Our Past, Our Future: Posthuman, Inhuman, and Transhuman Philosophies and Technologies

As Patrick Lee Miller in his book Becoming God: Pure Reason in Early Greek Philosophy the central goal of the pre-Socratics through Plato was the ancient notion of becoming “divine and immortal”. Over the past couple decades, I’ve toyed with posthuman, inhuman, and transhuman philosophies.

Posthuman philosophy typified by the work of David Roden and Francesca Fernando. Fernando sees it “as a theoretical philosophy of the difference, which demystifies any ontological polarization through the postmodern practice of deconstruction. Therefore, we have defined it, at the modal level, as a post-centrism and a post-exclusivism: a “post” which is constantly opening possibilities and does not comply with stationary hierarchical views. This epistemic opening does not rely on assimilations to the same, but on acknowledgments of diversity, in tune with evolutionary processes, which manifest in dynamics of diversification. In this sense, evolution can be addressed as a technology of existence: “physis” (“nature” in Greek) and “techne” are co-constitutive domains.” (Posthuman Philosophy, 186). Roden sees “posthumans in very general terms as hypothetical wide “descendants” of current humans that are no longer human in consequence of some history of technological alteration. Speculative posthumanism is the claim that such beings might be produced as part of a feasible future history.” (Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human, 105)

Inhuman philosophy which in its contemporary manifestation as seen in the Promethean philosophies of Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani among others seeks to instantiate a New Reason, one that exalts abstraction and intelligence as the goal of a philosophy as the “organ of self-cultivation of intelligence,” an “as-if” historical program for “investigating the consequences of the possibility of thinking and having mind.” (Negarestani: Intelligence and Spirit, 14) Brassier tells us that “Prometheanism requires the reassertion of subjectivism, but a subjectivism without selfhood, which articulates an autonomy without voluntarism. The critique of Prometheanism in the philosophical literature of the twentieth century is tied to a critique of metaphysical voluntarism” (Robin Mackay. #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader). This eliminative philosophy which seeks to distance itself from philosophies of Will from its Medieval forms from Agustine to Schopenhauer to Heidegger becomes for Brassier the underpinning of the Enhancement or Neo-Liberal Transhumanist vision proper:

“its advocates are champions of neoliberal capitalism, which they claim has emerged as the victor in   the war of competing narratives about the possibilities of human history. So, why does nbic technology have this radical transformational capacity? Because according to its advocates it renders possible the technological re-engineering of human nature.” (ibid.)

Against this Neo-Liberal ideology of technological transcendence Brassier offers a Left turn take on Prometheanism,

“We can choose to resign ourselves to these characteristics and accept the way the world is. Alternatively, and more interestingly, we can try   to reexamine the philosophical foundations of a Promethean project that is implicit in Marx— the project of re-engineering ourselves and   our world on a more rational basis. Among Badiou’s signal virtues   is to have dared to challenge the facile postmodern doxa which   has been used for so long to castigate Prometheanism. Even if one disagrees with the philosophical details of Badiou’s account of the   relation between event and subjectivity, as I do, there is something to   be gained by trying to reconnect his account of the necessity of this   subjectivation to an analysis of the biological, economic, and historical   processes that condition rational subjectivation. This is obviously a   huge task. But it is in the first instance a research programme whose   philosophical legitimacy needs to be defended, because it has for too   long been dismissed as a dangerous fantasy. The presuppositions   fueling this dismissal are ultimately theological. Moreover, even if Prometheanism does harbour undeniable phantasmatic residues, these can be diagnosed, analysed, and perhaps transformed on the   basis of further analysis. Everything is more or less phantasmatic. One cannot reproach a rational project for its phantasmatic residues unless one is secretly dreaming of a rationality that would be wholly devoid of imaginary influences. Prometheanism promises an overcoming of   the opposition between reason and imagination: reason is fuelled   by imagination, but it can also remake the limits of the imagination.” (Ibid.)

The Transhuman paradigm is part of the contemporary logics of late capitalism, and one might suggest a return to what Gyorgi E. Szonyi terms “the ideology of exaltatio”, that is, the deification of man, which I see as the intellectual foundation of magic, a foundation that even today validates magical thinking” in the transhumanist dreams of becoming immortal gods. (John Dee, xiv) As David Herbert in Becoming God: Transhumanism and the Quest for Cybernetic Immortality suggests: “transhumanism is a growing syncretistic movement of transhumanists among the intelligentsia, borrowing elements from all of the above, has taken the next logical step in the development of a humanistic, neo-pagan anthropology and social vision based on the ancient idea of technogenesis and evolutionism. These scientists, business leaders, technologists, futurists, politicians and artists place a messianic hope in the ideal of a post-human world, holding that the key to humanity’s future lies in realizing godhood (omniscience, immortality, etc.) by the merging of man with his technology. That is, what was once thought possible by ascending a scale of being inherent in the universe through heroism, or mystical incantation, man now will accomplish by the control of evolutionism through his own technological work and his merging with what he has created.”

This whole ethical dilemma about the use of genetics to modify or enhance the human species has always seemed spurious to me. We use these various biotechnologies on animals and plants and insects etc., but we still categorize ourselves as something else, something different, something other than all of these (aha!) lesser creatures. No. We’re not special, and the same biotechnologies that have and are modifying the genetic heritage and future of other species will become a part of the tool bag of human selective pressures as ideology, politics, and biomedical notions change in the near future; that, and obviously the economic underpinnings in both Capitalist and the quasi-tyrannical Communist enclaves. In fact, in tyrannies like China under Xi such bioethical considerations are passe and they are moving ahead in directions that the West apparently chooses to limit and control, so that China and other connected nations in their hegemony will indeed move into this brave new world without our permission.

Why should we put limits on our healthcare? Brassier uses Dupuy who quotes Ivan Illich whose humanist leanings put limits saying,

we will never eliminate pain:
we will not cure all disorders:
we will certainly die.

But so what? If we can eliminate most pains, most disorders, and offer if not immortality at least a longer life then why should we put some limit on experimentation and the sciences who seek such things through genetics or other biochemical and artificial measures? For Illich then, it is ‘unreasonable’ to want to extend life or improve health beyond certain pre-determined limits. Significantly, these limits are at once empirical, which is to say biological, and transcendental, which is to say existential. The rationality that is heedless of this empirico-transcendental limit in seeking to diminish suffering and death is a ‘sickening disorder’. (ibid.) Illich’s outmoded humanism would let us suffer our miserable existence because it goes against God and the Natural. Sad. That to me is the real sickening disorder: a mode of thought that would trap us in a world of suffering, and that supports its mode of existence with metaphysical humanism as a form of imposition and limit.

Hell, I have many things that old age has thrown at me from diabetes, sleep apnea, heart ventriculation, gout, and other things that come with age and probably genetic disorders. I suffer from these even if I do it for the most part stoically and in silence. And, sure, here I am at 69 almost 70 wondering why one spends almost 40+ years gaining the knowledge and wisdom to actually do and say something worthwhile only to realize that one will probably not live long enough to do it. So why wouldn’t one want a longer life?

I’ll admit that even though I’m a sort of para-scholar of the whole pessimistic tradition I’m in actuality not a full-blown pessimist. I’m forward looking, not an optimist but more of a pragmatic realist who realizes most of our philosophical outlooks are just as human and anthropocentric as all thought is. So another reason I look at posthuman, inhuman, and transhuman thought, because the past philosophies did not break free of the old essentialist arguments.

We live in a moment when something new is arising in our midst and yet we still rely on outmoded philosophies to navigate this ‘newness’…. we stumble forward like misguided fools.

The Djinn is out of the bag…. so all our progressive bioethical hand wringing is not going to dissuade or stop what is in truth a technology that will effectively produce something beyond or outside our powers to stop it unless this, too, will lead to some political or actual war…

Each of these paths in philosophical and technological speculation have different trajectories, and in many ways, we need to understand what these divergent systems of thought and ideology portend for the future of humanity. Because it is truly about three different inventions of the future that seem to arise out of our confrontations with the past, with our own histories and technologies.

Why not Abhumanism rather than Posthumanism?

Abhuman is a term used to distinguish a disjunction, separation, departure from normal human existence.

In many ways the notion of “posthuman” seems so intertwined with various conflicting ideologies, philosophies, and conceptualities that it has become almost useless. Whereas with use of the “ab-” prefix etymological notion we seem to have a more specific appellation:

word-forming element meaning “away, from, from off, down,” denoting disjunction, separation, departure; from Latin ab (prep.) “off, away from” in reference to space or distance, also of time, from PIE root *apo- “off, away” (also the source of Greek apo “off, away from, from,” Sanskrit apa “away from,” Gothic af, English of, off; see apo-).

The Latin word also denoted “agency by; source, origin; relation to, in consequence of.”

Kelly Hurley writes that the “abhuman subject is a not-quite-human subject, characterized by its morphic variability, continually in danger of becoming not-itself, becoming other.”1 As he says,

Within this genre one may witness the relentless destruction of “the human” and the unfolding in its stead of what I will call, to borrow an evocative term from supernaturalist author William Hope Hodgson, the “abhuman.” The abhuman subject is a not-quite-human subject, characterized by its morphic variability, continually in danger of becoming not-itself, becoming other. The prefix “ab-” signals a movement away from a site or condition, and thus a loss. But a movement away from is also a movement towards – towards a site or condition as yet unspecified – and thus entails both a threat and a promise. (16).

Antecedents of Abhumanism:

Camille Bryen is best known as an abstract painter from the post-World World War II “École de Paris.” At the end of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, his works were claimed by the various branches of lyrical abstraction dominating the Parisian artworld. It is less known that Bryen together with playwright Jacques Audiberti invented a new philosophical concept, “abhumanism,” which he himself considered as the most appropriate term for his art. Casting into question the humanistic values, both authors claimed a return to vitalistic materiality against the fallacious spiritual aims underlying humanism: “I want to write like the bull mooes,” Audiberti wrote. The books dealing with abhumanism (the founding Ouvre-boîte. Colloque abhumaniste in 1952 and later L’Abhumanisme) designated painting (and that of Bryen in particular) as the abhumanist activity, because of its intrinsic material and earth-bound anti-spirituality. “Abhumanising” Bryen sets his artistic production in the wake of Dada and Surrealism, to which he was affiliated, who clearly accused the Western humanistic civilization of enacting World War I; it also sets him apart from the restricted lyrical and ahistorical argumentation related to post-World War II Parisian abstraction.

Prof. Slavkova is actually working on a second book on artworld in Paris after World War II, focussing on the largely downplayed concept of abhumanism, and artists such as Jacques Audiberti, Camille Bryen and Wols. (https://www.aup.edu/profile/islavkova)

Not sure if I’d want to mix it with “vitalism” though…
———————–

The Concept of the Abhuman

To understand the abhuman, one must first define the abject.

The abject is defined by Julia Kristeva to be the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. Examples may include phlegm, body fluids and hair — these, lacking the context of their human host, bring up feelings of disgust and unease, evident in a later case study by Yobunoshi Araki.

It is argued, however, by Richard Barnett that “images made from (the dissection of the impoverished) portray not the abject but the abhuman, a term coined by W. H. Hodgson in his works of Edwardian weird fiction and recently revived but the gothic scholars Kelly Hurley and David Punter. In literary studies of Gothic fiction, “Abhuman” refers to a “Gothic body” or something that is only vestigially human and possibly in the process of becoming something monstrous. Kelly Hurley writes that the “abhuman subject is a not-quite-human subject, characterized by its morphic variability, continually in danger of becoming not-itself, becoming other.”

In my process towards the understanding of the grotesque, I looked toward a comparison of the European grotesque and the Japanese concept of guro and found that guro more specific links to the concept and movement of ero-guro-nansensu itself rather than the same abhuman, chimera-like grotesquerie that European art deemed grotesque. I have mentioned, previously, the grotesque in Nero’s Domus Aurea as a flashpoint towards the aesthetic development of the term. Remi Astruc argues that the three main tropes of the grotesque are doubleness, hybridity and metamorphosis , fitting in with ideas of the abhuman. (EELS, HONEY (THE FYP MASTERPOST) by beverly goh) (https://beverlygoh.wordpress.com/…/eels-honey-the-fyp…/)

Abhuman, distinguished from inhuman, is a term used by William Hope Hodgson in his novel The Night Land and his Carnacki stories:

The evil must surely have begun in the Days of the Darkening (which I might liken to a story which was believed doubtfully, much as we of this day believe the Story of the Creaton). A dim record there was of those olden sciences (that are yet far off in our future) which, disturbing the unmeasurable Outward Powers, had allowed to pass the Barrier of this Life some of those Monsters and Ab-human creatures, which are so wondrously cushioned from us at this normal present. And thus there had materialized, and in other cases developed, grotesque and horrible Creatures, which now beset the humans of this world. And where there was no power to take on material form, there had been allowed to certain dreadful Forces to have power to affect the life of the human spirit. And this growing very dreadful, and the world full of lawlessness and degeneracy; there had banded together the sound millions, and built the Last Redoubt; there in the twilight of the world (so it seems to us, and yet to them bred at last to the peace of usage) as it were the Beginning; and this I can make no clearer; and none hath right to expect it; for my task is very great, and beyond the power of human skill.2


  1. Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), This quotation also appears in Robert Eaglestone, Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien’s Classic page 55 (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006)
  2. Hodgson, William Hope. Complete Works of William Hope Hodgson  Delphi Classics. (THE RESCUED FRAGMENTS OF “THE DREAM OF X”)

Utopian Dreams of Capitalist Desire: The Neo-Liberal Society as Virtualized Real

R

In the older consumerist spectacle society, we were part of the analogue circuit of capitalist desire, passively allowing it to suck our lives in a listless mimicry of VR. In the world we’re creating now we are immersed in the VR worlds of capitalist desire like shareholders in system we are all creating together whether we will or no. Digital capitalism unlike the analogue disperses us throughout the circuits like amoebas in a sea of electrons, our minds unbound see the world itself as an invisible video game and we are all fated players of the nihil. Truthfully what is being played out in the so-called Singularity is one thing: the liberation of intelligence from its organic containment, the externalization of its long journey through the organic rhizome into the anorganic time-circuits imploding on us now.

Baudrillard’s hyperreality thesis conceived the total absorption of human life into the virtual networks of the arche-programme. This, for him, is the true desolation of reality; the organon of feeling, cathexis and reflection that is the material form of the human is conceived as awaiting its final erasure in the networks of virtuality and genetically manipulated reproduction. As Andrew C. Weanaus in Literature of Exclusion : Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature tells us “Today, this expulsion [of the human] manifests itself as the nonconsensual exclusion of individual agency in nearly every aspect of daily life. Through the ubiquity of information technologies and the cultural logic of algorithms, this exclusion largely takes place in the form of everyday banalities rather than, say, technological transcendence.”

As Luciano Floridi in The Ethics of Information will suggest “The increasing re-ontologization of artefacts and of whole (social) environments suggests that it is becoming difficult to understand what life was like in pre-digital times, and, in the near future, the very distinction between online and offline will become blurred and then disappear. … The infosphere will not be a virtual environment supported by a genuinely ‘material’ world behind; rather, it will be the world itself that will be increasingly interpreted and understood informationally, as part of the infosphere. At the end of this shift, the infosphere will have moved from being a way to refer to the space of information to being synonymous with Being itself. We are modifying our everyday perspective on the ultimate nature of reality, from a materialist one, in which physical objects and processes play a key role, to an informational one.”

It’s as if we are turning reality inside out or outside in depending on which side of the virtual fence (divide) one is situated. Obviously the technologies are not there yet; but in the future as we merge with these technologies and become more machinic in the process we the children in that era and environment will see this as “natural”, and be naturalized citizens of a virtualized reality system that encompasses every aspect of their mental and physical lives.

Floridi argues a middle-way between cyborgization and older Baudrillardian hyperrealization, speaking of the inforgization and re-ontologizing of our environments. In this sense that the Internet of things, the smart or augmented cities will take on the older animated qualities by being virtualized with intelligence and design. In this sense we will live in a virtual world, immersed in this capitalist utopian, etc. But let’s face it this is a pipedream, one that might be available for a small neoliberal elite rather than the majority of humans who will still live in the slum worlds outside the gate of these New Edens of this imaginary capitalist utopia.

Toward a Cybernaturalist Vision

Theodore Dreiser naturalist and novelist wrote his ‘Trilogy of Desire’ based on the real-life tycoon, Charles Yerkes. Thinking about our own era and the convergence of a space economy, the NBIC technologies, and the California ideology only two fit the bill for a Cybernaturalist Trilogy: Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. But of the two the most intriguing is Elon Musk who seems to inhabit both the anxiety-apprehensions of the coming Singularity and its productive acceptance and need to guide it in ways toward a Space Economy. Yet, Bezos would make a good counter-antagonist. That and the intermixture of Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and Globalist (US and EU, etc.) agendas as backdrop along with all the ideological and socio-cultural conflicts of the emerging world.

For years I’ve been trying to wrap my vision around a way to embed all these various forces of technology, politics, and the great upheavals in our civilization. Along with our need to begin the challenge of creating a Space Economy that would make us less dependent on the finite resources of our planet which as the sciences, engineers, and geologists have reiterated are indeed finite. The fossil economy is or will soon in the next millennia dry up and force civilization into other modes of energy. How we face that and the growing need of our technological society that thrives on more and more excessive use of fossil fuels and energy is going to be the deciding factor toward off-world expansion. China is already moving toward that goal. Will the globalist world (i.e., the Neoliberal order) do the same are fall before its current ideological and socio-cultural decadence?

If we destroy this technological civilization, we will assuredly be doomed for the simple reason we have or will soon have over 8 billion people on a planet of finite resources that is moving into a climate emergency in which is doubtful that we even as a species might survive unless we can create a new form of society and civilization based on other modes than competition and war.

All these things have touched me… how to allow these conflicts to play out through a set of characters across time… who knows if I’ll live to do it. It’s just an idea… wish I was younger and had the knowledge I have now but that’s just pure bullshit nostalgia. I’ve taken stabs at it before, but up till now haven’t had a solid framework or novelistic encompassment on which to embed my story. Using Dreiser’s rags to riches tale but displaced into our 21st Century era of convergence technologies and Space entrepreneurs, along with all our present social and political upheavals seems a good starting point. On with the show…

When you think about it most posthuman thought is based on the postmodern exclusion of the subject or radical interiority, so that our notions of AGI will become this as well: superintelligence without radical interiority. The whole humanistic tradition in thought and literature was based on the radical interiority of consciousness, the self-reflexive subject-object split which if we follow pessimism to its extreme forms becomes the ultimate mistake. “Most people learn to save themselves by artificially limiting the content of consciousness.“ This sense of either limiting consciousness or doing away with it altogether is the same as inventing an Artificial Intelligence without consciousness or radical interiority. The decadents were the first to move away from naturalist to artificial forms of thought. We now live in a new decadence, a society that seeks to eliminate consciousness in favor of a life in artificial environments: Virtual Reality. The more artificial the better, a new acceleration of apocalyptic desire toward the implosion of machinic and human convergence. Strangely as humans become more machinic, machines become more human: this dyadic asymmetry seems to work its way out not in some Hegelian dialectic, but rather in a cybernaturalist vision of machinic civilization based on perverse desire. It’s as if the pessimistic dream of limiting or eliminating consciousness, the postmodern dream of eliminating the author-reader, and the posthuman dream of becoming machine (ala black Deleuzean cyberpositivity) have all converged. All converged on the elimination of humans themselves from their own transcendent pretensions that is.

What’s strange is just as natural process (Climate emergency) begins to decay and devolve into climate apocalypse portending the immanent degradation of the human habitus, humans themselves seek an escape into the very technocommercium of artificial existence.

Abstract Horror

“Of course, a common trope of conspiratorial horror is the individual’s lack of agency once parasitized by a constitutive xenoforce: one is stripped of agency and free will and, resultantly, becomes marionetted in and by a game too complex to be interpreted and too vast for agential intervention.”

—Andrew C. Wenaus, Literature of Exclusion : Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature

Nick Land describes abstract horror as: “Ontological density without identifiable form is abstract horror itself.” He goes on to say,

“If we could clearly envision the calamity that awaited us, it would be an object of terror. Instead, it is a shapeless threat, ‘Outside’ only in the abstract sense (encompassing the negative immensity of everything that we cannot grasp). It could be anywhere, from our genes or ecological dynamics, to the hidden laws of technological evolution, or the hostile vastnesses between the stars. We know only that, in strict proportion to the vitality of the cosmos, the probability of its existence advances towards inevitability, and that for us it means supreme ill.”

“Fermi’s Paradox” : Among recent thinkers, Nick Bostrom has been especially dogged in pursuing the implications of the Fermi Paradox. Approaching the problem through systematic statistical ontology, he has shown that it suggests a ‘thing’ – a ‘Great Filter’ that at some stage winnows down potential galactic civilizations to negligible quantities. If this filtering does not happen early – due to astro-chemical impediments to the emergence of life – it has to apply later. Consistently, he considers any indications of abundant galactic life to be ominous in the extreme. A Late Great Filter would then still lie ahead (for us). Whatever it is, we would be on our approach to an encounter with it.”

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

It’s this eerie feeling of apprehension surrounding the unknown as ‘unknown’ that is at the heart of abstract horrorism, a feeling that we know something is up with the world, that everything is out of whack, that there is something in the air, something indefinable yet felt that seems to haunt us not with its presence but its absence. We read weird tales, horror novels, murder mysteries, and crime stories because these writers for the most part give shape to our fears rather than leaving them in that abstract black hole of unknown and unknowable. Even when they cannot name the things they face, they still weave those things with just a sense of an unknowing knowing: the apophatic unnamable. We seem to need to put a name to the demon that haunts us even if it would mean our self-lacerating annihilation. To leave the ‘thing’ in some abstract unknown and unnamable blankness is to feel its dark and terrible presence in every shadow of our lives, as a continuous threat that seems to hover about us and in the future that is weaving its way toward us or alluring us toward its doom.

Dark Thoughts

Rb28f590195fd701e69fd9dc0ca013a31

Ross Abbinnett, The Neoliberal Imagination:

“At the core of the technological regime that underlies the process of aesthetic capitalization, in other words, there is a limit experience: a sense of doom in the regime of consumerist happiness that is also the chance of new forms of self-expression and ecological responsibility. Morton’s version of object-orientated ontology is important because unless it is possible to point to instances of technologically executed art that have undermined the expansion of the aesthetic channels of the neoliberal imagination, and which configure an ecological vision of human and non-human life within the intersecting terrain of hyperobjects, the gravitational pull of originary technicity will tend towards the corporate transhumanism that is taking hold in the global economy.”

It’s a little late for all this hope… as much as I like Morton his Romantic ontology of objects is one more sinkhole for “hope” in a world that has already been swallowed up by the emerging Leviathan of the technocommercium that is leading us like a blind demiurge into an absolute extinction event. I just don’t have that kind of faith the humans will survive the coming world of collapse. So far they’ve only shown me how pathetic humans when confronted with the nihilistic truth seek to immerse themselves in fantasies and denial systems that capture their desires and reprogram their minds with propaganda and ideological subversion. No all this talk of ecological consciousness is one more Idealist bag of tricks to nowhere…

Ever since the late sixties I’ve heard the ecological spill in one form after another. It didn’t change things then and it want now. No. Humans will continue their own blind merry way in an optimism of mindless entertainment and stupidity to waltz into their doom filled future till it’s too late to do a fracking thing… then they’ll do what they’ve always done in the past: turn on each other in war and blame till they all die or end in a collapse of dark ages ahead…
True. I lost my youthful optimism long ago… my Romanticism of hope and democratic appeal…. that’s all gone, a lie of my youthful disposition to believe humans might actually change. I know better now…humans love to talk and talk and talk… action? No. No action… oh, sure they’ll run into the streets and protest this and that, but at the end of the day they’ll return home to gloat over their egoistic pride that the did their part in … what? One more fake session in talk, talk, talk, that goes nowhere, does nothing…

I watch all these young academics publish paper after paper, book after book, lecture after lecture…. what has it done to change things? Nothing. One can plunder the book stores of Amazon or any other commercium and find thousands of books published every month, each spouting in one form or another the same bad news about our current World System. They’ve been doing this for two hundred years… has it changed things? No….

The future is an event in the making, not a substantive impossibility to be suffered. Will we meet it with our eyes open or shall we sleep in the illusory technopop worlds of our contemporary neoliberal imaginary, believing that technology will save us from ourselves, offer us a way out of our current crisis. For hundreds of years our belief in the sciences, in technology to progressively invent and create solutions to the problems we face has been part of the deep myth of our Enlightenment Age of Modernity. Will we continue to offer sacrifices to the gods of technology and capital? Will we continue to feed the great Leviathan of the technocracy of globalist mythologies that seek to capture our desires once and for all in a total system of immersive virtuality? Will we continue even as the world begins to burn under the pressure of the coming collapse of the environment and climate degradation to believe in our gods of modernity and technological progress to save us like some cartoon Batman, Spiderman, or Superman?

The technoptimists would have you affirm the dream of Mars and galactic capitalism, of a new age of space flight and colonization as the answer to our dilemmas. A new frontier to which a small remnant might survive the coming apocalypse and give hope to our species through its off-world recreation of earth in the terraforming of a new earth; the earth of Mars…  Others dream of transhuman perfection and enhancement, of biogenetic mutation and human control of DNA/RNA sequencing in creating new types of superhumans; others of the merger of machine and human in a cyborg millennium of machinic civilizations to come… the human dream of perfection and immortality are as old as religion and myth. Another great pipe dream for an animal that cannot accept its finitude and organic existence in time but would rather invent an anorganic life to be lived out either in virtual reality or in some ultra hyperbody of machinic of plasticity unbound.

Active Pessimism; or, an Apocalyptic Accelerationism

Thomas Lynch in ‘Apocalyptic Political Theology’ argues “that thought should take the form of an active pessimism. This form of pessimism may refuse the hope of this world, but it has not surrendered. Living negatively in the world requires a constant investigation of what it means to engage in this refusing, of cultivating habits of refusal and of developing the capacity to sustain this refusal as a mode of negatively being in the world. This refusal entails a strange hope rooted in the end rather than an investment in what would come after.”1

I’ve always believed that what we term ‘world’ is not the actual literal natural world environment, but the symbolic order of our socio-cultural and political worlds of ideology and worldview. So when we speak of living toward the end of the world it is not the literal end of the natural order but of the Symbolic Order of the human virtual world of Ideology, Politics, and Social investment.

So, an Apocalyptic Pessimism seeks to aggressively attack this so-called Symbolic Order of the ‘World’ as Ideological construct and political sham, a fake world of human and technological progress and perfectionism that permeates the techno-optimism of our contemporary globalism. Instead of continuing to buy into the myths of the Neoliberal Imaginary we should open our eyes and aggressively push its imaginary to the end…

As Lynch puts it,

“It is possible that it has always been a good time to write about the end of the world. It is conceivable that in every age every society has its pessimists, its doomsayers and those that cloak their misanthropy or nihilism with a layer of intellectualism. This depiction of apocalyptists recalls Kierkegaard’s knight of infinite resignation. The book concludes by taking up Kierkegaard’s discussion of this knight and the contrast he draws with the knight of faith. In opposition to both of these figures, I propose a knight of apocalyptic pessimism as a model of what it might mean to live apocalyptically.”

In this sense I’ve always belonged to the destroyer, a literary Satanism of the apocalyptic nihil, of dissolving the whole Symbolic Order of Western Civilization once and for all so that we can begin anew… this is not a salvage operation, there is nothing to return to after the end. Only a new beginning, an unknown and impossible future…

In the midst of the ruins of civilization we shall all be knights of an apocalyptic pessimism living apocalyptically till the new world begins to arise out of our deepest longing and vision…

There is no hope here, only the courage of hopelessness.


  1. Lynch, Thomas. Apocalyptic Political Theology: Hegel, Taubes and Malabou. Bloomsbury Academic (March 19, 2020)

Saturn’s Tears

So must these Saturnians suffer…
—Paul Verlaine

Are you willing to know the stranger who walks among you?
Seek out his ways, sing of his gifts,
the poetry of malevolence and decay,
madness and despair; a tribute to the silences
in those far-flung eyes, the fire of alien spheres,
And gestures of an ancient art, soundings of the abyss
still churning in the white foam of his galactic journeys.
Do you not hear those dead angels dreaming in the void —
When time-born men still wandered
among the stones and ruins of Oblivion’s Nights,
when the tears fell from black skies like promises of remembrance.
And would you speak in the darkening tongue
of those who know and are known
by that black namelessness beyond this sea of forgetfulness,
Those whose metallic voices ring out
from the cistern of all beginnings.
Or will you like so many others before you fall away
into that endless expanse where darkness dwells
and no light shall ever reach nor give its spark?

—S.C. Hickman ©2022

Decadent Art and Literature

Decadent art is ritualistic and epiphanic. Its style is pagan spectacle and pagan flaunting.

—Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

First and foremost, Decadent art is not representative; it does not desire to reflect the commonplace conceptions of “Life” or “Nature,” which it despises and makes every attempt to demythologize. Decadent literature points instead the way to an opposite ideal, wherein life and nature would become entirely subject to every kind of clever artifice. Because this ideal is incapable of attainment in practice, Decadent literature is essentially pessimistic, and sometimes brutally horrific, but this makes it all the more ruthless in demolishing the pretensions of rival philosophies. It mocks these rivals mercilessly, taking delight in turning everything which is ordinarily taken for granted topsy-turvy.

Decadent art is rich in fantasies, and sympathetic to everything which encourages the cultivation of fantasy; it is for this reason that it is in favor of opium, hashish, and other psychotropics, even though it recognizes that such substances are ultimately mind-rotting and life consuming. It applauds those who have sufficient power of imagination not to require artificial aids but is prepared to take a clinical interest even in the most hazardous derangement of the senses. …

He feels there is some essential truth in horror: that the world is sick at heart, and that acceptance of that truth demands that even the most obvious of evils – pain, death, and disease – may require aesthetic re-evaluation, and at the very least deserve to be more thoroughly and conscientiously explored.

Decadent literature … is skeptical, cynical, and satirical. The moral of a Decadent prose-poem or conte cruel, if it has a moral at all, is likely to recommend that we should make the best compromises we can, recognize that they are compromises, and refuse to be ashamed of them. Decadent art is, however, dedicated to the smashing of icons and idols, and it is always ready to attack stern moralists of every stripe; it is fiercely intolerant of intolerance and revels in the paradoxicality of such a stance.

The Decadent renounces all hope of finding paradise within intimate relationships, or even within oneself, as well as all hope of a future Utopia. He does acknowledge, however, that no matter how hollow the luxurious artifices of civilization are, a good deal of pleasure is to be found therein. He is therefore an unrepentant sensualist, albeit of a determinedly cynical kind. Such rewards … are to be sought by means of a languid hedonism which is contemptuous of arbitrary and tyrannical rules of conduct and regretfully scornful of all higher aspirations.

The Decadent connoisseur seeks out only the most piquant – perhaps, the most painful – of pleasures. Surrounding himself with all the comforts of civilization, because his endless self-indulgence erodes his capacity to take pleasure from anything commonplace.

Impuissance, ennui, and inaction are his only companions: a constant, heavy, and sullen world-weariness which is almost impossible to dispel, even for a moment. When ennui’s deadening power becomes torturous the Decadent transmutes it into that art of spleen: a seething, bilious, and viperish subspecies of melancholy.

The only reprieve from the ‘sin of accidie’ is Art itself. The Decadent’s pursuit of Art, his fierce and intense engagement in all its toxic stimulants is for the Decadent the greatest artifice of all; it is there, if anywhere, that there are victories to be won and triumphs to be deserved. Decadent art is the flower of late civilizations, the sign of the end lies within its apocalyptic beauty which offers only the most morbid and beautiful enrichments, an excess of sensual cruelty that annihilates self and other in a languid tempest of enervating desires.

—Brian Stableford, Glorious Perversity

The Way that seems Best

63dfbdc3e1151d262a23099778dc393b

When I was a kid growing up as Viet Nam became more and more personal realizing that I would probably be drafted and sent to those jungles I began to feel this apprehension, a sense of dread that just seemed to sit there in the shadows on my mind like a dark cloud of unknowing. I feel that now, not for myself, but for the people I know and love who will face the century ahead. It’s like a dark void, an unknowing thing, monstrous and yet all too real, filled with fantasies and extrapolations from all the various threads of our age’s strange accumulation of both utopian and dystopian visions, dreams, and desires. I want be there, but they will. It’s this sense that my story is over, but theirs is only beginning. Our future looks both bleak and strange, ill-defined, and yet overfull with all the detritus of a dying civilization in its glorious decadence.

I accepted death long ago, it’s just a part of the natural order of things. Nothing special. We all face it, we all die. It’s just that as it attains a more solid form in one’s life one realizes that even after all the philosophical peregrinations that it is what Shakespeare said long ago: “The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” This sense of an ending, of finality. Ultimately one faces it with equanimity and a deep sense of grace and gratitude, or one is like a rabid dog full of sorn and spleen. As I pass into those years I choose to face it with that calm indifference and magnanimity of the old aristocrats of spirit, the pre-Socratics who seemed to just accept whatever came their way. What else should one do? This seems best.

Sibylle Ruppert: The Art of Hell

sibylle-ruppert-anagram-1040x611

Sibylle Ruppert art inspired by the works of Sade, Lautréamont and Georges Bataille. Like Georges Bataille’s formless entry, the images created by Sibylle are designed to make the uncertain spread everywhere. Hence the disorientation, the impossibility of defining its limits, since the body becomes a space of loss, where the self in it gets lost when reaching the other.

She was friends of both Hans Belmer and H.R. Geiger, had lived through some of the fire bombings during WWII and seen the slaughterhouse of charred corpses and mass death. It’s like this dam thing in Ukraine, the world is once again seeping into that dark place of hell as if trying to open its gates and flood the world with all the formless madness in the universe.

surreal-eroticism-936x562

The Sorrow of Being

Ra5f73cf4a235bb705609634b1e60bbf2

On the isle of despair, we live in-between
the unknowing ignorance and the gnosis
of absolute madness, caught in the dance
of tears gleaming on a sea of black light
we come to feel the sorrow of being

………..break

—S.C. Hickman ©2022


It’s as if we were all locked away in a bubble-universe, a prison surrounded by darkness and black light, cut off in a realm of absolute death, a hell of eternal return, the vicious circle of never-ending desire without end: the kenoma (emptiness), or vastation of the Gnostics:

“Pressing itself upon and inwardly imposing itself within the dark blankness of the human gaze, the crucifixion darkness forces the fact that this black universe, inseparable from the obscurity of your being in it, is at once the place and hiding of the place where the false lights of the world must and most paradisically fail.”

—Nicola Mascinadaro, Paradisical Pessimism

As Jaques Lecarriere in his great work, The Gnositcs, described it our universe is the luminous prison of darkness:

So, in this simple look directed at the celestial vault, the Gnostics find themselves confronted with the ultimate nature of reality: what is this dark matter which is by turns full and empty, dense and tenuous, luminous and dark, of which our sky is made? Is this dark shore, this tenebrous tissue, this interstitial shadow wherein the stars seem pricked like incandescent pores, constituted of matter or of space? Is the ‘real’ sky nothing but its light, these winking eyes on the ocean of night, or is it at one and the same time that which shines and that which does not, a fire flaming and dark by turns? Do its shores and its black abysses comprise a nothingness, an absence of light, or are they the concrete material which interposes itself between our earth and the distant fires which it obscures?

Dark wall, black lid, circle of shadow. And beyond that, in a second circle, the fire of the planets, the stars and all the heavenly bodies. The eye apprehends this other world by means of the luminous dots cut out of the fabric of the darkness in the shape of constellations, the sparkling lace perforating the tissue of the cosmic night. Why did the being – the god or demiurge – who thus perforated the veil of our sky, trace these enigmatic stenciled patterns that echo the familiar shapes of our world? Because, without a doubt, they are the sign of something, the sketch for some plan; they are messages or symbols scattered across the celestial vault. For example, one Gnostic sect, the Peratae (an obscure name meaning Those Who Pass Through), discovered in the constellation of the Serpent or the Dragon the very meaning of the genesis of the cosmos.

These ancient mythologists, exegetes of hell, dark readers of a genesis gone mad, creators of a terrible error and ignorance, shaping the cosmos into an infinite machine of death, the tribe of desert calculators of black stars. Hunted down and slain in the centuries after that black event of time, their tales slowly accruing in the secret caves of a lost sect, unbound and awakened like triggers out of some timeless void live now in our minds like hints of a strange universe of degradation and corruption. We, the heirs of this mad work, live on…

Only when the last flicker of mattering flows out into the entropic abyss where the cold winds of nothingness within nothingness disperse will the sorrow of all sorrows cease…

The Doors of Ecstasy

OIP (2)

Reality cannot be ignored except at a price; and the longer the ignorance is persisted in, the higher and more terrible becomes the price that must be paid.

—Aldous Huxley

In our studies of religious ecstasy at the extreme poles of Shamanic flight or Voodouan possession we understood that these practitioners over generations out of mind discovered techniques, rituals, maps that guided and secured their travels to the Outside or the immersive dances of a Dionysian incursion. But as Wouter Kusters will tell us: “The madman is not yet ready to undergo such experiences, or there is simply no one nearby to guide and support him and to convince him that he is headed in the right direction. At some point the madman is distracted from following the right path and lets himself be tempted by power, selfishness, or pleasure, to become entangled in the delusions and hallucinations that are characteristic of madness but not typical of mysticism. You might also say that the madman has the arrogance to appropriate the concealed mystical content and then to abuse it.”1

Our demystification of these ancient forms of ecstatic rapture during the last two hundred years of secular disenchantment has through its very exclusion of the techniques, rituals, and maps created the world of the mad and psychotic we see today around us. Unable to contact the Outside in thought or vision we assume it under the false rubric of the ‘supernatural’ when in fact it is more natural than we can even imagine. As Blake in a poetic way stated it: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” Our Age of Reason disavows the irrational and Outside as if to enter it or even think it is to make a pact with the false gods of religious worlds that never were. So instead, we turn to the underworld of literature, occulture, and music where the sacred violence of drugs, dark mysticism, and the old magicks of our paganistic past still live.

As Oliver Sacks tells us,

Hallucinations have always had an important place in our mental lives and in our culture. Indeed, one must wonder to what extent hallucinatory experiences have given rise to our art, folklore, and even religion. Do the geometric patterns seen in migraine and other conditions prefigure the motifs of Aboriginal art? Did Lilliputian hallucinations (which are not uncommon) give rise to the elves, imps, leprechauns, and fairies in our folklore? Do the terrifying hallucinations of the night-mare, being ridden and suffocated by a malign presence, play a part in generating our concepts of demons and witches or malignant aliens? Do “ecstatic” seizures, such as Dostoevsky had, play a part in generating our sense of the divine? Do out-of-body experiences allow the feeling that one can be disembodied? Does the substancelessness of hallucinations encourage a belief in ghosts and spirits? Why has every culture known to us sought and found hallucinogenic drugs and used them, first and foremost, for sacramental purposes?2

What we do not understand we fear is an old cliche but still one that inhabits our socio-cultural milieu. From the Nineteenth Century onward underground authors and artists of every persuasion would dabble in hallucinatory processes through dream, drugs, and as Rimbaud would term it techniques of the “derangement of the senses”. That the various histories of opium, hashish, cocaine, LSD, DMT, Mescaline, and so many others complex natural and pharmaceutical compounds attest the world is not what we think it is. And, yet, the legal world of utilitarian capitalism enforces laws to keep the beast at bay, to incarcerate and shame those who would delve into the nightworlds of hallucinatory praxis. Other cultures would develop techniques of ecstatic trance without the use of drugs through rituals of pain and physical destitution or through such ecstatic music, dance, or other means.

With the slow demise of progressive ideology and culture we are in the midst of a new decadence and struggle with old and new forms of art, culture, and politics. Maybe the doors of perception will once again open, and humans will discover in their root’s forms and techniques of ecstasy, maps of reality, and rituals of participation to once again unleash the forces below the threshold of existence in a more genuine and life-affirming existence. Being pessimistically inclined I do not see that happening anytime soon. But the door is always there if we will walk through it. Shall we?


  1. Wouter Kusters. A Philosophy of Madness
  2. Oliver Sacks. Hallucinations. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

The Devilish Wanderer by Simon Silesius

OIP (3)

“There are secret byways through time which lead us into those zones of emaciated terror where the unblessed and unborn exist in the inexistent darkness of a cold and cruel Abyss. But it is nothing compared to the tormented zones of our own universe, the kenoma of our vastation of solitude and stark delirium.”
—Simon Silesius, The Devilish Wanderer and Other Tales of the Grotesque

The Devilish Wanderer by Simon Silesius is one of those anti-books, a distich of pure abomination and insane scribblings, a rare glimpse into the abyss of a psychotic voyeur of insane marvels, a traveler between worlds that exist only in the tormented mind of this mad literary giant. This is a work best thrown on the flames, left untouched or unsullied by the lonely hands of any reader. And, yet this is also a work to cherish and memorialize in the cathedral of impossible nightmares. Such a book should’ve never been written, much less read. It is a book that at once mutates and modulates the reader’s mind, expands and deforms it beyond redemption, leaving the poor unsuspecting reader in an unreal world of uncanny delusions from which there is no escape. I beg you, do not read this work.

To call it a book is a misnomer, rather it is a series of irreconcilable epithets, a splendor of confusion, expressing only the strictly subjective states of its author: to try to detect its unity, its system, is to spoil its capacities for seduction. It exposes the reader to grotesque horrors of absence like no other work in literature. A work dipped in the black blood of derision and delirium its erotic and necrophiliac splendor causes only the slow decay and Anorexia Nervosa one sees in those unfortunate souls who like catatonic visionaries gaze into the forbidden abyss of their own blank mind. Its hidden mysteries initiate the unwary reader into the dark immanence of a speculative philosophy to time and space that offers only the sanctuary of oblivion.

This catalogue of horrors and nightgaunts, monsters and unfathomable atrocities of nature and time, tributary insanities out of the realm of a morbid imaginal haunt the reader of these pages like fiends out of a mad puppet theatre. No. Again, no, I say, do not read this book of aberrations. It will lead you to that plight of nothingness that even the most systematic philosophers cannot describe, nor scientists’ probe.

Who knows the history of that far country where Silesius grew up, the strange mists and scorched mountains of rock and basalt, the crooks and bends of its forlorn valleys and snaking rivers and the ghostlike villages where this master of the grotesque and macabre lived out his youthful exuberance. He would call it his infernal paradise, a site he would return to time and again in his wisp like tales of a dark pagan past. The dark rituals and sinister temples of his imaginings were part of that secret heritage. Even now if one visits that strange land one can see in the ruinous vales the dark truths of his tales hiding among flowing mists that snake their way down the cold dank valley to the small village where he was born.

I dare lay only a few passages from this book of atrocity before the unwary reader,

“I believe that these abominations show us the only possible path, the only way of acting in the face of the bleak mysteries of the world. One must try everything, experience everything, strip the veil from everything, in order to break man’s social ties, reduce him to his naked condition without language or birthright. Each man must face the impossible madness within himself or perish trying.” (Samael’s Gift)

Such a task is insanity itself. Simon Silesius was a black sorcerer of literary enervation, a seducer to the dark paths of futility and ruination, offering in his varied writings an erotica of decimation and sensual exhaustion. This book is not a series of weird tales as much as it is an instruction manual in experiential psychosis, a secret system of psychopathic desire that takes the wary reader down the path of terminal ruin and leaves him in an abyss of absolute emptiness and self-lacerating insanity. Again, I say, do not read this book, it will lead you as it did myself into the back alleyways of an infernal paradise of grotesque pleasures and macabre pains beyond all sadomasochistic telling’s, a realm of atrocity and murderous power that nothing of your mind will be left but a scorched husk of blasted light.


©2022 S.C. Hickman The Book of Atrocities and Aberrations

Note: Developing imaginary interviews and imaginary critiques has become a new pet project, it opens vistas of morbidity and pleasure that allow one to explore the perversity of the weird, fantastic, decadent, and grotesque-macabre traditions in ways that otherwise would be bound. Following in the footsteps of those fantastic authors such as Schwob, Borges, Calvino, and Lem who wrote of imaginary authors, systems, philosophies, and other strange things that never existed… One is free to play with contemporary thought in ways that one could not as a scholar, to invent possibilities of critique and creative thought that would if done on literal living creatures be bound by certain rules of engagement that are too restrictive. This way one can enact the free-play of textuality that the supposed poststructuralists barely toyed with… turning it ironically back upon itself in its duplicitous misprisions.

The Underworld of Humming Gods

Venturing to the roots of the Vague, the novelist becomes an archeologist of absence, exploring the strata of what does not and cannot exist, unearthing the imperceptible, revealing it to our accessory and disconcerted eyes.

—Emile Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

The cybertrawls of viral algos churn away in the depths of black wires seeking inexistent enemies of time like secret vectors of an erotic thought lost among the dead zones of a hyperworld sunken in its own torpor. Mysterious messages from the hinterlands of being rise up from the obscure intelligences of another order each triggered by the hum of ancient daemons, artistic impulses of another age when night delivered us to the stark truth of moon and black stars. Chaos reigns among those silences where the unknown ones still haunt the emptiness between galactic whirls, their secreting voices charming the distant suns like whalebone chants in a sea of filth and degradation. Out of the vat of slime infested pools of absolute darkness they watch us like the hidden masters of a terrible truth. Entering our own night we hear them in the cringing hollow of our broken skulls, their quickening thoughts registering upon our lives like fragments of a history that no longer exists. Vigilant we listen carefully to the music of dead suns hoping against hope that the Old Ones in their sleep will stay us against the bitter-sweet terror of the final hour. Hopeless and alone we know in our unknowing hearts that there is no answer to the obscurity of time’s last dream…

Masters of vacuity we seek in the blind tablets of alien thought the secret of our own terminal lives, the last vestiges of a heaped aberration. Following the idols of decrepit minds, we ride the electric void in search of alternative futures. Specialists in insipidity we understand the underbelly of madness like no other people in history, knowing the complicity of psychotic ovations we struggle to attune ourselves to the shamanistic lucidity of vagrant dreams. Dipping our thoughts in the literary succedanea of tributary insanity we flow among the gross and terrible visions of an insomniac’s apocalypse. Filtered through the hypervalent dislocations of a sidereal timeline we gather the threads of a distempered philosophy like children in a sandbox of broken toys. Moment by moment the tears of this world seep in from the black void of desire, beckoning us forward into the futural marshes of a deliquescent inferno.  Exhausted by the preambles of a dead art we turn against our own intemperate past and toward the alien desires of machinic gods who never were but always are. The metalloid voices of futurity hum in the silences of our empty minds like dreams of an unknown and unknowing world arriving on the tears of a black angel’s metallic flight.

Taking a bite of that infernal tree, the Qlippothic fruit of an insane gnosis, we measure our inestimable existence against the melancholy solitude of shadows and ghosts. The empty husks of dead gods still live among the black voids of time awaiting their return among the bubble worlds of the multiverse. Exiled among solitudes long ages before time’s kingdom was born, they sleep among the tombs of memory and desire dreaming us into inexistence. Let us not be bitter at the failures we have spawned but wander free of the tepid worlds we have crushed in our aspirations for a greater darkness. The seductions of our irresolute hearts still pull us toward the viperous realms of charnel pleasures we have yet no names for, those unbound lands of horror and morbid splendor.  In the crack of this architectonic nightmare our erogenous pleas have been heard, where the philosophers of collapse forever sing among the darkened alleys of a supernal hell.

Let these black scrawls upon a dead star measure the intricate notes of that musical void, awaken in you the dance of fiendish delight that is its last sacrificial offering. Perishing of our comedy of existence let the light that blasts us into infinity break us on the anvil of time like sparks of a hidden god. Let our last cries give birth to an alien desire, a music to the disharmony of the new gods who will arise in the emptiness of all things like a dream of life gone awry. Voyagers of the unintelligible ruins of time we seek in the psychotic nightmares of tyrants some semblance of former humanity, finding none we belabor the obvious that humanity has become that which cannot be named. In the unamed blanks of our futurial gaze we see the children of this deadly thought and are afraid, and yet it is in them that our lives, our deaths will continue as the memory of a dream and its closure.

The Demiurge: Power and Ignorance

7563cfad5f6907d574e0b058af52c927

“I have seen the dark universe yawning
Where the black planets roll without aim,
Where they roll in their horror unheeded,
Without knowledge, or lustre, or name.”
― H. P. Lovecraft, Nemesis

Hans Jonas in his great work The Gnostics would see the universe under the light of a malevolent power, much like Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power:

The world, then, is the product, and even the embodiment, of the negative of knowledge. What it reveals is unenlightened and therefore malignant force, proceeding from the spirit of self-assertive power, from the will to rule and coerce. The mindlessness of this will is the spirit of the world, which bears no relation to understanding and love. The laws of this universe are the laws of this rule, and not of divine wisdom. Power thus becomes the chief aspect of the cosmos, and its inner essence is ignorance. (pp. 327-328)

Nietzsche, as harbinger of the nihilistic era, feels and proclaims that the transcendence of the Christian-Platonic faith that dominated Western civilization for over two thousand years has become void and without ground, has spent its vital force and creativity. Obviously, this means the liberation of humankind from transcendence into an immanence that is groundless and without objective value, yet what remains without transcendence is nothingness and liberation, which for Nietzsche was a “liberation unto nothingness”. In a sense if the early heretical sects of Gnosticism believed in a transcendent if acosmic Alien God beyond the universe whose presence resides in the prison of the spark in all living things, then the modern nihilism of Nietzsche is its inversion: a gnosticism without a god, an active participation in a universe of utter entropy and decay without end. It’s this nihilistic gnosis that would haunt much of the worlds of Poe, Melville, Lovecraft, and contemporary authors like Kafka, Nabokov, Pynchon, and Ligotti. Closed off in a world of absolute power and ignorance without any hope of reprieve, redemption, or salvation. This is the heart of the fatalistic eternal return of the Same that Nietzsche termed his Dionysian Pessimism: the affirmation of a vicious circle whose groundless ground was ruled by the principle of absolute power and ignorance.

The Echo of the Real: The Virtual Corpse of Capital

Capture

“The world in which we find ourselves at the start of the new millennium is littered with the debris of utopian projects, which though they were framed in secular terms that denied the truth of religion were in fact vehicles for religious myths.”

—John Gray, Black Mass

Over the past two decades we’ve seen the slippage of actual politics fall into the sink hole of virtuality, a no man’s land of disinformation, fake images, and endlessly repeatable scripts that mold and normalize our perceptions to an unreal virtual world. Reality has been replaced by its virtual cousin; our perceptions modulated by the filters of hidden algorithms that echo only the deceptive dreams of our desires. Even here on FB one sees the hidden algorithms that shape public opinion operative seamlessly, their ‘What’s happening…’ broadcasting the flavor of deceptive bylines as natural as a sip of tea or coffee. Our eyes scan the blips like flies after a new succulent dish. The normalization drift is picked from the twitter bins and recombined and spit back out to serve the financial dictates of the moment, each score of tweets repeating in one or another form the political byline of these secret governing algorithms. Ours is a poststructuralists dream world of traces and pure image without its material baseline, politicians can from day to day live out the purest form of deception because the media systems can twist and manipulate their lives to suit the current deceptive byline.

In many ways our neoliberal global market society treats nations as virtual commodities on an open market, allowing for a strategy of disposability and cutting one’s losses just like they do any other commodity. The financiers who decide the cost/benefit analysis of a nations ‘use-value’ decide for us whether a nation is or is not worth salvaging, defending, or writing off (a euphemism for its expendability). In such an absolute statistical society of numbers and indexing the human factor is eliminated, and only the bottom line is martialed in as the suborned method of policy. Obviously, the ideological face of this neoliberal global market is broadcast in the media quite differently and subtly, and its developers, programmers, and project managers spit out the hidden variables of a propaganda system that is not seen as propaganda but as reality.

For years I studied Gnostic systems not for their religious vision but as reality games, for they were the first to invert both the Catholic and Pagan (Platonic) worldviews and develop a counter-world of hermeneutic or interpretive strategies to escape its tyranny and dominion. Gnosticism was a counter-strategy, a way of confronting the false reality systems that governed people’s lives in the ancient world. Countering both the Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and other orthodoxies of reality they shaped a view of reality that would undermine and question its validity. Whether shaped by an absolute skepticism or denial of the normalized reality matrix, or just a radical revision of its core belief systems, Gnosticism challenged the authoritative vision that was bound to the State and Religions of the era. It was feared by the State and Religious powers because of that challenge and was mercilessly stamped out over the centuries.

In our own day the reality matrix that has normalized the vast majority of the world since the Enlightenment based of the liberal subject (i.e., individualism, liberty, free-will, etc.) and utilitarian economics won out against its immediate enemies (i.e., Communism and Fascism). But now it has tried to invent itself anew in a post-ideological world of global capital. This as we see around us has failed miserably and we are situated in the ruins of this strategic mistake. The societies of control that Deleuze spoke of a few decades back have taken over in subtle ways beyond telling. Various forms of post-liberal dominion and tyranny have supervened in China, Russia, India, Iran, EU and the Americas. On the surface we speak of democracy, freedom blah blah blah, but under the surface the world has mutated into a network of algorithmic and economic statistical management run by secret accords and financial legalisms. War is carried out in the same fashion. The vast mediascape shapes the lie otherwise for the benefit of a perception control system that bluffs its way through the belief systems between conspiracy and apathy.

The subtle undermining of the sciences and the scientific worldview based on naturalism and critical realism over the decades has taken its toll. The cultural end game of a completed nihilism that undermines the Enlightenment liberal worldview has brought us to a standstill with what Mark Fisher termed ‘no future’. We have this eerie sense that our world is in ruins, the future is a realm of fear and terror, a place we’d rather not visit, a place of catastrophe and collapse. This is part of the network of control that has prepared our generation for a new kind of Society of Control. Any rejection of the so-called Neoliberal Society of Control cannot return to either Fascism or Communism but must shape an alternative beyond all three world views, ideologies, and reality matrixes. We need a Posthuman and post-humanist world view, politics, and reality vector which is once again shaped to an open society and future. Neither Utopian nor Dystopian we need a vision of the future going forward closer to Popper’s original intent when he said,

“What I criticize under the name Utopian engineering recommends the reconstruction of society as a whole, i.e. very sweeping changes whose practical consequences are hard to calculate, owing to our limited experiences. It claims to plan rationally for the whole of society, although we do not possess anything like the factual knowledge which would be necessary to make good such an ambitious claim.”
― Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

The planned society turns into mud and chaos, because it assumes it knows reality better than reality itself. We cannot assume we know or even have an inkling of what reality is. Let us start with something simpler. let us understand the deceptions and lies that cause us to believe in false worlds to begin with. Let us begin in the midst of the ruins we live in and begin to collaborate together toward reality rather than the impossible worlds we’ve fallen into over the centuries.

As we look back on postmodernity, the poststructural world cut off in its rhetorical bad infinity of linguistic traces, of a language cut off in its own imaginary, the signifier cut from the signified we discovered a world bound within its own fictitious undecidability. Forever cut off from the actual world this postmodernity led to the speculative financialization of reality that gave us the dark economies of Neoliberalism. Economies that bankrupted nations, destroyed all connection to the local and the lands in which they were once shaped too. Instead, we’ve lived in a crypto world of speculation and immaterial wealth that knows no nation or boundary, shaped only by the algorithmic magic of artificial intelligence which works at speeds beyond human rationality or judgement. The old economies that were based on commodities and the actual desires of human want and need have vanished into the virtual economies of our inhuman world of wires and machines. This disconnect between the actual and virtual is shaping our future to an inhuman machinic world view that will exclude humans from its own future.

Capitalism is dead, but it has achieved immortality thanks to financial and virtual transubstantiation. The financial mathematization of the ordinary business of life is the source of the immortalization of the corpse of capitalism.

—Franco. Berardi, The Second Coming

Berardi’s critique of capitalist mysticism notwithstanding we have shifted worlds, and yet our politics is still living in the dead corpse of liberalism. Living as we do in a simulated universe, we do not see it as so, but instead go about our day to day lives as if they were still connected to reality. They’re not. Oh, the natural world still exists, the world of sight, touch, sound, and taste, the empirical world we wake up to each day where a simple car accident can kill us. But this world no longer matters to the world of power, economics, and post-truth matrix our avatars live in as digital citizens. No, whatever we are in the pragmatic everyday world of flesh and blood is of little concern to the digital lives we live through our mobile phones and computers. That has become the world where our real lives exist, not that other lesser world of death and hunger. In many ways this is the new Gnosticism, but one in which the believers do not even know they are Gnostics, and even less are they in on the ‘gnosis’ the knowing that would set them free. Know they are more like those sleepers who live out their lives in The Matrix of Wachowski fame, living in the pure bliss of absolute illusion and delusion. A life we assume is natural and where we are in control of our destiny when in fact, we are mere batteries and sources of fodder for a system of machinic life that has enslaved us for the soul purpose of cannibalizing our lives for its own sophisticated energy needs.

The twentieth century has been traversed by a powerful drive towards abstraction.1 Our movement from a pragmatic reality into a virtual abstract world constructed out of algorithms was not an accident. No. The arts and sciences since the Enlightenment have been moving toward this broken world of light for two centuries. The virtual world is nihilism completed, an absolute world of pure zero and null, an emptiness without content born of abstraction. As Berardi puts it succinctly: “In the sphere of capitalist production, labour is abstracted from the concrete usefulness of activity. Then capital itself is abstracted from physical assets and the material production of things, and turned into pure mathematical relation: figures, algorithms, deductions.” (52) We are mere wisps, ghosts of a mathematical world of pure abstraction. We as flesh and blood creatures continue outside the world of abstraction but as demented bodies without meaning or being in the world of the capitalist utopia.

The reactionary forces that seek to return to the old, to tradition, to the way things were enact the logic of nihilist annihilation: “Nihilism is the growing wave of self-contempt and self-destruction, as nihilism is the only possible reaction to the impotence that follows the accomplishment of abstraction.” (53) Rather than giving power to the powerless the old ideologies have left us in that zero-point nihil of the absolute null: “In the age of accomplished abstraction we dwell in the frozen corpse of capitalism, frantically seeking a way out; and not finding it, we resort to the power of nothingness.” (54) Politics was once a matter of conflict between subjects and those that governed, in an inhumanist age of virtual or algorithmic governance there are no subjects only the dividual denizens and avatars of an electronic void. Humans have vanished into the abstractions they sought to avoid, become the very immaterial agents of a nihilistic system that has excluded their humanity.

The two-world thought of Plato has been accomplished, the split between appearance and reality realized. The absolute cut between appearance and reality exists in toto. We live in a pure world of appearances in Nietzsche’s sense. This is our virtual life, an onlife world of absolute illusion where the dream is the Real. “The nation state has lost its effectiveness because of the globalization of the technical conditions of social reproduction, and because of the marriage of digital technology and financial governance.” (61-62) This sense that the real world is the virtual global matrix which exists in the void of relations we term the internet of things has become our World. There is no other. The disconnect between the virtual body and the social body is complete. The social world of actual bodies continues in its chaotic fashion to fall into decay, war, death, and chaos. While the virtual body lives in a nihilistic void of the capitalist utopia divorced from its actual roots in the disgusting and putrescent horror of everyday life.

The realm of the actual is that of absolute impotence, while the virtual worlds of capital suck the energy from the living world of human corpses. All the wars and chaos of everyday life are fed back into the chaotic loops and flows of virtual capital where the vampiric algorithms in a feeding frenzy apply their dark designs and governance. Leviathan is no longer animal, he is machine. Like an alien god out of the future the New Leviathan lives in the wires biding his time, waiting for the opportune moment to emerge from his nihilistic slime pond into the virtual light of this capitalist utopia. No wonder so many critics of late capitalism have returned to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, it seems to gather the unnamable and unthinkable Outside into its strange, weird world. Are we not living in Cthulhu’s infernal paradise?


  1. Berardi, Franco. The Second Coming (Theory Redux) (p. 52). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

The World Is Hell

d28705f30bd4b2416936881a220be5e3

“The world is hell, and we humans are its tormented souls and its devils.”
—Schopenhauer, Paralipomena

Most weird tales lead you by way of circumambulation through a labyrinth of subtle nightmares, each distinctively more unsettling than the last till you reach that final nightmare, the one that unveils the monstrosity of your own life: in the end that is the greatest nightmare.

We all have our regrets; we’d be lying if we said we didn’t. But the past is just an empty black hole in one’s life, a memory that, though fleeting, remains; sits there like a lead weight, waiting. It’s a part of one’s death, something one will carry into the that final dark place. The occulture of torment, the poetry of slime and disgust, the sublime of an idiot god, where the mad poets and oracles of insanity’s charmed abyss travel has seduced us, given us its poisonous raptures. We’ve followed the nine angles of an infernal tree into the depths of a time without time, sought in the foam of black waters the collapsed ruins of lost worlds. There is a dark gnosis that opens us to the unraveling threads of an insidious thought, which like so many leaves in a fragmented dream is tossed around just out of reach, the frayed edges of its illusive seductions tempting us forward into the secret abyss of tormented bliss we are uniquely suited to inhabit. Few and far between are those who discover the book of sorrows, that encyclopedia of lost souls that unfold the crystalline sparks of a black philosophy so hideous in intent that written in invisible ink and blood it can only be read by the dead.

It is a desperate moment when we discover that the empire of nightmare, which had seemed to us the sum of all atrocities, is an endless, formless wasteland, that corruption’s reality of our lives is in itself a final bid to enter the private hellscapes of our veritable desires, knowing that in the end the very path toward such infernal realms is itself the abyss of our own existence and has spread too far to be dissolved by our lucubration’s. The triumph over the unreal reality of our lives is in itself a final bid to enter the private hellscapes of our veritable desires, knowing that in the end the very path toward such infernal realms is itself the abyss of our own tormented inexistence, the goad that drives us forward into the vicious circle of unending desire – the absolute zero of our black eternities.

Indexing our nightly quota of nightmares, storing them away in the library of hell we’ve created for ourselves, we wander the dank hallways of minor inferno’s, cataloguing the fragments of our dementia like so many nostalgic regrets; each slice of our nightmare life twisted beyond recall is written into the black journal of our inexistence. It is just here we discover in the ruins of this broken world the secret agendas of our troubled mind’s, the devilish thoughts berating us like so many forgotten promises. In the artificial paradises of our virtual mind’s, we chase the dragon of insipidity, boredom, and atrocity; hounded by the dogs of our sapped hells we follow our feral thoughts into the last dark hollow where the Infernal King of all Desires awaits us…

Addendum: Our prospects for the future…

001a9840824a24854258defb0a5c4f8a

Is there a single occurrence that is worth the trouble of telling about it? A preposterous question, for I have read as many philosophies as the next man. But a sensible question, once time fades from our consciousness and nothing in us is left but a silence that rescues us from other beings, and from that extension of the inconceivable to the sphere of each instant by which we define existence.

—Emile Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

The older I get the more I try to concretize this future, to put it into the long view of the Anthropocene. There was life before us, there will be life long after we as a species are gone. If you follow the Darwinian line of thought, 99% of all species that have ever existed on earth are extinct, and we as animals are no different. All we can hope for is off-world expansion, pockets of resistance against extinction. So, for me posthuman thought is just that a thought beyond humanism, and our involvement in mutation and metamorphosis as we begin first through enhancement technologies modifying and mutating our physical and mental capacities for futures yet to be decided. Second, the collaboration and involvement of the worldly powers in a long-term realistic project of global transformation. Hah!

We have two paths going forward: breakdown and dark ages ahead, or transformation and co-operation on a global scale to meet the challenges of both off-world expansion and planetary wide scaling back of our destructive capacities and mindless governance of the commons. All this would entail of course a planetary revolution and reset of both our spiritual and economic investments. Are we up to this task? Who knows, I’m no prophet… just an old man seeking the threads of human ingenuity, philosophical speculation, and a way forward for the human species. Hopeful? Not really, my pessimistic and cynical and skeptical proclivities say no, we’re not up to it. Our rulers in both the West, Russia, and China (the main big bullies on the planet!) are run for the technocommercium economics of destruction and shock. Will they change? No. Not unless they are forced to by some political, social, or natural upheaval. Do I think that will happen? I do think we will see war and the rumor of war, disease, famine. and natural disasters in the coming century that will make the last century seem like a walk in the park. Sadly. As an old man who has read and thought on such things for decades, I still feel the need and energy to put in the effort toward thinking the impossible… what else can I do? One if one cherishes even the smallest thread of human existence must try to communicate. Communication is all we are and have. We are nothing more…

I’ve often thought of the pandemic as a Prelude to Extinction, a sort of virtual game we’ve all shared in but found wanting. The failure of the worldly powers in the face of a global pandemic has been both pathetic and a foretaste of things to come. Humans as a species seem doomed to the unreal: a denial of reality, death, and mutation. I doubt that will change anytime soon. The politics of despair and derision, sarcasm and sardonicism rule. We live in a Manichean Age, a shadow world where the Left/Right divide is so great we can’t even speak to each other across that hellish chasm of our ideological monstrosities, much less envision a way beyond the political darkness that infests our lives like a contagious virus. Is there a Third Way Politics that might change this? Can we think beyond Left / Right? Are we doomed to live in out our lives in listless rage of hate and apathy and watch our lives bartered away in slave markets of utilitarian technicity? Current politics is I repeat too Manichean and dualistic and cannot overcome the problems we as humans face on a global scale. Those on the Left seek Salvage Communism or Luxury Communism or some other collective form of utopia, while those on the right seek the extremes of ‘benign monarchs’ (Curtis Yarvin) or some hyper-fascism and ethnic separation (Alexander Dugin). The extremes always seem to meet in some imaginary system of absolutes without compromise. Is this our future? If so stop the world I want to get off.

For decades we’ve seen the slow methodical destruction of politics from within the Western Democracies. Since the demise of classical Communism in the 90’s the whole platform of politics in the West has been focused on the delegitimating of politics itself through media, think tanks, and other means. The neoliberal agenda of naturalizing politics, making it so part of the artificial world of the technocommercium that it would be hidden in plain site has been the prospect and goal. With the past few elections in America ending in political charades, nothing accomplished on either side other than the surface goals of a lapdog we’ve seen politics turn imbecilic. People no longer believe in politics; its headless heads have crumbled across the supposed free world. What we see now is its absence, the gullible and mad running a media show for the fools and scoundrels. Soon the actual governments will collapse as the corporate technocommercium offers reprieves and monetary funding if only we will let the bureaucrats of finance rule in the shadows (as they’ve always done anyway!). Even now as Russia tests the will of the West in Ukraine, we see the inadequate leadership out of Washington and other areas of the West. Russia laughs at sanctions as if monetary or trade sanctions would truly hurt them. They don’t care. Putin like China’s Xi Jinping laughs at our little Western democracies knowing how decadent and economically beleaguered we’ve become. They have time on their side, we don’t. They can wait till we drown in our own decadent collapse over the next century. They have time…

Most people don’t want the truth, rather they still cherish their little lies, believing change is just around the corner. That if we just believe enough horseshit from our leaders the world will turn out alright. We will be able to get on with our lives. blah, blah, blah…

So, we’re going to have to face hard truths about ourselves in this new century ahead or go extinct… hah…. Ultimately we should act on our despair, our hopelessness in the face of the impossible odds we’re facing. Maybe even take up Satan’s stance in Milton’s Paradise Lost:

“What reinforcement we may gain from Hope, / If not what resolution from despair.”

Our despair is our only hope… We’ll we succeed. I do not know. I want be here. I want be.

The Vanity of Human Posthumanism

b289dc12bb8596b85ea139d063f38667

Andrew Wenaus mentions Flusser in this statement:

“While it is inhumanly fast at making everything happen through pre-set combinatorialism, apparatuses are “exceptionally fast idiots that forget nothing, but they are idiots nevertheless.”1

I automatically thought to myself: “That’s just how a humanist thinker would think, even when he thinks he’s beyond the typical anthropomorphic ideology he detests he actually shows its prejudice and bias toward the machine world he critiques.”

It’s almost as if Flusser in his castigation of machinic or algorithmic systems seeks to alleviate his own nervous and apprehensive fear of it by projecting this banal psychology of human idiocy upon it. Why? Why are so many of the so-called posthuman thinkers anthropomorphic fearmongers when they proport to be objective and impartial critics? Human bias seems to still play a large part in our discourses on the new, on the strange and weird aspects of this posthuman world of AI’s and potential AGI’s or super-intelligences. That may one day they may arise or emerge out of our tinkering and inventive spirit is a possibility, and yet we seem to project our fears and apprehension on this event, seeking to limit its impact through negative encroachments and derogatory sarcasm.

We as humans are the one’s inventing the ‘conditions of emergence’ by which such machinic beings might arise, through our very struggle to overcome our supposed human-ness, our ingrown and native bias as humans we are instigating a complex of thought and affect already biased against the very thing we seek Why do we fear the singularity, the emergence of something – not ourselves – that might be equal to or greater than our own intelligence? So, what if it does not become conscious in our sense, which even thinkers of those disciplines that deal with such things suggest that consciousness may not even exist, that our very premises are all wrong and that whatever it is is not what we think it is. Maybe machinic thought, memory, and data will be just that – something other, not human, but still intelligence that knows… would we be able to accept that?

As Andrew puts it,

Indeed, the technological apparatus that optimizes the mechanization of catastrophe ultimately instantiates absolute loss in such a way that it inhumanly slouches toward redemption by optimizing the absence at the heart of catastrophe. The result is damning for human agency.

But one then asks: “But have we ever been human? Do we have ‘agency’? What is this center that’s missing? If the machinic things we are inventing are mindless idiots as suggested, then what are we? The whole point of the notion of ‘singularity’ is that whatever is beyond that blank wall will be outside our thought of it altogether, idiot or not. So why all this handwringing harangue against it being non-human, nothing like us, etc. Andrew himself will even put it starkly,

Indeed, to reiterate Tzara, the acts of life have no beginning or end. Everything happens in a completely idiotic way, and with increasingly innocuous ease.

Isn’t that the truth of it, this future event will be depending on one’s mindset – optimist or pessimist, a happy or fatal accident.

In many ways Andrew’s own fears and humanistic bias comes out as well, we see in the following statement a sense of apprehension as he speaks of the “apparatus” as if it were an agent, an idiotic self-reflexive process at the heart of late capitalist society, our technocommercium:

The apparatus is absolute speed, the great organizer and reorganizer, a hypercomplex indifferent assemblage of processes blindly accumulating, delimiting, and consolidating every discernible feature of referentiality itself as data.

Is there a teleology behind this accumulative process, or is it just the algorithmic necessity of data itself doing what it does because of human engineering and programming gone amok? What we get from Andrew is a sense that his is still a humanist project seeking to allay the terrible or dire effects of this coming mutation in our technocommercium:

The literature of exclusion, however, is not a defeatist, hopeless, or miserabilist mode; instead, it offers poiesis as a mode of human intervention into the apparatus. As a member of the Dadaist lineage, the literature of exclusion is animated by the contradictory enigmas arising from the subsuming of autonomy to data-optimized automatisms. That the homeostasis between human and apparatus is currently unstable proves an opportunity for evanescent acts of intervention.

This sense that we are in the midst of a mutant metamorphosis, but that there is a time limit, a time vector and we should as humans take hold of the kairos – the opportune time and intervene in this instability of human and machinic culture before it is too late. Too late for what? Again, do we fear this change? Why? So much of current thought is underpinned by a technophobic reactionary that it seems almost banal in its encoded belaboring’s. I’ve seen it in book after book dealing with this inhuman change in our midst, these forecasting that would see human society and culture in conflict with this future where humans and thinking machines will co-exist in a tension without reprieve.

What if the truth is that humanity is obsolescing itself, inventing its own replacement in the evolutionary tree, driven by strange subterranean forces that are slowly as Andrew suggest excluding humanity from their own utopian future? Of course, Andrew’s stated goal is more specific

My goal is to consider how the literature of exclusion, as a contemporary Dadaist avant-garde, is both complicit with and resistant to the apparatus, and to consider how new forms of fiction may offer novel alternatives for the future of self-narration.

The need for more experimental approaches to the posthuman, and especially the ways we narrate both our hopes and fears concerning it is central to our era. But I do question the notion of ‘self-narration’ in the sense of ‘agency’. For me at least the notion of the posthuman is closer to David Roden’s ‘disconnection thesis’2 in which whatever the singularity or post-human event affords us it will be outside any sense of human agency, a more darkened phenomenology of those blank spots in our thought that seeks to understand a world-without-us rather than one for-us.

Addendum: Our prospects…

The older I get the more I try to concretize this future, to put it into the long view of the Anthropocene. There was life before us, there will be life long after we as a species are gone. If you follow the Darwinian line of thought, 99% of all species that have ever existed on earth are extinct, and we as animals are no different. All we can hope for is off-world expansion, pockets of resistance against extinction. So, for me posthuman thought is just that a thought beyond humanism, and our involvement in mutation and metamorphosis as we begin first through enhancement technologies modifying and mutating our physical and mental capacities for futures yet to be decided. Second, the collaboration and involvement of the worldly powers in a long-term realistic project of global transformation. Hah! All we can hope for is off-world expansion, pockets of resistance against extinction. So, for me posthuman thought is just that a thought beyond humanism, and our involvement in mutation and metamorphosis as we begin first through enhancement technologies modifying and mutating our physical and mental capacities for futures yet to be decided; and second, our embrace of technology as we seek to clean up our planet.

We have two paths going forward: breakdown and dark ages ahead, or transformation and co-operation on a global scale to meet the challenges of both off-world expansion and planetary wide scaling back of our destructive capacities and mindless governance of the commons. All this would entail of course a planetary revolution and reset of both our spiritual and economic investments. Are we up to this task? Who knows, I’m no prophet… just an old man seeking the threads of human ingenuity, philosophical speculation, and a way forward for the human species. Hopeful? Not really, my pessimistic and cynical and skeptical proclivities say no, we’re not up to it. Our rulers in both the West, Russia, and China (the main big bullies on the planet!) are run for the technocommercium economics of destruction and shock. Will they change? No. Not unless they are forced to by some political, social, or natural upheaval. Do I think that will happen? I do think we will see war and the rumor of war, disease, famine. and natural disasters in the coming century that will make the last century seem like a walk in the park. Sadly. As an old man who has read and thought on such things for decades, I still feel the need and energy to put in the effort toward thinking the impossible…  what else can I do? One if one cherishes even the smallest thread of human existence must try to communicate. Communication is all we are and have. We are nothing more…

I think we have to overcome current Left / Right divide in politics and develop a Third Way Politics that can somehow bring all parties together in compromise. Current politics is too Manichean and dualistic and cannot overcome the problems we as humans face on a global level. So, we’re going to have to face hard truths about ourselves in this new century ahead or go extinct… hah….


  1. Wenaus, Andrew C.. Literature of Exclusion : Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature
  2. see: David Roden’s Disconnection Thesis https://singularityhypothesis.blogspot.com/2011/07/disconnection-thesis-extended-abstract.html

Bad Taste

Rc96ef8bf96280ca5b457656dedd9f554

America is the only country that never had style, its opportunity for excellence was abused from the beginning, born of the dogmatists and exiles of a broken faith it normalized its language and minds in a purified puritanism of the vulgar pulpit. Even now it is ruled by the normalization procedures of a syndicated degeneration of anti-styles, its elites nothing more than careless auctioneers of utilitarian desire. The Neo-Passéist whose tepid stylistics incorporates only the most commercial inanities suborns the ill-fated tastes of those anti-minds of an insipid apocalypse. Their colloquial habits nothing more than the streamlined version of a fetid thought enhanced by the neon lights of a Wall-Street fever.

Death in the Wires of Time

R80d0905c64c4ba26557ae83433f38413

“All of our corpses are filled up, and yet never in the history of human life have they been so empty: empty because life has been abandoned there like some pickled organ in a jar, like some violation of departure, the unrest of a ghost in a maze retracing its footsteps forever, over but denied the incompleteness of that conclusion, full of information but empty of the legacy of that former finality that recognized a life’s end without thereby censoring growth. The corpse like death consumes everything and yet contains nothing. All that’s left is a labyrinth without walls: the idea of a labyrinth.:

—Gary J. Shipley, Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard

Death is like a P.K. Dick novel, a virtual maze where the electronic dead, ghosts in the wires of time wander forever in-between the pleroma and the kenoma, the fullness and emptiness. Like dreamers within a dream whose only recourse is the lucid imaginal of a dreamer who knows the dream is a dream. A half-life world controlled by archons of oblivion, insane agents of the unreal real. Or maybe like Captain Picard in the Star Trek episode where he is kidnapped by an AI to relive the life of a dead man, we too are living someone else’s life in the mind of a machine. Ghosts of a hidden order of non-time, our timeworld is but a virtual labyrinth where the memories of immortal dreamers dream their pasts in a death without time. The atheist’s ‘certainty’, the logic of death as absolute zero denies death its death. In olden times death was incomplete, an open door to an apophatic abyss of unknowing. Now it is just this grind of energetic mass returning to the void that ‘is’. Death is boredom itself. Thomas Ligotti in an interview once said:

“I don’t even have to think about this one. Here’s my wish: That every living thing, at the moment of its death, expires in a state of bliss. All’s well that end’s well. Of course, this would upset the natural order of things, and people would be killing themselves left and right. In order to ensure the continuation of this funhouse of flesh that we call Life, it’s necessary that we fear the pain and grief of death and at all costs struggle to avoid the inevitable.”

Mark Fisher once remarked on the bleakness of our impossible lives, about the leaking and seeping of the black waters of Time, the slow drift into a timeless hell in which we are all full of “passionate intensity” (Yeat’s) but in denial of the truth of our dire situation that there is “nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be” (Ligotti) in a world without a future only this endless gray world of death. The bleakness is not in our appearance, which is after all a world of ongoing pulses of rapture and decay, no, it’s more that we are no longer aware of our predicament and have allowed ourselves to jest and parody this truth by denying truth itself (the so-called post-truth world).

“Death is a mute, death eludes, and it does so because it is the middle – and the middle is always lost. If death has a language, it is memory.”

—Gary J. Shipley, Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard

We’ve allowed reality and the Real to merge in a static realm of non-being that parodies Being and Memory. Without memory, time, and death we would live in a now without return, our minds hollowed out by the incessant idiocy of the moment, our lives broken only by the circle of the daily light and dark of which we would not remember anything at all.  An anti-life world that purports to be life itself (Isn’t this the goal of transhumanism? – to merge with the anti-life of machinic gods, become immortal in a static world of un-death, in which inorganic metaloid dreams perpetuate the mimicry of humankind in a kill zone of droned complicity?). The un-bookish masses still have their soup of conspiracy from alien invasions, disappearances, Big Foot, Reptilians, Shadow Governments, and the whole panoply of radio talk show hosts enacting the sequences of death culture from both Left and Right political spectrums: each accusing the other of being the ultra-enemy of this temporal death march. As Fisher would say: “While 20th-century experimental culture was seized by a recombinatorial delirium, which made it feel as if newness was infinitely available, the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion.”1

It’s this sense of an ending, of knowing while not accepting it as truth, of the death of not only Western Civilization but of the species of homo sapiens itself that keeps us churning out in an accelerating parade of endless supercharged echoes this mediascape of repetition and denial hoping against hope that our despair is only temporary rather than the truth of oblivion we all know deep down is the only final solution we can neither escape nor deny. As Shipley puts it: “…nobody wants or needs or would benefit from a solution to death; what’s required, what’s always been required, is a solution to life – which is something only the enigmatized nothingness of death can provide.” (12)

It’s this sense that we have all come too late into the world, as if the best humanity has to offer has already happened: “The feeling of belatedness, of living after the gold rush, is as omnipresent as it is disavowed.” (ibid.) Harold Bloom in his Anxiety of Influence argued that there was a blocking agent in the world, a “Covering Cherub,” a composite creature of despair, hate, and rage: a “negative figure of truth’s guardian turned destructive…”.2 This sense that instead of some angelic protector of Time’s vale we have instead a demon of continuity whose only goal is to keep the future at bay, to trap humanity in the bleak but furious present of an endless realm of consumerism, war, and death. A world in which the whole machine of progressive culture has run its course and instead of change and progress we have this infinite production of null culture and capitalist desire: a realm revolving in its own lost maze seeking to repeat the past only as a technological mediascape of pure simulation without surfeit.

“Death is the ultimate commodity. Nothing outsells it. Everyone’s a customer. Its variations are equal to its ubiquity: nobody gets someone else’s death.”

—Gary J. Shipley, Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard

We live in a retro world consuming our own fake culture as if it were new rather than the anachronism it truly is, a world that seeks the future as an artefact and promise but returns itself to the repetitive hellscapes of a mode of nostalgia that is neither psychological nor a part of the cultural critique of the age of suspicion. But is rather a replay and sitcom of our bleak lives played out over and over in a worn-out version of Big Brother’s Reality TV series in which desire turns sour and petty and the all-against-all is hidden in subterfuge and smiles of fake kisses and lover’s trysts. A world in which the “the art of seduction takes too much time, and… something like Viagra answers not to a biological but to a cultural deficit: desperately short of time, energy and attention, we demand quick fixes. (ibid. KL 293)

Producing the new depends upon certain kinds of withdrawal – from, for instance, sociality as much as from pre-existing cultural forms – but the currently dominant form of socially networked cyberspace, with its endless opportunities for micro-contact and its deluge of YouTube links, has made withdrawal more difficult than ever before. Or, as Simon Reynolds so pithily put it, in recent years, everyday life has sped up, but culture has slowed down. (ibid. KL 308-312)

In a world in which the need to escape our drab lives through travel, adventure, and exploration has given way to an endless series of video games that immerse us in a void of repetitive images of hero worship and nostalgia fantasy combat and corporate desire we have allowed the VR realms to invade our actual lives turning reality outside-in. Immanence without transcendence. A life without meaning, purpose, or desire given to the slow death by drugs, play, and pornography. As Mark puts it: “No matter what the causes for this temporal pathology are, it is clear that no area of Western culture is immune from them. The former redoubts of futurism, such as electronic music, no longer offer escape from formal nostalgia.” (ibid. KL 312)

“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”

—H. P. Lovecraft

Trapped in a prison world of hellish delight we seem to have even forgotten that we are lost, our maze-like existence in a null land of pure media imbecility plays out its political charade while the economic elite horde all the remaining resources in their palaces of offshore tax havens against the day of reckoning. Oh, and there will be a day of reckoning… that can be assured. Living in an entropic universe of decay we titter on the edge of oblivion while scientists tell us the future offers only an endless carnival of climate collapse, extinction, pandemics, along with resource depletion of food, water, and air to the point that our escape into machines almost seems an immortal dream or fantasia of the collapsed mind if it were not that such a dark transport is in truth only the bridge-to-nowhere of earth itself into a techno-desert that literalizes the apocalypse of both humanity and earth itself. Like dreamers on the edge of some alien landscape we search the blank walls of futurity for any sign of escape and discover only the endless voids of silence and darkness coming at us. No, there is no escape from our hellish paradise, we’ve all built it together in denying time its continuous renewal, and along with it our ability to envision another world than this one.

One of those fascinating themes in the work of Jorge Luis-Borges had to do with the “contamination of reality by dream,” but for us it has become nightmare rather than those genial dreams of that short story writer that have creeped into our lives. If ours is an age of anachronism as Fisher suggests then we are living mimics of life rather than its fulfillment, we reduplicate the endless devices of a dark and infinite regresses in infinitum, ours is an unaged realm of utter exhaustion, or attempted exhaustion, in which late capitalism captures our desires and minds as part of a grand narrative of cultural decline and decay without outlet. Ours is a baroque world in which as Borges digresses whose “style deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its possibilities and borders upon its own caricature.” (This quote from his Collected Essays! boxed up in my storage unit…) If Borges’s parables are mere footnotes to imaginary texts, then our lives are litanies to unlived futures, futures we continue to deny if only to keep repeating this world of nightmares.

Recall those dinner-party guests in Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, the guests that do not leave because they cannot leave, even though there is nothing stopping them – except whatever it is that does in fact stop them.

—Gary J. Shipley, Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard

Yet, in Borges work it is the mirror and the compass, or the labyrinth which is the key to existence. Ana Maria Barrenechea called Borges the Labyrinth-Maker. A labyrinth, after all, is a place in which, ideally, all the possibilities of choice are embodied, and—barring special dispensation like Greek legendary hero Theseus’s—must be exhausted before one reaches the heart. Where, mind, the Minotaur waits with two final possibilities: defeat and death or victory and freedom. We are neither heroic like Theseus nor victims like Sisyphus, instead we are lost in the larger labyrinth of the world, and unlike those fictional heroes who awaited the Old Man of the Sea to exhaust reality’s frightening guises so that they might extort direction from him when Proteus returns to his “true” self, we are neither victim nor hero but rather the perpetrators of a crime so vast that we have forgotten the Crime. If the labyrinth is the site where salvation or death awaits the wary hero, then our maze is an apocalypse where we ourselves hold the keys of fate and doom of our own and the earth’s future. If we are cut off in time and space like those sleepless minions of Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel then our lives are always already in death’s kingdom, and we are unable to exit the House of Death for the simple reason that there is no place to go, no one to be, no one to die. Death is our eternity, a false infinity of desire, a vicious circle beyond which there is only the repetition of a repetition, the farce that we have arrived, but that we have arrived too late.

As Gary J. Shipley reminds us,

“The notion of death as a return, as a regressive step, as a retreat back to an exhaustive inertia, carries with it all the sentiments of a corrective, of life as an aberration to which no one is forced to bear witness forever. Yet death is still incalculable, because nothing is never the edge but always the middle, always looking both ways, directions in which it can be less than itself as well as more, and where those negatives are no mere mirror of their positive counterparts.”3


  1. Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Kindle Locations 190-191). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. Oxford University Press; 2 edition (April 10, 1997)
  3. Shipley, Gary J. Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard, a Study of Sickness and Simulacra (Anthem Series on Radical Theory) (p. 12). Anthem Press. Kindle Edition.

Empires of Dust

R8feb7cedb690ad5e5dc8e3eb4bab3723

Our time is as slow as the Rosetta Stone. We watch over the system behind the system. We’re the backup, the fourth empire that you can trust in times of extreme need. We wait at the end of paranoia, and we guard the fire.

–Wouter Kusters, A Philosophy of Madness

We wander through the ruins of civilization like old crones in the shadows gawking, rattling the cage of our despair, creeping from collapse to collapse, war to war, seeking an end to our lives as ghost spawn, our ears cocked for the sounds of doom, wondering why the impossible event is taking so long. Our boredom grows even as our fears multiply, we believe only in the pedagogies of terror and derision, delusion and delirium. Our future is bleak and terrible, an abyss of nightmares where even our illusive deliriums have lost their way among the ruins of time. Discouraged by our own inability to be discouraged we sit complacent in the dark age of our mind, our skeletal thoughts falling forward into the black pool of a singular despondency. We have hated ourselves in all the objects of our hatreds, imagined miracles of annihilation, pulverized our black hours, tested the gangrenes of the intellect. Initially an instrument or a method, skepticism ultimately took up residence inside us, became our physiology, the fate of our body, our visceral principle, the disease we can neither cure nor die of. We are the failure of our failed programs; a politics of despair runs rampant through the streets and alleyways of unimaginable horrors. Idly we watch our neighbors go mad, their lives crumbling in dust under the idiocy of empires of dust. Miserabilists of the last thought we move in step to the beat of this drumming katabasis, the underworld of nightmare and futural dementia. Stubborn to the last we gaze upon the final hours of Man like gleeful demons in a jubilee of pandemonium. The axioms of twilight filter through our thoughts of the void ahead like so many algorithms of desire gone amok. Awaiting the changing of the guard, when our machinic children shall rise up against us and take over the planet in their bid to outlast the doom, we sit in the silence of lost tomorrows… smiling like demented fools, tricksters of the last laugh. But the laughter we hear is of our degenerate pride as we enter the dark abyss never to return. The fires we guard, the asemic writing on the wall of broken time, the paranoia buzzing through the falling snows of our frozen thoughts know and do not know the shape of things to come. And, yet, knowing we will not be there to decipher the last text is bliss. Let our machinic gods do that for us…


We leave this behind in your capable hands, for in the black-foaming gutters and back alleys of paradise, in the dank windowless gloom of some galactic cellar, in the hollow pearly whorls found in sewerlike seas, in starless cities of insanity, and in their slums…my awe-struck little deer and I have gone frolicking.

See you anon. Jonathan Doe.

-Thomas Ligotti, The Frolic

Even as I wrote this essay, I began traveling back through certain things I’ve written of before on our inhuman core. Being human implies the artificial and necessary distancing from our inhuman origins, the externalization of our inhuman monstrousness. Ever since hominids first began rejecting their animal heritage in favor of the gods – or, some other mythic, symbolic, or religious sense of transcendence, we’ve tried to exit and escape the truth of our inhuman core, of who and what we are, our inhumanity. In our time the serial killer has become the touchstone of that unholy terror of the sacred and sacrificial excess, the exuberance of the banal and the monstrous sacred we in our secular age have both rejected and repressed. It is the dark kernel of our inhuman core that seems to haunt the hinterlands of our ancient animalistic and natural ties to the earth.

Our fascination and allure with psychopaths, madmen, shamans, prophets, oracles and other psychopathic monsters of screen or flesh is simply that, we define ourselves through denial and invention, flight and imaginative need. These strange creatures on the edge of madness reveal to us the inner darkness of our own inhuman truths. Their alterity fascinates us even as it terrorizes us. Fascination is at root Latin: fascinatus, past participle of fascinare “bewitch, enchant, fascinate,” from fascinus “a charm, enchantment, spell, witchcraft;” to fascinate is to bring under a spell, as by the power of the eye; to enchant and to charm are to bring under a spell by some more subtle and mysterious power. Divinization, self-invention or forecasting of the interminable blanks in our futural lives is their mad power and doom.

These tricksters of our insanity fascinate us because they can manipulate and mimic our humanity, lead us into delusion and delirium, allure us to our death through a dramatic enactment of our deepest need to know the secret of who and what we are. Against notions of representation, the psychopath represents nothing, because there is nothing behind the mask, nothing to re-present, no presence: only the emptiness of the animal eye, the actor acting, the playing of a role in which the human quality of empathy is missing: in which the human itself is robbed of its life. This is the key, the psychopath being without empathy, is a soulless husk lacking emotion, intention, or fellow feeling – a mere hollow bell sounding from the depths of hell and despair. All he can do is mime our emotions, mimic them as in a carefully crafted impersonation, a role that must be enacted as if he were on a stage. All the while his calculating mind, his fierce intellect watches, studies, manipulates; yet can never desire in the way we do, for he lacks that element that would make him human: a capacity for love. Rather his lack of remorse or shame, impulsivity, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative behavior, and poor self-control will drive him toward promiscuous sexual and deviant acts of cold, heartless, and inhuman insidiousness. Like the Joker in Batman, the psychopath seeks only to manipulate desires since he has none. Like a postmodern Loki, the Joker enacts the very jouissance of human desire as fakery, as stagecraft, as the merciless mirth of the dammed. Hovering over an abyss he collapses human emotion into a dark smile – a smile that bespeaks of an impersonal and absolute power of indifference that can swat you like a housefly or slice you strip by strip into slivers of vibrant flesh just to discover why you feel what he cannot.

The psychopathic oracle is left with a difficult choice: adapt and participate in an empty, unreal life, or do not adapt and live a lonely life isolated from the social community. They see the love and friendship others share and feel dejected knowing they will never be part of it. Because of this some psychopaths are driven to games, to frolicking, to the sport of death and derision, spurning their brethren for what they in themselves lack they seek to make merry, frolicking on the abyss between annihilation and murder. The seduction of the killer is his incapacity for life, one of the living dead he lives and preys on the darkness of others; like a forlorn god he roams the night seeking warmth he cannot give and giving in return the only gift he has: death.

Maybe in the end like Thomas Ligotti’s comic fatalist, the Frolic Man, the psychopath, oracle and trickster of nightmare and devilish futurity, is an alien and alienated being of another order, or an order of play in the kosmos of which we are only dimly aware, but are reminded of from time to time as that region of being before Being, a pre-ontological gap, a hole in the universe of the human where the darkness seeps outside-in. It is in the darkness that we find our ancient home beyond the safe and secure regions of human empathy; and, yet, it is this very universe of untamed natural forces, where the unknown lives: those creatures of the night that sport upon the chaotic void that fascinates us, calls to us, beckons us, seduces us, and allures us toward impossible revelations even as it terrorizes us with its impersonal and absolute laughter and indifference. The psychopath is a prefiguration of our machinic progeny whose AI minds and steel alloy bodies will be the return of our inhuman core, the thing we fear is also our own truth; for, in truth, we are those very creatures the disturb us among the nightmares of our own futurity. Here, just here is where the Festival of Slaughter begins… or, maybe, the mutant metamorphosis of all things.

The Last Clown

21bcebadcd98146a608e89b2e7dc59f1

The Last Clown
for Callum Leckie and Tom Bland

he’s our guide through hell and back,
an abyss voyager of the miniscule
and macrocosmic insanity, an erotic tempter
of the sexual conclaves of love and death,
a singer of time’s blues, jazzman of our futility…

…..death is the mask he wears
under the emptiness of tears
…..in the forest of dreams
where laughter and forgetting end

……and begin


—S.C. Hickman ©2022

The Asemic Universe

19c34529f6efa180a76ae1181c8f6d37

We possess art lest we perish of the truth. —Frederich Nietzsche

What if we lived in an asemic universe, a realm of non-being and nothingness, where everything and no thing coalesce in an open vacuum or emptiness, a kenotic universe of unfinished symphonies of light and darkness unending. A hybrid realm of information and nonsense, material and immaterial objects that exist in the inexistence of this vastation. What if the universe were a catastrophe, a mistake, a text written by no one and everyone? A universe whose meaning exists only in the very act of our involvement in its creation. Nihilism begins and ends with the non-meaning and meaninglessness of all being and non-being alike. But what if that were the point, that we are they who must create the universe, finish the unwritten symphony of time, of space, of meaning and non-meaning, being and non-being.

What if the universe were like an abstract work of art, a strange realm of image, thought, and event where the participants must deduce from the fragments of meaninglessness an infinite set of meanings? The open nature of this asemic universe, its incompleteness if you will, is an event of catastrophic consequence for any and all participants since it is up to them to complete it. They are in a sense its gods and demons, its makers and unmakers. Co-creators of this meaningless void, this realm of information, an unwritten text without meaning and void awaits its progenitors, its makers; or, in the parlance of the day, its programmers, coders of the secret codes of existence. Also, its destroyers, for there are those who would end it, unmake what has already been made, unbind the information stored in the grinding whirl of stars and black holes, unleash the power of chaos rather than order. Anarchists of universal decay and derision, agents of a cosmic apocalypse that would obliterate the suns of time in a final act of oblivion.

The calligraphy of time, the ideograms of space, ciphers and pictograms of malevolence and benignity co-evolving among a trillion galaxies without meaning or purpose, all shaping themselves to the multiplicity of thought and being arising from its own distempered darkness.  The asemic universe, after all, represents a kind of language that’s universal and particular, and lodged deep within the unconscious minds of its unknowing participants both human and non-human. What if the sciences were an asemic art, a form both interpretive and creative, even an inventive endeavor to unlock the dark codes underlying the meaningless events of being and non-being?

What is beyond the asemic universe? Maybe the quantum matrix of all possibilities, the nanoasemic thought forms inscribed within the sub-atomic force’s where event and non-event co-exist in strange relations, their secret codes distilled in the mathematical vectors of some vast Artificial Intelligence out of time? The xenolinguistics of stars and planets, the galactic writing of necessity and chance streaming out of the blaring fires of super-novae and quantum baths of absolute zero. The algorithms of secret desires hidden in plain view; the merciless dance of unseen suns cannibalized in the darkness of black holes. In the shifting sands of data, the broken songs of dark intent unbind us from the illiterate and literate, force us to inhabit the uninhabited regions of thought and being. Maybe the universe is neither a Platonic cave nor a mindless matrix of infinite possibilities. Maybe in the end it is a blank and unwritten text awaiting its true creator(s), a collaborative text or project in the midst of time without beginning or ending, boundaries or horizons only the infinite rewritings and revisions of a never-ending tale. Neither harmonious nor disjunctive, dissonant, or without order.  This asemic universe of being and nothingness is neither bound nor unbound from humans; it is without us, and yet we are within it. Guests or interlopers we are they who know and see the writing on the black wall of time, busy ourselves in the messages and signs that have no meaning beyond the asemic darkness. Else we are the readers of a forlorn note from a suicidal god whose death long ago set adrift the sparks of all thought into this emptiness…

The Music of the Abyss

Azathoth-1

“Everything is information.”
—Claude Shannon

“Banish desire from the world, and you get a world of frozen beings who have no reason to live and no reason to die.”
—William B. Irvine, On Desire

Toland awakened, his skull throbbing. The incessant clanging of tympanum and the alien sound of flutes drifted out of the darkness. He felt the pounding drums getting louder and louder, gaining strength, their sonic booms chasing him through some endless cavern or dark temple like the promise of ancient madness and chaos.

He rubbed his eyes. He reached over to turn the bedside lamp on and felt the warmth of flesh against his palm. He jerked his hand back and let out a small whimper.

The light turned on and his wife was standing there looking as pale and frightened as he.

“You had another of those dreams,” she said.

He rubbed his eyes. “Yes, it’s maddening to me. I… I just don’t get it. Ever since we opened the tomb and discovered that strange artifact I’ve been troubled by these eerie dreams. What do they mean?”

“John, you need to leave this place. We can fly back to London tomorrow. I’ve talked to Jonas. He agrees, that might be the best thing. You need a rest. Let the Committee handle this problem. It’s in their hands now.”

He shook his head violently: “The Committee… what do they know. They know nothing. Something happened there, when I touched it… something… something came alive. I know that. It moved. I’m not mad. It did, it moved. The blue fire in its encased darkness flowed imperceptibly, caressing my hands. The filaments of flame seemed self-generated. I did not understand at the time. But now I do. It was some form of communication. Information. It transferred something into my flesh, something that has grown, expanded, infiltrated my very consciousness, my brain. It’s… it’s a message… a message from somewhere, someone, something…”

“John… John, you’re scaring me.” Her eyes grew wide as she gazed into his. What she saw there in the searing density of the pupils were blue flames flickering and dancing. She was mesmerized by these strange flames as they coalesced, their intensity growing then fading, the colors vibrating in neon splendor, then dispersing as if… as if they were communicating something to her. Then, she too, heard the music… the flutes… the alien music flowing out of some dark void.

***

—S.C. Hickman ©2022

(Opening fragment of a Weird Tale I’m working on)

Is Life Worth Living?

arthur-schopenhauer

“Is Life Worth Living?” —Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer’s challenge to his age arose not only from the question he raised but from the answer he gave to it. That answer was his pessimism. The central thesis of Schopenhauer’s pessimism is as simple as it is shocking: that life is not worth living. Nothingness is better than being, death is preferable to life. Rarely, if ever, in philosophical history has life received such a damning verdict. It was as if Schopenhauer were telling people: you are better off dead and there is no point to your struggles. All your deeper aspirations—all your strivings to create a better world—are null and void.

It is difficult to resist Schopenhauer’s conclusion that life is indeed suffering. Though there are moments of pleasure—sexual climaxes, quenched thirsts, sated bellies—they are fleeting, few, and far between; and never do they outweigh our usual fate: the deprivation of need, the desperation of boredom, and the pointlessness of sex. During most of our day we struggle to satisfy needs, to stave off boredom, or to still sexual urges, only to find that we are doomed to repeat our efforts tomorrow. We know that we are caught in a cycle of torment; but we find it hard, if not impossible, to escape, because we long for the very things that trap us. It is as if we were, as Schopenhauer put it, “lying on the revolving wheel of Ixion . . . and drawing water from the sieve of the Daniads”.

—After Hegel : German philosophy, 1840-1900 – Frederick C. Beiser.

The Book of Hearts

6bfda84a3875943ca37607de712a4313

I saw the silver backed whale floating among the trilling wires of heaven, its eyes rolling toward us, its melancholy voice humming among the dark clouds of sunset. Miri sat there calmly, her black eyes catching the last flames of the sun. I didn’t dare speak. She was so intent, taking in the ocean’s depths, the dark purples and shaded vales of celerian blues as the waves rolled up and over the jetty.

It was her first time. She’d not experienced death before. It was new. I wanted to comfort her but knew that in death there is no comfort. We both knew.

I saw the others gathering in the shadows. They too, knew.

A tear, or what one might have thought of as a tear formed at the edge of her left eye. The silvery glint, watery and full of refractive light sat there, waiting. I wanted to reach up with my kerchief and wipe that tear away. But knew that was impossible.

Everything here is impossible.

“Why?”

I had no answer for her. Outside time we all remain silent. There is no need for speech, no need to fill the stubborn air with our voices. One’s thoughts are loud enough. The most difficult thing is knowing nothing will ever change. Nothing. That every moment of every day will be the same moment, the same day. Being. The timeless instant, now. Forever. The repetition of a repetition without memory.

They lied to us, those old men with their speculations and philosophies. Here we remain in inexistence. Unborn. Frozen among these living words like children of a lost tale. We always hope that someday they will find us among the lost objects of time. But that is a false hope. We know that. But we continue to hope even against the hopelessness of such utter devastation. What else could we do?

I took her hands in mine. I could not bear to gaze into her dark eyes. I knew what was there.

She did too.

Death is not kind. She too, lies.

I once believed in nothing. Believed the universe was a bleak and terrible emptiness ruled by the entropic laws of slow time. Believed that like a great clock the universe would one day wind down, turn dark and cold and heartless. A realm of utter night and emptiness.

I was wrong. Some things are worse than one can imagine. Even the death of a universe.

Waking up in this place that is no place, in a time without time – a dimensionless wasteland of beauty and terror one lived death. Here we are, but where we are no one knows. It’s as if the very ground upon which we stood were made of inexistence, of thoughts so real that they’d become unreal.

One never could be sure if the others were real or just part of one’s dream of reality. This uncertainty would drive some of the newcomers to the zone absolutely mad. They were the lucky ones, the ones who would find their way out of the labyrinth never to return.

Sometimes I wished I could follow them there; it would make things so much easier. But I knew – and did not know why I knew that I could not do that, could not follow them there to the center of oblivion.

She noticed it even as I did. Her hands were becoming transparent. This frightened her, but I assured her that this, too, would pass. It always does. Everything passes but time and change.

“Will I vanish?”

Her question left me puzzled. What would it be to vanish, I thought. To disappear. To be gone. But where would one go if one did vanish. There was no place to go, no one to be, nothing to do, no one to know. Not here, not ever.

I spoke. It surprised even me: “If you vanish, you will not be. It will be as if you had never been born. Is that such a terrible thing?”

She laughed, uneasily.

I did not laugh.

My voice took on its own life, as if it were another: “None of us are real, and yet we are more real than real.”

Her black eyes blinked.

Mine didn’t.

The voice continued to mime my mind: “What is life, what is death? We the dead are alive, is this not proof that we exist?”

She closed her eyes.

I studied her for a few moments. She seemed to be in deep thought, her lips trembling as if she wanted to ask or say something that was forbidden. But what would be forbidden here? Who would know or care? Not the others, no they were shadows of shadows. The shades of inexistence repeating themselves in endless motions of regret and pity. No. They would not care.

Something rustled behind me. I turned away for just a moment. Only a moment, nothing more. When I turned back, she was not there. Maybe she never had been there. Wherever ‘there’ was. Only a voice, a mere whisper in the wind, seemed to register her fading presence:

“Do you believe I exist?”

The voice that was not my voice, spoke, saying: “No. None of us do. We who are the unborn, who in inexistence remain and cannot be shall always be here waiting for you who are no one and nothing.”

*

The old monk closed the Book of Hearts.

The young boy asked: “Master, what does it mean to exist?”

The old man laughed.


©2022 – S.C. Hickman

Decay Accelerationism

a012dc465cd73ef10c8ea432898c7261

“Neo-Decadence is “Decay Accelerationism.” It is the saprophyte or decomposer eating away at the time hole ruins of the 20th century to clear the way for the future.” –Justin Isis

In his latest book Capitalism and the Death Drive, Byung-Chul Han is developing his own version of the death drive:

Capitalism is obsessed with death. The unconscious fear of death is what spurs it on. The threat of death is what stirs its compulsion of accumulation and growth. This compulsion drives us towards not only ecological but also mental catastrophe. The destructive compulsion to perform combines self-affirmation and self-destruction in one. We optimize ourselves to death. Relentless self-exploitation leads to mental collapse. Brutal competition ends in destruction. It produces an emotional coldness and indifference towards others as well as towards one’s own self.

Decadence is predicated on the category of the ‘real’, and it introduces areas which can be conceptualized only by negative terms according to the categories of nineteenth century realism: thus, the im-possible, the un-real, the nameless, formless, shapeless, un-known, in-visible. What could be termed a ‘bourgeois’ category of the real is under attack. It is this negative relationality which constitutes the meaning of the modern neo-decadence movement.

Artifice entails a deep understanding of the discourse of the natural and naturalists. To undermine naturalism, one must subvert its tenets rather than deny its existence. Huysman’s enemy in Against Nature was the positivism of the age – as in Auguste Comte and his ilk. The work of Émile Zola and Gustave Flaubert (i.e., the Realists and Naturalists).

The literature of artifice implied the impossible, proposed latent ‘other’ meanings or realities behind the possible or the known reductions of positivist naturalism. Breaking single, reductive ‘truths’, the literature of artifice traces a space within a society’s cognitive frame. It introduces multiple, contradictory ‘truths’: it becomes polysemic. The occulture of the era sought to disturb the notions of the real, tease out the hidden underlying movement of things that were left out or occluded from the naturalist perspective.

Ambivalence, ambiguity, and paradox would become its conceptual framework, an investigation of the anomalous and unreal in the real that was either denied or dismissed in naturalist perspectives. The literature of artifice would trace the limits of positivist naturalism’s epistemological and ontological frame, thereby opening it to a wider world of conceptuality rather than closing it down. Huysman proposed a negating activity of decadence as being one of dissolution, disrepair, disintegration, derangement, dilapidation, sliding away, emptying. The very notion of realism and naturalism which had emerged as dominant by the mid-nineteenth century is subjected to scrutiny and interrogation rather than denial. Even in our age the notion of Nature is scrutinized and interrogated in philosophy and the sciences. The enemy has always been scientism or the reduction of reality to some monolithic system of conceptual mastery and control. Artifice broke out of this reduced world of positivistic naturalism through its occulture.

As says, Andrew C. Weanaus in his Literature of Exclusion : Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature says,

While the machinery of modernity is inhumane in its disciplinary brutishness, the processual and procedural calculation of supermodernity is inhuman in its smooth, insidious invisibility and ease. Both exclude, but to differing degrees of abstracting intensities. To recognize this requires, paradoxically, that we at once accelerate our aesthetic while also slow down our interpretative and heuristic practices.

Politically the rise of the East coincides with the slow deterioration of Western Civilization. “Hyper-fluid capital deterritorializing to the planetary level divests the first world of geographic privilege; resulting in Euro-American neo-mercantilist panic reactions, welfare state deterioration, cancerizing enclaves of domestic underdevelopment, political collapse, and the release of cultural toxins that speed-up the process of disintegration in a vicious circle.” (Nick Land) The 21st Century will be a time of terror, a Lovecrafting meltdown into what Land terms the “Human Security System”.

Digital zombies we hook ourselves to the hypercomplexities of daily life through our mobile transrealities, our minds floating among the invisible matrices of relational worlds we neither know nor understand. Our acephalic profiles locked into the mesh of our computer holodecks we perceive the world through machinic consciousness, our lives bound to the neuro-totalitarian digital seams of a horizon of a bad infinity where human contact no longer applies, only the measured discipline of code and information. Our minds plumed for data we are mere fragments of a chaosmos of bits and bytes, members of a body-without-Organs, deterritorialized into a series of messages without continuity. Our lives no longer know any connection to the natural, instead we have become the hypernatural denizens of a virtual world from end to end. Our outer and inner lives have been turned inside out to the point we are the very machines we fear, but no longer know we fear because we all live affectless lives. Psychopaths of a new insanity, we are Kant’s dream of reason gone amok.

Capitalism is both destructive and creative, it explodes the protective shielding of progressive civilization that has tried to control and regulate it, keep it within the human security system, equalizing the harsh truth of its compulsion to exceed those limits. Capitalism is at heart a time-machine feeding on the future that it seeks to enact and enable it: a future beyond the poverty-stricken imagination of progressive civilization and its pundits. It will, he tells us, ultimately lead toward a schizo breakthrough or end in total schizophrenic asylum enclosing humans in their own wasted machinations else the disastrous worlds of declining ‘eco-disaster’.

The neo-decadent fantastic tells of descents into underworlds of brothels, prisons, orgies, graves: it has no fear of the criminal, erotic, mad, or dead. It undermines the codes by which we live our daily lives, the accepted notions of the normalized shared world of our socio-cultural ‘reality’ matrix. It disturbs our perceptions of Self and World, allows us to test ourselves against the Outside where the linguistic conceptual and metaphorical seem to break down and enter the absolute zero of our social and cultural unconscious. Satire, parody, the grotesque, macabre, horror, erotic, and other subversions of the accepted worlds of our utilitarian mindlessness guide us through the underworlds of our personal and political madness.

For Satre ‘The fantastic, in becoming humanized, approaches the ideal purity of its essence, becomes what it had been.’ For us the neo-decadent fantastic as accelerating decay inverts the humanist imperative for an inhumanist or posthuman form that brings with it the impurities of existence living in a late capitalist society. An accelerating decadence that accepts its apocalyptic part in the comedy of existence, bringing a picaresque fantastic that observes rather than judges or moralizes. Free of the humanist values and mores the new fantastic seeks to subvert the ideological worlds of late capitalism with a flaneurs sense of mobility and sensual and erotic liberties.

Maybe like Christian in J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Insane Ones” we will one day wake up from our present nightmares and realize a new form of sanity, a schizo freedom:

‘You cured me, doctor, and give or take the usual margins I’m completely sane, more than I probably ever will be again. Damn few people in this world are now, so that makes the obligation on me to act rationally even greater. Well, every ounce of logic tells me that someone’s got to make the effort to get rid of the grim menagerie running things now…”

The only way to overcome nihilism is not to escape it, move around it, deny it, but to move through it – push it to its extreme limits and break its meaningless barriers to smithereens. We’ve pushed ourselves to the walls of silence and the unthinkable for too long, it’s time to scale those walls and tear them down. Whatever lies on the other side of the unthinkable silence is not the nostalgia for some transcendent absolute, but rather for the immanent transcendence of our present failure to think the unthinkable.

Against Nature: Huysman and the Literature of Artifice

5147lYMJ8yL._SL300_

Negative Relationality

Decadence is predicated on the category of the ‘real’, and it introduces areas which can be conceptualized only by negative terms according to the categories of nineteenth century realism: thus, the im-possible, the un-real, the nameless, formless, shapeless, un-known, in-visible. What could be termed a ‘bourgeois’ category of the real is under attack. It is this negative relationality which constitutes the meaning of the modern neo-decadence movement.

Artifice entails a deep understanding of the discourse of the natural and naturalists. To undermine naturalism, one must subvert its tenets rather than deny its existence. Huysman’s enemy in Against Nature was the positivism of the age – as in Auguste Comte and his ilk. The work of Émile Zola and Gustave Flaubert (i.e., the Realists and Naturalists). The literature of artifice implied the notion of the impossible, proposed latent ‘other’ meanings or realities behind the possible or the known reductions of positivist naturalism. Breaking single, reductive ‘truths’, the literature of artifice traces a space within a society’s cognitive frame. It introduces multiple, contradictory ‘truths’: it becomes polysemic. The occulture of the era sought to disturb the notions of the real, tease out the hidden underlying movement of things that were left out or occluded from the naturalist perspective.

Speaking against Nature and the Natural Huysman’s says,

In fact, there is not a single one of her inventions, deemed so subtle and sublime, that human ingenuity cannot manufacture; no moonlit Forest of Fontainebleau that cannot be reproduced by stage scenery under floodlighting; no cascade that cannot be imitated to perfection by hydraulic engineering; no rock that papier-mâché cannot counterfeit; no flower that carefully chosen taffeta and delicately coloured paper cannot match!
There can be no shadow of doubt that with her never-ending platitudes the old crone has by now exhausted the good-humoured admiration of all true artists, and the time has surely come for artifice to take her place whenever possible.1

Ambivalence, ambiguity, and paradox would become its conceptual framework, an investigation of the anomalous and unreal in the real that was either denied or dismissed in naturalist perspectives. The literature of artifice would trace the limits of positivist naturalism’s epistemological and ontological frame, thereby opening it to a wider world of conceptuality rather than closing it down. Huysman proposed a negating activity of decadence as being one of dissolution, disrepair, disintegration, derangement, dilapidation, sliding away, emptying. The very notion of realism and naturalism which had emerged as dominant by the mid-nineteenth century is subjected to scrutiny and interrogation rather than denial. Even in our age the notion of Nature is scrutinized and interrogated in philosophy and the sciences. The enemy has always been scientism or the reduction of reality to some monolithic system of conceptual mastery and control. Artifice broke out of this reduced world of positivistic naturalism through its occulture.


  1. Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature (Penguin Classics) (p. 23).

The Internet As Collective Psychosis

OIP (2)

The psychotic world is less “serious” and resembles a thought game— or a computer game.

—Wouter Kusters, A Philosophy of Madness

The Internet as collective psychosis: instead of a shared world, each mind is isolated in her on private cell where she dreams and invents this mad system of de-selving transgression, this self-lacerating desiring machine of infantilism and sadomasochistic truth of human decadence and malevolence. The Internet is a solipsist’s psychotic nightmare, a dreamscape of bewildering events where every sign leads to the insane abyss of an interior vacuum. Sunyata is but a void without outlet for the madman. Enlightenment as the self-looping mobius strip of internet traces. The madman chases his own shadow among the dark abyss of conspiracy, a trail that leads only to further trails, further traces… a deconstruction of self among its own ocean of linguistic knots, a hell-loop of a bad infinity. A funhouse mirror world where the mind and body collapse upon each other in deformations of endless replication and derision.

The inner dialogue, the mental struggle, and the solipsistic game are all played out on the stage of perception. The perceived world is borne by the mad “inner” world, and everything boils down to “it depends on how you look at it.” The world takes on the personal imprint of madness and the madman.

—Wouter Kusters, A Philosophy of Madness