Death and Zero

“We get lost in the death of death.”
-Gary J. Shipley

The tattoo is a map and trap, it guides death toward absolute zero, and yet in the labyrinthine passages of each step it divides the fateful event into a series of series – a false infinity of dark chambers, pockets of desire. Written in blood and pigment the hounds of death pulsate forward endlessly through the broken, twisted passages lost among the details of its overdetermined stonework. Each step in this infinite sea becomes a non-repeatable event repeated infinitely among its apophatic undoings, the subtraction of a self among its own memories and desires. To name something is to unname its desire, kill its recorded events, tame its wild charms; see it as it is not, so that it can be as it is. The mystery of a thing is its resemblance to its image, a lie that confounds all mysteries. Zero and Death never reach each other, cannot touch; for to do so would undo creation itself. Like those monks who die without dying, whose mummified flesh is a life within death, we roam in-between that which is and is not keeping the distance between nothing and nothingness at bay. We are not so that we can become other than we are. We are condemned never to desist from our infinite task.

On the Cult of Trump

“Make no mistake about it: great spirits are sceptics.” —Fredrich Nietzsche

How can you write about people who live in their own paranoid novel? It’s not possible, instead you’d have to dismantle their universe of delusion and free them from the prison world of their own self-inflicted madness. The time-loops and feedback systems of their fictional universe are like those old vinyl records that when scratched would loop endlessly in the mad interval of an eternal repetition. But unlike the record, there is no one to lift the diamond needle out of the abyss of repetition. Their stuck repeating the insane gestures forever…

“…in a way, paranoia is kind of a machine, it’s an engine for making connections, and for building stories on top of these connections that you’ve made. So, it’s a connection machine, in a way. And in a way, you start going, this is it; he’s actually modeling this looping process, this is eternal return that we’re stuck in.” – Erik Davis

Conspiracy theory is like that, it’s a fiction about fictions, a paranoid quest bound to the errors of a profound misapplication of thought. Facts? There are no facts in conspiracy theories, only the unwinding of an insane positive-feedback loop entwined with a culture based on persecution and shame. Shamed by its own inanity it strikes out against all who would belabor the point of its insane beliefs. Sartre was wrong Hell is not other people, Hell is other peoples insane meta-fictions…

Actually the Trump’s Cult believers have entered P.K. Dick’s Exegesis as temporary visitants of his paranoia without its sublime transformation into art, instead they’ve literalized his dark gnosis as a form of sacrificial violence become all too real and bloody. QAnon once asserted that Trump is planning a day of reckoning known as the “Storm”, when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested. Problem is he got it wrong, instead of some deep conspiracy of the Left-as-Cabal it was a self-fulfilling prophecy of the insane Cult of Trump’s Q followers who are now in process of being arrested all over the USA as the FBI slowly unravels the images uploaded by the true believers. A positive feed-back loop that no one could have predicted…

Carl Sagan once said to Charlie Rose: ““We’ve arranged a society on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it.”

Trump began his campaign against the sciences when he first unplugged the CDC as the authority over the COVID-19 pandemic, and has ever since undermined every aspect of the medical and scientific community at every turn. He has suborned the anti-intellectual populists and evangelicals with their already fear of intellectuals, sciences, and political institutions to the point that we have now 75 million people following a perfect storm of absolute irrationalism. I saw Ted Cruz on twitter berating Biden for calling the truth as he sees it, that Tec Cruz and his minions along with these insurrectionists were fascists undermining the institutions of democracy.

One thing we have to face is that there is a Civil War rumbling below the threshold of this nation and no amount of talk of reconciliation is going to overcome the sheer inertia of 4 years of Trumpism. We also have to realize that for the most part the police forces across this nation are on the side of the populist right-wing white Trumpists. Biden’s going to have to take a hard line against both those within government who like Ted Cruz and Hawley are anti-democratic forces of fascism, along with the masses of populist believers in Trump and QAnon. No amount of talk in the press is going to make this go away…

Sadly we may wake up across this nation to a more deadly world in the coming months unless we face the hard issue of reeducating these masses… else we’ll become their victims as they become more and more emboldened and violent.

“There’s a sort of bleak Gnosis that I occasionally contemplate. There is a kind of freedom, but the freedom comes only in this profound acceptance, not only in the determined course through linear history, but in the Nietzschean sense, that it’s just like this again. All you get is a certain kind of spiritual acceptance, or some kind of affirmation. That’s what Nietzsche was on about. Your only way out is to just radically affirm your life, in all of its mess, and all of its confusion, and all of its fear towards mortality, and all the same mistakes you’ve made over and over again in your struggle.” – Erik Davis

Enigma One

Enigma One

There are places, zones of despair, slinking, wet miserable alleys and back streets, corners of abandoned buildings, spots of pooling darkness; fluidic as night, where the stars flow among black channels roaming an abyss deeper than midnight. Most will never know of such places hiding in plain sight. Pedestrian creatures whose busy lives distracted by the minor apocalypses of daily routine go about their petty existence without a thought of what lies right next to them. The unknowing ones, sleepers of time, trivia artists whose only delight is the boredom of family life. Couch potatoes, mindless and passive, shifting in a sea of death like happy campers oblivious of the deadly hues of this dark zone of madness. I know, I was once like them…

Sometimes I wish I could go back to sleep, enter that safe harbor of mindless simplicity as if all this had not happened. It would be so much easier. But there is no return for creatures such as I. None now, none ever.

When did it happen? When did I slip into this strange void in between things, suddenly awaken to this insidious existence? Time? Time had nothing to do with it. Time’s an illusion like everything else. The casual violence and sex no longer bother me. Like others I’ve found such rituals and bloodletting to be beneficial if only for a solitary night. The oppressive atmosphere of the zone offers no reprieve or deliverance from our secret knowledge. Condemned by our own curiosity we wander among each others dreams like forlorn ghosts of a forgotten world.

I met her in one of the lesser known clubs that seem to come and go in the shifting reality of the zone. The first time we met neither of us was really interested in conversation, but the knowledge that we shared a secret complicity allowed us to enjoy the evening in silence. No one bothered us, and left each other to our own misery. Her eyes had that inner darkness that speaks of unreal dreams and visions. Most of us slept little. We all knew what happened when one shut one’s eyes.

Her name was Sarah. Her skin was pale and tattooed. She had short frag hair, shaded cotton snow, jet streaked filigrees dangling down like seared tears from a dark angel; edged and boyish it was razored against her scalp giving one the impression she’d seen too many old cyberpunk movies. And, yet, there was something that seemed right about it; like it matched something in her, a ghosted presence surfacing from a haunted inscape that like a fungus touched the deep-rooted curse of the land we inhabited. I was tempted to start up a conversation. But as she glanced furtively at me from time to time I could see that conversation was the last thing she wanted from me.

Our eyes met and locked. Communication. Does anyone really know what passes between flesh and flesh in such moments. A knowing almost magnetic, an intensity that seems to distill time, softening its edges so that whatever is real seems to fall away leaving this unreal afterglow. Not so much meaning as a melding of two voids. We both knew. Nothing had to be spoken. I got up and she followed.

© S.C. Hickman (2021)

Alien Modernity

“As I sat there, catatonic but incredibly present, plugged into the pulsating grid that enveloped me, I realised I’d forgotten my humiliation…”

—Simon Sellars, Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe

The truth is we all love energy, vibrancy and full-tilt danger; as long as that danger isn’t too real. We enter our alternate realities, our game worlds, video avatars strung with metalloid dreams of violence and adventure. We go to clubs that smell of sweat and sex, the violence of the soundscapes roiling us in ancient worlds of ritual and sacrifice. Like initiates of some dark religion we seek to comfort ourselves in dystopian nightmares because those we can deal with unlike the droning imbecility of our everyday lives spent in dread of our actual all too real world of sociopathy and psychopathy. Thomas Ligotti was wrong… what people really want is a dystopian paradise, a holodeck full of adventures and danger without all the bodily violence it entails. Set Theory as an infinite video game; rhizomes to virtual elsewheres where avatars romp among the hyperworlds like alien visitors from a forgotten universe. The enhanced distractions of some sublime nightmare realm that energizes us and keeps us treading the glitz of violent mindscapes. Obsessed, dammed, and full of lurid energy we’re like “a motley band of revelers picnicking in the graveyard of the Real, leaving behind all manner of rotting delicacies and toxic baubles in their wake. ” (Neo-Decadent Reader)

Rereading Simon Sellars novel of the cyberdelian culture of the mid-90’s when utopian desire melded with the dystopian rage of artificial worlds he speaks to us of this temporal void where energy, music, and desire mix in the hollows of memory like temptations to exit reality for the alien raptures of some dark hellish paradise:

“The club was a shrine to jungle, the new and thrilling dance music that was unlike anything anyone had ever known. The five-level building was a rabbit warren of different dance floors. Each floor contained different beats per minute. Different dancers. Different pills. Different ideals for living. Yet all were linked in a cornucopia of psychic energy, a multiverse of mind-bending complexity. The DJs were incredibly exciting, their hyperfast hands wired to the decks. The music was phenomenal. Clattering metallic percussion that injured the brain. Skittering, liquid-synthetic bass lines that ruptured the bowels. Helter-skelter rhythms pierced with dialogue samples from Blade Runner, Predator, Robocop and The Terminator. It was a sci-fi dystopian soundscape, an alien planet brought to life by artificial mindstates and synthetic beats.”

—Simon Sellars


Pick up a copy today: Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe

Ponderings Upon Paul Nash, The Ancient Soul With A Surrealist Heart, And How Art Enables New Ways of Seeing Archaeologically

Rebecca ponders the surrealist work of John Nash… excellent read!

Lady Liminal's Wanderings

“The great stones were in their wild state, so to speak. Some were half covered by the grass, others stood up in cornfields or were entangled and overgrown in the copses, some were buried under the turf. But they were wonderful and disquieting, and as I saw them then, I shall always remember them”

Nash remembering back to his first encounter with the Avebury Megaliths in 1933 (1942); (Nash 1951, 11 – posthumous publication)

Paul Nash (1889 –1946) and I have a history. I vividly remember the first time I saw one of his works, The Menin Road (1918), painted during his tenure as an Official War Artist, during the Great War. It made an immediate, and profound, impact on me. To my young eyes, the burnt out, broken trees, reminded me of the standing stones which I was lucky enough to see peppered throughout the landscapes I roamed as…

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Slavoj Zizek’s Confusion

For years I’ve listened to Slavoj Zizek’s misunderstanding of Gnosticism as he confuses it with the whole tradition of Hermeticism. Hermeticism and its Magical systems would culminate in John Dee’s ideology of the ‘exaltatio’ or the self-divinization of humanity. As György E. Szonyi tells us the Magus was central to the Hermetic tradition of Occult in the West, and the whole struggle of Alchemy and the Hermetic Arts culminated in the Great Work. György E. Szonyi in his magisterial John Dee’s Occultism – Magical Exaltation Through Powerful Signs states:

“This is, the ideology of exaltatio, that is, the deification of man, which I see as the intellectual foundation of magic, a foundation that even today validates magical aspiration and its scholarly research. I also argue that it was the desire for exaltatio which framed and tied together the otherwise amazingly heterogeneous thoughts and activities of John Dee.”

John Dee and the magickal traditions arose out of Hermetic and Alchemical thought rather than Gnosticism proper. At the heart of both Hermetic and Alchemical thought and praxis was the ‘Great Work’ which as Szonyi explores it is this process of exaltation or self-divinization or immortalization, etc. Gnosticism is not the exaltation of self but its opposite. The Gnostic’s soteriological thought and praxis was the erasure and decreation of self, while releasing the hidden god or spark through the power of negation or unnaming in an apophatic process. Whereas the Hermetic Magus sought to reinforce the self and exalt it into absolute godhood and divinity, the Gnostic sought to void the self releasing the god-spark of the Alien God. Two completely different metaphysics and meta-techniques. It’s this difference that makes the difference between the Transhumanist adventure which is steeped in the Hermetic-Alchemical Great Work metaphysics of self-divinization and exaltation that separates it from many Posthumanisms. This is where I disagree with Zizek who confuses Gnosticism with Hermetic-Alchemical traditions in his new work and thereby gets it all wrong.

Confusing the Hermetic-Alchemical traditions with the Gnostic-Kabbalistic traditions has been one of those undercurrents in scholarship and culture that pervades philosophical speculation in Transhumanism, Posthumanism, and Rational Inhumanism. It’s this lack of clarity between the various counter-cultural or underground traditions that have accrued errors over the years.

I’ve seen the same argument from Zizek about New Age obscurantism and his incessant confusion of the the positive Hermetic traditions with negative Gnostic apophatic traditions. As in this passage from his new work on the Wired Brain and Neuralink:

“Today, this theological dimension of the wired brain is making a spectacular return, just (as expected) deprived of the Communist underpinning. The sublime obverse of Musk’s cynical insight “let’s try to catch up with the machines so that we will not become apes in a zoo” is the gnostic New Age reading of Singularity as not only the new stage of post-humanity but a key cosmic event, the accomplishment of the divine self-actualization: in Singularity, not only we, humans, become divine, god himself becomes fully divine. Insofar as Singularity also implies a kind of synchronicity of minds, no wonder it calls for theosophical speculations. That is to say, when synchronicity is debated, the obscurantist temptation is almost irresistible – no wonder Jung loved this notion.”

———————————————–
Funny that he brings up Jung who in my own opinion did the same confusing and merging the Gnostic and Hermetic-Alchemical traditions producing a literalist objectivization of Hegel’s notions of Spirit-Geist as the Objective Psyche or Collective Unconscious. Instead of separating Gnostic Soteriological thought from the Exaltatio of the Great Work in Hermetic-Alchemical lore and techniques Jung became one more obscurantist as Freud knew all too well. Freud was a dualist, Jung a monist. Freud followed Schopenhauer and took the blind Will as Drive and developed all his scientific mythology of pleasure/pain (Lacanian jouissance) into eros / thanatos etc. While Jung would objectify and literalize it as real agents or entities existing in the Objective Psyche. Freud internalized it as a dualist, while Jung externalized it as a monist.

Gnostics being dualists did not internalize the entities (i.e., psychologize them as part of psyche, etc.) … the Gnostics believed the Archons were part of what Kant would term the noumenal or our later sense of the Outside. Not the inside… it is the Hermetic-Alchemical traditions that Jung used to internalize and symbolize the various objective entities of his Objective Psyche later Collective Unconscious. Two different things… Jung’s epigones and disciples would confuse this as well. But Freud would impersonalize these entities as trieb-drive, while Jung would personalize the entities as archetypes. For Freud these entities were the irrational drives (Trieb), while Jung literalized and personified them not as impersonal drive but as actual archetypal persons. This is why Freud is a dualist and saw these as impersonal and irrational forces playing havoc with humanity. Jung was a monist and literalist seeing like Plato’s realism archetypal powers as actual Ideas-Forms and Agents internally in the Objective Psyche, etc. This is why Freud and Jung parted ways…

Barbarism Rising

“Barbarianism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is the whim of circumstance. And barbarianism must ultimately triumph”
― Robert E. Howard

Most of us are ill-prepared to face that hard truth, but under the veneer of our civilized façade humanity is just as barbarous now as it ever was. The pathology of human evil lives in each of us, and no matter what we may think otherwise people under the right circumstances would and will commit the darkest atrocities. We have all the technological gewgaws one can imagine, and yet the slip-shod civilization within which we blindly live as if this is all normal is declining moment by moment into the darkest worlds imaginable. What is normal? Normal is this blind world of distraction and denial we all pretend will last, a safe haven against the bitter fruits of our inane leaders and economics of destruction. No this too will pass… and the nightmare of our blindness will be stripped away as the illusion of civilization falls away from our eyes revealing the beast in all its ferocious savagery.

Post-Apocalyptic Novels that will wipe the veneer of human civility from your blinkered normalcy, and give you back the vision of what lies ahead of us:

Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny
Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Death of Grass by John Christopher
The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Inhabited Island by Strugatsky brothers
Doomed City by Strugatsky brothers
The Time Trilogy:
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
The Drought by J.G. Ballard
The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard
The Children of Men by PD James
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Jerusalem Man Trilogy by David Gemmell
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Age of Paranoia, Hate and Persecution

Carl Schmitt, fascist and right-wing theorist, in his political theology would follow Tertullian against the Gnostics in creating his notion of friend / enemy distinction and decisionist thought. Basing it on a secularization of the Inquisitorial notions of faithful / heretic and all its legalisms. A politics of conflict and agonistic dualism would enter the fray. Has it ever left? Are we not even now still living under this daemonic politics of Left/Right Order and Chaos, Friend (those who side with our politics – Progressive/Conservative, etc.?), and Enemy (all those heretics and hate-mongers of our political stance, etc.).

So much hate, paranoia, and persecution is still the major threat even as mediocre mainstream democracy enters the arena of the American Presidency. The supposed right-wing enemies will not go away quietly into that political night. No. We’ve only begun to enter a decade of struggle and turmoil as the age-old battles of Left and Right transition into a new decade of paranoia, persecution, and hatred of each other.

I’ve often wondered why we fall back into ancient dualistic scenarios, whether we truly are driven by deep forces as Freud and his disciples once mythologized in their drive theories. As Byung-Chul Han in Psychopolitics suggest:

“We are living in a particular phase of history: freedom itself is bringing forth compulsion and constraint. The freedom of Can generates even more coercion than the disciplinarian Should, which issues commandments and prohibitions. Should has a limit. In contrast, Can has none. Thus, the compulsion entailed by Can is unlimited. And so we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Technically, freedom means the opposite of coercion and compulsion. Being free means being free from constraint. But now freedom itself, which is supposed to be the opposite of constraint, is producing coercion. Psychic maladies such as depression and burnout express a profound crisis of freedom. They represent pathological signs that freedom is now switching over into manifold forms of compulsion.”

Freedom as the production of coercion pervades our moment, and the pathology of hate, paranoia, and persecution is with us still. Sadly.

On Failure

Most of us live with the possibility of failure, if not its consequences. Failure is that pinnacle of overreach in which flesh taps mind at the point of its plunge from sun to sea; and, yet, to have seen the glint of wings desperately clinging to the fractured rays of light is a darkness to great to dispel.

Old Age and Dreams

As I grow older I’ve begun dreaming more lucidly again as I did when a child, and do find myself at times waking up speaking to someone in my dreams… it’s always eerie, as if I had been roaming through other lives, on other worlds, and strange landscapes, foreign cities with alien beings who seem to implant information and speak to me of things in our own future… it’s this eerie feeling that we are being warned of coming tragedies that we are ill-prepared for and that we need to act on now. When I do awaken from such dreams I feel haunted, this sense of great loss as if I had seen the end of things and my inner sense had still felt the lingering pain of some horror that I feel deeply but cannot remember: a fleeting series of after-images always follows and I try to sit and place them in memory but they just dissolve in nothingness…

The Great Interregnum

The only dangerous and radical critique is the political critique of democracy. Because the emblem of the present age, its fetish, its phallus, is democracy. So long as we do not know how to construct a large-scale creative critique of State democracy, we will remain, stagnate, in the financial brothel of images.—Alain Badiou, The Pornographic Age

“The basic premise of the Hegelian dialectics is that the path to truth is a moment of truth itself: truth is ultimately nothing other than the systematic articulation of a succession of errors.” —Slavoj Žižek, Hegel in A Wired Brain

Badiou calls it the interval, the gap between a failed world of images and our subtraction from that hall of mirrors. Market democracy rules the planet under various guises of political corruption. But let’s be clear there is no exit, no place to go, no island or safe haven from its ugly face. We are all trapped in the prison house of an economic system of State Democracy. As long as we collude with it we will all fall-fail with it. Badiou would like us to subtract ourselves from this false system of images, bound as we are in a world of social media that entraps us like victims of our own success.

Russia and China have returned to despotism with a capitalist face. The EU is a stateless State of austerity in which economics rules rather than democracy. America is in ragnarok, eclipsed by its own blindness, overreach, and corrupted dreams of globalism. Both reactionary and progressive politics is dead with only the semblance of a farcical comedy of corporate controlled minions left to do its bidding. We pretend with ourselves that we can change it, reform it, modify it by political means… we can’t. But those who still believe in it will continue to merge with its images till the mirror world finally folds them in its dark economic enslavement.

The Pandemic is a natural and unnatural process that in itself is only one pebble in a slow but methodical avalanche of disasters coming our way on this planet. Already we see how the façade of market democracy has failed us, and will continue to fail us. Oh, don’t get me wrong, people will cling to the sinking ship till they drown… people don’t really want to change. They want their utopian dreams, their little petty lives to go on as before, as if their little lives mattered. They don’t. No one gives a shit about your petty lives. Especially those who mask power in the halls of government. True, I’m pessimistic about our prospects because people for the most part are like compliant and passive prisoners awaiting a judgment that will never come. They’ve judged themselves.

Oh, sure, people will protest this or that, but revolt… revolution? No. People have become domesticate animals entrapped in the comforts of false desires, minions of a technocratic worldview that offers them simple distractions and images of freedom rather than freedom itself. Justice. How can there be justice in a world of images?

Posthuman Control

Unlike his friend Badiou, Zizek accepts that the technocratic worldview will replace our current chaotic interval, that we are already in the midst of this transitional phase, moving in that demarcated zone of Singularity beyond which no one can see but the wise among us can at least speculate:

“The prospect of total digital control of which we are not even aware confronts us brutally with the basic philosophical question: is our only chance of freedom in isolation from the space of Singularity, or is there a dimension of being-human which in principle eludes Singularity even if we are fully immersed in it?”

–Slavoj Žižek, Hegel in A Wired Brain

Broken Dreams, Broken Promises

At the moment that Spengler wrote The Decline of the West modernity was in decline… WWI had devastated Europe and the supposed Great Powers were all losing or had lost their pirate Empires across the Third World. Mechanistic science and philosophy were under attack from all sides as Einstein’s revolutions began to modify and take hold of Newton’s worldview that would soon fragment into an array of competing theories leading to the Quantum revolution of the 30’s…

So the vitalism of Goethe and Nietzsche seemed to flow into such prequels of fascism with its notions of Eliot’s Wasteland, Pound’s Cantos, Yeats nostalgic Celtic Twilight… visions of ancient utopias that never existed but that could still hold sway over an age of bitter defeats and late romanticism, decadence, and disenchantment…

The postmoderns would later try to destroy the metanarratives of modernity, try to relativize history and all its theories; its historicist mythologies… did it accomplish its task. No. Humans are in love with the Mind’s inventions, and even now people project their wants and fears into dreams of past or future narratives. One reason Fantasy and Science Fiction still hold sway over a vast swath of readers imaginations.

I think one thing most fear above all is that modernity, progress, and democracy all arose with this strange amalgam of the Enlightenment’s dreams of Reason, Disenchantment, and Western Civilization. That this seems now to be crumbling around us due to our ill-choice in an economic system that embodied both the central motif of this worldview, along with all its ruinous consequences for the planet and for the stability of Western Civilization is coming to fruition.

We attack it and label its economic engine, and yet we do not see that one cannot rip out the engine without destroying the vehicle within which it has mobilized its forces. Spengler along with his mentor Nietzsche believes that somewhere in the decades of this new century we are living in that Western Civilization would enter it’s last stages of decline and fall… is this myth, metanarrative, or just a mental fiction about a process we still do not have much control over but that the Mind in its inventive powers dreams forward? As Spengler said:

“At last, in the grey dawn of Civilization, the fire in the Soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, half-successful, effort of creation, and produce the Classicism that is common to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism looks back piteously to its childhood; then finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses its desire to be, and, as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong daylight and back in the darkness of protomysticism, in the womb of the mother, in the grave.”

Valhalla Steel by Sean Crow

Capture1

Enjoyed the hell out of this one. Sean knows how to pack a punch, a cybergrim speed bolt of thunder ripping down the whale road of a post-apocalyptic death road. What a twist to match ancient Norse and Brit mythologies of Vikings vs. Fae into a high-tech world of augmented gun jockeys and net runners, Mongols with Sky-Seekers roaring across the skies on grav boats, and Primordial kin with weregelded eyes of amber smoking pure fire across streetscapes of Twilight City.

It’s a tale of revenge and survival, of a dead father and the last of his Clan seeking vengeance in a new world far removed from their Icelandic enclaves. Angus – Jarl of the Clans leading a remnant from the Fae wars to make their way in a brutal world where only the strong and intelligent hope to survive. Forging alliances between monstrous creatures and a city of shadows where nothing is ever as it seems.

About the only thing I found lacking was a longer work, it was just way too short and need three times the length we were given. The narrative arc itself is perfect, but I felt like this was a trial run of a much longer work to come, a prequel or preamble of an epic fantasy done up in noir and grimdark world of cyberpunk tech. I just hope Sean will take his time and not rush the next one, spend more time of creating more detail in landscape and characterization. Otherwise this is the start of something empowering and quite different from anything out there in this sub-genre.


Visit Sean’s site: Home – (lordofcrows.com)
By Valhalla Steel on amazon: buy it!

Philosophers of Irrationalism, Will, and Vitalism

Most who have followed my blog have probably gathered that most of my thought goes under the lineage of philosophical voluntarism, irrationalism, and vitalism; all with a reserved qualification. That aside the following are the main influences in that tradition as opposed to all Rationalist Philosophies of all persuasions. Each of them touches aspects of the lineage without all being of the same pedigree. Some are of opposing political stances, and even at the extreme opposite of the political spectrum. I could have added many others. Some tend toward non-dialectical thought, others dialectical; some Idealist, others Materialist; but all touch base with the Irrational driven nature of human beings over those philosophers who believe humans are guided by Intellect and Reason. It doesn’t take much to realize that our immediate human world is driven by irrational forces more than Rational. Not all are voluntarist, not all are vitalist, but all are part of that Irrationalist worldview. Irrationalism has always stressed the dimensions of instinct, feeling, and will as over and against reason, intellect, and Geist (Spirit). In our own time the Rationalist philosophers seem to be in the ascendant, but there are still those of the Irrationalist mode to be found…

Below are a few of the Philosophers of Irrationalism, Will, and Vitalism (this is not an exhaustive list):

Empedocles
Saint Augustine
John Duns Scotus
Blaise Pascal
Immanuel Kant
Johann Georg Hamann
Friedrich Schelling
Arthur Schopenhauer
Julius Frauenstädt
Eduard von Hartmann
Philipp Mainländer (Batz)
Julius Bahnsen
Wilhelm Dilthey
Frederich Nietzsche
Søren Kierkegaard
Charles Sanders Pierce
William James
Sigmund Freud
Henri Bergson
Ludwig Klages
Oswald Spengler
Jean-Paul Sartre
Albert Camus
Georges Bataille
Adorno
Marcuse
E.M. Cioran
Jean Baudrillard
Gilles Deleuze
Nick Land
Franco (Bifo) Berardi
Slavoj Zizek

Gnostic Films for the Holidays

Gnostic Films

A group of gnostic films I want to rewatch over the holidays: Vanilla Sky (2001), The Thirteenth Floor (1999), eXistenZ (1999), Dark City (1998), and Pleasantville (1998). Dead Man (1996) and Altered States (1980) with more hermetic and alchemical themes. And of course The Matrix (1999) and The Truman Show (1998) with gnostic imprisonment and escape themes. Those with gnostic undercurrents: The Ninth Gate (1999), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), Blue Velvet (1986), and Excalibur (1981).

Should keep me busy…

For those who need a primer in gnostic thought…

Depends on your reading. I’m not a Gnostic, but rather an Anti-Gnostic Gnostic… a misnomer, but for me there is no alien god hiding or exiled beyond the universe awaiting its moment of redemption or salvation of my spark. Yet, as in pessimism there is a sense that something is wrong, something at root malevolent and dark within the immanence of our energetic (Will) cosmos. The early Gnostics were of course soteriologically minded, believing that this malevolent demiurge (Old Testament’s Yaweh-Ialdabaoth) and his minions (Archons) had lured the sparks of God into this universe to trap them and feed eternally on their suffering and pain. Kabbalistic thought would engender a myth of the broken vessels and the Tree-of-Life and Tree-of-Death or right hand path/left-hand-path of white and black magics to describe it. For Gnostics we are all Strangers in a Strange Land (Heinlein), lost in a labyrinth of time, cut off from the source or Plato’s One, etc. Christ in their scenario is Lucifer the Light Bringer who makes a call to the faithful through personal experience. That’s the crux… that was the central heresy and why the Catholic Church hounded them out in all forms: the Church had a hierarchy of intercessors, the Pope being the ultimate intercessor between humanity and God (Demiurge-Yahweh). Gnostics had no need of intercessors or Churches, worldly power or organization… only the personal experience of each human alone with the alone.

The Gnostics had no need of outer form, ritual, Churches but rather relied on absolute inner sense and experience (see Bataille). None of the above films is a pure Gnostic rendition, but all have elements and undercurrents either overt or askance of the notion of gnosis or an irrational (beyond reason) knowledge that awakens one from the sleep of timespace, etc. One could spend years developing and reading through the literature, I’ve spent a lifetime reading on it and its roots in philosophy etc. Hell, even one like François Laruelle makes use of it in his non-philosophy. Classic texts like Hans Jonas gives you the base or skeleton key. The aphorist E.M. Cioran gives you the inner forms… there is literally hundreds of good works on it, and thousands and thousands of secondary commentary and historical, mythical, philosophical works… for a light economical reading The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today by April DeConick brings much to the table in easy to know and understand popular parlance from a scholar who does have more stringent works.

I’m no scholar, just a widely read bibliophile and maniac in search of wisdom and knowledge. I’ve hounded the streams of so many currents in thought that none of them can reduce me to its view. Singular and dividual I stand amid the ruins of our Western culture not in some nostalgic take or to save what’s left, but to explore what’s still vital and alive in it.

Eric Voegelin’s Anti-Democratic Worldview

I’ve never been much of a fan of such thinkers as Voegelin, and yet let us be clear we need to understand such right-wing reactionary thinkers and their attack on progressive liberalism and its roots in Modernity. The reactionary spirit is not going away, as we see in our recent political debacle, so understanding and thinking through the ideologists of that form of political theology and its underpinnings is needful in the times ahead.

The Lutheran Eric Voegelin a reactionary conservative and anti-democratic ideologist of constitutional liberalism would equate it and its traditions with Gnosticism as the core of Modernity. His attack upon all forms of progressive and socialist thought would stem from his right-wing religious ideology. For him much of our current civilization was under the sign of a “falacious immanentization”, an “End of History” ideology based on a recurring theme of gnostic thought.

Voegelin found in the Calabrian monk Joachim of Flora a hook for his own reactionary thought, believing that this monk created a speculative history that satisfied the desire to endow mundane human existence with a meaning which Christianity, and especially the Augustinian conception of history, had denied it; and he did so by relocating the end of transcendental history, the Christian eschaton, the ultimate transfiguration in God out of time within historical existence. Joachim’s project, according to Eric Voegelin, was the “first Western attempt at an immanentization of the meaning of history.”1

What unites the various manifestations of this spiritual disorder according to Voegelin’s reactionary thought—positivism, progressivism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, liberalism, fascism, National Socialism—is the radical “will to immanentization,” the closure toward the transcendent dimension of human experience, that underlies their construction. Indeed, the most extreme modern ideologies go a step further; their proponents not only reject the transcendent ground but seek to “abolish the constitution of being, with its origin in divine, transcendent being, and to replace it with a world-immanent order of being.” They aim to bring about the transfiguration of human nature through human action in history and to build a terrestrial paradise endowed with the meaning and salvational qualities of the Christian eschaton. In short, the ideological constructions embody, in Voegelin’s famous terminology, a radical and “fallacious immanentization of the Christian eschaton.” The Christian conception of man’s ultimate transfiguration in God was brought “down to earth,” transformed into the notion of human transfiguration in time, to be accomplished through strictly human and immanent action; the transcendent Christian end of history was transformed into a mundane “End of History” to be realized in the immanent future. The ideologists carried the process begun by Joachim to its limit; the transcendent dimension of reality was fully absorbed into mundane existence.

Voegelin saw Gnosticism all over the modern age. He even considered liberalism, constitutionalism, and “democratism” to be gnostic ideologies, and some of his students were extremely hard on John Locke, who had a sizeable influence on the American Founding. If he lived today he’d be attacking Transhumanism and the notion of the Singularity as one more manifestation of the Gnostic Spirit of transcendence in immanence or the “End of History” ideology, along with its notion of hermetic revival of self-divinizing cyborg or AGI merger as the new Golem-Homunculus – as Immortal Man.


  1. Raeder, Linda C. Voegelin on Gnosticism, Modernity, and the Balance of Consciousness. Voegelin Review 2020

Negative Capability and Our Predicament

If I had a basic stance it would always return to John Keat’s notions:

“The Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason…” (Letter to his brothers Tom and George)

Over and over I seek out such thinkers and writers who seem to be situated in that in-between space where one is faced with the nameless and unknown without grasping for some religious or scientific reason or image to dispel its mystery. Certain forms of horror and the weird come closest to this region of thought beyond which all is silence of mysticism. One reason philosophies of Will rather than Intellect fascinate me is just that, we are driven creatures, irrational and prone to error both in judgment and vision, our brains filling in the gaps of our knowledge and vision of existence with invention.

As Andy Clark in Surfing Uncertainty puts it:

“The mystery is, and remains, how mere matter manages to give rise to thinking, imagining, dreaming, and the whole smorgasbord of mentality, emotion, and intelligent action. Thinking matter, dreaming matter, conscious matter: that’s the thing that it’s hard to get your head—whatever it’s made of—around. But there is an emerging clue. It is one clue among many, and even if it’s a good one, it won’t solve all the problems and puzzles. Still, it’s a real clue is prediction.

To deal rapidly and fluently with an uncertain and noisy world, brains like ours have become masters of prediction—surfing the waves of noisy and ambiguous sensory stimulation by, in effect, trying to stay just ahead of them.” (Andy Clark. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind)

In other words we are the creative animal, we live by and in inventions, worlds of imaginative leaps bounded by reason, logic, and imagination. It’s a world that was well adapted to the natural realms within which we developed and maintained our material existence for hundreds of thousands of years. But that all changed somewhere around ten thousand years ago when men began taming themselves and the natural world around them. We began domesticating ourselves and the natural worlds, began a process of domination and control of which our unnatural or anti-natural realm of artifice, technology, and civilization is the outcome.

With all our philosophical prowess we have yet to encompass the big picture of this actual heritage.

The Labyrinths of the Asemic Night

The Labyrinths of the Asemic Night

The Priest reminded him of the Sin Eater’s of old whose open sores gave acolytes and bearer’s of sin alike visions of infernal worlds of hopeless love. Asemic mappings of the invisible noumenon surrounding us in the Abyss, the slow insectile elaboration of a secret legacy hidden in the seams of broken masonry or the pools of blood found in dark alleys of inner cities. Listening to the chittering patter of the night, the clicking clatter of millions of legs across the rain-soaked stones of the labyrinth he heard in the distance the lonely song of some darkened siren of the veil, her song slipping between the folds of the coronal horizon of dying stars. Here at the center of the darkness he felt the cosmic night drifting through his mind like a hint of closure, an exposed moment of stylish and incipient emergence of some unknown and unknowable future.

On Scientism

Scientism: Scientism is the dogma that the sciences have access to truths that hold some essential Truth denied by other organizations of knowledge. It is a secular religion with its own hierarchy of priests, theologians, and secular proselytizers who deny all other forms of truth beyond their own. Scientific dogma holds that both philosophy and religion are the opiate of former ages, a form of thought surpassed under the aegis of scientific method and inquiry.

Of course the defenders of philosophy and religion dispute such claims and the wars of thought go on… Why do men seek dogmas, seek to ground their stubborn beliefs in systems of thought or inquiry that in their own domain hold great promise, but the moment they assume the mantle of spokesman or preachers of the Real and Reality they suddenly seem superficial navigators of the horizon of thought?

The sad thing in our own time is that the sciences being funded by government and corporations have also been bound by those ideologies to say and do only what their respective employers or political affiliations allow them too. Sciences as an empirical naturalism was once a great tool for exploration of the world and the cosmos; and, still is. But over time it has become dominated by both political and monetary (capitalist) forms to the detriment of empirical investigation and the common hope of humanity. Will this ever change?

Paingod

Tears were impossible, yet tears were his heritage. Sorrow was beyond him, yet sorrow was his birthright. Anguish was denied him; even so, anguish was his stock in trade. For Trente, there was no unhappiness; nor was there joy, concern, discomfort, age, time, feeling. And this was as the Ethos had planned it. For Trente had been appointed by the Ethos—the race of somewhere/somewhen beings who morally and ethically ruled the universes—as their Paingod. To Trente, who knew neither the tug of time nor the crippling demands of the emotions, fell the forever task of dispensing pain and sorrow to the myriad multitudes of creatures that inhabited the universes. Whether sentient or barely capable of the feeblest unicellular reaction-formation, Trente passed along from his faceted cubicle, invisible against the backdrop of the changing stars, unhappiness and misery in proportions too complexly arrived at to be verbalized. He was Paingod for the universes, the one who dealt out the tears and the anguish and the soul-wrenching terrors that blighted life from its first moment to its last. Beyond age, beyond death, beyond feeling—lonely and alone in his cubicle—Trente went about his business without concern or pause.

—Harlan Ellison, Paingod and other Delusions

E.M. Cioran: Our Century

However severe we are in regard to this century, however serious the shortcomings may appear, one cannot, however unjustifiably, refuse it the merit of knowing itself, and of wanting itself to be condemned. This merit, this privilege rather, assures it a unique physiognomy and gives the fatality that awaits it an irresistible attraction. Happy and unhappy to live there, we contemplate with voluptuarity and terror the signs that define and distinguish it. Other centuries also knew the curiosity of the outcome, the impatience of the imminent and the intolerable, the pangs of a dreaded and expected certainty, with this difference, however, that it was open to them to conceive an after, a day after a disaster, an end followed by a judgment, a hope of compromise or fraud. For us, the irreparable model of completion, is flawless; it is even the only form of rigor and perfection that we can imagine. Consequently, indistinct of our future, it draws us, with its irreproachable tenebrosity, as wonderfully apt to approach it, the more we fall into this flattering nightmare, felt by all those who had the advantage of finding themselves at the heart of some great calamity.

—E.M. Cioran, The Key to the Abyss

Sean Crow: The Godless Lands

Sean Crow’s Godless LandsCapture

Began reading this new entry in a certain type of fantasy I’ve been enjoying of late. Sean himself told me recently he is an adherent of David Gemmell’s work like others are to Tolkien. Gemmell is of course a master of nuance and the gray tones of moral ambiguity. Creating characters of the heroic mold tending toward the grimdark vectors of the great outsiders who hold to no religious or social creeds or dogmas, but rather harbor within themselves a moral compass of unique disposition challenging the universe on its own ground situation by situation. Call them existential heroes who choose life over death, honor and integrity over the imposed morals of State or Religion.

Sean’s characters so far follow in this mold. We find a world that has been inundated by a small apocalypse of disease, The Blight. It’s a world of fear and dread, ruled by a contingent of feudal lords and their Inquisitorial Knights who control access to food and shelter in cities that enforce strict compliance to a regimen of cleansing and purity.

The prologue and first chapter introduce us to Arlo, Ferris, and the Doves. Arlo is a man caught in the circumstance of being the head of the Doves, the Inquisitorial enforces of purification and cleansing of the city of those who once they catch the dread Blight must be mercifully eliminated. It’s a grim task and Arlo is a man who is not evil in the absolute sense, but has been assigned a task, one he does not relish but knows must be done. Arlo has himself lost a wife and loved ones to the Blight so knows the sorrow of this dreaded disease.

Ferris is a Dove, or an ex-Dove, a man who has seen death aplenty, but has chosen to live outside the city in the godless lands where there is no protection or safe haven. Ferris is a coward, but as in Gemmell’s character Rek of Legend, he is a coward on the side of life, a man who chose to protect the innocent and certain of the diseased from the dread execution. We meet him on a road outside the city in a forest where a woman and her child are running from Knights. Ferris unknowing why he does it helps them evade the law chasing her down, and offers her a small reprieve and help to find better safety. Ferris will question his own motives and like Rek in Gemmell come up with no satisfactory reason why he is the way he is. This is as far as I’ve gotten so far, but it’s enough to keep me reading. One thing I will say is that even if there are shades of Gemmell in the work I’m not going to look for such things from here, only that his mentioning of Gemmell as his “Tolkien” or go to writer of inherited influence brings such thoughts to mind.

Just finished Sean’s novel today. Very enjoyable read. As previously stated the novel started out with the escape of a young woman, Bethany, and her daughter, Katrina from an unwanted marriage in the aristocratic town of Brightbridge. Bethany and her daughter run into Ferris on the road outside the town where they are being tracked by a group known as the Pathfinders who are scouts under Arlo’s command. Arlo we remember is a knight under the command of a half-crazed aristocrat whose tendencies to violence are quick and deadly. Yet, Arlo, being a man of loyalty and honor serves his lord with the utmost zeal to the point that he’s gained a reputation as the “Death Knight” in the local environs for his zealous and officious slaughter of whole families who have come into contact with the plague known as the Blight.

The story revolves around the escape of mother and child, a tale of two towns and a farm where their destinies are entwined with others who have escaped before and sought in the godless lands a refuge against the madness of aristocrats, the plague, and the cruelty of enslavement. The story will run the gambit of half-crazed aristocrats, cannibals, mercenaries, and innocent men and women seeking to escape the plague ridden cities where cruelty and mayhem have led to inhuman depths of depravity. Brightbridge is controlled by Arlo and his mercenary forces of death, while another town, Riven, is controlled by a sadistic giant named ‘The Butcher’. The Butcher is the son of a doctor who succumbed to the Blight and died leaving his son whose apprenticeship in the arts of healing have taken a darker turn toward sadism and torture and the worship of a dark god of cannibalistic cruelty named the ‘Hungry God’.

In Sean’s novel the deadly ‘Death Knight’ of Brightbridge, and the ‘Butcher’ of Riven, will both leave their respective towns for different reasons. The one in search of his Lord’s runaway bride and daughter, the other in search of a new supply of meat for the Hungry God. As one can tell this will lead both parties into a collision course with the refugees of a Farm where people from both towns have fled to begin new lives in the godless lands. Throw into the mix another group of survivors known as the ‘Withered’ – those who have survived the plague only to succumb to a dark and terrible zombie like state of insanity, and who seek to murder all those who are still normal humans.

I don’t want to spoil the reading pleasure of prospective reader’s mind with more plot and narrative details, only to say that you will be introduced to the members of the Farm who will play a major part in the coming clash between the deadly Deathknight Brightbridge and the Butcher of Riven. Like all novels there are twists and sub-plots, many POVs to delight our curiosity and move the tale along toward its denouement. Sean’s a storyteller with a sure eye to detail, and provides just enough information here and there without overly pounding the reader with infodumps. All in all this was a tight, compact tale which gives us just enough characterization and depth to enrich and pique our interest without bogging us down in an overly wrought tale of description gone mad. Sean has an eye for both psychological and external description to keep us reading, and yet knows just how much is too much guiding the reader into a good balance of strategy and action.

From what I’ve read this novel grew out of several tales that Sean had written in collusion with a painter friend, stories of various characters in the novel that would contribute to its overall design. It does have that visual appeal, and strangely the tale although written before our current COVID-19 crisis seems apropos in its theme shaped by a politics of cruelty and torture, freedom and normalcy. The novel has the medieval feel, and yet as one reads through it one will detect a sense that this is a civilization that has fallen from a more advanced and productive technological one based on a knowledge of the sciences. I’ll leave the reader to explore the threads of that on their own. Unlike many thick books of fantasy this is one that can be read in a couple of evenings. And even though there are other books that are projected to come in the same world, this one can be read as a stand-alone tale without having to worry about sequels. I like that. Too many writers have gotten into the habit of writing long overly wrought worlds that never seem to end. It’s refreshing to see a stand-alone tale that has a good beginning, middle, and end in the old style. Sean is a new voice in a field that is becoming saturated by cliched ridden world-building and stories that seem to endlessly repeat certain tropes over and over again. Sean’s doesn’t. It presents us with a tale about the common people who no matter what background, whether aristocrat or street urchin come together in a wilderness and forge a new life of cooperation and survival in a world of ruins. I like that, and think you will too.


Buy it on Amazon: The Godless Lands
Visit Sean Crow on Good Reads: here

Emile Cioran: The Failed Mystic

Timid, devoid of dynamism, the good is inept at communicating itself. Evil, much more zealous, seeks to transmit itself, and succeeds because it possesses the double privilege of being fascinating and contagious.

—E. M. Cioran, The New Gods

I think anyone who has struggled against one’s cultural inheritance, and let’s be specific: one’s Christian heritage whether of Catholic or Protestant background (although one will always qualify such things further!). I think they must admit to themselves a certain failure to completely extinguish it. Cioran was no different. Raised in an Orthodox Greek household, his father himself a Priest of that Church, enforced a certain inheritance of thought and form on the young Cioran that would never leave him. Cioran was a mystic at heart, but one who never attained its sublime ecstasy. He was a failed mystic. Continue reading

The Illusion

One imagines a Library at the center of the universe housed in a vast cosmic library world labyrinth, hollowed out and housing all the known knowledge of space, time and the multiverse. Then you’re asked to find the Grimoire of a sorcerer long dead whose works were meant only as a guide to the labyrinthine Library of Time… you’ve been seeking this book now for 999 years. You meet Jorge-Luis Borges in a forgotten niche of the library who describes a labyrinth of Babylon which he once entered much like this library…. but that was exactly 232 years ago and you cannot remember exactly what the conversation was about except that it seemed to hold the key to your current quest. Now you begin retracing the years and alcoves of the labyrinth of time seeking him out… but he left the library 231 years ago for parts unknown… you stand there a moment not knowing whether the quest is worth it or not; or, who sent you on this errand into the interminable labyrinth without outlet. To move or not to move is your only thought. You think to yourself that Zeno was a prankster… a deluded god of thought and change. If all movement is an illusion, then the labyrinth, library, and time are all unnecessary delusions of the quest; and, the quest itself can never be completed, because one can never leave one’s current place. But then this must be the place, and you the sorcerer of the one thought, guide and perplexed victim, one.