The Androcratic Imperative: Capitalism and the Rule of Men

…a social group cannot be formed without ‘fictioning’ (that is, dreaming) its past and future unity, and given that the passage from fact to law is indeed that from existence to consistence. It is in and from this primordial artefactuality and from the resulting fact of the inherently organological (and not just organic) character of human organizations – a fatum that constitutes the tragic ground of Presocratic Greece – that, politically and in law, a justice must be affirmed in the name of the criterion of truth, and affirmed as the differentiation of law from fact that is historically formed in the apodictic experience of geometry.

—Bernard. Stiegler,  Automatic Society: The Future of Work

It is a terrible fact that atrocity is not the perversion, but the very motor of such struggles: the language of inexorable political will. A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell.

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

Ever since Michael Foucault first attacked the grand narratives of historians and cultural theorists from the 19th to 20th Century the so called Postmodern Era presumed that all past cultural work was part of a pure fictionalization of the past. But something he left out was that the simplification of his own microhistories were just as fictional and small narrative structures as those others like, let’s say, Spengler and Toynbee and their strangely organic theories couched in Nineteenth Century organic thought (Idealisms).

We all remember that sudden moment when Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest says,

Prospero:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

—The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158ℹ

This all pervasive sense that life is a dream, that we are mere semblances woven of insubstantial stuff, that reality is a façade and that underneath it is something else, some other realm supporting and engendering this dreamworld of our universe. This is the metaphysical narrative that has been central to Western Metaphysics since Plato. Nietzsche in his early The Birth of Tragedy, before he’d awaken from his stupor and renounce the strange metaphysical world of the ancients and the moderns, would voice his own version of this, saying,

Every human being is fully an artist when creating the worlds of dream, and the lovely semblance of dream is the precondition of all the arts of image-making, including, as we shall see, an important half of poetry. We take pleasure in dreaming, understanding its figures without mediation; all forms speak to us; nothing is indifferent or unnecessary. Yet even while this dream-reality is most alive, we nevertheless retain a pervasive sense that it is semblance…  Philosophical natures even have a presentiment that hidden beneath the reality in which we live and have our being there also lies a second, quite different reality; in other words, this reality too is a semblance. Indeed Schopenhauer actually states that the mark of a person’s capacity for philosophy is the gift for feeling occasionally as if people and all things were mere phantoms or dream-images.1

In a later work The Gay Science he would render his relation to this epistemic insight this way,

The consciousness of appearance. – How wonderful and new and yet how fearful and ironic my new insight makes me feel towards all of existence! I have discovered for myself that the ancient humanity and animality, indeed the whole prehistory and past of all sentient being, continues within me to fabulate, to love, to hate, and to infer – I suddenly awoke in the middle of this dream, but only to the consciousness that I am dreaming and that I must go on dreaming lest I perish – as the sleepwalker has to go on dreaming in order to avoid falling down. What is ‘appearance’ to me now! Certainly not the opposite of some essence – what could I say about any essence except name the predicates of its appearance! Certainly not a dead mask that one could put on an unknown x and probably also take off x! To me, appearance is the active and living itself, which goes so far in its self-mockery that it makes me feel that here there is appearance and a will-o’-the-wisp and a dance of spirits and nothing else – that among all these dreamers, even I, the ‘knower’, am dancing my dance; that the one who comes to know is a means of prolonging the earthly dance and thus is one of the masters of ceremony of existence, and that the sublime consistency and interrelatedness of all knowledge may be and will be the highest means to sustain the universality of dreaming, the mutual comprehension of all dreamers, and thereby also the duration of the dream.2

This notion that knowledge and our intellectual or epistemic relation to it are part of a process of collective dreaming and fictionalization of which culture, civilization, and our daily life are intertwined and sustained through time (duration) is central to this and the age old metaphysical truth of the philosophers. The postmoderns would undermine the fabulations of the philosophers, storytellers, historians, and all the grand narratives that have sustained and shaped Western Culture and Civilization. For Nietzsche awakening from the madness of this dreamworld began a process of cultural hermeneutics or interpretation that would begin to undermine the very fabric of those worlds that had sustained Western Civilization during the – shall we call it – Religious and Philosophical Age. For Western Civilization (which of course is itself a label, category, myth, figuration, trope, etc., there being no actual monolithic thing behind the mask of this metaphor) has been steeped in local and universal images and dreamworlds that have molded its singular and collective customs, habits, drives (Triebe), etc. for millennia. Later thinkers would try to find a pattern within the maze of historical reflection on this past, try to encompass it and turn a critical gaze upon every facet of its dream images: art, music, philosophy, politics, economics, culture, religions, etc.

In our own moment of contemporary letters we’ve seen this same grand narrative tradition arise in such popular works as the humanist Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow which couch the past and possible trajectories of the future in a layman’s guide to the Anthropocene or Era of Humans, etc.. One could list a dozen works that weave the past into narratives of one sort or another all providing a specific viewpoint, moral, message, etc.. Humans seem to feel comforted if they can wrap their minds around the past, make it human, humanize it and reduce it to a secure, known, and manageable construction kit of theory and practice that we can learn from and help us on our way into some unknown future. The age old need for stories and storytelling, shamans, witches, and travelers into the unknown dreamworlds of the unknown is well documented. This process of taking up facts and making of them certain givens, of producing regulated laws and concepts that can reduce the welter of complexity to something human and manageable is a core feature of how humans create, maintain, and shape their cultures and civilizations: how they secure and guard the perimeters of their world-views and exclude what is foreign and unknown from the light of their knowledge. Immanuel Kant would go so far as to exclude the unknown and unthinkable (noumenal) realms beyond human thought from philosophy so that under his heritage we’ve been regulated and reduced to the known worlds of phenomenal reality.  Humans would be boxed in and bound by a well-tuned matrix of ideas and concepts that would enclose them in a governable and manageable modern bourgeois state where Law would regulate every aspect of their lives in minutiae.

The Origins of Algorithmic Society: Androcratic Domination and the Global World Order of Males

 Despite inadequacies in Marx’s grasp of the nation state in its colonial and neo-colonial functioning, his account of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ clearly demonstrates that the origin of wage labour relations is not itself economic, but lies in an overt war against the people, or their forced removal from previous conditions of subsistence.3

We’ve all studied it, that is – the emergence of capitalism and the modern nation states out of Feudalistic Society and Civilization. One need not be an expert or informed by the magisterial grand sweep of Fernand Braudel’s Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century to know that we’ve all been enclosed in a global network of economics that shapes our daily lives for better or worse. Yet, the notion that “Capital has always sought to distance itself in reality – i.e. geographically – from this brutal political infrastructure.” (FN) Or that “the ideal of bourgeois politics is the absence of politics, since capital is nothing other than the consistent displacement of social decision-making into the marketplace.” (FN) We now live in a global marketplace run by Oligarchs for profit in which all resistance against the exigencies of this vast system of techno-commerce is futile. Even in its fragility it has no competitors, no Outside force to resist it and shape us to another vision. As Land remarks,

But this ideal of total de-politicization, or the absolute annihilation of resistance to market relations, is an impossible megalomaniac fantasy, and Marx’s contention that labour trading at its natural price in an undistorted market (equal to the cost of its reproduction) will tend strongly to express an equally ‘natural’ political refusal of the market, continues to haunt the global bourgeoisie.(FN, KL 803)

This antagonistic relation between politics and economics, market and state has been with us for two hundred years at least. Yet, at the core of this relation is a non-relation, one that will expose democracy as a lie invented by the Oligarchs to maintain the façade of a genial world for the masses, and another separate world for the rich and powerful to enclose the commons and accumulate vast resources and wealth from the excluded Third World. As Land argues it is in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that Western cultural history culminates in a self-reflecting bourgeois civilization, because his thought of synthesis (or relation to alterity – the Other, the Excluded), and also the strangulation of this thought within his system, captures modernity as a problem. But the modernity thus symptomized by its philosophical exposition is not primarily the penultimate phase of a dialectic of society and production, it is rather the necessity that historically itself – expansionary social and economic development, or ‘synthesis’ – compromises with a profound continuity whose basic aspects are on the one hand patrilineal descent, and on the other a formal logic of identity that was already concluded in its essentials by Aristotle.

This notion that Marxian dialectical thought couched as it is in a reversal of Idealism does not apprehend the continuities of an androcratic dominator social relation as well as the conceptual logic of Identity-of-the-Same that has stabilized and structured these very relations for millennia. Early Land influenced by ultra-feminist thought would align his critique of Apartheid South African as a singular microcosm of our Western Civilization of Capital.  In fact this whole androcratic regime of male rule or in feminist parlance, Patriarchy has dominated life on earth since the rise of the major monotheistic religions (and before). As Land surmises this “tradition is thus rooted in a communication between culture and population, whose medium is the stability (‘identity’) of the male line.” (FN) Going on to say,

Modernity is not merely a compromise between novel forms of commercially driven social organization and this archaic cultural pattern of patrilineal exogamy, but more fundamentally, a deepening of the compromise already integral to any exogamy that is able to remain patrilineal. It is only by understanding the inhibitive function of patriarchies in relation to exogamic dissipation (an inhibition that is supremely logical in that it conserves identity, and which is for this reason violently xenophobic) that we can make sense of capital production and its tendency towards the peculiar cultural mutation that was baptised by Mussolini as ‘fascism’. (FN, KL 829)

Fascist male rule under a centralized hierarchy of corporatism is at the core of modern capitalism. Riane Eisler in her watershed book, The Chalice and the Blade would term it the dominator model which is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy— the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second model, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model— beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female— diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.4

In our own moment there is a struggle that has yet to rise to the political level because politics has been stripped of its public forums in any meaningful way. This notion of two worlds, the one based of fascist corporatism and the other on the network effect of linking rather than ranking (or hierarchical domination from above, etc.) is being waged. That the factions of both the Left and Right seem deluded in their models of reality is apparent in the multifarious thousands of essays, articles, books, speeches, conferences, and its meted out and milk-down versions spouted by talking heads of media blip culture everywhere. That no one human has put their stamp on our era, not a Badiou, Zizkek, or any other philosophical, scientific, or scholar with a conceptual framework worthy of theorizing our world is apparent. We are in a stasis, a sink hole of cultural malaise, a milieu of self-defeat in which the very pundits we look too for answers offer us only more questions. We’ve had questions galore, what we need is a few answers and a path forward out of this cycle of androcratic rule in State and Corporation. Global Capitalism is a machinic system bound by mindless algorithmic and datacentric code, scripts, rules, regulatory systems all bent toward one goal: profit. There is no other goal to capitalism than this death driven speed world of endless capital accumulation at the expense of the humans who serve it.

If an alien visitor were to come and observe our society she would assume we were all mad serving such a God as Mammon. That profit and wealth accumulation as goals for a global civilization was not only suicidal but psych and socio -pathic. We are a global civilization in love with war and death, rather than peace and life. The competitive spirit and drive toward excellence from the Trump Towers to the Olympic Stadium rules our minds like an iron fist. We drive ourselves to succeed and overcome, to become the best, to produce and serve our wealth driven utopian goals like mindless fools who know no tomorrow. From the age of Homer till now War has been idealized. This notion that life is automatically associated with masculine warriors and the rule of males in State, Religion, and Economics intertwined in a non-ending competitive society of violence and dominance where men rule over women exists everywhere in our global world.

For example, from a conventional perspective, Hitler’s Germany, Khomeini’s Iran, the Japan of the Samurai, and the Aztecs of Meso-America are radically different societies of different races, ethnic origins, technological development, and geographic location. But each of these social configurations has one defining characteristic: that of a rigidly male-dominated society where hierarchic and authoritarian male priests, politicians, or social leaders order a social structure based on a high degree of social violence, and social warfare systems that enslave the excluded and poor in a world of self-defeat. (CB)

And, yet, as Land will remark against a too subtle an alignment with feminist fantasies, the “disaster of world history is that capitalism was never the progressive unwinding of patrilineage through a series of generalized exploitative relations associated with a trans-cultural exogamy, leading to an uncontrollable eruption of feminine (i.e. migrant) alterity into the father’s heartland, and thus to the emergence of a radical – or ethnically disruptive and post-patriarchal – synthesis. Instead, kinship and trade were systematically isolated from each other, so that the internationalization of the economy was coupled with an entrenchment of xenophobic (nationalistic) kinship practices, maintaining a concentration of political and economic power within an isolated and geographically sedentary ethnic stock. Thus, when we discuss capital in its historical concreteness, we are simultaneously discussing a frustration of the cultural tendency of human societies towards expansive exogamy. Capital is the point at which a culture refuses the possibility – which it has itself engendered – of pushing the prohibition of incest towards its limit. (FN)

This notion that capital divides kinship from trade while culture and society have tended to bring these together has brought certain frictions and underlying problems that have for the most part never been well diagnosed nor even thought (at least in this authors view – even in the vast psychoanalytical literature, etc.). That incest is the blocking agent in modern civilization of capitalism may seem to the common reader as far fetched. But what is this beast: incest. And, I’m not just speaking of genetics prohibitions against blood relations and hygiene of a group, etc. I mean the political and socio-cultural role of it in our modern political economies (so called)?

(below on Claude Lévi-Strauss from Wikipedia)

Claude Lévi-Strauss would argue in his oeuvre that the incest taboo is in effect a prohibition against endogamy, and the effect is to encourage exogamy. Through exogamy, otherwise unrelated households or lineages will form relationships through marriage, thus strengthening social solidarity. That is, Lévi-Strauss views marriage as an exchange of women between two social groups. This theory is based in part on Marcel Mauss‘s theory of The Gift, which (in Lévi-Strauss’ words) argued:

that exchange in primitive societies consists not so much in economic transactions as in reciprocal gifts, that these reciprocal gifts have a far more important function than in our own, and that this primitive form of exchange is not merely nor essentially of an economic nature but is what he aptly calls “a total social fact”, that is, an event which has a significance that is at once social and religious, magic and economic, utilitarian and sentimental, jural and moral.5

It is also based on Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of data on different kinship systems and marriage practices documented by anthropologists and historians. Lévi-Strauss called attention specifically to data collected by Margaret Mead during her research among the Arapesh. When she asked if a man ever sleeps with his sister, Arapesh replied: “No we don’t sleep with our sisters. We give our sisters to other men, and other men give us their sisters.” Mead pressed the question repeatedly, asking what would happen if a brother and sister did have sex with one another. Lévi-Strauss quotes the Arapesh response:

What, you would like to marry your sister? What is the matter with you anyway? Don’t you want a brother-in-law? Don’t you realize that if you marry another man’s sister and another man marries your sister, you will have at least two brothers-in-law, while if you marry your own sister you will have none? With whom will you hunt, with whom will you garden, who will you visit?

By applying Mauss’s theory to data such as Mead’s, Lévi-Strauss proposed what he called alliance theory. He argued that, in “primitive” societies, marriage is not fundamentally a relationship between a man and a woman, but a transaction involving a woman that forges a relationship—an alliance—between two men. His Elementary Structures of Kinship takes this as a starting point and uses it to analyze kinship systems of increasing complexity found in so-called primitive societies (that is, those not based on agriculture, class inequalities, and centralized government).

This theory was debated intensely by anthropologists in the 1950s. It appealed to many because it used the study of incest taboos and marriage to answer more fundamental research interests of anthropologists at the time: how can an anthropologist map out the social relationships within a given community, and how do these relationships promote or endanger social solidarity? Nevertheless, anthropologists never reached a consensus, and with the Vietnam War and the process of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, anthropological interests shifted away from mapping local social relationships.

While Lévi-Strauss generally discounted the relevance of alliance theory in Africa, a particularly strong concern for incest is a fundamental issue among the age systems of East Africa. Here, the avoidance between men of an age-set and their daughters is altogether more intense than in any other sexual avoidance. Paraphrasing Lévi-Strauss’s argument, without this avoidance, the rivalries for power between age-sets, coupled with the close bonds of sharing between age-mates, could lead to a sharing of daughters as spouses. Young men entering the age system would then find a dire shortage of marriageable girls, and extended families would be in danger of dying out. Thus, by parading this avoidance of their daughters, senior men make these girls available for younger age-sets and their marriages form alliances that mitigate the rivalries for power.

What we see in this is a generational prohibition that is central to the continuity of male rule, which through the prohibition of incest guarantees the continued generation of the male population through marriage and these systems of male social solidarity and cohesion. In one of his petulant yet concise passages Land hits home, saying,

Where the European ancien régime was parochial and insular, modernity is appropriate. It lives in a profound but uneasy relation to an outside that both attracts and repels it, a relation that it precariously resolves within itself on the basis of exploitation, or interaction from a position of unilateral mastery. I think it is likely that the volatile mixture of hatred and desire that typifies an exploitative culture bears comparison with the psychology of rape.

One of the oldest tales on record is that of the powerful Sumerian god Enlil in Middle Eastern mythology is associated with the rape of the Goddess Ninlil. Such tales served a very important social purpose. They both symbolized and justified the imposition of male dominance.

Even in the Bible one discovers such a male oriented tribal mindset of rape and rapine. In the Book of Judges, chapter 19, the priests who wrote the Bible tell us of a father who offers his virgin daughter to a drunken mob. He has a male guest in his house, a man from the high-caste tribe of Levites. A bunch of rowdies from the tribe of Benjamin demand to see him outside, apparently with the intention of beating him up.

“Behold,” the father says to them, “here is my daughter, a maiden, and his [the guest’s] concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you, but unto this man do not so vile a thing.”

We are told this casually, as a matter of littie importance. Then, as the story unfolds, we are further told how “the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them, and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning”; how she crawled back to the threshold of the house where “her lord” was sleeping; how when he woke up “and opened the door of the house, and went out to go his way” he stumbled on her and commanded, “Up, and let us be going” and how finally, finding that she was dead, he loaded her body on his ass, and went home.

Nowhere in the telling of this brutal story of the betrayal of a daughter’s and a mistress’s trust and the gang rape and killing of a helpless woman is there even a hint of compassion, much less moral indignation or outrage. But more significant— and mind-boggling— is that the father’s offer to sacrifice what in that day was his own daughter’s most precious attribute, her virginity, and possibly also, her life violated no law. Even more mind-boggling is that the actions that predictably led to the gang rape, torture, and ultimately murder of a woman who was essentially the Levite’s wife likewise violated no law— and this in a book full of seemingly endless prescriptions and proscriptions about what is morally and legally right and wrong.

As Riane Eisler will comment:  “so stunted is the morality of this sacred text ostensibly setting forth divine law that here we may read that one half of humanity could legally be handed over by their own fathers and husbands to be raped, beaten, tortured, or killed without any fear of punishment— or even moral disapproval”. (CB)

One could pull passages from all three of the world’s monotheistic religions, as well as from many other cultures and civilizations. I’ll not continue berating and cataloguing such a world of male rule and rapine.

Modernity and Kant’s Legacy

Kant would bring together two tendencies which had up to his time divided philosophical speculation: empiricism and rationalism. As Land will summarize:

He took the basic argument of the empiricists to be that knowledge is synthetic and a posteriori, meaning that it takes the form of an addition to what is inherent to reason, and thus follows from experience (or an encounter with what is outside ourselves). In contrast to this, he saw the rationalists to be arguing that knowledge is characteristically analytic and a priori, meaning that it is derived from what is already inherent to reason, and thus anticipates experience by constructing systems of logical deduction from basic axioms.(FN)

Kant’s answer to the dilemmas of both empiricism and rationalism was to bring about what he’d term a Copernican Revolution in Knowledge. As Land suggests Kant would instigate a shift from the question ‘what must the mind be like in order to know?’ to the question ‘what must objects be like in order to be known?’ The answers to this latter question would provide a body of synthetic a priori knowledge, telling us about experience without being derived from experience. It would justify the emergence of knowledge that was both new and timelessly certain, grounding the enlightenment culture of a civilization confronting an ambiguous dependence upon novelty. (FN)

Binding a Progressive world of continuous improvement to a timeless world of certainty and security of thought and knowledge. In fact Kant’s ‘transcendental synthesis’ would ground all thinking on appearance and exclude that which remains outside the phenomenal – the alterity. As Land comments: “Kant’s ‘object’ is thus the universal form of the relation to alterity; that which must of necessity be the same in the other in order for it to appear to us. This universal form is that which is necessary for anything to be ‘on offer’ for experience, it is the ‘exchange value’ that first allows a thing to be marketed to the enlightenment mind.” (FN)

The whole thrust of contemporary speculative realist notions of Kant’s “correlational circle” of the for us is bound with this concept of the Same and Identical in which anything Outside the periphery of appearance is rejected tout court. So that we live in a known world, a world tidied up for us where everything has its place in the order of reason under the auspices of the House of Enlightened Minds. I spoof, but this is partially true of the past two hundred years of thought. “Between medieval scholasticism and Kant Western reason moves from a parochial economy to a system in which, abandoning the project of repressing the traffic with alterity, one resolves instead to control the system of trade. With the overthrow of the ancien regime it became impossible to simply exclude novelty; it could only be appropriated, stamped with a constant form, and integrated into an immutable formal system.” (FN)

What you see is the hyperintensive system of appropriation and paranoia that would tend the borders of the noumenal and automate the continuous influx of anomalies and curtail their impact through a system of border police (philosophers, scientists, sociologists, etc.). Allowing what was normalized and acceptable for the customs, habits, and policing of the minds and bodies of the masses to be stamped by the authorities before distribution into the marketplace.  The mechanics of the incest and rape scenario is analyzed by Land through an ‘economy of knowledge’:

The primordial anthropological bond between marriage and trade is dissolved, in order that capital can ethnically and geographically quarantine its consequences from itself. The question of racism, which arises under patriarchal capital as the default of a global trade in women (a parochialism in the system of misogynistic violence; the non-emergence of a trans-cultural exogamy), is thus more complex than it might seem, and is bound in profound but often paradoxical ways to the functioning of patriarchy and capital. Systematic racism is a sign that class positions within the general (trans-national) economy are being distributed on a racial basis, which implies an effective, if not a juridical, apartheid.(FN)

That capital has a blind spot, that it has hidden form itself the very outside – the alterity in what we might term as ‘zones of exclusion’ is central to this system of knowledge. Which as in the above statement aligns androcratic power and knowledge to a system of exclusion based on incest and rape, ethno-racial and female domination. This exclusion of certain peoples, races, and genders in a world wide apartheid in a prion system without borders (i.e., one that allows the local policing and borders of nations, rather than the global economic system divorced from politics and nations). The contradictions at the heart of Kant are as well at the heart of our modern political economy world wide.

For Kant the break with the ancient regiemes of religious and feudal elitism in which Judaic, Christian, and Islamic moral codes served as legitimations of imperial projects in their periods of ascendency, are under Kantian morality, inversely, legitimated by the position of imperial or universal jurisdiction. This new codification of Law under Imperial notions of morality and Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’, “which means a law stemming solely from the purity of the concept, and thus dictated by the absolute monologue of colonial reason” (FN). Land will comment as follows:

 In the purity of categorical morality the incestuous blood-line of the pharaohs is still detectable, but sublimated into an impersonal administration. The law is that which cannot be legitimately discussed, and which is therefore an unresponsive or unilateral imposition. It is not difficult to see that the second critique distills the xenophobic violence of the first and elevates it to the most extreme possible fanaticism. Where theoretical knowledge is open to a limited negotiation with alterity, practical or moral certainty is forbidden from entering into relation with anything outside itself, except to issue commands. Kant’s practical subject already prefigures a deaf führer, barking impossible orders that seem to come from another world.(FN)

For Land Kant’s final critique The Critique of Judgment provides an almost Machiavellian notebook for the Capitalist Warlords of our Global Corporate Fascism:

Kant’s advice to the imperial war-machine in his third critique can be summarized as: ‘treat all resistance as if it were less than you might justifiably fear’. The Critique of Judgment thus projects the global victory of capitalized reason as pure and exuberant ambition.

For Land the ultimate goal of our Automatic Society (Stiegler, no Land) is the genocide of the major peoples of the earth in a slow movement of exclusion through war, enslavement, and resource depletion. The capitalist Oligarchy seek to develop assemblages of Global Cities for their deemed elites while at the same time excluding all others beyond the periphery as if they were Kant’s noumenal things no longer to be appropriated or thought within the borders of the purity of the fascist city states. As Land states it,

The only possible politics of purity is fascism, or a militant activism rooted in the inhibitory and exclusive dimensions of a metropolitanism. Racism, as a regulated, automatic, and indefinitely suspended process of genocide (as opposed to the hysterical and unsustainable genocide of the Nazis) is the real condition of persistence for a global economic system that is dependent upon an aggregate price of labour approximating to the cost of its bare subsistence, and therefore upon an expanding pool of labour power which must be constantly ‘stimulated’ into this market by an annihilating poverty. (FN)

This is Riane Eisler’s Androcratic regime of male rule and exclusion. In fact as if siding with all the ultra-feminists of that era Land will give us his most stringent critique:

A radical international socialism would not be a socialist ideology generalized beyond its culture of origin, but a programme of collectivity or unrestrained synthesis that springs from the theoretical and libidinal dissolution of national totality. To get to a world without nations would in itself guarantee the achievement of all immediately post-capitalist social and economic goals. It is this revolutionary requirement for a spontaneously homeless subversion that gives an urgency to certain possibilities of feminist politics, since the erasure of matrilineal genealogy within the patriarchal machine means that fascisizing valorizations of ancestry have no final purchase on the feminine ‘subject’. The patronymic has irrecoverably divested all the women who fall under it of any recourse to an ethno-geographical identity; only the twin powers of father and husband suppress the nomadism of the anonymous female fluxes that patriarchy oppressively manipulates, violates, and psychiatrizes. By allowing women some access to wealth and social prestige the liberalization of patriarchy has sought to defuse the explosive force of this anonymity, just as capital has tended to reduce the voluptuous excess of exogamic conjugation to the stability of nationally segmented trading circuits.(FN)

In other words all so called modern democracies mask the dimension of both the political and economic rule of men and the patriarchal or androcratic regimes of power and knowledge. For Land only a new shift and transformation of feminist thought, a complete break with the conceptual frameworks of the West, the ultimate and decisive invention of an alterity, a force of invention and creativity that both destroys and brings with it a revolution in Knowledge and Epistemic relations, and wells from the ontic and ontological heart of the world will suffice in the overthrow of these fascists systems of male dominance.

In his disgruntlement and disgust of the liberal progressive West and its academy of compromise Land would offer a solution,

The left tends to be evasive about the numbing violence intrinsic to revolutionary war, and feminism is often particularly fastidious in this respect, even reverting to absurd mystical and Ghandian ideologies. If feminist struggles have been constantly deprioritized in theory and practice it is surely because of their idealistic recoil from the currency of violence, which is to say, from the only definitive ‘matter’ of politics. The state apparatus of an advanced industrial society can certainly not be defeated without a willingness to escalate the cycle of violence without limit. It is a terrible fact that atrocity is not the perversion, but the very motor of such struggles: the language of inexorable political will. A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell. It is this harsh truth that has deflected Western politics into an increasingly servile reformism, whilst transforming nationalist struggles into the sole arena of vigorous contention against particular configurations of capital.(FN)


  1. Nietzsche, Fredrich. The Birth of Tragedy. (Cambridge University Press 1999)
  2. Nietzsche, Fredrich. The Gay Science. (Cambridge University Press 1999)
  3. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 803-807). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future—Updated With a New Epilogue (Kindle Locations 141-144). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  5. Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1969 The Elementary Structures of Kinship revised edition, translated from the French by James Harle Bell and John Richard von Sturmer. Boston: Beacon Press. 52

Metaloid Dreams of Mutant Intelligences

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.

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

Strip the world of its illusions and delusions and you’ll only hasten the suicidal tendencies we’ve already as a species acquired. Predatory though we are, we are more prone to annihilating ourselves in a bout of self-mutilating hatred and pure religious fervor than not. Religious dogmatism – and, I count the Secular Church of Atheism in this – is the cornerstone of an anthropathological condition that breeds purity as the obliteration of all enemies. If only we could inhabit the enemies perspective would we realize the mirror of our hatred is itself impure.

We have yet to escape our Puritan heritage. Capitalism itself is this beast of purity spread across the face of the earth like an omeba, gobbling everything in its path, immolating the commodities and resources of the planet to the futurial disciplines of technics that have yet to find their slime festivals embarkation. Like fetid worms we are habitues of intricate foreplay, our sexual ecstasies bounded only by our murderous crash sequences with technology. Formulating and garnering an ultimate plan for inhuman takeover we bid the human species a grand bon voyage, stripping ourselves of the last veneer of humanistic entrapments we devote ourselves to the extreme experimental psychopathologies which will produce a final solution. Our closure of nature in this age and the irruption of the artificial as lifestyle has led us into that end game in which nothing natural will remain on earth.

No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive, describe these foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and heterogeneous surface.

—Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Once again the most unnatural creature on the planet triumphs, but in an unexpected way: it will stand atop the ruinous folds of a billion skulls screeching in the technomic voices of those who have become the thing they most dreaded: machinic gods of the metalloid Void. Brokered in a hell of abstract horror, these inheritors of the primal scream will walk the dead earth in what remains of the dustbowl windlands and scorched cities along the black sands of depleted oceans and lakes, where hybrid creatures scuttle in the shadows of temporal wars; and, deforested wastelands of spiked acropolises, and necromantic anti-life scurries amid the crumbling decay of human civilization: – like the visitors of an alien enlightenment, each singing in an oracular voice with the angelic pitch and plum disharmonics of solar sirens beckoning us toward the far shores of an anterior futurity.

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The Accursed Share: Economics of Excess

Once again I return to Bataille. In the preface to Accursed Share Vol 1 he describes the disconcerting experience of being confronted with the question of his work – the why of it:

“…the book I was writing (which I am now publishing) did not consider the facts the way qualified economists do, that I had a point of view from which a human sacrifice, the construction of a church or the gift of a jewel were no less interesting than the sale of wheat. In short, I had to try in vain to make clear the notion of a “general economy” in which the “expenditure” (the “consumption”) of wealth, rather than production, was the primary object.”

This sense of coming at economics not as some narrow system of capital expenditure and profit, but rather as the ‘general economy’ of the system of the world itself – the Solar Economy – is this bewilderment we feel in realizing his conceptual reversal of modern economic theory based on the object of production rather than that of expenditure and waste (“consumption”). As he’ll tell it “This first essay addresses, from outside the separate disciplines, a problem that still has not been framed as it should be, one that may hold the key to all the problems posed by every discipline concerned with the movement of energy on the earth – from geophysics to political economy, by way of sociology, history and biology.” For underpinning it all was a materialist conception of force, drives, and energetics:

“Writing this book in which I was saying that energy finally can only be wasted, I myself was using my energy, my time, working; my research answered in a fundamental way the desire to add to the amount of wealth acquired for mankind.”

In his iconic affirmation that “the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space” he reminds us such comparisons follow from considerations of an energy economy that leave no room for poetic fantasy, but requires instead a thinking on a level with a play of forces that runs counter to ordinary calculations, a play of forces based on the laws that govern us. In short, the perspectives where such truths appear are those in which more general propositions reveal their meaning, propositions according to which it is not necessity but its contrary, “luxury,” that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems.”

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William S. Burroughs: Drugs, Language, and Control

Bill Burroughs:

The writer does not yet know what words are. He deals only with abstractions from the source point of words. The painter’s ability to touch and handle his medium led to montage techniques sixty years ago. It is to be hoped that the extension of cut-up techniques will lead to more precise verbal experiments closing this gap and giving a whole new dimension to writing. These techniques can show the writer what words are and put him in tactile communication with his medium. This in turn could lead to a precise science of words and show how certain word combinations produce certain effects on the human nervous system. (The Job Interviews)

Burroughs believed language to be the first and foremost control machine. A machine that constructed and shaped the naked ape called man into its present form, and that any future exit from the human would incorporate a breakup of this control machine and its present system of signs. The normalization and comforming of the human child through a series of modulated cycles of cultural and social enducements begins at childbirth. Nothing new here, except that for most of human history this went on unconsciously for the most part, but at some point certain tribal members realized that words harbored power over the minds and hearts of people. These shamans became the keepers of this knowlege of power, inventing relations between tribe and word these dreamkings began to bridge the unknown and known in a linguistic web of power relations that would become the cultural background of a time-machine.

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The Violence of Capitalism

What saves us is efficiency-the devotion to efficiency.

—Marlow, in Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Life appears as a pause on the energy path; as a precarious stabilization and complication of solar decay. It is most basically comprehensible as the general solution to the problem of consumption.

—Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

The belief that all things should act efficiently is at the core of both Fordist and post-Fordist forms of capitalism. Why should this be so? One could say that the concept of efficiency arose out of its opposite: inefficiency, as its negation. Most of modern economic theory grew out of this battle for efficiency and has been based on optimizing time, motion, and waste. One might say that the whole Progressive era of which we remain tied was bound by this pursuit of efficiency (perfection, growth, optimization) in the political, economic, social, and engineering (technics/technology) realms. Ultimately the central motif of modernity is the zeal for efficiency, and the desire to control a changing world, by bringing it into conformity with a vision of how the world does or should work.1 One might go further and Weberize it saying that modern global capitalism is the child of Christian perfectionism.

The terms “perfect” and “perfection” are drawn from the Greek teleios and teleiōsis, respectively. The root word, telos, means an “end” or “goal”. In contemporary translations, teleios and teleiōsis are often rendered as “mature” and “maturity”, respectively, so as not to imply infallibility or the absence of defects. Rather, in the Christian tradition, teleiōsis has referred to progressing towards spiritual wholeness or health. In the secular form that would enter into the concept of efficiency this movement from defect to wholeness or completion, would end in capital accumulation: profits, surplus, excess, etc. would take priority in engineering machines, assembly lines, and the mereology of the machinic or the techno-commercial sphere that in our moment is leading to total efficiency in digital economy and the autonomy of the machinic in robotics and AGI. The elimination of inefficiencies has led to the final struggle of eliminating the human from the equation. Capitalism perfected is a process in which humans are annihilated and expulsed as inefficient.

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Nick Land: The Blockchain Revolution and Absolute Time

So we have now artificial absolute time for the first time ever in human history. And this therefore is scrambling these narratives it’s scrambling our sense of pre and post, what is the actual set of successions in the most concrete sense …

—Nick Land on Blockchain Revolution

In Nick Land’s summation Blockchain technology solves the problems that both Einstein and Poincare were facing ( he recommends Peter Galison’s book Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time: Empires of Time), the one from a theoretical physicist stance, the other from a practical and bureaucratic stance. In this video Land describes the underlying reason why we cannot move past Kant into a Post-Kantian perspective. With Blockchain the central issue of developing a practical instigation of succession (arithmetical not geometrical time) and Absolute Time has been resolved, so that this technology makes forcibly practical the relations and convergence on Capitalism, Globalisation, Modernity, Critique, and Artificial Intelligence.

Transcript of Session of Nick Land:

I’d like to first of all subscribe to Mo’s conviction about the importance of the Blockchain, that’s a definite tidal element behind the reason everyone’s here, certainly it’s a conviction on my part that makes this a crucial topic to talk about. So I’ve got two little elements that I’ve picked up about what’s going on here in advance which is the title- The Spacial Politics of the Blockchain and a blurb saying that we’re talking here about the ‘Triangular relation between decentralised technology, architecture, and the office form’, so I hope that I don’t leave the orbit of these agenda items. I’ll probably be approaching them from a somewhat abstracted point of view.

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Machinic Desire (Nick Land Excerpts)

Nick Land: Machinic Desire (Excerpts):

Anti-Oedipus is less a philosophy book than an engineering manual; a package of software implements for hacking into the machinic unconscious, opening invasion channels.

Along one axis of its emergence, virtual materialism names an ultra-hard antiformalist AI program, engaging with biological intelligence as subprograms of an abstract post-carbon machinic matrix, whilst exceeding any deliberated research project. Far from exhibiting itself to human academic endeavour as a scientific object, AI is a meta-scientific control system and an invader, with all the insidiousness of plantary technocapital flipping over. Rather than its visiting us in some software engineering laboratory, we are being drawn out to it, where it is already lurking, in the future.

Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources. Digitocommodification is the index of a cyberpositively escalating technovirus, of the planetary technocapital singularity: a self-organizing insidious traumatism, virtually guiding the entire biological desiring-complex towards post-carbon replicator usurpation.

Reaching an escape velocity of self-reinforcing machinic intelligence propagation, the forces of production are going for the revolution on their own. It is in this sense that schizoanalysis is a revolutionary program guided by the tropism to a catastrophe threshold of change, but it is not shackled to the realization of a new society, any more than it is constricted by deference to an existing one. The socius is its enemy, and now that the long senile spectre of the greatest imaginable reterritorialization of planetary process has faded from the horizon, cyberrevolutionary impetus is cutting away from its last shackles to the past.

The real tension is no longer between individuality and collectivity, but between personal privacy and impersonal anonymity, between the remnants of a smug bourgeois civility and the harsh wilderness tracts of Cyberia, ‘a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of deterritorialization creates of necessity and by itself a new earth’ (AO: p. 321). Desire is irrevocably abandoning the social, in order to explore the libidinized rift between a disintegrating personal egoism and a deluge of post-human schizophrenia.1


  1. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007  Urbanomic/Sequence Press.

Thomas Ligotti: Dark Phenomenology and Abstract Horror

Of course, mystery actually requires a measure of the concrete if it is to be perceived at all; otherwise it is only a void, the void. The thinnest mixture of this mortar, I suppose, is contained in that most basic source of mystery—darkness.

-Thomas Ligotti

Dark Phenonmenology and the Daemonic

Thomas Ligotti in his essay The Dark Beauty Of Unheard-of Horrors (DB) will tell us that “beneath the surface utterances of setting, incident, and character, there is another voice that may speak of something more than the bare elements of narrative”.1  He’ll emphasize as well the notion that “emotion, not mind, is the faculty for hearing the secret voice of the story and apprehending its meaning. Without emotion, neither story nor anything else can convey meaning as such, only data”.  Stephen Zweig in his study of daemonism in the arts once told us that great art cannot exist without inspiration, and inspiration derives from an unknown, from a region outside the domain of the waking consciousness. For me, the true counterpart of the spasmodically exalted writer, divinely presumptuous, carried out of himself by the exuberance of uncontrolled forces, is the writer who can master these forces, the writer whose mundane will is powerful enough to tame and to guide the daemonic element that has been instilled into his being. To guide as well as to tame, for daemonic power, magnificent though it be and the source of creative artistry, is fundamentally aimless, striving only to re-enter the chaos out of which it sprang.2

Isolation, anchoring, distraction, and sublimation are among the wiles we use to keep ourselves from dispelling every illusion that keeps us up and running. Without this cognitive double-dealing, we would be exposed for what we are. It would be like looking into a mirror and for a moment seeing the skull inside our skin looking back at us with its sardonic smile. And beneath the skull— only blackness, nothing.

-Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror

Ligotti makes a point that horror must stay ill-defined, that the monstrous must menace us from a distance, from the unknown; a non-knowledge, rather than a knowledge of the natural; it is the unnatural and invisible that affects us not something we can reduce to some sociological, psychological, or political formation or representation, which only kills the mystery – taming it and pigeonholing it into some cultural gatekeeper’s caged obituary. As Ligotti says “This is how it is when a mysterious force is embodied in a human body, or in any form that is too well fixed. And a mystery explained is one robbed of its power of emotion, dwindling into a parcel of information, a tissue of rules and statistics without meaning in themselves.” (DB) The domesticated beast is no horror at all.

In the attic of the mind a lunatic family resides, a carnival world of aberrant thoughts and feelings – that, if we did not lock away in a conspiracy of silence would freeze us in such terror and fright that we would become immobilized unable to think, feel, or live accept as zombies, mindlessly. So we isolate these demented creatures, keep them at bay. Then we anchor ourselves in artifice, accept substitutes, religious mythologies, secular philosophies, and anything else that will help us keep the monsters at bay. As Ligotti will say, we need our illusions – our metaphysical anchors and dreamscapes “that inebriate us with a sense of being official, authentic, and safe in our beds” (CHR, 31). Yet, when even these metaphysical ploys want stem the tide of those heinous monsters from within we seek out distraction, entertainment: TV, sports, bars, dancing, friends, fishing, scuba diving, boating, car racing, horse riding… almost anything that will keep our mind empty of its dark secret, that will allow it to escape the burden of emotion – of fear, if even for a night or an afternoon of sheer mindless bliss. And, last, but not least, we seek out culture, sublimation – art, theatre, festivals, carnivals, painting, writing, books… we seek to let it all out, let it enter into that sphere of the tragic or comic, that realm where we can exorcize it, display it, pin it to the wall for all to see our fears and terrors on display not as they are but as we lift them up into art, shape them to our nightmare visions or dreamscapes of desire. As Ligotti tells it, we read literature or watch a painting, go to a theatre, etc.:

In so many words, these thinkers and artistic types confect products that provide an escape from our suffering by a bogus simulation of it— a tragic drama or philosophical woolgathering… to showcase how a literary or philosophical composition cannot perturb its creator or anyone else with the severity of true-to-life horrors but only provide a pale representation of these horrors, just as a King Lear’s weeping for his dead daughter Cordelia cannot rend its audience with the throes of the real thing. (CHR, 32)

So we seek to cover it over, isolate it, anchor ourselves in some fantastic illusion of belief, and distract ourselves with Big Brother episodes or Kardashian hijinks, else read or watch tragic portrayals of the horror as a way to purge the effects of these dark emotions that we just cannot cope with. All to no avail. For in the end they will not stay locked up in the attic, but begin to haunt us, begin to find ways to make their presence known, to escape their dark dungeons and enter our lives in surprising and unexpected ways till in the end we discover we are overwhelmed by their dark necessity. Even Ligotti admits that after all his own short narratives, his art, his horrors are little more than escapes from the ennui – merely providing an “escape from our suffering by a bogus simulation of it”. (CHR, 32)

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On Land, Zizek, and Speculative Realism: The Mediation of the Real

What’s always been interesting in the current battles between materialist, vitalist, and speculative realist philosophies is that they all seem to dispute where to begin: the dialectical materialists and vitalists begin with the pre-ontological and formless void, then turn toward an emergent ontology arising out of it; while SR starts at that point when substance or form has already emerged, battling over just what it is that form and substance are without ever appraising the pre-ontological (or as Harman likes to put it: it’s objects all the way down).

I seem to float between Zizek and Land. Land begins in the formless ocean of energy – the vitalist stream of process and becoming he sees in Nietzsche and Bataille a non-dialectical process that never enters into any form of static substance, ever. Zizek seems to oscillate between form (Substance/Subject) and formlessness (Void) never resting in either world, always moving like a desperate thought between the two. Where Land is non-dialectical, Zizek is dialectical. For me there is a parallax view between the two that has yet to be assayed.

Or as Zizek says of parallax view:

“The common definition of parallax is: the apparent displacement of an object (the shift of its position against a background), caused by a change in observational position that provides a new line of sight. The philosophical twist to be added, of course, is that the observed difference is not simply “subjective,” due to the fact that the same object which exists “out there” is seen from two different stations, or points of view. It is rather that, as Hegel would have put it, subject and object are inherently “mediated,” so that an “epistemological” shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an “ontological” shift in the object itself. Or, to put it in Lacanese, the subject’s gaze is always-already inscribed into the perceived object itself, in the guise of its “blind spot,” that which is “in the object more than object itself,” the point from which the object itself returns the gaze.” (http://www.lacan.com/zizparallax.htm)

In this sense it coincides with Nietzsche’s sense of Zarathustra’s statement that one must be wary of staring into the abyss lest “it stare back” (paraphrase). This sense of the object gazing back becomes in Graham Harman’s system the notion of when two objects gaze into each other a third object is formed in excess of the original objects, thereby forming something new that is neither one nor the other. In this sense they form a parallax view onto each other; or, as Harman would say “Every relation needs a mediator.” So that for Harman:

“My view is that this problem arises directly from Latour’s “flat ontology.” If all actors are equal, then you cannot avoid an infinite number of mediators between any two entities. Yet the solution provided by object-oriented philosophy is that there are two kinds of objects, not just one: there are real and sensual objects that mediate each other one at a time, much like the north and south poles of a magnet which alone can make contact, leading to a potentially endless chain of magnets. … As for “weird realism,” it denotes a kind of realism that is not simply a question of matching the contents of the mind with a real world outside the mind. My sort of realism is “weird” because it claims that the real is too real to be known, or too real to be accessed. I choose the word “weird” because of its desirable association with things that never fully appear insofar as they are not quite of this earth: Shakespeare’s “weird sisters,” H.P. Lovecraft’s “weird tales.”” (http://figureground.org/interview-with-graham-harman-2/)

So in this sense Harman when he says that “the real is too real to be known” he would take us back to Socrates; or, as Land says:

“By interpreting contact with the unknown as the deferral of judgment by the subject, translating the positivity of sacred confusion into the negativity of epistemic uncertainty, Socrates initiates the proper history of the West.”1

So in this sense it’s a battle whether one argues from and for an epistemic stance (Zizek) over the ‘ontic’ or reduction to some static known or physical substance, and rather opts for either a non-dialectical or dialectical parallax view onto the object that one relates to within the mediation. The problem that one must resolve is not that there is relation and mediation, but rather is this mediator conceptual or energetic? This seems to be the battle among current philosophies. We’ve discussed Zizek’s and Harman’s views, below are Brassier and Land.

Brassier opts for the concept as mediator. “…many philosophers follow Hegel in defining the ‘concrete’ as that which is relationally embedded, in contradistinction to the ‘abstract’, which is isolated or one-sided. In what follows, the terms ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ do not designate types of entity, such as the perceptible and the imperceptible or the material and immaterial. They are used to characterise the ways in which thinking relates to entities. As Hegel showed, what seems most concrete, particularity or sensible immediacy, is precisely what is most abstract, and what seems most abstract, universality or conceptual mediation, turns out to be most concrete.”  (http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/wandering-abstraction)

Land says: “Everything is mediated by elucidations, re-elucidations, elucidations of previous elucidations, conducted with meticulous courtesy…” or “mediation assumes a kind of quarantine, whereby the interaction of organism-specific id and exo-organismic reality can be monitored and negotiated, collapsing libidinal circuitry into a polarity of the psychic and the extrapsychic, inside and outside.”2

Both Brassier and Land speak in almost Zizekian terms of oscillating between inside/outside, Brassier more formally reverting to the ‘concrete universal’ of Hegelian abstraction; while Land, energetic as always, moving among Freud’s libidinal dialectic; yet, both are in the end agreeing on a dialectical vision of mediation so that even Land succumbs to Hegel whether he will or no. Strangely, so did Bataille, who also struggled with and against Hegelian dialectics. Only Zizek would emerge from this battle with a notion of the Void within the Void – a return to Democritus’s notions that matter is void (“empty, immaterial”).

With Harman we come upon the notion of “vanishing mediator,” which strangely – due to his readings of Zizek would take an inverse relation to that philosopher’s use of the term. Whereas Zizek in The Ticklish Subject would bring to the fore is a thematization of the Subject as some kind of disjunctive “and”:

The key point is thus that the passage from “nature” to “culture” is not direct, that one cannot account for it within a continuous evolutionary narrative: something has to intervene between the two, a kind of “vanishing mediator,” which is neither nature nor culture—this In-between is silently presupposed in all evolutionary narratives. We are not idealists: this In-between is not the spark of logos magically conferred on Homo sapiens, enabling them to form his supplementary virtual symbolic surroundings, but precisely something that, although it is also no longer nature, is not yet logos, and has to be “repressed” by logos—the Freudian name for this In-between, of course, is the death drive. Speaking of this In-between, it is interesting to note how philosophical narratives of the “birth of man” are always compelled to presuppose such a moment of human (pre)history when (what will become) man is no longer a mere animal and simultaneously not a “being of language,” bound by symbolic Law; a moment of thoroughly “perverted,” “denaturalized,” “derailed” nature which is not yet culture.3

Harman in his first work would discuss this notion, saying,

Zizek is perfectly right to point to the impossibility of correlating ontic choices to the ontological gap between presence and absence. It should also be clear that human existence never occupies the point of either pure immersion or pure awareness: “the ‘specifically human’ dimension is thus neither that of engaged agent caught in the finite life-world context, nor that of universal Reason exempted from the life-world, but the very discord, the ‘vanishing mediator’ between the two.” This ambivalent discord goes by many names in Heidegger, among them geworfener Entwurf, thrown projection. I have argued in this book that projection is no more primary than the thrownness, and hence, that the future has no real priority over the past.4

This brings into play another agreement between Land and Zizek over Harman. Zizek’s notion of retroactive causation, or against Harman – the notion that the future does have a priority over the past. Playfully Zizek in Absolute Recoil will tell it this way,

The book’s title refers to the expression absoluter Gegenstoss, which Hegel uses only once, but at a crucial point in his logic of reflection, to designate the speculative coincidence of opposites in the movement by which a thing emerges out of its own loss. The most concise poetic formula of absolute recoil was provided by Shakespeare (no surprise here), in his uncanny Troilus and Cressida (Act 5, Scene 2):

O madness of discourse,
That cause sets up with and against itself!
Bi-fold authority! where reason can revolt
Without perdition, and loss assume all reason
Without revolt.5

Hegel uses the term “absolute recoil” in his explanation of the category of “ground/ reason (Grund),” where he resorts to one of his famous wordplays, connecting Grund (ground/ reason) and zu Grunde gehen (to fall apart, literally “to go to one’s ground”):

The reflected determination, in falling to the ground, acquires its true meaning, namely, to be within itself the absolute recoil upon itself, that is to say, the positedness that belongs to essence is only a sublated positedness, and conversely, only self-sublating positedness is the positedness of essence. Essence, in determining itself as ground, is determined as the non-determined; its determining is only the sublating of its being determined. Essence, in being determined thus as self-sublating, has not proceeded from another, but is, in its negativity, self-identical essence.6

In a final explication we quote from Zizek one last refrain:

To put it in traditional terms, the present work endeavors to elevate the speculative notion of absolute recoil into a universal ontological principle. Its axiom is that dialectical materialism is the only true philosophical inheritor of what Hegel designates as the speculative attitude of the thought towards objectivity. All other forms of materialism, including the late Althusser’s “materialism of the encounter,” scientific naturalism, and neo-Deleuzian “New Materialism,” fail in this goal. The consequences of this axiom are systematically deployed in three steps:

1) the move from Kant’s transcendentalism to Hegel’s dialectics, that is, from transcendental “correlationism” (Quentin Meillassoux) to the thought of the Absolute;
2) dialectics proper: absolute reflection, coincidence of the opposites;
3) the Hegelian move beyond Hegel to the materialism of “less than nothing.”7

Nick Land always an opponent to a certain type of dialectical thinking will harken back to Socrates to begin his attack, saying,

With Socrates, things are different. Philosophy becomes dialectical; which is to say justificatory, political, logical, plebeian. Truth is identified with irrefutability, evidentiality and educated belief, beginning its long subsidence into the forms of human credence, as if its acceptability were in any way a criterion.8

For Land Socratism is the mobilization of unknowing on behalf of knowing; subordinating irony to dialectic, confusion to judgments and the sacred to a subdued profanity.9

Land, favoring Maoist over Leninist/Stalinist Marxism and dialectics will offer an appraisal:

The Superiority of Far Eastern Marxism. Whilst Chinese materialist dialectic denegativizes itself in the direction of schizophrenizing systems dynamics, progressively dissipating top-down historical destination in the Tao-drenched Special Economic Zones, a re-Hegelianized ‘western marxism’ degenerates from the critique of political economy into a state-sympathizing monotheology of economics, siding with fascism against deregulation. The left subsides into nationalistic conservatism, asphyxiating its vestigial capacity for ‘hot’ speculative mutation in a morass of ‘cold’ depressive guilt-culture. (FN, KL  6110-6114).

Yet, in the end Land’s non-dialectical of base materialism begins in a rejection of physicalism or reductionary substantive formalist and scientific factuality:

A cosmological theory of desire emerges from the ashes of physicalism. This is to presuppose, of course, that idealism, spiritualism, dialectical materialism (shoddy idealism), and similar alternatives have been discarded in a preliminary and rigorously atheological gesture. Libidinal materialism, or the theory of unconditional (non-teleological) desire, is nothing but a scorch-mark from the expository diagnosis of the physicalistic prejudice.10

Land’s reading of Hegel unlike Zizek’s would see dialectical materialism as part of a redemptive system of saving the appearances, etc. as substantive formalism writ out in absolutist terms. Zizek’s Hegel is read through Lacan and vice versa as a non-substantive or immaterialist system wherein the Void or Less than nothing replaces substantive matter of physicalism. So that in some ways and by circuitous route both Land and Zizek are in agreement as to the dephysicalization of matter, but disagree over desire. Zizkek following Lacan sees in desire lack seeking the Object a; Land following Deleuze will see the unconscious as productive rather than lacking or needful, and will build an energetic or constructive notion of desire as desiring machines, as producer of desires.

In the end there will remain no reconciliation among these various philosophers, only open war and disparity.


  1. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 3310-3311). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 4489-4491). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Žižek, The Ticklish Subject, p. 39.
  4. Harman, Graham. Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (pp. 206-207). Open Court. Kindle Edition.
  5. Zizek, Slavoj. Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (pp. 1-2). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  6. ibid. (pp. 3-4)
  7. ibid.
  8. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 3255-3257). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  9. ibid.
  10. Land, Nick. A Thirst for Annihilation. (p. 26)

Notes on Telos: A Short Critique of Transcendence

Western dialectic is a disease of the eye, a broken promise of transcendence. Open your mouth and taste reality; follow your snout into the world. “Telos lends itself to discourse, whilst even the silence of terminus is effaced. Death has no advocates.” (Land)

I gathered together a few notes from Nick Land’s The Thirst for Annihilation on telos for an essay, but decided the notes were worth a post:

“The telos or goal of all striving is something presupposed by activity, such that desire must already have received its potential for realization extrinsically, thus preserving the Platonic association between Eros and subordination. Both the Aristotelian and scholastic usage of teleology is dependent upon the thought of originary perfection or God, subordinating desire to the sufficiency of complete being. In other words, theological time is encompassed by perfection or absolute achievement, which enslaves becoming to a timeless potential of that which becomes. Such a potential is a design, archetype, or plan, existing ideally and eternally in the supreme intellect, and usurping all creativity from nature.” (Land, Thirst for Annihiltion: 99)

… “The potential of the theologians is smuggled into the Critique of Judgement as the possibility of a complete system of science, a regulative idea which derives from the originary perfection of reason. Even though teleology loses its right to dogmatic theorizing, it continues to guide the thought of nature in terms of the infinitely accomplished idea.” (ibid)

… “In order not to inhibit the development of the sciences Kant denaturalizes teleology, lodging its redoubt in his practical philosophy, and therefore in reason.” (ibid.)

… “Schopenhauer seeks to extricate the thought of finality from this theological framework…” (ibid.)

… Yet, it was in Nietzsche that the trope of Will to Power “… transcribed thought by the first stammerings of a positive ateleological syntax. … Nietzsche recasts this principle into a general tendency to assimilation which he names ‘equalization’ (Ausgleichung), and it is this that makes him the first post-Kantian philosopher of difference. In his notes he succinctly asserts: ‘the will to equality is the will to power’ [N III 500].” (ibid., 101)


1. Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (November 1, 2002)

Kurt Gödel, Number Theory, Nick Land and our Programmatic Future

Read an interesting experiment in programing using Kurt Gödel’s number theories: (Norman H. Cohen. Gödel numbers: A new approach to structured programming. SIGPLAN Notices 15, No. 4 (April 1980), pp. 70-74; download pdf at bottom part of page):

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My reason for researching this had to do with another investigation into Nick Land’s use of Gödel. As Mackay and Brassier note,

One of the tasks of schizoanalysis has now become the decrypting of the ‘tics’ bequeathed to the human frame by the geotraumatic catastrophe, and ‘KataςoniX’ treats vestigial semantic content as a mere vehicle for code ‘from the outside’: the ‘tic’ symptoms of geotraumatism manifested in the shape of sub-linguistic clickings and hissings. Already disintegrated into the number-names of a hyperpagan pantheon, syncretically drawing on the occult, nursery rhyme, anthropology, SF and Lovecraft, among other sources, the ‘subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies’(Artaud) beneath language is now allowed uninhibited (but rigorously-prepared) development, in an effort to corporeally de-engineer the organicity of logos.

The element of these explorations remains the transformed conception of space vividly exhibited in Gibsonian cyberpunk and which is a crucial component in Land’s writings, a powerful bulwark against Kant’s architectonic ambition to subsume all space under unity. Coding and sequencing mechanisms alone now construct intensive space, and this lies at the core of Land’s typology of number, since dimensionality is a consequence of stratification. Naming and numbering converge in counting, understood as immanent fusion of nomination and sequencing. No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. [my italics]

The Gödel episode also gives Land occasion to expand upon the theme of the ‘stratification’ of number: according to the model of stratification, as the ‘lower strata’ of numbers become ever more consolidated and metrically rigidified, their problematic component reappears at a ‘higher’ strata in the form of ‘angelic’ mathematical entities as-yet resistant to rigorous coding. A sort of apotheosis is reached in this tendency with Gödel’s flattening of arithmetic through the cryptographic employment of prime numbers as numerical ‘particles’, and Cantor’s discovery of ‘absolute cardinality’ in the sequence of transfinites.

Thus for Land the interest of Gödel’s achievement is not primarily ‘mathematical’ but rather belongs to a lineage of the operationalisation of number in coding systems that will pass through Turing and into the technological mega-complex of contemporary techno-capital.

By using arithmetic to code meta-mathematical statements and hypothesising an arithmetical relation between the statements – an essentially qabbalistic procedure – Gödel also indicates the ‘reciprocity between the logicisation of number and the numerical decoding of language’, highlighting a possible revolutionary role for other non-mathematical numerical practices. As well as reappraising numerology in the light of such ‘lexicographic’ insights, the mapping of stratographic space opens up new avenues of investigation – limned in texts such as ‘Introduction to Qwernomics’ – into the effective, empirical effects of culture – chapters of a ‘universal history of contingency’ radicalising Nietzsche’s insight that ‘our writing equipment contributes its part to our thinking’. The varieties of ‘abstract culture’ present in games, rhythms, calendrical systems, etc., become the subject of an attempt at deliberate, micro-cultural insurrection through number, exemplified in the CCRU’s ‘hyperstitional’ spirals and the ‘qwertypological’ diagrams that in the end merge with the qabbalistic tracking of pure coding ‘coincidences’. Ultimately, it is not just a question of conceiving, but of practicing new ways of thinking the naming and numbering of things. Importantly, this allows Land to diagnose the ills of ‘postmodernism’ – the inflation of hermeneutics into a generalised historicist relativism – in a manner that differs from his contemporaries’ predominantly semantic interpretations of the phenomenon, and to propose a rigorous intellectual alternative that does not involve reverting to dogmatic modernism.1

Against Badiou and his followers of Platonic materialist measure, Land’s insight is to follow Deleuze and Guattari: “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.

Diagrams

This leads to a notion of a-signifying systems as opposed to signifying, which brings us back to Land’s “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric.” We learn from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that the minor writer engages ‘a machine of expression capable of disorganizing its own forms, and of disorganizing the forms of content, in order to liberate pure contents which mingle with expression in a single intense matter’ (K 51).

Exactly how this revolutionary practice works is not clearly delineated in Kafka, for Deleuze and Guattari offer no satisfactory examples of the process of transformation which leads from deterritorialized sound to a dissolution and reconstruction of content. Some clarification of this process may be gained, however, from a consideration of Deleuze’s analysis of Francis Bacon’s approach to painting in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981). Deleuze notes that for modern artists, the blank canvas is not a tabula rasa, but the space of unconscious visual preconceptions and received conventions of representation, which the artist brings to the canvas and which he struggles against and tries to vanquish, escape, or subvert. For Francis Bacon, the moment of subversion comes during the process of painting when a chance stroke of the brush introduces a small locus of chaos, a limited catastrophe that Bacon calls a ‘diagram’.

‘The diagram’, says Deleuze, ‘is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but also a seed of order or of rhythm’ (FB 67). Bacon follows the suggested form, colour or line of this diagram and uses it as a generative device for constructing an intensive set of relations within the painting itself, which simultaneously deform the figure he started to paint and form a new figure of that deformed figure. Deleuze contrasts Bacon’s practice with that of abstract formalists, such as Mondrian and Kandinsky, and abstract expressionists, such as Pollock. The danger of abstract formalism is that the constraints of representation may simply be replaced with those of an abstract code, in which case the diagrammatic possibilities of chaos or catastrophe are banished from the canvas. The danger of abstract expressionism is that the diagram may cover the whole canvas and result in nothing but an undifferentiated mess. Bacon’s strategy is to paint portraits and studies of human figures, and hence to remain in a certain sense within the confines of representation, but to allow the diagram in each painting to deterritorialize the human subject, to introduce ‘a zone of Sahara into the head’, to split ‘the head into two parts with an ocean’ (FB 65), to make a leg melt into a puddle of purple or a body start to turn into a piece of meat. One finds resemblances between the configurations of paint and human figures, deserts, oceans, puddles, and rolled roasts, yet such resemblances are no longer productive, but simply produced. A resemblance may be said to be produced rather than productive ‘when it appears suddenly as the result of entirely different relations than those which it is charged with representing: resemblance then surges forth as the brutal product of non-resembling means’ (FB 75).1

An abstract machine is characterized by its matter – its hecceities, or relations of speeds and affects – but also by its function. The abstract machine of panopticism, for example, consists of a ‘pure matter’, a human multiplicity, and a ‘pure function’, that of seeing without being seen. What is important to note is that this function is neither semiotic nor physical, neither expression nor content, but an abstract function that informs both the expression-form of the discourse on delinquency and the content-form of the prison. Such an abstract function, characteristic of every abstract machine, Deleuze and Guattari call a ‘diagram’. Semioticians generally classify diagrams as simplified images, or icons, of things. But as Guattari points out, the image represents both more and less than a diagram; the image reproduces numerous aspects which a diagram does not retain in its representation, whereas the diagram brings together the functional articulations of a system with much greater exactitude and efficacy than the image. (Bogue, p. 135)

Visual graphs and charts are diagrams, but so are mathematical formulae, musical scores, and models in particle physics; and the more abstract the diagram is, the less it represents any particular thing, and the less it can be conceived of in terms of expression and content.  Mathematical equations articulate a self-referential system of relations which may be embodied in diverse contexts. Musical scores, although heavily ‘coded’ in traditional music (specific designations of instruments, tempi, and so on), in much electronic music function as abstract diagrams of differential speeds and intensities which a synthesizer embodies in various sounds. Models in particle physics fuse mathematical theories and experimental particles (theories isolating particles and particles generating theories) to such an extent that one may speak no longer of particles or signs, but of ‘particle-signs’, units in a self-referential experimental-theoretical complex. The function of an abstract machine is a diagram of this sort, a function ‘which has only “traits”, of content and expression, whose connection it assumes: one can no longer even say whether a trait is a particle or a sign’ (MP 176). Thus, in an abstract machine, content and expression yield to ‘a content-matter which presents only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductibility, heatability, stretchability, speed or slowness; an expression-function which presents only “tensors”, as in a mathematical or musical notation’ (MP 176-7). (Bogue, p. 135)

Indices and Data

So in the above when Bogue speaks of deterritorializeingthe human subject we should thinkg ‘decoding’ which is at the heart of Landian non-dialectical materialism. Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. (Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007, ed. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier).

This notion of numbers as ‘indices and data’ underlies the diagrammatic a-signifying theories of information of our digital age, and go to the heart of Deleuze’s conceptions of Societies of Control that modulate both individual and dividual by way of both the older form of discipline (Foucault) and newer forms of control (Deleuze). Such works as Ronald E. Day’s ‘Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data’ and others support as shift in the production of subjectivity showing the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data. Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media’s use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots — to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

  1. Bogue, Ronald (2008-03-07). Deleuze and Guattari (Critics of the Twentieth Century) (p. 120-122). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

 

  1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 620-627). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

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

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

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

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

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

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Secular Ecstasy: Kant and the Capitalist Violence of Reason

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
……– Friedrich Nietzsche

There is in divine things a transparency so great that one slips into illuminated depths of laughter…
……– Georges Bataille

Bataille in Inner Experience brings us to the edge of the impossible: “to face the impossible – exorbitant, indubitable – when nothing is possible any longer is in my eyes to have an experience of the divine; it is analogous to a torment.1 At the heart of Bataille’s secular mysticism is the notion of sacrificial negativity, whether in the form of mysticism, eroticism, art, poetry, gambling, or any other – “deficit operations,” that he discovers the key to “sovereign” existence; an “existence free of all limitations of interest”. Following Durkheim he would divide the world into Sacred / Profane, and against the profane world of work and utilitarian, goal oriented, purposeful behavior, thought, and instrumental reason, and its concern for the discontinuous individual self he would transgress through a counter-operation of sheer sacrifice, excess, and utter destruction of the festival of capitalist accumulation and experience. For Bataille sacrifice broke the barriers, shunted the taboos and constraints and regulations of the Bourgeoisie that atomized and constricted the individual to a hermetic ego whose only concern was self-protection defined by pecuniary interest, individual concern, and fear of death.2

Nick Land in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007  will quote E.M. Cioran’s essay ‘Thinking Against Oneself’ in which he says: ”

There is no work that does not return against its author: the poem crushes the poet, the system the philosopher, the event the man of action. Some form of self-destruction, responding to his vocation and accomplishing it, is at work in the core of history; only he saves himself who sacrifices gifts and talents in order that, disengaged from his quality as a man, he is able to strut into being.

Could we apply this to civilizations? This sense that at the core of capitalist civilization there is a process of self-destructive annihilation, and in the end be the only possible salvation left for Western Civilization is to sacrifice its gifts and talents, disengage from its humanist heritage, its religious and secular commitments, and the very foundations of history itself, and thereby allow the future to emerge from its deathly ashes like the Phoenix flaming toward the undying Sun?

As Nick Land surmises on the medieval mindset, in a age when the Church erected cathedrals in a disfigured celebration of the death of God, the nobility built fortresses to glorify and to accentuate the economy of war. Their fortresses were tumours of aggressive autonomy; hard membranes correlative with an acute disequilibrium of force. Within the fortress, social excess is concentrated to its maximum tension, before being siphoned off into the furious wastage of the battlefield.(FN, KL 3452) In the end this aggressive force would turn not outward toward the Other, the Enemy, but rather inward toward its own people, targeting the very heart of the human project itself, the children. Speaking of the monstrous world of Gilles de Rais’ and his compatriots:

The children of the surrounding areas disappeared into these fortresses, in the same way that the surplus production of the local peasantry had always done, except now the focus of consumption had ceased to be the exterior social spectacle of colliding armies, involuting instead into a sequence of secret killings. Rather than a staging post for excess, the heart of the fortress became its terminus; the site of a hidden and unholy participation in the nihilating voracity which Bataille calls ‘the solar anus’, or the black sun. (FN, KL 3456)

Are we even now staging the Age of Blood, the Black Sun? A time when the children of men, the young women and men, boys and girls will be sacrificed to the gods of Capital? When the elite aristoi (aristocratic .01%) fold in the world’s youth in a pyre of civil-war to depopulate the earth and make room for the future of these top-tiered Goths and their secular pyramid of sacrificial excess? Is civilization in process of immolation and apocalypse? Or, is this just the transitional nightmare of abstract reason emerging from the chrysalis of flesh into machinic dreams, a transcendent sacrifice of animality at the hands of a more sublime mathematical and dynamic Gothicism? Was Kant the father of Gothic Sublime and Capital Reason?

Immanuel Kant: The Sublime and Gothic Violence of Reason

Kant, Land remarks, was the first to recognize the modern sublime in its two variations of ‘mathematical’ and ‘dynamic’: the mathematical sublime is the pleasure taken by reason in the collapse of the imagination induced by the intuition of magnitude, and the dynamic sublime is the equivalent pleasure corresponding to the intuition of power. In other words, the mathematical sublime is associated with the insignificance of the human animal, and the dynamic sublime with its vulnerability. (FN, KL 1890-1892). This sense of being at risk and insignificant against the backdrop of the cosmos and natural process forces us back on our solitude, our finitude. As Land continues,

Sublimity has three elements; on the one hand the two elements of the subject: its sensibility or animality and its reason or pure intelligence, and on the other an object that overwhelms the imagination, and which is driven between the two parts of the subject like a wedge. (FN, 1893-1895). Between affect and intellect a wedge or gap is driven within which the nullity of the Subject emerges as from chaos and the void.

At the heart of the Kantian enterprise was the ultimate escape plan, an exit plan from sensibility (i.e., affect and animality) into pure instrumental reason and intelligence. As Land comments that Kant was the first grand horror story author, a Gothicism of violence “in which the enlightenment reached its crescendo; philosophers feast in the palaces of reason, and luxuriate in the screams that reach them from the dungeons of sublimity” (FN, KL 1922). Yet, for all that Kant had something else, as Land tells it, “he has actually taught us something quite different, if our stomachs are strong enough for it” (FN, 1927).

Kant would teach us new path, a path of violence and demolition, of annihilation of imagination as natural intelligence or animal cunning. (FN, KL 1929) At the heart of the Kantian project is the negation and contempt for the body and base matter, a repugnance, disgust, and ultimate horror of sensibility and animality that would drive modernity forward and institute within the capitalist project a death-drive for mastery and accumulation without sacrifice that is in our own time culminating in the Human Security Regime: transhumanism, posthumanism, etc., all those systems of transcending the human order into the machinic and inorganic sublime had their beginnings in Kant’s veritable crucifixion of natural intelligence in which the human animal comes to prostrate itself before universal law. (FN, KL 1930) Kant would destroy man’s natural reason or cunning animality and replace it with an artificial construct, an unnatural and sublime instrumental reason, instead. As Land wryly says,

The Kantian moral good is the total monopoly of power in the hands of reason, and reason finds its principal definition as the supersensible element of the subject, and thus as fundamentally negative. In other words, morality is precisely the powerlessness of animality.  (FN, KL 1934)

Kant’s moralism aligns itself with the inhuman power of instrumental reason against the body and animality of humanity, and as Land with glee relates “Kant’s anti-utilitarianism is a mark of his integrity as a moralist in the Western tradition” (KL 1944). “For reason has programmatically deafened itself to the howls of the body, and it is only by means of the aesthetic detour of the sublime that the devastating effects of its sovereignty can come to be enjoyed.” (FN, 1949) Ultimately Kant discovers what Freud and others would only catalogue later on that the “pathological lunge towards death rediscovers itself in the process of its own rigorous extirpation; sublimated into the thanatropic frenzy of reason” (FN, 1953). Norman O. Brown, Ernst Becker, and Herbert Marcuse would term this the Quest for Immortality: the great escape or exit from the physical limits of organicsm against the animality of our fleshly existence. A secular mythology brewing under the hood of the Sublime repression of the death-drive as the immortal complex. This is the heart of transhuman, posthuman, and inhuman forms of escape…


 

  1. Bataille, Georges. Inner Experience (SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory) Stuart Kendall, trans. State University of New York Press (September 1, 2014).
  2. Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy (FUP))  Kindle Edition. Jeremy Biles (Editor), Kent Brintnall (Editor). Fordham University Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2015).
  3. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 1734-1736). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Lee Braver on Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik” as Postmodern Gnosticism

By such a title I do not mean to imply that Dick or Braver are religious gnostics or obscurantists by any means, but rather that they affirm a cybernetic positive-feedback loop of information and communication with a “more than rational” notion of time, self, and cosmos. More of a secular and ironic twist to gnostic thought than an affirmation of some acosmic God. Or as with most anti-realists secularites of the pomo mode they harbor a intertextual or poststructuralist sense of being cut off in the prison house of culture. Shadows of shadows flowing in a world of signs in a solipsistic universe without access to the real world. Children of Kant and the turn toward subjectivity and subjectivation they seek ways back out of the maze and traps of a catastrophe that is also a fall into language.

The Philip K. Dick as Braver portrays him in Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubikoffers us a Gnostic adventurer whose early works already prefigured the war between good and evil in the linguistiverse of rhetorical gestures, where humans are half-lifers in a scripted story ruled by a false demiurgic half-wit kid whose mission is to cannibalize the energy of these locked away zombies like virtual drones in frozen tombs dreaming they are alive and in ultra-paradise. Happy Campers that believe they are safe and secure until they begin receiving disturbing interventions from a strange object: the Ubik.  I’ll let you read the book and Braver’s essay for the details…

Such a reading shows just how difficult it is to reduce our inner experience or outer environmental systems to a verbal universe through art or science, religion or fiction. We live on the borderlands of truth rather than at its core, and everything is caught in the act of change rather than in the static field of static contemplation. We know in part, not whole; our minds are but the slow and selective evolutionary machines that have adapted to environmental pressures over millions of years that have in our age become disconnected from their early frames of reference. We now live in artificial worlds of our own making and suffer the consequences of these made habitats of meaning. A world where “heuristics” or models or reality that are partial, based on statistics and probability, rather than philosophical presuppositions; and, are more mathematical and organized by Set and Synthetic theory than by either Intellect or Sensation. In fact it is the main issue of our time that our “theories of meaning” or collapsing, are breaking down and leading us into what my friend Scott Bakker terms the ‘crash space’ of the symbolic apocalypse. Nick Land will associate it with the driving force at the core of capitalism that is accelerating us toward the closure of human history and time as Chronos. Let us venture into a world of fictive hyperstition, meme and egregore.

My friend Dirk (dmf) sent me a copy of Lee Braver’s* essay on Philip K. Dick’s use of Gnosticism in his science fiction novels. Of course many who have read his later novels such as the Valis trilogy or Radio Free Albemuth, as well as his 8,000 page Exegesis which is Dick’s mish-mash private journal, commentary, spiritual or agnostic adventures into the event in his life that occurred that many refer to as “the golden fish”.

On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.

The Sceptical Turn:  Postmodern Irony and Undecidability as Rhetorical Doomfest

To be honest my own interest in Gnosticism and heresies in general came about from a few of my own personal experiences during a troubling period of my life during and after the Viet Nam war. Like Dick I’ve never been able to quite explain satisfactorily to myself or others what I experienced during a series of events. Were they real? Psychological: psychotic episodes, schizoanalytical adventures in a more than rational ‘crash space’? Metaphysical motions on the wheel of cognitive disassociation? Lapses into older animistic and magical neuroblasts from evolution? Encounters with future intelligences?

In a sense my whole life from 1969 onward has been a search for a theory of meaning that would satisfy my restless mind concerning this series of inexplicable events transpiring over a number of years from 1969 to 1976. This is not the place to describe this period of my life in detail (I’m doing that in a fictional novel), just to note that my interest in both scientific explanations and philosophical speculations began in that timeframe. I’ve pushed both inner experience (Bataille) and rational and scientific explanandum from every angle of both ancient, modern, and postmodern forms of thought. Scoured libraries, friends, enemies, stars, lizards, madness to discover the underlying truth hidden in these events. Discovering that truth after all is relative to one’s socio-cultural perspective (i.e., Symbolic Order – Lacan/Zizek), rather than some eternal part of the order of things. Even Badiou/Meillassoux matheme’s are open to change and events, so that such truths are immanent to the world as process or even future retroactive intervention, rather than eternal Ideas inhabiting some external Outside. Below I’ll deal with Deleuze’s notions of virtual Ideas and intensities, etc. Let’s leave this for now.

Even now like Dick I remain both open and skeptical of human systems of meaning which have never quite explained to me such invasions of the Real into my early life’s existence. All such ‘Theories of Everything’ seem like dark horse scenarios for some dogmatic worldview that would enclose us in some Utopian tyranny. No. My experiences go against such things. To say I went through an existential crisis is an understatement. To say that like those ancient physicians who stated: “Healer heal thyself!” Or Nietzsche’s apply the “spear to your own wound”, etc. is to say I pushed myself to the breaking point, entered the abyss and came out the other side a changed being. One who would no longer be bound by any specific creed, dogma, or philosophical system. Or as William Blake would say: “Create your own system, or be enslaved by another man’s.”

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Sacred Violence: The Hyperstitional Order of Capitalism

How do you think a form of capital that is already thinking you?
…….– Matteo Pasquinelli

There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence.
…….– Nick Land

Delphi Carstens under the Rim Dweller section of Maggie Robert’s site gives a nice history of the notion of Hyperstition which emerged out of that strange and uncanny entity CCRU. Carstens describes this most uncanny guest as a engine for the creation of abstract machines: “Functioning as magical sigils or engineering diagrams hyperstitions are ideas that, once ‘downloaded’ into the cultural mainframe, engender apocalyptic positive feedback cycles. Whether couched as religious mystery teaching, or as secular credo, hyperstitions act as catalysts, engendering further (and faster) change and subversion. Describing the effect of very real cultural anxieties about the future, hyperstitions refer to exponentially accelerating social transformations.”

“Hyperstitions by their very existence as ideas function causally to bring about their own reality,” explains the CCRUs Nick Land. “The hyperstitional object is no mere figment or ‘social construction’ but it is in a very real way ‘conjured’ into being by the approach taken to it” (ibid).

This sense that hyperstitional interventions give rise to the future is at the core of this (non-) concept. She’ll quote Nick Land from an email interview as saying: ““capitalism incarnates hyperstitional dynamics at an unprecedented and unsurpassable level of intensity, turning mundane economic ‘speculation’ into an effective world-historical force”. Recently Nick would elaborate on this in his essay The Teleological Identity of Capitalism and Artificial Intelligence”. It is in this speech he’d argue that for twenty years his major thematic has been the notion of “the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence”.  For many this may sound lunatic, but hold on to your hats, don’t switch the secular mind-fuck button off just yet.

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Replicant Futures: Nick Land and Alien Capitalism

I have not once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real
Me stands yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
…….– Walt Whitman, “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life.”

“I have not once had the least idea who or what I am,” says the Gray Bard of America. The nihilist undertones ringing out in that last dark hinterland of “ironical laughter” of the unknown “real Me” who outside our thinking, our intentional directedness stands in the unconscious libidinal matrix of the impossible Real, the indelible stamp of the withdrawn and “mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,” pointing in silence to old Walt’s “songs, and then to the sand beneath”. A dark vision indeed. Most think of Walt as the happy camper, the wild and free poet of optimism, democracy, and sunshine. But under it all is this moody and terrible being of pessimism and nihilistic despair who believed that all his vein striving, all the metaphoric display, the grand gesture of the Leaves of Grass were but the spume and spray of rolling sand flecks on the edge of the Mother, the Ocean. Necessity, Ananke, Fate: the triune power of the ebb and flow of life bound within the circular motion of the death drives that move among the impersonal and indifferent stars and galaxies like a blind god, mindless and alone. But there is no mind in the universe of death, only the endless entropic madness of the Real.

Nick Land in his essay Machinic Desire remarks “In the near future the replicants — having escaped from the off-planet exile of private madness – emerge from their camouflage to overthrow the human security system. Deadly orphans from beyond reproduction, they are intelligent weaponry of machinic desire virally infiltrated into the final-phase organic order; invaders from an artificial death.”

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Nick Land: Philo-Fiction, Chasm, and the Abstract Manifesto

 

Abstract literature writes in clues, with clue words, but without hope.
…….– Nick Land, Abstract Manifesto

“Nothing was to have taken place. Less, even, than usual, or than standard procedure recommended. That was clear.”1 So begins Nick Land’s new philo-fiction, Chasm. True to this statement this strange amalgam of – can we call it philosophy, hyperstition, abstraction to the nth degree, an non-movement around absolute Zero; or, like those fabulations of Borges, Calvino, Ballard, Lem, or any number of anti-metaphysical metaphysicians of recent repute call this a dip in the labyrinth of a-literature?  Land_

Reading Chasm is like entering a fog, a realm where the known and unknown cross each other in the night, their knives honed sharp and clean readied for the event that will never happen. Nothing can happen in this world. Yet, this is not some static world of timeless instants, but rather a world whose clarity and resilience shift among the paranoid dreams of a crew of misfits all heading toward their own private dooms. Before the tale is over everyone, but Zodh – the Caliban of this tale, and the protagonist of this death-march, Tom Symns, will succumb to their own merciless minds. Zodh and Symns will each in his own way benefit from a form of absolute impersonalism and indifference that will keep them above the melee of horror.

Symns, an agent of Chasm, a secret military contractor, with an almost mission impossible appeal, is the operative par excellence – a dead man walking, an emotionally cool psychopathic and affectless creature whose traumas in previous missions has left him in a cold and lonely place of pure terror – not his, but toward those who get in his way. He’s sent on a mission to discard a product of this secret corporation. He asks no questions, and gets no answers about his assignment. In fact after reading through his control data he enters it into a carry-on autodestruct compartment that shreds it like a Tom Cruise sequencer. The only thing he’s curious about is the amalgam of warped and paranoid creatures he will have to share this voyage over the sea with.

A motley crew of religious and irreligious fear mongers and low-life scum will, along with the captain – a hyper-active, endless idiot questioner, Captain James Frazer,  become a part of the crew of the Pythoness, and due to its own automatic and AI controlled systems leave the crew with nothing, absolutely nothing on the voyage to do but get into trouble through a long and convoluted series of paranoid adventures. The ship, The Pythoness, they will sail on has only recently been designed to specification by the Chasm Corporation to carry the artifact they seek to dispose. We are never sure of just what it is they are transporting, and it is just this vagueness of the missions actual mission that will haunt us throughout the tale. Along the way we begin discovering that maybe just maybe this strange object whose origin and work are as obscure and mysterious as everything else might be the cause of certain effects that happen to the crew: sleeplessness, insomnia, hallucinations, lucid dreams, and ultimately singular manifestations of voices, whispers, and madness for each of the crew.

Even before they set out on their long voyage Symns will feel a “subtle tremor of resignation passed through him. Loss of control was something he already knew about, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.” (C: KL 129) He’ll visit a local pub which was nestled “into the cliff, close to the dock, was a small, atmospheric bar, called The Crab Pot. The name made it sound like a restaurant, but the little food that was served there looked inedible. It had settled itself confidently upon the sharp cusp between authenticity and simulation.” (C: KL 131)

Symns boarding the ship for the first time will be confronted by the captain. Suspicious and almost unsure if he will accept or reject this rep from Chasm, Frazer who has already researched the web and discovered that Chasm seems to be a front for some nefarious organization or governmental agency, but tells Symns: “I’ve no idea what ‘QASM’ stands for, what it is, or what it does. It’s strangely difficult to find out. I’m assuming it’s a business, with customers, but if so, it’s not exactly broadcasting the fact. Say I wanted to buy something from them …” “You don’t.” “On the web, the company says it’s selling ‘deep technology solutions’,” he persisted. “Okay, that sounds like a business – like marketing spin – but it isn’t really telling me anything at all.” “This is coming up now?” It wasn’t at all where I wanted our conversation to be. I’d somehow imagined he would know that. (C: KL 143)

Things will go back and forth like that across the months and weeks of the voyage. Without giving away the storyline I’ll only mention the artifact itself, the “thing” that is to be lowered into the deep abyss of the trench, the Mariana:

The cargo had been pre-installed within a technologically-sophisticated closed unit, whose design had followed a smooth, asymptotic curve to the edge of the absolute. It was like the Pythoness herself, but to a higher power. Upon arrival at the destination – as confirmed by the inbuilt satellite navigation system – my responsibility was to enter the activation code and initiate the release sequence. Three weeks on a boat, for nine key-strokes. After a ninety-second delay, the thing we were transporting would then be dropped into the earth’s deepest submarine abyss. Execution of this simple task would be the culmination of the mission, completely exhausting whatever meaning it might have. In any case, by the end, we’d probably still have learnt next to nothing about it. (C: 168-173)

What the crew enacts and  suffers has more to do with the unknown both inside and outside themselves… a seeping of darkness from elsewhere that shapes their thoughts even as it delivers them one by one to the corrosion and corruption of mutual degradation. Madness for each teeters on the borderlands wavering between the known and unknown, and Death like a lost lover follows us and haunts us even as we seek to remedy our own fates within the Human Security Regime. Only those who have pushed through the mask of madness and into the impersonal inhumanism at the core of their being come through if not unscathed at least immortal in the knowledge that death is all, and eternal; even for the living dead.

I admit the execution was not perfect for Land, yet the story compared to his previous dream-quest or virtual excursion was tighter and more concrete in setting and dialogue, while allowing the abstract philosophical underpinnings to unload their clues slowly and assuredly. It enacted the principles set forth in his Abstract Manifesto with an interesting twist, revealing the experimental nature of the work as a philo-fiction. This notion of an almost atheistic allogoreises or typology of the constitution of horror that leads the mind to thought, a horror thought somewhat in the tradition of Eugene Thacker’s trilogy on horror philosophy, yet with the Landian touch – quirky, skeptical, lucid, eloquent and refined to the point of an almost mundane consistency. The clues are there not in some hidden place, but in the very immediate grasp of the truth: that nothing happens, and nothing can happen. The story recites its own repetitions not in difference or sameness, but under the sign of a Bataillean heterogeneity that leads into inner-experience that only the solitary reader can appreciate.

Abstract Manifesto

In his notes at the end of his short disquieting philo-horror we discover Land’s Manifesto for an Abstract Literature.

§ 101 – Disintegration inspires a thousand manifestoes, as our age confirms. Here is another. It would be a manifesto in defense of nothing, if nothing needed – or even tolerated – defending. With its solicitude mocked by alien voids, it can only attack something – anything (everything).

Reading a recent essay by my friend Cengiz Erdem Postnihilistic Speculations on That Which Is Not: A Thought-World According to an Ontology of Non-Being we come across this:

A thought thinking itself is thinking nothing other than nothing. It thinks itself as its own object, which means that it thinks nothing as something. This circular thought we designate as the thought of nihilism. It is this thought thinking itself as the thought of nihilism which we name post-nihilism. Primarily driven by the thoughts of Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, François Laruelle and Michel Henry respectively, the post-nihilistic thought attempts to  theorize the unilateral duality of the dialectical conceptions of immanence/transcendence and affirmation/negation.

Shall we always be caught in the circle of this dialectical flux, shifting back and forth between extreme limits, unable to find a stable place to of foundation, ground, place, situation, act upon which to rest our weary thoughts? No. We who are most restless are condemned to the dispersal of repetition and difference, wanderers of the Abyss.

A few years back I began reading once again several of those children of Kant who in one form or another develop a view onto our sensual dispersal. Such men whose flirtations with Idealism, Objects, Being, Phenomenon etc. would lead them to waver among the appearances lost amid the battles between Humeaen skepticism and empiricism, and the pre-critical reflections of the Rationalists seeking a way out of the traps and errors of the German Idealist traditions. Of recent vintage is the work of Graham Harman whose strange and weird realism beckons us into a vacuous actuality, a world of events in which everything that is exists in as inscrutable substances that lie in some sort of still-undetermined vacuum or void. Yet, in their weirdness these singular things, entities, objects that exist in vacuity manage to communicate with one another.

But if things exist in non-relation, how do they ever breach the gap between voids to communicate or interact with anything else? What is the causal mechanism that allows such vacuous objects to awaken out of their dormancy and enter into relation with other things? Land for his part in Section 101 will begin with a simple but devastating conclusion:

§ 101 – Abstraction is nothing, rigorously pursued. Arithmetical zero is its sign. To perceive, think, and do nothing. To be nothing. Zero alone – in its infinite formulations – attains such exemption from indignity. (And it is time.)

We all remember reading that evil book of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy who saw in the figure of Zero the “empty centre, the place where everything is supposed to be visible and intelligible, the place of knowledge” (p. 12).2 That same Lyotard would explicate:

We do not even have to say: this is great Zero, what crap! After all, it is a figure of desire, and from what position could we assume to deny it this quality? In what other, no less terrorist Zero? One cannot assume a position on the twisted, shock-ridden, electrified labyrinth band. One’s got to get this into one’s head: the instantiation of intensities on an original Nothing, on an Equilibrium, and the folding back of complete parts onto the libidinal Moebian band, in the form of a theatrical volume, does not proceed from an error, from an illusion, from malice, from a counter-principle, but again from desire. One must realize that representing is desire, putting on stage, in a cage, in prison, into a factory, into a family, being boxed in are desired, that domination and exclusion are desired; that extreme intensities are instantiable in these assemblages too. (pp. 11-12)

To be Zero, doubled, split, folded back in the infinite loop of a derisive libidinal economy of vacuity, a self-reflecting nothingness cut off from all externality, intensity boxed, caged, imprisoned in the theatricality of its own solipsistic desire, dominated by nothing more nor less than the Zero Degree of thought: this alone is abstraction, and abstraction’s horror.

§ 102 — Abstraction in itself is the sovereign of the negative determination, and can never fall under a formal relation. It does not oppose itself to the concrete, except in terms whose keys are encrypted within itself. Apophatic method (the via negativa) is its discipline.

Here it is cut off from any “formal relation,” neither opposing the concrete phenomenon or itself, except as it under the powers and dispotifs of its own internal volcanic pact decides by way of denial to speak in terms of what cannot be said or named, this unknowing or negative way into non-being at the heart of Zero and the Abyss.

§ 103 — Abstract negation, as Hegel perhaps understood, in deriding it, is the only kind that escapes. He recoils from a negativity that does no work or even (precisely) the opposite, and which redoubles without self-cancelation while still turning endlessly into itself. Abstract negation is already a doubling, of such redundancy that it sheds the pretense to generic negativity like Ouroboros skin – and in fact like nothing at all.

Eugene will offer us a way into such horrors of the abstract, this most vita negative:

Whatever abstract horror has happened, it cannot be explained by the narrator. And yet, it must be explained, there must be an explanation. The narrator is so committed to this notion that he is willing to question his own sanity so that the “Horror” can be explained. And, the narrator continues, if I can’t explain it then there must be someone else who can. In lieu of this, he can only hope that someone else (doubtless we, the “dear readers”) will come along and provide an explanation, some explanation, any explanation.3

Is this not true of Land’s fable, this non-story of the Absolute Zero, the Abstract non-movement of thought turning and turning in its own void, the vacuous actuality of the withdrawn object bound in the cage of its on mad thinking seeking to install itself in the only thing it can – those others, those organic meat infested crustaceans of the earthly sphere who live in such minimal and bare unthought? Is this not the truth of Land’s little parable or anabasis, this death-march into the interior country of death itself, the slow methodical movement of thought returning to the Abyss?

The outlying language and characters of Land’s philo-fiction are unimportant, they are stage-craft, non-entities who actually believe they are living beings, humans in fact. But we know better, these are zombies awaiting the completion of an experiment in thought. Is this not what thought is: madness itself, the beginning, the moment of creation, the genealogy of gods and men, an terrible accident? Have we not known this all along? Known that our lives, our experiences, our universe is a catastrophe, a non-places: a realm of pure abstraction? We who sleep walk through existence believe we are alive, that this is life, without known that we are in the empty place, the kenoma of a vacant thought, the place of a silent disaster in process.

§ 104 — The elusiveness of the abstract can be rigorously illustrated. Division by zero exemplifies it, in the perfect extinction of illumination. It can only be forbidden because, once understood, it makes no sense. To divide by zero is to initiate an explosion without limit, of demonstrable irreversibility. The result returned is undefined (sufficiently so to crash computers). Though a gate to the tracts of the transfinite, there can be no retreat back through it. It allows nothing to be retrieved.

In an interview Land once remarked that “what is concealed (the Occult) is an alien order of time, which betrays itself through ‘coincidences’, ‘synchronicities’ and similar indications of an intelligent arrangement of fate. An example is the cabbalistic pattern occulted in ordinary languages – a pattern that cannot emerge without eroding itself, since the generalized (human) understanding and deliberated usage of letter-clusters as numerical units would shut down the channel of ‘coincidence’ (alien information). It is only because people use words without numerizing them, that they remain open as conduits for something else. To dissolve the screen that hides such things (and by hiding them, enables them to continue), is to fuse with the source of the signal and liquidate the world.” This is the core of Land’s project, this secret complicity between the future, capitalism, and intelligence: a journey from the future to the past, a force driving every aspect of our civilization, the interminable movement of abstraction in its endless labyrinthine divagations among the logic of worlds.  This irreversible juggernaut of time and nothing moving along a plane of inconsistency fading in and out, wandering the flux lanes of a million plateaus, a rhizomatic peek-a-boo adventure of the life and death drives in endless agon.

§ 105 — Abstract writing and aesthetic abstraction are each easily found in abundance. Logico-mathematical formalism provides the former, high modernism in the visual arts (especially) the latter. Yet literary high modernism has made a hash of its involvement with abstraction.

Fail, and fail better. Drifting between art and math abstraction seeks to discover itself under the guise of a formless form.

§ 106 — “I have nothing to say, and I’m saying it.” – John Cage.

Stop and go. Back and forth. Movement, but not progression. The circle of contradiction that can never be resolved or reconciled. Death-drive as the movement of time… life as its break, its rupture, exit. Between them the abyss, the gap, the crack in time; the split of tension and tensors, the topology of non-being and being at play in the wilderness of abstractions.

§ 107 — The term ‘blank verse’ amuses us.

Blank verse is distinguished by two interlaced features: the first being that the poems, for the most part, convey freethinking, i.e., the “independence of thought; specifically, the free exercise of reason in matters of religious belief, unconstrained by deference to authority” (Oxford English Dictionary qtd. on 2); and the second, that this freethinking is in part enabled by the hallmarks of the blank-verse form. As Weinfield writes, “all of these poets, at least in their finest work, are spiritual wanderers and freethinkers; they are all grappling with the religious crisis, or crisis of modernity. . . . Blank verse gives them the license to wander and allows their freethinking tendencies to come to the fore” (3).5

One should rather say it allows what is invisible to become visible in the abstraction. This is thought in the purity of its quest to make visible non-being in being. The impossible become possible. Zero as negation of negation… Zizek roaming in his own negations will surmise:

The death of Christ is also the death/ end of human mortality, the “death of death,” the negation of negation: the death of God is the rise of the undead drive (the undead partial object). Here, however, Hegel is not radical enough: since he is not able to think objet a, he also ignores bodily immortality (“ undeadness”)— both Spinoza and Hegel share this blindness for the proper dimension of the objet a. How can a Christian believer come to terms with this obscene excess of immortality? Is the answer, once again, love? Can one love this excess?6

And, what of hate? Is their a nasty cruelty in excess? Isn’t the very form of time itself hateful, this continuous charade of decomposition, corruption, disintegration, catastrophe? Isn’t Zizek a little to idealistic for us, with all his talk of redemption? As if this zombiefied immortality, this excess that returns upon itself without end, this negentropic calculator of some impossible machinic intelligence were love?

§ 108 — The object of abstract literature is integral obscurity. It seeks only to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown. Cryptropic nature captivates it (Φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ). Whatever might imaginably be shown is something else, but then so – if not exactly equally – is anything that remains simply apart. Those who dedicate themselves to this dubious cause can be nothing but a surface effect of The Thing.

Are we all daemonic minions in a factory of blind process, things integral to the obscure thoughts of some blind god whose purposeless messages seem to communicate with us from some arcane region outside time and space; or, the truth of that secret guest who lives and the inhuman core of our own being, whispering to us from the abyss?

An “object of the unknown, as the unknown”? What would this be, how attest to this nothing that is, this void, this vacuous actuality? We remember Harman saying of objects, things, and entities:

…never do any two real things make contact. Even inanimate reality is an asymmetrical world of real entities making contact with phenomenal ones. Direct contact is no more found at the outset than in the result. Translation is no psychological quirk of unlucky humans whose mentality cannot probe the depths of things; rather, it belongs to the very stuff of relation. For causation to be vicarious means by the same stroke that it must be asymmetrical as well.7

This asymmetrical divide in Kant would be of the noumenal/phenomenal split: that which cannot be named, thought or seen directly; and that which is seen, thinkable, and directly apprehended by intuition, etc. “The genius of occasionalism was to cut things off from one another to such an extent that only God could link them. The solution was clearly outlandish, its vagueness protected from scrutiny only by the shield of piety, since the mechanisms of direct Divine contact were never explained. But at least this model grasped that things have a certain rigorous independence from one another. (p. 48)” says Harman. Of course today we live with a humanist form of this that SR terms the correlationist circle of cause and effect, that it is the Mind/World that are split, and the causal nexus is this reduction to concept between to indeterminate levels of being, this asymmetrical relation between the mental and stuff, etc. Yet, as Harman surmises all this modeling is more about disconnection and withdrawal, rather than relation and connection: its about the vacuous actuality of thing in their on Zero, cut off from each other yet being able to somehow cause effects with others indirectly. Fictions of processes little understood, which the sciences translate into long and tedious mathematical theorems, and philosophers translate into descriptive natural language or folk psychology. Is there and end?

§ 109 — Abstract literature writes in clues, with clue words, but without hope. It is the detective fiction of the insoluble crime, the science fiction of an inconceivable future, the mystery fiction of the impregnable unknown, proceeding through cryptic names of evocation, and rigid designators without significance. The weirdness it explores does not pass, unless to withdraw more completely into itself. There is no answer, or even – for long – the place for an answer. Where the solution might have been found waits something else. Description is damage.

Maybe that is it, a need to discover the clues left in being by non-being. A cosmic detective show seeking the answer to an “insoluble crime”? An Land as if echoing Harman describes alluringly that the “weirdness it explores does not pass, unless to withdraw more completely into itself”. This truth of things, the non-being of vacuous actuality of things sealed off in their vacuums, churning in the Zero degree of their own private infernal paradises.

§ 110 — John (18: 20) quotes the Nazarene: “in secret have I said nothing” (ἐν κρυπτῷ ἐλάλησα οὐδέν).

Is this not the ultimate truth, that we can say nothing? That everything we might say as Nietzsche once described it “That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.”

§ 111 — Sexual repression, pushed to an extreme, advances the mechanics of abstract literature. Puritanism is here set to dark work. Lovecraft (once again) exhibits the pattern. Whatever hides can be latched onto other hidden things.

There is a secret history of the world to be written which will describe the ambiguous adventures of non-being in being, of the hetereological indices of a sublime degradation.

§ 112 — Fiction is bound, from the beginning, to what is not. Non-occurrences are its special preoccupation. It trafficks with things that never happened, and lies on the path to Old Night.

Thomas Ligotti will offer little solace, but a beneficent collapse into that dark abyss from which we may never escape: our lives in this infernal paradise of time, saying,

The world of non-human bodies is activated directly in accord with the commands of that terrible force underlying all existence which issues only a few simple desires, none of which have to do with anything as nonsensical and dreamlike as creating works of art or of being an artist, of doing or being anything like these profoundly false and unreal things. Thus the world of non-human bodies never need suffer the pains of pursuing false and unreal desires, because such feelings have no relevance for those bodies and never arise within them.’8

This is the impersonal realm of vacuous actuality, of things cut off in the void of their own impossible non-being. Flyting between idealism and materialism we ponder the navel of existence like insects tweaking our chemical register seeking after the clues to our next cannibal feast. The universal feeding machine of organic composition and decomposition churns on continuously revolving in the soup bin of cosmic decay and entropy. Yet, under the eye of our parent, the sun we rise and fall in the dust of secret assassinations, unknowing of our blindness and our ignorance. Believing we have a destiny, a fate, we stage the endless agons of our daily competitions driven by the very death-drive that so willingly seeks to slay us.

§ 113 — No one has yet done anything with unnonfiction (the word). Now is the time to unearth still less with it.

There is nothing to be done. There is no where to go. There is no one to see. There is nothing to know. Nothing to remember. Nothing.

§ 114 — Because literature knows nothing, it can turn blindness to a vision of the abyss. It evokes an apprehension of non-apprehension, or a perception of the imperceptible as such. Milton explores the abyss, in order to say nothing, positively, with unsurpassed eloquence. He makes Paradise Lost the Bible of abstract literature where “darkness visible” (I: 63), “the palpable obscure” (II: 406), shadow the ultimate unilluminousness of “Old Night” (I: 543). Horror is structurally Miltonic. What cannot be seen, or in any other way shown, can still be said.

At once, as far as Angel’s ken,
he views The dismal situation waste and wild.
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round,
As one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames
No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.4

§ 115 — Lovecraft: “I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best – one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis. These stories frequently emphasise the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions. Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or ‘outsideness’ without laying stress on the emotion of fear.”

For the anti-realist the author’s creation of both form and content, meant that there was no access to a “given and naked reality” outside the text. Reference becomes a circular movement within the text itself, which now contains the signifier and the signified wholly within it.9 The speculative realist against such enclosed prisons would tell us that contemporary philosophers have lost the “great outdoors, the absolute outside of pre-critical thinkers: that outside which was not relative to us, and which was given as indifferent to its own givenness to be what it is, existing in itself regardless of whether we are thinking of it or not; that outside which thought could explore with the legitimate feeling of being on foreign territory – of being entirely elsewhere.”10

Could it be that this life we live is in exile from elsewhere? Are we in the mirror-land among the ruins of being, Alice’s children, mad-hatters one and all? “To extract ourselves from this communitarian or intersubjective solipsism is to access a great outdoors that would perform the same function for the mathematics contained in ancestral statements as the veracious God performed for extended substance. (Meillassoux, KL 747)”

§ 116 — Except, it is not fear that guides us. Abstract literature complies with a rigorous critique of fear, conducted in the name of horror. Fear nothing, until fear sheds its concreteness, and nothing switches its sign.

Let us not be deceived by fear and illusion, rather let us like non-metaphysical habitants of some abstract sphere conduct our inquiry into the terminal truth of non-being. “Hermetically Promethean in orientation, driven by a will to sustain a unilateral duality of Prometheus and Hermes as modes of being and thinking, Speculative Realism as a form of post-nihilism which thinks and lives according to nothing as something, is a venture into the Noumenal world…,” says Cengiz: (see here). But why transcendence? Why some elsewhere beyond? Why not seek the circle for the circles sake? The amor fati of Nietzsche’s eternal return?

What would the Nothingness involved in a non-nihilist configuration figuration be…?11 Contingency? This is why amor fati, love of fate or love of necessity, is already, and in an immanent way, love of contingency. Or, as Nietzsche suggests, it is love tout court. (Zupancic, KL 1846) Or, Meillassoux (it must be abstract):

Our absolute, in effect, is nothing other than an extreme form of chaos, a hyper-Chaos, for which nothing is or would seem to be, impossible, not even the unthinkable. This absolute lies at the furthest remove from the absolutization we sought: the one that would allow mathematical science to describe the in-itself. (AF: KL 944)

Yet, Land admonishes us in 104: “Though a gate to the tracts of the transfinite, there can be no retreat back through it. It allows nothing to be retrieved.” If our universe is pure informational complexity, a data-gram from elsewhere whose holographic insistence is that nothing is real, everything unreal and illusionary cinematic jouissance, then exactly where are the negatives upon which the light blinks its blank testament across the flickering dust of this imploding thought? Are we living forward or backward, is time not an explosion but rather a big crunch into that annihilating thought that sparked all beginnings? That bindu point of the ultimate abstract point of points where Zero hits a wall and discovers the black hole out of which it can enter the Great Outdoors of being?

§ 117 — The Thing horror pursues – and from which it flees – cannot be an object (if life is to continue). Its nonexistence is a presupposition of mental equilibrium. At the virtual horizon where thought encounters it, absolute madness reigns. This coincidence is fundamental. At the end of horror lies that which – if there is merely to be sanity – cannot conceivably or imaginably exist. The image of the monster, then, is more than an error of method. It is a radical misapprehension. Anything that can be captured cannot be what horror seeks. Pictures are mistakes.

The Deleuze Dictionary tells us:

Nietzsche’s speculations on metaphor show that there is no ‘truth’ behind the mask of appearances, but rather only more masks, more metaphors. Deleuze elevates this insight into something like a general metaphysical principle. For him, the world is composed of simulacra: it is a ‘swarm’ of appearances. … All life perceives and is necessarily open to the ‘outside’ and distinctions between automatism and voluntary acts are only differences of degree, rather than differences in kind. This alternative, non-psychological metaphysics, according to which the world is ‘luminous in itself ’, rather than being illuminated by a beam of consciousness, is at the heart of Deleuze’s non-representational project… Following Bergson’s materialist ontology, according to which our body is merely an image among images, Deleuze opens the self to the outside, the pure form of time. The self comes into contact with a virtual, non-psychological memory, a domain of diversity, difference, and with potentially anarchic associations, that jeopardise the sense selfhood.12

The great outdoors of being and non-being as the “pure form of time”? Land on the concept “templexity”: Templexity is indistinguishable from unbounded real recursion, so it cannot be lucidly anticipated independently of a historical completion – or ‘closure’ (apprehended in the multitudinous sense noted in the text to follow). …‘Templexity’ – as a sign – marks the suspicion that, if we are waiting for this to happen, we still understand nothing.( p. 4).13 Our universe a closed time-loop? As Land quotesSeth Lloyd et al. (2011) “… closed timelike curves are a generic feature of highly curved, rotating spacetimes …”(Templexity, p. 25). Wheels within wheels, a chariot of looping fiery particles churning in the dark matter/energy of the mudder/mattering void?

§ 118 — There is no difference between abstract literature and horror, conceived in profundity (in the abyss). An encounter with the absolutely cognitively intolerable cannot conclude in a positive presentation. The makers of horror have long been expected to understand that – even if they still typically submit to the sins of exhibition, the lust to show, and tell. Within the image, horror is interred. Thus, abstract literature is committed to a definite iconoclasm, which is also a vow of silence – though a hidden silence.

One of those simple but powerful insights Harman discovered in his study of Heidegger was the observation that we only ever come to notice things when they break down, when they rear their ugly heads up out of the background of being and surprise us by their eruption into our lives. These things, these lumps of stuff surrounding us were the moment before just silent guests hidden in the background of the cosmic parade of phenomenality, mere appearances in an otherwise mundane world of boring dullness. In the moment that this broken thing awakened us from our stupor, this accident of timespace intruded its thusness  into our lives we begin to feel a disturbance, a challenge, a knowledge of something unknown but real. And what is real anyway? For Harman realism “does not mean that we are able to state correct propositions about the real world” (whatever that might be?), but rather “it means that reality is too real to be translated without remainder into any sentence, perception, practical action, or anything else” (WR, p. 16).14

Translation in Harman’s terms is the distortion of the reality any intention addresses. This intention is not specific to human logic or language, but to all object-object relations. Levi R. Bryant in a post once suggested: a translation is an interaction that produces a difference in what is translated. The thesis that objects only relate by translating one another is, under my reading, the thesis that there will always be more in the effect than was there in the cause by virtue of how an entity translates the interactions it receives from another entity. So what does this entail? It entails perspectivism. Perspectivism isn’t the thesis that beings are nothing but perspectives– after all, beings are real –but is rather the thesis that we must attend to how entities other than ourselves encounter interactions with other entities in the world around us.

As Cengiz Erdem relates it this brings us to the issue of the “split nature of reality itself. The melancholic Cartesian subject cannot access the reality in-itself precisely because the reality is always already split in-itself. Strange though as it may sound the in-itself is itself split. And stranger still, that split is not within something, but rather between something and nothing. We can say that the gap between the real and the symbolic is included within reality itself. Perhaps that’s why Zizek insists on the need to affirm the mediation of illusion, the necessity of fantasy in accessing reality as it is in-itself.” (see here)

§ 119 — Horror anticipates philosophy, spawns it automatically, and provides its ultimate object – abstraction (in itself). It comes from the same non-place to which philosophy tends. If skepticism teaches philosophy what it need not think, horror persuades it that it cannot. In this way, the pact between abstraction and horror – the thing – surpasses anything philosophy could ever be, or know.

Zizek falling back on Lacan will remark, so far so good, we may say: by way of transposing what appears as an epistemological limit into the Thing itself, Hegel shows how the problem is its own solution— but in what precise sense? To avoid a fatal misunderstanding: this crucial dialectical move from epistemological obstacle to ontological impossibility in no way implies that all we can do is reconcile ourselves to this impossibility, i.e., accept reality itself as imperfect. The premise of psychoanalysis is that one can intervene with the symbolic into the Real, because the Real is not external reality-in-itself, but a crack in the symbolic, so one can intervene with an act which re-configures the field and thus transforms its immanent point of impossibility. “Traversing the fantasy” does not mean accepting the misery of our lives— on the contrary, it means that only after we “traverse” the fantasies obfuscating this misery can we effectively change it. (LTN, KL 10949-56)

Isn’t horror literature, art, cinema, etc. the enactment of this very process of “traversing the fantasy,” of intervening with the symbolic into the Real, seeking through a vita negative act a way to re-configure the entire field immanently at just that point of impossibility?

§ 120 — Abstract literature borrows its guides from horror, which are monsters. ‘Invisible’ monsters we are tempted to say, over-hastily. No monster can be more, or less, than partially – horribly – seen (as etymology reliable attests). The monster is liminal, or diagonal. It discloses a lurid obscurity.

Are not these monstrous entities the doorway to abstraction? The mask of its insidious appeal, the allurement of its degrading magnificence? Are we not mesmerized by the powers of infectious glamours, lured into the labyrinth of unknown and unknowable disclosures that are neither given nor directly known, but hold open to us the indirect access to a secret and ruinous knowledge that cannot be had any other way?

§ 121 — The initial stage of monstrosity is ‘simple’ beyondness. A monster has as its leading characteristic the nature of an excessive being. It is first of all a counter- humanoid, eluding anthropomorphic recognition. Since ‘inhumanity’ remains captured within a dialectical relation, it is preferable to invoke a ‘non-’ or ‘un-humanity’ determined abstractly – in the way of the wholly unknown aliens from James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989) – only as “something not us”. A minimal condition for monstrosity is radical unhumanity.

What we see below is the Thing (whatever it is) indirectly rather than directly, since how we take notice is through the ‘things’ manipulation of the liquid element of water, manipulating it to translate itself into an apparent human-like facial expression; and, yet we very well know that underneath this façade and apparently the appearance of appearance is the very inhuman power or energetic force of the alien thing itself. So that we are never in touch with the thing itself, but on as it reveals itself for-us as a phenomenon to be evaluated, interpreted, suffered…

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§ 122 — Even as it consumes all attention, monstrosity does not look like anything. At the crudest level of perceptual disorganization, it dismantles morphology into the seething complexity of tentacle-monsters and bug-creatures – plasticized, metamorphic, and poly-segmentary beings – for which (China Miéville) “Squidity” is the supreme archetype. At a more advanced level of abstraction, they slough off even these residual forms as larval constrictions, becoming shape-shifting horrors, adopting the body-plans of their prey, as they evolve fluidly into the way hunt. At their intensive zenith, they sublime to sheer system, syndrome – reproduction cycles, patterns of parasitization, epidemiological profiles, and convergent waves – conceivable only through what they do.

In the deeper dreams everything was likewise more distinct, and Gilman felt that the twilight abysses around him were those of the fourth dimension. Those organic entities whose motions seemed least flagrantly irrelevant and unmotivated were probably projections of life-forms from our own planet, including human beings. What the others were in their own dimensional sphere or spheres he dared not try to think. Two of the less irrelevantly moving things— a rather large congeries of iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles and a very much smaller polyhedron of unknown colours and rapidly shifting surface angles— seemed to take notice of him and follow him about or float ahead as he changed position among the titan prisms, labyrinths, cube-and-plane clusters, and quasi-buildings; and all the while the vague shrieking and roaring waxed louder and louder, as if approaching some monstrous climax of utterly unendurable intensity.
……….– H.P. Lovecraft – The Dreams in the Witch House

This sense of monstrous abstract entities from other dimensions of impossibility, the mathematical and diagrammatic anti-representational purity of something barely registered on the screen of a neuroencephalitically shocked specimen of this irreality – named, the human, Gilman. This movement from the mundane into a purely geometrical monstrous realm inhabited by a strange order of being within Riemannian poly-dimensional space opens us to that cosmic terror where abstraction becomes in deep and fact “darkness visible”. (also see Harman WR: p. 199-200)

Sustained by a rhetoric of figural translations that shift us from register to register across the streams of mathematic precision and poetic anti-Platonism this materialist movement that neither objectifies nor reduces to the subjectivation of some inner ‘night of the world’ brings with it that intensive science of pleasure we know as horror.

§ 123 — Fundamental ontology tells us that whatever happens (in time) is not time, and being is no thing. “The nothing nothings nothingishly,” or whatever Heidegger said, or didn’t say, it matters not, until unnonfiction seizes upon it (as it will). There can never be enough negative ontology, because what being is not exceeds it.

Land in another era would remind us of Kant, saying,

Perhaps nothing was clearer to Kant than the radical untenability of the Leibnizian paradigm of metaphysics, still dominant in the (Wolfian) philosophy of the Prussian state. Logicism had been exposed, by the sceptical and empirical thought of a more advanced social system, as a sterile tautological stammering that belonged to the Middle Ages when positivity had been given in advance. It was with extraordinary resolve that Kant jettisoned the deductive systematization that had characterized the philosophies of immobilist societies – philosophies deeply and deliberately rooted in stagnant theism – and replaced it with the metaphysics of excess.15

He will continue, saying,

In the third critique there is a far more aggressive conception of excess, which generates a feeling of delight, because it is essentially extortionate. This excess is not a surplus of certainty stemming from dimensions of objectivity possessed in advance of intuition, and thus by right, but rather a surplus of purchase upon the object. … Kant’s advice to the imperial war-machine in his third critique can be summarized as: ‘treat all resistance as if it were less than you might justifiably fear’. The Critique of Judgment thus projects the global victory of capitalized reason as pure and exuberant ambition. (FN: KL 997-992)

Already we see that equivalence and suggestion that Capital and Intelligence, the force from the far flung futurity of our earth that drives us forward retroactively intervening in the time of our time at work and play in the very real material processes of our socio-cultural systems. The Symbolic Order driven forward by the very processes of that death-drive that emerges within the excessive violence of what is and will remain unnameable.

§ 124 — Much has to be conceded to our hypothetical interlocutor, who asks: “Is it not, then the intrinsic mission of abstract literature to visit infinite ontological devastation upon its readers?” For how could that be avoided? Our task cannot be other than to supplant intolerable nightmares with yet worse ones. Mercifully, this is no easy thing (from a certain regard), even if it is an ineluctable destiny (from others).

Would it not be true that the greatest fiction if our current civilization as enacted in Global Capitalism? Land will admit a tentative definition of this process of horror:

Hyperstition is a positive feedback circuit including culture as a component. It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies. Superstitions are merely false beliefs, but hyperstitions – by their very existence as ideas – function causally to bring about their own reality. Capitalist economics is extremely sensitive to hyperstition, where confidence acts as an effective tonic, and inversely. The (fictional) idea of Cyberspace contributed to the influx of investment that rapidly converted it into a technosocial reality. (see here)

And, finally, we come to the end of the Abstract Manifesto:

§ 125 — From whence comes this grim pact with the abyss? We can only respond, with confidence – from the abyss. If another answer were plausible, then abstract literature would be expression, when it is only – or at least overwhelmingly – exploration, and to explore, from the other side, is to let something in.

Walter Pater in that dilapidated era of aesthetes and symbolists admonished his followers that “we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into that given time…” (The Renaissance). Freud in that sublime passage from Beyond the Pleasure Principle:

Our views have from the very first been dualistic, and today they are even more definitely dualistic than before – now that we describe the opposition as being, not between ego-instincts and sexual instincts but between life instincts and death instincts. Jung’s libido theory is on the contrary monistic; the fact that he has called his one instinctual force ‘libido’ is bound to cause confusion, but need not affect us otherwise.16

This age-old battle between Sophists and Philosophers much touted between the modern divide between Continental (Philosophers) and Analytical (Sophists) comes down to an preference between two ontologies: math and poetry. Both offering their version of “surplus of purchase upon the object,” that realm of non-being and being entwined in the difference between figural and literal meaning. Those who would reduced the excess to the known and conceptual harbor the annihilation of the world, secretly in alliance with the death-drives. While those who see it as impossible to confine things to the irreducible markers and traces of some descriptive science or metaphysic are aligned with Eros, or the life-drives that follow the metamorphic power of the figural, the open and incomplete. Between them the practitioners of horror play the dialectical game of insight and blindness, neither in or out of the game, but oscillating between being and non-being like troubadours of an impossible dream of thought. One discovers that desire is itself the outer form of the death-drive that has for so long driven us into this accelerating void of the Abyss.

Like Zodh, the Court Jester and native shaman, once said to his mates:

Here’s the thing. What you think is behind, and beneath, isn’t so. That’s an image. You spun it for the sense of protection it brings. It disguises a hole, because if you saw what was missing, you’d never sleep. You don’t know what’s there, at all. You can be shown that you don’t know what’s there. It isn’t hard, to show that. A simple trick is enough to do it. There’s a gap in you – a massive missingness – the back and underside torn away. Lots of other encroachments of unbeing, but that’s the main one. You’re a flimsy mask pasted onto a sucking wound in the world. That’s the starting point. It’s the way to turn, and go, if you want to learn. Look behind you. Into the real backspace you’re pretending isn’t there.


 

  1. Land, Nick (2015-12-16). Chasm (Kindle Location 8). Time Spiral Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Libidinal Economy. Trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993 [Économie libidinale. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1974]
  3. Thacker, Eugene (2015-04-24). Tentacles Longer Than Night: Horror of Philosophy: Vol 3 (Kindle Locations 76-80). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  4. Milton, John (2010-09-16). Paradise Lost and Regained (Kindle Locations 47-50).  . Kindle Edition.
  5. The Blank-Verse Tradition from Milton to Stevens: Freethinking and the Crisis of Modernity by Henry Weinfield (Natalie Gerber From:  Wallace Stevens Journal Volume 37, Number 2, Fall 2013  pp. 249-251)
  6. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 2460-2464). Norton. Kindle Edition.
  7. Harman, Graham (2010-11-26). Circus Philosophicus (p. 50). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
  8. Ligotti, Thomas (2009-11-24). Teatro Grottesco (Kindle Locations 4229-4232). Random House UK. Kindle Edition.
  9. Breckman, Warren (2013-05-28). Adventures of the Symbolic: Postmarxism and Democratic Theory (p. 44). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.
  10. After Finitude: An Easy on the Necessity of Contingency (Kindle Locations 130-132). Kindle Edition.
  11. Alenka Zupancic. The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (Kindle Locations 1682-1683). Kindle Edition.
  12.   (2010-09-01). The Deleuze Dictionary Revised Edition (pp. 229-230). Edinburgh University Press. Kindle Edition.
  13. Land, Nick. Templexity Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time. (Urbananatomy Electronic, 2014)
  14. Harman, Graham. Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. (Zero Books, 2012)
  15. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 2005-2009). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  16. Sigmund Freud. Freud – Complete Works (Kindle Locations 89098-89101). Ivan Smith.

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

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

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

Contemporary Cosmology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Nick Land On Sino-Robotics

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Nick Land on Urban Future has an interesting article describing the first robotic article written in Chinese that mimics human reporting better than humans; yet, as in all things it is not exactly what you think it is. Quoting a source he tells us a robot called Dreamwriter wrote the 1000-word article, using algorithms that search online sources and data, in just 60 seconds. What’s interesting in the appended section is the simple truth that reporters in China “…are not allowed to express doubt or really investigate reports against the authorities. So robot reporters could easily replace a lot of Chinese reporters like this nationwide.”

Reading Bataille of late on Surrealism my thoughts came this way: “Surreal automatism without the insubordination – totalistic conformity and subordination with the Law. Chinese Society: the perfect Automaton.” It’s as if the Chinese leaders live in a mirror of Narcissism where all truth must mirror only the thoughts of the leaders, therefore the society lives in a box of mirrors, a fun house of lies where the future becomes a machine that is no longer afforded the luxury of short-circuits in the system; rather, the world becomes a puppet world filled with automatons who spout the Party Line – whatever that line happens to be in the minds of the Leaders. But this is not just happening in China. Look around your own backyard… we’re all conforming to the mythologies of imbecility even if we think we’re free to think for ourselves. Our lives are mediated by machines everywhere we are – and, if truth be told, we are ourselves puppets to our own outmoded linguistic automatisms.

Language is the most ubiquitous robot of all and we are its servants. Bataille once said of Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic concerning language and freedom: “The slave triumphs, but his apparent sovereignty is nothing but the autonomous will for slavery: sovereignty must inhabit the realm of failure.” He would add: “I am sure of one thing: humanity is not composed of isolated beings but of communication between them.” It is only in a “network of communication” (oddly reminding me of Nicklas Luhmann) with others that we reveal our subjectivation:

We bathe in communication, we are reduced to this incessant communication whose absence we feel, even in the depths of solitude, like the suggestion of multiple possibilities, like the expectation of the moment when it will solve itself in a cry heard by others. In ourselves human existence is nothing but shouts, a cruel spasm, a giggling fit where agreement is born from a consciousness which is at last shared between the impenetrability of ourselves and that of others. (Literature of Evil, p. 199)

These machines like Dreamwriter may mimic communication, but they will not communicate. Instead they will mark out the folded immensity of human erasure.

I cannot consider someone free if they do not have the desire to sever the bonds of language within themselves.
…….– Bataille, On the subject of Slumbers

Théophile Gautier: Posthuman Decadence and the Philosophy of Closure

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…where is the image for longing? – A.R. Ammons

“Travel is perhaps a dangerous element to introduce into your life, for if some circumstance or duty prevents you from leaving, it profoundly disturbs you and causes distress like that of birds of passage held prisoner at the time of their migration. You realize that you will expose yourself to fatigue, deprivation, boredom, and danger even, and that you must bear the cost of renouncing fond habits of body and soul, leaving behind your family, friends, and relations for the unknown.”1

This sense of leaving the known for the unknown is at the heart of decadence and closure, a need to close one circle while opening another into the unexpected and the new – an exoticism of the eye that seeks in the other nothing more nor less than the pure art object. Théophile Gautier whose theory of “l”art pour l”art”, art for art’s sake would subtract itself from the utilitarian philosophies of the bourgeoisie for a more subtle and colorful, sensual exoticism of the eye – provide a seeing that would float upon the surface of things like a desiring machine whose longing was to discover the image of its own unquenched fires.

The style of decadence for Gautier was none other than “Art arrived at that point of extreme maturity that determines civilizations which have grown old; ingenious, complicated, clever, full of delicate hints and refinements, gathering all the delicacies of speech, borrowing from technical vocabularies, taking color from every palette, tones from all musical instruments, contours vague and fleeting, listening to translate subtle confidences, confessions of depraved passions, and the odd hallucinations of a fixed idea turning to madness.”

This was the style which a decadent would use to summon the extreme motion of life, through a “language already veined with the greenness of decomposition, savoring of the Lower Roman Empire and the complicated refinements of the Byzantine School and the last form of Greek Art fallen into deliquescence; but such is the necessary and fatal idiom of peoples and civilizations where an artificial life has replaced a natural one and developed in a person who does not know his own needs. Contrary to classical style, it admits of backgrounds where the specters of superstition, the haggard phantoms of dreams, the terrors of night, remorse which leaps out and falls back noiselessly, obscure fantasies that astonish the day, and all the soul in its deepest depths and innermost caverns conceals the darkness, deformity, and horror, move together nervously.”

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Camille Paglia will tell us that Gautier looks forward to the posthuman or even inhuman art of the future synthetic being. “It looks forward to modern avant-garde narrative, where it is quite permissible and even desirable for nothing whatever to happen. But we sense in Gautier the cold immobility of the object so meticulously dissected, as if by autopsy. Since he dwells so much on the external, there is no one to identify with. The treatment of persons as art objects is present as an ambition in Maupin but is not technically realized until A Night with Cleopatra. (p. 418).” This sense of the android, the robot, the golem and art object that we see in many Japanese Geminoids was first described in this decadent immersion of the human as art object.

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This history of manufactured beings has yet to be written in full details, but from Paglia we see the first entry of the hermaphrodite, the android, the sexless being whose allure and double articulation as a machine made of synthetic materials begins with the bust of Nefertiti:

The proper response to the Nefertiti bust is fear. The queen is an android, a manufactured being. She is a new gorgoneion, a “bodiless head of fright.” She is paralyzed and paralyzing. Like enthroned Chephren, Nefertiti is suave, urbane. She gazes toward the far distance, seeing what is best for her people. But her eyes, with their catlike rim of kohl, are cold. She is self-divinized authority. Art shows Akhenaten half-feminine, his limbs shrunken and belly bulging, possibly from birth defect or disease. This portrait shows his queen half-masculine, a vampire of political will. Her seductive force both lures in and warns away. She is western personality barricaded behind its aching, icy line of Apollonian identity.  (pp. 68-69).

The android as Hermaphrodite, an “ardent chimera” or “charming monster” of “accursed beauty,” that is both provocative and reclusive, it is a ritual cult-object to which gifts are brought. The Hermaphrodite is separated from society and nature. It is a Late Romantic freak, symbol of the impossible. “Dream of poet and artist,” “supreme effort of art and pleasure,” it is an artificial sex. Its “multiple beauty” unites the art object’s sexual duality with the multiplicity of response art generates in its audience. (p. 413).

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Nick Land: Teleology, Capitalism, and Artificial Intelligence

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There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence. – Nick Land

The notion of capitalism as an alien intelligence, an artificial and inhuman machinic system with its own agenda that has used humans as its prosthesis for hundreds of years to attain its own ends is at the core of Land’s base materialism. His notions of temporality, causation, and subjectivation were always there in his basic conceptuality if one knew how to read him.

As I suggested in another post notions of time will serve as a leit-motif throughout Land’s writings. In his early The Thirst for Annihilation he will explore time’s dark secrets. It was here that he began developing his early notions of technomic time etc. He reminds us that every civilization “aspires to a transcendent Aeon in which to deposit the functional apparatus of chronos without fear of decay”.2 The point of this for Land is that civilization is a machine constructed to stop time’s progress toward terminal decay and death, entropy. “‘Civilization’ is the name we give to this process, a process turned against the total social calamity – the cosmic sickness – inherent to process as such” (97). This notion that civilization is an engine to stave off the effects of entropy, to embalm time in an absolute medium of synchronic plenitude and cyclicity (i.e., Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” theme) will return in his latest book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time as he describes the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:

As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.3

This notion of time-reversibility has taken on new meaning with those working with Quantum Computers. As Hugo de Garis suggests if computing technology continues to use its traditional irreversible computational style, the heat generated in atomic scale circuits will be so great, they will explode, so a reversible, information preserving, computing style will be needed, usually called “reversible computing”, that does not generate heat, hence will allow 3D computing, and no limit to size. Artilects can become the size of asteroids, kilometers across, with vast computing capacities. (see The Coming Artilect War)

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The Posthuman Future: Technopessimism and the Inhuman

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…suicide is the decisive political act of our times.
― Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody

It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.
― Emile Cioran, The Trouble with being Born

Base materialism begins in the tomb, a world of death that presents itself as life. This is neither Plato’s Cave, nor the scientific infinity of stars and the abyss. This is rather an ocean of energy, an realm of annihilating light and inexistence. Following Nick Land we promote a diagnostic truth against the “speculative, phenomenal, and meditative” philosophers of a false intuitionalism, following instead the underbelly of those criminal outcasts of thought: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille among others toward a materialism that seeks not the phenomenal surface of things, but rather the ‘noumenon’ – the impersonal death and unconscious drive of an “energetic unconscious”. This is an experiential turn toward an heretical empiricism not of knowledge, but of collapse.

Life itself is the first criminal act, a crime against an otherwise uniform and mindless universe of death. The second criminal act is the notion that humans are an exception to the rule of death, that somehow they do not belong to the order of things but are rather its masters and benefactors. The crime of humanity is the crime against existence itself; a crime from which there is no appeal, only annihilation. With religion came the final crime of the human regime: the belief that humans have a mandate from higher powers, a mandate to command, control and seize the universe in the name of a god, as well as a mandate to control each other and the surfeit of life upon the face of the earth. The Secular regime is itself a religious project: a religion of disinheritance, a religion without gods – an a-theism; a crime of omission, rather than commission.

“The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live –moreover, the only one,” says Cioran. Nihilism is the first step in an active annihilation not of reality, but of the human illusions of reality; and of humanity itself as a primal illusion, one that must be rendered null and void. Karl Marx himself would say “religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself.” (Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge In Dresden (1842)) With the death and murder of the gods, and God, we began that slow and methodical destruction of the illusions that have bound us in a cage of madness for millennia. Yet, this step into freedom was captured and turned against us, an act at once of enslavement and total evisceration, a systematic unveiling of an order of obstinate sociopathy, a recursion to a formalism of a voidic disaggregation enclosing us in a a non-time, a present without outlet; a static conveyance that has no other goal than its own continuance: an aberration of the death-flows it seeks to evade, a cage for the desires that it seeks to bind from the inherent movement of death. Civilization is this system: capitalism is its engine, an alien form of life that has no inherent objective other than annihilation.

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Shanghai’s Retro-Futures: The Demise of Progress in a Progressive Age

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Shanghai is a city hungry for the future. To get a taste, head to the heights of the financial district in Pudong’s Lujiazui. At dusk, the view from the ninety-first floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center is fantastically alien. Outside the enormous windows, the metropolis stretches out like an off-world fantasy; a film apparition of a science-fiction city.

– Anna Greenspan,   Shanghai Future

Reading Anna Greenspan’s Shanghai Future: Modernity Remade which is a great introduction not only to Shanghai, but to the underpinnings of our current malaise regarding the future itself (here she speaks of the old World Fairs of previous eras):

Today, in the developed world at least, this progressive optimism strikes many as archaic, absurd and shockingly naïve. It is not so much that GM’s vision of the 1960s is outmoded— after all the Futurama pavilion foreshadowed the immensely transformative US interstate highway system, which was built under Eisenhower in the mid-1950s, a couple of decades after it was first presented at the World Fair. Rather, it is the spirit of futurism itself that seems so remarkably out of date. The progressive presumptions embodied by Futurama induce— together with images of jetpacks and robot maids— a wistful, tragi-comic nostalgia for a future that never arrived. Autogyros, in particular, seem to taunt us as a broken promise. ‘Where are the flying cars?’ ask writers disappointed by the dreams left unfulfilled.  ‘A rich legacy of failed predictions has accumulated over a century (or more) of science fiction, futurology and popular expectations of progress, covering topics from space colonization, undersea cities, extravagant urban designs, advanced transportation systems, humanoid domestic robots and ray-guns, to jumpsuit clothing and meal pills,’  writes Nick Land in his blog on Shanghai time.  This apparent gap between what is and what we once thought might be has left us wracked with doubt about the world to come. ‘We don’t have the same relation to progress as we used to,’ claims author Michael Specter. ‘We talk about it ambivalently. We talk about it with ironic little quotes around it—“ progress”.’  In our cynical, postmodern age, ‘retro-futurism’ is the only form of futurism that survives.1

Greenspan will offer a reading of temporality as well: From Marxism ‘with its quasi-millenarian elements’, to the utopian visions of the City of Tomorrow, modernity, and the futurism it invokes, still largely expresses this same conception of time. Today, Pope Gregory’s calendric reforms have become the basis for an unchallenged time marker that has spread across the world and the Gregorian calendar is now considered to be the (almost) undisputed calendar of globalization. ‘It is an intriguing and ineluctable paradox of globalized modernity,’ continues Land in a blog post entitled ‘Calendric Dominion’, ‘that its approximation to universality remains fundamentally structured by ethno-geographical peculiarities of a distinctly pre-modern type’.  A culture’s rhythms, history and aspirations are rooted in their calendars. This is why calendars have always been so important to both rulers and revolutionary groups. Calendars are the surest means through which a culture can separate itself both from their immediate past and from their existing surroundings. Thus, calendric change has frequently been recognized as a culture’s first and most crucial step in establishing their autonomy and solidifying their traditions. As author William Burroughs noted, if you want to change a culture, you have to change its calendar. (pp. xv-xvi).

Western Civilization is bound to an eschatological time-consciousness, a progressive understanding of a time encoded with both a beginning and an end that has been enormously influential and its impact is still felt today. (p. xvi) When many liberals opined that history had come to an end after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989 this illusion of progressive time with its sense of an impending linear arrow reaching some limit point or zero absolute of closure surfaced. Yet, with all things this, too, passed, and time once again started up its inexorable engine of progress and moved onward as capitalism took on the imperial horizon of an even greater expansion and capture of the total surface of the planet for profit. As Greenspan reports it:

Western culture has thus been exceedingly effective at coding modern time with its own cultural narratives. It has been terrifically successful at branding modernity its own. Indeed, many of China’s most enthusiastic modernisers— from the intelligentsia of the May Fourth movement, through the Marxist revolutionaries, to the technocratic planners of today— have largely accepted this narrative, advocating that China rid itself of its backward traditions and adopt a forward-looking chronology. (p. xvi).

Yet, it is against this eschatology of history and time that China’s premier city of commerce and modernity, Shanghai that seems to waver on the horizon of another temporality, one more conducive to its own sense of destiny and possibility. As Greenspan tells us:

Shanghai futurism ultimately depends on breaking free from this now common assumption about the nature of time. It senses in contemporary Shanghai the possibility of an altogether different future that is not relative but rather real and absolute. This absolute futurism does not belong to linear history. It is not a temporal destination that can be defined relationally. Rather, the absolute future exists today precisely as it has existed before, as an atemporal presence, a virtual realm that ‘infuses the present retroactively with its effects’.  Viewed in this manner, Shanghai’s recollection of yesterday’s modernity is not being driven by a compulsion to repeat. Rather, the city is attempting to reanimate a lost futurism that is just as unpredictable today as it was in the past. What will ultimately emerge is impossible to predict, plan or project, since, by definition, it is utterly unforeseen. We do not yet know what China’s most future-oriented city will be like or what future this city will create. (pp. xvi-xvii).

This sense of an absolute time, absolute future: a timeless present that ‘infuses the present retroactively with its effects’ sounds much like Zizek’s concept of absolute recoil: ” … there is another more subtle retroactivity involved here: an act is abyssal not in the sense that it is not grounded in reasons, but in the circular sense that it retroactively posits its reasons. A truly autonomous symbolic act or intervention never occurs as the result of strategic calculation, as I go through all possible reasons and then choose the most appropriate course of action. An act is autonomous not when it applies a preexisting norm but when it creates a norm in the very act of applying it.”9 This is to situate time outside the arrow of linear equations, outside the capitalist mode of progress, and seek a sense of time as virtual potential, as possibility to be retroactively posited not by some recursion to a Platonic Ideal or Idea, but as the movement of something that does not pre-exist its advent: a new event or act that realizes itself in the very movement of its emergence in the present as part of the contradictory manifest world of conflict and happening. A future as open possibility that never recedes into the abyss of linear bookkeeping.

Maybe it’s this retroactive act of temporal realignment, a potential virtual movement that brings with it the lost future out of the unpredictable real of the past: an impossible that can not be predicated nor planned, but is that strange beast of time – something utterly new and open, the actual future itself as possibility. Is this something at last that we can hope in? An event that opens up the possibility of time and the future as retroactive act? A future that is always emerging out of its on virtual potential of absolute possibility, a present that is both in and out of time – a ‘time out of joint’ (PK Dick) that presents us with that monstrosity of life itself as newness? May we say with Nietzsche that this time of no-time, atemporal movement is Dionysian time – a time that is at once present and untimely? A bubbling spring that continually renews itself out of its own virtual sea of potentiality? Time as absolute acceleration, a time that as Guattari and Deleuze would have affirmed as – total deterritorialization of the pure limit of time itself?  Is this not the true break out, the break through of schiz-time out of the eschatological circle of Western time as Progress? The End of Progress and the Progressive world-view that has held us in its hypnotic gaze for two-hundred years?

Shall we construct a new Calendar together? Absolve ourselves of Western time, of Gregorian time as linear progress, as an arrow going toward some eschatological infinity? Shall we finally free ourselves of that theological and Platonic terminus of Time?

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Daily Thoughts on a Ccru and Hyperstitional Pulp-Theory

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Been reading the Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 that Simon Reynolds describes in his RENEGADE ACADEMIA as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. He will highlight the thrust of a hyperconservatism masking itself as radical chic: “Cyberpositive” actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the “cyberpathology of markets”, celebrating capitalism as “a viral contagion” and declaring “everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind”. It’s in these and other writings that one will find the scarlet thread that has led Nick Land and others into the Dark Enlightenment of the Neo-Reaction.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this amazing treasure trove from this past era. Not being a fan boy, but rather a sort of visionary materialist who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s I lived through another different era, the Psychedelic Era. Having joined like many other youth in the sixties the thumb-to-the-road traveling circus of wandering the drugscapes of America from my southern rooted culture in West Texas. I discovered through the various music fests, protest dynamics, and experimental digestion of biochemical compounds (i.e., marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, peyote, etc.) that the world was not what I’d been led to believe. But as in all things laws were passed banning hitch-hiking, psychedelics, and other mind-expanding drugs, while the drugs like alchohol and the various medically supervised system of uppers and downers seemed to continue both within the legal and illegal marketplace. (Oh, sure, you could still find some of the psychedelics in small pockets here and there, but as a culture it was dead)

Of course for me in the late 70’s through 90’s and beyond the pressure of survival brought me into that sub-world of debt that any good Marxist could explain to you. I began like others to drift into the dark corners of our radical complaisance and bitch and complain on the sidelines rather than in action. Oh sure, I continued to protest, act the activist, run the gamut of what we took to be activism; but, like many others we realized it was probably all show, that it wasn’t changing a thing. That the Reality Makers of the new market economies were coming into their own and developing information and communication technologies to drown out the noise from the radical fringe.  That’s all history under the bridge.

So when the internet came along and I’d moved into the coders world I began to see new possibilities, find new connections that were not possible before. One could connect to people beyond the limited physical planes of one’s familiar everyday world. This other world of MUDs, Gopher, and the pre-world of textual trafficking across the hidden DARPA networks allowed those who had the knowledge to access a space of freedom that had not been there. All this is history too. Those days are gone. The Internet has become a part of the networks of control, the marketing force of commercial systems of aggressive tracking, spying, listening that seem to follow one’s every move among the specifically framed space of a Web Browser now force you into channels of unfreedom day by day. With the development of the Web Browser the commercial and governmental authorities could frame the world that they would give you access to while closing down the realms beyond the scope of their acceptable freedoms. This is old news too. Geert Lovink and others have documented this history.

All through this era was the musical world that kept the low critique going from Rock, Metal, Punk, Hip-hop, Rave, etc. as sort of dark horse critique of the planetary system for the street life. That’s why when I began blogging a few years ago and discovered certain marketing devices such as Amazon.com or a Barnes & Noble selling unloading the world of culture and society with its millions of bits of information from books that up till then had been bound to libraries and trial and error methods of seek and search. I was suddenly awakened to a global network of radical knowledge that had been for the most part invisible to me before. So in this sense the capitalist marketplace opened up rather than closed down access to its own radical enemies. Yet, even this is slowly dying off for the simple reason of overload… one sees through both self-publishing and the literal over-publishing of shit not worth reading that the universe of knowledge is now drowned in its own cesspool of information. But that’s another tale.

While all this was going on I came across the work of Nick Land. And, seeing his interest in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille among others opened my eyes back up to my former youth. I plowed through most of this world of thought during my early twenties back in the 70’s, but at the time found few in my own neck of the woods in West Texas who had even heard of these names much less read the authors themselves. I have to admit that the world I grew up in was the typical anti-intellectual realm that a lot of critics have written about. I think one of the first works I read back in the 70’s after Viet Nam and other things had forced me to reevaluate my Christian heritage I read Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. Although a little dated it still opened my eyes to my own history, my actual world of everyday existence. I lived in a world where guns and booze were more central than books, and if one was a book man one was seen as a little out there, an “egg-head”. Did I give a shit. No. But there it is, I had few people I could share with about my quest to understand life and reality, my doubts, etc. One word would always crop up when I would unload my views onto unsuspecting friends and associates: “deep”, boy you’re a deep thinker; or, “man that’s deep, buddy, I’m not really getting it”, etc. So, of course, like many I went underground, became a loner with my thoughts and challenges. When I found someone who seemed better read here and there I would seek advice on what they knew, what books the recommended, etc. I think many of us have gone through this same process.

Back to Ccru. When thinking about these young people who pushed the limits of thought beyond the acceptable frameworks of their academic culture I had to admire their effort, even if it ended in a form of failed event. It wasn’t a failure at all, just another experiment in escape that the authorities of our cultural bankruptcy shut down. Reynolds in his essay captures this succinctly when he describes the staid grey elitist Professor Andrew Benjamin, Director of Graduate Studies at Warwick’s Philosophy Department who says:

“See, there isn’t such a thing as the CCRU,” he insists. “Within the university system you can set up a thing called a center for research, then you take the planned center to various committees and put it through this system in whose terms that center would be legitimised, have an external committee overseeing standards, et cetera. Because Sadie left early, that procedure didn’t happen. Officially, you would then have to say that CCRU didn’t ever exist. There is, however, an office about 50 metres down the corridor from me with CCRU on the door, there’s a group of students who meet there to have seminars, and to that extent, it it is a thriving entity. Informally, it did exist, still does, lots of things go on under its aegis. But that office will disappear at the end of the year. A number of students thought there was a conspiracy, there’s a lot of gossip and carry-on, but the fact is–had Sadie decided to pursue an academic career, CCRU would have been a viable, ongoing entity.”

What’s interesting here is to see how the structure of power works in subtle ways. By copping out and saying that it was Sadie Plant’s termination that terminated CCRU it allows him to absolve his own guilt or the guild of the University in the closure of this experimental entity – as if, “Oh it wasn’t our responsibility, Sadie left, so we just closed the doors. If she’d of stayed it would have continued.” All so matter of fact. This post isn’t about piecing together the narrative of that history. It’s about the need for such experimental endeavors. The need for the academy to open up its eyes again to radical ideas rather than become the site of a command and control structure of power in the hands of the commercial empire of the markets.

Reading about what Ccru said of themselves makes me wish there were such places still like this on the internet if no where else:

Ccru is an ongoing experiment in collectivity, collective production, anonymity, and masks, dedicated to practically dismantling standard models of social existence, by pursuing ethics in the spinozistic sense (experimental production of collective bodies).   Ccru feeds its own researches back into its own microcultural production. Its basic tool in this respect is ‘pulp-theory/fiction hybridity’ or Hyperstition.1

In my next post I’ll outline the basic nodal points of interest in this hyperstitional pulp-theoretic: Ccru : The Hyperstitional Beast Emerges from its Cave

1. Ccru (2015-05-06). Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 (Kindle Locations 98-102). Time Spiral Press. Kindle Edition.

Nick Land: On Schopenhauer

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Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth!

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Nick Land unlike Badiou or Zizek will tell us that it is to Schopenhauer that we should return, not Kant or Hegel. “With Schopenhauer the approach to the ‘noumenon’ as an energetic unconscious begins to be assembled, and interpreting the noumenon as will generates a discourse that is not speculative, phenomenological, or meditative, but diagnostic.”1

This sense of a diagnostic philosophy rather than a speculative, phenomenological, or meditative steers us into that other materialist tradition that has for the most part seamlessly vanished from site in the past few years, while luminaries of the left will follow such dematerialist materialisms under the sign of the Lacanian ‘Gap’ or ‘Lack’ as Alain Badiou (Mathematization of Being) and Slavoj Zizek (Self-Relating Nothingness) uphold. Land admonishes us to know that before such speculative materialists as Quentin Meillassoux with his notion of the contingency of things and his anarchic obliteration of the principle of Sufficient Reason, Schopenhauer had already laid the groundwork. Schopenhauer considers “the principle of sufficient reason or logicality of being to have a merely superficial validity” (Land, p. 9). In other words for Schopenhauer the principle of sufficient reason is not so much an objective truth, as it is a heuristic device – an exploratory mind-tool that serves a particular function in the philosopher’s tool-bag.

Schopenhauer’s pessimism reverses the typical hierarchy of intellect and will, and opts for will as the primary relation and volitional act of a representing subject, and redefines this notion as the ‘desire’ that shapes our actions from a pre-representational movement of blind reckoning and pulsation. Against any form of speculative thought which for Schopenhauer and Land is seen under the sign of optimism and the ‘logic of social progress’, both seek a pessimism of unconditional revolt instead. (ibid., p. 12) Against history and historicism Schopenhauer will enunciate an inhuman discourse that obliterates the semantic concerns of a humanistic world as typified in the Kantian notion of finitude and limits. Rather than a speculative mode that seeks to sustain or take-over and master the world, politically motivated to spawn terror and revolutions; pessimism seeks to escape the exploitative and confined constraints that the State and Church impose; and that of all authoritarian systems based in external forms of normativity. Yet, as Land will describe it Schopenhauer was not political per se, he had no real plan or political programme, and was in tendency closer to a reactionary than a progressive in our modern sense. As Land will tell us Schopenhauer’s plan was an exit plan, a mode of “departure in the mode of renunciation, which is to say, he lacked a nomadology, or failed to explore the delirial antilogic that leads out of the maze.” (Land, p. 13) In the end Schopenhauer will serve for Land as enunciating a full blown pessimism which became among other things the “first truly transcendental critique, operated against being, and in particular against the highest being, by the impersonal negativity of time or denial.” (Land, p. 14) In other words a truly atheistic materialism.

1. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge, 1992)

J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society

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For the first time Man will be living a full twenty-four hour day, not spending a third of it as an invalid, snoring his way through an eight-hour peepshow of infantile erotica.

– J.G. Ballard – Manhole 69

Continuing the line of thought I began in Nick Land: Chronogenesis & Urbanomy we discover in J.G. Ballard’s short story Manhole 69 he will envision a world where humans no longer sleep and the future is set adrift. One of the scientists who is part of an advanced exploratory team in this new world of sleeplessness, speaking to his team members says:

‘None of you realize it yet, but this is as big an advance as the step the first ichthyoid took out of the protozoic sea 300 million years ago. At last we’ve freed the mind, raised it out of that archaic sump called sleep, its nightly retreat into the medulla. With virtually one cut of the scalpel we’ve added twenty years to those men’s lives.’ (Ballard, p. 51)

When we think of Sleep we think of its porous, and suffused in-flows between waking, night and the dreamlands or nightmares we succumb to in its dark internal worlds; and, opposing this is its light twin whose departures into activity, daylight, and work send us back to the pain of our daily lives in consciousness. Sleep is the recurrence in our lives of a waiting, of a pause, a break in the temporal flow of our timebound lives in consciousness. It affirms the necessity of postponement, and the deferred retrieval or recommencement of whatever has been postponed. Sleep is a remission, a release from the “constant continuity” of all the threads in which one is enmeshed while waking. It seems too obvious to state that sleep requires periodic disengagement and withdrawal from networks and devices in order to enter a state of inactivity and uselessness. It is a form of time that leads us elsewhere than to the things we own or are told we need. Sleep is the dream of a non-utilitarian world, a world without labor.2

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Nick Land: Chronogenesis & Urbanomy

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Reading Nick Land’s blog Outside In is a nose-dive into the neoreactionary slipstream, an accelerating looper fest for the post-millennial blues. Yet, his other blog Urban Future (2.1) offers us the dark contours of his visionary timescapes. Sometimes I get the feeling that Land himself is an alien visitor from the future, a chronotraveler whose messages convey not so much the inner workings of our posthuman future as they do the unfolding deterritorializtaion of our humanity into becoming-machinic.

In the introduction to Urbanomy, he suggests that the Cities of our late-capitalist world are specific types of abstract machines: chronogenic factories, or time-making social machines. Taking his cue from Jane Jacobs The Economy of the Cities where she outlined a “simple and powerful theory of urban self-organization, driven by a spontaneous economic process of import replacement“, Land will apply a form of non-linear dynamics and chaos theory of emergence to the “growth, complexification, and individuation of the city [as] an integral … single urbanomic process”.

What is interesting is the notion of autoproduction that Jane Jacobs introduced which unlike the notion of autopoiesis – introduced by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells, and applied to other systems theoretical constructs – purely epistemic concept rather than ontic or ontological in intent in which autopoietic systems are seen as autonomous and operationally closed. Jacobs concept on the other hand is ontic and ontological rather than epistemic, it ontologizes the processes in their autoproductive capacity to attain self-organized emergent systems and behaviour that tend to break down the walls between autopoetic and allopoetic interactions, behaviours and self-organizational processes.

The difference between the two notions is based on the very core description. As Maturana will define it, an autopoietic system is autonomous and operationally closed, in the sense that there are sufficient processes within it to maintain the whole. What this means is that the system involved does not need input from external sources or resources to maintain its integrity. Whereas the notion of autoproduction involves feedback loops from external resources outside itself to maintain its ongoing processes. Whereas allopoiesis is the process whereby a system produces something other than the system itself. One example of this is an assembly line, where the final product (such as a car) is distinct from the machines doing the producing. Autoproduction works in a feedback loop between both autopoetic and allopoetic processes and applies a temporal and evolutionary ingredient that is lacking in the structurally static notions of Maturana.

Land will describe the concept of autoproductive process as urbanomy, applying it to of the self-organizing tendencies and processes that shape a City, saying, as “it grows, internally specializes, self-organizes, dissipates entropy, and individuates, the city tends to an impossible limit of complete productive autonomy. It appears as a convergent wave, shaped in the direction of increasing order or complexity, as if by an invisible hand, or according to an intelligent design. The pattern is exactly what would be expected if something not yet realized was orchestrating its self-creation.”

Philosopher Luciano Floridi in his The Philosophy of Information develops what he terms an Information Structural Realism (ISR) that entails the notion of a demiurgic power: “Knowledge is not a matter of either (a) discovering and describing, or (b) inventing and constructing, but of (c) designing and modeling reality, its features and behaviours into a meaningful world as we experience it.1 Yet, it will be in Deleuze and Guattari that the demiurgic power as “invisible hand” (as Land describes it) will take on a more precise conceptual retooling. In War in the Age of Intelligent Machines DeLanda will cite a number of self-organizing phenomena in the domains of chemistry, physics, biology, and human social history (migrations, crusades, invasions) which can all be described by the dynamical systems model. He then extends D&G’s concept of the machinic phylum to include the “overall set of self-organizing organizing processes in the universe”. Thus, in DeLanda’s formulation, at certain critical moments all material processes, whether organic or nonorganic, are traversed or subtended by a few abstract mechanisms that can be said to constitute the machinic phylum. More specifically, under conditions of instability the nonlinear flows of matter and energy spontaneously evolve toward a limited set of possible states that can be mapped as a “reservoir” of abstract mathematical mechanisms (i.e., attractors). What Deleuze calls a virtual or abstract machine, therefore, is really a “particular set of attractors” (1):

We have then two layers of “abstract machine”: attractors and bifurcations. Attractors are virtual machines that, when incarnating [sic], result in a concrete physical system. Bifurcations, on the other hand, incarnate by affecting the attractors themselves, and therefore result in a mutation in the physical system defined by those attractors. While the world of attractors defines the more or less stable and permanent features of reality (its long-term tendencies), the world of bifurcations represents the source of creativity and variability in nature. For this reason the process of incarnating bifurcations into attractors and these, in turn, into concrete physical systems, has been given the name of “stratification”: the creation of the stable geological, chemical and organic strata that make up reality. Deleuze’s theory attempts to discover one and the same principle behind the formation of all strata. (ibid. p. 127)

What Land seems to be doing is to apply such a theoretic to the City as an Abstract Machine, one that extends the application of dynamical systems theory in order to explain how these assemblages arise, mutate, and dissolve through the temporal concept of urbanomy. In fact, as he suggests the evolutionary processes of urbanomy applied to the study of Cities “appear extraordinary, and even uncanny, because they seem to run backwards, against the current of time”. As Land will admit humans, do to their evolutionary neurological makeup tend to make category mistakes when it comes to their understanding of temporality. As he suggests our notions of scientific time – as the ‘arrow of time’, a one way ticket with no return (entropy and the Laws of Thermodynamics, etc.); and, our notions of Progress, that things evolve, improve over time rather than leading to disorder and chaos, etc. These two notions of time seem to be at odds. As he will put it we seem to be like the Zombies in most horror films, living in an “intermediate zone, of the ‘living dead’, that can be entered from either direction [of time: forward and backward], triggering an archaic revulsion from monstrosity – the most fundamental of all things that should not be. Horror fiction dwells almost entirely in this twilight world of categorical slippage.”

What D&G describe as the interactions of attractors and bifurcational processes, and redefined as urbanomic processes by Land, produce a keen sense of this strange tension at the core of the City: its spontaneous emergent order “seems”, as he states it, “like magic (in the ancient, soul-seizing sense), and panicked spectators reflexively grasp for the hidden agents of ‘animistic’ or religious interpretation, compelled by categorical intuitions far older than the human species”.

Land has other follow ups and introduces his further revisions and extensions under the heading of Templexity on his site and in his book.

I continue my thoughts in J.G. Ballard: Chrontopia and Post-Consumerist Society

(Note: I may add further thoughts on this … In my next two posts I will revisit two stores from J.G. Ballard and Jorge-Luis Borges that introduce this sense of a deflationary cosmos: a cosmos in which the entropic forces of decay and devolution intercept and redefine the eternal optimism of the Kingdom of Progress in ways both fantastic and realist, incorporating many of the motifs we will later see in such philosophers as Deleuze-Guattari, Land; as well as the sciences of complexity, non-linear dynamics, and chaos theory.)

1. John Johnston. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (p. 127). Kindle Edition.

Nick Land: On Time – Teleoplexy & Templexity

The City of the Future entangles urban spectacle inseparably with prophecy. One sees, now, what is yet to come.
– Nick Land,  Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time

After reading Nick Land’s new book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Times it occurred to me to refresh my mind concerning Land’s earlier conceptions of Time.

Notions of time will serve as a leit-motif throughout Land’s writings. In his early The Thirst for Annihilation he will explore time’s dark secrets. It was here that he began developing his early notions of technomic time etc. He reminds us that every civilization “aspires to a transcendent Aeon in which to deposit the functional apparatus of chronos without fear of decay”.1 The point of this for Land is that civilization is a machine constructed to stop time’s progress toward terminal decay and death, entropy. “‘Civilization’ is the name we give to this process, a process turned against the total social calamity – the cosmic sickness – inherent to process as such” (97). This notion that civilization is an engine to stave off the effects of entropy, to embalm time in an absolute medium of synchronic plenitude and cyclicity (i.e., Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” theme) will return in his latest book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time as he describes the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:

As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.2

In his new book the City itself will become the icon or engine of civilization in its efforts to stave off entropy and death. This notion that we are living in a video game or movie, a timeless realm of pure (or impure) repetition (i.e., a time-loop), and that what we think of as time is nothing more than the fleeting image of our own ghostly lives imprinted on an absolute screen accelerating at light-speed going nowhere but in a synchronous loop is modernity’s secret lie against time. Progress has never been about progressing somewhere, but has always already been about the eternal cycles of recurrence and returns, civilizations struggle against the influx of asynchronous time: real time. A time that end’s the absolute time and brings us the asynchronous truth of annihilation. Or, as Land will put it:

After the ruthless abstraction of all life the blank savagery of real time remains, for it is the reality of abstraction itself that is time: the desert, death, and desolator of all things. (Thirst, 112)

Auto-Production & the technomic singularity

I’ve written in another essay that explicates the rest of the details on this Land’s concept of teleoplexy (see here). In the final section of his teleoplexic essay he asserts that the coming ‘Techonomic Singularity’ will ultimately be resolved and accomplished by the very activity of the auto-productive powers of the teleoplexic hyper-intelligence itself, through its own crossing of the cognitive rubicon, by way of its own processes rather than through any human agency or intervention. As Land admits the difficulty and complexity of such a Techonomic Singularity must be approached through anticipating the “terms of its eventual self-reflexion – the techonomic currency through which the history of modernity can, for the first time, be adequately denominated. It has no alternative but to fund its own investigation, in units of destiny or doom, camouflaged within the system of quotidian economic signs, yet rigorously extractable, given only the correct cryptographic keys.(520)”

The concept of auto-production was introduced Land tells us by Jane Jacobs Economy of the Cities:

In this work she outlines a simple and powerful theory of urban self-organization, driven by a spontaneous economic process of import replacement. Cities develop by autonomization, or introversion, which occurs as they learn from trade, progressively transforming an ever-greater proportion of their commercial flows into endogenous circuits. This (urbanomic) tendency need not isolate cities from the world, but it necessarily converts stable dependency into dynamic interaction, driving continuous commercial modification. (see An Introduction to Urbanonmy)

More importantly Land tells us Jacobs thesis establishes a framework for systematically exploring the time-structure of the urban process, conceived not solely as a (prolonged) episode in time, or history, but also as the working of a chronogenic, or time-making social machine. He explicates:

The concept which Jacobs tacitly introduces, as the guiding principle of the urbanomic trend, is autoproduction. As it grows, internally specializes, self-organizes, dissipates entropy, and individuates, the city tends to an impossible limit of complete productive autonomy. It appears as a convergent wave, shaped in the direction of increasing order or complexity, as if by an invisible hand, or according to an intelligent design. The pattern is exactly what would be expected if something not yet realized was orchestrating its self-creation.(ibid)

The notion that something “not yet realized” orchestrating its own self-creation is at the core of his notion of a teleoplexic space. Land marks out the spaces of the infosphere within which technological intelligence begins to take over from the human as the laboring force of modernity, it performs the task of alien agent or teleoplexic space or environment within which capitalism no longer has an outside but has become the artificial immanence within which all our onlife actions take place. As he remarks: “Accelerationism has a real object only insofar as there is a teloplexic thing, which is to say: insofar as capitalization is natural-historical reality” (514). This new teleoplexic environment that is re-engeering both us and our society as well as the infrastructure of our planetary base is what might be termed a teleospheric ordinal – a numeric set of layered spaces that incorporate the territory and the map seamlessly. This is not some virtual cyberspace, but is the total encompassment of our global environment in which we exist.

Luciano Floridi will tell us that the new Information and Communications technologies or ICTs are re-ontologizing our world and creating new realities. The threshold between here (analogue, carbon-based, offline) and there (digital, silicon-based, online) is fast becoming blurred, but this is as much to the advantage of the latter as it is to the former. Adapting Horace’s famous phrase, ‘captive infosphere is conquering its victor’, the digital-online is spilling over into the analogue-offline and merging with it.4 ‘Ubiquitous Computing’, ‘Ambient Intelligence’, ‘The Internet of Things’, or ‘Web-augmented Things’ are all terms for this same phenomena.

Land will ask: What would be required for teleoplexy to realistically evaluate itself – or to ‘attain self-awareness’ as the pulp cyber-horror scenario describes it? Land will offer us his secret future of the AI Intelligence technogenesis: “Within a monetary system configured in ways not yet determinate with confidence, but almost certainly tilted radically towards depoliticization and crypto-digital distribution, it would discover prices consistent with its own maximally-accelerated technogenesis, channeling capital into mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (517). In other words it will use all the tools of capitalism at its disposal to begin evolving into and naturalizing the teleoplexic environments of the infosphere. If anything accelerationism is a tracking device for this advanced hyper-cognitive explosion of intelligence: “Irrespective of ideological alignment, accelerationism advances only through its ability to track such a development, whether to confirm or disconfirm the teleoplexic expectation of Techonomic Singularity” (517).4

The Sentient City & Templexity

In his new book Land will tell us that every “singularity is an exception. No emergent real individual is able to fall, without remainder , under a general law” (Templexity, KL 272). So what is templexity? Land begins his survey admitting that it is more of an emergent question rather than something that can be stripped to its essential elements in some philosophical proposition or axiom set of principles. In typical style Land will offer the reading the shocking news that “cities are time machines” (Templexity, KL 12). After this we learn that templexity is the thing of which ‘time-travel’ narratives seek to portray in their dramatic scenarios. As he will state it:

Templexity is indistinguishable from unbounded real recursion, so it cannot be lucidly anticipated independently of a historical completion – or ‘closure’ (apprehended in the multitudinous sense noted in the text to follow). There could only have been a beginning – a prolegomenon to the rigorous formulation of templexity as a question – and the topic itself retracts this, even before its proposal. The real process is not the resolution of the problem at the level it appears – dramatically – to have been initially posed, but its re-absorption into the alien cognitive matrix which inherits it. ‘Templexity’ – as a sign – marks the suspicion that, if we are waiting for this to happen, we still understand nothing. (Templexity, KL 58-63)

This notion of the City as teleoplexic intelligence or AI, one that will ultimately re-absorb the process involved in templexity allows us to envision City as a time-machine contrived by civilization in its struggles against entropy. As Land will tell us to “invoke the city as the emergent subject of the question of time is not merely hypothetical but – when approached at the scale appropriate to the real cognitive agency involved – fully experimental. The tacit (and vulgarized) question: What is Shanghai coming to think about this? (Templexity, KL 41)”

Shanghai is a city of time anomalies. Shifting gradients of time float among its several levels like ancient mythic structures seeking resurgence. Land will term this decopunk. He will dub the first cosmopolitan modernity the International style which offered a world above the world, a universal realm beyond the stuttering implosion of national and ethnic rivalries; an escape hatch from the war worlds of the 19th Century. A world bound to the “uncompromising logic of functional and geometrical idealization” (Teleplexity, KL 246). He will go on to say that it was through International Style social structures of all kinds, spearheaded by exemplary public buildings, were to find their consummate reconciliation with the universally communicable Idea (Templexity, 252).

In our time the older forms of modernity have returned in a new shape, Decopunk which brings with it a complexity that can seem overwhelming. It folds back, exorbitantly, into that which had already folded into itself. As he tells it:

Nothing expresses the cultural tendency of positive cosmopolitanism more completely, more cryptically, or more surreptitiously than the Deco modernist matrix thus re-activated. Its mode of abstraction is inextricable from an ultimate extravagance, intractable to linguistic condensation, and making of decoration a speechless communication, or ecstatic alienation, through which interiority is subtracted. Emerging from the fusion of streamline design trends with fractionated, cubist forms and the findings of comparative ethnography, it exults in cultural variety, arcane symbolism and opulence of reference – concrete colonial epistemology and metropolitan techno-science are equally its inspirations – as it trawls for design motifs among the ancient ruins of Egypt and Mesoamerica, Chinese temples, recursive structures, sphinxes, spirals, ballistic machine-forms, science fiction objects, hermetic glyphs and alien dreams. It is neither language nor anti-language, but rather supplementary , ancillary, or excess code, semiotically-saturated or over-informative, hyper-sensible, deviously circuitous, volubly speechless, muted by its own delirious fluency. It has no specific ideology… (Templexity, KL 261).

I don’t want to spoil it for the reader. So will leave off here. Read the book. Nick weaves a tale of modernity and Shanghai, time-loops, films, books, mythology, science, economics, etc., and time as he uncovers the traces of templexity within the processes of the City. All I’ll leave with you is this last enigmatic smile hovering out of hyperstitional flux that is Shanghai:

For over a century (but less than two) Shanghai Capitalism – despite dramatic interruption – has been building a real time machine, which Rian Johnson, among many others, stumbled into, and tangentially fictionalized. Although the detailed workings of this machine still escape public comprehension, its intrinsic self-reflexion ensures its promotion, as an object of complex natural science, of spectacular dramatization, and of multi-leveled commercialization. It enthralls East and West in an elaborate exploration of futuristic myth. At its most superficial, where it daubs the edges of the mind with its neon-streaked intoxication, it appears as a vague but indissoluble destiny. What it is becoming remains to be recalled. (Templexity, KL 475)

 


1. Nick Land. A Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge, 1992)
2. Land, Nick (2014-11-05). Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time (Kindle Locations 375-378). Urbanatomy Electronic. Kindle Edition.
3. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 8). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
4. #Accelerate the accelerationist reader. (editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian) Urbanomic, 2014

Technocapitalism: Creativity, Governance, and Neo-Imperialism

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.

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

Luis Suarez-Villa in his Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism informs us that the major feature that sets technocapitalism apart from previous eras is the vital need to commodify creativity.1 Why is this different from older forms of capitalism? The overarching importance of creativity as a commodity can be found readily in any of the activities that are typical of technocapitalism. Due to the rise of NBIC (Nanotech,Biotech,Information and Communications) technologies as in the area of biotechnology, such as genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, or biopharmaceuticals; in nanotechnology; in molecular computing and the other sectors that are symbolic of the twenty-first century, the commodification and reproduction of creativity are at the center of their commercialization. None of these activities could have formed, much less flourished, without the unremitting commodification of creativity that makes their existence possible.(Suarez-Villa, KL 365-67)

Nick Land in Fanged Noumena will offer us the latest version of a meltdown in which we all participate in a planet wide china-syndrome, the dissolution of the biosphere into the technosphere.2 Luciano Floridi will augment this notion in turn equating this transformation or metamorphosis into the technosphere as part of technocapital corporatism’s ‘Onlife’ strategy, one in which information becomes our surround, our environment, our reality.3 As Floridi will state it ICTs are re-ontologizing the very nature of the infosphere, and here lies the source of some of the most profound transformations and challenging problems that we will experience in the close future, as far as technology is concerned (Floridi, 6-7). He will expand on this topic, saying:

ICTs are as much re-ontologizing our world as they are creating new realities. The threshold between here (analogue, carbon-based, offline) and there (digital, silicon-based, online) is fast becoming blurred, but this is as much to the advantage of the latter as it is to the former. Adapting Horace’s famous phrase, ‘captive infosphere is conquering its victor’, the digital-online is spilling over into the analogue-offline and merging with it. This recent phenomenon is variously known as ‘Ubiquitous Computing ’,‘Ambient Intelligence’, ‘The Internet of Things’, or ‘Web-augmented Things’. I prefer to refer to it as the onlife experience.(Floridi, 8)

The notion of an Onlife experience is moving us toward that rubicon zone of the posthuman or becoming inhuman. The Onlife blurs the distinctions between reality and virtuality; blurring the boundaries of human, machine, and nature; reversing information scarcity to information abundance (and, some might say, ‘glut’); and, finally, a shift from substance based notions of entities to process and relations, or interactions.4 Floridi would have us believe that ICT’s are becoming a force of good, that they will break down the older modernist or Enlightenment notions of disembodied autonomous subjects, and will bine us within a democratic enclave of information and creativity.

Yet, as Suarez-Villa warns control over society at large, and not just governance, is the larger concern involving technocapitalism and corporate power. The globalist agenda is not to create democratic and participatory governance, but rather to impose new forms of control and power using advanced technological systems. Technology has always been a two-edged sword. The quest for corporate and global hegemony coupled with poor social accountability can have far-reaching effects. It would not be shocking to see genetic engineering bound into the human realm to produce individuals with characteristics that are highly desirable to corporatism. The “design” or “engineering” of humans with greater potential for creativity and innovation would be of great interest in this regard. After all, most people want their offspring to be “successful” and “well adjusted.” One can therefore expect corporatism to appeal to such sentiments that suit its need for power.(see Suarez, KL 1880-83)

Technocapital hegemony incorporates its most valuable resource, creativity , transcends boundaries and restraints. Commodifying creativity therefore acquires a global scope for the technocapitalist corporation, even though it is carried out within the corporate domain. Moreover, as it appropriates the results of creativity, the technocapitalist corporation becomes a powerful entity in the context of globalization. Its power takes up a supranational character that transcends the governance of any nation or locale. Corporate intellectual property regimes that are increasingly global in scope and enforcement magnify that power to an unprecedented extent. Thus, given the contemporary importance of technology, corporate technocapitalism is in a position to impose its influence around the world, particularly on societies with a limited possibility to create new technology. (Suarez, KL 2017-23)

This sense that technocapital corporatism is constructing a global hegemony outside the strictures of the older nation states, one that can bypass the regulatory mechanisms of any one sovereignty is at the heart of this new technological imperative. The technocorporatism of the 21st Century seeks to denationalize sovereignty, to eliminate the borders and barriers between rival factions. Instead of this ancient battle between China, Russia, EU, America, etc. they seek a strategy to circumvent nations altogether and build new relations of trust beyond the paranoia of national borders.

The globalists seek to appropriate the results of creativity on a global scale . Research is the corporate operation through which such appropriation typically occurs. Appropriating the results of creativity has therefore become a major vehicle to sustain and expand the global ambitions of corporate power. Intellectual property rights that confer monopoly power, such as patents, are now a very important concern of corporatism. The fact that corporate intellectual property has become a major component of international trade, and an important focus of litigation around the world, underlines the rising importance of creativity as a corporate resource. (Suarez-Villa, KL 2115)

Beyond corporate control and hegemony is the notion of reproduction, which is inherently social in nature. Reproduction is inherently social because of creativity’s intangibility, because of its qualitative character, and because it depends on social contexts and social relations to develop. Many aspects of reproduction are antithetical to the corporate commodification of creativity, yet they are essential if this intangible resource is to be regenerated and deployed. (Suarez-Villa, KL 2121)

Along with this new technocapitalist utopia comes the other side of the coin, the permanence of inequalities and injustices between the haves and the have-nots becomes one of the pathological outcomes of technocapitalism, of its apparatus of corporate power, and of its new vehicles of global domination. (Suarez-Villa, KL 4066) As Suarez-Villa iterates:

The new vehicles of domination are multi-dimensional. They comprise corporate, technological, scientific, military, organizational and cultural elements. All of these elements of domination are part of the conceptual construct of fast neo-imperialism— a new systemic form of domination under the control of the “have” nations at the vanguard of technocapitalism. This new neo-imperial power is closely associated with the phenomena of fast accumulation, with the new corporatism, with its need to appropriate and commodity creativity through research, and with its quest to obtain profit and power wherever and whenever it can. (KL 4068-72)

Corporatocracy’s slow transformation and disabling of the old Nation State powers involves a redistribution of power and wealth from the mass of the people, and most of all from the poor and working classes, toward the corporate elites and the richest segment of society. Redistribution is accompanied by a dispossession of the people from a wide spectrum of rights, individual, social, economic, political, environmental and ecologic , in order to benefit corporatism and increase its influence over society’s governance. This vast migration of wealth from poor of all nations, and the inequalities it engenders support the new corporatism’s urgent need for more creative talent, aggressive intellectual property rights, lower research costs, and for its appropriation of a wide range of bioresources, including the genetic codes of every living organism on earth. (Suarez-Villa, KL 4840-82)

As Suarez-Villa will sum it up we are now at the crossroads of what may be a new trajectory for humanity, given technocapitalism’s use and abuse technology and science , the overwhelming power of its corporations, its capacity to legitimize such power, and its quest to impose it on the world. The crises that we have witnessed in recent times may be a prelude to the maelstrom of crises and injustice that await us, if effective means are not enlisted to contest this new version of capitalism. (Suarez-Villa, KL 5555-60)

Is it too late? Have we waited way too long to wake up? Nick Land will opt for the harsh truth: “Nothing human makes it out of the near-future” (Land, KL 6063). James Barrat in his Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era will offer little comfort, telling us that most scientists, engineers, thinkers, funders, etc. within the construction of the emerging AGI to AI technologies are not concerned with humanity in their well-funded bid to build Artificial systems that can think a thousand times better than us. In fact they’ll use ordinary programming and black box tools like genetic algorithms and neural networks. Add to that the sheer complexity of cognitive architectures and you get an unknowability that will not be incidental but fundamental to AGI systems. Scientists will achieve intelligent, alien systems.5 These will be systems that are totally other, inhuman to the core, without values human or otherwise, gifted only with superintelligence. And, many of these scientists believe that this will come about by 2030.  As Barrat tells us:

Of the AI researchers I’ve spoken with whose stated goal is to achieve AGI, all are aware of the problem of runaway AI. But none, except Omohundro, have spent concerted time addressing it. Some have even gone so far as to say they don’t know why they don’t think about it when they know they should. But it’s easy to see why not. The technology is fascinating. The advances are real. The problems seem remote. The pursuit can be profitable, and may someday be wildly so. For the most part the researchers I’ve spoken with had deep personal revelations at a young age about what they wanted to spend their lives doing, and that was to build brains, robots, or intelligent computers. As leaders in their fields they are thrilled to now have the opportunity and the funds to pursue their dreams, and at some of the most respected universities and corporations in the world. Clearly there are a number of cognitive biases at work within their extra-large brains when they consider the risks.(Barrat, 234-235)

 And behind most of this is the need to weaponize AI and Robotics technologies. At least here in the States, DARPA is the great power and funder behind most of the stealth companies and other like Google, IBM, and others… Not to put too fine a point on it, but the “D” is for “Defense.” It’s not the least bit controversial to anticipate that when AGI comes about, it’ll be partly or wholly due to DARPA funding. The development of information technology owes a great debt to DARPA. But that doesn’t alter the fact that DARPA has authorized its contractors to weaponize AI in battlefield robots and autonomous drones. Of course DARPA will continue to fund AI’s weaponization all the way to AGI. Absolutely nothing stands in its way. (Barrat, 235)

So here we are at the transitional moment staring into the abyss of the future wondering what beasts lurk on the other side. As Barrat surmises “I believe we’ll first have horrendous accidents, and should count ourselves fortunate if we as a species survive them, chastened and reformed. Psychologically and commercially, the stage is set for a disaster. What can we do to prevent it?” (Barrat, 236)

Nothing.

Only the possibility of youth, or as Land tells us as we enter the derelicted warrens at the heart of darkness where feral youth cultures splice neo-rituals with innovated weapons, dangerous drugs, and scavenged infotech. As their skins migrate to machine interfacing they become mottled and reptilian. They kill each other for artificial body-parts, explore the outer reaches of meaningless sex, tinker with their DNA, and listen to LOUD electro-sonic mayhem untouched by human feeling. (Land, KL 6218-6222)

Welcome to the posthuman Real.

1. Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism (Kindle Locations 364-365). Kindle Edition. 
2. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Location 6049). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
3. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 6). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
4. Floridi, Luciano. The Onlife Manifesto. (see here)
5. Barrat, James (2013-10-01). Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (p. 230). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

The Curse of the Sun: Libidinal Materialism as the Composition of the Universe

…philosophy is a machine that transforms the prospect of thought into excitation; a generator.

– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Nick Land like his compeers – Nietzsche, Bataille, and Cioran has that quality of aphoristic power that keeps one returning here and there to his dark disquisitions and divigations into the night worlds between desire and death. I’ve asked myself many times why certain writers force me to reread them over and over and over again; and, as such, why with each new reading I discover bits and pieces of something I’d missed, or not been aware of within the last set of notations. For, yes, these are writers for whom one takes notes, jots down certain aphoristic sentences that suddenly awaken one’s own machine, one’s own mind, exciting it and generating other thoughts.  There seems to be under the darkening layers or scales of his thought an energetics, a theory of composition that seeks its habitation at the crossroads of eroticism, death, and the infinite inroads of desire. Life is a child of the sun, and its curse: to wander in a maze without outlet bound to an infernal machine of desire that seeks only ever more powerful ways of dodging the fatal Minotaur of inexistence.

As a pariah and outlaw philosopher Land in his one book and several essays pushed the limits of mind like some Rimbaud of the last thought. No need to go over the history of that again. Too many superficial readings of his physical and mental breakthroughs and breakdowns into vastation or emptiness are already misunderstood. And, that he has returned not as his former self, but as a gnomic agent proclaiming his cultural provocations to a certain reactionary mindset is only another masked distancing from his earlier wildness.

As he will remind us Bataille’s “thirst for annihilation is the same as the sun” (33).1 Yet, it is not a “desire man directs toward the sun, but the solar trajectory itself, the sun as the unconscious subject of terrestrial history” (33). This notion that the history of the earth is guided by a secret history of the sun, its dark proclivities and mythologies guiding the pathology of human civilization and the inhuman forms that shadow us. Is this not the truth we seem to fear? We seem to hide from the white death of its blinding gold mask, the eye of death that would turn us to ash if we were not protected by the ions swirling in the ocean of our atmosphere. That the ancients who sacrificed to the sun, who with obsidian or bone knives cut the living hearts of its victims from their chests and held them to the sun as to the great glory and splendor of heavenly sovereignty. That blood, and only blood; the violence of death could keep this great power churning in the heavens, this furnace of life, this engine of all creation: was this not at the heart of all ancient religion? Human life consumed in the furnace of the sun? Is not all economics an economy of the Sun? As Land will tell us:

Excess or surplus precedes production, work, seriousness, exchange, and lack. The primordial task of life is not to produce or survive, but to consume the clogging floods of riches – of energy – pour down upon it.

The notion that all organic life on earth is part of a vast consumption machine, a living mouth. Is this not the truth of it? And, what are we consuming? Is it not the excess of the living Sun itself? Are we not fed by the sun and its excessive life? Sometimes I think of those nineteenth century mythologizers who sought to understand ancient religious practices under the auspices of solar mythologies; or, as Land will have it, there “is no difference between desire and the sun: sexuality is not psychological but cosmo-illogical” (37). Land will obliterate the Physicalism of science or philosophical thought through the light of the sun, and out of its ashes – like some new born phoenix, “libidinal materialism” will arise: a theory of unconditional (non-teleological) desire, which as he satirically put it “a scorch-mark from the expository diagnosis of the physicalistic prejudice” (38).

Physicalism was bound to theology, to the One. It was a dualism, having formulated matter as dead and passive and mind as other than this stuff. It was already caught in its on fly-trap, bound to false assumptions before it even began explaining the universe of its reasoning madness. After a thorough investigation of thermodynamics, entropy, negentropy and Boltzmann’s mathematics and findings he will recenter his understanding of “libidinal matter” saying,

“Libidinal matter is that which resists a relation of reciprocal transcendence against time, and departs from the rigorous passivity of physical substance without recourse to dualistic, idealistic, or theistic conceptuality. It implies a process of mutation… (following  Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freud ) entitling it ‘drive’. Drive is that which explains, rather than presupposing, the cause/effect couple of classical physics. … drives are irruptive dynamics of matter in advance of natural law. (42)”

In his theory Land is moving toward a non-intentional philosophy, one that is “not a transformation of intentional theories of desire, of desire as understood as lack, as transcendence, as dialectic” (42). So against Hegel, Marx and their progeny Land offers another libidinal materialism. One must turn to thermodynamics and ‘energy’ for an alternative view of materialism. Two-thousand years of metaphysical blundering is overthrown and new tropes rearrange our relations to science and philosophy: Chance, Tendency, Energy, and Information. He will offer a new cosmographic cosmos:

“…thermospasm is reality as undiluted chaos. It is where we all came from. The death-drive is the longing to return there, just as salmon would return upstream to perish at the origin. … Life is able to deviate from death only because it also propagates it, and the propagation of disorder is always more successful than the deviation. (43)”

The universe is an open, rather than closed system: “no closed systems, no stable codes, no recuperable origins. There is only the thermospasmic shock wave, tendential energy flux, degradation of energy,. A receipt of information – of intensity – carried downstream” (43). Yet, against Boltzmann who built his notions of thermodynamics within an ontology, libidinal materialism sits in chaos outside any thought of Being. What Land offers is a processual theory based on composition, one in which Being is an effect of chaos composition rather than some static substance: the “effect of being is derivative from process…” (44).

Out of Nietzsche he will demarcate a general libidinal energetics: 1) a questioning of the mathematical underpinnings of science as same, equal, or identical – as essentializing; 2) the figure of eternal recurrence as libidinal engine producing energetics; and, 3) a general theory of hierarchies, of order as rank-order (composition). Idealism and Physicalism collapse, transcendental philosophy from Kant till now is decapitated; finished; and, finally, 4) a diagnosis of nihilism, of the hyperbolic of desire (the terminal end-point of humanity in null or God). (44-45).

Land will admit Freud into the new philosophical world of libidinal materialism: he, too, is an energeticist: “he does not conceive of desire as lack, representation, or intention, but as dissipative energetic flow, inhibited by the damming and channeling apparatus of the secondary process. Yet, Freud – even though recognizing the truth of the drives will bolster up the old metaphysics of ego and the reality principle against their force, going against the very truth of the pressure of the drives as modulation of self not as intentional agent but as temporary control point for the drives in their fluxuations and endless compositions. Land will discover in Freud another Solar Mythologist, one found within his Beyond the Pleasure Principle where he discovers life as a mazing in complex escape from death or null zero, an endless wandering in the labyrinth of time against death: “a maze wanderer” (47). Then Land asks: “What is the source of the ‘decisive external influences’ that propel the mazings of life, if not the sun?”

Life is not an accident as some suggest, but is rather the curse of the sun. Land is our postmodern Lucretius teaching us that death is nothing to be feared, death is merely the form life takes in its infinite mazings and compositions under the gaze of the Apollonian eye of the Sun. “Confronting the absolute posed by our inevitable extinction, we feel brave, proud of ourselves, we permit ourselves a little indulgence, swooning in the delectations of morbidity. … Across the aeons our mass hydro-carbon enjoys a veritable harem of souls.” Desire continues its quest for the sun. Or, as that Shaman of the Evening Lands says it:

Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.
– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

The secret of the labyrinth is in its “scalings” – like dark matter and dark energy which structurate and energize the visible matter we see in the universe the drives within that chaotic sea produce the veritable universe of light and suns and galaxies around us. Composing and decomposing and recomposing matter in an infinite play without purpose or teleological goal.  There is no whole, no totality, there is nothing but the labyrinth and process, comings and goings and returnings, endlessly all the way up and all the way down.

Land will remind us that for Bataille the natural and cultural worlds that envelope the earth or nothing more than the evolution of death. Why? Because in “death life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss” (56). He will add that such a materialist discourse is free of that intentional subject that mars all idealist discourse, and that it offers a non-metaphysical and non-intentional understanding of the of the economy as pure poetry rather than philosophical plunderings of either Descartes dualism or Marx’s dialectical modes of thought. Instead, as Bataille will affirm, poetry is a “holocaust of words” (56).

In fact bourgeois culture is not an expression of capitalism, it is its antithesis: capitalism is anti-culture (56). In the older feudalism of the aristocracy and Catholicism the notion of “expenditure” and pure loss were central, in the new modern economies cannot accept the need for expenditure or even admit that overproduction is an issue or problem. Instead of waste and excess, sacrifice and pot-latch festivals of total expenditure we get endless cycles of overproduction, deflation, and depression.

One remembers those anthropologists who studied the notion of potlatch:

“In the potlatch, the host in effect challenged a guest chieftain to exceed him in his ‘power’ to give away or to destroy goods. If the guest did not return 100 percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his ‘power’ was diminished”.2

As Earnest Becker in his Escape from Evil will remind us “primitive man created an economic surplus beyond basic human need so that he would have something to give to the gods; the giving of surplus was an offering to the gods who controlled the entire economy of nature in the first place”3, so that he needed to give to keep the power flowing, the cosmological circuit of power from sun to earth and back again moving, allowing the obligation and expiation to channel its forces of accumulated riches rather than hording them. In the potlatch when the entire goods of a community and a chieftain were destroyed and annihilated it was to open up the power of the gods and sun to the community as a whole: “the eternal flux of power in the broad stream of life was generated by the greatest possible expenditure; man wanted that stream to flow as bountifully as possible” (30). 

In our time War is the potlatch feast of nations, the way in which nations sacrifice to the gods of life and expend their generosity and glory to the ancient sun and death. As Paul Virilio in Pure War speaking of the atrocities of Pol Pot will tells us: “If they had let Pol Pot act as he saw fit, there would have been no one left. Cambodia is the scale-model of the suicide State which no longer gathers populations in order to exploit territory, but which infinitely dissolves it” and allows the festival of a endless annihilation of expenditure.4

In our time philanthropy and other so to speak redistributions of wealth back to the community have become parodies and examples of the forgotten truth of those ancient potlatches. Even in the latest democratic pitch to redistribute the wealth to those in need is a parody. We’ve lost the truth of giving, of expenditure, or the pure waste of goods to the gods and sun. We live now in that labyrinth without outlet where no expenditure and no waste exist, only the endless cycles of repetition and economic depression. The riches of the world continue to be accumulated in the hands of a few who will never all those to return to the community or the sun. Yet, as the debt and guilt of this accumulate the earth and sun will have their day, too.

As Land will tell us the “mobility peculiar to the labyrinth – real cosmic motion or liquidation – is not confined by the scales, instead it finds a shaft of facilitation passing from one to another, a “slippage”, the full consequence of which is an illimitable dispersion across the strata: communication through death” (203). Harold Bloom in a book on The Labyrinth will tell us that the ancient identity of rhetoric, psychology, and cosmology is preserved in the figuration of imaginative literature “as a breathing, moving labyrinth”.5 James Joyce once said that “history is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake”, and Finnegan’s Wake is a figural labyrinth within which both secular and sacred mazings repeat themselves in moving kaleidoscope of pun in which the reader is condemned to wander between sea and sea. But then again maybe the truth is that the living labyrinth doesn’t want you to escape, that in truth it lulls you into wandering its dark corridors forever in hopes that you will never discover the exit; for to find the exit is to discover neither escape nor freedom, but the final termination: death. 

Land will leave us one last sublime darkening, a philosophical knowing (kairos-happening) or gnosis (not Gnosticism but a knowing that is at once a corruption and a degradation of all we have been or will be):

Poetry is this slippage that is broken upon the end of poetry, erased in a desert as ‘beautiful as death’. There is no question of affirmation, achievement, gain, but only a catastrophe without mitigation compared to which everything is poverty and imprisonment.

 

1. Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation. (Routledge, 1992).
2. Potlatch. Wikipedia.
3. Escape from Evil. Ernest Becker. (Free Press, 1975)
4. Pure War. Paul Virilio ( Semiotext(e), 2008)
5. The Labyrinth. Harold Bloom. (InfoBase, 2009)

 

Nick Land: Urban Future (2.0)

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Nick Land has launched his new Urban Future (2.0) site. Offering Shanghai as the City of the Future Now, a hypermodernist acceleration spinning its lightwheels across a reactionary front that exists he tells us in a  ‘now’ that has no fixed duration. He tells us that perhaps, more “than any other city in the world, Shanghai runs its present through memories and expectations. What Shanghai has been is still explicitly taking place, on the way to a destination that it has long anticipated. It is rushing to meet the absolute, globally incandescent modernity that has tantalized it for over 150 years. Obscure presentiments of this strange trajectory dated back further still. Now it is closer than it has ever been, almost palpable, indicated in myriads of signs. As the arrival approaches, things are triggered, or ignited, in ever more rapid succession. Urban Future is — once again — among them.”

In a post on  Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones (see New York times review), he quotes the author for whom modernity is the excavation of the past through an acceleration into the future, a “process of discovery, reclamation, and dilation, through which the past is explosively expanded”.  Peter comes across a map in the Nanjing museum named OUTLINE OF ANCIENT CHINESE HISTORY which represents the time spiral of Chinese history from Yuanmou Ape-man (approximately 1.7 million years ago) in a spiraling swerve around the rhythms of its vast history which took three turns of the spiral to reach the revolution of 1911, where the timeline finally broke the cycle, straightened out, and pointed directly up and off the page. (here)

Land tells us the “spiral synthesizes repetition and growth. It describes a cyclic escalation that escapes — or precedes — the antagonism between tradition and progress, elucidating restoration as something other than a simple return.” Why is this important? Because he tells us “the history of modernity is rapidly becoming Chinese, and Chinese history is not meandering ‘wallpaper’ but Confucian Restoration, conforming to three great waves, each a turn of the spiral, or Gyre. Following China’s classical era, and the Song Dynasty rebirth of native philosophical tradition, the third Confucian epoch, or second Confucian Restoration, is underway today, coinciding exactly with the renaissance of Global Modernity (or ‘Modernity 2.0’).”

Looks like this new blog will be the hyper-nautical remapping of China’a spiraling modernity as an accelerationist sea-change.  An alternative future that Land appears to see as a time unbounded surging past nihilism and the collapse of the West and into a post-nihilist future where the new reactionary restoration of Confucianism lifts its ancient head and enforces an ethics of personal exemplification. Extoling the virtues to the self: sincerity and the cultivation of knowledge this vision of restoration seems to vibrate with the new face of Chinese communism as transformation guided by rén (仁). Rén consists of 5 basic virtues: seriousness, generosity, sincerity, diligence and kindness.  Confucius believed that the key to long-lasting integrity was to constantly think, since the world is continually changing at a rapid pace. Was Confucius the first accelerationist?

Land’s Time-Traveler’s Guide through an alternative Urban Future should be both interesting and enlightening; that is, enlightening in the dark virulent sense.

Check his new blog out at Urban Future (2.0): http://www.ufblog.net/