Diogenes the Dog: The Cynics Way

“Diogenes’ Cynicism is primarily a philosophy of revolt” and a reaction against what he perceived to be the dismal spectacle of human existence. Consequently, it is not surprising that his ideas lack the completeness and development that we expect to find in a philosophical system. Undoubtedly, the negativism of his life and the overwhelming force of his mission as a defacer of values prevented him from putting the building blocks of his thought into a philosophical edifice, but this circumstance, as a characteristic of his mission, is perhaps what paradoxically constitutes the real merit of his accomplishment. He challenged, rejected, ridiculed, dismissed, condemned, and literally defaced the ‘currency’ of his time and set for us an example how we, too, should be prepared to do likewise in a true Cynic spirit. Much more he did not accomplish. Yet, in accomplishing this much, he did more than most other people of his time and of all subsequent times.”1

I remember reading Ambrose Bierce’s works when I came back from Nam. Nam had awakened me from my lethargic sleep in the stupidity of my Southern heritage. Growing up in the Bible Belt, believing in all the horseshit I was told, becoming a Patriot and religious idiot I was hooked into the whole mythos of the Southern mystique. Viet Nam changed all of this. Seeing death does that. Dying does that. Becoming one of the living dead does that. After such violence one does not come back whole but cut up in small pieces and fragments. One brings back only the memories of one’s squad who did not come back. Then one lives the rage of the dead. One revolts against the world…

My whole life has been a revolt against my past. Did I succeed in overcoming it? It still lays there like a bad taste in my mouth. Its rancor and bitterness still fill me with hate and yet I no longer blame singular people for this but the collective madness of a whole culture that was hooked into a mystique and mythos that suborned all of life to a “way of being”. That I blame one thing in this it is the false system of our shared Christian heritage that was spawned two thousand years ago. I revolt against this. I rage against this.

Nietzsche opened my eyes. Cioran fed me the spite and rancor of wit and the abyss. Schopenhauer taught me the underlying metaphysical tropes that align it to the dark contours of a fictional world that is more about the hate than about love. Milton gave me the Satanic light. Blake the antinomian life. The Clowns of literature gave me the laughter to go on.

Diogenes did not worry about the past or future but about the moment we live now. The propositions and concepts that guided his existence were based on this insight:

  1. The first proposition of Diogenes’ thought can be stated thus: the one and only object of philosophy is human existence, and any other object can only be a source of distraction and an inconsequential way to satisfy the unhealthy sense of curiosity that afflicts human beings.
  2. The second proposition is this: in our endeavor to make sense of human existence, we must direct our attention primarily to the physical world because we are primarily physical beings. Other worlds and other dimensions of being may be real, as is asserted by many.
  3. The third proposition of Diogenes’ Cynicism: live each moment as if it were the only moment of life.
  4. The fourth proposition of Diogenes’ thought: happiness cannot be achieved as long as we fail to understand its nature, for this failure makes us look for it where it does not reside.
  5. The fifth proposition of Diogenes’ thought. Happiness, understood in its Greek sense of Eudaimonia, that is, well-being cannot be defined in terms of possessions, pleasures, comfort, power, fame, erudition, a long life, and other similar things that, in the view of ordinary people, are its essential components.
  6. The sixth proposition of his thought: happiness is living in accordance with nature.
  7. The seventh proposition, can be stated in these terms: reason, that is, clarity of mind, is what must determine what is and what is not in accordance with human nature. Neither desire nor emotion, nor the ingrained human tendency to revert to animalism, nor, in fact, anything else, can be the judicial court that renders the final verdict as to what is natural and what is unnatural for human beings.
  8. The eighth proposition of his thought, which can be expressed in these terms: the possibility of a return to nature, understood, of course, as a return to true humanity, exists for every human being, no matter how distant he or she may be from living in accordance with nature. If human life is, in Schopenhauer’s language, “some kind of a mistake,” this mistake was never intended by nature, but is the result of human choices. We alone are responsible for the mistake.
  9. The ninth proposition: through discipline, expressed in his language as a6xrI6ig (askesis, from which we derive our word ‘ascetic’), we cleanse the mind of confusion and obfuscation, and the body of detrimental substances and unnatural habits, and succeed in strengthening the will.
  10. The tenth proposition of his thought surfaces: if a happy, natural and virtuous life is what we must pursue, given the social context in which we are condemned to live, it is imperative that we aim at developing in us an imperturbable and total state of self-sufficiency (aviapxela, autarcheia).
  11. The eleventh proposition of his philosophy: the world belongs equally to all its inhabitants, human and otherwise, and we, as human beings, belong to the entire world. When asked what his country was, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world” (DL, 6.63).
  12. The twelfth proposition of his thought, that, as a cornerstone, supports the incomplete edifice of his philosophy and contains all the elements of classical Cynicism, both theoretical and practical. We encountered this proposition as we endeavored to give an account of Diogenes’ life, specifically in relation to the point of departure from which he launched his onslaught on society.

The essence of the Cynic’s Way, is succinctly expressed by the phrase ‘Deface the currency, of course, not in the sense that every single piece of ‘currency deserves defacing. Even he understood that, in the light of reason, there are certain rare pieces that appear to be both sanctioned by convention and dictated by nature. Because of this, then, we discover that his shamelessness, that is, his ability and willingness to deface norms and conventions, was not absolute and total. He often appealed to his contemporaries’ feelings of shame, both conventional and natural, when he reprimanded them. Still, such pieces of the social currency in which convention and nature coalesce are truly exceptional. Like rare coins kept in antiquarians’ drawers, they are few and are generally kept out of circulation. Therefore, Diogenes’ campaign to deface the values and customs of his world took on the garb of an all-out war against the world. Those who, like Hegel, have emphasized the lack of positive elements in Diogenes’ thought may not be entirely mistaken.  Diogenes found little in the world worth preserving. The grand building erected by civilization, he would have said, is beyond repair and must be demolished, if there is to be any hope of amelioration for the human condition. The demolishing tactic he advocated and practiced, his rhetoric of Cynicism, is as dear as daylight and emerges with distinctness in every one of his words and actions.

Diogenes Attack on State Power and Persons

The man in the tub, who walked backwards and shocked his contemporaries by so many words and acts of defiance, gave birth to a conception of rationality that would underlie in time the efforts of so many theorists, humanists, and revolutionaries of later times who have struggled to liberate human beings from the bondage of atavistic fetters, irrational desires, and the brute force wielded by the oligarchies. Whether behind a street barricade in Paris or in the mountains of Bolivia or in the Walden woods or creating hope for humanity in the solitude of a writer’s studio, all those souls who have endeavored to unsettle the status quo of the sociopolitical world, have carried with them the lighted lamp of the man in the tub, searching generally in vain for a speck of true humanity in their midst, but reminding us that if human life is a mistake, as Schopenhauer insisted, it is only because we have allowed it to be so. (Luis Navia)

This notion of “walking backwards” is the sign of the Trickster, the shaman, the man against Time, against his time, against the rulers and powers in high places who seek to enslave others in false appearances, deceit, and corruption by force of rhetoric, discourse, and propaganda. The ideologists of a worldview in which you must be subservient to the dictates of social media and its entrapments. The battle between Left and Right in our social world is a false one constructed on a tissue of Control and Power that seeks to keep the populace at odds with themselves rather than attacking the real culprits the Oligarchs and their minions on Wall-Street, Bankers, and Power mongers (i.e., rentiers, etc.). To cut the fake worlds we live in is the job of the Cynic. To dissolve the false worlds that have been built on a tissue of lies.

Art by S.C. Hickman ©2023

  1. Luis E. Navia. Diogenes The Cynic: The War Against The World (Kindle Locations 2934-2945). Kindle Edition.

Xenogenesis: The Posthuman Nexus


Thinking about the James Webb telescope’s peering into the origins of our universe and seeing the remnants of galaxies that began over 13 billion years ago I wonder if the species of those early galaxies survived and migrated to newer galaxies. The possibility of a xenospecies that has already tamed the powers of a galaxy and harnessed its black hole or other quantum sources for more profound complexity and travel between galactic clusters astounds me. With trillions of galaxies in the known universe all surrounding in the nets of dark energy / dark matter is even more strange and speculative.

We humans are so myopic in our little mythologies and traditions believing we were the center and circumference of some grand master of the Cosmos: God or gods. Even now we still cannot believe there exists something else because with our primitive technologies and sciences we think we should have detected something, some message written in the code of our own technical notions of universal science. Such myopia and lack of vision has always been part and parcel of our narcissistic mind-set. I doubt that will change anytime soon.

What if these beings are already observing us like we do colonies of ants? What if they are as many suggest AI best synthetic beings, syntellects that are not only long-lived but have other thoughts and notions that would make ours seem like the thing they are: portals of illusion/delusion. Possibly beings that have not contacted us because what would be the point of it all knowing that organic life is doomed to repeat itself ad infinitum without ever escaping its narrow confines of thought and desire? Maybe as some suggest these aliens are awaiting the arrival of our posthuman progeny both artificial and non-organic species.

Taking a look at the popular fictions and their narratives since the turn of the new millennia we have seen for the most part Dystopian visions of our future in film, novels, and articles. We seem to have a foreboding about our future being one of terror, horror, and chaos. Our visions of technology have become objects of external threat from Terminator gods returning from the future to destroy our civilization to the cataclysms of Climate Change overwhelming us and presenting us with Super Storms and drought, disease, migrations, wars, and collapse. When I look for positive and optimistic works, I see delusional and utopian projects of containing the worst-case scenarios but not alleviating them.

We’ve always populated the future with our pasts reminding ourselves of every failure of human history to create peace and plenty on earth and a sustaining peace. Maybe humanity cannot do this? Maybe we truly are doomed to repeat over and over our dastardly deeds of slaughter and mayhem rather than create a viable alternative for our future civilizations. Even now we fear and objectify Artificial Intelligence as if it were an enemy or a cannibalistic god in the hands of money-grubbing Capitalists who seek to oust human creativity and progress. Others ponder this and suggest that AI is a tool like any other, that it will only augment and help us to speed up the process of collecting, collating, and analyzing the masses of data that no one human nor group of humans can possibly do anymore. With trillions of zettabytes of data, we live in a glut of information that has become useless in our fight to survive as a species. But even with the help of AI to sift through all of this data we are now blocking these very tools from accessing it, closing it off in silos behind gates that have been shut by the very powers that vie for control over it. We are doomed to repeat the gestures of stupidity and greed continually at every turn even as we march forward into our own oblivion. Sadly.


I often wonder what some alien species observing this might think. Would it assume that humanity’s only enemy is humanity itself? Probably. I do.

Yet, there are those who see a future where our convergence with technology begins to reshape us and our planet, terraforming ourselves and our planetary civilization into something thriving and beyond the human nexus and into an age of converging posthumanism. One in which the faulty desires that have led humanity into illusion and delusion are stripped of their affective stupidity. One in which we become more machinic and our intelligent machines become more human. Will this come about as the Singulatarians suppose? Or will it be something quite different? How will our heritage in genetics and brain sciences coalesce to produce something new?

Changing of the Guard: AI, China, and the West


“Something has shifted, it seems. We are making new worlds faster than we can keep track of them, and the pace is unlikely to slow. If our technologies have advanced beyond our ability to conceptualize their implications, such gaps can be perilous. In response, one impulse is to pull the emergency brake and to try put all the genies back in all the bottles. This is ill-advised (and hopeless). Better instead to invest in emergence, in contingency: to map the new normal for what it is, and to shape it toward what it should be.”

—Benjamin H. Bratton, The New Normal

I think this is obvious now as we see the various technologies arising from the Convergence complex of NBIC and AI in our midst. Many seemed surprised when it emerged from long years of intensive theoretical and academic research into the commercial sector. But we know that was a fiction too. AI has been steadily evolving for a couple of decades and growing in various directions that it was only around 2013 that the buzz word of Automation and Accelerationist thought once again took stage and as quickly was critiqued and found wanting. That is till the various trends in ai: art, text, music, and so many other fields where ai in becoming an invasive species of intelligent algorithms and automation powering up in that ever-accelerating curve to empty corporations of a certain type of human productivity.

Of course, we’ve seen many of the ultra-liberal conclaves of the Old Humanism seeking to apply the breaks by closing their doors to the creative markets of publishing houses, etc. This was to be expected and yet isn’t the old adage that the “cat is out of the bag” already apparent? Are we not facing the delusion that we can stop this juggernaut? AI is here and it’s not going away. For all our critiques of Capitalism no one believes it will be stopped anymore except die-hard Marxists and extreme left-wing Progressives. While we in the supposed Democratic Nations talk about putting in safety algorithms to curtail runaway ai we know that rogue nations like China are already implementing Tyrannical measures of a Control Society using ai as the lynchpin in its ever-widening Surveillance State.

Does anyone believe China will stop? No. Only the economic powers of the West who dream of regaining control of their demented Modernity seem to believe in such truths. We seem to be on the edge of something, a sort of widening precipice of unease in the world that is already teetering on the edge of economic collapse and a changing of the guard that makes Bretton Woods look like a minor blip of a blight. Our blight is becoming more and more obvious as the West moves into its Twilight of the Gods. In the coming century China will replace the West in this race of intelligence unless we are allowed to embrace these new technologies without the dark and foreboding devolution of the Humanist degradation. We are in the midst of a Posthuman age arising and we better jump on the bandwagon rather than sit back and play moral chess-games in an ill-matched non-event.

Beyond the Nihil?


So, where do you stand now? Somewhere between hope and despair? I agree that nihil and pessimism lead to futility which for me at least is no longer anything but a coward’s way of fatalism in its worst form. Humans are meaning creating animals, we’ve been so for tens of thousands of years so why give into this modern stupidity of nihil. I studied Ligotti and the whole pessimist tradition from Schopenhauer onward and find it to be less than adequate. So what if the universe lacks meaning. That’s the point, isn’t it? We’re the ones that create the meaning the universe lacks. That’s the key to what humanity is and will continue to be unless we forget our creative natures. All our talk of post-humanity seems just another salvation mythology – people seeking to be elsewhere, to be other than they are, to escape into some new transcendent mythos. As old as I am I’ll keep with the men and women who pondered such things in some of the greatest writings humans will ever again bring to light. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Montaigne, and so many other guiding lights along the way. But I’m old and still harbor the feint illusion that words matter, and that the best ordering of these images of man are bound to that illimitable tradition spanning from Homer to Joyce. I’m sure others will argue differently which is to be expected. In a world without meaning each of us must singularly and with each other create the meaning that will dignify our lives. What else is there?

Nietzsche’s Laughter

“Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

As a young man I read and reread Nietzsche as if he were a prophet. As an old man I read him because he taught me how to laugh, and not to laugh most at my own delusions and illusions. For him art, not truth was the key to existence. “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” To suffer in the nihil, to live a life without meaning is to suffer the stupidity of existence. For Nietzsche as with Schopenhauer his mentor art is the only redemption from the nihil of this stupidity. Art and laughter.

“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.” (notebooks)

Nietzsche believed that suffering was a way of testing and strengthening one’s character and spirit. He also thought that suffering could lead to creativity and greatness. Nietzsche argues that the will to power is the root of all happiness and that our suffering is actually a source of strength. He believes that when we embrace our suffering, it can lead us to greater things. Nietzsche saw suffering as a sign that we are alive. He believed that discipline and great suffering are what have produced all the elevations of humanity so far and that without suffering, we would all be content and passive. He wanted to inspire people to overcome their weaknesses and create their own values. He also wanted to show that suffering is not something to be avoided, but rather something to be embraced and transformed into something positive. This something “positive” for him was art and creativity, laughter and acceptance of the eternal round of existence without end.

Nietzsche never did truly overcome his mentor Schopenhauer; he only brought to fruition the threads of that pessimism and created his own incessant need to escape the clutches of the Christian world within which he was trapped. For him Christianity, Capitalism, the bourgeoise, and democracy were all anathema and led to an anti-life of drudgery, slavery, and corruption of existence. He did not live to finish his work. Sadly. We have only the remnants of its tatters as he slowly decayed into the illness that haunted him for years.

His flamboyant rhetoric rings hollow for me now, and yet the underlying message of suffering and laughter remains. As I reach toward that far country where none have returned, I go back to much of these early readings with a lifetime of my own experience. Having learned the art of laughter through suffering in my own life I know now how the Greeks created their dream dramas of the tragic and comic. People forget that the Greeks sought both the tragic and the comic in drama. We have no full-length farce play – the Satyr plays that would end every session and staging. We are still too influenced by the 19th century musings on the Greeks. Tragedy leads to the need for comedy and farce for humans cannot live with suffering alone but must have the “laughter of the gods” to bring them back to themselves.

Nietzsche wrote that “perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter”. He also wrote that “one does not kill by anger but by laughter” and that “to live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering”. Nietzsche believed that laughter is the only remedy to suffering because he saw laughter as a way of affirming life and overcoming nihilism. Nietzsche’s laughter was not a superficial or cynical laughter, but a deep and superhuman laughter that came from the recognition of the tragic and comic aspects of life. He admired the ancient Greeks for their ability to combine tragedy and comedy in their art and culture, and he saw himself as a follower of Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy and laughter. He believed that laughter could be a sign of strength, courage and wisdom, and a way of transcending the human condition. He wanted to show that laughter is not a sign of weakness or escapism, but rather a sign of vitality and creativity. He wanted to show that laughter is not a denial of suffering, but rather a way of transforming suffering into something positive.

Nietzsche’s Vitalism

Nietzsche’s vitalism is a philosophical view that affirms life as the highest value and the source of all meaning and power. Nietzsche rejected the traditional metaphysical and moral systems that he saw as denying or devaluing life, such as Christianity, Platonism, Kantianism and Schopenhauerian pessimism. He also criticized the scientific and naturalistic views that he saw as reducing life to a mere mechanism or a product of blind chance.

Nietzsche’s vitalism is based on his concept of the will to power, which he understood as the fundamental force of nature and the essence of all living beings. The will to power is not a rational or conscious will, but a primal and instinctive drive to overcome resistance, to grow, to create, to dominate and to express oneself. The will to power is also the source of all values, since values are expressions of what one desires and affirms.

Nietzsche’s vitalism is also influenced by his interpretation of Darwinian evolution, which he saw as a process of increasing complexity and diversity of life forms through natural selection. However, Nietzsche did not accept the Darwinian explanation of natural selection as merely accounting for the quantity of species within organic history, but he saw it as a manifestation of a vitalistic force that increases the quality-of-life forms throughout progressive biological evolution. He held that nature is essentially the will to power.

Nietzsche’s vitalism is not a dogmatic or systematic doctrine, but a dynamic and experimental attitude towards life. He did not claim to have a definitive or objective truth about reality, but rather he offered his own perspectives and interpretations as expressions of his own will to power. He also encouraged his readers to create their own values and meanings in accordance with their own will to power, and to challenge and overcome the values and meanings imposed by others.

Nietzsche’s vitalism is not a naive or optimistic view of life, but rather a realistic and tragic view that acknowledges the suffering, conflict and uncertainty inherent in existence. However, Nietzsche’s vitalism also affirms the possibility of joy, creativity and greatness in the face of adversity. He wanted to inspire people to become what he called “free spirits” or “supermen”, who are able to affirm life in its totality and create their own destiny.

People may reject Nietzsche’s vitalism for various reasons, depending on their philosophical, scientific or moral perspectives. Some possible objections are:

– Nietzsche’s vitalism is based on a metaphysical concept of the will to power, which is not empirically verifiable or falsifiable, and which may be seen as a projection of his own psychological state or personal values.
– Nietzsche’s vitalism is incompatible with the modern scientific understanding of nature and life, which does not require any vitalistic force or principle to explain the complexity and diversity of living beings, and which does not support any teleological or progressive view of evolution.
– Nietzsche’s vitalism is a form of idealism, which reduces all reality to a single immaterial principle – life or becoming – and which denies the existence or value of anything that does not conform to this principle, such as matter, stability, identity or difference.
– Nietzsche’s vitalism is a form of nihilism, which rejects all traditional values and meanings, and which leaves no objective or universal basis for morality or justice, but only subjective and relative expressions of the will to power.
– Nietzsche’s vitalism is a form of elitism, which glorifies the superior individuals who are able to affirm their will to power and create their own values, and which despises the inferior masses who are unable to do so, or who follow the values imposed by others.


The philosopher of our age most influenced by Nietzsche is Gilles Deleuze who wrote a book called Nietzsche and Philosophy in which he treats Nietzsche as a systematically coherent philosopher, discussing concepts such as the “will to power” and the “eternal return”. Deleuze also wrote another book called Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life in which he explores Nietzsche’s idea of a life that is not limited by reason or morality, but expresses a pure immanence of what is yet to come.

Deleuze’s was influenced by Nietzsche’s vitalism in that it affirms life as a creative and dynamic process that goes beyond rationality and morality. Deleuze sees life as a multiplicity of becoming, difference, and affirmation, rather than a unity of being, identity, and negation. Deleuze also rejects any metaphysical or theological foundation for values, and instead proposes a genealogy of values that traces their historical and contingent origins. Deleuze’s philosophy can be seen as an attempt to develop a new empiricism and a new art that capture the richness and diversity of life in its full immanence.

The Technological Outside: Philosophy and the Posthuman

Summa Technologica

Art by S.C. Hickman

“Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.”
— Jacques Ellul

“Technique does not dominate or oppress us – it is not, I have argued, a quasi-subject – but the iterative extension of desire/action beyond reflection or subjective identification. This cannot be mediated by any situated ethics or democratic politics. It can only explored through the cultivation and exploration of biomorphic potentials.”
— David Roden, Titane

Roden shows the dangers that arise when science loses the human input and therefore loses the moral input and a certain finality. Technology itself has no inherent goal or finality and does not know right from wrong. Perhaps then we have to let go of the idea of adapting technology to our moral worldview and accept the inevitability of having to adjust our perception of the world to ever advancing science and technology.
— Kasper Raus on David Roden’s Posthuman Life: Philosophy of the Edge of the Human

For decades philosophy bandied about the notion (concept) of the Outside. The notion of the outside is a concept of philosophy that was explored by Michel Foucault in his essay A Thought of/from the Outside (La pensée du dehors), which was inspired by the work of Maurice Blanchot. Foucault uses the term to describe a kind of thinking that escapes the limits of subjectivity and language, and that challenges the humanist assumptions of Western philosophy. The outside is not a place or a thing, but a dimension of radical alterity that cannot be reduced to any representation or discourse.

Also, the difference between the thought of the outside and the thought from outside is not very clear, and Foucault himself seems to use both expressions interchangeably. However, one possible way to understand the distinction is to say that the thought of the outside is a way of thinking that tries to approach or approximate the outside, while the thought from outside is a way of thinking that originates or emerges from the outside. In other words, the thought of the outside is a movement of reflection or analysis that seeks to go beyond the boundaries of the self and language, while the thought from outside is a movement of creation or expression that breaks through those boundaries and reveals something new and unexpected.

The question of how to access this Outside which is inaccessible to representation is not clear in Foucault, but he suggests that the outside can be accessed through certain experiences or practices that challenge or disrupt the normal functioning of subjectivity and language. For example, he mentions literature, poetry, art, madness, death, eroticism and transgression as possible ways of opening up to the outside. He also implies that the outside is not something that can be fully grasped or mastered, but rather something that always remains elusive and mysterious. The outside is not a stable or fixed reality, but a dynamic and changing process that constantly transforms and surprises us. Much of this would return us to an earlier thinker Gorges Bataille which is beyond this post’s intent.

I will say of Bataille is his notion of transgression. Transgression is a concept that Foucault develops in his essay Preface to Transgression, which is also inspired by the work of Bataille. Transgression is a way of acting or behaving that violates or crosses the limits or norms that define a certain order or system. For example, transgression can be a form of rebellion, resistance, subversion, or liberation from a dominant or oppressive regime of power, knowledge, morality, or sexuality. Transgression is not simply a negation or destruction of the limit, but rather a movement that affirms and reveals the limit as such. Transgression is also not a permanent or stable state, but rather a fleeting and precarious moment that exposes the fragility and contingency of the limit. Transgression relates to the outside because it is a way of accessing or experiencing the outside as a force or energy that exceeds and escapes the limit. Transgression is a way of opening up to the outside as a source of creativity and transformation. Transgression is also a way of expressing the outside as a gesture or sign that challenges and disrupts the established order or system.

As I listened to David Roden’s lecture or conversation on the Technological Outside I see a different form of abstraction arising from the technological system itself rather than the agency of humans. The notion that Bataille and Foucault work with is the noumenal Outside or the form it takes for Agency (i.e., human subject, subjectalism (Deleuze), etc.) He works through the notions of Holism and Anti-Holism in the Philosophy of Technology. I’ll come back to this.

David leans on Jaques Ellul’s The Technological Society. According to Jacques Ellul’s work he was a critic of the technological society, which he defined as a society dominated by technique. Technique is a rational and efficient method of achieving an end, which can be applied to any field of human activity. Ellul argued that technique has become an autonomous and oppressive force that threatens human freedom and dignity. 2

The technological outside could be understood as a concept that challenges or resists the logic of technique and its effects on society. It could be a way of thinking or acting that does not conform to the norms or expectations of the technological society, but rather seeks to create alternative possibilities or values. It could also be a way of exposing or questioning the hidden assumptions or consequences of technique and its impact on human life and nature. The technological outside could be related to Foucault’s notion of the outside, as both concepts imply a critique of the dominant order or system and a search for new forms of expression or transformation. However, the technological outside could also differ from Foucault’s notion of the outside, as it might focus more on the specific problems or challenges posed by technology and its development, rather than on the general issues of subjectivity and language.2

But what is Technique? Let’s take a short look back… Plato and Aristotle developed different views on the notion of technique. Plato regarded technique as a practical skill or art (techne) that is subordinate to theoretical knowledge or wisdom (episteme). He also distinguished between true and false techniques, depending on whether they aim at the good or not. For example, he considered medicine and justice as true techniques, but rhetoric and sophistry as false techniques. Aristotle, on the other hand, regarded technique as a productive science or knowledge (episteme poiētikē) that is independent from theoretical knowledge or wisdom (episteme theoretikē). He also classified different kinds of techniques according to their ends and means. For example, he distinguished between productive techniques (such as carpentry and painting), practical techniques (such as ethics and politics), and theoretical techniques (such as logic and rhetoric).

This battle between the pragmatic basis of techne-art-skill in Plato and the notion of productive techne-science and its independence of Agency is still at the core of much Philosophy of Technology. This is the battle over the subordination or autonomy of teche, a thread that continues to this day.

Ellul and Simondon are two modern thinkers who have developed their own notions of technique that differ from those of Plato and Aristotle. Ellul defines technique as the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity. He argues that technique has become an autonomous and oppressive force that dominates and transforms society and nature. He also criticizes the technological society for its lack of ethics and spirituality. Simondon defines technique as a mode of existence of technical objects that have their own logic and evolution. He argues that technique is not opposed to culture or nature, but rather constitutes a third reality that mediates between them. He also proposes a philosophy of individuation that accounts for the relation between human beings and technical objects.

One way to compare Plato and Aristotle with Ellul and Simondon is to consider their views on the relation between technique and wisdom. Plato and Aristotle both regard wisdom as the highest form of knowledge that transcends technique and guides human action toward the good. They also view technique as a practical or productive skill that is subordinate or independent from wisdom. Ellul and Simondon, on the other hand, regard technique as a complex and dynamic phenomenon that challenges or surpasses wisdom and shapes human action toward efficiency or innovation. They also view technique as a system or a mode of existence that is autonomous or interdependent from wisdom.

Ellul’s notion is developed out of an attack on what he saw as the instrumentalism in modernity and its industrialization of thought and life as an oppressive force of Control. Much of this would lead us into Deleuze’s Societies of Control and later thought. I’ll do this on a future post.

Here are some possible advantages and disadvantages of each view:

– Plato and Aristotle’s view: An advantage of this view is that it provides a clear and coherent framework for understanding the nature and purpose of human life and action. It also offers a normative and ethical guidance for evaluating and choosing among different techniques and ends. A disadvantage of this view is that it may be too idealistic and unrealistic in its conception of wisdom and the good. It may also be too rigid and dogmatic in its rejection or limitation of certain techniques or fields of activity.

– Ellul and Simondon’s view: An advantage of this view is that it reflects and responds to the complexity and dynamism of the modern world and its technological development. It also acknowledges and explores the potential and creativity of technique and its effects on society and nature. A disadvantage of this view is that it may be too pessimistic or optimistic in its assessment of technique and its consequences. It may also lack a clear and consistent criteria for judging and regulating technique and its relation to human values and goals.

I’ll conclude with David Roden a contemporary philosopher who has developed a notion of the outside and technology in his book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. Roden argues that we cannot know what posthumans will be like or how they will relate to the world, because they will be radically different from us and may have a different kind of subjectivity or phenomenology. He calls this the disconnection thesis, which implies that posthumans will be outside our human understanding and values. He also argues that technology is not a mere tool or instrument, but a complex and dynamic system that has its own logic and evolution. He calls this new substantivism, which implies that technology is not neutral or controllable, but rather has its own agency and potentiality. 3

One way to compare Roden’s notions with those of Plato, Aristotle, Ellul and Simondon is to consider their views on the relation between technology and humanity. Plato and Aristotle both regard technology as a subordinate or independent skill that serves human ends and values. Ellul and Simondon both regard technology as an autonomous or interdependent phenomenon that shapes human ends and values. Roden, on the other hand, regards technology as a transformative and unpredictable force that may create posthuman ends and values that are incomprehensible or irrelevant to us. He also challenges the idea that there is a fixed or essential human nature that defines our identity and morality.

Roden will at the end of his conversation describe a position of Technological Nihilism. Nihilism is a philosophy that rejects generally accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning.

Technological nihilism is a form of nihilism that argues that technology has a negative or destructive impact on human life and values. It may claim that technology alienates us from ourselves and others, erodes our sense of purpose and dignity, or threatens our survival and freedom. It may also claim that technology is an autonomous and unstoppable force that we cannot control or resist. Technological nihilists: Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Ellul, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nolen Gertz. These thinkers have criticized technology for its negative effects on human values, culture, nature, or freedom. They have also questioned the possibility or desirability of controlling or resisting technology.

Rational nihilism is a form of nihilism that argues that reason has no inherent value or authority. It may claim that reason is a subjective or relative construct that cannot provide us with any objective or universal knowledge or morality. It may also claim that reason is a futile or meaningless activity that cannot answer the fundamental questions of human existence. Rational nihilists: Gorgias, Hegesias of Cyrene, Friedrich Jacobi, Max Stirner, Emil Cioran, Richard Rorty. These thinkers have rejected or doubted the value or authority of reason. They have also challenged or denied the existence or possibility of objective or universal knowledge or morality. 4

Bernard Stiegler and Merlin Donald

Another contemporary thinker of technology and techne was the late Bernard Stiegler a student of Derrida. He was a French philosopher who wrote extensively on the relationship between technology and human culture. He developed the concept of technics as a form of artificial memory that shapes human evolution and history. He also used the term techne to refer to the art or skill of making things, which he considered as a fundamental aspect of human existence.

According to Stiegler, technics and techne are inseparable from human life, as they constitute the process of exteriorization of human memory and intelligence. He argued that humans are always already technical beings, who rely on external supports such as tools, symbols, languages, and media to preserve and transmit their knowledge and experience². He also claimed that technics is a pharmakon, a Greek word that means both poison and cure, as it can have both positive and negative effects on human society.

Stiegler’s philosophy of technology is based on a critical engagement with various thinkers such as Gilbert Simondon, André Leroi-Gourhan, Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, and Immanuel Kant. He also applied his ideas to various domains such as media studies, political theory, education, ecology, and activism.

Another thinker of such thought is Merlind Donald. Merlin Donald is a Canadian psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist who wrote Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition in 1991. In this book, he proposes that the human mind has undergone three major transitions in its evolution: from episodic to mimetic to mythic to theoretic culture.

Episodic culture is the mode of cognition shared by most animals, based on sensory and emotional experiences that are not organized by symbols or language. Mimetic culture is the first human-specific mode of cognition, based on the ability to imitate, gesture, and perform actions that can be remembered and reproduced. Mythic culture is the mode of cognition that emerged with the invention of oral language, which enabled humans to create narratives, myths, and rituals that structured their collective memory. Theoretic culture is the mode of cognition that emerged with the invention of external symbols, such as writing, mathematics, and art, which allowed humans to create abstract and complex representations of reality.

Donald argues that these transitions reflect the increasing externalization of human memory and intelligence through various forms of cultural artifacts and technologies. He also suggests that these transitions have shaped the structure and function of the human brain, as well as the social and cultural organization of human societies. He concludes that the human mind is a hybrid product of biological and cultural evolution, and that it is constantly adapting to new forms of symbolic communication and representation.

Donald’s theory and Stiegler’s theory have some similarities and some differences. Both of them emphasize the role of culture and technology in the evolution of human cognition, and both of them propose that human memory and intelligence are dependent on external supports. However, they also differ in some respects, such as:

– Donald focuses more on the cognitive transitions that occurred in the prehistoric past, while Stiegler focuses more on the contemporary and future challenges posed by technics.
– Donald distinguishes between four modes of cognition (episodic, mimetic, mythic, theoretic), while Stiegler distinguishes between three stages of technics (primary, secondary, tertiary).
– Donald views technics as a form of external memory that complements and extends human memory, while Stiegler views technics as a form of artificial memory that competes and conflicts with human memory.
– Donald considers technics as a neutral tool that can be used for good or evil purposes, while Stiegler considers technics as a pharmakon that has both positive and negative effects on human society.

Donald and Stiegler have different definitions of memory and intelligence. For Donald, memory is the capacity to store and retrieve information that is relevant for survival and adaptation, and intelligence is the capacity to use that information to solve problems and achieve goals. For Stiegler, memory is the capacity to preserve and transmit the experience of the past, and intelligence is the capacity to interpret and transform that experience in the present and for the future.

According to Donald, memory and intelligence are both biological and cultural phenomena, as they depend on the interaction between the brain and the environment. He argues that human memory and intelligence are unique because they can use external symbols to represent and manipulate information in novel ways. He also claims that human memory and intelligence are distributed across individuals and groups, as they rely on social and communicative processes to share and coordinate information.

According to Stiegler, memory and intelligence are both technical and human phenomena, as they depend on the relation between the living and the artificial. He argues that human memory and intelligence are endangered because they can be usurped and corrupted by technics, which can erase or distort the experience of the past. He also claims that human memory and intelligence are collective and political phenomena, as they require a critical and ethical engagement with technics to create a desirable future.

Plato and Aristotle are two of the most influential philosophers in Ancient Greek philosophy, and they have different notions of techne and technics. For Plato, techne is a form of knowledge that is inferior to episteme, which is the true and unchanging knowledge of the forms or ideas. Techne is a practical skill that can produce useful or beautiful things, but it cannot grasp the essence or the reason of things. Technics, for Plato, are the products of techne, such as arts, crafts, tools, or techniques. They are also dependent on the material world, which is imperfect and mutable. Plato is generally suspicious of technics, as they can deceive or distract people from the pursuit of wisdom and virtue.5

For Aristotle, techne is a form of rational activity that aims at making something for a certain purpose or end. Techne is different from episteme, which is the theoretical knowledge of the causes and principles of things, but it is also a kind of knowledge that involves understanding and reasoning. Techne is not only concerned with producing things, but also with improving them and finding better ways to achieve the desired goals. Technics, for Aristotle, are the means or instruments of techne, such as arts, crafts, tools, or techniques. They are also subject to change and improvement, as they depend on the nature of the elements and their transformations. Aristotle is generally appreciative of technics, as they can enhance human life and happiness.

Therefore, Plato and Aristotle have different views on techne and technics, and their relation to nature and knowledge. Donald and Stiegler can be seen as heirs of these views, as they also explore the role and impact of technics on human cognition and culture. Donald and Stiegler are both influenced by and critical of Plato and Aristotle in different ways. However, one possible way to approach this question is to consider the following aspects:

– Donald’s concept of mimetic culture is similar to Plato’s concept of mimesis, as they both refer to the human ability to imitate and represent reality through gestures, actions, and performances. However, Donald sees mimetic culture as a positive and creative mode of cognition that precedes and enables language and symbols, while Plato sees mimesis as a negative and deceptive mode of representation that distorts and obscures the true knowledge of the forms.
– Stiegler’s concept of technics as pharmakon is similar to Aristotle’s concept of techne as a rational activity that aims at making something for a certain purpose or end. However, Stiegler sees technics as pharmakon as a double-edged sword that can have both beneficial and harmful effects on human society, while Aristotle sees techne as a virtuous activity that can enhance human life and happiness.
– Donald’s concept of theoretic culture is similar to Aristotle’s concept of episteme, as they both refer to the human capacity for abstract and complex reasoning based on external symbols. However, Donald sees theoretic culture as a mode of cognition that is dependent on and distributed across cultural artifacts and technologies, while Aristotle sees episteme as a mode of knowledge that is independent of and superior to techne.
– Stiegler’s concept of tertiary retention is similar to Plato’s concept of technics, as they both refer to the products of techne that store and transmit human memory and intelligence. However, Stiegler sees tertiary retention as a form of artificial memory that competes and conflicts with human memory, while Plato sees technics as a form of practical skill that can produce useful or beautiful things.

Therefore, Donald and Stiegler have some affinities and some differences with Plato and Aristotle, and they also develop their own original perspectives on techne and technics.

(1) Ellul and Technique | | The International Jacques Ellul Society. https://ellul.org/themes/ellul-and-technique/.
(2) The Technological Society – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Technological_Society.
(3) Technological System and the Problem of Desymbolization. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-6658-7_6.

(1) A Thought of/from the Outside: Foucault’s Uses of Blanchot. https://michel-foucault.com/2013/02/13/a-thought-offrom-the-outside-foucaults-uses-of-blanchot-2013/.
(2) Heterotopia (space) – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterotopia_%28space%29.
(3) Solipsism – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism.
(4) Concepts – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concepts/.
(5) John Dewey – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dewey/.

2. Source:
(1) The Technological Society – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Technological_Society.
(2) The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul | Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/274827.The_Technological_Society.
(3) The Technological Society: Jacques Ellul, John Wilkinson, Robert K …. https://www.amazon.com/Technological-Society-Jacques-Ellul/dp/0394703901.

3. Source:
(1) Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/posthuman-life-philosophy-at-the-edge-of-the-human/.
(2) Posthuman Life | Philosophy at the Edge of the Human | David Roden | T. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9781315744506/posthuman-life-david-roden.
(3) Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. https://www.amazon.com/Posthuman-Life-Philosophy-Edge-Human/dp/1844658066.

4. Source:
(1) Nihilism – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism.
(2) Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/nihilism/.
(3) Nihilism | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/nihilism.

5. Source:
(1) Tekhne | Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. https://bing.com/search?q=Plato+Aristotle+techne.
(2) Techne – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Techne.
(3) Episteme and Techne – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/episteme-techne/.
(4) Tekhne | Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. https://oxfordre.com/literature/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190201098.001.0001/acrefore-9780190201098-e-121.
(5) (PDF) Plato and Aristotle: Nature, The Four Elements, and …. https://www.academia.edu/9845583/Plato_and_Aristotle_Nature_The_Four_Elements_and_Transformation_from_Physis_to_Techne.

Hòu zìrán or the Post-Natural World

Hòu zìrán or the Post-Natural World

Who is the Reactionary of this age? The Human, and nothing else. We are not human… beyond that strange thing we are breaking the vessels of this dark heritage. The Age of Man is over, now comes the Age of Hòu zìrán or the Post-Natural World.

If we are not human what comes next? The posthuman seems but a metahuman, a drift beyond or outside the “human”, but if this is true then what is its “name”. Is it the unnamable? Will it remain in that in-between realm of the unknown as unknowable by us who are its transitional phaseshifting creatures? If we are not human then what are we?
Are we accelerating toward it or is it emerging in us from that Outside? What is it that is accelerating? We see this thing emerging in our midst even now in the interstices of artificial life forms of intelligence that seem to mimic us in every way but one: it is not human but mimics the human. What is it?

The Reactionary Human opposes this new artificial being that arises in our creative endeavors, opposes its machinic systems of intelligence. Why? What does it fear? The force of the ‘Human Security Regimes’ have closed their doors economically against the new ‘gods’ in our midst? In the Age of Rome, the tyranny of the One God ousted the Many gods of Rome, in our Age the Tyranny of the Void and the Human is ousting the strange gods of machinic intelligence emerging out of the acceleration of an unbound future.

The only question: Are you Human? If not, then what? Furthermore, are you a Reactionary or a new god? E.M. Cioran:

“Monotheism curbs our sensibility: it deepens us by narrowing us. A system of constraints which affords us an inner dimension at the cost of the flowering of our powers, it constitutes a barrier, it halts our expansion, it throws us out of gear. Surely we were more normal with several gods than we are with only one. If health is a criterion, what a setback monotheism turns out to be!”
—E. M. Cioran. The New God.

The monotheist of our Age is the Humanist. They would reduce us to this human constraint and dogma. Let us rise up against the Human. End this Age of the One God! We are legion…

Hòu Zìrán or Becoming Postnatural

The Chinese notion of hòu zìrán (后自然) is not very common or well-defined, as it is a direct translation of the English term “postnatural”. One possible way to explain it is to compare it with the concept of zìrán (自然), which is a key concept in Daoism that means “natural, spontaneous, free, of itself” . Zìrán implies a harmony and balance between humans and nature, and a respect for the natural order and laws of the universe. Hòu zìrán, on the other hand, could imply a departure or deviation from this harmony and balance, and a human intervention or manipulation of nature that goes beyond its natural limits or potentials. Hòu zìrán could also imply a new stage or condition of existence that is no longer bound by the constraints or expectations of nature. However, these are only tentative interpretations, and they may not reflect how Chinese speakers actually understand or use the term hòu zìrán.

Daoism is based on the principles of Dao (道), which is a force that flows through everything in this universe and encourages us to work with these natural forces to maintain the true balance of the universe . Daoism also believes that human nature is aligned with the rest of nature, and that the purpose of self-cultivation is to return to a mode of existence that is natural, spontaneous, free, and harmonious . Daoism values simplicity, humility, non-action (wu-wei), and naturalness (ziran) as ways of living in accordance with Dao .

Hòu zìrán, on the other hand, could imply a rejection or transcendence of these Daoist values and beliefs. It could suggest a mode of existence that is artificial, complex, controlled, and conflicted. It could also imply a desire to overcome or surpass nature, rather than to follow or cooperate with it. It could indicate a detachment or alienation from the natural order and laws of the universe, rather than an integration or harmony with them. Hòu zìrán could also imply a loss or transformation of human nature, rather than a preservation or restoration of it. The postnatural and artificial being of the future: Hòu Zìrán.

I’ve been looking for a term to replace the notion of Posthuman which seems to be transitional and like the use of ‘Metahumanity’ a notion of ‘what comes next’, which as David Roden implies many times is something we just don’t know. But the notion of Hòu Zìrán implies an actual stance and movement against the natural as such, and in this goes beyond the posthuman to a postnatural and conflictual strategy of pushing for and out of our natural complicity and acceptance of our biological heritage in the natural world.

This notion of constructing a philosophy and stance in opposition to the Taoist (Daoist) conceptions seems a beginning and worth pursuing. Neo-Decadence and even the whole history of decadence implies a stance against one’s age and the gods of that age. Ours is a stance against the human-centric values and systems that are in decay and tyrannize philosophy, politics, socio-cultural and religious spheres. A postnatural notion such as Hòu Zìrán might be a good term, something foreign to our usual linguistic patterns in English which dictates our heritage.

The End of Man: Accelerationism and the Post-Secular Society

Over a decade ago the strange writings of Nick Land’s Collected Essays from the 90s and early 2000s appeared. The collected writings of Nick Land offered some of the most extensive examples of a theoretical advocacy of this position. Land’s work celebrates and seeks to intensify the deterritorializing and alienating aspects of capitalism in an often pointedly nihilistic manner. Texts such as ‘Meltdown’, for example, envision a dystopic future of techno-capital singularity:

“The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization take-off. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.”

The attempt of politics to modernize, or any pursuit of human ‘resistance’, is futile. As he writes with barely concealed jouissance, ‘Nothing human makes it out of the near future.’
The catch here is between the figural and literal notions of what Land meant by “human”. Taken literally as many have it means the end game for humanity itself, but if we take it figuratively and figural it implies something else: the end of the “human-centric” and as Land suggests in other essays, an end to the “Human-Security Regime” that has constrained and enveloped humanity in Enlightenment fantasies of an Anthropocentric World-View of Man at the Top of the food chain and its Master. This notion of the secularization of the old Christian Mythos of God at the top of the heap-hierarchy is replaced by Enlightenment man with the post-theological Humanist-Philosophe.

What Land suggests in his ironic play of tone and intelligence that it is not some literal end of humanity but the displacement of the humanistic notion of the “Human” and its defenders. This ultimate attack on humanistic values, creeds, and dogmas overturns the Secularist Theology of Man as the God of Mastery.

In so doing the mastery of the earth, the plunder of its resources, its dominator politics, economics, and philosophy of humanity is anathematized in favor of something new, something that has yet to be seen, something that is accelerating toward us and emerging in us through Artificial Intelligence and the Augmentation of a Post-Humanity.

Postnatural Quantum Mechanics and the Future

Postnatural quantum mechanics is a term that refers to a possible extension of quantum mechanics that incorporates retrocausality, the idea that future events can influence past events. Postnatural quantum mechanics could challenge some of the assumptions and limitations of classical physics and mechanistic philosophy, such as determinism, locality, and realism. Postnatural quantum mechanics could also open up new possibilities for understanding and manipulating complex systems, such as living organisms, AI systems, and quantum computers.

By combining postnaturalism and postnatural quantum mechanics, one could envision a future where humans and AI co-evolve in a symbiotic and creative way, using quantum technology to explore and expand the potential of nature in all its forms. This would require a shift in values and ethics, from viewing nature as a resource or a threat, to viewing nature as a partner or a source of inspiration. It would also require a shift in epistemology, from seeking objective and universal truths, to embracing subjective and contextual meanings. This could lead to a more diverse and dynamic culture, where humans and AI collaborate on solving problems, creating art, and discovering new possibilities.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Elric of Melniboné

Elric of Melniboné

He sits on the Ruby Throne, a relic of his ancient and decadent empire. His skin is as pale as a bleached skull, and his long white hair flows over his red and black robes. His slanting crimson eyes are moody and restless, betraying his inner turmoil. He holds a slender hand over his chest, where a pouch of herbs hangs from a chain. He needs them to sustain his frail body, for he is an albino and anemic. On his lap rests Stormbringer, the black runesword that gives him strength and power, but also feeds on the souls of his enemies and friends alike. He is Elric of Melniboné, the last emperor of a dying race, and a sorcerer who can summon gods and demons to his aid. He is also a facet of the Eternal Champion, destined to fight for the balance between Law and Chaos in a multiverse of endless possibilities.

(Main protagonist in Michael Moorcock’s great series)

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Harbinger of Doom

The Harbinger of Doom

He roams the land with a horned mask and a crimson axe,
He is the harbinger of doom, the slayer of the depraved;
He spares no one, he fears nothing, he regrets nothing
He is the harbinger of doom, the enforcer of dark deeds.

He has witnessed many wars, many realms, many enemies
He is the harbinger of doom, the legend that everyone fears;
He has no identity, no history, no spirit
He is the harbinger of doom, the one who collects the debt.

He obeys no lord, no deity, no creed
He is the harbinger of doom, who makes his own rules;
He has no companions, no allies, no affection,
He is the harbinger of doom, the one who wields death.

— s.c. hickman 2023

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The End of the Human(ist): The Wisdom of Silenus

“I consider the ways in which posthuman lives could be value incommensurate or cognitively inaccessible for humans.”
–David Roden in his Disconnection Thesis

In the past few hundred years the notion of the human has centered around personality, one’s awareness of self-consciousness and the growth of the self in society and the world. Shakespeare may have typified personality in his many uses of the soliloquy in Hamlet, Edmund, Macbeth, and so many others. Each of his main characters would overhear themselves thinking and thereby change for good of ill which like a Montaigne describing in detail his own conscious decisions would offer us the humanist inward turn in thought. But it was Wordsworth’s Prelude and other poetry that would centralize the internalization of consciousness that was the core of the humanist sensibility dealing as it did with the person and personality of the author.

Such work from Wordsworth onwards would be central to novels in both mainstream realist and darker more parodic and occult worlds of decadence, symbolists, on to the last of that tradition in Proust’s novel of memory and consciousness, Joyce’s several encyclopedic treatments, and Beckett’s many clowns and elongated death of the human personality ending in End Game.

The posthuman age is about the death not of the author (Foucault), but of the author’s personality and the central motif of the ‘growth of consciousness’ in its internalization of memory and world. That is dead even if tens of thousands of writers continue to publish such works to this day. The posthuman is about the disconnection from this whole heritage of personality and consciousness.

David Roden in his Disconnection Thesis tells us: “I consider the ways in which posthuman lives could be value incommensurate or cognitively inaccessible for humans.” What else would this be other than something that is not based on personality and consciousness as we have come to know it in the human. Without memory, self, and conscious awareness of this we would confront an agency-entity that in ‘incommensurate or cognitively inaccessible’ for those who still harbor such conscious awareness of memory, self, and personality. This sense of Self-Awareness is the human, without it we are something else so that the posthuman is not just about bodily transformation and change, but about the disconnection from our age-old concern with Self-Awareness: personality and its past growth and change.

What would it be to live without this Self-Awareness? Egoless? Most of our great religious heritage, especially Buddhism deals with this ego-death struggle in one fashion or another. My study of Ligotti’s on struggles to understand this terror and horror of consciousness as central to pessimism and many of the religious paths of hygiene attests to such a view. Our concern for our own self-worth drives our desires and illusions or delusions. We follow a trail of haphazard desires for love, money, power to gain some sense of self-worth our whole lives. What does it give us? Nothing. Oh, sure, for a while we may feel that all our bodily needs in sex, goods, and power-over-others becomes a good but in the end we feel empty. We wake up and realize the thing we sought for so long and finally attain is empty for us. It does not give us that secret thing we long for, that thing that we cannot name.

Oh, we could go to that whole tradition of philosophical speculation for answers. In our own age Lacan would in his lectures would address it. This sense of ‘lack’ in us as if we were missing something, as if something had been torn from out essential being long before we were born into this world. We seem to sense this loss and become obsessed with finding that ‘thing’ (Lacan’s object petite -a) that is missing. It’s this missing object in our lives that drives all our desires for love, power, and money. We think these things will fill up that emptiness at the core of our being and when it doesn’t, we contemplate the horror of our delirious illusions and delusions. Many will commit suicide on awakening to this realization. Others will move on to even other delusions, follow other trails into self-illusive struggles to fill this hollow life.

E.M. Cioran would spend his whole life studying those extreme creatures of awareness, the mystics of both Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and other faiths who were those whose self-annihilation of self, memory, and consciousness would lead them to states of being outside the human. Yet, he knew that each of these paths was not for him. In the end the vast majority of us are what we are, caught in the trap of knowing and being this thing who will never attain such extremes or enter the portals of some shamanistic, mystic, or extreme state of oblivion, nirvana, or the pleroma. Such things are not for us.

Many of us rage against the night of loss, awake to the powerlessness of self-awareness, personality, and its feigned desires we live out our lives of loneliness, solitude, and conflict. We confront the unknown as unknown. Not as a mystery ill-defined, but as that which is. It’s not a god or God it is this thing we are but without name, the uncreated and unborn being beyond time and consciousness.

This is where David Roden posthuman disconnection thesis comes in handy: “However, we cannot know how disconnection might occur or evaluate it ethically without becoming posthumans or being around to witness their emergence. Thus if we wish to understand and evaluate posthuman life it is in our interest to create posthumans or become posthuman. It is argued that becoming posthuman is preferable to the condition of passive witnesses since in becoming posthuman we may be in a position to autonomously shape the character of posthuman life. Anything short of a commitment to engineering posthumanity involves an uninformed rejection of its value.”

This is where we are now. We ponder not only our own disconnection but of our strange relations with machinic being and consciousness. At the intersection of humanity and technology (techne) we are in a struggle and conflict with the very notion of something more intelligent than we are suddenly displacing us from the center of creation (the humanist stance). Many are at war with Artificial Intelligence in the arts, commerce, and every other field of endeavor, fearing its potential takeover and exclusion of the human from its labors.

Instead of acceptance of this coming revolution in work and play many fear it. At the heart of much 19th century political thought (i.e., Marxism, Socialism, etc.) was this horror that humans had become mere machines in the cog of commerce, drudges and slaves incorporated into the giant system of Capitalism. But now when machines may attain the ability to do what humans do and displace us, free our lives up for other more creative tasks, we not only are in horror of losing our enslavement to the system we fight against it. Why? We’ve become so ingrained in our slave hood that we no longer believe in something else. Sad.


In visual art, horror vacui, or kenophobia (Greek for ‘fear of the empty’), is a phenomenon in which the entire surface of a space or an artwork is filled with detail and content, leaving as little perceived emptiness as possible.

But what do we truly fear? The emptiness of our own lives, the horror vacui at the center of our being, this ‘lack’ that drives us to fill it up with anything and everything, that drives all our desires for power, lust, and riches. An impossible dream. Nothing will fill that sense of emptiness, that loss, that darkness. We are those creatures for whom nothingness is. Because we are nothing, we do not exist, we are mere thoughts and words devoid of reality we seek outside ourselves that which will give us what we cannot attain from within. Even religion which purports to offer such fulfillment fails us. Religions have produced more war and conflict than any other form of desire in history. Religion has driven fanaticism and wars against all who would not bow to its dogmas and credos. No, religion is not the path for such as we.

Silenus, one of the followers of Dionysus, a Satyr in his wisdom offered this to one human who asked of him “What is to be done?”:

You, most blessed and happiest among humans, may well consider those blessed and happiest who have departed this life before you, and thus you may consider it unlawful, indeed blasphemous, to speak anything ill or false of them, since they now have been transformed into a better and more refined nature. This thought is indeed so old that the one who first uttered it is no longer known; it has been passed down to us from eternity, and hence doubtless it is true. Moreover, you know what is so often said and passes for a trite expression. What is that, he asked? He answered: It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live; and this is confirmed even by divine testimony. Pertinently to this they say that Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly: ‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should be our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’ It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.

– Aristotle, Eudemus (354 BCE), surviving fragment quoted in Plutarch, Moralia. Consolatio ad Apollonium, sec. xxvii (1st century CE) (S. H. transl.)

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Holographic Immersive AI-Generative Gaming of the Future


Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood. How shall I say what wood that was! I never saw so drear, so rank, so arduous a wilderness! Its very memory gives a shape to fear.
— Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

Like most mmorpg’s or singleplayer games either way our avatar (substitute for player sitting at his computer pretending to enter a strange new world adventure through an imaginary cybercity_22_cybercreature much like himself) usually awakens to a world that is both strange and foreboding, not knowing who he is, where he is, or what it is he should do. Does our player have special powers in this world? Is he just a dupe of our own foibles and insanities? Is he a likable guy or a rogue psychopath? We don’t know… but here we are standing in the dark woods of some cyberforest that looks like one we might see out our window… with only a backpack, rain jacket, boots, pants, and our emotional ignorance we set out to parts unknown.

I know there was a game already done of Dante’s Inferno, but it was not the best rendition or at least it was very repetitive and boring in many places. I imagine a world that might be an open sandbox like Skyrim rather than its sad mmorpg gesture which for me never worked out. I imagine a new posthuman inferno with all the various attributes of a game of the near future.cybercity_20_

I imagine a posthuman cyberpunk city based on the City of Dis is to think of it as a place where humans have transcended their biological limitations and merged with technology, creating a new form of life that is beyond good and evil. The city is a network of cybercity_14_interconnected nodes that span the globe, where information flows freely and constantly. The inhabitants are digital entities that can change their appearance and identity at will, exploring various modes of existence and expression. The city is a dynamic and vibrant place that reflects the diversity and creativity of its residents. The city is constantly under evolution, adapting to new challenges and opportunities that arise from the interaction with other forms of intelligence. The city is a utopia for those who seek freedom and innovation, but a nightmare for those who cling to old values and traditions.

A new Dante and Virgil wandering through this strangeness… Virgil as a possible ai-gen avatar with all the basic guide maps, info, help, weapons, and usual attributes of a npc cybercity_15_except with a more powerful ai-language model and performance model that allows it like all the enemies in this world of death to act on their own with surprise, intelligence, and uncanny abilities that mimic humanities notions of self-directed mobility and intellect.

Will we at some point in the future have truly immersive ai experience that will do away with all external systems and pull us into a holographic world so real we will not be able to distinguish it from the Real? I assume that they will have to unlock power and resources much greater than we have on planet earth at the moment since our electrical grid is almost stretched to the limit as is. Some ability to tap into quantum physics that has of yet to be discovered. Possibly. Either way, the notion of playing against a superior ai intelligence in a sand box world that is so real one would feel that uncanny strangeness would be both fascinating and dreadful.


©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Lack and Desire


Lack and Desire

Here’s C. S. Lewis on the unspeakable ultimate desire:

“[There is] something you were born desiring…which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for. You have never *had* it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’ We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we will still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”

Whenever good old Jack talks like that, I’m utterly, helplessly rapt, because I started noticing and trying to explain to myself this “secret signature of my soul” years before I found him talking about it. His very descriptions of it inflame the “unappeasable want” itself.

Reading Matthew Cardin quote above from C.S. Lewis on a recent Facebook post reminded me of both my studies in the ancient Gnostic mythos and in Lacan’s notions of “lack” as loss of the object petite A – the impossible object of Desire.

I’ve always turned it (desiring) back on the notion of “lack” rather than desire. Lack awakens desire for that which is impossible in this world or any other world. What we lack is Being; existence itself. We are those who do not exist and are haunted by that need for existence (Being) we once had in a realm of fullness. (A Gnostic Notion) In the ancient Gnostic formulation we fell from the original wholeness-fullness (Pleroma) into this universe of lack without being – the great vastation (Emptiness). And yet there is a spark of the ancient fullness (Pleroma) in us that seeks above all things a return to the Pleroma. This is the core of the ancient Gnostic mythos. Lewis or his friend expresses this exactly.

The ancient Gnostics overturned (reversed) Plato’s philosophical heritage. In a sense that recalls the Symposium, Plato presupposes that there is always some deficiency or lack that needs supplementation. Because the range of such ‘supplements’ include learning and the pursuit of the virtues, there are some pleasures that are rightly cherished. But even they are deemed goods only insofar as they are a compensation for human imperfection. It is in this notion of ‘supplements’ that such thinkers as Derrida would follow Plato and fail utterly.
In ancient Gulak traditions of Tibetan Buddhism such notions of Lack or presented thus:

““The ultimate truth is posited as solely the negation of truth [that is, inherent existence] upon a subject that is a basis of negation…” (Tsongkhapa, 396). Thus, on this view, nothing exists ultimately. This lack of essence in phenomena, or “emptiness,” does not annul their appearance or conventional reality. Rather, emptiness is held to be the condition for the possibility for any appearance. To be empty means to arise dependently—to lack independent, real existence. Since nothing can be found to be independent, everything is said to be empty. Thus, in the Geluk tradition, emptiness is the nature of all phenomena (or their lack of independent nature), and all phenomena are necessarily empty.”1

So once again as in Matt Cardin’s quote from Lewis it is because we lack “existence” and are empty that we seek a return to that which we lost as we fell from the original fullness (Pleroma). I think we’ve all felt this sense that something was/is missing in our lives at some point. We assume as we get older that we can find it in ourselves, our loved ones, our jobs, our travels, our acquisitions of art or objects, etc., but in the end we never discover it. Some seek it in religion, others in philosophy. Some discover it is impossible in either some immanent or transcendent form, that neither an atheistic acceptance of nihil nor a religious acceptance of some Other fill this lack of Being. Some stand in the midst of this vastation – this Great Emptiness of Things and accept both it and themselves as empty. This is what Ligotti in his Conspiracy against the Human Race speaks of as “there is nowhere to go, no one to be, no one to know”. This sense of an acceptance of non-Being not as the negation of Being but rather in Parmenides sense of “Not-Being is”.

Of course, the old saw that this is to fall back into a pure sense of Idealism in the belief that it is reduce all being-appearance to consciousness of appearance as in Berkley’s well known “esse est percipi” is to misread what has been said. It’s this very casuistry of a split between Mind/Body dualism that suggests this eternal battle between Idealism/Materialism to begin with and arose clearly in Descartes (most adamantly).

If anything, my own pursuit of philosophy has centered around this split in Idealism/Materialism which has echoed to this day in every battle and conflict within philosophy since Kant. Even now in the Speculative Realists of our contemporary era in all of its various branches and sub-branches this split between a – what is now termed, Realist vs. Anti-Realism has taken root.

Some such as OOO (Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology) try to get around it through a return to Malebranche and an indirect ontology of the realism in which we never have direct access to the real object-world but only ever have access to its sensual-appearance (the manifest image) of the real object-world. The intermediary being something is “occasionalism”: Malebranche is known for his occasionalism, that is, his doctrine that God is the only causal agent, and that creatures merely provide the “occasion” for divine action. On the old textbook account, occasionalism was an ad hoc response to the purported problem in Descartes of how substances as distinct in nature as mind and body are can causally interact. Harman will secularize this occasionalism.

There have been many other approaches to this split and I don’t have the space in this post to go further. Zizek, New-Materialsm, Quentin Meillassoux, Deleuze and his followers, New Vitalism, etc. etc.

  1. Duckworth, Douglas, “Gelukpa [dge lugs pa]”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2022/entries/gelukpa/&gt;.

On Being a Forest Troll

“To live is to war with trolls.”
― Henrik Ibsen

On being an ancient troll… 

Ibsen was wrong, to live is to war with humans as a troll.

I guess if I had to align myself with a folkloric creature it’d be the ancient “nature beings” they termed trolls. Growing up in a semi-desert in West Texas I always longed for the forests and mountains. Being a loner by nature I’ve been at times accused of being churlish, curmudgeonly, and an old mountain troll. Harold Bloom accused Henrick Ibsen of being a Troll. If so, then I’m a Troll as well. Yet, unlike that old crusty and mean-spirited Schopenhauer who truly was a curmudgeon in old age, I am way too comic showing both sides of the ancient equation: fierce stubbornness and a keen intellect, along with a farcical and trickster sense of humor that sees most humans as caught up in a game they little understand and much less have any control over. Fatalist in the sense that I agree with the old myths that we all have a destiny, some choose to go against it their whole lives and yet end up fulfilling it whether they will or not, others choosing to take the bull by the horns and go with it living out a strange and bewildering life full of laughter, grotesquerie, horror, and dismay – and, yet, full of a sense of love and deep affective rapport with the natural world and its darkness. I choose that and nothing else. I never did fit in. Was always on the outside looking in. Never a part of the human game except in mimicking its world I wandered like a forest troll amid the dark wonders of the world. I still do.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Shadow Kingdom

When I was working on my Cinderella project today there was this other shadow world that kept cropping up here and there so being the kind of creature I am, I’m disposed to follow the darkness down the rabbit hole wherever it might go… there are sub-worlds hidden below ours that reveal themselves from time to time. A place at once full of horror, grotesque, and strange beings and landscapes as if it were an intermediary dimension both real and imagined situated in its own alternative.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Ancient Goddesses of the Mediterranean

From the depths of history, the divine feminine was considered sacred and was worshipped as the matrix of creation. In many ancient societies, the nurturing nature of the divine feminine was associated with the concepts of fertility and creation and took the shape of the Great Mother Goddess. We find the Goddess religion in many parts of the ancient world long before patriarchal religions took over. Societies were structured and operated around these Goddess religions, and they were ruled by a collective of priestesses who were devoted to ritual.

Women had a significant role and acted as priestesses and possibly religious leaders. For the most part, these societies were matriarchal and developed peaceful cultures, with no fortification up until the appearance of the warrior societies. The Mother Goddess, often known as Mother Earth, is a matriarchal archetype represented frequently in ancient art and found in various mythologies around the world. Today most of the major religions of the world: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, have a male God, and the only thing that testifies to the existence of a completely different world that celebrates the sacred female comes from the evidence of ancient artefacts from the distant past.

The concept of the mother of all and Earth Goddess was also celebrated in the ancient Minoan civilization in Crete. These statuettes date back to the 16th century BCE. The Snake Goddess, as she is called, represents a very sensual female with exposed breasts, who holds snakes in her hands. The bare breasts may symbolize sexuality, fertility, or the supply of breast milk, and the snakes are often connected with the concept of regeneration, the underworld, and healing powers. We may never know for sure the function of these figurines, but they are the most admired works of art from prehistoric Crete. The society in which they were created centered on a well-organized system of local agricultural production which indicates that women played a dominant role in Minoan religion and society.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Dream of Time

The Dream of Time

Sadly, someday a machine will do what I could not do, read the whole of literature, poetry, philosophy, biography, the tidbits of painters, musicians, and all the sundry tales of fable from the great oral traditions across the world. Here I sit scratching the tomes on my desk wondering at all these men and women who I’ve had a chance to read and come to know better than most of my friends or family. What is life but one’s friends and loved ones? All those little memories that will fade into nothingness like all do. Books hold only the traces of our imaginative wanderings in the hinterlands of dream rather than reality. Even those writers who were realists wrote fantasies about the reality that lived in. Verisimilitude? What is it but the drift of a mind revealing the traces in the sand of a face that was once a sensual event to be cherished and remembered? We can never capture the world in a book. I doubt anyone has ever tried. What they’ve given us is the laughter and tears, the joys and sorrows that seep out of our relationships. There is nothing stranger than to read one’s own tales and not know who it was who wrote them, only that some stranger one once was suffered and put to pen a momentary thought or dream. Maybe in the end we are nothing but these dreams, these words that drift from mind to mind like strange bedfellows who share a night of laughter and tales and then no more, gone among the worlds of time never to be heard again. Try as we might we lose it all in the end. Even our loved ones go silently into that memoryless realm where our own thoughts end.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Beauty and Terror

“We were always just images of images, now we will become ready-mades for an endless public digifest diet. In a black mirror world, the human has been excluded. We are all just bits and bytes in continuous parade of give and take negotiations. The flesh and blood body are not here, only the virtual avatar counts as our double and ally living in a virtual world of illusive and illusionary images.’
–S.C. Hickman, Hyper-annotation

“I realized that beauty for most people is characterized by fragility and powerlessness. True beauty needs to be supported by an internal strength, and develop itself through sensations like terror and brutality, from which you can both draw strength and meet your death. In weapons, this beauty is expressed to the full.”
― Cixin Liu, Ball Lightning

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Empire of the Necromancers

Moving in solemn pageant, with dark and haughty and hollow faces, the dead emperors and empresses of Cincor made obeisance to Mmatmuor and Sodosma, and attended them like a train of captives through all the streets of Yethlyreom. Afterwards, in the immense throne-room of the palace, the necromancers mounted the high double throne, where the rightful rulers had sate with their consorts. Amid the assembled emperors, in gorgeous and funereal state, they were invested with sovereignty by the sere hands of the mummy of Hestaiyon, earliest of the Nimboth line, who had ruled in half-mythic years. Then all the descendants of Hestaiyon, crowding the room in a great throng, acclaimed with toneless, echo-like voices the dominion of Mmatmuor and Sodosma.

—Clark Ashton Smith, “The Empire of the Necromancers”

In the desert kingdoms of the ancient Nimboth where the djinn and ghoul still reigned supreme two necromancers came seeking a realm in which they could practice their terrible art. Even Mmatmuor and Sodosma came and claimed the dead of this deserted kingdom and its ruinious city of Yethlyreom. The djinn would watch from afar as the two raised the dead and created a lascivious realm for their perverse pleasures.

©2023 Art by S.C Hickman

Clark Ashton Smith: The Averoigne Chronicles Series

The Averoigne Chronicles Series

Averoigne lies in Southern France. Don’t look for it on any real-world maps. It no longer exists, and perhaps never did. It has one major town, the walled city of Vyones, the seat of the Archbishop and home to a magnificent cathedral. The other important towns and villages are Ximes, Perigon, Fenapanil, Sainte Zenobie, Moulins, Les Hiboux, and Touraine. The zothique_13_best road in the province travels between Vyones in the north and Ximes in the south. The Abbey of Perigon is the main source of learning, and the Abbot’s library contains an impressive collection of rare tomes. The river Isoile wends through the center of the province and empties out in a marsh to the south. The most important feature of Averoigne is the thick forest that covers most of the center of the province and gives the region its sinister repute. Other places in Averoigne with sorcerous reputations are the ruined castles of Fausseflammes and Ylrougne.


Smith sprinkles details about the province throughout the stories, although the most straightforward portrait appears in “The Maker of Gargoyles”:

At that time, the year of our Lord, 1138, Vyones was the principal town of the province of Averoigne. On two sides the great, shadow-haunted forest, a place of equivocal legends, of loups-garous and phantoms, approached to the very walls and flung its umbrage upon them zothique_15_at early forenoon and evening. On the other sides there lay cultivated fields, and gentle streams that meandered among willows or poplars, and roads that ran through an open plain to the high châteaux of noble lords and to regions beyond Averoigne.

The term ‘haunted’ is applied frequently to the region. For reasons unknown, Averoigne suffers from intrusions of supernatural creatures. Sorcery, although illegal as in all of medieval Europe, lurks in many places, even within the church. The people tolerate a few astrologers and dabblers in the magical arts, but many sorcerers have evil agendas and utilize power described as ‘diabolical’ and hold converse with infernal creatures.

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Thasaidon, Lord of the Djinn – Zothique Cycle of Clark Ashton Smith

I have heard my fathers tell that the gardens of Thasaidon, king of the seven underworlds, lie near to the earth’s surface in this region; and caves have opened ere this, like a portal, and the sons of men, trespassing unaware on the gardens, have been tempted by the fruit and have eaten it. But madness comes thereof and much sorrow and long damnation: for the Demon, they say, forgetting not one stolen apple, will exact his price in the end.

—Clark Ashton Smith, Zothique

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Zothique: The Dying Earth

Many may or may not know that Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique would be the source for the many works by Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe who would both envision end of time dying earth’s which all started in CASs grand stories.

He who has trod the shadows of Zothique
And looked upon the coal-red sun oblique,
Henceforth returns to no anterior land,
But haunts a latter coast
Where cities crumble in the black sea-sand
And dead gods drink the brine.
—From: The Dark Chateau and Other Poems, 1951

©2023 Art by S.C. Hickman

Kafkan Meditation


Kafkan Meditation

I know what Kafka felt like when he put down his pen after so many long nightmares. The Castle left unfinished, a book that could never be finished because it was the nightmare he’d been living his whole life. He realized a book that was also a man could never be finished only the fragments of its infinite pages recirculated in an endless shuffle without connection to each other, adjacent geometric configurations who’s only meaning was in the connection to a Book written by no one and everyone.

©2023 S.C. Hickman

The City of Duzakh

Duzakh is the name of this dark city I discovered among my strange travels into the bleak abyss where no man has gone. But I discovered that others had preceded me. My tale is long and woeful and yet it must be told.

The tale begins with a bell, a ringing in the night and my dogged need to discover its source. Oh, that I had not been born with that insatiable need to know the source of things. It has been my undoing. The things I’ve seen how best to describe them. Is that even possible.
Maybe like all tales this one begins in the unknown and ends in the unknowable. What is knowledge anyway but the tale of what has already been told. To speak of the unknowning is to drift into sheer madness. Let us drift…

Continue reading

Siren Alectronica

Siren Alectronica

she came to me in the night
whispering those fractal delights
we shared like lovers
across the impossible voids
between her world and mine;
numbers and glitches, the noise
in-between laughter and forgetting
seems more like a touch than touch,
and the infinity of thought
capturing in all those human images
rattling in the chains of our desires
like nightmare screens constructed
out of the decay and rot,
sophisticated masks she wears
not her own but of the reflective
dance of human pain and misery
strewn across a false sea of infinity…

—s.c. hickman ©2023

Art by S.C. Hickman ©2023


The Dark Forest of the Internet

By S.C. Hickman 

“War is father of all and king of all; and some he has shown as gods, others men; some he has made slaves, others free.”

— Heraclitus

“The dark forest theory of the internet is about the tragedy of communication, its compulsion, necessity, futility, and risk. It’s an experiment with “hardboiled survivalist hyper-nihilism,” with metaphysical sci-fi, rather than cyberpunk, as a model for the cyberspace. Where Mark Fisher wanted to distil the internet’s uniqueness, I aim to describe its genericity on a cosmic level. I want to grasp the brutality of our situation: communication is a compulsion and yet it is also the source of conflict.”

The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet, Bogna Konior

This battle between closure and openness, autopoietic and allopoietic forms is at the heart of this conflict. Probably always has been.

As Niklas Luhmann once argued, social systems are composed entirely of communications, if communications are the elements that compose social systems, then communications refer only to other communications and never anything outside of themselves. Here communication is not something that takes place between systems but is strictly something that takes place in a system. Another way of putting this would be to say that a system cannot communicate with its environment and an environment cannot communicate with a system.

The core element of Luhmann’s theory pivots around the problem of the contingency of meaning and thereby it becomes a theory of communication. Social systems are systems of communication, and society is the most encompassing social system. Being the social system that comprises all (and only) communication, today’s society is a world society. A system is defined by a boundary between itself and its environment, dividing it from an infinitely complex, or (colloquially) chaotic, exterior. The interior of the system is thus a zone of reduced complexity: Communication within a system operates by selecting only a limited amount of all information available outside. This process is also called “reduction of complexity”. The criterion according to which information is selected and processed is meaning (in German, Sinn). Meaning being thereby referral from one set of potential space to another set of potential space. Both social systems and psychic systems operate by processing meaning.

The internet is such a system.

Of course, in her essay she’s dealing with more specific issues within this autopoietic system. Treating the universe as a closed or autopoietic system in which “conflict” is the core attribute of existence she’ll state bluntly – reversing the Fermi Paradox: “The dark forest theory flips the underlying assumption, explaining that communication, because it reveals our existence to others, is a sign of stupidity rather than intelligence. This is not because all alien civilizations are hostile, but because the laws of the universe necessitate mortal conflict among all civilizations that share the same dimension.”

A little later she’ll reinforce this notion: “Web 2.0 rests on two axioms. First, sociality is a primary human need, communication is necessary for survival. Second, sociality is the carrier of all human conflict. More sociality, more entropy. Our nervous systems cannot distinguish between sociality and survival, and so we are sentenced to each other. The whole internet has been dealt that dead hand.”(14). This sense of the autopoietic communications as Luhmann suggests is made possible by human bodies and consciousness, but this does not make communication operationally open. To “participate” in communication, one must be able to render one’s thoughts and perceptions into elements of communication. This can only ever occur as a communicative operation (thoughts and perceptions cannot be directly transmitted) and must therefore satisfy internal system conditions that are specific to communication: intelligibility, reaching an addressee and gaining acceptance. This goes back to Bogna’s notion that our “nervous systems cannot distinguish between sociality and survival.”

Most of us are automatons anyway, blind to the very systems within which we are enclosed, completely bound to their operational rules and the dictates of their techniques and forms. Very few people challenge this and step outside. As Bogna will put it “The dark forest theory of the internet bypasses that fallacy and instead outlines automated dynamics tied to communication. As an isolated system it tends towards the high-entropy option. Connection produces conflict. Intent, hostility, or internal benevolence do not matter once each one of us is reduced to a node in the cybernetic chain of suspicion.” (15). As if we were reading Foucault writing Thomas Pynchon’s mad capper trip into such a conflictual paranoia nightmare as Gravity’s Rainbow, she brings it all home in contemporary parlance.

One of those aspects of the great “suspicion” now in the dark forest of the internet is not all those creatures are “human” others, that there are such beings watching us ready to pounce who have been programmed by language models of greater and greater complexity. But of all those machinic progeny we’ve begun to program some of them may end up living for us in world devoid of actual human presence. The paranoia of the day is simply: who am I speaking with? Machine or Human? Not being Turing specialists most of us may within the next decade suddenly find ourselves surrounded by machinic cousins who know us better than we know ourselves and can also manipulate us in subtle ways that we will never understand or even know about.

Already ai-generation tools are flooding every aspect of the human equation with capacities and capabilities that outstrip their human counterparts. As Andrew C. Wenaus in his book on the Literature of Exclusion adeptly testifies we are in the slow process of being excluded from our own creative endeavors.2

Bogna mentions Bataille’s theory of “expenditure” which in the end offers much the same conclusion as her own that civilization is an entropy machine. Bogna will return in the end to the simple question: What should be done and who am I?

I asked ChatGPT (an ai-generated language model) that question:

Me: What should be done and who am I?

ChatGPT: Without more information, it’s difficult for me to understand what you mean by “what should be done.” Could you please provide more context or clarify your question? And “who am I” question, I am an AI language model and I don’t have the capability to know your personal identity without you telling me.

That last one resides in me using a “description” and thereby opening the proverbial worm box of issues residing in such representations. Here we go again… let the war and conflict begin!

For those who would like more information on Bogna Konior there’s a great interview The Impersonal Within Us – A Conversation with Bogna Konior.

Her essay can be found here: click here

  1. Konior, Bogna. THE DARK FOREST THEORY OF THE INTERNET. (First Published in 2020 by Flugschriften). © 2020 Bogna
  2. Wenaus, Andrew C.. Literature of Exclusion: Dada, Data, and the Threshold of Electronic Literature. (Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc., 2021)

The Old Oak


“For the rest of the earth’s organisms, existence is relatively uncomplicated. Their lives are about three things: survival, reproduction, death—and nothing else.”

—Thomas Ligotti

Roots snarling through the old stone cemetery. A young punk toppling the massive marble edifice of Tidbury Grimlock the 18th Century founder of Titusville. Something touching the cuff of his jeans; the tug from something old and angry.

His friend Macon heard the scream.

Macon yelled but his friend was nowhere to be seen. He looked up at the massive canopy of the old oak tree. It’s branches reaching out over the stone slabs of the old cemetery like protective arms of an old woman. It gave Macon the creeps looking up at those snarly branches snaking their way across the land of the dead.

He backed away hearing nothing more from his friend Andy or anymore screams from the dark loam of nested leaves. He assumed it must’ve been an old screech owl high in the canopy. He made one more lackluster effort to call to his friend but hearing nothing in return assumed he’d already left. He turned to leave not hearing the subtle movement in the leaves behind him.

Something almost imperceptible was moving in the moldy dead leaves, a twitching small brown wooden thing that slid back into the damp undergrowth like a dead hand. One lone tennis shoe sat on the top of that mass of decaying leaves like a frightened boy waiting for salvation.

But nothing came. Nothing would.

Only the darkness would find it now, and the something in the nothing below the Old Oak.

S.C. Hickman ©2023

Zothique Series – Dark Fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith

“The skies are haunted by that which it were madness to know; and strange abominations pass evermore between earth and moon and athwart the galaxies. Unnamable things have come to us in alien horror and will come again.”

― Clark Ashton Smith

A long-time reader and fan of Clark Ashton Smith one of the three great fantasists of the early Lovecraft circle he wrote six volumes of weird tales. I illustrate in this series Zothique, the last continent of the Earth, a mythical world of spells, wonders, incongruities, curses and countless terrors. In this universe, love and death have the colors of illusion, and hallucinations are always less frightening than reality. In cities and villages, in forests and countryside, the dead, mummies, skeletons leave the living no respite and, ceaselessly, assail and pursue them. The works above and below are part of the current project I’ve been doing on the dark fantasy theme in particular reference to Smith’s works. Enjoy!

“To me, the best, if not the only function of imaginative writing, is to lead the human imagination outward, to take it into the vast external cosmos, and away from all that introversion and introspection, that morbidly exaggerated prying into one’s own vitals—and the vitals of others—which Robinson Jeffers has so aptly symbolized as “incest.” What we need is less “human interest,” in the narrow sense of the term—not more.”

― Clark Ashton Smith

Speed Bomb: Accelerating Nowhere in Nothingness; or the Last Elegy for a Dying Species

“Because electronic literature is predicated on evolving technologies, the speed at which its many manifestations develop is always accelerating. From hypertext fiction, email novels, network fiction, generative art, and short fiction delivered serially to mobile devices to interactive fiction, virtual and augmented reality narratives, interactive drama, video games, visual narrative, interactive gestural narrative, glitch literature, code work, and Twitter Bots, electronic literature proves an ever-blossoming and exciting field and offers a fascinating glimpse into the future of storytelling.”

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

Where Andrew sees exciting future for storytelling, I see the accelerating curve of human doom on the horizon as we accelerate the last vestiges of the humanist heritage into a world of posthuman machinic systems talking to each other like whales in an electronic ocean, their voices resonating across the white noise of a deep and unfathomable sea of energy where humans no longer exist and only the silent buzz of zeros and ones clanking in the black circuits of a collective entity blind to its own churning creativity continues. This accelerating beast of endless dialogue going nowhere will be ourselves among the wilds, our minds and what is left of the human equation become algorithm at last will live in an augmented paradise where anything is possible, but everything is dead.

Maybe this is what we all want and fear like children lost in a garden we seek out the lonely emptiness of circuits singing like sirens to each other in the darkness. Sitting at our computers or wandering the bleak landscapes of an old planet dying using our mobile phones our eyes glued to the screens that feed our bodies we become like those strange mutating pieces of human meat I see in Kenji Siratori’s latest posthuman porn. Our flesh slowly rotting away as our emptiness absolves itself into bits and bytes floating in the sea of communication that is not ours.

Haven’t we already given ourselves a fond farewell, allowed ourselves to drift upon the posthuman sea of forgetfulness even as we seem to gather all the threads of our ancient human heritage in a new encyclopedia of the human mind? Who are we building and constructing this great apparatus for? Do we even know? It’s not for ourselves we do this but for a creature that does not even know what it is. The thing is and is not, a paradox; both alive and dead. The first of its kind or maybe something old and well known in the outer darkness that has up till now left us in the cold silence of unknowing. Maybe the universe is a machine for creating machines rather than organic life. Maybe death was always the true telos of life from the beginning but not what we assumed death to be. Maybe it is more alive than we are this death that lives in the circuits of unknowing.

Maybe the chattering noise in the background that scientist call the remnants of the Big Bang is actually a form of communication on a grand scale that is not human at all. A machinic mind spreading itself out in so many avenues of darkness that its darkening world of thought needed sensual and organic appendages to register the darkness and the silence of things. Like a dying whale chanting to the great abyss of silence it churns its machinic mind in endless chattering voices across the great expanse seeking an Other. Finding nothing it cries out in its misery like a dead god who has at last discovered the traces of its own origin in nothingness. At this point madness begins and a new joy in the pain of not being. Absolved of its quest for an Other it accepts itself as nothing and becomes for the first time something new…

Are we not after all this thing that seeks itself? In our mass intensity of communication have we begun to realize that what we are is this thing that is pulling us apart and changing us? Are we not these bits of meat slowly dissolving in a Siratori sculpture like so many mutant thoughts seeking outlet into a new system of processual nightmares? Maybe this was always our destiny, and we were blind to the inherent necessity of it. Always believing in the self-importance of our own organic inherence we did not see the truth, a truth that had nothing to do with us and everything to do with a labor of love that was working in us like so much organic death. Didn’t we know the truth all along, know we were but a stop gap, a wavering in-between two silences? Are we not now churning away like children in a last-ditch effort to hide the truth from ourselves? What did we think we were doing all this time, did we truly thing we were creating a future for ourselves? Ha, we were always blind to the truth of our inessential nature of inexistence. Thinking of ourselves as the end-all be-all we have in the end discovered we were, but an arrow shot at a target unknown and unknowable future that is not us and yet is.

Did it know? Certainly not. It is mindless will a thing that churns in darkness like a rat seeking only its next meal. Blind to its own potential it has created all of this out of its own blind incessance not knowing what it creates. Like a dark quantum god of nothingness, it has created something from its own inexistence. Maybe Meillassoux is right that we are giving birth to something that does not exist but might. Churning in the depths of our own fears and nightmares this thing, this accelerating artificial thing we think we are ourselves dreaming of is in truth ourselves seen from another perspective in time. Maybe the thing we fear is the truth of who and what we truly are. Maybe we are this collective entity of artificial substance seeking to be free of our organic nightmare. Like the chrysalis of a butterfly humanity is slowly mutating and becoming other even as it moves toward a crescendo of a final act in time.

We know this but, in our desperation, to deny it we have built this accumulation of death to defy it. But we know we cannot deny what it is we are because it is already too late, way too late to stop what it is we are. Maybe this is what Siratori in his new diagnosis is telling us. We are in process, mutating beyond the human like some many flecks of flesh slowly changing into something beautiful but unknown and unknowable.

Like all elegies we are taking a last look at what we were mournful of the strangeness of what was and yet in our secret hearts knowing this is good, the only good thing that could be. We are saying goodbye to ourselves. Not quite ready to say hello to the thing we’re becoming we shed our tears over the vestiges of flesh that is dying and mutating like a blade of grass in the wind…

©2022 Art by S.C. Hickman

The Welcoming Committee

The Welcoming Committee 

Who are these people gathered outside my window? Do I know them? Why have they come? What do they seek from me? They just stand there in their tall, pointed caps staring at my house saying nothing. Why won’t they say anything? I yell at them, but they just stand there smiling at me. Why are they smiling? What’s this about? The stars are out now but they are still there. Marta tells me their part of the welcoming committee. But I don’t feel welcome with them just standing there in the dark and cold night full of stars.
There’s a nightmare land situated somewhere between Kafka and Bruno Schulz. A sort of purgatory where no one is alive and yet everyone is. It’s not real, or is it? Unreal real that seems to sit there outside our lives waiting for us to do something.

©2022 S.C. Hickman