, systematic, skilled creation of a new religion. I propose that we become religious engineers….

—William Sims Bainbridge

Here and there I still add to my ongoing research on various odds and ends of present cultural thought: flavors of accelerationism, hyperstition, etc. Most of it obsolete at this point because of its strange agglomeration of Left and Right wing associations that have for better or worse lost their way in the contemporary dance of ever newer sources of thought and madness of our age. I plod on…

Ran across a sociologist you may or may not have ever heard of: William Sims Bainbridge is an American sociologist who specializes in religion and cognitive science and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among his contributions to the field are his studies on how science-fiction media (writing, movies, and TV shows) act as a potential self-fulfilling prophecy. A notion that would later become associated with CCRU and ideas surrounding hyperstition.

He was a one time member of the ill-famous Process Church of the Final Judgement. One of the London based research groups which would fray into much of the so to speak New Age worldview. One can if so disposed read both Bainbridge’s Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement, or the work of Timothy Wyllie Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Both written by one time members of that strange cult world.

My interest in Bainbridge is that he is at the top level of various scientific organizations: He is co-director of Cyber-Human Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF); He is the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET): a “technoprogressive think tank” that seeks to contribute to understanding of the likely impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies by “promoting and publicizing the work of thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological advance”. Other well known members of this group are Nick Bostrom and James Hughes. What we’re speaking of is the foregrounding of the “Human Enhancement Movement”; otherwise known as transhumanism, etc.

Both Bainbridge and Wyllie went on after the Process Church to become participants of aspects of Satanism: Anton LeVey having been as well a member of the Process Church, along with various Rock n Roll stars, Genesis P-Orridge, Adam Parfrey, and many more of the era…

Wyllie would write a series of works based on the Process Church’s main bible: Urantia. Creating a complete mythology based on the Fallen Angel topos… (https://www.amazon.com/…/B001K7…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1)
While Bainbridge, and academic and scientists would write early on of Satan in Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult. Most of Bainbridge’s works center around how transhumanism, space expansion, game theory (eGods: Faith versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming, The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World (The MIT Press), The Space Flight Revolution: A Sociological Study, Goals in Space: American Values and the Future of Technology, etc.).

This mixture of quasi-religious New Age thought combined with the power of cybernetic research and sociological religious thought toward constructing self-fulfilling prophecies (i.e., hyperstitional fictions) seems to be something to investigate.

What interests me is how a New Age guru became a leader in the Transhumanist movement, and yet is for the most part hidden and silent in scholarship. So much about the various aspects surrounding sixties culture is yet to be explored…

Strange days… as the blurb on his study of Warcraft MMO puts it, as if these games were being used and studies by both various transhumanist, military, and governmental agencies to understand and prototype future scenarios:

In The Warcraft Civilization, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge goes further, arguing that WoW can be seen not only as an allegory of today but also as a virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups will engage in combat over declining natural resources, build temporary alliances on the basis of mutual self-interest, and seek a set of values that transcend the need for war.

What makes WoW an especially good place to look for insights about Western civilization, Bainbridge says, is that it bridges past and future. It is founded on Western cultural tradition, yet aimed toward the virtual worlds we could create in times to come.


This convergence of technology and religious modes seems to be part of the transhumanist agenda (at least in some of its technoprogressive elite circles), along with the revival of the Process Church ideology and certain integrations of Urantia-Satanism into space adaptation and use of MMO-Virtual Gaming as ways of indoctrinating and re-engineering perception and the young toward such ends (see: Bainbridge – Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement).

This needs a great deal of further investigation… it’s like a strange travelogue through the underground worlds of our cultural madness!

Where We Are

One of the central leitmotifs of postmodernism was the notion that both secular and religious metanarratives (i.e., grand narratives) had broken down, and not only broken down but needed to stay that way: that is, both religious (historicism) and secular (scientism) belief systems that had guided Western Civilization as various forms of divine of humanistic discourses failed us. This supposed failure released us from any overarching telos or arche-trace or search-for-origins, etc., whether of the study of language or humanity (i.e., anthropological-linguistic). But then the postmodern opened us to micronarratives whether in the playful ironizing of poetry and literature; or, in the post-philosophical interrogation of the history of philosophy from some Outside perspective. The supposed Continental/Analytic divide was mere whitewashing and segmenting of this new post-philosophical project as part of the interrogation of humanism by anti-humanism; and, by analytic-linguistic of mathematics and the sciences.

The latest generation saw the end-game of postmodern thought as it devolved into ever more undecidable knots which could not at last be untied, so that like the proverbial Gordian’s knot our latest incarnation of thought has bypassed or cut the cords with postmodern thought and returned to the original break in modernity: Kant and the Idealists; and, their critics. So that all the old schisms and errors of pre-Kantian thought and post-Kantian thought could once again be put under the scalpel of a new diagnosis as if somewhere along the way in the past two hundred years thinkers whether of the Idealist or Materialist; or, any variation on that theme in-between, might uncover the errors that led us to such an end-game to begin with.

So here we are, a battered and failed ship of fools wandering in the errors of our ancestral pond still blind to any actual way forward; only a bitter disgruntlement among old combatants of Intellect and Will, Rationalism and Irrationalism. Each side defending its own turn toward some new understanding of our current malaise. Each seeking some new definition of the Image of the Human, Post-Human, or In-human. One could, of course, break this all down and name names, organize the various players in each camp, label the constituents by their organized narratives or post-narrative traditions. And, we probably do need a book or doctoral thesis to register such a microhistory of thinkers, critics, philosophers, post-philosophers, etc. Maybe some young thinker will like Kant of old take on that challenge and clarify the errors that have led us to this moment of fracture and fragmented thought. Who knows?

Do you hear me?

Joker: A Trickster for our Times

Cormac offers one of the best appreciations of the Joker film I’ve seen…

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It is apt that Joaquin Phoenix’s titular performance in Joker has sparked such an incredible amount of discord amongst reviewers and audiences, as the character is simply an avatar of the trickster figures who appear throughout various mythologies all over the world. Like Loki who always turns up at a party simply to get people arguing with each other, Phoenix’s Joker has popped up precisely on a particular faultline in society and his role is to keep that faultline open like a running sore. On the one hand, Joker is an incitement to incel gun rage, irresponsibly sympathising with entitled man-babies; on the other, it is a grim portrayal of the downtrodden outsider, the worm that turns. Dirty Harry or Raskolnikov?

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The Horror of Thought

One always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse.
—E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

Sometimes I wonder why some people seem frantic if their alone. I love it. A sense of solitude pervades my life in some sense, even as active as I am with various media interactions. Friendships online seem irreal in many ways, because of the very media itself being more of a barrier; this sense that one is not in the presence of the Other’s physical body, but rather always and only in contact with their public mask and shared presence through the medium of words or images. Friendship truly does need presence, needs that assurance of contact through the body rather than words or images. And, yet, a person like me enjoys not being always in attendance, not having to deal with the peculiarities of emotion and turmoil that accompany close proximity with others. A sense of isolation and solitude can at times be liberating for many of us. Yet, for others it can be panic ridden and full of anxiety. Why? Why are some people perfectly happy to be alone without being lonely, and others when alone suddenly enter panic mode and become frantic and almost insane unless they have someone around them to talk to, or some kind of contact whether through watching TV, listening to music, or some other diversion to keep their mind off the feeling of loneliness and aloneness.

All of us awaken sooner or later to the patter of the mind in it’s endless chatterbox of voices. It’s this internal monologue that seems to be the most difficult thing in the world to stop; and, yet, its this stopping of the internal voices that arise ceaselessly voicing doubts, fears; loves, hates, etc. that for many people become the central issue of being alone. People that can’t stand to be alone are usually exasperated with that internal monologue of voice that they have no control over, and that if left to go on and on drives them batty. We know that many of the supposed meditation techniques that have come down from various traditions were centered on just that: stopping this internal world of voices and chatterbox noise. To empty one’s mind of that unceasing chatter is bliss. To realize this emptiness without voice or image is to know silence and a certain kind of peace. To be empty is to know that the Self is this absolute awareness without sense or presence. To know what it means to be alone with the alone. This is not some mystical crapology, rather it’s a very visceral and material knowledge of a body disencumbered of the mind’s endless messiness.

Yet, like everything such moments of silence are temporary and rare. For the moment you allow a thought to arise out of that void again you are lost, the voices start up again and the endless chattering of ideas and images reemerge from elsewhere… that’s the moment one realizes that one’s thoughts are not one’s own but come out of the void and vanish back into that endless flow, the unceasing and incessant realm of chatter that will not stop. Thought is a horror from which there is no reprieve…

Richard Hugo On The Hard Work of Poetry

If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

—Richard Hugo,  The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing (p. 17).

A New Paradigm, a New Worldview?

Science, says Thomas Kuhn, has periods of crisis, when there is no agreement about the dominant paradigm, when application of the paradigm which has previously governed scientific enquiry in a particular area discloses an unacceptable number of anomalous cases which cannot be convincingly assimilated to it; at such moments new paradigms may be proposed which are more successful in accounting for the evidence and which necessitate a radical re-evaluation of work governed by earlier paradigms.

But what if this were true of Society itself? Are we not proving this even now as we question the tenets of two hundred years under the socio-cultural paradigm of Secularism and Enlightenment? For two hundred years we’ve questioned the old sense of liberal subjectivist identity and have found it wanting; and, yet, isn’t the very political structure that supported such an identity become in itself obsolete? We still pretend with ourselves that democracy which underpins the whole gamut of our socio-cultural system is somehow static and sacrosanct as if it were the last bastion of social justice and freedom between us and … what? chaos, change, difference?

If one does away with the progressive enlightened Subject what remains of its society and culture? Obviously we’ve been critiquing to the death the notion of Self-Subject for sixty odd years to the point that the notion of a Self has vanished into the neuroscientific void and emptiness of a non-category of there is no one home… the Self as empty and non-essential, and the socio-cultural world that supported it – our humanistic heritage is but a dream of stupidity and error; and, yet, we continue to support the political structures of Representation of these empty Identities without ever questioning their validity. When will we topple the whole enterprise of Secular Democratic Society and Culture and formulate something new?

We bandy about all these new-fangled notions of inhuman, posthuman, transhuman, anti-human as if there were within those untidy knots of scholarship, philosophy, scientific and theoretical work something hinting at a sea-change in thought which might suddenly reveal a new socio-cultural framework to replace the failing edifice of Enlightened Secular worldview. When will it step out from the cave of its dark intuition and reveal itself? Are we to battle over new forms of rational and non-rational thought till doomsday arrives and does away with the whole human project; or, will we actually begin awakening to a new worldview that can shape us to the new?

Throughout that untidy thing we term loosely ‘history’ there were always small groups, advanced harbingers of change, secretive enclaves of intellect and imagination who broke through the barriers of resistance and gave birth to such paradigm shifts. Artists, philosophers, poets, essayists, critics, scientists, etc. who shared among themselves this strange new world with new cognitive and imaginative concepts and metaphors toward this transitional world. We saw this in the Enlightenment of the philosophes…. So who are our philosophes? Who among us are the Avant-garde leading the way to a new worldview that can replace this sick and dying, even decadent and broken world of ruins within which we too are suffocating and dying… ?

Sometimes I believe we are doomed to end in that false infinity of post-modern thought in which we’ve become subject to what deconstructionist criticism calls ‘infinite deferral’ or ‘postponement’. As if we will never arrive… lost on the sea of time looping in an endless world of critique without any sign of ending or beginning, only the destitution of non-thought and stasis: a living death amid the sea-change of a global catastrophe. As if we were all watching the future coming at us as doom and gloom when all along there were in our hands the very tools at hand that would have given us the ability to change. Will we change, or will we just continue circling in the darkness of this cave of doubt frozen to the screen of some shadow world film in which we are forever prisoners of some master puppeteer? Can we break away from that dark screen and walk out of the cave of this era’s inability to act and create something new to move the human project forward or see it finally play out its end-game in self-lacerating defeat at the hands of its own inability to act? It’s really up to all of us to do something now, to act on this subtle swerve of time and change and help it awaken in our midst, to build a future worth living in out of the dying embers of a decaying civilization which is already passing into oblivion.

Deleuze On Francis Bacon

 

Francis Bacon’s painting is of a very special violence. Bacon, to be sure, often traffics in the violence of a depicted scene: spectacles of horror, crucifixions, prostheses and mutilations, monsters. But these are overly facile detours, detours that the artist himself judges severely and condemns in his work. What directly interests him is a violence that is involved only with color and line: the violence of a sensation (and not of a representation), a static or potential violence, a violence of reaction and expression. For example, a scream rent from us by a foreboding of invisible forces: “to paint the scream more than the horror…” In the end, Bacon’s Figures are not racked bodies at all, but ordinary bodies in ordinary situations of constraint and discomfort. A man ordered to sit still for hours on a narrow stool is bound to assume contorted postures. The violence of a hiccup, of the urge to vomit, but also of a hysterical, involuntary smile Bacon’s bodies, heads, Figures are made of flesh, and what fascinates him are the invisible forces that model flesh or shake it. This is the relationship not of form and matter, but of materials and forces making these forces visible through their effects on the flesh. There is, before anything else, a force of inertia that is of the flesh itself: with Bacon, the flesh, however firm, descends from the bones; it falls or tends to fall away from them (hence those flattened sleepers who keep one arm raised, or the raised thighs from which the flesh seems to cascade). What fascinates Bacon is not movement, but its effect on an immobile body: heads whipped by the wind or deformed by an aspiration, but also all the interior forces that climb through the flesh. To make the spasm visible. The entire body becomes plexus. If there is feeling in Bacon, it is not a taste for horror, it is pity, an intense pity: pity for the flesh, including the flesh of dead animals…

—Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation

Fantastic Homelessness: Sacrifice, Violence, and the Aesthetics of Horror

He was merely the inheritor of lost images; he was their resurrector, their invoker, their medium, and under his careful eye and steady hand there took place a mingling of artistic forms, their disparate anatomies tumbling out of the years to create the nightmare of his art.1 —Thomas Ligotti, The Troubles of Dr. Thoss

The best horror never reconciles us with the world or ourselves, but rather leads us to that irreconcilable moment when self and world enter into a third movement in which both are destabilized by the violence of the impossible . Moving in that sphere of pure contradiction that neither lifts one up to the sublime, nor pulls one down into the abyss of abject negativity these authors of the weird offer us what John Keats in a letter to his brother John described as Negative Capability:

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To the Emissaries of Hope: There is None…

No thanks, I think we’ve done enough to change the climate already! Why corrupt it more? It’s on its on now and could care less about our petty political squabbles: the Universe has an agenda of its own that no longer includes humans, if it ever did. We’re just one more failed effort in the struggle for survival and propagation, a vanishing species whose time for niche transgression has overstretched its welcome. The absolute indifference of the Universe is obvious to those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear; yet, so many optimists seek to create a different more hopeful narrative as if the Universe was the mere footprint of some anachronistic God whose eternal verdict is an Apocalypse awaiting its final end game. Such myths will go by the wayside like all myths have, emptied of their message as of their emissaries…

The Shadow That Everything Casts

SITTING OUTSIDE AT THE END OF AUTUMN

Three years ago, in the afternoons,
I used to sit back here and try
To answer the simple arithmetic of my life,
But never could figure it—
This object and that object
Never contained the landscape nor all of its implications,
This tree and that shrub
Never completely satisfied the sum or quotient
I took from or carried to, nor do they do so now,
Though I’m back here again, looking to calculate,
Looking to see what adds up.
Everything comes from something,
only something comes from nothing,
Lao Tzu says, more or less.
Eminently sensible, I say,
Rubbing this tiny snail shell between my thumb and two fingers.
Delicate as an earring,
it carries its emptiness like a child
It would be rid of.
I rub it clockwise and counterclockwise, hoping for anything
Resplendent in its vocabulary or disguise—
But one and one make nothing, he adds, endless and everywhere,
The shadow that everything casts.

—Charles Wright, Negative Blue: Selected Later Poems


The notion that something exceeds our human knowledge, that everything we see is but the shadow of some greater order of the Real, that we are – as limited beings, unable to fathom the complexities of that which lies just outside human consciousness; but that this “something” – a nothing, or less than nothing, still moves, exists, invisible yet real – withdrawn and away; hidden from our powers of persuasion to reveal, a rhetoric of the unreal Outside that is… the possibility that a void, the emptiness surrounding us is more real than we are: a shadow that everything casts.