by Steven Craig Hickman
…you get the horrors you deserve.
– Thomas Ligotti
“The accursed one may thus be understood as someone outside the law, or beyond it.”
– Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacre
Michael Arnzen in his post of (2008) on “The Frolic” by Thomas Ligotti mentioned a small film adaptation of this story that was part of a limited edition bundled with a DVD — a 24 minute adaptation of that story directed by Jacob Cooney. I never knew about this particular filmic adaptation. It seems (as a commenter suggests) it is on Vimeo: here. Either way the story itself was the first one I read in the original The Nightmare Factory, and its uncanny infiltration and contamination invaded my mind channeling that ancient power of cosmic strangeness we associate only with the weird tale.
In the carnal act, in desecration – and in desecrating himself – man crosses the limit of beings.
– Georges Bataille, The System of Nonknowledge
How many of us would admit to being accursed? I don’t mean living outside the law of man, or even if one did believe – outside the law of God; no: I mean the law of one’s own being, the law that keeps one safe and sound, the wild things at bay locked out in the dark hinterlands of the mind devoid of their terror and despair. What if one had been thrown not into the world – as Heidegger would have it, but rather into the void beyond one’s own inaccessible life, a life that continues sleepwalking through existence without you? What if that part of your being wandered beyond the hedge separating wilderness from civilization, sanity from insanity: beyond the civilizing sociality of your everyday self-subjectivation – that avatar mask you present to your wife or husband, or your children – who depend on the kindness of your gentle ways; as well, your boss, your friends, your social partners and after hours consorts; all these of which the self that meets the world, that masks its dark intent within the circle of sanity of this dog day world we all share? What if that self found its way back into the wilderness of beginnings, in the realm of myth and terror where the wild things live? What then?
I was beginning a etymological drift upon words used by Thomas Ligotti in his horror short stories. The word “frolic” comes up in many places throughout his work. A word that has a unique history all its own. Associations with playfulness, foolishness, prancing, skipping, dancing, merrymaking, and happy – as in German fröhlich “happy.” Yet, one will never forget the story “The Frolic” with its otherwise normal and staid, almost antiquated story of the anonymous mad man who will bring such sorrow and misery to a young married couple and their beautiful young daughter. The uncanniness of the tale is what it leaves out, what it only hints at rather than what it discloses: the notion of unknown cosmic forces outside both our knowledge and our reasoning capacity, a realm of cosmic horror that we seem perilously glib about and filter out with all our progressive strains of Enlightened rhetoric. But it is a cosmic realm of terror that keeps returning from the Outside in to remind us of its dark intent beyond the limits and capacities of our oh so – reasonable minds, our staid and trustworthy illusions in science and philosophy.
We live in realm of pure terror amid perilous and impersonal forces that co-habit this universe with us and from which we spring like so many monstrous forms ourselves. We love to tell ourselves tales of harmony and bliss, yet it is the dark tales of fright and lust that line the newsstands, that fill the airwaves, that cling to our desperate and lonely hearts as we in solitude watch the civilization we so highly esteem slowly decay and rot into a new dark age. Like so many solitary ghosts we wander the modern apocalypse of civilization in search of escape, exit, and a new world beyond the present one of corruption, political decay, and debt. Yet, in the end we find ourselves alone with a nihilistic universe bare of meaning, filled only by the strange relations of science and philosophical fictions, while at the edge of our supposed irreligious worlds we see the rise of old and terrible forces of religious hatred, ethno-nationalist racism, and the power of exclusion and fear emerging in the vacuum of power left by a global capitalist regime that cared more about endless profit and greed than about the human condition.
Rereading Ligotti’s story is itself an unnerving and conventional experience, one that leaves me wondering about that word – “frolic“: What was there about this word that seemed both appropriate to the anonymous figure who haunted the tale, while at the same time leaving one with a sense of the uncanny strangeness surrounding this word and figure who would long haunt my own nightmares. (And, yes, that night I remember waking up with the vague feeling that I’d been visited by something strange and evil. Why?) Why do certain texts – that in themselves seem so basic, normal, and almost banal leave us with a sense of the uncanny familiarity of its power in our lives and minds?
I happened recently to be listening to Franz Schubert’s song, the “Erlkönig,” based on a text by Goethe. The dark pounding octaves and the roiling base line in the piano expressing the song’s terrifying tale of a desperate father, his deathly ill son in his arms, riding furiously on horseback to bring the boy to safety, and chased by the Erlkönig, the Elf King, the figure of Death, who sings beguilingly to the boy in a voice that only the child can hear:
Darling child, come away with me!
Such beautiful games I can play with you,
So many colorful flowers on the beach,
My mother has many a golden robe.
The music grows in intensity as the father speeds for safety, but Death’s seductive song is faster, his blandishments richer, and the boy is so desirable. The child cries that the Elf King has grabbed him, the anguished father arrives at his destination, and . . . “in seinem Armen das Kind war tot” (“ in his arms, the child was dead”). In one stroke of youthful genius, the richness and decadence of Dark Romanticism or Gothicism in music had begun.1
This notion of the Erl King, the King of Fairies as the personification of Death seems to lie within ancient folk lore, myth, and forgotten legends. Of course the term fairy itself lies in the Old French faerie “land of fairies, meeting of fairies; enchantment, magic, witchcraft, sorcery” (12c.), from fae “fay,” from Latin fata “the Fates,” plural of fatum “that which is ordained; destiny, fate,” We know the Latin sense evolution of Fate and Fata Morgana (mirage) is from “sentence of the Gods” (Greek theosphaton) to “lot, portion” (Greek moira, personified as a goddess in Homer). The sense “one of the three goddesses (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) who determined the course of a human life” is in English by 1580s. Often in a bad sense in Latin: “bad luck, ill fortune; mishap, ruin; a pest or plague.” The native word in English was wyrd.
Wyrd came with a sense of the three sisters who weave the fate or ørlǫg (from ór “out, from, beyond” and lǫg “law”, and may be interpreted literally as “beyond law”). According to Voluspa, the three Norns “set up the laws”, “decided on the lives of the children of time” and “promulgate their ørlǫg”. Frigg, on the other hand, while she “knows all ørlǫg”, “says it not herself” (Lokasenna 30). ørlǫglausa “ørlǫg-less” occurs in Voluspa in reference to driftwood, that is given breath, warmth and spirit by three gods, to create the first humans, Ask (“Ash”) and Embla (possibly “Elm”).
The notion that humans are outside the law (ørlǫg-less), lawless, criminal, creatures of the wyrd, werewolves – wargs or vargr in old Norse and had a double significance, it signified a wolf, and also a godless one: drifting on the sea of Time, fated to collide with the dark forces that seem locked in some infinite battle for our souls is seated in this ancient mythos. It’s this sense of the wyrd as an irrepressible and relentless force that “snatches the earls away from the joys of life,” and “the wearied mind of man cannot withstand her” for her decrees “change all the world beneath the heavens” that seems to follow from such uncanny powers that vie for our lives, hearts and minds; our sanity. Powers that intervene from within and without almost without precedent, beyond the known laws of nature, and bring with them a contingency – a power to circumvent conventional wisdom, a power or force that cannot be reasoned with nor reduced to our superficial understanding of the universe.
Of ancient the vargur: the ‘stranglers in the temple’ were seen as skinwalkers from the Wolf’s Time – time of ruin and catastrophe. Many cultures have seen a mobile time, a time moving toward us like a an unstoppable wave, a volcanic surge of alien force and intensity. The Salic Franks carried before them the ‘wolf’s head’ the bleeding emblem of sacred power, the protection from chaos and death which encompasses all civilized societies. They knew the truth, knew that outside the gate a power more ancient than time itself lived, waiting, pondering its chance to put an end to the terror of man.
That Freud and his disciples would reduce these forces to psychology (internalize them following Kant) and drives, bring us to a point where the ancient mythologies could be reduced to reasonable explanandum that could be interpreted and controlled by experts and pseudosciences; or, now with our neruosciences that tie it all to the physical substratum of our brain’s internal wiring is part of that ancient need to control the unknown, the shape of Wyrd and fate. As humans we think we can control the fates, the destinies of our kind by reducing it to a set of scientific or philosophical principles and prospositions; else some mathematical theorem; or, some visual algorithm of an neuroimaging device. But our tales keep bringing us to naught, reinserting the ancient uncanny strangeness that surrounds us, the unknown unknowns that cannot ever be uncovered, slayed like dragons and scientifically controlled by logic or machinic labor. As in this tale by Ligotti there will always be that which escapes our reasonable worlds of science and philosophy, our modern psychologies, our labors of reasoning… that will intrude into our daylight worlds with its inescapable frolicks and uncanny wisdom of laughter.
It’s as if in such Weird Tales we come face to face with the hidden forces behind our emergence: good and evil, Heaven and Hell, God and Satan. A Manichean universe of supreme horrors on a cosmic scale where we are but the infinitesimal flea upon which these vast forces weave their games, their “frolicks”. Out of this primal conflict emerges our yearning for dramatic narrative and the daemonic in art (“ daemonic” in the sense of uncanny or supernatural) — signposts pointing the way toward the meaning of life that science (which rejects the daemonic) cannot provide, if only we pay attention and follow where they lead. (Kl 272)
Even in our own time we’ve seen materialism become immaterial through science itself as it has reached into the largest (Macro) and smallest (Micro) aspects of our cosmos and discovered that there is something incomplete, something we cannot reduce to our theoretical notations in math or language. We are seeing into a realm of dark matter and dark energy, a realm where energy is in excess of our expectations; that instead of discovering a dead universe of lifeless and anorganic matter we’re discovering that the ancient substance philosophies had it all wrong. Matter is not dead, but very much lively and vibrant. It’s not alive like we are, it’s not some pantheistic realm of thought; but is instead a realm of contingency, lawlessness, and disharmony rather than harmony and mathematical or musical spheres. We live in a chaotic and vibrant universe of change and process that can at any moment change. We seek to control what cannot be controlled, and we at times unleash the very source of this chaos in atomic energy that brings with it havoc and destruction. Horror.
Transhumanists, H++, posthuman biomechanical hybrids, etc. are these not visions of the blanks: the black holes in our own rhetoric of the past returning? Or, better yet: Are these historical wavering’s between the phenomenal and noumenon, civilization and wilderness signs from the wastelands of the future, invasive infestations that were already at work within our ancestors? Their patterned rituals slowly melded into pagan dance and enunciations as iconic testimonies of alien inscription and subsumption? We seek illumination in a broken world and find only the darkness of our Promethean desires and ambitions, seeking nothing more than an escape hatch into unbidden futures where the inhuman is our unholy grail. Shall we open the wound wide, let the flowers of the abyss spring forward in our accelerating minds? Are not the far shores of futurity but a gate to be unlocked, a portal to be opened, a mental construct or metamorphic template to be unfurled, a map and its cartography to be unleased by our fearless gaze? Where are the Icarus’s of the mind? Who shall dream our collective dreams forward? Shall we remain locked in the cold dark prisons of our political high-priests? Or shall we discover the gate is open, the keys lost among the assemblies of night, the guardsmen trembling that we might discover their secret lie?
As Ligotti himself would attest too in his Consolations of Horror:
At this point it may seem that the consolations of horror are not what we thought they were, that all this time we’ve been keeping company with illusions. Well, we have. And we’ll continue to do so, continue to seek the appalling scene which short-circuits our brain, continue to sit in our numb coziness with a book of terror on our laps like a cataleptic predator, and continue to draw smug solace, if only for the space of a story, from a world made smug and simple by absolute hopelessness and doom. 2
What if the past few hundred years of the progressive Enlightenment which was based on Science and Reason and its eternal battle with religion and myth were itself blinded to the powers it has sought so vainly to escape? What if in its need to escape the powers of language, myth, and religion it only exasperated those uncanny and uncontrollable powers instead? That instead of escaping them it had in fact deepened and awakened their inner consistency – a logic of dream and nightmare beyond our mathematical laws of harmony and calculation? What if the visions of that dark lair of horror that seemed like some sewer infesting the bright halls of Enlightenment Progress that surfaced from the darker worlds of Romanticism, Decadence, Symbolists, Dadaist, Surrealist and ultra-nihilist tales, paintings, music, etc. were trying to remind us of what will not go away? What if our so called liberal Western Enlightenment Civilization was based on a tissue of lies? What if it was itself based on illusion and self-imposed exile into a hyperreality of its own making that is itself the cause of our current global catastrophism?
Man is in a trap … and goodness avails him nothing in the new dispensation. There is nobody now to care one way or the other. Good and evil, pessimism and optimism – are a question of blood group, not angelic disposition. Whoever it was that used to heed us and care for us, who had concern for our fate and the world’s, has been replaced by another who glories in our servitude…
– Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur, or The Prince of Darkness
What if we are seeing in our time the revenge of language, myth, and religion in a new guise as we see the emergence of these new convergence technologies of nanotech, information and communications, genetic manipulation, neuroscientific control, transhumanist and posthumanist ideologies and their attendant needs to create, engineer, and master something beyond the human: to bring about the ancient dream of a homunculus of the hermetic philosophers, or the immortal dreams of the Monotheistic religions of a superior being of Light in the guise of AI, Robotics, and Transcendence. Eternal metamorphosis, mutation, and transformation is the name of this old Game.
Yet, along with the official storyline has always come the darker narratives of witchcraft, demons, sorceries, and djinn; alternate or “other worlds”. Realms of hellish paradises where eros and thanatos, love and death rule like benefactors of a sensualism that far surpasses the simplistic narratives of salvation and messiahs. Rather these are the narratives of sacred pain without end – a difficult pleasure that brings with it a sensual and elaborate ecstasy of flesh and infernal metamorphosis and chimaerian delights. A realm of pure excess and exuberance internal and immanent to experience itself, not some transcendent abode but rather a realm as close as your own breath. A place of pure nightmare and infernal delights where only your imaginal mind can unlock the obsidian truth of this Pleroma of pure darkness – a Abyss of Eternal Energy.
Becoming impersonal, fatal, amoral, and contemptuous: freed of the safety nets of this dying civilization. Do you fear what you are becoming? Is the inhuman in you terrifying to your fated self? Do you have an inkling of what awaits you? It has a name, you know… Nietzsche, Freud, Baitaille, Land… each of these foresaw it, and engendered its embers, awakened its alien intent, gave it sustenance with the deep blood of their thought, a flesh-thought, a thought that is full of the labor of pain and pessimism. Brothers and Sisters of the night, vaurgr, rippers of reality’s hedge who have all ventured beyond the cage. Will you not follow?
What if in our bid to escape religion, myth, and language (Subject, Self) through machinic, scientific, and technological transcendence and ideology we’ve only blinded ourselves to the fact that it has awakened itself in a new guise, a new Sublime of technocratic command and control? What if the more we try to escape our fate, our Wyrd, the more it comes rushing toward us? What if after all the Erl King, the frolicking creature of myth that escapes our reasonable gestures of scientific know-how were to enter your house, your families personal habitation, take one of your loved one’s – a child, daughter, son – and leave a message something like this one behind:
We leave this behind in your capable hands, for in the black-foaming gutters and back alleys of paradise, in the dank windowless gloom of some galactic cellar, in the hollow pearly whorls found in sewerlike seas, in starless cities of insanity, and in their slums … my awe-struck little deer and I have gone frolicking. See you anon. (Ligotti, 15)
As with all sacrifices what is at risk is nothing more and nothing less than our inhuman core:
“In this way the sacrificial gift puts the being of man partially at risk and allows it to be united with the divinity’s being, which is also at risk.”
(Georges Bataille: The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge)
*I changed the last sig to this.
The essay is taken from:
by Terence Blake
Zizek: “my thesis is that in Anti-Oedipus Deleuze/Guattari do to Lacan what Carl Gustav Jung did to Freud”. (Zizek, Notes on a Debate“From Within the People”). It is often a good idea with Zizek to interpret his references to his major philosophical adversaries under the sign of the anxiety of influence. Zizek procedes by violent denegation based on micro-differentiation, i.e. whenever some thought is to close to (and I would add prior to) his own thought he concentrates on one little detail that differentiates the position he defends from that of these predecessors and influences, then he proceeds to denounce them vociferously, ignoring both the affinity and the probable influence. His critiques of Deleuze , of Jung, and of Gnosticism are of this type: a smokescreen of quibbles and travesties to hide the family resemblance and the lines of influence. Some of his reflexions on the Holy Spirit as the community of those who live beyond the death of the big Other could be cosigned by such gnostic thinkers as Carl Jung and Philip K. Dick, yet Zizek fulminates against “gnosticism”.
My thesis is that Deleuze and Lacan resemble each other to the extent that they follow in Jung’s footsteps of rejecting ego-psychology and of schizophrenising the unconscious. Both of these are key aspects of THE RED BOOK which is the subterranean source of all the works that came after. They differ in that Lacan provides a structuralist and linguistic encoding of such a break in the signifier, and needed Deleuze and Guattari’s impulsion to slowly and timidly “schizophrenise” in their wake. Lacan’s dissolution of the ego and his concept of subjective destitution take the same schizophrenic turn as Jung originally did with regard to Freud’s imperative “where there was id there shall be ego”. Even his signifiers are linguistically reductive versions of archetypes, once you take into account the difference between the archetype and the archetypal image. For Jung, there can be no fixed closed list of archetypes, and we can only speak of them analogically.
Jung is not trapped in the signifier, as Lacan is. The archetype is an ambiguous concept that can be interpreted biologically or intensively. Freud borrowed the biological version of archetypes from Jung, further his work is full of archetypes, despite his excoriations of Jung. What he didn’t borrow is the intensive aspect. Jung says over and over again that experience, autobiography, and individuation (ie intensities) have primacy over all theoretical formulations; The biologism is not at all essential to his vision and post-Jungians like Hillman have entirely discarded it.
It is impossible to read Deleuze and Guattari in terms of the Freudian paradigm, which is based on the reduction of the fluid multiplicities of the unconscious to static monist categories. Jung gives us the vision of a pluralist unconscious where Freud systematically recodes everything in monist terms. Jung gives us a relation to the unreduced image, that he encourages us to amplify. Freud seeks to reduce it all. A Freudian reading of Deleuze and Guattari is possible but it leaves out the immersion in the world of intensities that Freud always resisted, and condemned in his more radical followers. The concept of “follower” is moot in the psychoanalytical movement, as Freud often recuperated ideas, and adulterated them, from those he persisted in positioning as followers until a rupture was provoked.
Jungian reading of Deleuze gives us the non-philosophical leap out of the Continental Philosophy enclosure. Reading Deleuze as a successor to earlier German idealism is a valid academic research project, since for example Deleuze positions himself as an inheritor of Hegel for his espousal of the movement that deconstructs the dogmatic image of the dialectic. Yet Deleuze favours reading in terms of intensities (“everything is to be interpreted in terms of intensity”, proclaims ANTI-OEDIPUS). That is the link to Jung. Not the ponderous Germanic Jung, but the pragmatic and hermetic Jung of THE RED BOOK and of MEMORIES, DREAMS AND REFLECTIONS.
Deleuze and Guattari elaborate an affirmative concept of desire as assemblage. This is far from Freud’s eros thanatos divide, which is a superficial coding of desire. Thanatos is just as important an ingredient of desire as eros is. Deleuze and Guattari argue that Freud does not understand death. Deleuze following Blanchot distinguishes between death as the end of our physical life, and dying as an interminable event that is a component of every event in its virtuality. Writing with Guattari was dying as loving and being multiplied, death as transformative escape from the ego’s limits. This is the meaning of the body without organs: Death to the organism as unified totality that subordinates the parts to a socially constructed mode of functioning and signifying.
Deleuze and Guattari further argue that Freud does not understand multiplicity and is afraid of it. He must always have some robust unity that submits the multiplicity to its will and projects, domesticating the unconscious in the name of civilisation. In his book on Foucault Deleuze talks about the Self as not the ego but the fold that permits us to maintain a fragile but minimal coherence in the outside of untamed singularities and multiplicities.Their critique of Freud is total. Certainly, there remains the unconscious,but this is not Freud’s discovery but something he got from the German idealists. Freud is utterly unoriginal, except for submitting everything to transcendent codes.
Deleuze, Foucault, and Laruelle want to be both inside and outside the Continental tradition, ie have a free relation to the tradition without being enclosed. Literature, politics, quantum theory, schizos, are all more than just subjects of reflection for philosophy, but concrete exemplars of its outside. Read Deleuze on the schizophrenic voyage and read THE RED BOOK and you will see that Freud is dragging far behind and his system is unable to contain such experiences without distorting and reducing them to stereotypical categories. For our pluralist thinkers it must be possible to slide from one philosophical vocabulary to another, to translate between worldviews. At the same time what counts is practice, the practice of writing, of loving, of resisting. There is no point in changing the words if the rest remains unchanged. This is why the correct reply to Freud’s “where there was id there shall be ego” is not its naive irrationalist inversion (“where there was ego there shall be id”, or the “dictatorship of the unconscious”), is Jung’s insight that the ego is a metaphor. In the words of Deleuze and Guattari’s slogan from RHIZOME: “Not to reach the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I or not”.
A Micro-History of Hyperstition and Esoteric Resistance
by Edmund Berger
If much of neoliberalism’s rationalized logic is derived from the ‘cyborg sciences’, scrubbed largely from this picture is the far more nomadic, deterritorialized offerings that move precisely in the opposite direction. Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain stakes out a cartography at the intersection of cybernetic theory with the esoteric, and holds up the artists, revolutionaries, and mystics who dabbled in this hybridity as a counterpoint to those who took the information sciences into the worlds of the military-industrial complex, corporate management, and economics. Central to his story is the neuropsychologist William Grey Walter, whose 1953 book The Living Brain betrayed a deep fascination with “what one might call altered states and strange performances: dreams, visions, synesthesia, hallucination, hypnotic trance, extrasensory perception, the achievement of nirvana and the weird abilities of Eastern yogis and fakirs—’strange feats’...such as suspending breathing and the heartbeat and tolerating intense pain.” (13) Among the cyberneticians, Grey Walter was not alone in this regard; Pickering describes these ruminations as the beginnings of a discourse on the technologies of the “non-modern self,” an ontological paradigm of performativity that stands outside the traditional linearity of historical development. (14)
Influenced by Walter’s book were the Beat writers William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin (the two would attempt to replicate the mystical experiences described in the book with their Dreamachine). (15) Most importantly for our current interests, however, is the fact that Burroughs is intimately linked to hyperstition by Land and the CCRU: “it was ‘far from accidental’ that Burroughs’s equation of reality and fiction had been most widely embraced only in its negative aspect – as a variety of ‘postmodern’ ontological skepticism – rather than in its positive sense, as an investigation into the magical powers of incantation and manifestation: the efficacy of the virtual.” (16) This deconstruction of the boundaries between reality and fiction emerges from the constant creation of contemporary realities radiating from Control. In Naked Lunch the archetype of Control is found in Dr. Benway, a “manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interrogation, brainwashing and control.” (17) This Control emerges from within the sciences, be they technological, mathematical or linguistic (we should note that in neoliberalism each of these have become indivisible from one another and from the market itself). In later works Control is linked to what Burroughs calls the “language virus,” the concept that words and languages operate in a viral fashion, moving from host to host infecting each, and in doing so sets the parameters on how the host views their reality.
Mark Hansen argues that much of this position was derived from information theory, observing that in The Nova Express the word virus is described in terms of its ‘information content’, spreading through the usage of communication technologies. (18) Others have noted the relationship between Burroughs’ writings and those of the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, who prefigured hyperstition by elucidating the complicated relationship between reality and fiction, and the ways in which language itself was a magickal force capable of transforming our perceptions of the world. For Crowley this paradigm was the result of a crushing conformity generated by prevalent forms of groupthink (confidence in progress, war, political and religious ideologies, and competition) and countered it with the anarchic maxim “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law!” In The Place of Dead Roads, Burroughs depicts an anti-Control revolutionary in the form of Hassan i Sabbah, the historic leader of the Persian Hashshashin (Assassins). Burroughs’ Sabbah provides the hero of the novel with the dictum “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”, drawing on Crowley’s law. (19) While Burroughs’ books display the use of occult rituals based on those of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), there is also a curious historical connection: L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had been initiated into Crowley’s OTO by the rocket engineer Jack Parsons in 1945. Hubbard would not only blend Crowley’s focus on the power of words and symbols with cybernetics and viral imagery, (20) but Burroughs himself would join Scientology in 1959 and began interjecting these very ideas into his writings. (21)
Burroughs’ revolutionary vision comes imbedded within the cut-up technique, a method of cutting up texts and splicing them together to reveal new methods and meanings within with the explicit goal of reorganizing reality. David Wells has argued that Burroughs viewed the cut-ups as a form of Scientology’s practice of auditing – the ‘clearing’ of internalized sensations resulting from negative repetition of certain symbols within communication. While this may be true to a degree – fighting the control of communicable signs over the individual features prominently in both - Burroughs and Gysin were also clear about the roots of the cut-up within the avant-garde, tracing its origins to Lautréamont, who had extolled the virtues of plagiarism in his Les Chants de Maldoror, and then to the Dadaist Tristan Tzara, whose 1920 poem “To Make a Dadaist Poem” included instructions on cutting up newspaper articles, and pulling the words out of a hat at random. (22) Burroughs and Gysin drew further attention to literary history with their own cutting-up of the works of Arthur Rimbaud, who Nick Land would depict as a dark precursor to Accelerationism by quoting Georges Bataille: “Poetry leads from the known to the unknown.” (23)
Each of these figures and art movements maintained, alongside their drive to foment aesthetic revolution, murky ties to the world of the occult. Occult themes circulate through Les Chants de Maldoror alongside proto-surrealist stream of consciousness and appropriations from scientific texts, while Rimbaud’s poetry is littered with references to alchemy and illuminated states reached through experimentation with a “derangement of the senses” (24) - one of Rimbaud’s mentors had been Charles Bretagne, a noted libertine and occultist - (25). Lautréamont and Rimbaud, in turn, bestowed a heavy bearing on the chaotic aesthetics of Dada, yet it has remained largely unacknowledged is the way that the Dadaists incorporated elements of the mystical and the esoteric into their art. Hugo Ball, for example, described Dada as a “return the innermost alchemy of the word” (26) - itself a reference to Rimbaud’s “Alchemy of the Word”, where the derangement of the senses is first spoken of -, while Marcel Duchamp illustrated this clearly by bringing elements of the occult science into his works. (27) Tzara, meanwhile, was deeply fascinated by totemism. (28)
Lautréamont, Rimbaud, and Dada: each would be distilled and reworked not only by Burroughs and Gysin, and also by the Situationist International, another motley consortium that dissolved the lines between the aesthetic and the political. While there is little need for us here to review the complex history of the Situationist movement and their nomadic relationship to the Parisian avant-garde and the events of May ‘68, it is worthwhile to reflect on the similarities between their own theories of consumerist societies and Burroughs’s understandings of Control. Just as our reality-fiction is predicated on the manipulation of the word itself, the Situationists pictured everyday life encased within the “Spectacle” – the accumulation of capital until it becomes image. In Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord illustrates the role of language in evolution of the Spectacle: “The language of the spectacle consists of signs of the ruling production, which at the same time are the ultimate goal of this production.” (29) Elsewhere, the poet Novalis is cited on the relationship between the word and despotism of contemporary state-form - “Writings are the thoughts of the State...”. (30) Just as Burroughs’s Control operated through communication technologies, it was along this same paths that the Situationist’s Spectacle also propagated itself: “Spectators are linked only by a one-way relationship to the very center that maintains their isolation from one another.” (31) And finally, as Burroughs’s had connected Control to information theory, the Situationists also cast Spectacle in a similar language:
This society’s need to market objects, ideas, and model forms of behavior calls for a decoding centre where an instinctual profile of the consumer can be constructed to help in product design and improvement, and in the creation of new needs liable to increase consumption. Market research, motivation techniques, opinion polls, sociological surveys and structuralism may all be considered a part of this project... The cyberneticians can certainly supply the missing coordination and rationalization – if they are given the chance. (32)
While there exists these striking similarities between the two discourses, the modes of revolution urged by Burroughs and the Situationists may exist even closer together. Drawing directly on Lautreamont, many early Situationist writings focused on detournement, the poetic subversion of texts and images, appropriated and plagiarized from their original sources. The practice is a direct analogue to the cut-up technique; if the word and the image aid the singular message of the Spectacle, then the dissection of these arrangements and their reorganization can reveal new meanings. “...the main impact of a détournement is directly related to the conscious or semiconscious recollection of the original contexts of the elements.” (33) Detournement fully the nonsensical – it is “less effective the more it approaches a rational reply.” Importantly, the Black Mass is cited as a detournement par excellence, invoking perhaps the Situationist’s own preoccupation with heretical Millennial sects.
Detournement eventually became become the more explicitly political “construction of Situations” - a temporary and collective space in everyday life where the rules and overcodes of the Spectacle can be overturned. Situations constituted openings in this world, and with their proliferation and critical mass a new world could come into being – one of direct democracy instead of liberalism, gift economies instead of capitalism, and free-form experimentation instead of the Spectacle. It bears several crucial resemblances to detournement and the cut-up by deploying the ‘raw material’ of the Spectacle itself to establish itself. They are non-organic, reflecting not a primordial state, but something that arises only through collective will. Situations were depicted as existing as a distributed network that would be linked via the same communication technologies that enabled the Spectacle: “the positive phase of the construction of situations will require a new application of reproductive technologies. One can envisage, for example, televised images of certain aspects of one situation being communicated live to people taking part in another situation somewhere else, thereby producing various modifications and interferences between the two.” (34) The Situation is thus a counter-Spectacle, just as the cut-up was the creation of a counter-language.
The Situation is akin to the carnivalesque spoken of by Mikhail Bakhtin, a festive mode of subversion that hijacks the content of organizations of power and turns them inside out. Bakhtin foreshadowed the Situationist’s theses by writing that the carnival “is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it, and everybody participates because its very idea embraces all the people.” (35) In one hyperstitional linkage, Bakhtin’s own analysis of the carnival revolves around the monk Rabelais, who satirized the monastic life with his writings on the mythical Abbey of Thelema’s single code of conduct: “Do what thou wilt.” This was, of course, Aleister Crowley’s own maxim within his philosophical system “Thelema.”
Given all these cross-pollination of ideas, it’s unsurprising that there is indeed a linkage between Burroughs and the Situationists. The connecting thread is Alexander Trocchi, an artist whose career oscillated between both the American Beats and the French militants. Trocchi conceived of a methodology of Situations he called sigma - “a process, without beginning or end, without subject or goal... something experienced in the lived time of everyday life.” (36) Sigma resembled greatly the goals of chaos magick, described by Genesis P. Orridge as a “process of individual and collective experimentation with no finite answers, dogmas, or unchallengeable truths” capable of “break[ing] Control at all levels.” (37) Trocchi’s sigma as was to contribute to a “spontaneous university... a vital laboratory for the creation... of conscious situations.” (38) He maintained a close correspondence with Burroughs, inviting him – along with Allen Ginsberg and R.D. Laing, among others – to participate in the sigma project by serving as “directors” of this ‘university.’ (39) Debord, however, would expel Trocchi from the Situationist International; the sigma project would never materialize. Burroughs, however, remarked that the Situationists would be “an excellent outlet for the short pieces I am writing now.” (40) These writings included The Electronic Revolution, where the cut-up technique is extended to the splicing and playback of tape records. Burroughs here speculated on the fomenting of dissent through sound, perhaps by playing audio recordings of a riot to create a riot (41) – a hyperstitional framework for turning fiction into reality.
[The Autonomists] used the Dadaist techniques of the collage, taking characters from the newspapers, cutting out pictures, mixing and sticking them to the page and then photographing and printing it all... Their reading was less tedious than that of their elders. They were reading not so much Marx and Lenin, but William Burroughs and Roland Barthes. (42)
It was the Italian Autonomia of the 1970s and their punkish, DIY attitude, who adapted Deleuze and Guattari’s politics of desire to redirect Marxism towards something far more experiential than the Stalinist politics of their time and place. Alongside these was an aesthetic sensibility that was reached through an engagement with the history of the avant-garde and post-Situationist theory. Autonomist radio stations like Radio Alice and underground publications such as A/Traverso, used the cut-up technique as part of a “Mao-Dada” strategy –only Spectacles and Simulations could undo Spectacles and Simulations. Foreshadowing hyperstition, A/Traverso produced a text bearing the title “False Information Produces Real Events”:
Acting like a mirror, Radio Alice is language beyond the mirror. It has built a space in which the subject does not recognize himself as in a mirror, as restored truth, as fixed reproduction, but as the practice of an existence in becoming. And language is one of the levels whereby life is transformed. It is not enough to denounce power’s lies, it is also necessary to denounce and break power’s truth... False signs. (43)
Like the Situationists the Autonomia would engage with the tradition of the Carnivalesque alongside a Marxist political analysis. Bakhtin described the carnival as “political drama without footlights,” where the dividing line between “symbol and reality” was extremely vague, (44) and the Autonomia had embodied this approach through their media-oriented tactics of detournement. But under a regime of emergency laws a great portion of the Autonomia was sent to prison or into exile, leaving its legacy through an extensive network of radical punk and anarchist squats and social centers.
One such center was the Decoder collective, known for introducing politicized cyberpunk into Europe and providing translations of the magazine RE/Search. (45) Decoder was named for Decoder, a 1984 German film produced by Klaus Maeck. With a cast of underground luminaries, appearances included Burroughs and Genesis P. Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. P. Orridge himself was a popular practitioner of chaos magick (Thee Temple’s writings invoked shamanism, trance states, and ceremonial magic as “cosmic boosters” to mutate culture from within), (46) and following his introduction to the cut-up technique by Burroughs himself, incorporated it into music to body modification. Decoder itself revolved around Burrough’s ideas, presenting the cutting-up of tape recordings as a means of revolt against dystopic corporatism. In one notable sequence these tapes are utilized to incite riots; the filmaker utilized footage of real riots against President Reagan during his visit to Germany. As Maeck recounts, their intent was to pass out recordings to the rioters, but they were already beaten to the punch: “we were more than surprised that our script became true before we even started... there were actually tapes spread around, distributed around the political circles, with the instruction to make further copies... and it worked!! At 11.00am you heard helicopters and shooting, although there were none.” (47) He continues:
I wanted to realize Burroughs’ ideas and the techniques which he described in the ‘Electronic Revolution’, and in The Revised Boy Scout Manual and in The Job... From the ‘Forward’ of the Decoder Handbook: ‘It’s all about subliminal manipulation, through words, pictures and sound. It is the task of the pirates to understand these techniques and use them in their own interest. To spread information is the task of all media. Media is power... And we should learn in time to use our video and tape recorders as Weapons. The fun will come by itself.’... my conclusion was similar to that of ‘bands’ like Throbbing Gristle; by turning around the motivation, by cutting up the sounds, by distorting them etc. one should be able to provoke different reactions. Make people puke instead of feeling well, make people disobey instead of following, provoke riots. (48)
Decoder (both the thinkers behind the film and the collective) soon became intertwined with the avant-garde network dedicated to “neoism,” an eclectic anti-ideology that feverishly sampled cyberpunk, industrial culture, Dada, Fluxus, Mail Art, Situationism, chaos magick, Discordianism, and anarchism, with a focus on plagiarism and detournement. Like the Italian Autonomia, Neoism is fixed within the proto-hyperstition continuum by its adherence to the credo “false information will produce real events” - the networked culture utilized the tactic of ‘open name,’ (Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot, and Luther Blissett, etc.) which were open to appropriation by artists and revolutionaries across Europe and America to conduct actions and interventions free from the constraints of individual subjectivities. Luther Blissett was prominent, particularly in the Italian post-Autonomist circles, and was blended with tactical media strategies to simultaneously evade and confound Control. These open names were connected to open groups – non-organizations free from structure and capable of being sent in any direction by those who deployed its moniker: the Association for Autonomous Astronauts, the London Psychogeographical Society, and the Workshop for Non-Linear Architecture, for examples.
The political dimensions of these open collectives derives from the work of George Sorel, who in 1907 had noted the role of the myth in mobilizing the masses to revolt against a contemporary order. (49) This hyperstition comes in the guise mythopoesis, and following the integration of the avant-garde into these political dimensions, it takes the form of mythopoetics. As Brian Holmes has observed, mythopoetics assumed a new primacy for dissent in the current, post-Fordism world of globalization: “The ideas sound fantastic, but the stakes are real: imagining a political subject within the virtual class, and therefore, within the economy of cultural production and intellectual property that had paralyzed the poetics of resistance.” (50) Indeed, the circles utilizing Luther Blissett and the AAA intertwined with the alter-globalization movement that emerged after the Zapatista revolt in Chiapas, Mexico; the Tute Bianche, for example, were another ‘open myth’ that integrated themselves into the international circuits of the Carnivals Against Capitalism (which maintains its own lineage going back to the Situationists and the Autonomia) and a participant in the famous protests in 2001 against the G8 summit in Genoa.
If these segments veered directly into the political, other elements, centered around Stewart Home, redirected them back into the esoteric. Home, having had a series of festivals dedicated to plagiarism and attempts for general strikes against art production, established the Neoist Alliance in 1994 as an ‘occult order,’ complete with texts that became increasingly hermetic and conspiratorial, weaving a mythic worldview where dark forces led by Masonry embodied the power of bourgeois power and culture. In a text titled “Marx, Christ, and Satan United in Struggle” Dada and Situationism are recast as part of an occult underground lineage, led by “‘secret chiefs’... based in Tibet” (51) - a nod to Crowley’s writings alongside Theosophical philosophy. Elsewhere, the Alliance makes the claim that “Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism emerged at the precise moment Aleister Crowley was... [creating] ‘High Magick’ as we know it today”, (52) while in another essay, Home states that the term “Neoism” itself came from a text by Crowley, and that “Like the Situationists, the Neoist Network drew heavily on the mythology of occult and secret societies.” (53) This was clear in the case of the LPA, who linked political and monetary power to the existence of ley-lines and issued pamphlets with titles like “Smash the Occult Establishment”.
Today organizations like the London-based Nanopolitics group have continued the tradition of blending anti- capitalist activism with the mystical. With the goal of creating a ‘micropolitics of the body,’ the group dabbles in collective therapy, shamanism and esoteric currents as an antidote to the overcoding of movement and subjectivity under the neoliberalism. They remain distant from the mythopoetic continuum, relying on instead on Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalytics, while noting that these concepts trend very closely to neoliberalism’s own internal logic – the politics of desire is present within the functioning of today’s order, albeit in a way that maximizes the extraction of surplus-value. (55) Even things like shamanism, animism, and other strands of esoterica reach their commodification in the New Age industry; Andrew Pickering observes that the early cybernetician’s interest in a “non-modern self” laid the groundwork for this postmodern spirituality. (56) In their farcical tone, the Neoist Alliance linked New Ageism, those “shameless charlatans,” to the fact that “world’s top occultist are to be found among the ruling class”. (57)
The hyperstitional nature of neoliberalism presents itself under the banner of rationalization, as indicated by borrowings from information theories and the hard sciences and its endless application of technological innovation, but it is at the moment that this rationality inserts itself that the irrational dually emerges: Chronic unemployment, the upward flow of money, environmental degradation, political corruption and systemic crises reveal this in full. That theories of chaos, complexity, and non-linearity underscore the functions of electronic markets indicate that the traditional framework of “rationality” is irrelevant. This question then becomes whether or not the forces of irrationality counteract neoliberalism or simply mirror its own operations, much like Accelerationism itself.
The fact is that the seemingly irrational, the occult and the mystical, holds a strong, yet largely unacknowledged influence upon the current world. This short and cursory outline has touched on the various significant cultural and political uprisings that overlap with occultism, sometimes directly and other times at arm’s length. We could cite Isaac Newton’s interest in sacred geometry and Rosicrucianism, Robert Boyle’s preoccupation with alchemy, and other numerous occasions in the foundations of modern science as indications that the oppositional relationship between the “rational” and the “irrational” itself is something in need of being overturned. George Sorel, in his work on myths, went so far as to assault science itself for its systematic rejection of the “chaos of reality.” While new theories of self-organization largely overturns this statement, the role of science in reinforcing Control takes place on multiple levels: on one hand, it lends power a means through which to organize itself, while on the other, designating what constitutes “knowledge” and the paths to achieve it.
The difference between hyperstition-as-Control and hyperstition-as-Mutation lies in each’s own relationship to formal notions of rationality. The assertion of neoliberalism-as-reality obtains, despites its requirements of speculation and the immaterial, a legitimacy through its appropriation of reason itself; mythopoetics, by contrast, evades notions of reason specifically through the acceleration of what at first glance is unreason, and through perpetuation by opening to any participant or movement, regardless of geographical location or even historical position. Organizations of Control certainly perpetuate themselves, yet it is through a specific modulation of the individual through a succession of enclosures that amounts to the setting of parameters on just what a subjectivity/body can do. Mythopoetics instead allow a process of subjectification through principles of autonomy. Concentrated enough, it can break into the “real”, utilizing primarily the key functionary of the Spectacle: the media.
Going further still, hyperstition is configured by CCRU as a forceful presence from the outside that short-circuits the reason/unreason binary and lays the myth of rationality to waste; any hyperstitional feedback loop must contain a “call to the Old Ones,” a nod to the unknowable cosmic entities found in the weird stories of Lovecraft. In our present moment the weirdness of the unknown presents itself in scientific revelations made possible by cutting-edge information technologies: the vast time-scales, existing beyond human comprehension, of the movements of geological strata, or the fluctuations on the cosmological level. This reorganization of our perception of time is matched in the world of capitalism itself by the black boxes of high-frequency traders, manipulators of the market largely free from human management, which operate at a much faster rate than their human counterparts on the trading form. The so-called occult dimensions of hyperstition, then, reveal that the games of the “media” are really an aspect existing on the side of a more potent force: that of technologically- enhanced communication technology, launching both time and space into schizoid bifurcations which reveal, ironically, the collapse of “communication” itself.
We could invoke the musings of Tiqqun on the ‘Imaginary Party’, “the heterogeneous ensemble of noises which proliferate beneath the Empire, without however reversing its unstable equilibrium, without modifying its state...” (58) For Tiqqun, Empire is the globalized system of Control, neoliberalism welded to despotic biopolitical fabrics; the Imaginary Party consists of those “elements which are impossible to assimilate” into the system”. (59) Their roster of unassimilated elements trails closely with the limit experiences invoked by the avant-garde and the occultists (“Violence, excess, delirium, madness characterize heterogeneous elements to varying degrees...” ). (60) They render the Imaginary Party as the noise spoken of by the information theorists – the entropic forces that decay or obstruct the proper transmission and decoding of a message. In the first wave of cybernetics and communication studies, noise was presented as the Other, an adversary to be held at bay; for total information awareness of the tactical environment to be obtained, noise must be kept at a minimum and made manageable. Noise is a negative force within a controlled system, just as the Imaginary Party is the Empire in negative.
Yet is the functioning of the system not the endless circulation and accumulation of excess, made possible by the delirium of postmodern communication? Neoliberalism is the image of the rhizome, without beginning or end, a proliferating web of connections between plateaus of varying intensity. Late Deleuze seemed to acknowledge this, moving towards breakage and refusal. He stresses need for the need to create “vacuoles of non-communication, circuit breakers” as a tactic of anti-political political action. (61) In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari had described ‘vacuoles’ as the false lack created by the “dominant class” to power capitalism’s engine. (62) Late Deleuze pivots and urges lack against capitalism excess, non-communication against the necessity of communication – in other words, Deleuze was, like Tiqqun, invoking the concept of noise in the entropic sense.
Noise is not emblematic of destruction; it is a sort of negative genesis, an unlikely moment of creation. Gregory Bateson argued that “All that is not information, not redundancy, not form and not restraints— is noise, the only possible source of new patterns.” (63) Noise is the unpredictable, changing communication relays and information feedback loop as an intrusion from the outside. Serres too approaches noise as such: “...order and flat repetition are in the vicinity of death. Noise nourishes a new order. Organization, life, and intelligent thought live between order and noise, between disorder and perfect harmony.” (64) Noise does not have to literally point towards theses of spontaneous self-organization, the becoming-orderly of flux; this is a philosophy of systems and difference, where the excluded joins with the greater whole with the capability of transformation. Serres relates it to the parasite, that creature that turns over the laws of ownership by creating the means of subsistence into something held in common. It intrudes into the linearity of the host’s existence like noise into the communication channel; it is heard in one way or another, and by interrupting the linearity it opens up to both the exterior world and to transformation. This is the hidden turn in Deleuze’s vacuoles of non-communication, and in Tiqqun’s Imaginary Party: to break into the circulations of communication, be it through strategic “non-communication” or through the clamor of those moving beneath the delirious exchanges of Empire. Serres’ noise is the voice of the subalterns, the excluded, and the fringes, and it is through the principles identified in information that they make their voice heard, enter into – and change – the stable equilibrium of what they oppose.
With its dualing roots in modernity’s avant-gardes and postmodern chaos magick, hyperstition holds commonalities with revolutionary movements in that both take sight of the world as it is, bound up in ideology and mystifications, and experiments wildly to establish an imagined reality. We cannot fall victim, however, to blind mystifications, for mystification and alterity is the promise the current system offers us. Capitalism, as a game of desire coupled with perpetually shifting technological terrains, embodies the becoming-real of nonexistent forms; it captures the powers of imagination to power cycles of consumption and production. What delirium or intoxication can the myth of revolution offer us that capital is not already willing to provide, at least to those in the so-called developed world? This is a profound danger in these waters, where the libidinal explosion of being-against becomes an end in itself, and dissent becomes the simple buying of temporary carnivals. The stakes are high, on social, economic, ecological, and subjective scales; if hyperstition is to be used, it must be pragmatic, designed with a horizon in mind and an expression of something beyond simple games. Instead of cataloging, let us read these things as a search for tools and weapons.
1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari .Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Penguin Books, 1977, pgs. 239-240
2. Jean-Francois Lyotard Libidinal Economy Athlone Press, 2004, pg. 109
3. Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus pg. 223 4. “syzygy” Cybernetic Culture Research Unit website http://web.archive.org/ web/20130829063258/http://ccru.net/syzygy.htm
5. William Gibson Neuromancer Ace Books, 2000 (reprint ed.), pg. 5, 51
6. Delphi Carstens, Nick Land “Hyperstition: An Introduction” Merliquify, 2009, http://merliquify.com/
7. J. Bradford, Andrei Shleifer, Lawrence Summers, and Robert J. Waldmann “Positive Feedback Investment Strategies and Destabilizing Rational Speculation” The Journal of Finance, Vol. XLV, No. 2, June 1990, pg. 383 8. Carsten, Land “Hyperstition”
9. See Philip Mirowski Machine Dreams: How Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science Cambridge University Press, 2002; as well as my own “‘The SAGE Speaks of What He Sees’: War Games and the New Spirit of Capitalism” Deterritorial Investigations Unit January 25th, 2014 http:// deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/the-sage-speaks-of- what-he-sees-wargames-and-the-new-spirit-of-capitalism/
10. Mirowski Machine Dreams, pg. 15
11. Tiziana Terranova “Red Stack Attack! Algorithms, capital, and the automation of the common” http:// quaderni.sanprecario.info/2014/02/red-stack-attack-algorithms-capital-and-theautomation-of-the-common-di-tiziana- terranova/; citing
13. Andrew Pickering The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future University of Chicago Press, 2011, pg. 73.
14. Ibid, pgs. 13-28
15. John Geiger Chapel of Extreme Experience: A Short History of Stroboscopic Light and the Dream Machine, Soft Skull Press, 2003.
16. “Lemurian Time War” Cybernetic Culture Research Unit website, http://web.archive.org/ web/20120418105652/http://www.ccru.net/archive/burroughs.htm
17. William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch Grove Press, 2009 (reprint edition) pg. 19
18. Mark Hansen “Internal Resonance, or Three Steps Towards a Non-Viral Becoming” Culture Machine, Vol. 3, 2001, http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/viewArticle/429/446
19. Ron Roberts “The High Priest and the Great Beast at The Place of Dead Roads” in Davis Schneiderman and Philip Walsh Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization Pluto Press, 2004, pg. 231
20. Hansen “Internal Resonance”
21. David S. Wills Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ Beatdom Books, 2013 22. William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin The Third Mind Viking Press, 1978
23. Nick Land “Shamanic Nietzsche” in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings, 1987-2007 Urbanomic, 2012, pg. 222
24. Arthur Rimbaud, letter to Paul Demeny, March 15th, 1871, in Wallace Fowlie (trans.) Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters University of Chicago Press, 1966, pg. 307
25. Gary Lachman A Dark Muse: A History of the Occult Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004, pg. 134
26. Nadia Choucha Surrealism and the Occult: Shamanism, Magic, Alchemy, and the Birth of an Artistic Movement Destiny Books, 1992, pg. 40
27. See John F. Moffitt Alchemist of the Avant-Garde: The Case of Marcel Duchamp State University of New York Press, 2003
28. Katherine Conley Surrealist Ghostliness University of Nebraska Press, 2013, pgs. 10-12
29. Guy Debord Society of the Spectacle Chapter 7 http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/ debord/society.htm
30. Ibid, Chapter 131
31. Ibid, Chapter 29
32. Raoul Vaneigem The Revolution of Everyday Life Rebel Press, 2006, pg. 136
33. Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman “A User’s Guide to Detournement” http://www.bopsecrets. org/SI/detourn.htm
34. Guy Debord “Report on the Construction of Situations” June, 1957 http://www.cddc.vt.edu/ sionline/si/report.html
35. Mikhail Bakhtin Rabelais and his World Indiana University Press, 1984, pg. 7
36. McKenzie Wark The Beach Beneath the Streets: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International Verso, 2011, pg. 130
37. Peter Webb Exploring Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures Routledge, 2007, pg. 83
38. Timothy S. Murphy “Exposing the Reality Film: William S. Burroughs Among the Situationists” in Schneiderman and Walsh Retaking the Universe pg. 44
39. Ibid, pgs. 30-32
40. Ibid, pgs. 33-34
41. William S. Burroughs The Electronic Revolution, Pociao’s Book, 1998 pg. 13
42. Franco “Bifo” Berardi Precarious Rhapsody: Semio-capitalism and the Pathologies of Post-Alpha Generation Autonomedia, 2009, pg. 20
43. Cited in Marco Deseriis “Irony and the Politics of Composition in the Philosophy of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi” Theory & Event Vol. 15, Issue 4, 2012 http://www.e-flux.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/3.-Deseriis_theory_event_REV-1.pdf
44. Cited in Gavin Grindon “Carnival against Capitalism: a comparison of Bakhtin, Vaneigem, and Bey” Anarchist Studies Vol. 12, Issue, 2, 2004 https://www.academia.edu/234514/ Carnival_Against_ Capital_A_Comparison_of_Bakhtin_Vaneigem_and_Bey
45. Tatiana Bazzichelli Networking: The Net as Artwork Digital Aesthetics Research Center, 2008, pg. 71.
46. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Thee Psychick Bible: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth Feral House, 2010, pgs. 11-12.
47. Jack Sargent “Interview with Klaus Maeck” http://decoder.cultd.net/interview.htm
49. George Sorel, Letter to Daniel Halevy, in George Sorel Reflections on Violence Dover Publications, 2004, pgs. 26-56
50. Brian Holmes Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering Autonomedia, 2008, pg. 5
51. Neoist Alliance “Marx, Christ, and Satan United in Struggle” in Stewart Home (ed.) Mind Invaders:A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage, and Semiotic Terrorism Serpent’s Tail, 1997, pg. 114
52. Neoist Alliance “The Grail Unveiled” in Ibid, pg. 67
53. Stewart Home “Introduction to the Polish Edition of The Assault on Culture” in his Neoism, Plagiarism, and Praxis AK Press, 1995, pg. 198
54. See London Psychogeographical Association “Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos” and “Smash the Occult Establishment” in Home Mind Invaders pgs. 29-32, 36-38
55. Nanopolitics Group Nanopolitics Handbook Minor Compositions, 2014, pg. 25
56. Andrew Pickering The Cybernetic Brain, pgs. 183, 302
57. Neoist Alliance “Marx, Christ, Satan” Mind Invaders, pg. 111
58. Tiqqun “The Cybernetic Hypothesis” http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/tiqqun-the-cybernetic-hypothesis
59. Tiqqun This Is Not A Program Semiotext(e), 2011, pgs. 41-42
60. Ibid, pg. 42
61. Gilles Deleuze “Interview with Negri” in Negotiations, Columbia University Press, 1995
62. Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus pg. 28
63. Gregory Bateson “The Cybernetic Explanation” Steps to an Ecology of the Mind University of Chicago Press, 2000
64. Michel Serres The Parasite John Hopkins University Press, 1982, pg. 127
Edmund Berger is an independent writer, researcher, and activist living in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary focuses are on the evolution of technology and its impact on changing modes of capitalist production, the role of warfare in the economy, and the history of the avant-gardes as critiques and responses to paradigms of power. He blogs intermittently at Deterritorial Investigations Unit and Synthetic Zero. His debut books is Uncertain Futures. An Assessment of the Conditions of the Present (Zero books, 2017). Rizosfera has published his essay Grungy Accelerationism (The Strong of the Future, 2016).
The essay is taken from:
by Edmund Berger
A Micro-History of Hyperstition and Esoteric Resistance
The Egg and the Shell
by Obsolete Capitalism
It is with great pleasure that we republish this micro-history essay by Edmund Berger written in 2014 for the accelerationist reader Dark Glamour. For various reasons (turnover of editors and curators) the essay has never been published and therefore we think it deserves to be presented in its first form. By the end of 2017 a new version of the same essay will be completely rewritten by Edmund Berger and published for the project Dark Glamour. It will be a two volume collection of essays with Amy Ireland (exponent of the xeno-feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks), Tony Yanick, and Tim Matts as editors.
Underground Streams (2014) has been written a year before the classic Grunge Accelerationism (2015) and it represents the essay where Edmund Berger faces with the first accelerationist thought (Land and CCRU) and the second one (Srnicek and Williams) that he defines Neo-Accelerationism.
What we wish to underline in this foreword is the reconfirmation of Berger’s ability to deeply grasp the meaning of the underground streams that characterized XX century «hyperstitional» thought and to clearly define the perimeter of hyperstitional area and the contiguous esoteric resistance. Here lies the trait d’union between Underground Streams and Grungy Accelerationism as well as between Berger’s works and the line of thoughts at the base of The Strong of the Future in rizosphere’s galaxy.
From our point of view, it is quite clear that the esoteric resistance nodes of XX century related to Chaos Magick and Red Magick poles, so well described in Berger’s essay, find their origin in Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, a necessary volume for the accelerationist politics. In aphorism 300 entitled Prelude to Science Nietzsche faces the issue of experimentation and human being pragmatism, writing: «So you believe the sciences would have emerged and matured, if they had not been preceded by magicians, alchemists, astrologers, and witches who with their promises and false claims created a thirst, hunger, and taste for hidden and forbidden powers?»
According to Nietzsche then the preliminaries of science should be identified in the actions of researchers and dissenters from «not-knowing» areas and occult zones of knowledge, spaces that have always been forbidden by hegemonic katechontic powers, ruling since ever. In the above mentioned quotation Nietzsche links the seditious and obscure sprouts of pre-science to the rational and progressive «enlightened» outlining of science, hoping that, as stated in his Prelude to Science, as well as science has been able to get free from its obscure past, the man of the future may be able to free himself from the preliminary exercise represented by the monotheist religion, unburdening himself of a prehistory of belief called Christianity.
Similarly, Berger’s readers could somehow ask themselves 150 years after Nietzsche’s writings, whether the whole undergrowth of uninhibited plagiarists, iridescent communists, psychedelic anarchists, chaotic occultists and hyperstitional accelerationists, may represent a prelude to a liberating future where thirst, hunger and tastes for freedom will become the pillars of a New Earth.
Will such poets of grace represent a joyful circus-like anteroom of a new contemplative and spiritual era? And given that case, is the God of the vicious circle, the inexistent God, inevitably behind the Necessary Spectacle, a show which seems more abyssal and inexorable than the one described by Debord and the Situationists?
Nietzsche in his aphorism 56 in Beyond Good and Evil says: «anyone who has done these things (and perhaps precisely by doing these things) will have inadvertently opened his eyes to the inverse ideal: to the ideal of the most high-spirited, vital, world-affirming individual, who has learned not just to accept and go along with what was and what is, but who wants it again just as it was and is through all eternity, insatiably shouting. The religious character da capo not just to himself but to the whole play and performance, and not just to a performance, but rather, fundamentally, to the one who needs precisely this performance – and makes it necessary: because again and again he needs himself – and makes himself necessary. – – What? and that wouldn’t be – circulus vitiosus deus?»
Berger’s participants to the esoteric resistance and to the hyperstitional ring are the Strong of the Future who achieve the «second moment» dear to Klossowski, Deleuze and Foucault’s rizospheric thought, a moment which involves emphasis on antagonisms, widening of distances, mockery of any power, active participation to new forms of non-fascist life.
Berger joyfully announces to the most attentive readers the maturity of the egg and its imminent breaking of the shell.
A Micro-History of Hyperstition and Esoteric Resistance
by Edmund Berger
“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization?”
(Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 1972) (1)
The question is answered only by Lyotard with a resounding “yes” in favor of these destructive power powers. Following his predecessors’ emphasis on a politics of desire, Lyotard transcribed the libidinal joy the workers found in their deconstruction into this decoding: the proletariat “enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity.” (2) But he too would drop this line of thought, later castigating his works from this period as “evil,” something for the philosophical dustbins.
These ruminations are the theoretical basis of “Accelerationism.” A divisive issue, the #Accelerate Manifesto has gained rapid traction, while its earliest traces, generated in Sadie Plant and Nick Land’s Cybernetics Culture Research Unit (CCRU) continues to trigger vitriolic reactions by its apparent celebration of capitalism’s darkest compulsions. Deleuze and Guattari had observed that underneath capitalism’s ‘decoding of flows,’ “desire itself becomes the death instinct... that carry the seeds of a new life.”(3) Land collapsed this observation into Lyotard’s own that capitalism exists due to the human libidinal drives; accelerating capitalism would then be a natural process of accelerating humanity’s own compulsion towards death. Land’s aim, most properly, is a technological market-system in runaway, outstripping its human components.
The “New Accelerationism,” is instead an invocation many aspects of high modernism. The subtle overtures towards hierarchical organization stands in stark contrast to the highly networked, distributed, and horizontal ethos found in the postmodern era – be it in the affinity groups and direct democracy found in various activist movements, or the ‘flattened bureaucracy’ of many contemporary corporate forms. Aside from this, we have the allusions to technological self-mastery, evoking perhaps the proto-fascism of Italian Futurism. Unlike the Futurists, with their prioritization of speed and war as social drivers, the New Accelerationists cite examples such as Chilean CyberSyn project as the historical precedent to their own project – arguably part of the last socialist program of modernity prior to the birth of neoliberalism proper.
New Accelerationism breaks with the Landian variant, scrubbing from its rhetoric the thanatropic drives its predecessors celebrated, the fiery apocalypticism nowhere to be seen. Instead, humanism and talk of management takes the place of inhumanism and dark, anarchic impulses. Land and the CCRU feverishly produced text after text blending cyberpunk and science-fiction, Lovecraftian horror, electronic dance music and distorted French theory into a systemic irrationality that appears far more chaotic than earlier philosophical movements. New Acceleration instead envisions a society organically organized by principles of rationality, mathematical prowess, and a bountiful cooperation between man and smart machines.
Both strands of Accelerationism can be deemed problematic for their varying degrees of complicity with neoliberal capitalism. The Landian strand, while presenting itself as anti-capitalist yet pro-market, embodies the drive to excess and destruction of the organic that marks neoliberal reality; the New Accelerationism, on the other hand, appears as the idealized face of neoliberalism due to its positive valorization of harmonic rational management through the usage of cybernetic and information technologies. Yet through its removal of Land’s own frantic excesses, New Accelerationism loses something fundamental to the ongoing critique of neoliberalism and along with it a whole host of dissident practices. This would be the conceptual force of hyperstition, an “Element of effective culture that makes itself real,”(4) - in other words, the ability for the fictional to manifest itself in the physical world.
Hyperstition was indicative of Land’s intensification of chaos theory with chaos magick. Just as hyperstition looked to the ways that unreality could displace the continuity of the real, chaos magick emphasizes the subjective nature of perception and the ways that the plasticity of ideology can be manipulated and reconfigured. One example Land gives of this shifting paradigm is William Gibson’s usage of what he dubbed “cyberspace” in novel Neuromancer. (5)In the cyberpunk classic, cyberspace is a digital ‘non-space’, a “consensual hallucination” that users can plug into and drift through the data streams of an accelerated, runaway corporatism. For CCRU, Gibson’s cyberspace helped call into being the internet as we know it today, even if it existed mainly in its militarized and state-dominated form when Neuromancer was written.
Elsewhere, Land describes capitalism as a force “extremely sensitive to hyperstition, where confidence acts as an effective tonic, and inversely.” (6) This is particularly true of the finance markets, where early news reports and off-the-cuff interpretations can shape the movements of trade, and with it the entire monetary system. Speculative finance has made a home in this quasi-fictional web, utilizing these fluctuations of financial instruments to turn high-risk investments into profit gains. Other speculative modes of playing with market expectation and confidence has been defined as “positive-feedback trading,” or the buying of securities when prices are high and the selling when they bottom-out. As described in a 1990 article by Larry Summers, among other economists, this process involves “Investment pools whose organizers buy stock, spread rumors, and then sell the stock slowly as positive feedback demand picks up rely on extrapolative expectations over a horizon of a few days.” (7) Clearly, positive-feedback trading is contingent on the fostering of rumors in the context of the real, utilizing the cultural ferment of Wall Street to transform these abstractions into financial reward – with long term, overarching ramifications for the rest of the market. This reveals precisely the hyperstitional dimensions of finance markets: “Hyperstition,” Land states, “is a positive feedback circuit including culture as a component. It can be defined as the experimental (techno-)science of self-fulfilling prophecies.” (8)
The talk of positive-feedback, alongside the usage of advanced information technologies on the trading floors (ranging from the global connectability of the electronic marketplace to the ‘black boxes’ of the high- frequency traders) shows the debt that neoliberal capitalism holds to the boom in information sciences during and following World War 2, or what Philip Mirowski has called the “cyborg sciences” - cybernetics, communication theory, game theory, etc. (9) An example of this is the famous Black-Scholes model, the first formula for pricing options that enabled the rise of financial capitalism proper by importing the Wiener Process (named for the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener) into economic theory. Here we find hyperstitional attributes in that this borrowing from physics and computer science was presented as a ‘universal law’ in economics; what the model did was conjure forth a new paradigm for capitalism that presented itself as wholly rational and organic. Mirowski quotes Herbert Simon by describing the movement of these scientific constructs into economics as the “sciences of the artificial,” noting the increasing inability and perhaps outright collapse of the distinction between the real and the mathematically-construed simulations of reality. (10)
We should take heed of Marx when he observed that “even as capital appropriates technology as the most effective form of the subsumption of labor,” technology itself “is not ‘identical with its existence as capital... and therefore does not follow that subsumption under the social relation of capital is the most appropriate and ultimate social relation of production for the application of machinery.’” (11) But Land was far more influenced by Fernand Braudel than Marx, relying on the former’s distinction between markets, where goods circulate through horizontal networks, and capitalism, where structures like the corporation (and the state) act as anti-markets. As Marx noted, capital constrained the application of technological innovation; synthesizing with Braudel, Land’s position is that the acceleration of market circulation would then, presumably, unleash the latent forces within technology itself. From this perspective the binary of real/simulation matters not, for the feedbacking loops of hyperstition shows the constant movement between the two; it propels itself from economics and technology to an ontological plateau that is populated, for Land, by Gothic horrors and occult assemblages. From another angle, it charts the acceleration of markets and technology as resistance to the totalizing forces of capitalism.
This returns us to the key problem in Land’s Accelerationism: to what degree, in the dually horizontal and vertical system of neoliberalism and hyper circulation of money as digital code, does the distinction between capitalism and markets offer alternatives? At what point does Accelerationism not actually oppose neoliberalism, but instead buttress the logic of capitalism by providing a science-fiction twist on libertarian ideology? Other theorists (Deleuze and Guattari, Tiqqun), have observed the importance of speed in resistance, while others (Virilio, Bifo, Tiqqun again) have emphasized deceleration; meanwhile, each of these stands sits uneasily between the false distinction between the alternatives of rampant neoliberalism and statist liberal social democracy dominates resistant imaginations. Tiziana Terranova writes that “the notion of a post-capitalist mode of existence must become believable,” (12) a statement that indicates the becoming-real of imaginative alternatives and looping us again back to the specter of hyperstition. In the debate over the Accelerationist tendency, hyperstition itself – and its historical progenitors – may have much to teach us, if for no other reason than its utilization of things that appear irrational, nonsensical, and anti-scientific as a weapon against the rationality of our neoliberal globe.
to be continued...
The essay is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
Edward Burne - Jones
Letter from Carl Gustav Jung to Echidna Stillwell, dated 27th February 1929 [Extract]
…your attachment to a Lemurian cultural-strain disturbs me intensely. From my own point of view – based on the three most difficult cases I have encountered and their attendant abysmally archaic symbolism – it is no exaggeration to state that Lemuria condenses all that is most intrinsically horrific to the racial unconscious, and that the true Lemurians – who you seem intent upon rediscovering – are best left buried beneath the sea.
—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007
In a series of meta-fictional sequences an anonymous author transcribes the letters between Echidna Stillwell and certain well known and unknown personages of the modern era before, during, and after the World War II. In one she receives a letter from Carl Gustav Jung, the renegade psychotherapist and ephebic heretic and pariah of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis. Nick Land will transcribe these accounts which are gathered both in Fanged Noumena and in a more detailed reworking of the material scattered across both the current and defunct archives of the CCRU website.
Those who are versant in the great literary traditions from Lucian to Calvino will understand that such intermixing of fictive and historical personages for the purposes of conveying what cannot be conveyed by straightforward means will understand exactly what is going on in these otherwise insane stories. Anyone who has read Land’s principle works A Thirst for Annihilation and the series of essays gathered in Fanged Noumena by Ray Brassier and Robin McKay, not to mention all his current work scattered in abstract horror fiction and online essays or youtube videos will be well adjusted to his sparse yet methodical obsessions with Time and Intelligence.
As the editor of that material gathered from the CCRU website admits,
There is nobody positioned to accept attribution for the ‘work’ of the Ccru, nor has there ever been, so this compilation has been guided by a principal of editorial modesty. Whatever it is that occurred ‘here’ – during these years of the Numogram’s initial ingression into recent human history, triggering an outbreak of digial hyperstition – is not considered a matter to be resolved in this volume, even in part, through retrospective commentary. This book is sheer documentation.1
So with that in mind we approach the outlandish and occulted counter-worlds like travelers from a fictional land, seeking neither sense nor meaning but rather an exploration and experiential mutation into the core metamorphic and display-asignifying diagrams of occultural events being enacted.
We had already seen in those series of essays gathered in Fanged Noumena Land’s slow and methodical demolition of modern and postmodern philosophical presumption, as well as his search for a language beyond the world controlled by the Turing Cops (i.e., the official and authoritarian worlds of Academia, Media, and the Western Cultural regimes he would label under the rubric of Human Security Systems).
Before venturing into this dark world of myth, fiction, occult, hyperstitons, etc. I want to explore a few aspects of the Human Security System. The Human Security System is a term use by Land to denote the elaborate manipulative systems of capture that trap humans within a network of manipulation and duplicity. As he’ll state it speaking of the work of Deleuze/Guattari in Anit-Oedipus on schizoanalyis and desiring machines,
Since only Oedipus is repressible, the schizo is usually a lost case to those relatively subtilized psychiatric processes that co-operate with the endogeneous police functions of the superego. This is why antischizophrenic psychiatry tends to be an onslaught launched at gross or molar neuroanatomy and neurochemistry oriented by theoretical genetics. Psychosurgery, ECT, psychopharmacology … it will be chromosomal recoding soon. ‘It is thus that a tainted society has invented psychiatry in order to defend itself from the investigations of certain superior lucidities whose faculties of divination disturb it’. The medico-security apparatus know that schizos are not going to climb back obediently into the Oedipal box. Psychoanalysis washes its hands of them. Their nervous-systems are the free-fire zones of an emergent neo-eugenicist cultural security system. (FN)2
The Human Security System is a magical system of social, political, religious control used by the cultural authorities of the current Reality Studio to manipulate the planetary consciousness and weave a nexus of global duplicity as part of its domestication of the human species. In A Thirst for Annihilation a post-philosophical survey of the work of Georges Bataille Land would remark,
Bataille writes of ‘the catastrophe of time’ because security cannot establish itself, because time is jealous of being. It is in his early essay ‘Sacrifices’ (1936) that he first develops this thought to its rigorous conclusion in incompletion and collapse. No ontology of time is possible, and yet ontology remains the sole foundation for discursive accomplishment.3
This notion of Time as the pre-ontological thermospasm or energetic unconscious that is suddenly tamed within discourse or external writing systems of which ontology or the Discourse on Being suddenly make their appearance as the foundational element in the Human Security Regime comes with a price. As Land comments,
Time is the suicidal jealousy of God, to which each being—even the highest—must fall victim. It is thus the ultimate ocean of immanence, from which nothing can separate itself, and in which everything loses itself irremediably. The black mass of jealous rage swells like a cancer at the core of the universe, or like a volcanic ulceration in the guts of God, and its catastrophic eruption consumes all established things in the acidic lava of impersonality. We say ‘time’—and become philosophical—to describe jealousy purifying itself of God (but with God purity collapses also). (Thirst)
In this poetic foray into the underlying metaphysics of the Western traditions of philosophy, science, and the arts of control we term the Human Security Regime we begin to perceive a tale, a grand narrative in the shaping. One can accept or reject Land’s worldview, his base materialist perspective, his unphilosophical or even anti-philosophical stance. But one cannot blindly reject a hearing of what is emerging from this mad and at time psychotic voyage into our temporal wars. For it is the Time-Wars all around us of which Land is speaking. For Land has entered or allowed messages from renegade systems from the future to convey the keys to our current malaise and collapsing civilization. To reject Land outright is to one’s own detriment. Yet, I’m sure many among my readers will think I, too, am mad for even venturing into the burn zones of such a schizoworld. My readers of course are welcome to their opinions, and many have seen and said so to me in private messages. Yet, I’m unafraid of the extremities of thought and feeling that broker the far horizons of our cultural index. To venture past the Human Security System of acceptable authority, academic or socio-cultural mindsets that harbor only the policing of our minds, the caging of our desires, and the ultimate pacification of our lives in a system of slavery is to me the real danger. The Land’s of this world have broken out of the cage and are exploring the dead zones of unlife, bringing back to us like neoshamanistic voyagers news from the strange climes just beyond the human prison.
Animal Cunning and Duplicity: Mêtis and the Magus
Detienne and Vernant in their study of mêtis tell us,
From a terminological point of view, mêtis, as a common noun, refers to a particular type of intelligence, an informed prudence; as a proper name it refers to a female deity, the daughter of Ocean. The goddess Metis who might be considered a somewhat quaint figure seems, at first sight, to be restricted to no more than a walk-on part. She is Zeus’ first wife and almost as soon as she conceives Athena she is swallowed by her husband. The king of the gods brings her mythological career to an abrupt conclusion by relegating her to the depths of his own stomach. In the theogonies attributed to Orpheus, however, Metis plays a major role and is presented as a great primordial deity at the beginning of the world.3
Yet, the central motif underlying their study of mêtis shows us that Mêtis is itself a power of cunning and deceit. It operates through disguise. In order to dupe its victim it assumes a form which masks, instead of revealing, its true being. In mêtis appearance and reality no longer correspond to one another but stand in contrast, producing an effect of illusion, apate which beguiles the adversary into error and leaves him as bemused by his defeat as by the spells of a magician. (CI)
It’s this sense of cunning and deception, illusion, magic, sorcery, and the beguiling of the senses through seduction and techics both artificial and natural that informs this study of these ancient myths of the Greeks. For primitive humans the natural growth of cunning intelligence was a means both of survival and security against natural and human enemies. As these authors state it: “Engaged in the world of becoming and confronted with situations which are ambiguous and unfamiliar and whose outcome always lies in the balance, wiley intelligence is only able to maintain its hold over beings and things thanks to its ability to look beyond the immediate present and forsee a greater or lesser section of the future. Vigilant and forever on the alert, mêtis also appears as multiple, pantoie, many-coloured, poikile and shifting, aiole. They are all qualities which betray the polymorphism and polyvalence of a kind of intelligence which, to render itself impossible to seize and to dominate fluid, changing realities, must always prove itself more supple and more polymorphic than they are. Finally, mêtis, wiley intelligence possesses the most prized cunning of all: the ‘duplicity’ of the trap which always presents itself as what it is not and which conceals its true lethal nature beneath a reassuring exterior.” (CI)
It’s this latter form of ‘duplicity’, of the world of capture and traps that “conceals its true lethal nature beneath a reassuring exterior” we will be concerned with. In his Eros and Magic in the Renaissance Ioan P. Coulianu before his untimely demise began a series of studies into the strange realms of religious, political, and socio-cultural manipulation and control that has been used to domesticate humans and pacify or capture their desires. As he would suggest in this particular study the figure of the Magus would take on the hues of the Sovereign as counter-power within Renaissance society. As he states it,
Nowadays the magician busies himself with public relations, propaganda, market research, sociological surveys, publicity, information, counterinformation and misinformation, censorship, espionage, and even cryptography—a science which in the sixteenth century was a branch of magic.4
In fact Coulianu would go so far as to say that the figure of the Magus is still with us, and as the great manipulator most historians have been wrong in concluding that magic disappeared with the advent of ״quantitative science.” The latter has simply substituted itself for a part of magic while extending its dreams and its goals by means of technology. Electricity, rapid transport, radio and television, the airplane, and the computer have merely carried into effect the promises first formulated by magic, resulting from the supernatural processes of the magician: to produce light, to move instantaneously from one point in space to another, to communicate wit h faraway regions of space, to fly through the air, and to have an infallible memory at one’s disposal. Technology, it can be said, is a democratic magic that allows everyone to enjoy the extraordinary capabilities of which the magician used to boast. (EM, 104)
The Breakout: Smashing the Discursive Linements of our Mind-Manacled Reality Studio
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear
—William Blake, London
This brings us back to the paradox of fascism, and the way in which fascism differs from totalitarianism. For totalitarianism is a State affair: it essentially concerns the relation between the State as a localized assemblage and the abstract machine of overcoding it effectuates. Even in the case of a military dictatorship, it is a State army, not a war machine, that takes power and elevates the State to the totalitarian stage. Totalitarianism is quintessentially conservative. Fascism, on the other hand, involves a war machine.
—Gilles Deleuze; Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus
That our lives are trapped in a world of manipulation and control by the very tools of the mind themselves, by what Blake would poetically call the “mind-forg’d manacles” of discourse and Logic is to open a void as deep as hell itself. That we have been steeped in the House of Reason for at least two millennia goes without saying. But that our global civilization is deeply embedded in a war machine, that it is essentially a system of fascism that has one objective to secure and commodify every aspect of existence within its assemblage is another matter altogether.
As Deleuzeguatttarian commentary has it
When fascism builds itself a totalitarian State, it is not in the sense of a State army taking power, but of a war machine taking over the State. A bizarre remark by Virilio puts us on the trail: in fascism, the State is far less totalitarian than it is suicidal. There is in fascism a realized nihilism. Unlike the totalitarian State, which does its utmost to seal all possible lines of flight, fascism is constructed on an intense line of flight, which it transforms into a line of pure destruction and abolition.(TP)
What happens when the global order as an artificial whole becomes a war machine? Is the line a flight it is taking leading to a perfected nihilism, to a “line of pure destruction and abolition”?
Land sees a future of pure war, a world of PODS: “Politically Organized Defensive Systems. Modelled upon the polis, pods hierarchically delegate authority through public institutions, family, and self, seeking metaphorical sustenance in the corpuscular fortifications of organisms and cells.” This is a world or neocameral City-States, mini-states, or neostates where the rich and elite gather behind protective macropodic security systems to fend off the excluded, anarchic, and outcase outlaws and renegades of a new dark age of man.
He remarks that the macropod has one law: “the outside must pass by way of the inside”. Where humans are no longer singular and free, but rather are machines in an assemblage of desiring machines, plugged into “segmented and anthropomorphized sectors of assembly circuits as the attribute of a personal being”. Rather than following those such as Badiou, Zizek, Johnston, et. al. into a dialectical materialism of the Transcendental Subject that seeks its irreducibility to the Real, Land follows Deleuze/Guattari into the unconscious Subject:
Schizoanalysis methodically dismantles everything in Kant’s thinking that serves to align function with the transcendence of the autonomous subject, reconstructing critique by replacing the syntheses of personal consciousness with syntheses of the impersonal unconscious. The thought is a function of the real, something that matter can do. (MD, p. 3)
Rather than the autonomous Subject Land supports a base materialism wherein “thought and Real” co-habit a space of non-utilitarian pragmatic praxis, a transitional zone or space in which the “eradication of law, or of humanity, is sketched culturally by the development of critique, which is the theoretical elaboration of the commodification process. The social order and the anthropomorphic subject share a history, and an extinction.”
In his reading of Anti-Oedipus he observes a philosophy of the machine, one which advances an “anorganic functionalism that dissolves all transcendence,” and “mobilizes a vocabulary of the machine, the mechanic, and machinism” (MD, p. 4). This is a black-box theory of use and pragmatic endeavor that asks the question(s) ‘What are your desiring-machines, what do you put into these machines, what is the output, how does it work, what are your nonhuman sexes?’ (Anti-Oedipus, p. 322).
In fact this is a virtual materialism that 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” (MD, p. 5). This is Land’s attack on all those systems of Transcendental logic like the medieval construction kits of the New Prometheans, Brassier and Negarestani, who seek (after Sellars/Brandom) to build navigational systems in the “space of reasons” into command and control centers of the deontological giving and asking of reasons in a normative throwback of an age when ethics and the epistemological world still believed in itself: – a world updated only in its speculative status as hyperfictional philo-fiction. Land instead following in that other tradition of the dark post-vitalist curve from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bataille, Freud, Deleuze/Guattari, et. al. brings us the machinic desires at the heart of the Real, the realm of Zero intensity, Unlife, where a hidden impulsive, desiring machines flow through the compositional and decompositional pre-ontological realms into our planetary systems producing and productive of an energetic chaosmos.
Land would have us enter the death realms of Synthanatos – the terminal productive outcome of human history as a machinic process, yet it is virtually efficient throughout the duration of this process, functioning within a circuit that machines duration itself. In this way virtuality lends its temporality to the unconscious, which escapes specification within extended time series, provoking Freud to describe it as timeless. (MD, p. 5) Much like J.G. Ballard’s Chronotopia, or City of Timeless duration and assemblages of interlocked labyrinthine systems actively pursuing the eternity of desire without end, Land offers an ironic take on Anti-Oedipus as less a philosophy book than “an engineering manual; a package of software implements for hacking into the machinic unconscious, opening invasion channels” (MD, p. 5).
Deleuze and Guattari’s works inform Land’s visionary materialism, hyperbolical and poetic. Their rogue scholarship and inclusion of a multiplicity of scholarly examples of provocative examples from the encyclopedia of politics, sciences, philosophy, arts, economics etc., all flowing into a rhizomatic thought form that is anti-formalist and anti-representationalist, more diagrammatic and topological is apparent in the sparse and elegant notes of current gnomic Landian cultural critique.
CCRU: Hyperstition and the Lovecraft Mythos
When conceived rigorously as a literary and cinematic craft, horror is indistinguishable from a singular task: to make an object of the unknown, as the unknown.
—Nick Land. Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator
When we think of that which lies outside human mind and control – if we think of it at all? – we come up against the Real – a blank or resistance against which our mind struggles to make sense of that which is in itself not sensible, the unknown as unknown. In the Lovecraftian cosmos this is the thing which cannot be named. It cannot be reduced to signification, to meaning, to our language, our discourse for it is beyond discursivity, beyond the structures of our mental apparatus, our brains evolutionary survival systems. It is the realm my friend R. Scott Bakker terms “pure neglect”. That which cannot be known through human knowledge or linguistic practices. So what happens when we rub up against the monstrous? We do as humans have always done: we take flight, we either stand immobilized and in terror like those fables warriors facing the Medusa and begin to turn to stone, or we turn and run blindly driven by the wild animal cunning of our body’s own ancient survival systems.
Seduction and fascination, fright and flight: the polar measure of the Human Security System bound by the logics of desire. In one of those prescient disquisitions and asides that William S. Burroughs was famous for he once spoke of the Time Prisons and Control Systems of the Maya,
The ancient Mayans possessed one of the most precise and hermetic control calendars ever used on this planet, a calendar that in effect controlled what the populace did thought and felt on any given day. A study of this model system throws light on modern methods of control. Knowledge of the calendar was the monopoly of a priestly caste who maintained their position with minimal police and military force.6
The point here is that the vast global complex of early and late Neolithic Agricultural systems were based on the cycles and control of plants and animals, the careful patterning of the stars, seasons, cycles of seeding, harvesting, and productions of both plant and animal life for the growing human populations. With the rise of these agricultural civilizations came the need to protect and secure the resources for the City-States that held sway in these disparate regions along with their water (river) sources and the dirt (lands) in which the planting would take place. Over a period of time the mathematical calculation of stars and cycles of the seasons would regulate the human population itself bringing with it Law, Religion, Codification and regulations of the habits and minds of the citizenry. War machines would arise during this age producing new sciences of metallurgy and the production of weapons that would martial conflict across these early City-States that has of yet not abated. (Of course I leave out the details and do not as scholars would cite all the reputable authorities on such matters. A generalist and one who is conveying a lifetime of reading will not and cannot offer every authority in such fields in an unscholarly essay. I want.)
What we term the Industrial Revolution did not end the vast networks of Agricultural Civilization across our planet, it only exacerbated it bringing an accelerating depletion of the soil, plant, mineral, and animal systems that humans depend on for their livelihood and their survival. At the heart of this industrial system is that term we’ve all come to love or hate: Capital. The Left derides it, the Right defends it, but neither truly understands the deadly consequences of its dark heritage and future. Locked in our petty contemporary squabbles and political non-events we seem oblivious of the designs Capital has on us.
This is where CCRU enters…
There was a time when Murrumur asked Katak and Oddubb a question, and although this was very long ago it was the last question she has ever been known to ask. It was Ummnu – the last of the demons who provoked this question, since Murrumur felt her to be always nearby, and yet never ceased to be confused by her, so that eventually she asked: “How can the end be already in the middle of the beginning?”7
The collective’s research was closely tied to the work of philosophers Sadie Plant (around whom it was founded), Nick Land, and their colleagues throughout the 1990s, and in particular the emerging cyberfeminist thinking that would lead to the Virtual Futuresconferences at Warwick in the middle of the decade. Although it only existed in an official capacity for little over two years—following the departure of Plant, the University of Warwick would deny any relationship to the renegade collective—the Ccru’s cultural impact has been significant. Those who were affiliated with the Ccru during and after its time as part of the University of Warwick Philosophy department include philosophers Iain Hamilton Grant, Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani; cultural theorists Mark Fisherand Kodwo Eshun; publisher and philosopher Robin Mackay; digital media theorists Luciana Parisi and Matthew Fuller; electronic music artist and Hyperdub label head Steve Goodman, aka Kode9; writer and theorist Anna Greenspan; novelist Hari Kunzru; and artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, among others. Land and the Ccru collaborated frequently with the experimental art collective 0[rphan]d[rift>] (Maggie Roberts and Ranu Mukherjee),notably on Syzygy, a month-long multidisciplinary residency at Beaconsfield Contemporary Art gallery in South London, 1999, and on 0[rphan]d[rift>]’s Cyberpositive(London: Cabinet, 1995), a schizoid work of cut-and-paste cyberphilosophy. (see Wikipedia)
I only became aware of this subworld somewhere around 2007. A fulltime software architect, analyst, developer, contractor I was too busy in my professional life to venture too far outside my own field and explore the shadowlands of thought on the net at that time. Oh, I’d been a armchair radical for most of my life, reading anything and everything across the whole gamut of our socio-cultural inheritance. And, yet, coming upon the CCRU site and on Land’s work did not bring much new to me, only the reinforcement of a deep seeded voicing of that which I’d long thought and believed but as of yet had had no confirmation in some external group, philosophy, or real world voicing.
Freud would coin the term uncanny to describe not the new, but the old and familiar that had been repressed and forced out of site suddenly awakening, arising, emerging from its dark declivities into the light of consciousness to overpower our senses and mind with hints of the unknown unknowns surrounding us on all sides. At such times one feels a kinship with the darkness, the unknown, an uncanny feeling (affective) stirring that leads to fascination (seduction) or terror (fright and escape). Coming upon Land’s A Thirst for Annihilation only reinforced my delving’s into the undermining traditions of Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche… those of Bataille and Deleuze/Guattari were still new to me. As an Anglo-Saxon American I realized my lack of linguistic prowess was a detriment that would forever be bound to translations and transcriptions because of age, work, and laziness. For me Nietzsche, Emerson, and the world of Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Stanislaw Lem, Thomas Pynchon, and others of poetry, literature, and the few philosophers and scientists I’d read were the sustenance of my mental make up. I think we are all made up of a hodge-pod of learning if we’re non-academic and untrained minds and intellects not formed and shaped, controlled by the academic training and schooling, education systems of mind-prisioning.
Harold Bloom, not for his Idealism and Romantic proclivities which are the most retrograde aspect of his work, but rather for his theories of influence which would take in a wide array of counter-authoritarian and occult based kabbalistic, hermetic, magical, and other systems as well as the whole gamut of literary output of Western civ gave me aspects of how our society has been influenced (controlled and manipulated). The flowing from the stars upon our fates and our personalities is the prime meaning of “influence,” a meaning made personal between Shakespearean characters. Shakespeare also uses the word “influence” to mean “inspiration,” both in the sonnets and in the plays. This sense of an influx from elsewhere, or an Outside in process of the overpowering insurgence or invasion of an alien influencing first felt by those ancient Magi or Star gazers who would read starry events for signs and portents of the future’s influence in the present pervades this notion. For Bloom influence was more about anxiety than about the influence process itself, about the defensive measures we take to secure our personal and socio-cultural systems against the invasion of irrational forces outside our control. Eternal vigilance, paranoia, the policing of the hedgerows of civilization from the barbarians just outside the borders of mind and State, etc. “Influence” is a metaphor, one that implicates a matrix of relationships-imagistic, temporal, spiritual, psychological-all of them ultimately defensive in their nature. What matters most (and it is the central point of this book) is that the anxiety of influence comes out of a complex act of strong misreading, a creative interpretation that I call “poetic misprision.” (Bloom) This sense that art is both sublimation and achieved anxiety, a security system to keep the wolves at bay, to bind the irrational forces of Time and keep us locked away in the artificial climes of an endless artificial utopia. Oscar Wilde in the bitterness of the last years, after his incarceration for pederasty would speak of influence. Lord Henry Wotton’s elegant observations in The Picture of Dorian Gray, where he tells Dorian that all influence is immoral:
Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of someone else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him.
The feeling of anxiety that creeps in on us when we wake up and realize that reading another’s work, a philosopher, poet, essayist, etc. that their thoughts are our thoughts, that their external exposure of the inside of our minds suddenly reveals a terrible secret “that my thoughts are not my own, but an Other’s”. We suddenly ask: How much of my mind is my own? Am I real? Do I have a distinct self? Or, am I just a copy of a copy, filled with the scripted thoughts, algorithms, systems of something else, someone else’s mental fabrications? Am I a robot of other’s stories, a mere script in a drama I am not even aware of, a stranger to myself and others? Have I ever had a thought of my own?
As Bloom would say,
Nietzsche and Freud are, so far as I can tell, the prime influences upon the theory of influence presented in this book. Nietzsche is the prophet of the antithetical, and his Genealogy of Morals is the profoundest study available to me of the revisionary and ascetic strains in the aesthetic temperament.
Bloom’s theory “rejects also the qualified Freudian optimism that happy substitution is possible, that a second chance can save us from the repetitive quest for our earliest attachments. Poets as poets cannot accept substitutions, and fight to the end to have their initial chance alone. Both Nietzsche and Freud underestimated poets and poetry, yet each yielded more power to phantasmagoria than it truly possesses. They too, despite their moral realism, over-idealized the imagination. Nietzsche’s disciple, Yeats, and Freud’s disciple, Otto Rank, show a greater awareness of the artist’s fight against art, and of the relation of this struggle to the artist’s antithetical battle against nature.” (Bloom, 48-49: The Anxiety of Influence)
Reading William Blake as a youth I remember in notebooks copying such statements as this one:
“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”
This coupling of being bound by certain mental horizons, captured in others systems of thought and feeling, molded and modulated by discursive systems of language, thought, and feeling haunted me for years. The notion of the need to discover and create my own system to overcome the cultural blinkers of my own wayward and authoritarian civilization bound by religious and secular codes and regulatory systems of mind control techniques was and still is at the forefront of my project. Nihilism was only a first step in the direction of overcoming two millennia of command and control systems, but we will need to go beyond nihilism and discover a post-nihilist system based on a-signifying diagrammatical numerical and image based notions that are a-intentional, impersonal and outside the human matrix of discursive reason and logic. Obviously to the Turing Cops and regulatory bureaus of the current Reality Studio such a project is labeled mad and insane, schizoid and possibly fraught with sociopathic tendencies for the current population and will be summarily dismissed if not outlawed as well as its author bound in the crank status of the obscene and deranged fringe worlds of the insane and ludicrous.
That Land in his own life discovered by way of Rimbaud, Artaud, and others the path of deregulating the power of the reasoning mind as a way to overcome what he termed the Human Security System was something I’d already known by other means and ways. I of course grew up in the Sixties, experimenting naively with Acid, Meth-amphetamines, Psilocybin, Peyote (Mescaline), Dream-vine (Ayahuasca), etc. over a period of years led me to the innocent notion that magic, shamanism, and other primitive techniques from the Eleusis mysteries based on mushroom cults, etc. all were based on breaking out of our culture encrusted systems of mind control. Even at that time after hundreds of “trips” I understood emphatically that humanities religious systems and knowledge of gods came out of these dreamworlds and awakened travels into the irrational zones outside the protective hedges of our Reason bound “mind-forg’d mancles”. No one needed to teach me this, I just knew it intuitively. What it all meant was another matter, one that has of yet no actual definitive answer even now in my life. What’s real? What is reality? My search to understand what I’d experienced (experientially) first hand during these hundreds of sessions would lead me to read through the extant philosophical, scientific, anthropological, socio-cultural, historical, archeo-mythological, etc. record in every library and now online system to find out what other explorers across the centuries had discovered.
Yet, Land only went so far, and no further, ending in a psychic episode that Robin Mackay would stipulate as Land’s having “gone insane”. Reading Fanged Noumena we get the hint that the world Land offered us up to that time was then abandoned, that the Land of that era died and in his place something from elsewhere came in and took over his life, Vauung. Daemon, demon… a changed man, a renegade to all that went before awakened another power of intelligence that would lead this new creature into what we mildly term Neoreactionary thought and culture. As the old Land abandoned the House he’d built artificial or physical (actual) he’d tell us off-handedly in “A Dirty Joke”,
I stole Vauung’s name because it was unused, on the basis of an exact qabbalistic entitlement. Yet, at least ‘up’ here, Vauung still confuses itself with me, with ruins and tatters. This might change. Names have powers and destinies. I have decided to let Vauung inherit the entire misfortune of my past (a perverse generosity at best). Its story might never emerge otherwise.
Maybe the Odysseus in us all should know this of transitional states and the becoming other of self and things, the mutant metamorphosis that defines us and moves through the cunning intelligence of all things. “In order to find its way through a world of change and instability and to master the Becoming by vying with it in cunning, intelligence must, in the eyes of the Greeks, in some way adopt the nature of this Becoming, assume its forms, just as Menelaus slips into the skin of a seal so as to triumph over the shifting, magic spells of Proteus. By dint of its own flexibility, then, intelligence must itself become constant movement, polymorphism reversal, deceit and duplicity.” (CIGCS)
Of this more at a future time…
In my next essay I’ll continue this down the rabbit hole into what CCRU discovered and brought forward in its hyperstitional matrix of metafictional forays into the unknown… stay tuned.
The essay is taken from:
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
Eternity, instantaneity, duration.
affectio and affectus,
affection and affect.
Duration. Theory of the affects.
Blyenbergh, the Ethics
Sadness and joy. Hate. Power (puissance).
The spheres of belonging.
The unlimited, the infinite.
Bleyenbergh: Composition and decomposition of relations
Spinoza’s example in the letters to Blyenbergh: I am led by a basely sensual appetite or else, the other case: I feel a true love. What are these two cases? It is necessary to try to understand them according to the criteria that Spinoza gives us. A basely sensual appetite, even the mere expression, one feels that it is not good, that it is bad. It is bad in what sense? When I am led by a basely sensual appetite, what does that mean? It means that: within it there is an action, or a tendency to action: for example desire. What happens to the desire when am I led by a basely sensual appetite? It is the desire of. Good. What is this desire? It can only be qualified by its association with an image of a thing, for example I desire a bad woman.
Richard Pinhas: several! [Bursts of general laughter]) or even worse, even worse: several!
Gilles Deleuze: Yes. What does it mean? We saw a bit of it when he suggested the difference between adultery, all that. Forget the ridiculous aspect of the examples, but they are not ridiculous, they are examples! In this case, what he calls basely sensual, basely sensual appetite, the basely sensual consists in this, that the action, in all manners, even for example making love, the action is a virtue! Why? Because it is something that my body can do; don't ever forget the theme of power (puissance). It is in my body’s power. So it is a virtue, and in this sense it is the expression of a power.
But if I remained there with it, I would have no means of distinguishing the basely sensual appetite from the most beautiful of loves. But there it is, when there is basely sensual appetite, why is it? It is because, in fact, I associate my action, or the image of my action, with the image of a thing whose relation is decomposed by this action. In several different ways, in all ways, for example if I am married, in the very example that Spinoza took, I decompose a relation, the relation of the couple. Or if the other person is married, I decompose the relation of the couple. But what’s more, in a basely sensual appetite I decompose all sorts of relations: the basely sensual appetite with its taste for destruction, good we can take everything up again on the decompositions of relations, a kind of fascination of the decomposition of relations, of the destruction of relations. On the contrary in the most beautiful of loves. Notice that there, I don't invoke the mind at all, it would not be Spinozist, according to parallelism. I invoke a love in the case of the most beautiful of loves, a love which is not less bodily than the most basely sensual love. The difference is, simply, that in the most beautiful of loves, my action, the same, exactly the same, my physical action, my bodily action, is associated with an image of the thing whose relation is directly combined, directly composed with the relation of my action. It is in this sense that the two uniting individuals lovingly form an individual which has both of them as parts, Spinoza would say. On the contrary, in the basely sensual love, the one destroys the other, the other destroys the one, that is there is a whole process of decomposition of relations. In short, they make love like they are knocking each other about.
All this is very concrete. So it works.
Only we always come up against this, Spinoza tells us: you don't choose, in the end, the image of the thing with which your action is associated. It engages a whole play of causes and of effects which escape you. Indeed, what is it that makes this basely sensual love take you? You cannot say to yourself: Ha! I could do otherwise. Spinoza is not one of those who believes in a free will. No, it is a whole determinism which associates the images of things with the actions. Then what’s more troubling, the formula: I am as perfect as I can be according to the affections that I have. That is to say that if I am dominated by a basely sensual appetite, I am as perfect as I can be, as perfect as it is possible, as perfect as it is in my power (pouvoir) to be.
And could I say: I am deprived of (manque) a better state? Spinoza seems very firm. In the letters to Blyenbergh he says: I cannot say that I am deprived of a better state, I cannot even say it. Because it doesn't make any sense. To say at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite ˜ once again, you will see in the text, if you haven't already seen it, this example which returns ˜ because Blyenbergh clings there to this example. Indeed it is very simple, it is very clear. When I say, at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite, when I say: Ha! I am deprived of true love, if I say it, what does that mean to say: I am deprived of something? Literally it doesn't mean anything, absolutely nothing in Spinoza, but nothing! It merely means that my mind compares a state that I have to a state that I don't have, in other words it is not a real relation, it is a comparison of the mind. A pure comparison of the mind. And Spinoza goes so far as to say: you might as well say at that moment there that the stone is deprived of sight. You might as well say at that moment there that the stone is deprived of sight. Indeed, why wouldn‚t I compare the stone to a human organism, and in the name of a same comparison of the mind, I would say: the stone doesn't see, therefore it is deprived of sight. And Spinoza said expressly ˜ I am not looking for the texts because you are reading them, I hope ˜ Spinoza responds expressly to Blyenbergh: it is just as stupid to speak of the stone by saying of it that it is deprived of sight as it would be stupid, at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite, to say that I am deprived of a better love.
So then, at this level, we listen to Spinoza, and we tell ourselves that there is something which doesn't work, because in his comparison, I take the two judgments, I say of the stone: it can't see, it is deprived of sight, and I say of someone who experiences a basely sensual appetite that they are deprived of virtue. Are these two propositions, as Spinoza claims, of the same type? It is so apparent that they are not the same, that we can be confident that if Spinoza says to us that they are of the same type, it is because he wants to be provocative. He wants to say to us: I challenge you to tell me the difference between the two propositions. But one feels the difference. Spinoza‚s provocation is going to allow us perhaps to find it. In the two cases, for the two propositions, is the stone (pierre) deprived of sight, or is Pierre ˜ the name this time ˜ deprived of virtue, is the comparison of the mind between two states, a state that I have and a state that I don't have, is the comparison of the mind of the same type? Evidently not! Why? To say that the stone is deprived of sight is, on the whole, to say that nothing in it contains the possibility of seeing. While, when I say: he is deprived of true love, it is not a comparison of the same type, since, this time, I don’t rule out that at other moments this being here has experienced something which resembled true love.
In other words, the question specifies, I will go very slowly, even if you have the impression that all this goes without saying: is a comparison within the same being analogous to a comparison between two beings? Spinoza doesn't back away from the problem, he takes the case of the blind man, and he says to us quietly ˜ but once again, what does he have in mind in saying things like this to us, which are so obviously inaccurate ˜ he says to us: the blind man is deprived of nothing! Why? He is as perfect as he can be according to the affections that he has. He is deprived of (privé de) visual images, to be blind is to be deprived of visual images; that means that he doesn’t see, but neither does the stone see. And he says: there is no difference between the blind man and the stone from this point of view, namely: the one like the other doesn't have visual images. So it is just as stupid, says Spinoza, it is just as stupid to say that the blind man is deprived of sight as it is to say: the stone is deprived of sight. And the blind man, then? He is as perfect as he can be, according to what? You see even so, Spinoza doesn't say to us: according to his power (puissance); he says that the blind man is as perfect as he can be according to the affections of his power, that is according to the images of which he is capable. According to the images of things of which he is capable, which are the true affections of his power. So it would be entirely the same thing as saying: the stone doesn't have sight, and to say: the blind man doesn't have sight.
Pure instantaneity of essence
Blyenbergh begins here to understand something. He begins to understand. However, Spinoza Why does he make this kind of provocation? And, Blyenbergh [X] once again it appears to me a typical example of the point at which the commentators are mistaken, it seems to me, by saying that Blyenbergh is stupid, because Blyenbergh doesn't get Spinoza wrong. Blyenbergh answers Spinoza immediately by saying: all that is very pretty but you can only manage it if you insist upon (he didn't say it in this form, but you will see, the text really comes down to the same thing) a kind of pure instantaneity of the essence. It is interesting as an objection, it is a good objection. Blyenbergh retorts: you cannot assimilate the blind man not seeing and the stone not seeing, you can only make such an assimilation if, at the same time, you pose a kind of pure instantaneity of the essence, namely: there belongs to an essence only the present, instantaneous affection that it experiences insofar as it experiences it. The objection here is very very strong. If indeed I am saying: there belongs to my essence only the affection that I experience here and now, then, indeed, I am not deprived of anything. If I am blind I am not deprived of sight, if I am dominated by a basely sensual appetite, I am not deprived of better love. I am not deprived of anything. There belongs to my essence, indeed, only the affection that I experience here and now. And Spinoza answers quietly: yes, that’s the way it is.
This is curious. What is curious? That it is the same man who never stops telling us that the essence is eternal. The singular essences, that is yours, mine, all the essences are eternal. Notice that it is a way of saying that the essence doesn't endure. Now as a matter of fact there are two ways of not enduring, at first sight: the way of eternity or the way of instantaneity. Now it is very curious how slyly he passes from one to the other. He began by telling us: the essences are eternal, and now he tells us: the essences are instantaneous. If you like, it becomes a very bizarre position. To the letter of the text: the essences are eternal, but those things which belongs to the essence are instantaneous; there belongs to my essence only what I experience actually insofar as I experience it actually. And indeed, the formula: I am as perfect as I can be according to the affection which determines my essence‚ implies this strict instantaneity.
That is pretty much the high point of the correspondence, because a very curious thing is going to happen. Spinoza responds to this very violently because he increasingly loses patience with this correspondence. Blyenbergh protests here, he says: but in the end, you cannot define the essence by instantaneity, what does this mean? Then it is a pure instantaneity? Sometimes you have a basely sensual appetite, sometimes you have a better love, and you will say each time that you are as perfect as you can be, there as in a series of flashes! In other words Blyenbergh says to him: you cannot expel the phenomenon of duration. There is a duration, and it is precisely according to this duration that you can become better, there is a becoming, and it is according to this duration that you can become better or worse. When you experience a basely sensual appetite it is not a pure instantaneity which comes over you. It is necessary to take it in terms of duration, that is: you become worse than you were before. And when a better love forms in you, of course you become better. There is an irreducibility of duration. In other words the essence cannot be measured in its instantaneous states.
Now this is curious because Spinoza stops the correspondence. On this point no response from Spinoza. And at just the same time Blyenbergh does something imprudent, that is sensing that he‚s posed an important question to Spinoza, he starts to pose all sorts of questions, he thinks he has caught Spinoza out, and Spinoza tells him to back off. He says to him let go of me a while, leave me in peace‚. He cuts the correspondence short, he stops, he won't answer anymore.
All of this is very dramatic because it can be said: Aha! Then he didn't have anything to respond If he had to respond because the response that Spinoza could have made, and we are certainly forced to conclude that he could have made it, therefore if he didn't make it, it is because he did not want to, the response is all in the Ethics. Therefore just as on certain points the correspondence with Blyenbergh goes farther than the Ethics, on other points, and for a simple reason I think, which is that Spinoza above all doesn't want to give Blyenbergh, for reasons which are his own, he above all doesn't want to give Blyenbergh the idea of what this book is, this book of which everyone is speaking at the time, that Spinoza experiences the need to hide because he feels that he has a lot to fear. He doesn't want to give Blyenbergh, whom he feels to be an enemy, he doesn't want to give him an idea of what the Ethics is. So he stops the correspondence. We can consider in this respect that he has a response that he doesn't want to give. He says to himself: I will still have problems.
The sphere of belonging of essence
But it is up to us to try to reconstitute this response. Spinoza knows very well that there is duration. You see that we are now in the process of playing with three terms: eternity, instantaneity, duration. What is instantaneity? We don’t yet know at all what eternity is in Spinoza, but eternity is the modality of essence. It is the modality which belongs to essence. Let’s suppose that the essence is eternal, that is that it is not subject to time. What does this mean? We don’t know.
What is instantaneity? Instantaneity is the modality of affection of essence. Formula: I am always as perfect as I can be according to the affections that I have here and now. Therefore affection is actually an instantaneous cut. In effect it is the species of horizontal relation between an action and an image of a thing. Third dimension, it is as if we were in the process of constituting the three dimensions of what we could call the sphere. Here I take a word, which is not at all Spinozist, but I take a word which allows us to regroup this, a Husserlian word, the sphere of belonging of the essence: the essence is what belongs to it. I believe that Spinoza would say that this sphere of belonging of the essence has three dimensions. There is the essence itself, eternal; there are the affections of the essence here and now which are like so many instants, that is, what affects me at this moment; and then there is what?
It is found, and here, the terminology is important, Spinoza rigorously distinguishes between affectio and affectus. It is complicated because there are a lot of translators who translate affectio by affection‚, all of the translators translate affectio by affection‚ that, that works, but there are lots of translators who translate affectus by feeling. On the one hand this doesn’t say much, in French, the difference between affection and feeling, and on the other hand it is a shame, even a slightly more barbaric word would be better, but it would be better, it seems to me, to translate affectus by affect, since the word exists in French; this retains at least the same root common to affectio and to affect. Therefore Spinoza, if only by his terminology, distinguishes well between the affectio and the affectus, the affection and the affect.
Affection envelops an affect
What is it, the affect‚? Spinoza tells us that it is something that the affection envelops. The affection envelops an affect. You recall, the affection is the effect ˜ literally if you want to give it an absolutely rigorous definition ˜ it is the instantaneous effect of an image of a thing on me. For example perceptions are affections. The image of things associated with my action is an affection. The affection envelops, implicates, all of these are the words Spinoza constantly uses. To envelope: it is necessary to really take them as material metaphors, that is that within the affection there is an affect. There is a difference in nature between the affect and the affection. The affect is not something dependent on the affection, it is enveloped by the affection, that’s something else. There is a difference in nature between the affect and the affection. What does my affection, that is the image of the thing and the effect of this image on me, what does it envelop? It envelops a passage or a transition. Only it is necessary to take passage or transition in a very strong sense. Why?
Duration is the passage, the lived transition
You see, it means: it is something other than a comparison of mind, here we are no longer in the domain of a comparison of mind. It is not a comparison of the mind in two states, it is a passage or transition enveloped by the affection, by every affection. Every instantaneous affection envelops a passage or transition. Transition, to what? Passage, to what? Once again, not at all a comparison of the mind, I must add in order to go more slowly: a lived passage, a lived transition, which obviously doesn’t mean conscious. Every state implicates a lived passage or transition. Passage from what to what, between what and what? More precisely, so close are the two moments of time, the two instants that I consider instant A and instant A‚, that there is a passage from the preceding (antérieur) state to the current (actuel) state. The passage from the preceding state to the current state differs in nature with the preceding state and with the current state. There is a specificity of the transition, and it is precisely this that we call duration and that Spinoza calls duration. Duration is the lived passage, the lived transition. What is duration? Never anything but the passage from one thing to another, it suffices to add, insofar as it is lived.
When, centuries later, Bergson will make duration into a philosophical concept, it will obviously be with wholly different influences. It will be according to itself above all, it will not be under the influence of Spinoza. Nevertheless, I am just pointing out that the Bergsonian use of duration coincides strictly. When Bergson tries to make us understand what he calls duration‚, he says: you can consider psychic states as close together as you want in time, you can consider the state A and the state A‚ as separated by a minute, but just as well by a second, by a thousandth of a second, that is you can make more and more cuts, increasingly tight, increasingly close to one another. You may well go to the infinite, says Bergson, in your decomposition of time, by establishing cuts with increasing rapidity, but you will only ever reach states. And he adds that the states are always of space. The cuts are always spatial. And you will have brought your cuts together very well, you will let something necessarily escape, it is the passage from one cut to another, however small it may be. Now, what does he call duration, at its simplest? It is the passage from one cut to another, it is the passage from one state to another. The passage from one state to another is not a state, you will tell me that all of this is not strong, but it is a really profound statute of living. For how can we speak of the passage, the passage from one state to another, without making it a state? This is going to pose problems of expression, of style, of movement, it is going to pose all sorts of problems. Yet duration is that, it is the lived passage from one state to another insofar as it is irreducible to one state as to the other, insofar as it is irreducible to any state. This is what happens between two cuts.
In one sense duration is always behind our backs, it is at our backs that it happens. It is between two blinks of the eye. If you want an approximation of duration: I look at someone, I look at someone, duration is neither here nor there. Duration is: what has happened between the two? Even if I would have gone as quickly as I would like, duration goes even more quickly, by definition, as if it was affected by a variable coefficient of speed: as quickly as I go, my duration goes more quickly. However quickly I pass from one state to another, the passage is irreducible to the two states. It is this that every affection envelops. I would say: every affection envelops the passage by which we arrive at it. Or equally well: every affection envelops the passage by which we arrive at it, and by which we leave it, towards another affection, however close the two affections considered are. So in order to make my line complete it would be necessary for me to make a line of three times: A, A,' A"; A is the instantaneous affection, of the present moment, A' is that of a little while ago, A" is what is going to come. Even though I have brought them together as close as possible, there is always something which separates them, namely the phenomenon of passage. This phenomenon of passage, insofar as it is a lived phenomenon, is duration: this is the third member of the essence.
I therefore have a slightly stricter definition of the affect, the affect: what every affection envelops, and which nevertheless is of another nature is the passage, it is the lived passage from the preceding state to the current state, or of the current state to the following state. Good. If you understand all that, for the moment we‚re doing a kind of decomposition of the three dimensions of the essence, of the three members of the essence. The essence belongs to itself under the form of the eternity, the affection belongs to the essence under the form of instantaneity, the affect belongs to the essence under the form of duration.
Affect, increase and decrease of power
Now the passage is what? What could a passage be? It is necessary to leave the too spatial idea. Every passage Spinoza tells us, and this is going to be the basis of his theory of affectus, of his theory of the affect, every passage is ˜ here he doesn't say implicates‚, understand that the words are very very important ˜ he will tell us of the affection that it implicates an affect, every affection implicates, envelops, but the enveloped and the enveloping just don't have the same nature. Every affection, that is every determinable state at a single moment, envelops an affect, a passage. But the passage, I don't ask what it envelops, it is enveloped; I ask of what does it consist, what is it? And my response from Spinoza, is it obvious what it is? It is increase and decrease of my power (puissance). It is increase or decrease of my power, even infinitesimally. I take two cases: I am in a dark room ˜ I‚m developing all of this, it is perhaps useless, I don't know, but it is to persuade you that when you read a philosophical text it is necessary that you have the most ordinary situations in your head, the most everyday ones. You are in a dark room, you are as perfect, Spinoza will say: Let’s judge from the point of view of affections, you are as perfect as you can be according to the affections that you have. You don't have any, you don't have visual affections, that’s all. There, that’s all. But you are as perfect as you can be. All of a sudden someone enters and turns on the lights without warning: I am completely dazzled. Notice that I took the worse example for me. Then, no. I‚ll change it, I was wrong. I am in the dark, and someone arrives softly, all that, and turns on a light, this is going to be very complicated this example. You have your two states which could be very close together in time. The state that I call: dark state, and small b, the lighted state. They are very close together. I am saying: there is a passage from one to the other, so fast that it may even be unconscious, all that, to the point that your whole body, in Spinozist terms these are examples of bodies, your whole body has a kind of mobilization of itself, in order to adapt to this new state. The affect is what? It is the passage. The affection is the dark state and the lighted state. Two successive affections, in cuts. The passage is the lived transition from one to the other. Notice that in this case here there is no physical transition, there is a biological transition, it is your body which makes the transition.
Every affection is instantaneous
What does this mean? The passage is necessarily an increase of power or a decrease of power. It is necessary to already understand and it is for this reason that all this is so concrete, it is not determined in advance. Suppose that in the dark you were in deep state of meditation. Your whole body was focused on this extreme meditation. You held something. The other brute arrives and turns on the light, if need be you lose an idea that you were going to have. You turn around, you are furious. We hold onto this because we will use the same example again. You hate him, even if not for long, but you hate him, you say to him: „Hey! Listen. In this case the passage to the lighted state will have brought you what? A decrease of power. Evidently if you had looked for your glasses in the dark, there they would have brought you an increase of power. The guy who turned the light on, you say to him: „Thank you very much, I love you. Good.
We’ve already said that, maybe this story of increase and decrease of power is going to play in quite variable directions and contexts. But, on the whole, there are directions. If we stick to you, one could say in general, without taking the context into account, if one increases the affections of which you are capable, there is an increase of power, if one decreases the affections of which you are capable there is a decrease of power. We can say this on the whole even knowing that it is not always like this. What do I mean? I mean something very simple: it is that every affection is instantaneous ˜ Spinoza, you see how he is very very curious, in virtue of his rigor he will say: every affection is instantaneous, and it is this that he responded to Blyenbergh, he didn't want to say more on it. One could not say that he distorted his thought, he only gave one sphere of it, he only gave a tip of it. Every affection is instantaneous, he will always say this, and he will always say: I am as perfect as I can be according to what I have in the instant. It is the sphere of belonging of the instantaneous essence. In this sense, there is neither good nor bad. But in return, the instantaneous state always envelopes an increase or a decrease of power, and in this sense there is good and bad. So much so that, not from the point of view of its state, but from the point of view of its passage, from the point of view of its duration, there is something bad in becoming blind, there is something good in becoming seeing, since it is either decrease of power or else increase of power. And here it is no longer the domain of a comparison of the mind between two states, it is the domain of the lived passage from one state to another, the lived passage in the affect. So much so that it seems to me that we can understand nothing of the Ethics, that is of the theory of the affects, if we don't keep very much in mind the opposition that Spinoza established between the comparisons between two states of the mind, and the lived passages from one state to another, lived passages that can only be lived in the affects. The affects are joy or sadness There remains for us quite a few things to understand. I would not say that the affects signal the decreases or increases of power, I would say that the affects are the decreases and the increases of lived power. Not necessarily conscious once again. It is I believe a very very profound conception of the affect. So Let’s give them names in order to better mark them. The affects which are increases of power we will call joys, the affects which are decreases of power we will call sadnesses. And the affects are either based on joy, or else based on sadness. Hence Spinoza‚s very rigorous definitions: sadness is the affect that corresponds to a decrease of power, of my power, joy is the affect which corresponds to an increase of my power. Sadness is a affect enveloped by an affection. The affection is what? It is an image of a thing which causes me sadness, which gives me sadness. You see, there we find everything, this terminology is very rigorous. I repeat. I don't know anymore what I‚ve said. The affect of sadness is enveloped by an affection, the affection is what, it is the image of a thing which gives me sadness, this image can be very imprecise, very confused, it matters little. There is my question: why does the image of a thing which gives me sadness, why does this image of a thing envelop a decrease of power (puissance) of acting? What is this thing which gives me sadness? We have at least all of the elements to respond to it, now everything is regrouped, if you have followed me everything must regroup harmoniously, very harmoniously. The thing which gives me sadness is the thing whose relations don't agree with mine. That is affection. All things whose relations tend to decompose one of my relations or the totality of my relations affect me with sadness. In terms of affectio you have there a strict correspondence, in terms of affectio, I would say: the thing has relations which are not composed with mine, and which tend to decompose mine. Here I am speaking in terms of affectio. In terms of affects I would say: this thing affects me with sadness, therefore by the same token], in the same way, decreases my power. You see I have the double language of instantaneous affections and of affects of passage. Hence I return as always to my question: why, but why, if one understood why, maybe one would understand everything. What happens? You see that he takes sadness in one sense, they are the two big affective tonalities, not two particular cases. Sadness and joy are the two big affective tonalities, that is affective in the sense of affectus, the affect. We are going to see as two lineages: the lineage based on sadness and the lineage based on joy, that are going to cover the theory of the affects. Why the thing whose relations don't agree with mine, why does it affect me with sadness, that is decrease my power of acting? You see we have a double impression: both that We’ve understood in advance, and then that we‚re missing something in order to understand. What happens, when something is presented having relations which don't compose with mine, it could be a current of air.
I am going back, I am in the dark, in my room, I am alone, I am left in peace. Someone enters and he makes me flinch, he knocks on the door, he knocks on the door and he makes me flinch. I lose an idea. He enters and he starts to speak; I have fewer and fewer ideas ouch, ouch, I am affected with sadness. Yes, I feel sadness, I‚ve been disturbed, damn! Spinoza will say, the lineage of sadness is what? Then on top of it all I hate it! I say to him: „eh, listen, it‚s okay. It could be not very serious, it could be a small hate, he irritates me damn it: hoooo! I cannot have peace, all that, I hate it!
What does it mean, hate? You see, sadness, he said to us: your power of acting is decreased, then you experience sadness insofar as it is decreased, your power of acting, okay. I hate it‚, that means that the thing whose relations don't compose with yours, you strive, this would only be what you have in mind, you strive for its destruction. To hate is to want to destroy what threatens to destroy you. This is what hate means. That is, to want‚ to decompose what threatens to decompose you. So the sadness engenders hate. Notice that it engenders joys too.
Hate engenders joys. So the two lineages, on one hand sadness, on the other hand joy, are not going to be pure lineages. What are the joys of hate? There are joys of hate.
As Spinoza says: if you imagine the being that you hate to be unhappy, your heart experiences a strange joy. One can even engender passions. And Spinoza does this marvelously. There are joys of hate. Are these joys? We can at least say, and this is going to advance us a lot for later, that these joys are strangely compensatory, that is indirect. What is first in hate, when you have feelings of hate, always look for the sadness at base, that is your power of acting was impeded, was decreased. And even if you have, if you have a diabolical heart, even if you have to believe that this heart flourishes in the joys of hate, these joys of hate, as immense as they are, will never get rid of the nasty little sadness of which you are a part; your joys are joys of compensation. The man of hate, the man of resentment, etc., for Spinoza, is the one all of whose joys are poisoned by the initial sadness, because sadness is in these same joys. In the end he can only derive joy from sadness. Sadness that he experiences himself by virtue of the existence of the other, sadness that he imagines inflicting on the other to please himself, all of this is for measly joys, says Spinoza. These are indirect joys. We rediscover our criteria of direct and indirect, all comes together at this level.
So much so that I return to my question: then yes, it is necessary to say it all the same: in what way does an affection, that is the image of something that doesn't agree with my own relations, in what way does this decrease my power of acting? It is both obvious and not. Here is what Spinoza means: suppose that you have a power (puissance), Let’s set it up roughly the same, and there, first case you come up against something whose relations don't compose with yours. Second case, on the contrary you encounter something whose relations compose with your own. Spinoza, in the Ethics, uses the Latin term: occursus, occursus is exactly this case, the encounter. I encounter bodies, my body never stops encountering bodies. The bodies that he encounters sometimes have relations which compose, sometimes have relations which don't compose with his. What happens when I encounter a body whose relation doesn't compose with mine? Well there: I would say ˜ and you will see that in book IV of the Ethics this doctrine is very strong. I cannot say that it is absolutely affirmed, but it is very much suggested ˜ a phenomenon happens which is like a kind of fixation. What does this mean, a fixation? That is, a part of my power is entirely devoted to investing and to isolating the trace, on me, of the object which doesn't agree with me. It is as if I tense my muscles, take once again the example: someone that I don't wish to see enters into the room, I say to myself Uh oh‚, and in me is made something like a kind of investment: a whole part of my power is there in order to ward off the effect on me of the object, of the disagreeable object. I invest the trace of the thing on me. I invest the effect of the thing on me. I invest the trace of the thing on me, I invest the effect of the thing on me. In other words, I try as much as possible to circumscribe the effect, to isolate it, in other words I devote a part of my power to investing the trace of the thing. Why? Evidently in order to subtract it, to put it at a distance, to avert it. Understand that this goes without saying: this quantity of power that I‚ve devoted to investing the trace of the disagreeable thing, this is the amount of my power that is decreased, which is removed from me, which is as it were immobilized.
This is what is meant by: my power decreases. It is not that I have less power, it is that a part of my power is subtracted in this sense that it is necessarily allocated to averting the action of the thing. Everything happens as if a whole part of my power is no longer at my disposal. This is the tonality affective sadness‚: a part of my power serves this unworthy need which consists in warding off the thing, warding off the action of the thing. So much immobilized power. To ward off the thing is to prevent it from destroying my relations, therefore I‚ve toughened my relations; this can be a formidable effort, Spinoza said: „like lost time, like it would have been more valuable to avoid this situation. In this way, a part of my power is fixed, this is what is meant by: a part of my power decreases. Indeed a part of my power is subtracted from me, it is no longer in my possession. It is invested, it is like a kind of hardening, a hardening of power (puissance), to the point that it is almost bad, damn, because of lost time!
On the contrary in joy, it is very curious. The experience of joy as Spinoza presents it, for example I encounter something which agrees, which agrees with my relations. For example music. There are wounding sounds. There are wounding sounds which inspire in me an enormous sadness. What complicates all this is that there are always people who find these wounding sounds, on the contrary, delicious and harmonious. But this is what makes the joy of life, that is the relations of love and hate. Because my hate against the wounding] sound is going to be extended to all those who like this wounding sound. So I go home, I hear these wounding sounds which appear to me as challenges, which really decompose all of my relations, they enter into my head, they enter into my stomach, all that. A whole part of my power is hardened in order to hold at a distance these sounds which penetrate me. I obtain silence and I put on the music that I like; everything changes. The music that I like, what does that mean? It means the resonant relations which are composed with my relations. And suppose that at that very moment my machine breaks. My machine breaks: I experience hate! (Richard: Oh no!) An Objection? (Laughter of Gilles Deleuze) Finally I experience a sadness, a big sadness. Good, I put on music that I like, there, my whole body, and my soul ˜ it goes without saying ˜ composes its relations with the resonant relations. This is what is meant by the music that I like: my power is increased. So for Spinoza, what interests me therein is that, in the experience of joy, there is never the same thing as in sadness, there is not at all an investment ˜ and we‚ll see why ˜ there is not at all an investment of one hardened part which would mean that a certain quantity of power (puissance) is subtracted from my power (pouvoir). There is not, why? Because when the relations are composed, the two things of which the relations are composed, form a superior individual, a third individual which encompasses and takes them as parts. In other words, with regard to the music that I like, everything happens as if the direct composition of relations (you see that we are always in the criteria of the direct) a direct composition of relations is made, in such a way that a third individual is constituted, individual of which me, or the music, are no more than a part. I would say, from now on, that my power (puissance) is in expansion, or that it increases.
If I take these examples, it is in order to persuade you all the same that, when, and this also goes for Nietzsche, that when authors speak of power (puissance), Spinoza of the increase and decrease of power (puissance), Nietzsche of the Will of Power (Volonté de Puissance), which it too, proceeds What Nietzsche calls affect‚ is exactly the same thing as what Spinoza calls affect, it is on this point that Nietzsche is Spinozist, that is, it is the decreases or increases of power (puissance). They have in fact something which doesn't have anything to do with whatever conquest of a power (pouvoir). Without doubt they will say that the only power (pouvoir) is finally power (puissance), that is: to increase one‚s power (puissance) is precisely to compose relations such that the thing and I, which compose the relations, are no more than two sub-individualities of a new individual, a formidable new individual.
by Steven Craig Hickman
Edmund Berger in his essay Underground Streams speaking of various tactics used by the Situationists, Autonomia, and the Carnivalesque:
“Like the Situationists the Autonomia would engage with the tradition of the Carnivalesque alongside a Marxist political analysis. Bakhtin had described the carnival as “political drama without footlights,” where the dividing line between “symbol and reality” was extremely vague, and the Autonomia had embodied this approach through their media-oriented tactics of detournement. But under a regime of emergency laws a great portion of the Autonomia was sent to prison or into exile, leaving its legacy through an extensive network of radical punk and anarchist squats and social centers.”
One of the things we notice is that the Autonomia movement actually struck a nerve at the heart of Power and forced their hand, which obligingly reacted and used their power-over and dominion of the Security System to screen out, lock up, and exclude this threat. That’s the actual problem that will have to be faced by any emancipatory movement in the present and future: How to create a movement that can be subversive of the system, and yet chameleon like not rouse the reactionary forces to the point of invoking annihilation or exclusionary measures?
A movement toward bottom-up world building, hyperstition, and exit from this Statist system will have to do it on the sly utilizing a mirror world strategy that can counter the State and Public Security and Surveillance strategies. Such Counter-Worlds of Exit and Hyperstitional instigation will need to work the shadow climes of the energetic unconscious, triggering a global movement from the shadows rather than in direct opposition.
In many ways as I think we need a politics of distortion, allure, and sincerity, one that invents a hyperstitional hyperobject among the various multidimensional levels of our socio-cultural systems, calling forth the energetic forces at the heart of human desire and intellect, bypassing the State and Corporate filters and Security Systems of power and control. Such a path will entail knowing more about the deep State’s secret Security apparatus and Surveillance methodologies, technologies, and tactics than most thinkers are willing to acknowledge or even apprehend. Like the Hacker movements of the 90’s up to Anonymous one will need to build shadow worlds that mimic the stealth weapons of the State and Corporate Global apparatus and assemblages; but with one caveat – these weapons are non-violent “weapons of the mind”, and go unseen and unrecognized by the State Security Systems at Local and Global levels.
A global system of mass, warrantless, government surveillance now imperils privacy and other civil liberties essential to sustaining the free world. This project to unilaterally, totally control information flow is a product of complex, ongoing interplay between technological, political, legal, corporate, economic, and social factors, including research and development of advanced, digital technologies; an unremitting “war on terror”; relaxed surveillance laws; government alliances with information technology companies; mass media manipulation; and corporate globalism. One might say it as the Googling of the World.
The United Stats internally hosts 17 intelligence agencies under the umbrella known as the Security Industrial Complex. They are also known for redundancy, complexities, mismanagement and waste. This “secret state” occupies 10,000 facilities across the U.S. Over the past five years the total funding budget exceeded half a trillion dollars. The notion of globalization which has its roots in the so called universalist discourses of the Enlightenment had as its goal one thing: to impose a transparent and manageable design over unruly and uncontrollable chaos: to bring the world of humans, hitherto vexingly opaque, bafflingly unpredictable and infuriatingly disobedient and oblivious to human wishes and objectives, into order: a complete, incontestable and unchallenged order. Order under the indomitable rule of Reason.1
This Empire of Reason spreads its tentacles across the known world through networks and statecraft, markets and tradecraft, war and secrecy, drugs and pharmakon. The rise of the shadow state during Truman’s era began a process that had already been a part of the Corporate worldview for decades. The monopoly and regulation of a mass consumption society was and always will be the goal of capitalist market economies. In our time the slow and methodical spread of the American surveillance state and apparatus has shaped the globalist agenda. Because of it the reactionary forces of other state based control systems such as Russia and China are exerting their own power and surveillance systems as counters to Euro-American hegemony.
Surveillance is a growing feature of daily news, reflecting its rapid rise to prominence in many life spheres. But in fact surveillance has been expanding quietly for many decades and is a basic feature of the modern world. As that world has transformed itself through successive generations, so surveillance takes on an ever changing character. Today, modern societies seem so fluid that it makes sense to think of them being in what Bauman terms a ‘liquid’ phase. Always on the move, but often lacking certainty and lasting bonds, today’s citizens, workers, consumers and travelers also find that their movements are monitored, tracked and traced. Surveillance slips into a liquid state.
As Bauman relates it liquid surveillance helps us grasp what is happening in the world of monitoring, tracking, tracing, sorting, checking and systematic watching that we call surveillance. Such a state of affairs engages with both historical debates over the panopticon design for surveillance as well as contemporary developments in a globalized gaze that seems to leave nowhere to hide, and simultaneously is welcomed as such. But it also stretches outwards to touch large questions sometimes unreached by debates over surveillance. It is a conversation in which each participant contributes more or less equally to the whole. (Bauman)
Our network society has installed its own “superpanopticon” (Mark Poster). Such a system is ubiquitous and invisible to the mass of users. As Poster states it “The unwanted surveillance of one’s personal choice becomes a discursive reality through the willing participation of the surveilled individual. In this instance the play of power and discourse is uniquely configured. The one being surveilled provides the information necessary.” For Poster, this supply of self-surveillance is provided through consumer transactions stored and immediately retrievable via databases in their constitution of the subject as a “sum of the information in the fields of the record that applies to that name.” The database compiles the subject as a composite of his or her online choices and activities as tracked by IFS. This compilation is fixed on media objects (images, text, MP3s, Web pages, IPs, URLs) across the deluge of code that can be intercepted through keyword pattern recognition and private lists of “threatening” URLs.2
Our so called neoliberal society has erased the Public Sphere for the atomized world of total competition in a self-regulated market economy devoid of politics except as stage-craft. As authors in the Italian autonomist movements have argued for the past fifty and more years, this “total subsumption” of capital upon the life-sphere has been accomplished through “material” and “immaterial” means. According to these authors, capital in late capitalism and neoliberalism has attempted to progressively colonize the entire life-sphere. Resistance, they argue, comes through the “reserves” to capital that remain as the social and intellectual foundation from which capital draws, including through “immaterial labor” using digital means. Gradually during modernity, such theorists have argued, life itself has been taken as a target for capitalist subsumption, through the cooptation of communication, sexual and familial relationships (Fortunati 1995), education, and every other sphere of human activity, with economic exchange and survival as the ultimate justification for all relationships.3
Capital’s “apparatus of capture” has become increasingly efficient and broad in its appropriation of selves as subjects of its political economy through the combination of appropriating governmental functions such as: buying off political actors and agencies, cutting public funding to modernist institutions and infrastructures, redefining the agenda of education and other cultural institutions toward capitalist values, owning and narrowing the focus of the media, forcing family structures and individuals to adapt to scarcity economies, and using government police and surveillance forces and economic pressures to crush resistance. In short, it is said that neoliberalism has advanced by the totalitarian institutionalization of national and international capitalism, one nation after another, using domestic means to force compliance in domestic markets and using international pressures (economic, military, cultural) to do the same to other countries, cultures, and peoples. (Day, pp. 126-127)
The increased accuracy (or believed accuracy) of increased surveillance and feedback targeting through the collection of social big data and its analyses and social and political uses (ranging from drone predators to state surveillance in both democratic and communist/ authoritarian governments to consumer targeting— for example, the targeting done by Target Corporation, as described in a 2012 New York Times article [Duhigg 2012])— belong to a conjoined mechanism of cybernetic and neoliberal governmentality, which crosses governmental and corporate databases and organizations. Social big data seeks to demarcate trends, which then directly or indirectly act as norms, which further consolidate individual and group action within market-determined norms (Rouvroy 2013). People are forced into competition, into a “freedom” that is monitored and checked within systems of feedback control. As Norbert Weiner suggested in the Cold War period (Wiener 1954, 1961), communicative control can be used toward a discourse of “rationality”; a rationality that is seen as proper to a given political economy. The documentary indexing of the subject provides the codes for the subject’s social positioning and expressions by others and by itself. Thanks to networked, mobile devices, the subject can attempt to continuously propose him- or herself to the world as the subject of documentary representation. (Day, pp. 132-133)
Those of us in the West who use mobile devices are becoming hooked into an elaborate datasociety in which every aspect of our lives is conditioned to enforce a self-regulatory system of choices and taboos. The surveillance is done at the level of individuals, who are monitored and whose actions are predicted throughout key moments of their consumption or production, marking changes in trends and phase states, and recalculating the trajectory of entities according to these new parameters and relationships. Our algorithmic society is splicing us all into a grid of total control systems from which it will become increasingly difficult to extricate ourselves.
As Douglas Rushkoff said recently digital technology is programmed. This makes it biased toward those with the capacity to write the code. In a digital age, we must learn how to make the software, or risk becoming the software. It is not too difficult or too late to learn the code behind the things we use—or at least to understand that there is code behind their interfaces. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of those who do the programming, the people paying them, or even the technology itself.4 More and more our mass society is being programmed through an immaterial grid of datafied compliance and surveillance that captures our desires and regulates our choices. In some ways we’ve become the mindless generation, unable to stand back from the immersive worlds of our technosphere in which we live and breath. We’ve become enamored with our Mediatainment Industrial Complex that encompasses us to the point that those being born now will not know there ever was a word without gadgets. In fact we’ve all become gadgets in a market world of science fiction, our desires captured by the very gadgets we once thought would free us from the drudgery of time. Instead we’ve been locked within a world without time, a timeless realm in which the very truth of history has been sucked out of it and instead we live in a mythic time of no time, prisoners of a cartoon world of endless entertainment and false desires. In such a world the virtual has become actual, we wander through life caught in the mesh of a fake world of commodity cartoons, citizens of a dreamland turned nightmare. Shall we ever wake up?
Modern radical thought has always seen subjectivation as an energetic process: mobilization, social desire and political activism, expression, participation have been the modes of conscious collective subjectivation in the age of the revolutions. But in our age, energy is running out and desire, which has given modern social dynamics their soul, is absorbed in the black hole of virtualization and financial games, as Jean Baudrillard argues in his 1976 book, Symbolic Exchange and Death. In this book, Baudrillard analyzes the hyperrealistic stage of capitalism, and the instauration of the logic of simulation.
The end of the spectacle brings with it the collapse of reality into hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another reproductive medium such as advertising or photography. Through reproduction from one medium into another the real becomes volatile, it becomes the allegory of death, but it also draws strength from its own destruction, becoming the real for its own sake, a fetishism of the lost object which is no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denegation and its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal. […]
The reality principle corresponds to a certain stage of the law of value. Today the whole system is swamped by indeterminacy, and every reality is absorbed by the hyperreality of the code and simulation. The principle of simulation governs us now, rather that the outdated reality principle. We feed on those forms whose finalities have disappeared. No more ideology, only simulacra. We must therefore reconstruct the entire genealogy of the law of value and its simulacra in order to grasp the hegemony and the enchantment of the current system. A structural revolution of value. This genealogy must cover political economy, where it will appear as a second-order simulacrum, just like all those that stake everything on the real: the real of production, the real of signification, whether conscious or unconscious.
Capital no longer belongs to the order of political economy: it operates with political economy as its simulated model. The entire apparatus of the commodity law of value is absorbed and recycled in the larger apparatus of the structural law of value, this becoming part of the third order of simulacra. Political economy is thus assured a second life, an eternity, within the confines of an apparatus in which it has lost all its strict determinacy, but maintains an effective presence as a system of reference for simulation. (Baudrillard 1993a: 71-72, 2).5
We’ve all become simulations now. It’s not our bodies that matter in this digital universe of data, but rather the dividual traces we leave across the virtualized world that can be manipulated to produce profit. In the sphere of semiocapitalism, financial signs are not only signifiers pointing to particular referents. The distinction between sign and referent is over. The sign is the thing, the product, the process. The “real” economy and financial expectations are no longer distinct spheres. In the past, when riches were created in the sphere of industrial production, when finance was only a tool for the mobilization of capital investment in the field of material production, recovery could not be limited to the financial sphere. It also took employment and demand. Industrial capitalism could not grow if society did not grow. Nowadays, we must accept the idea that financial capitalism can recover and thrive without social recovery. Social life has become residual, redundant, irrelevant. (Bifo)
Those of us of an older generation still remember what existed the other side of the virtual screen, but the mass of young being born now will not have that luxury and their minds will be completely immersed in this new virtual actuality with no sense of the Outside.
While those on the Left still ponder outmoded political worlds the world of capital has abandoned both the political and the social. It’s time to wake up … I wanted to say, “before it’s too late”. My problem, my despair is that it is already too late. And, yet, I continue throwing out my little posts in hopes that someone is listening, that someone will awaken from their dogmatic slumber and act… is that you?
At the end of his essay, Edmund Berger tells us:
“Capitalism, as a game of desire coupled with perpetually shifting technological terrains, embodies the becoming-real of nonexistent forms; it captures the powers of imagination to power cycles of consumption and production. What delirium or intoxication can the myth of revolution offer us that capital is not already willing to provide, at least to those in the so-called developed world? This is a profound danger in these water…s, where the libidinal explosion of being-against becomes an end in itself, and dissent becomes the simple buying of temporary carnivals. The stakes are high, on social, economic, ecological, and subjective scales; if hyperstition is to be used, it must be pragmatic, designed with a horizon in mind and an expression of something beyond simple games. Instead of cataloging, let us read these things as a search for tools and weapons.”
My problem with such a reading is its return to a normative agenda, a telos (horizon), it’s pragmatist stance, and its inability to see games not as pure fantasy, but as the imaginative need needed to spur on inventive and creative capacities rather than in some self-proclaimed and planned endeavor which seems to be what is implied by Edmund. It cannot be about desire, since capitalism is already tyrannized that domain of human behavior. No. It must be about that which desire is only the energetic outgrowth and manifestation, it must be about the unconscious agency within which desire is both homunculus and appendage-prosthesis. We’ve concentrated our political thoughts on desire for so long since Spinoza to Deleuze that we’ve locked ourselves into a systematic system of failure, since at every turn Capital is predictive of its capture systems of desire, and its ability to direct desire, modulate it, and modify it to serve its ends. Instead we must ask: What is it in the unconscious that produces desire? Two problems arise: 1) the Lacanian unconscious as “lack” structured like a language; or, the Deleuzean unconscious as “production” producing desire. Following Lacan desire is for the object that will fill our lack, while for Deleuze desire is the engine of creativity which allows us to produce the new and possible. Most of consumer capitalism with its advertising, media domination, and tantalization of the capture of desire has relied on the Freud/Lacan paradigm of lack, seeking to offer the consumer-individual the object of its deepest desires in thing-commodities or good old Marxian commodity-fetishism. While Deleuzeguattari seek to overthrow this oppressive system of lack/desire/object for a productive unconscious that is at once emancipatory and creative, in which desire seeks not some commodity to fill its needs, but rather produces out of its own imaginative and energetic unconscious the Real of its actual not virtual needs. So, again, Lacan or Deleuze?
Addendum: From Edmund Berger…
Just wanted to pop in and comment that the essay of mine above is quite old (3+ years!) and as such contains views that I’m pretty firmly opposed to at this point. I completely agree with you on the problem of suggesting a “return to a normative agenda” and pragmatist approaches rooted in myths of human mastery and control. Much of what I’m doing at the moment (under the u/acc moniker) emphatically rejects those positions (as I talked about in my “Unconditional Accelerationism and the Question of Praxis” piece).
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 5)
by Obsolete Capitalism
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 4)
The modes of expression of impulsive forces
There are only few pages, but they are dense and enigmatic perhaps more than any book ever published: Living Currency is the text through which Klossowski gives his farewell to writing – from then on (1970) he would be involved in different projects, such as translations, art exhibitions: paintings and movies – and at the same time it constitutes a powerful introduction to the Anti-OEdipus, an anoedipic incipit from a different author. Living Currency creates a philosophical space to decrypt, building an underground passage that connects all different publications and stations of thought constituting the French revolutionary Rhizosphere: Nietzsche’s Notebook (1887- 1888) by Nietzsche, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969), The Anti-OEdipus (1972), Nomad Thought (1972), Circulus Vitiosus (1972), Nietzsche, Genealogy, History (1971), Lectures on the Will to Knowledge (1970- 1971), Libidinal Economy (1974). The Klossowskian volume breaks, breaches, overflows and distributes with few incisive sentences large gashes of thought and possible research avenues that Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault and Lyotard will then walk wildly, rapidly and productively, as “young wolves of future revolutions”. The context within which the paradox of Living Currency is articulated is one where industrial civilisation – Klossowskian term which seems more accurate than the general “capitalism” – has diffused its negative effects by infecting the whole society through institutes of uprightness and conformity, which connotes the attribution to the means of production of a powerful contamination – and, thus, affective engraving – capacity on the individuals and the community. That is the same homogeneous, levelled, economized and nihilistic society that Nietzsche described in the fragment The Strong of the Future. The Nietzsche-Klossowski axis, then, assigns to the levelled industrial civilisation a dangerous production capacity that is both affective and infective. Foucault, on the same wavelength, would explain the «positivity» of power with a similar argumentative leverage: “What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.” (PK, 119) Deleuze and Guattari hold a similar position and raise the level of analysis bypassing ideological and psychoanalytical nuances: “[E]verything is objective or subjective, as one wishes. That is not the distinction: the distinction to be made passes into the economic infrastructure itself and into its investments. Libidinal economy is no less objective than political economy, and the political no less subjective than the libidinal, even though the two correspond to two modes of different investments of the same reality as social reality” (AE, 345). If Marx believes that the structure is the economic skeleton of society and the superstructure is everything that derives from it, Klossowski reverses the framework and sets as the «ultimate infrastructure» the “behavior of emotions and instincts.” (LC, 3) Consequently, it follows that “economic standards form in turn a substructure of affect, not the ultimate infrastructure” and that, more in depth, “economic norms are, like the arts or the moral or religious institutions, or like all the forms of knowledge, one mode of the expression and representation of instinctive forces.” (LC, 3) As Foucault had already realized in his letter to Klossowski, the triangle “desire, value, simulacrum” that dominates us and has been characterising us for millennia, already existed ever since the invention of money in Asia Minor in the VIII century B.C.; hence, the triangle must be treated as something forged in the depths of times, because the historical period of time in which reality gets «monetarized» is certainly the product of a slow centuries-long process of transformation, before reaching its own metal round form that has been bequeathed until today. In Phrygia, where Greek mythology locates the fundamental passage from pre-money to actual money, the coining of the nomisma bore the effigy of the goddess Money (Dea Moneta), the wife of King Midas, Demodice or Hermodice; according to Heraclides Lembus, on the money of Cumae coined by queen Hermodice the Genius of Money (Genio della moneta) holds the scale and the cornucopia in his hands. Greek mythology suggests us that, ever since its invention, the concept of money figures in popular wisdom as a concatenation of sovereignty, sacredness, fertility and equity; and already in ancient times there were people who used to rise against the improper use of the circulation of the “metal disks”: Julius Pollux, at the apex of Hellenism in the Roman Empire, critiqued the obolastates, i.e. those who used to lend and weight the oboli, and the obolastatein, the practice of lending oboli. The perverse intersection of simulacrum, value and desire, presented by Foucault as the explanatory structure of universal economy, is then absolutely coherent with the rhizospheric analysis of money. Klossowski of Living Currency suggests that monetary economics and theology are nothing but reciprocal disguises: money, from the beginning of Western civilisation, has been regarded as the universal representative instrument of a generalized economy which already has an innate abstract potential for sacredness and sovereignty, and, in turn, for desire-will to power at its highest level. According to Klossowski, money is the universal simulacrum; in industrial societies the domain of money, after centuries of adjustments, has completely substituted the real world and misrepresents its subjugated phantasm. Klossowski had already matured the concept of a universal economy through the scrutinizer of Chaos (Nietzsche) of the passages on energy in relation to world structure: “At a given moment of the accumulated force of the emotions, there is also the absolute condition of a new distribution, and hence a disruption of equilibrium. Nietzsche conceives of a universal economy whose effects he experiences in his own moods.” (NVC, 110) The line that links Nietzsche and the vicious circle (1969) and Living Currency (1970) is, thus, the analysis of impulsive simulacra that act upon a generalized universal economy. We have already entered the Anti-OEdipus, the Nietzsche of the 80’s of XIX century, and the Foucault of the 70’s of XX century. This represents the core of revolutionary Nietzscheism which influenced the street struggle of 1968 and further on, pure energy and dynamite ready for future struggles: Klossowski develops with great clarity the theoretical nucleus of impulse, body, simulacrum, value, production, consumption, arguing that “”The way they [instinctive forces] express themselves, both in the economy and finally in our industrial world, is subject to the way they have been handled by the economy of the reigning institutions.” That this preliminary and ultimate infrastructure is more and more determined by its own reactions to the previously existing substructures is unquestionably true, but the forces at play continue the struggle among infrastructures into the substructures. So, though these forces initially express themselves in a specific manner according to economic standards, they themselves create their own repression, as well as the means of smashing that repression, which they experience to different degrees: “and this goes on as long as does the battle among the instincts, which is waged within a given organism for and against the formation of the organism as their agent, for and against psychic and bodily unity. Indeed, that is where the first ‘production’ and ‘consumption’ schemes come into being, the first signs of compensation and haggling.” (LC, 4) Thus is the key passage for the whole Rhizomatic universe: Klossowski shows in this theoretical nucleus the hidden role of the sphere of instincts. Given its concealment, or its secluded core due to a lack of visible external outlets, the sphere of instincts gets «economized» inside the industrial world. What the industrial world consumes the most is the instinct to procreate, which is a product of the voluptuousness of the instinctual body, labelling it as a good but at the same time, and in the opposite direction, the body procures emotions, concealed and excessive, abstract substance for a «phantasm» – the ghostly entity which recurs obsessively in Klossowski’s thought – upon which instincts act again as backward-action. “Nothing exists apart from impulses that are essentially generative of phantasms. The simulacrum [i.e. the Nietzschean Trugbild] is not the product of a phantasm, but its skilful reproduction, by which humanity can produce itself, through forces that are thereby exorcized and dominated by the impulse.” (NCV, 133) This is the level at which the phantasm has been already created and instincts and passions are not available anymore to consume and cede the phantasm itself – that is, the producer of desire which reproduces itself. Additionally, this is the crucial point around which the emotional value, otherwise called libidinal value, is formed – as Nietzsche points out, “in place of moral values, purely naturalistic values” (Opere fr. 9  vol. VIII, section 2, p. 6, quoted in NVC, 106). The translation of impulsive forces, the instincts, in “economic representations” of the emotional value – according to Nietzsche, the only being that we know is a being that has representations (O, fr. 11  vol. V, section 2) – will then be a simulacrum: which simulacrum could be better than the merge of money, simulacrum itself of objective value, and a living body, simulacrum which incarnates the procreative phantasm? The synthesis of such double simulacrum in the economy of industrial civilisation is the living currency, a simulacrum reinforced by emotion that it procures, hence the «living currency» is the expression of the libidinal value carved in bodies. What industrial civilisation consumes through standardization – the various simulacra of the phantasm: prostitution, sexual slavery, eroticism, assorted industries of pleasure – the body produces through economization. Consumed good vs. libidinal value. This means that the body “manifests itself” attributing value to the instincts but, in order to defend it “impulsive phantasm” that is desire, opposes the «mechanical simulacrisation» of industrial economy. The body is the battlefield of the harsh clash between opposite forces: social production against desiring production. Such clash can yield two opposing outcomes: the first – and unfortunately the prevailing in both the industrial civilisation and in the rising digital one – is the hyper-gregariousness of the individual, who is reduced to a mere instrument to support tamed passions and desires captured by social standardization whose objective is the unity reproducible in the production line; the second is where instincts and affections prevail on the repression of impulses and the “support” acquires its own sovereignty by degregarizing itself. In the stage that follows such rediscovered sovereignty - through the evident self-organisation of behaviours - singularity itself gets desubjectivised overturning its own nature of stable subject, and opening itself to the industrious metamorphosis of desires, and, thus, to perpetual transformation and to the extreme idleness of the nomads of the future.
Compliant supports and formations of sovereignty
The settlement and the coalition of instinctual forces in an endless turmoil aimed at opposing the besieging social and economic body provide us with the grid of the battle that happens inside and outside bodies. The “grim organisations” of social syntheses that surround bodies and impulsive forces are nothing but Nietzsche Herrschaftsgebilde, the formations of sovereignty which we can trace in Nietzsche’s posthumous fragments of 1887 and 1888. Inside and outside the body, the battle between impulsive forces infuriates. Sensuality, and its following stage, sexuality, impede any perspective, even an economic one, thus they must be repressed. The first wave of repression is used by formations of sovereignty to structure a «compliant whole», or, in Klossowski’s terms, an “organic and psychic unity”. Although it is formed inside the shell of the whole as “completed essence”, the compliant support is always and anyway object of the battle of impulses and instincts in the attempt to free themselves from formations of sovereignty and from the forces that constitute them. The expression outbursts of these struggles and counter-struggles, attacks and oppositions, manifest themselves “through a hierarchy of values translated into a hierarchy of needs.” (LC, 4) According to Klossowski “the hierarchy of needs is the economic form of repression that the existing institutions impose by and through the agent’s consciousness on the imponderable forces of his psychic life.” (LC, 4) Klossowski’s condemnation of traditions – and his gregarious «translations» – which dominate society is rather incisive. He faces three contemporary interpretations which fight the liberation goals of the Rhizosphere and attack the generalized economy in which the “libidinal values” participate through “the new hierarchy of impulses”, which philosophers like Deleuze want to initiate: the laissez-faire attitude that traverses the hierarchy of needs dictates a different hierarchy of values thanks to the exclusion of the sexual need from primary needs, nullifying its emotional value; Marxism, which enthrones industrial economy and commercialized values as the primary structure, relegating the sexual sphere to the super-structure; psychoanalysis, which accepts to segregate the libidinal economy to the family triangle, separating the social aspect from the object of study, and suffering the same division operated by Marxism – society will be the object of study of scientific socialism, while the subconscious and the family social atom will be of interest to psychoanalysis. In Klossowski, the authors that belong to the triad of dominance and subjection are Raymond Aron, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. The purpose of the Rhizosphere will be to liberate the individual and collective revolutionary potential by overturning and overcoming on this point Nietzsche, who, on the contrary, in The Strong of the Future wished for a discrete community of irregular and exchangeable seditious. Deleuze and Guattari in the Anti-OEdipus intervene on the topic of the opposition to the dominant economic rules through secret impulsive production, and they do so by linking their argument to this exact crucial passage of Klossowski’s Living Currency. The two Parisian philosophers point out that “[t]he two kinds of fantasy, or rather the two regimes, are therefore distinguished according to whether the social production of “goods” imposes its rule on desire through the intermediary of an ego whose fictional unity is guaranteed by the goods themselves, or whether the desiring-production of affects imposes its rule on institutions whose elements are no longer anything but drives.” (AE, 63) We will have, in the first regime, the subjugated, the gregarious-supports and exchangeability, while in the second regime, the “desiring machines”, nomads and the schizo of the future who crave for commercial inconvertibility. In the history of utopian socialism, a French philosopher, among the least current, worked on topics like community, affections, economy and social harmony: Charles Fourier. Both Klossowski – in the Living Currency – and Deleuze and Guattari – in the Anti-OEdipus – recall his work:
“If we must still speak of Utopia in this sense, à la Fourier, it is most assuredly not as an ideal model, but as revolutionary action and passion. In his recent works Klossowski indicates to us the only means of bypassing the sterile parallelism where we flounder between Freud and Marx: by discovering how social production and relations of production are an institution of desire, and how affects or drives form part of the infrastructure itself. For they are part of it, they are present in every way while creating within the economic forms their own repression, as well as the means for breaking this repression.” (AE, 63)
Impulsive forces and the will to power
If, according to Deleuze and Guattari, “true is it that the schizo practices political economy, and that all sexuality is a matter of economy” (AE, 13), then, we can commence the final summary of this essay by presenting schizophrenia in market societies. The reason is that, if, on the one hand, “[c]ivilization is defined by the decoding and the deterritorialization of flows in capitalist production”, on the other hand “[o]ur societies exhibit a marked taste for all codes – codes foreign or exotic – but this taste is destructive and morbid.” (AE, 245) The destruction of codes would represent a result common to both entities, capitalism and revolution – since the pure spirit of insurrection is in favour of the destruction of the “prominent taste for codes.” We ought to clarify the differences of regime between the two accelerationist entities, given the identity of nature, otherwise we shall fall in great misunderstandings. To this end, we summon «Nietzsche the Destroyer» of autumn 1888: “the will to power is the primitive form of affect, that all other affects are only developments of it; that it is notably enlightening to posit power in place of individual ‘happiness’ (after which every living thing is supposed to be striving): ‘there is a striving for power, for an increase of power’; - pleasure is only a symptom of the feeling of power attained, a consciousness of a difference.” (O, fr. 14, , vol. VIII, part 3, quoted in NVC 101) “There is neither ‘mind’, nor reason, nor thought, nor consciousness, nor soul, nor will, nor truth: so many useless fictions. It is not a matter of ‘subject’ or ‘object’, but of a certain animal species who thrives because of a justice, and above all regularity relative to its perceptions (so that it can capitalize on its own experience)…” (O, fr. 14, , vol. VIII, part 3, quoted in NVC 102). And finally “there is no law: every power draws its ultimate consequence at every moment. Calculability exists precisely because things are unable to be other than they are. A quantum of power is designated by the effect it produces and that which it resists.” (O, fr. 14, , vol. VIII, part 3,quoted in NVC 108) Klossowski comments the three fragments as follows: “As a primordial impulse – this is what must be emphasized – the will to power is the term that expresses force itself. If the will to power appears in the human species and the phenomenon of animality – that is to say, in the phenomenon of the ‘living being’ – as a ‘special’ case, and thus as an ‘accident’ of its essence, it will not be conserved in the species or the individual it acts upon, but by its very nature will disrupt the conservation of an attained level, since by necessity it will always exceed this level through its own increase. Thus, for everything that might want to preserve itself at a certain degree, whether a society or an individual, the will to power appears essentially as a principle of disequilibrium.” (NCV, 103) Deleuze and Guattari use in the Anti-OEdipus the term “desire” as a substitute for the Nietzschean “will to power” (CO, 95) and, thus, for “primitive form of affect”. Nietzsche himself asked “Is ‘will to power’ a kind of ‘will’ or identical with the concept ‘will’? Is it the same thing as desiring?” (O, fr. 14, , vol. VIII, part 3, quoted in NVC 102). Such conception of desire is the weapon that shakes – as an irresistible impulsive force – both the individual and society, transforming through a process of metamorphosis and instability each individual in a potential nonconformist and each society in a potential field of wild and energetic revolutionary intensity. However, we ought to distinguish the two natural poles within which the proactive, or affirmative, intensity field oscillates in order to understand the risks hidden within the de-structuring desire: for what concerns society, on one side we will have destructive and decoding capitalism, and on the other side the “desiring and headless”, destructive and liberatory revolution, as an accelerated moment of unburdening from accumulated power; instead, for what concerns the individual, on one side we will have the paranoiac and reactionary pole, and on the other side the schizophrenic and revolutionary one. However, it would be a serious mistake to generally confuse and identify the processes of destruction and liberation of capitalism and of paranoid man, with those of revolution and of the schizophrenic man. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari wrote that “While decoding doubtless means understanding and translating a code, it also means destroying the code as such, assigning it an archaic, folkloric, or residual function, which makes of psychoanalysis and ethnology two disciplines highly regarded in our modern societies. Yet it would be a serious error to consider the capitalist flows and the schizophrenic flows as identical, under the general theme of a decoding of the flows of desire. Their affinity is great, to be sure: everywhere capitalism sets in motion schizo-flows that animate “our” arts and “our” sciences, just as they congeal into the production of “our own” sick, the schizophrenics.” (AE, 245) As both Srnicek and Williams, and Pasquinelli remind us, capitalism “axiomatises with one hand what it decodes with the other.” (AE, 246; GADC, 20, point 3) If, at the border of chaos, the function of axiomatisation bears signs of recovery and control, as well as of exploitation in order to maximise profits and collect new values from “new lands”, the function of schizo-revolution bears the sign of demolition and overcoming in order to evade from containment fields where the impulsive primordial force would hover, neutralizing itself. In order to conquer new boundaries and spot “new lands” the energetics of desire does not accept capitalisation, regularisation, and equilibrium. For contemporary capital, the anti-chaotic fastening agent and the Recovery Teams are respectively money and unlimited abstract quantities, storage for accumulated money-risk, absolute liquidity and the infinite repetition of credit and debit.
Incessant movement and the breaking of balance
Here Nietzsche’s Eternal Return comes into play. According to Klossowski, the distinctive sign of the Vicious Circle – this is the term he uses to define the Nitzschean Eternal Return – is an incessant movement, “readying the individual to will its own annihilation as an individual by teaching the individual to exceed itself by re-willing itself, and to re-will itself only in the name of this insatiable power. The Eternal Return would here from the counterpart to knowledge, which, if it increases in proportion to power, nonetheless has the conservation of the species as its major preoccupation. Now the Eternal Return (as the expression of a becoming with neither goal nor purpose) makes knowledge ‘impossible’, at least with regard to ends, and always keeps knowledge at the level of means: the means of conserving itself. This in turn is what determines the reality principle, which therefore is always a variable principle. But not only does the Eternal Return not determine reality, it suspends the very principle of reality, and in a certain manner leaves it to the discretion of the more or less felt degree of power – or better, to its intensity.” (NCV, 104) The essence of the Return, or the Phantasm, is, thus, the repetition of the same Unequal, that is, the reiteration of random difference, the energetics of the fortuitous. Simulacra keep returning, and their unavoidability determines a series of disindividuations. The perpetual transformational power of schizo-nomad singularity that embraces the doctrine of the eternal return is certainly antithetical to the gregariousness deriving from the Axiomatised Return of Capital and from the Return to the Identical of the subjected individual: in fact, the doctrine of the Vicious Circle elaborated by the axis Nietzsche-Klossowski foresees the “return of power”, which is nothing but the “sequence of balance breakings” and ultimately the destitution of the identity subject. Deleuze and Guattari, indeed, fully understand this difference between relative limits, always reconstituted, of the capitalist process and the absolute limits of the revolutionary schizophrenic process. The schizo-revolutionary process interacts with Chaos, seeks the creative dimension in order to interact with chaotic forces, altering the existent; the capitalistic process stops at the boundary of Chaos, it does not remove the boundary, the wall that separate itself from the chaotic outside, but – rationally – it capitalises its steps, returns to virgin spaces recently acquired and ploughs them in order to enrich them with new axiomatics. The boundaries that capital assigns to itself are determined by the network of centres of balance and of monetary trans-valuation, which it plans and builds at the limits of its delirium. If “schizophrenia pervades the entire capitalist field from one end to the other”, for Capitalism “it is a question of binding the schizophrenic charges and energies into a world axiomatic that always opposes the revolutionary potential of decoded flows with new interior limits.” (AE, 246) From these words it seems that the barrier – the line that separates capitalism from the boundary of Chaos – is the line of the monetarisable. The area of creation, of experimentation, of implicit failure of the analysis and of research for its own sake, according to capitalism cannot be irrigated with monetary flows: too many energetic impulses with no sense nor purpose circulate: in fact, it lacks the main purpose of capital, namely the profitability derived from the “extraction of value”. Both sense and purpose are determinations of the principle of reality to which ultimately market firms always refer. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari write that “[m]onetary flows are perfectly schizophrenic realities, but they exist and function only within the immanent axiomatic that exorcises and repels this reality.” (AE, 246) The equalising axiomatic recovers what has been decoded and indirectly represses the subversive charge released by the primitive affirmative force, enclosing in the monetarisable space of the global circuit what had just been dispensed by the code. Money controls, through the blazes of flames and the fumes of combustion, and distributes at a higher level, a global one. For such reason, money does not evolve, but rather remains into the circuit, in which arranges itself according to indigenous speeds. There, in advanced circulation, money itself and, as Marx wrote, “[t] he value originally advanced, therefore, not only remains intact while in circulation, but adds to itself a surplus value or expands itself. It is this movement that converts it into capital.” (C, vol. I, part 2, ch. IV, p.79) However, the fracture happens exactly here, the overcoming of the Marxian concepts of money, money-value, money-good, money-fetish, by the new function attributed to money by the political philosophy of Deleuze, Guattari and the whole French revolutionary Rhizosphere. Money, in its unlimited abstract quantity is indifferent to the qualified nature of flows; this means that money is trans-qualitative, as its process of distribution and circulation; it has made itself independent and self-organised, both with respect to short cycles of exchange (money-commodity-money; M-C-M) as well as the circulating special nature (territory-exchange-territory; T-E-T), that is, sovereignty. And if “the strength of capitalism indeed resides in the fact that its axiomatic is never saturated, that it is always capable of adding a new axiom to the previous ones”, this would mean that it is “monetarisation [which] everywhere comes to fill the abyss of capitalist immanence, introducing there, as Schmitt says, “a deformation, a convulsion, an explosion – in a word, a movement of extreme violence.” (AE, 250) Control, power, desire, independence, self-organisation, indifference, violence, trans-quality: these are the new characteristics of money at the time of the Anti-OEdipus, that is, at the time of infinite and abstract monetary economy, which add themselves to those classic determinations already highlighted by critics of political economy. Nowadays, money-liquidity accumulated, abstract, and digitalized – in other words, dematerialized and financialised money which preserves the characteristics of the seventies, accumulating them – is the main instrument of capitalist accelerationism. It develops itself through capitals’ restless nomadism in the quest for punctual and planetary profit together with the monetary infinite as an effective anti-crisis instrument, generated by the increase in monetary mass and by the perpetual creation of liquidity thanks to the wise dosage of vertical and horizontal transactions of the public and private sector by Central Banks across the world, coordinated among themselves. It is the system of Central Banks independent from political power that ultimately determines the liquidity of the system and the injection of money in the traditional banking system and in the network circling of capital markets. The crucial innovation of the roles of circuits, platforms, markets, currencies and Central Banks, already in expansion and in phase of consolidation during the years of the rhizospheric analysis, has been actively registered in the accelerationist passage of The Civilised Capitalist Machine under the section of “Immanent Axiomatic of Capital.” (AE, 250)
The modern immanent machine
“The modern immanent machine, which consists in decoding the flows on the full body of capital-money: it has realized the immanence, it has rendered concrete the abstract as such and has naturalized the artificial, replacing the territorial codes and the despotic overcoding with an axiomatic of decoded flows, and a regulation of these flows; it effects the second great movement of deterritorialization, but this time because it doesn’t allow any part of the codes and overcodes to subsist.” (AE, 261)
If, at the time of the Anti-OEdipus, the two movements of evasion from the territory and return to the territory could express conformant powers or at most powers provided with a temporary equilibrium, in the period of time that separates the present from the seventies we have assisted to the hyper-performance of money and its evasion from the territory, creating a strong imbalance with respect to the return to «dry land», which has manifested itself in a progressive and advanced undermining of nations, of popular identities, of local institutions and of the social sector ramified on the surface of the Earth. Monetary abstraction, in symbiosis with mathematics, cybernetics, computer science and logistics, has acquired so much value in drawing itself closer to unlimited extensions and elastic chronoscopic speeds that the rapid domination reached in these last few years of domestication has no equals in history, accelerating that radical nihilism envisaged by Nietzsche in the second half of the XIX century. The boundaries of monetary abstraction still have to be drawn, especially now in a time of forced circulation determines by negative interests, which is a signal of the approximation of the nummus to the «zero degree» of infinite monetary circulation. It is likely that formations of sovereignty have entered a phase of metamatic constraint of the monetary instrument in order to test the state of preservation of the force of imbalance of the whole system. The crisis of industrial capitalism and the birth of a post-industrial capitalism triggered by credit and monetarism surfaced and erupted - as recalled earlier – in the renown “Nixon shock” of August 1971, when the US dollar was unpegged from the gold standard, overturning the millenary principle of sovereignty of the gold currency – nomisma Caesaris in auro est. The epochal passage from «geological» currency – the US dollar – to the abstract and «headless» currency, unlimited because free from any fixed rate or concrete value, is certainly the product of circumstantial dynamics and paroxysmal processes going back to Bretton Woods and to the competition between nations and opposing geopolitical forces, but it also marks the moment of authenticity of the statement of the economist de Brunhoff when she writes that there is no contemporaneity between capital and credit: “That is why in capitalism even credit, formed into a system, brings together composite elements that are both ante-capitalist (money, money commerce) and post-capitalist (the credit circuit being a higher circulation…). Adapted to the needs of capitalism, credit is never really contemporary with capital. The system of financing born of the capitalist mode of production remains a bastard.” (de Brunhoff, La monnaie in Marx, p. 147, quoted in AE, 206) It is clear that the system of credit financing will survive to the agony of industry and to the disappearance of labour, because historically it existed before capitalism, and in some of its aspects it has been anticipating the future override of the system. The self-organisation in planetary platforms and the independence reached by the political and institutional order has made credit – accumulated, distributed, rapid, liquid and abstract money – and finance – fluxions, cybernetics, reticulated, dromological and metamatic money – autonomous circulations, in great part estranged from the circulation of capitals in the real economy. In the lecture he gave on 16th November 1971 at Vincennes, Deleuze went beyond the elaboration that he would have soon presented in the Anti-OEdipus (February 1972) and introduced a definition of money – infinite reproduction of a flow of abstract quantities – very relevant, even more today than at the time:
“With money which itself can no longer be coded, within a certain framework, we begin with money and we end with money. M[oney]-C[ommodity]-M[oney], there is absolutely no means of coding this thing here because the qualified flows are replaced by a flow of abstract quantity whose proper essence is the infinite reproduction for which the formula is M-C-M. No code can support infinite reproduction. What is formidable in so-called primitive societies is how debt exists, but exists in the form of a finite block, debt is finite.” (Webdeleuze, lecture of 16th November 1971).
Infinite reproduction of money and credit
If money is the infinite reproduction of a flow of abstract quantities, we can then conceive it as a software related to a hardware, i.e. the digital chrematistics, which has already introjected in our age the metamatic nature, and swiftly travels within digital networks, inside a superior, artificial and over-human circulation. Money, in the Anti-OEdipus and even more today, is a decoded abstraction that sums up value, order, number, calculous, distribution and speed. For a Left, and a revolutionary movement, that, still in 1972, in disconnected and confused ways, take as reference the field of «Marxist humanism», the shift of the axis of critical theory from the world of production and industry to the domain of flows and of money-credit has been opposed for a long time, if not openly rejected. The shift in paradigm, though, released certain effects and reached an unstoppable critical mass of its own. The infinite reproduction of money in the global circuit has reached its accelerated peak thanks to the role played by the global network of Central Banks of constant injection and coordinated punctual inflating. Infinite money, thus, has circuits of commercial perpetual reproduction, which we will term ‘relative’, and circuits of perpetual financial reproduction, which we will term ‘absolute’, managed by supranational global institutional networks. It will be necessary to restart from here, from this Nietzsche-Klossowski-Deleuze axis and, generally, from the French revolutionary Rhizosphere, in order to perfect the tools and analyses capable of dig into real information of gregarious sovereignty formations. Certainly the aggressive and polemical work of Deleuze and Guattari in the phase of the Anti-OEdipus had the great merit of identifying the growing systemic fault line that was about to shift, to deteriorate and to rupture – the great historical asymmetry between infinite and money, mobility and credit, stability and capital – which brought market economies, with deep and abrupt transitional crises, from the planned quantitative industrial world to the post-productive cybernetic-credit-financial world. Additionally, one of the most relevant merits of the Anti-OEdipus is having theorised, starting from the considerations of Nietzsche and Foucault, the monetary and credit infinite. If the “infinite creditor” was to be traced back “new collective memory” conceived by Nietzsche in The Genealogy of Morals, and concerning “a debt system: […] a voice that speaks or intones, a sign marked in bare flesh, an eye that extracts enjoyment from the pain”, “infinite money” is then to be related to Foucault’s Lectures on the Will to Know that he gave in February 1971. The “infinite creditor” is certainly according to Nietzsche the Christian God, while the debt, in ancient societies as well as in commercial ones, fulfils the task “to breed man, […] to form him within the debtor-creditor relation, which on both sides turns out to be a matter of memory – a memory straining toward the future.” (AE, 180) “Infinite money”, according to Foucault in 1971, is born instead from a chrematistics in the strict sense, artificial, “which seeks only the acquisition of money itself and consequently in unlimited quantities. This rests on exchange.” (LKW, 145) Deleuze and Guattari return to the topic of the infinite in the Anti-OEdipus, adopting the thesis of the philosopher of Poitiers: “The abolition of debts, when it takes place – they refer to Solon, the Athenian legislator – is a means of maintaining the distribution of land, and a means of preventing the entry on stage of a new territorial machine, possibly revolutionary and capable of raising and dealing with the agrarian problem in a comprehensive way.” (AE, 197)
Immediately after, they refer to Cypselus, tyrant of Korinthos: “in other cases where a redistribution occurs, the cycle of credits is maintained, in the new form established by the State, money.” (AE, 196) However, in greater depth, Deleuze and Guattari, returning to Foucault’s studies on Greek tyrants, affirm that “money – the circulation of money – is the means for rendering the debt infinite. […] The infinite creditor and infinite credit have replaced the blocks of mobile and finite debts. There is always a monotheism on the horizon of despotism: the debt becomes a debt of existence, a debt of the existence of the subjects themselves.” (AE, 197) Money in the Anti-OEdipus is, thus, turned into THE “systemic dispositif” of power aimed at perpetuating infinitely the credit cycle, similarly as the tyrant of Korinthos taught us; however, even more distinctively, contemporary money created ex-nihilo by the coordinated action of central and commercial banks, and therefore infinite, is the prerequisite and the supporting structure of more subjecting infinites, which, under the double-face umbrella of credit/debit, result as refund/existence, duty/guilt, crisis/resource, catastrophe/bifurcation. Money is, hence, the fulcrum and the pivot on which the contemporary power system rests for all its policies: money is its main weapon, due to its synthetic credit-debit relation which becomes the “transmission belt” of the commercial and institutional credit world. This monetary paradigm of power that Foucault traces back to the VII century B.C. in Ancient Greece, has been overlooked by Marxists, but not by the intellectuals of the Rhizosphere. Until today, the demystifying and incendiary work of anti-oedipic and rhizomatic authors has not reached in our culture the «masterpiece» status that it deserves, because obscure and gregarious forces – the braking powers – are still operating, with the aim of keeping society under the conforming and homogeneous pressure of perpetual slavery, gregariousness that Nietzsche so appropriately defined in the accelerationist fragment on the strong of the future. The Anti-OEdipus, far from resting on innocuous ‘irenisms’, continues to generate hybrid processes of affirmative and transforming energy thanks to its deep analytical capacity. Everything is made clear: “There we no longer have any secrets, we no longer have anything to hide. It is we who have become a secret, it is we who are hidden, even though we do all openly, in broad light.” (DI, 46)
How to escape from axiomatics and make break the modern immanent machine?
Here we finally return to the plot of money and revolution, under the sign of the oedipic contrast. If, in our modern empirical experience, our societies are pervaded with economic optimism – descending from the eighteenth-century positivism thoroughly analysed by Marx at the socio-productive level and by Nietzsche at the impulsive-energetic level – and with cybernetic processual evolution of monetary and credit circuits far-sightedly described by Deleuze and Guattari, what strategies could be adopted to escape from commercial axiomatics and to make the modern immanent machine break down? Which relation exists between money and revolution? Shall we switch to a detailed and bureaucratic plan descending from a totalising “keys-in-hand” theory that explains and foresees everything, according to fixed relations between the forms of the Earth and of human set theory, or shall we adopt a plan of impulsive consistency corresponding to the always productive swinging energy of desire, of the real and of imbalance? Between organisation-administration and chaos-creation, what levels of synthesis and innovation should we choose in order to “search and destroy” and to then rebuild? Shall we build revolutionary subjects and identities within class or economic determinations, or shall we de-construct forms, to discover the “hollowness” of subjects and to increase the speed of activation of the revolutionary “process” of the irregular idle, of the non-exchangeable group and of the community of singularity? Nonetheless, from a different perspective, as Ewald seemed to argue, if the seventies history has handed over to us a “fact” in all its tragic evidence, that is the disappearance of the social revolutionary horizon, that is, the sinking of the concept of insurrection as magnet for political action from the Enlightenment onwards. Are we assisting to the Death of Revolution as palingenetic event and qualified creative rupture, mother of modern politics – as Foucault seems to foresee after 1978 and after the Rhizosphere period, or are we facing the perpetual revolutionary becoming as human condition at the times of post-revolution and post-capitalist control-based neo-societies – as Deleuze and Guattari argued in the multi-stratum desert of A Thousand Plateaus? Something has changed after 1978, revolutionaries become spectres like beautiful losers, as if the sedition and the overturning of desire on the carpet of Reality were symmetrical to the decline of industry and to the erosion of the historically fixed capital. The productive practices of industry and the concept of cathartic revolution decay together with the West, in a miserable and stagnant dusk. To us, authors of this volume, the intersection between “money and revolution” suggested by Klossowski and Deleuze, and by the whole anti-oedipic Rhizosphere, seems still profoundly relevant, no longer in the westerly vulgate but instead on a global scale, the only possible one today. In the wildest present circumstances, the reproduction of money and liquidity has not stopped, neither have the attempts to become revolutionaries and pathologically seditious, in every single planetary background. Daily events speak for themselves. As Foucault consciously wrote, the triangle of “desire, value and simulacrum” still dominates us, and we seem unable to grasp it nor to understand it in its horrific geometrical effectiveness. How to escape from axiomatics and to make the modern immanent machine break down: the question of the Anti-OEdipus is still relevant in the present, as it has been in the past. Part of the answer, within the context of the evolution of the relation between technology and liberation, can certainly be generated and developed by the conflation of three specific fields of our age: cypherpunk, blockchain technology in its Ethereum variation, and the heterarchical P2P movement. The new alliance between peer to peer – a digital evolution of anarchic and self-organised reticular logics of autonomist philosophy of existentialist punk dis-intermediation – and DIY – the do-it-yourself already post-capitalist in its very own nature. The fourth pillar, which has to escort the three fields indicated above, could be the philosophy of the Rhizosphere, or philosophy of the future. The philosophy of the future, in order to return joyful and dangerous, must abandon the collusive position that has occupied in the industry of knowledge and of wisdom, and return to being an informal peripatetic wayfarer – a «gypsy scholarship». With great awareness it must experiment, fail, create: study, deconstruct and reconstruct, even itself. The gypsy scholarship, though, conceived as pedagogy of freedom and insurrection, cannot become science, absorbed by institutions: it is like a gust of The Fixer, or the glow of a moment lasting for a century.
Desire with no aim, future with no purpose
As many have noted, perhaps, the renown passage on the acceleration of the process and on the revolutionary path is placed in the last part of the paragraph The Civilised Capitalist Machine (AE, 222), but most importantly it returns persistently in the Introduction to Schizoanalysis, conclusive chapter of the Anti-OEdipus, embellishing the final page of the volume. The focus is always on the conflictual relation between desire, formations of sovereignty and the possibility of an overturning of sovereignty by the power of singularity. Deleuze and Guattari wrote: “only desire that lives from having no aim. Molecular desiring-production would regain its liberty to master in its turn the molar aggregate under an overturned form of power or Sovereignty. That is why Klossowski, who has taken the theory of the two poles of investment the furthest, but still within the category of an active Utopia, is able to write: “Every sovereign formation would thus have to foresee the destined moment of its disintegration… No formation of sovereignty, in order to crystalize, will ever endure this prise de conscience: for as soon as this formation becomes conscious of its immanent disintegration in the individuals who compose it, these same individuals decompose it.” (AE, 367- 368; LCV, [II], 162) What does it mean that “desire lives from having no aim”? It means that desire is without aim nor sense precisely because it is a natural force always regenerating itself, energetic and wild, never quieted by the achievement of an aim and, thus, never subjected to a goal or to the accomplishment of a perpetual state of equilibrium. Previously we have recalled that, for Deleuze and Guattari, the primordial impulse is “desire”, while, for Nietzsche, is the “will to power.” (DI, 91) According to the German philosopher, “as soon as we act practically, we have to follow the prejudices of our sentiments.” (NCV, 122) Klossowski maintains the same line: “nature has no goal and realizes something. We others have a “goal” but obtain something other than this goal.” (NCV, 122) If, thanks to his sharp sarcasm, Nietzsche affirmed that “if no goal resides in the whole history of human destinies, then one must be inserted into it” (quoted in NCV, 123), Klossowski, then, can remark: “This means: we are aware of our mechanism; we must dismantle it. But to dismantle it is also to make use of its parts in order to reconstruct it, and thus to lead ‘nature’ toward our own ‘goal’. But whenever we reason in this manner, we are once again masking the impulse that is driving us: it is true that we obtain something we have interpreted as willed, but this is simply ‘nature’ which, without willing anything, has realized itself for other ‘ends.’” (NCV, 123) It is, hence, the disguised action of individuals to decompose the institutions of the formations of sovereignty as soon as the conscience of the absurd lack of end and sense of the society in which they live will be clear to them. And it will exactly be the chaotic power of Nature to act through them. In this “station of thought” it strongly emerges the radical Spinozism of the Rhizosphere, or in the words of Deleuze a “Spinozism of the subconscious”.
Towards a new land: dismantling and reconstructing the mechanism
It follows that the greatest mistake for a revolutionary is to think that revolution will coincide with himself, with his own name in History. Indeed, those who make revolution fail are individuals that attribute ends to it, that perform sudden stops or that allow it to continue in a vacuum – “betrayals don’t wait their turn, but are there from the very start.” (AE, 379) Conversely, the lucid revolutionaries, who notice the presence of groups which overtake the goals chosen by their closed set, with that level of awareness have either to prevent the formation of negative sovereignties – by creating a sort of new revolutionary anthropology – subtracting from developing sovereign nuclei the stability and the point of equilibrium through the creation of insurgent obliquely un-centred communities. This is the sense of the “overturned sovereignty” claimed by Deleuze and Guattari. Drift/bifurcation or subtraction/imbalance, these are the two insurrectional tasks that have to be prepared for revolution, rather than opposing and resisting to the point of equilibrium of sedition, that is, a blind idea of return. Alternatively, if we conceive the seditious as an individual that stands outside his ego, we have to regard him as a hollow object, whose purposeis to connect himself to revolutionary processes pre-existent to his effort and his thought. As for other coeval behaviours, this connection could function as a positive, accelerating and non-inhibiting catalysation. The reaction and the subsequent fusion, though, do not induce the individual to remain unaltered in his stability, but instead the accelerating catalytic process radically transforms it. The accelerating factor of the catalytic reaction, then, affects both fields: the collective revolutionary process and the individual de-subjecting process – in this regard, Foucault remarks that “one has to dispense with the constituent subject, to get rid of the subject itself.” (PK, 117) If desire lives because it does not have an aim, returning to Deleuze and Guattari, it generates effects of acceleration of the revolutionary process in a materialistic sense and not in an ideological one, where ‘ideology’ means the political process driven by party officials who are revolution professionals. There cannot be creation if we repeat the same ideological rituals of previous revolutions, of which we still preserve the idle forms lacking any propulsive dynamism. We ought to prevent the serialization of insurrection and its “mono and macro” form. Indeed, as Klossowski writes, “if the meaning of all eminent creation is to break the gregarious habits that always direct existing beings toward ends that are useful exclusively to the oppressive regime of mediocrity - then in the experimental domain to create is to do violence to what exists, and thus to the integrity of beings. Every creation of a new type must provoke a state of insecurity: creation ceases to be a game at the margins of reality; henceforth, the creator will not reproduce, but will itself produce the real.” (NVC, 129) Deleuze and Guattari hold a similar stance – “we are claiming the famous rights to laziness, to non-productivity, to dream and fantasy production, once again we are quite pleased, since we haven’t stopped saying the opposite, and that desiring-production produces the real.” (AE, 380) Every production of reality is in fact a crack, a breach into the social body, but such fracture happens only “by means of a desire without aim or cause that charted it and sided with it. While the schiz is possible without the order of causes, it becomes real only by means of something of another order: Desire, the desert-desire, the revolutionary investment of desire. And that is indeed what undermines capitalism: where will the revolution come from, and in what form within the exploited masses? It is like death—where, when? It will be a decoded flow, a de-territorialized flow that runs too far and cuts too sharply, thereby escaping from the axiomatic of capitalism.” (AE, 378) Not only this production of Reality in the desert of the sub-reality of monetary circuiting undermines capitalism, but it also nullifies, as a primary target, the theory of state or any theory of institutions deriving from revolutionary struggles, because schizo-analysis – as the thought of Nietzsche, Klossowski and Foucault – does not rigorously offer “any political programme”, not for a group, nor for a party, nor for masses, because this would be all unfair and irrational. (AE 437) The authors of the Anti-OEdipus, as well as the sappers of the Rhizosphere are all aware of the negative, violent and brutal of schizo-analysis – as they are aware of the genealogy, of the archive, of the philosophy of the future and of the Vicious Circle: “de-familiarizing, de-oedipalizing, de-castrating; undoing theater, dream, and fantasy; decoding, de-territorializing – a terrible curettage, a malevolent activity.” (AE, 381) All this “Destroy, Destroy” primarily and essentially indicates to free from any obstacle the process, to accelerate the process, to accelerate and to destroy, since the process to be accelerated is, as we have mentioned, “the process of desiring-production, following its molecular lines of escape.” (AE, 381) And we can overlook if someone more or less recently has confused the “molecular escape” with the “molar production”, or if he has interpreted going “[...] still further, that is, in the movement of the market…” as following in a conformist way the commercial strategy of disarticulation of existing entities since the process is unique in nature, or if someone has believed that we ought to accelerate the rush of turbo-capitalism so that it would crash at the first bifurcation, or – even worse – if someone exchanged the desire for goods consumption and for self-repression, with the impulsive desire of production of Reality, aimed at modifying what exists and at liberating the differences. Let us say it here, once and for all: the capitalist process of decoding produces infinite abstract quantities – money and its pair of repetitive and spectral syntheses, credit and debit, driven and controlled by the systemic Axiomatics of immanence; the schizo-revolutionary process of decoding produces, instead, particles of power that are non-evident, radiating and immeasurable – desire, manipulated by impulses, that is, by desiring-machines. These are nothing but differences in regime, not in nature: indeed the two aspects of the process have contact but do not confuse one with the other. The schizo-nomad remains always at the boundary of capitalism: it represents “its inherent tendency brought to fulfillment as well as its exterminating angel.” (AE, 35) However, desiring production – impulsive or concealed – and social production – monetarized and abstract – are the two differences that have been the object of study of the materialist psychiatry of Deleuze and Guattari. They represent the “way of life” or the “Reality” that 141 we desire: Feasible Reality vs. Artificial Reality.
Against the Black Death: good health and new hope
All we have written is the result of a research project that involved three main cores, heterogeneous but still tied and unified by a subversive thinking. The first core is represented by the posthumous fragments on the will to power, where the heart of this research lies, The Strong of the Future, that is, the Nietzsche that wrote in 1887-1888; the second core can be identified in the essay on conspiracy and the community of singularities generated by the Eternal Return, that is, the Klossowski of Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969); the third core is constituted by the present accelerationist passage in The Civilised Capitalist Machine where the nomad multiplicities appear, that is, the Anti-OEdipus of Deleuze and Guattari (1972). Three cores for three books of the Adversary – a lawless, anarchic and antichrist Adversary – whose task is “completing the process and not arresting it, not making it turn about in the void, not assigning it a goal.” (AO 382) If, for what concerns industrial capital or digital post-capitalism, “we really haven’t seen anything yet” because with its de-territorializations “it may dispatch us straight to the moon” (AE, 34) and conquer new planets or galaxies with its Black Deaths, according to Deleuze and Guattari the non-identitary nomad “will never go too far with the deterritorialization, the decoding of flows.” (AE, 382) Zarathustra, in one of its most visionary speeches, The Bestowing Virtue, prophesied: “Truly, a place of healing shall the earth become! And already is a new odor diffused around it, a salvation-bringing odor - and a new hope!” (Z, 65) Thus, the masterpiece written by Deleuze and Guattari – which, as we have demonstrated, is not only an authorial work but a rhizomatic gem – finishes with a morning song to accelerate the momentum of the Eternal Return: “For the new earth is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse re-territorializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, this process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds.” (AE, 382) The appearance of those who walk the revolutionary path may change, whether they be the strong of the future, or the non-homogeneous singularities, or the nomad multiplicities. The imperative of the micro-communism of the unequal however remains the same: Accelerate and Destroy. The inhuman Kingdom is already among us.
Obsolete Capitalism is a collective for pure independent research. Self-defined as “gypsy scholars”, the collective deals with philosophy, art and politics. Obsolete Capitalism edited and published «Moneta, rivoluzione e filosofia dell’avvenire. Deleuze, Foucault, Guattari, Klossowski e la politica accelerazionista di Nietzsche» (OCFP, 2016), «Archeologia delle minoranze» (OCFP, 2015) and «Birth of Digital Populism» (OCFP, 2014). With Rizosfera edizioni, Obsolete Capitalism published «Deleuze and the Algorithm of the Revolution» (Rhizosphere/SF004) and «Controllo, modulazione e algebra del male in Burroughs e Deleuze» (Rhizosphere/SF007). The collective also edits the online blogs Obsolete Capitalism, Rizomatika and Variazioni foucaultiane.
The present essay is part of the volume «Money, Revolution and Philosophy of the Future» (Obsolete Capitalism Free Press, December 2016, OCFP003). It entails Obsolete Capitalism’s most important theoretical work up today
by Robert Craig Baum
"Inception" is an overview of Robert Craig Baum's next project, The One to Come (a meditation on the final moments of Heidegger's Contributions to Philosophy: Ereignis.
On Scenes will publish this work in seven parts across Fall 2017
These are intended as announcements, part of the introduction. This is not an article.
With ereignis Heidegger is now able to explore da-sein as that which grounds the being of these beings: the ones to come who belong to the last god. This advental site of existential inquiry is now, however, a rethinking of Judeo-Christian eschatology. The seekers provoke a sense of belonging-ness that in turn create a people: the result of this gathering. The German People in my analysis will be the location of this belonging-ness, a forgivable misstep on Heidegger’s part, someone so desperately longing for the arrival of the ones to come.
The thinking person is then someone who takes back history, shoulders the suffering/struggle/strife as an unconditional state of existence. Here is where “enownment” returns as an acceptable translation of ereignis but only in the context of possession, appropriation, “taken in” in the process of going under.
to be continued...
Robert Craig Baum is the author of Itself (Atropos 2011) and Thoughtrave: An Interdimensional Conversation with Lady Gaga (punctum, 2016). He is a philosopher, writer, producer, and philanthropist from Long Island, New York. He lives in Washington DC with his wife and four boys where he just completed his first industry screenplay and remains fast at work on THYSELF (follow-up to 2017 book).
by Steven Craig Hickman
In some ways Scott Bakker’s short post Intentional Philosophy as the Neuroscientific Explananda Problem succinctly shows us the central problem of our time: medial neglect. But what is medial neglect? The simplest explanation is that we are blind to the very internal processes that condition our very awareness of ourselves, our conscious mind. Scott’s point is that no one, not philosophers, not neuroscientists, no one can agree as to why this should be? No one can explain what consciousness is – much less how it emerges from the physical substratum of our brain. Philosophers of Mind have battled over the extremes of pure reductive physicalism (Davidson, etc.) and its opposite the irreductive world of the mind/body dualism of a Descartes. Yet, for all our advances in neuroscience and the technological breakthroughs in brain scan imaging, etc. we still cannot explain this indefinite terrain between brain and consciousness. Not that many have not tried. Opening my library or my e-book reader I have hundreds of books, journals, and publications devoted to just this one subject alone. (Yes, I’m a bibliomaniac, an endless, restless reader of anything and everything… madness? perhaps…)
Of course over time some explanations have through sheer numbers and probabilistic accuracy or clarity taken on a more positive – or negative – ability to narrow our margins onto this difficult problem. There have been for some time in the contemporary intellectual scene two options for understanding the relationship of consciousness and world—their dynamic interconnectivity and unity in phenomenological accounts of the lived body or the outright rejection of the importance of lived first-person experience as a mere epiphenomenal effect due to the mechanical movement of nature or the structures guiding discourse, both of which comprise a disavowal of the primordial self-reflexive ipseity of the subject. The notion of the Cartesian cogito (Subject) opened up a basic metaphysical truth of subjectivity by presenting a world where “the mind and body are, so to speak, negatively related—oppositional discord is, obviously, a form of relation.” (Zizek) But the sciences look for hard evidence to support such metaphysical claims, and when they cannot be found then everything sits there in limbo where it has remained for a few hundred years.
Philosophy cannot prove its case, but neither has science been able too either. Is there a solution? Of course, my friend Scott, sees this as both part of the problem and a pointer to its solution, saying, “Here’s what I think is a productive way to interpret this conundrum.”:
Generally what we want is a translation between the manipulative and the communicative. It is the circuit between these two general cognitive modes that forms the cornerstone of what we call scientific knowledge. A finding that cannot be communicated is not a finding at all. The thing is, this—knowledge itself--all functions in the dark. We are effectively black boxes to ourselves. In all math and science--all of it—the understanding communicated is a black box understanding, one lacking any natural understanding of that understanding.
For Scott if it isn’t reduced to scientific naturalism its fairly well useless, all metaphysical statements to the contrary. So what about that? Is scientific naturalism the last word in knowledge? To ask such a question is to fall off a cliff and enter an abyss we might not want to enter, like opening a can of worms and finding a nest of asps instead: a deadly business, indeed.
But isn’t that just it, isn’t scientific naturalism itself bound to certain philosophical principles, axioms, propositions, methods: the whole litany of concepts that restrict and delimit the scope and horizon of scientific endeavor? Isn’t it a steeped in philosophical bric-a-brac, concepts, frames of reference and inference? Isn’t scientific naturalism itself a directed form of inquiry and form of thought bound by certain rules and limits? A form of rational statement and reduction to only natural sense datum: a form of empirical facticity that regulates what can be thought or not, what counts for truth or not? In fact, Scott acknowledges as much, saying,
What neuroscience is after, of course, is a natural understanding of understanding, to peer intothe black box. They want manipulations they can communicate, actionable explanations of explanation. The problem is that they have only heuristic, low-dimensional, cognitive access to themselves: they quite simply lack the metacognitive access required to resolve interpretive disputes, and so remain incapable of formulating the explananda of neuroscience in any consensus commanding way. In fact, a great many remain convinced, on intuitive grounds, that the explananda sought, even if they could be canonically formulated, would necessarily remain beyond the pale of neuroscientific explanation.
As he says our conundrum is that the object we seek to know, is itself the subject that knows, and knower and known cannot enter and close the gap on such a transparent dilemma: the two cannot come together because what is needed for knowledge is a distance from the very processes as well as a black box closeness that is essentially impossible, since the tool and its object are one and the same: identical pieces on the far side of a Mobius strip that can never touch or meet. This self-reflexive consciousness is unable to chase its own tail. So we follow the circle not realizing it is in fact a Mobius strip and we are like those flatlanders living on a two-dimensional grid when we need to be the refined citizens of the fourth dimension. Or, as Scott states it the “low-dimensionality of the information begets underdetermination, underdetermination begets philosophy, philosophy begets overdetermination. The idioms involved become ever more plastic, more difficult to sort and arbitrate. Crash space bloats. In a sense, intentional philosophy simply is the neuroscientific explananda problem, the florid consequence of our black box souls.”
I sometimes think we might develop for the brain/consciousness dilemma what we did for software development: black-box testing. Of course that’s pretty much what neuroscientists do when they test a subject while at the same time reading the live data out of an imaging system and compare the functional comport between the testable problem and the result enacted by the test subject. One never has direct access to the brain itself, a black box lump of three pounds of opaque meat. What one has is indirect access to certain re-presentations, images, scans, live-feedback digitalized videos of the processes as filtered, programed, encoded, coded/decoded into mathematical objects that are translated into the interpretable systems of pixels we’re all familiar with on a computer screen. This real time testing is in some ways following the same pattern: Specific knowledge of the brain’s code/internal structure and execution or programmatic knowledge in general is not required. The tester is aware of what the brain/mind is supposed to do but is not aware of how it does it. For instance, the tester is aware that a particular input returns a certain, invariable output but is not aware of how the brain produces the output in the first place. So that envisioning the image and the result in live time offers a window upon the physical input/output routines of the experimental test procedures. Test cases are built around specifications and requirements, i.e., what the application is supposed to do. Test cases are generally derived from external descriptions of the brain/consciousness, including specifications, requirements and functional parameters. Although the tests used are primarily functional in nature, non-functional tests may also be used. The test designer selects both valid and invalid inputs and determines the correct output, often with the help of an live-data or a previous result that is known to be good, without any knowledge of the test object’s internal brain structure. Ultimately it will be this scientific approach using heuristics, real-time imaging, and black-box testing techniques that will build up over time an accurate assemblage or mapping of the causal/execution sequences and time invariant asymmetrical relations between brain/mind or show that the mind is an illusion and the brain along is the be all end-all of this theoretic-praxis system. We know it has to be one or the other: either dualism or physicalism; or, some dialectical interoperation of varying gradient levels and dimensions of interaction and relation in-between.
Maybe something like OOO’s sense of real / sensual objects. In this we ever only have direct access to the sensual through qualia or profiles, yet under the hood of the sensual (appearance) lies the volcanic realm of the real object – a void around which appearance revolves. We never have direct access to this object of the Real. Rather we must lure it out by way of sincerity; or, as I’ve suggested indirectly through experiment and understanding its “effects” on the live-data imaging systems in real time. For as Nietzsche once said “There are no facts, only interpretations.” And, as we study these sequences or objects in real time and experiment and understand the effects of the brain imprinted on this objects we shall better interpret them and accumulate the patterns of the underlying functions and begin constructing a functional map of the brain. Žižek calls it the self-reflecting nothingness of the Subject as Substance (Hegel), etc. This recursive emptiness that is the supposed transcendental field of the empty set out of which our illusions of fantasies of ego, etc. emerge: a projection system of the virtual interior of that actual brain’s processes cleverly disguised in the transcription and translation into the Symbolic Order of language and culture. One might think of the capture of the self-as-identity within the Symbolic Order as the traces we leave scattered across our encounter everyday, traces we leave in transactions, credit cards, signatures, pictures, selfies, all part of that imaginary identity that roams and circulates in the web of relations, networks, internet, etc. Think about what is stolen in identity-theft: it’s your Symbolic Self, your fictional self tracked and traced among all the socio-cultural objects where you have left a piece of you fantasy self and identity. So what gets stripped from you is all these socio-cultural artifacts: bank accounts, credit, good name, etc. Once your Symbolic self is affected by this criminalization you become lost among the legal and governmental Laws. For some it can take years to regain one’s Symbolic Identity once it has been stolen and criminalized, leaving you in the black hole of Order stripped of your legal and secure life as a physical not symbolic being. Or think of those who have been erased accidently from the government systems, accidently declared dead. Losing their benefits, their source of security, proof of citizenship, and any sense of support from the Symbolic Order. There have been cases of people caught in this limbo taking years to regain their identities, social security, pensions, or names and identities within the Order. One can become essentially a non-person, erased, non-existing to the very Symbolic Order and system of external imaginary as if one did not exist. As CNN reported recently:
Of the approximately 2.8 million death reports the Social Security Administration receives per year, about 14,000 — or one in every 200 deaths — are incorrectly entered into its Death Master File, which contains the Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, death dates, zip codes and last-known residences of more than 87 million deceased Americans. That averages out to 38 life-altering mistakes a day. While these errors occur online, in the depths of the administration’s database, they have a very real impact on the people who have effectively been declared dead. “Erroneous death entries can lead to benefit termination, cause severe financial hardship and distress to affected individuals, and result in the publication of living individuals’ [personal identifying information] in the [Death Master File],” the Inspector General said in its most recent evaluation of the database. (see here)
In the above scenario one is nothing more than one’s data, an electronic footprint in the web of information spread across the invisible dimension of the socio-cultural and ideological screen of an external systems of tracking’s and traces: the distributed organization of your life in an imaginary mirror outside your body. What Badiou will call the truth of beings as bodies and languages. One is not just a body, but a part of that Symbolic Order of language and socio-cultural relations. As Zizek speaking of the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix trilogy says:
What, then, is the Matrix? Simply the Lacanian “big Other,” the virtual symbolic order, the network that structures reality for us. This dimension of the “big Other” is that of the constitutive alienation of the subject in the symbolic order: the big Other pulls the strings, the subject doesn’t speak, he “is spoken” by the symbolic structure. In short, this “big Other” is the name for the social Substance, for all that on account of which the subject never fully dominates the effects of his acts, i.e. on account of which the final outcome of his activity is always something else with regard to what he aimed at or anticipated. (Cogito, Madness and Religion: Derrida, Foucault and then Lacan © lacan.com 1997/2007)
This illusion of self born of the symbolic and its idealistic frames of cultural interaction with memory and time, etc. catches us between the very real processes of the brain and the calculated and impersonal forces of the Symbolic Order: bound between manipulations and communicative systems within and without that we neither control nor have knowledge, yet who form the powers that shape what little consciousness we have, blind though it be within the medial neglect of ignorance.
Of course as the neuroscientists hone down the rhetoric and extrapolate from sense datum rather than the imaginary of speculation a more accurate account will eventually come about, and philosophy following science as one of its conditions will retroactively construct out of the neuroscientific image a conceptual framework for enframing this image into a more accurate conceptual map of the brain, society, and the symbolic web of lies and fictions we are all trapped in, and thereby bring it into that other fiction of philosophy: Truth.
What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
– ‘On truth and lie in an extra-moral sense,’ Nietzsche
Slavoj Žižek tell us the divide between our world of experience and the mechanisms of the natural world does not proclaim the irrelevance of the latter for our understanding of human subjectivity in face of the pure power of scientific explanatory models, their efficacy and statistical guarantee, as perhaps various representatives of phenomenological psychiatry or even neuroscientific community would advocate. On the contrary, according to Žižek, these models adequately describe the Real of our lives with a rigorous vigor and precision never before imaginable by penetrating into the true ontologico-foundational basis of experience. Žižek criticizes attempts to respond to the threat announced by neuroscience that merely assert the irreducible character of the subject, seeing instead the only feasible way to find a solution being to “develop one approach to its extreme, radically abstracting from the other—to develop the logic of brain science, for instance, at its purest.” The question is how a parallax gap could emerge from within the self-regulated biochemical and electrical activity inside the skull, how “the ‘mental’ itself explodes within the neuronal through a kind of ‘ontological explosion.’”1
The point here is why did this thing, consciousness ever arise to begin with, what were the conditions that gave rise to it, what were the very real biochemical physical problems that allowed the organism we term human to develop such a black box as awareness. We hear so many in the sciences that want to do away with consciousness, to minimalize it, to reduce it to this or that natural mode of computation or functionalism which seem to try to explain it away rather than explain it for itself. As if consciousness should fall back into oblivion and become a part of the physical deterministic appendage of the brain. The brain out of which it originated as part of some problem solving toolkit between the environment and our physical survival mechanisms. Since for many the very notion of our ignorance, the fictional nature of our basic illusions, those we hold about consciousness as some exception to the natural, are in fact illusions of this very black box in which we think and perceive and believe we are guided by some central agency we term the Self-Subject. This is nothing new, the acid bath of skepticism, nihilism, and scientific physicalist, elminativist, and naturalist perspectives and endeavors that have for two-hundred years performed their careful elision of the Subject as a First Person Singular substance have given us this empty cargo hanger full of content without a Self. Yet, most of us common people, or what certain philosophers and scientists derisively call the “folk psychological” many are still guided by our older metaphysical, religious, and rational mythologies. So we’re back to the old divide between two-cultures Snow spoke of in the fifties: the scientists with their expert knowledge and tools – their “scientific image” (Sellars), and the many, with their “folk psychologies” and their illusive immersion in the Symbolic Order of the big Other (Lacan-Zizek). Or we condemned to live this out forever. Is ignorance our home? And, do these so-called keepers of the “scientific image” actually have what they claim to have: scientific knowledge? Or, is this – oh no… a nice fiction, too. A sort of elite one-upmanship of those who want to keep their power above the lowly masses, keep their specialized knowledge of math, technology, and biopower?
Of course those such as Zizek continue to point towards the subject being more than the matter it inhabits, insofar as the symbolic structures constituting psychic life display a quasi-absolute degree of freedom from purely naturalistic activity, the psychoanalytical experience proclaims that these two zones must resist, must be in perpetual conflict with, one another, so that the structure of psychoanalytical subjectivity is brought close to an archaic form of modern dualism while calling for a radical reconfiguration of the latter’s split between mind and body. And, as Carew states it:
Žižek’s attempt to think materialism and idealism requires a far-reaching remodulation of the logical conjunctive between the two into a form of psychotic non-relation, insofar as transcendentalism implies a kind of negative space isolated unto itself and alienated from external reality, an isolation that is simultaneously the logical structure of normal and pathological subjective reality. But what exactly is this disjunctive “and”? Žižek’s answer is unequivocal: the place of non-coincidence between mind and body, the break or rupture between these two zones of independent activity, is nothing but the subject itself, where the subject is transformed from a mere transcendental epistemological construct grounded through concerns in a theory of knowledge into some kind of self-positing negativity in material being, a bone in substance forever holding apart materialism and idealism. (OC, p. 65)
But my friend Scott as sceptic and naturalist would see all this blather of speculative philosophy, materialist or not as just so much metaphysical backwater, a nod to the lost objects of philosophy that are no longer pertinent to the work at hand in the neurosciences. So who is right? Is there room for dialogue? Scott opts out, saying with many during the last century that philosophy is mute, a dead still-born system of “folk psychological” reason and mystification best left in the realms of fantasy novelists. And, true to his word, his own fantasy trilogies enactthe very truth of this whole sordid business leading to what he terms the Semantic Apocalypse.
For Zizek we are caught and absorbed into the Symbolic Order early on in childhood, language more of a word virus (Burroughs) infesting our physical systems, bringing about that strange and lethal separation and “vanishing mediator” between the brain and the Real – the Subject as Substance: the impasses obstructing the self-grounding idealization of the world demonstrate that, although we are forever stuck within ideality, we are not simply prisoners of the completely solipsistic sphere of the self-referential, masturbatory play of thought within thought and that a metaphysics of the Real, an account of the noumenal, appears to be theoretically possible. (OC, p. 81) In which as Carew’s remarks:
The inassimilable kernel of the Real within our notional, symbolic code points to the paradoxical negative coinciding of inside with outside, the Real and the Ideal, within thinking: the cracks of ideality cast an abyssal shadow that opens up onto the materiality of being, albeit only as refracted through the impossibilities of the Ideal, in such a way that tarrying with the latter offers a way to develop idealism into a science of the Real. (OC, p. 81)
So that the question in dialectical terms becomes for Zizek: “What is the Symbolic’s relation to the pre-symbolic Real?” Scott would say this is a question for the neurosciences to answer, for Zizek philosophy. The war goes on. As Carew will state it:
The Real sans fissure and the noumenon represent a compensation for the impossibility of an intimate experience of the Real within the Symbolic by claiming that, outside the reach of this synthetic (re)constitution of reality, it can still be said to persist in a state lacking contradiction and antagonism. It safeguards us from the realization that the Real itself is morcelé: it does not merely get itself into traps, producing monsters that disrupt the flow of knowledge in the Real by making the latter howl under ontological pain… (OC, p. 93)
In a previous essay Hyper-Chaos, Thermospasm and Aion: On the Temporal Philosophies of Meillassoux, Land and Deleuze we come to know the Real as Time’s Kingdom, the pre-ontological time of hyper-Chaos (Meillassoux), Thermospasm (Land), and Aion (Deleuze):
“Time is not governed by physical laws because it is the laws itself that are governed by mad Time.”.– Quentin Meillassoux
“The thermospasm is reality as undiluted chaos. It is where we all
came from.” – Nick Land
“Aion is the eternal truth of time: pure empty form of time, which has freed itself of its present corporeal content and has thereby unwound its own circle, stretching itself out into a straight line.” – Gilles Deleuze
As Zizek will say it: “The Real – the over-abundant obscene-morbid vitality of the primordial…,” the Virtual as against the Actual: So, to conclude, if we return from the second to the first part of Parmenides, i.e., to the status of Ideas, then the result should be that Ideas do not exist, do not have ontological reality of their own: they persist as purely virtual points of reference. That is to say, the only appropriate conclusion is that eternal Ideas are Ones and Others which do not participate in (spatio-temporal) Being (which is the only actual being there is): their status is purely virtual. This virtual status was made clear by Deleuze, one of the great anti-Platonists. Deleuze’s notion of the Virtual is to be opposed to the all-pervasive topic of virtual reality: what matters to Deleuze is not virtual reality, but the reality of the virtual (which, in Lacanian terms, is the Real). Virtual Reality in itself is a rather miserable idea: that of imitating reality, of reproducing experience in an artificial medium. The reality of the Virtual, on the other hand, stands for the reality of the Virtual as such, for its real effects and consequences. ( Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 1738-1746). Norton. Kindle Edition.)
So why mention all this? For the simple reason that our brains are the complex physical system within us that over the course of evolutionary empirical trial and error learned to filter the Real Virtuality (forms/Ideas/objects/things/entities), and transform or translate it into the Symbolic Order and artificial systems of signification by which we navigate the sea of hyper-chaos, thermospasm, or Aion around us. The long road to reason or consciousness – the two seemingly bound to each other, is this struggle within the ‘night of the World’. Yet, we take the Symbolic Order of signs, meaning, and the actual to be everything, the end-all, be-all of our world, and assume wrongly that through philosophy and the sciences we can reduce this phenomenal realm of sense-data and translated information we receive from the brain as everything, when in fact it is but the tip of the ice-berg, and what we think we know is but a miniscule representation, an abstraction out of and into the reductions of our translated world. Or, as Scott irreverently tells us we are “blind to the fact of our being blind,” and what we think we know is but the ignorance of our lack of real knowledge. Cut off in a false world of semblances we live like children in Plato’s Cave, but with a difference: the Virtual is not some separate realm outside our ontological catastrophe, but the very Real of our immediate ontological world in which we live and die.
Well, as we are situated now, the debates are hot and heavy over this battle for / against philosophy and its continuance within the Academy. We’ll have to await the verdict of time on such matters as these… my bet is that as Badiou has suggested the sciences are one of the conditions of philosophy, and that philosophy constructs the platforms of manipulation and communication that bridge the gap between the expert specialization of the sciences, and the general intellect and intelligence of the public. In that sense the Agora is the site where the two realms must come to terms and begin once again speaking in open dialogue and debate rather than monologues of solipsistic and narcissistic self-reflection. The sciences of course are the ultimate victors in this battle, being the out ahead in their investigations into the Real; yet, even as philosophy retroactively constructs out of science its conceptual frames and enframes these into communicative truth for public consumption (even if those conceptual purveyors are scientists using natural of folk psychological language), we are beginning to see that things are changing and that philosophy is no longer the Queen she once was even if she still seeks to hold to that grand illusion. In a post-phenomenal age where the intentionalism that has driven us on, and direct our gaze toward the unknown or conditions of science, art, love, or politics we are learning to realign these toward problems our forbears were not aware of.
For a more in depth and humorous inquiry read Scott Bakker’s essay Alien Philosophy.
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
R. Scott Bakker, Visions of the Semantic Apocalypse: A Critical Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus –thinking through Youval Noah Harari’s new book Homo Deus.
After reading it my thoughts below:
If intentional consciousness is an evolutionary end game, then our task – not for ourselves, but for our machinic progeny – is to invent in AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) not a way to solve the hard problem of consciousness (intentionalism), but rather a way to dissolve the problem altogether: to invent the next stage of Reason and thought and thinking without consciousness: the riddle of the circle squared. If consciousness is the problem, eliminate it. The elminative move…
Will it be possible to construct AGI without consciousness that has access to the environment: – are we bound to our physical limitations, our senses as prosthetics; or, will we develop machinic being without the ‘sense-logic’ dilemma? Is not the body / sense empirical problem what we’re talking about after all, the truth of what Deleuze was already onto in The Logic of Sense? Maybe both scientists and philosophers have been going at this ass backwards all along, trying to solve the hard problem of consciousness when the real problem is the ‘logic of sense’ (i.e., the body as horizon of thought and being – the circle as the limit of our physical senses, our finitude, etc.). We’re stuck in a body with limited capacities, so that all those who are trying to solve Kant’s internal turn toward Mind have been struggling with him and his legacy on his own terms, developing non-issues of the hard problem of consciousness when all along it is the Body not Mind that is at issue and obstacle. Is the next step in evolution the elmination of oranicity of Mind attached to an organic sense-logic based system? Is the next phase in Reason/Mind to advance in the direction an an anorgainic substrate without the natural evolutionary obstacles of consciousness and sense-logic? An a-intentional or non-intentional being? No longer bound ot the emotive or affective relations, the passional Mind? The freeing of Reason from its organic substrate? Isn’t this in some ways what the kludgy neorationalists are seeking, yet tying themselves to outmoded dialectical games of “give and take” of reason, etc.: all those implied rules and regulative structures of normative thought?
What if Reason (i.e., our brain’s complex relations of math, language – discursivity…) was situated in a different body, had access to other prosthetic appendages, would our view onto the world change? Would we no longer need consciousness? If the brain across eons developed solutions to its survival bound to the physical limitations and finitude of the human animal body, what would happen if those conditions were changed? What if the same complex thought processes were situated in a machinic being rather than an organic one? Obviously then we must answer the question: Is the substrate of physical organic matter that makes up the brain at issue? What would the difference entail in using a different substrate? We’re not even concerned with the higher levels of thought here, because my own belief ( I use belief because we do not have access event to such models yet) is that a change in the substrate would entail such a conditional change in Mind that the hard problem of consciousness in machinic being would not be an issue for the simple reason it would have a complete different set of issues and evolutionary challenges.
Those working in AGI and the peripheral subset of the physical mesh within which it will interact seem more concerned with old modes and metaphysics of the sciences than it the underlying conditions. Why?
I laugh when I read all these Neorationalists and Dialectical Materialists who argue against Deleuze’s basic premises in a non-dialectical sense based materialism of the body and embodiment. In Deleuze it is acknowledging that sense = consciousness, that we are on the surface of the senses, the vanishing mediator, the brain travels to operate on the environment. We are the senses, so that it is an integral reality (Baudrillard), one that we cannot step out of or distance ourselves from because it is our material existence: Consciousness is the sense-body or it is nothing. For it is not consciousness, per se that is at issue, but the body and sense which is after all what medial neglect is: the problem not of the limitation of the brain and consciousness, but of the body (prosthetic appendage) evolution stuck it with… the brain had to use the kludgy body it was given to operate on the environment, so that it developed the senses: sight, touch, sound, smell, etc. If the brain or AGI (it’s progeny) had access to other more expansive senses (body/prosthetic) would this not open the door onto other modes of thought and being as well? Strangely by a reversal of the hard problem of consciousness, it’s not the problem of consciousness that needs to be solved but rather the hard problem of its prosthetic body… the human animal; will AGI have access to the environment through more powerful and enhanced feature sets that preclude the problems of the human body/senses? If so it may develop beyond the ‘medial neglect’ issue altogether…
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
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.
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)
In the work of William James I came across a peculiar passage in The Sentiment of Reason:
A nameless unheimlichkeit comes over us at the thought of there being nothing eternal in our final purposes, in the objects of those loves and aspirations which are our deepest energies. The monstrously lopsided equation of the universe and its knower, which we postulate as the ideal of cognition, is perfectly paralleled by the no less lopsided equation of the universe and the doer. We demand in it a character for which our emotions and active propensities shall be a match. Small as we are, minute as is the point by which the cosmos impinges upon each one of us, each one desires to feel that his reaction at that point is congruous with the demands of the vast whole,—that he balances the latter, so to speak, and is able to do what it expects of him. But as his abilities to do lie wholly in the line of his natural propensities; as he enjoys reacting with such emotions as fortitude, hope, rapture, admiration, earnestness, and the like; and as he very unwillingly reacts with fear, disgust, despair, or doubt,—a philosophy which should only legitimate emotions of the latter sort would be sure to leave the mind a prey to discontent and craving.3
Isn’t this exactly what the weird tale purports to do? To leave us disquieted and discontent, to leave us craving for more or for an extreme resolution to our desire; yet, knowing full well, and ahead of time, that there can be no resolution; not in this life, nor in the annihilation of our physical life into ashes and oblivion? The point of the weird tale is to disturb us rather than to allow us to continue to sleep in our safe little box of security, to awaken us from our lethargic immersion in the human symbolic order; this realm within which we so comely allow ourselves to be lulled and enclosed, a realm of collective delusion in a global society and civilization that our mainstream protectorates or mediautarcracy or elite cultural pundits term “reality”? This sense of estrangement and alienation from our everyday lives, as if the world were ‘out-of-joint’ and everyone around us had taken on an almost puppet like existence, an uncanny vision of a world where humans were bit players in a cosmic horror show of which no one is aware. And, most uncanny of all, that even though you’ve become aware of such a hideous duplicity in the order of the world you are not sure whether it is real or unreal, whether you are sane or insane. And, as you wander through your daily existence everything becomes more spectral, more ghost-like as if reality were giving way to another world, as if the protection zones that defended you from knowing too much, of feeling too much, were coming down and this other order of existence were invading your life, your mind, and the natural world around you in subtle ways that you could not directly perceive with your senses – but, could only feel with your uncanny sense, your emotions and affective relations.
It seemed to him that the old mysteries had been made for another universe, and not the one he came to know. Yet there was no doubt that they had once deeply impressed him.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Order of Illusion
Horror acts like a sigil, a diagram that invokes the powers within the darkness to arise, to unfold their mystery, to explain themselves; and, if not explain then at least to invade our equilibrium, our staid and comfortable world with their rage, their torment, their corruption. The best literary horror or weird tales never describe in detail the mystery, rather they invoke by hyperstitional invention: calling forth the forces out of darkness and the abstract, and allowing them to co-habit for a time the shared space – the vicarious bubble or interzone between the reader and narrative, both together weaving or unweaving a form or inform – a new terror, or zone of corruptions and horror, wherein the force of reader and the force of the hidden powers within the interstices of the narrative meld and form if not a chimerical being, then a fugitive and mutant thought and voice; a voice at once daemonic and full of that hellish wisdom of the Abyss.
Speaking of Lovecraft’s tale of the musician Eric Zann Ligotti says: “What brought this man ‘who signed his name as Erich Zann’—as if he had another name, or perhaps none—to that rundown boarding house in the Rue d’Auseil? What caused him to remain on that twisted street? Above all, what is it about the blackness and its ‘shocking music’ that so possesses him?” (DB) As he suggests “Zann and the Rue d’Auseil were, at the very least, sympathetic entities, a district unto themselves—and when he disappeared into the blackness he seems to have taken the street, which was as old and misshapen as he, along with him”. (DB) Sympathetic entities: this seeming collusion or corruption of the one by the other, an almost magnetic appeal or mesmerizing association between the two forms of horror shaped by each others desires, known by each others dark daemonic splendors. As if the place, the music, and the players were all part of some larger entity, some darker and more abysmal majesty of inexistence.
In fact it is not the natural light, the street, the music in itself, but rather as Ligotti tells us “in the blackness the mystery must remain, nameless and unknown, leaving only the memory of a certain haunting music to suggest, as subtly as possible, its meaning. It is the abstract, elusive form of supernatural horror in this story that may account for its enduring enchantment for certain readers.” (DB) The ancients believed that to name something, to name a god was to control its power. For Ligotti the magic and mystery of the elusive darkness must remain unnamed, neither reduced to our scientific or sociological categories and tropes or brought into the domesticated circle of rational logics; no, instead the unnatural must only be accessed indirectly, lured and allured out of its dark lair, tempted only by spectral events, shades and nuances of the actual, a movement only from the affective regions of the silence. Against the old Gnostic adagio of “To know and be known,” this is rather the indirect path: the way of “affecting even as you are affected”. This is the way of non-knowledge rather than knowledge.
…despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.
-H.P Lovecraft, The Music of Eric Zann
He’ll remark that for Lovecraft The Music of Erich Zann is “the early, almost premature expression of his ideal as a writer: the use of maximum suggestion and minimal explanation to evoke a sense of supernatural terrors and wonders” (DB). Evocation: calling forth the darkness from the abyss, letting it invade the circle of magick, like a sigil or diagram of force that flames forth as the secret life of the mysterious entity awakens. Again the voice:
In the earlier story as much as the later one, that secret voice beneath the narrative speaks strongly and stridently, imparting its meaning through feelings rather than facts, singing a song without words on the theme of the nameless horror and strangeness of the universe, that cosmic neighborhood where everything that is, is terrifyingly wrong… and at the same time alluring, a place of charming evil. (DB)
A song without words, nameless, cosmic in scope; a song of cosmic catastrophe, at once alluring and tempting you into the place of terror, the circle of evil. He comments on closing that in the Music of Erich Zann, Lovecraft “captured at least a fragment of the desired object and delivered it to his readers” (DB). Should we say that rather than capture, that he allowed the voice within the narrative to indirectly access the reader’s mind, allowing it to form itself as an entity, an elemental power, a hyperstitional inexistent at once real and full of terror.
Ligotti speaks of darkness as being both the minimal and the base line for that mystery we term the weird tale. At the edge of things, on the borderlands between phenomena and the noumenon lies this thin red line of darkness that wavers in the cold light of intellect and imagination, that allows us to peer into that subtle realm of spectral being where the monstrous and grotesque, the beautiful and the sublime terrors below the threshold of our daylight worlds glow in the nightmare realms of infinite mystery. As Ligotti tells us the “dark, indeed, phenomenon possessing the maximum of mystery, the one most resistant to the taming of the mind and most resonant with emotions and meanings of a highly complex and subtle type. It is also extremely abstract as a provenance for supernatural horror, an elusive prodigy whose potential for fear may slip through a writer’s fingers and right past even a sensitive reader of terror tales.” (TLR)
The Dark Aesthetics of Fear
Everywhere things are effacing or disguising their existence, seeking a mask of shadows or a veil of pale light wavering across their disfigured surfaces. But their struggle for obscurity nonetheless remains only a matter of form—an invasion of vitality still threatens the ruins of certain cities.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Mocking Mystery
David Roden in a theoretical entry into dark phenomenology has a nice post – Note on aesthetics and dark phenomenology – on aesthetics which relates that “dark phenomena are experienced affectsthat provide no or only an insufficient yardstick for their description. We have them, we talk about them, inordinately even; but having does not allow us describe them adequately or even recognise them over time. A microtonal difference between pitches might qualify. We feel a difference and report it; but we are unable to carry that difference with us in memory. We might be haunted by a euphoria that we can never recover, or a crushing terror we cannot articulate. At issue in the earlier discussion, was a tension (in my case “hesitation”) between a thin reading of darkness as a purely epistemological category and a “thick” reading that interprets the dark side of experience as basic, eluding theoretical reason in principle.” (see: David Roden: Note on aesthetics and dark phenomenology)
This notion of the tension between the epistemic and ontic in abstract horror returns me to Nick Land’s short work Phyl-Undhu: Abstract Horror, Exterminator in which the narrator tells us that what we fear, what terrorizes us is not the seen – the known and definable, but rather the unseen and unknown, even “shapeless threat, ‘Outside’ only in the abstract sense (encompassing the negative immensity of everything that we cannot grasp). It could be anywhere, from our genes or ecological dynamics, to the hidden laws of technological evolution, or the hostile vastnesses between the stars. We know only that, in strict proportion to the vitality of the cosmos, the probability of its existence advances towards inevitability, and that for us it means supreme ill. Ontological density without identifiable form is abstract horror itself.”4
Let us repeat that: Ontological density without identifiable form is abstract horror itself. Which aligns well with Roden’s added statement on the ‘dark’ in dark phenomenology: “Their darkness holds in principle. On this account no matter how much our scientific knowledge improves, their relationship to brains’ computational and functional properties will remain speculative at best. While this claim might be true, it can’t be justified without claiming the kind of intuitive information regarding phenomenal natures that the dark phenomenology hypothesis precludes. Indeed, the position borders on the self-vitiating. If we don’t know what X is, then we’re on weak ground if we insist in going on to make irreducibility or ineliminability claims about it: we don’t know that a neurophenomenology of the dark is impossible just because a certain kind of phenomenology is. So, despite its aura, the dark phenomenology hypothesis is not conducive to wide angle metaphysical theorizing.” (ibid.) In other words its grounded in scientific naturalism that knows there is a tension between a thin epistemological interpretation of Dark Phenomena – experiences that furnish no tacit yardstick for their description – and a weird reading that I hesitate to term “ontological”, since its presuppositions seem more difficult to articulate than the naturalist side. (here)
Abstract Horror and Horror Literature
Preceding revivification there may be a sudden darkness which embraces the dead city, and within the darkness great flashes of light create the appearance that things are in motion. There may only be a frail mist which drifts among the ruins and slithers into their every fracture. Or there may be nothing at all, or nothing that may be witnessed.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Mocking Mystery
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. As Land in his Manifesto for an Abstract Literature remarks,
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). (here)
In The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror Ligotti reminds us that the monstrous and grotesque, the mangled and obscene, the creatures that inhabit the nightlands of our worst nightmares – bloodthirsty vampires and ravenous zombies, the undead and spectral, the wyrd and fatal creatures of imaginal and real seeming – those barely perceptible and invisible ghostly beings that arise from our fears and terrors “inspire a subjective sense of the uncanny in those who perceive them because they divulge the “dark knowledge” that human beings are also things made as they are made and may be remade because they are only clockwork processes, mechanisms, rather than immutable beings unchanging at their heart”.5
This sense that the human is not a fixed category, that it is mutable – a mutant and fugitive being that can transgress its limits, its finitude scares the piss out of conservatives and traditionalists alike who would hold onto the Judeo-Christian humanist world view that has always seen man as the exception – as the Child of God, etc. who was made a “little lower than Angels” only to be in some eternity of imaginal infinity a ruler of Angels with Christ in some paradisial Kingdom of Heaven. Such are the dreams of religion. But in our time of the demythologization and flattening the human there is no longer any separation from the stark fact of our ‘animality,’ and the fact of being reduced in this fashion by the natural sciences disturbs those who would continue to dominate the minds of humanity. They’ll point to our intellect and communicative powers, our linguistic and cultural glories: the ability to enter into relation with techne and technics that has allowed humans to surpass and transcend their natural place in the Order of Things.6
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Yet, as Lovecraft in one of his famous stories – “Call of Cthulhu” once suggested, the “sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” Here is the nub for Ligotti, the dividing line of those who continue to sleep in the illusory safety net of their cultural delusions:
This is Lovecraft’s atmosphere — that of a world in which the which the “frightful position” he has placed all human existence could lead to universal madness or extinction at a moment’s notice. Through this atmosphere, Lovecraft gives consistency to an imagined world where there is greatness in knowing too much of the horror of a planet in the shadow of Cthulhu and all that this implies about our existence. As for those people who still go about their ordinary, average business complacently enjoying the skies of spring and the flowers of summer, innocently unaware of the monstrosities with which they coexist— they are children. They have no idea that there is nothing worth living for in Lovecraft’s world. (CHR, 193)
Many will remember the Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot once suggested that “humankind cannot bear too much reality”. In an interview Nick 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 ties back in with Ligotti’s sense that below the polyphonic surface, the glitter images of phenomenality, the brokered work-a-day world of glamourous beauty of life in a hidden lair – that is only accessible through the secret sharer – the daemon’s voice within us that arises from those emotive twins fear and terror of the unknown. It’s this voicing of abstract horror of which Land speaks in § 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.7
“Beyond humanity, another phenomenology persists,” Dylan Trigg tells us.8 Far from being the vehicle of a solely human voice, there is a darker phenomenology that can attend to a realm outside of humanity. Indeed, one can surmise a model of phenomenology that is not only capable of speaking on behalf of the nonhuman realms, but is especially suited to this study of alien ecologies: zones of darkness and the abstract. We will term phenomenology’s specific mode of accounting for the nonhuman realm, the unhuman. Another thinker Richard Grusin in The Nonhuman Turn remarks that the “nonhuman turn more generally, is engaged in decentering the human in favor of a turn toward and concern for the nonhuman, understood variously in terms of animals, affectivity, bodies, organic and geophysical systems, materiality, or technologies”.9 There’s a sense that in Ligotti as in Lovecraft that the monstrous perspective of abstract horror presents the ultimate challenge to anthropomorphism. It’s this decentering of the humanist and Judeo-Christian heritage locked in its fantasy of Man as the exception in the grand scheme of things, as the being created by God – a “little lower than the angels, only to ultimately rule over them” (KJB) I spoke of earlier. In Kant’s time Enlightenment Reason was the central motif of the human, the light that guided thought and politics, that brought emancipation and the sciences, gave us the truth of the universe of things, etc. Some call this era the “great disenchantment”. Nietzsche’s “Death of God” or the nihilist liberation of the universe from its significations and meanings. An age when the universe lost its human meaning and regained its own truth: the truth of meaninglessness, impersonalism, and indifference to human wants or needs. The universe was devoid of human meaning or gods and would hence forth be ruled by the mastery and power of Reason alone.
The Glamour of the Unhuman
The source of this resurrection-to-come may remain unknown, its purposes secreted in the remotest parts of the creation. Yet no force ever withstands the way of this mysterious maker of new worlds, just as no world is ever allowed to endure in its greatness.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Mocking Mystery
Against this humanistic world of thought and culture is the notion of the Unhuman. With the unhuman, something comes back to haunt the human without it being fully integrated into humanity. In this respect, the unhuman is closely tied up with notions of alienation, anonymity, and the unconscious. The distinction of the unhuman is that it does not negate humanity, even though in experiential terms it may be felt as a force of opposition. As we will see, it is precisely through the inclusion of the human that the nonhuman element becomes visible. This does not mean falling back into anthropomorphism. Rather, it means letting the unhumanity of the human speak for itself. (TT, 9) Yet, all this theory of entering into some unhuman perspective is just that theory. As Ligotti will suggest,
Nonhuman occupants of this planet are unaware of death. But we are susceptible to startling and dreadful thoughts, and we need some fabulous illusions to take our minds off them. For us, then, life is a confidence trick we must run on ourselves, hoping we do not catch on to any monkey business that would leave us stripped of our defense mechanisms and standing stark naked before the silent, staring void. To end this self-deception, to free our species of the paradoxical imperative to be and not to be conscious, our backs breaking by degrees upon a wheel of lies, we must cease reproducing. (CHR, pp. 28-29)
The key here is the Human Security System: survival and reproductive cycle shut down – all those “defense mechanisms” both within and in culture that protect us from too much truth: we are expendable, we are not exceptions, we are elemental beings of dust and stars; dead stars eons ago gave birth the void we are. It’s as if Life gave us blindness for a reason – and, by that I mean consciousness filters out everything but the illusory aspects of reality it needs to survive and replenish the species: hunger and sex drive the illusions of humanity and also lock us within our own self-deluded circumference of safety. And, yet, there are times-between-time, transitional zones in-between one symbolic order and another when everything goes topsy-turvy, when chaos rather than order takes the upper hand and the great filters internal to the brain, and to culture break down and the daemonic force of the natural and unhuman, the unhomely or uncanny break out into the world at large, into the great outdoors and cause utter havoc. This is one of those moments.
Freud, The Uncanny, and the Human Security Regime
…mystery itself remains guarded, its life sealed far away from its creation. And in a world that seems to possess a life of its own, figures parade in a state of terror which is immortal, unchanging, and which endures, through all the phases of a fateful ordeal, as their only inviolable birthright.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Mocking Mystery
Freud would teach us that a person tropes in order to tell a many-colored rather than white lies to herself. In fact Freud would go one further and say that literary and imaginative literature, poetry, and all those cultural artifacts from advertising to the neon-signs in a bar utilize our desires, tap into our hidden fantasy life or – as he’d term it “defense mechanisms” in order to ward off unpleasant truths concerning danger within us hiding the dark and murderous core of what Freud troped as the “id”.
Sade in his grotesque and erotic danse macabre asks: “What is man? and what difference is there between him and other plants, between him and all the other animals of the world? None, obviously.” This is a classically Dionysian view of man’s immersion in organic nature. Judeo-Christianity elevates man above nature, but Sade, like Darwin, assigns him to the animal kingdom, subject to natural force. Vegetable too: man is soulless, “an absolutely material plant.” And mineral: Juliette says, “Man is in no wise Nature’s dependent; he is not even her child; he is her froth, her precipitated residue.” Rousseau’s mother nature is Christian Madonna, lovingly enfolding her infant son. Sade’s mother nature is pagan cannibal, her dragon jaws dripping sperm and spittle.9
Both of these are human fabricated and encoded fantasies, tropes if you will; defense mechanisms that hide the darkness from within in the phenomenal imagery of the Outside. We belong to the tribe of fabricators, illusionists, makers of false worlds and dreamers of eternity. Yet, in the end our lies are just that: lies against time’s dark curvature, the sense of déjà vu – the amorphous feeling that we have done this before, that we are living through the steps of an eternal cycle that we have repeated over and over and over again from eternity to eternity. That we are not ourselves but rather patterns in a cosmic game of repetition without outlet. Is this not the dark truth we hide from ourselves? Are we mere dust motes in a cosmic funhouse? Are the hideous faces in the House of Mirrors none other than the distorted image of our real selves staring back at us? And the moment we walk up and seek a clearer image of what lies behind those distorted eyes we discover a darker truth: the Void. The nothingness we are and are not.
There is a sound in my new language for that transitory time of day just before the dark hours. The sound clusters together curious shades of meaning and shadowy impressions, none of which belong to my former conception of an abstract paradise: the true garden of unearthly delights.
-Thomas Ligotti, The Lost Art of Twilight
Abstract horror and the uncanny deal in these ambiguous and troubling affects, the uncertainties and hesitations that keep us hover between the real and unreal, sane and insane. Themes such as invisibility, transformation (mutation, metamorphosis), dualism (doppelgangers, doubles), and all those moral or amoral of good and evil, or good and bad. Out of these are generated the leitmotifs of ghosts, shadows, vampires, werewolves, doubles, partial selves, reflection (mirrored multiplicities and multiplications), enclosures, monsters, beasts, cannibals, and all those tentacle alien incursions or those strange and insidious puppets or automatons. This is the realm of the indefinable and abstract where transgressive impulses from within overpower the world towards incest, necrophilia, androgyny, insanity, paranoia, recidivism, narcissism and ‘abnormal’ psychological states as convention tropes under hallucinations, dreams, nightmares that breakdown the distinction between animal, vegetable and mineral and blur them within the witches’ brew of fantastic or horrific alchemy in an attempt to ‘normalize’ the perceptive and affective relations that otherwise would undermine our ability to cope and exist within a social world among other humans.
Lovecraft in his now much repeated statement in The Supernatural Horror in Literature reminds us that the “oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form.”10 He would go on in the next paragraph to state a much more powerful view (and I quote in full):
The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and a capacity for detachment from every-day life. Relatively few are free enough from the spell of the daily routine to respond to rappings from outside, and tales of ordinary feelings and events, or of common sentimental distortions of such feelings and events, will always take first place in the taste of the majority; rightly, perhaps, since of course these ordinary matters make up the greater part of human experience. But the sensitive are always with us, and sometimes a curious streak of fancy invades an obscure corner of the very hardest head; so that no amount of rationalisation, reform, or Freudian analysis can quite annul the thrill of the chimney-corner whisper or the lonely wood. There is here involved a psychological pattern or tradition as real and as deeply grounded in mental experience as any other pattern or tradition of mankind; coeval with the religious feeling and closely related to many aspects of it, and too much a part of our inmost biological heritage to lose keen potency over a very important, though not numerically great, minority of our species. (ASH, KL 334)
This sense of something undefinable, abstract and not a part of the everyday work world of newspapers, politics, or habitual conversation is accessible, not to the vast majority but to a specific subset of the population who seem more adept and sensitive to the dark transports just beyond the range of normalized and socialized (“rationalization, reform, Freudian analysis”) mediations that always seems to weave itself through those deep seated yearnings of “religious feeling” that Lovecraft – as a materialist, registers as part of our evolutionary heritage.
Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle will first address the notion of the uncanny and daemonic, saying:
How exactly we can trace back to the infantile psychology the uncanny effect of such similar recurrences is a question that I can only touch on in these pages; and I must refer the reader instead to another work, already completed, in which this has been gone into in detail, but in a different connection. For it is possible to recognize the dominance in the unconscious of a “compulsion to repeat,” proceeding from the instinctual impulses and probably inherent in the very nature of the instincts—a compulsion powerful enough to overrule the pleasure principle, lending to certain aspects of the mind their daemonic character, and still very clearly expressed in the impulses of small children; a compulsion, too, which is responsible for a part of the course taken by the analyses of neurotic patients. All these considerations prepare us for the notion that whatever reminds of this inner “compulsion to repeat” is perceived as uncanny. (Freud 1919h, 238)
Ligotti in a discussion of supernatural horror and the “uncanny” will tell us that both terms refer to seemingly animate forms that are not what they seem, as with the undead— monstrosities of paradox, things that are neither one thing nor another, or, more uncannily, and more horrifically supernatural, things that are discovered to be two things at once. Whether or not there really are manifestations of the supernatural, they are horrifying to us in concept, since we think ourselves to be living in a natural world, which may be a festival of massacres but only in a physical rather than a metaphysical purport. This is why we routinely equate the supernatural with horror. And a puppet possessed of life would exemplify just such a horror, because it would negate all conceptions of a natural physicalism and affirm a metaphysics of chaos and nightmare. It would still be a puppet, but it would be a puppet with a mind and a will, a human puppet— a paradox more disruptive of sanity than the undead. But that is not how they would see it. Human puppets could not conceive of themselves as being puppets at all, not when they are fixed with a consciousness that excites in them the unshakable sense of being singled out from all other objects in creation. Once you begin to feel you are making a go of it on your own— that you are making moves and thinking thoughts which seem to have originated within you— it is not possible for you to believe you are anything but your own master. (CHR, 17)
It’s this uncanny suspicion that we are not masters of our own house which produces the uncanny effect and affect of fear and terror that those objective literary and artistic (film or painting) works help guide us through the nightmare inscapes of our own broken lives. As Ligotti puts it as “conscious beings, we must hold back that divulgement lest it break us with a sense of being things without significance or foundation, anatomies shackled to a landscape of unintelligible horrors. In plain language, we cannot live except as self-deceivers who must lie to ourselves about ourselves, as well as about our unwinnable situation in this world.” (CHR, 42) So that we build and construct defenses against our own truths, our own daemonism, our own inherent unhumanity. The concept of the human is that fantasy that defends us against our own daemonic monstrosity.
In fact as he’ll suggest it is in the experience of the uncanny, a feeling of wrongness. A violation has transpired that alarms our internal authority regarding how something is supposed to happen or exist or behave. An offense against our world-conception or self-conception has been committed. Of course, our internal authority may itself be in the wrong, perhaps because it is a fabrication of consciousness based on a body of laws that are written only within us and not a detector of what is right or wrong in any real sense, since nothing really is right or wrong in any real sense. (CHR, pp. 85-86)
The Daemonic Loosed Upon the World
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
One could say that in our time the daemonic has escaped into the world, that the cultural and social defense systems that have been operative for twenty centuries are broken and that what we are seeing is the cages of the inner life of humanity manifest in the streets. The abstract horror and the fantasy life of man are no longer restricted to our tales but are rather on display blatantly in the murderous actions of our daemonized and authoritarian world order. From the dark and murderous fears of police that drive them to kill young black males, to the dronological war machines that deliver payload after payload of death in the Middle-East, to the terror in the streets of American and European and Asian cities at the hands of militant ISIS followers we are seeing played out in real time the dark phenomenological worlds of the weird and fatal themes of abstract horror. Life has become a Weird Tale, and we the bit players in a darkening and murderous end game of which we are only dimly aware; and, that in our daily nightmares we are the unknowing agents of chaos and disorder, and this is an age of destructive carnival and sacrificial war; a time when Reality TV has become Nightmare TV and the world at large is a festival of cruelty and pain, of excess and transgressive aggression rather than a safe haven against the madness.
For Ligotti the subjective reaction to the seemingly objective stimulus of the uncanny is the gaining of “dark knowledge” about the workings of individuals, including the onlooker of the epileptic in the midst of a seizure. More expansively stated, not only is the epileptic perceived as uncanny by the onlooker (unless the onlooker is a physician who understands epileptic seizures by the lights of modern medicine and not according to a “traditional view”) but the onlooker also perceives himself as uncanny because he has been made conscious of the mechanical nature of all human bodies and, by extrapolation, of the fact that “mechanical processes are taking place in that which he was previously used to regarding as a unified psyche.” (CHR, 89) This sense that the corruption works both ways, upon the victim and the perpetrator; that the world is now topsy-turvy and that the uncanny boundaries between victim and perpetrator are reversible and hazy, and not always obvious is due to that subtle knowledge that each culture is circumscribed within its own black box of conceptuality. By that I mean by that that as Eduardo Viveiros de Castro in his Cannibal Metaphysics argues the case that Amazonian and other Amerindian groups inhabit a radically different conceptual universe than ours—in which nature and culture, human and nonhuman, subject and object are conceived in terms that reverse our own—he presents the case for anthropology as the study of such “other” metaphysical schemes, and as the corresponding critique of the concepts imposed on them by the human sciences.
Dark fantastic fiction and weird tales are just such an exploration. It allows us to investigate the delusions within one’s own culture, to trace down the deliriums and phobias, the nightmares and aberrations that have guided our collective madness for centuries. The notion of insects seems to be a prime example of a nightmare scenario that one finds hidden in the lair of the monstrous within Western Civilization and Culture. One can harken back to ancient myths, dreams, fears, terrors of rats, insects, serpents, etc.; deep seated worlds of disgust that have shaped our religious and secular views of life, medicine, politics, and moral views.
We can see it around us in our daily lives, the madness and insanity of Brexit, the campaigns of Hillary and Trump, the Turkish disposal of hundreds of thousands of citizens from government jobs at the hands of a dictator’s paranoiac fears and terrors, the pain inflected in Africa, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and many other nations of class and caste warfare, of the mass deaths of those in the LGBTQ community at the hands of militant religious fanatics… one could go on and on.
We’re in that position of moving either way: 1) literalizing our fantasies: building walls and barbed-wire fences against invading hordes of refugees, migrants, etc.; or, 2) of seeing through them, seeing the aesthetic and defensive use of art and social mechanisms to defend ourselves from the onslaught of our own daemonic nihilism and drives: our fears and terrors. As Ligotti reminds us artistic invocations of horror are most successful when the phenomena they depict call up the uncanny, which, unlike Jentsch’s example of seeing someone having an epileptic seizure, are genuinely threatening both from the outside and from within. This species of horror can only be provoked when the supernatural is conjoined with the uncanny, because not even physicians and neuroscientists can be comfortable with supernaturalism, either by the lights of modern medicine or by any other lights. Bloodthirsty vampires and ravenous zombies are prime examples in this context, because their intrinsic supernaturalism as the undead makes them objectively uncanny things that generate subjectively uncanny sensations. They are uncanny in themselves because they once were human but have undergone a terrible rebirth and become mechanisms with a single function— to survive for survival’s sake. (CHR, 90)
There is the possibility that the very unhuman and impersonal forces of the universe not only are indifferent to our needs and desires, but that the very order itself in its blind fury and endless abyss of appetite is even now moving toward that doom which shall be our oblivion and utter annihilation. There are no safety nets in this impersonal and indifferent zone of mindless churning. We’ve tempted ourselves to believe otherwise, to create fantastic worlds of culture and civilization within which to hide ourselves from the truth of things as they are as they are… Now will come the next wave of intelligence, the possibility of our replacement, of a machinic civilization constructed out of the ruins of the human – a totally other mode of being and thinking outside the human altogether. For some this is a horror, for others a pleasant and welcome ending to the beast who would not die or change: human civilization that produced such greatness and also mass death, corruption and degradation will come to an end; extinction and oblivion in the backwaters of the night and the silence, the darkness. Do we even have a choice in the matter? I doubt it. As Frank Ruda in a charming work on fatalism suggests,
Comic fatalism therefore relates to nihilistic fatalism as active nihilism relates to passive nihilism in Nietzsche. Comic fatalism recoils back upon itself and thus turns the apocalypse into a category of comedy.11
Maybe that should be our nonplussed reaction to the universal horror of an indifferent and impersonal universe in which the care and feeding of humans is a joke or at best something that is not built into the very structure of existence. A comic fatalism that seeks in horror literature nothing more than – as Ligotti once said in an interview, “pure entertainment”. As he’d say in another work: “To entertain ourselves for a spell, let us proclaim that were it not for tragedy the human race would have gone extinct long ago. It keeps us on our toes and pushes us toward the future in a paradoxical search to purge the tragic from our lives.” (CHR, 163) He’d go on to say,
No one knows this better than the entertainers among us, those sublimating masters of artifice who could not forge their “great works” without the screams and sobs arising out of the pit where tremulous shadows run from themselves. (CHR, 163)
In our time we’ve forgotten this fact, and forgotten the art laughter, to see the world through the lens of art or horror literature and know that this, too, is illusion: the aesthetic call to our emotions, to our fears and our terrors that allows that purge, that release that only great art can supply. Rather in our time we’ve all become literalists of the imagination, so that apocalypse rather than a pleasant channeling of our fears has become an actual possibility and real manifestation in the world around us in wars, famines, racism, hatred, murder, mayhem… The problem we face is that we’ve targeted the external world of actual people and deemed them disposable as if they are the ravenous zombies and vampires of our contemporary globalist madness. We’ve turned the inside out, reversed what once existed within into a projected nightmare scenario and living hell in the real world not as fantasy but as daemonic threat and doom upon ourselves and others. Talking of contemporary horror films Ligotti remarks that the characters in these films “cannot be sure who is a “thing” and who is not, since those who are transmuted retain their former appearance, memories, and behaviors even after they have become, in their essence, uncanny monstrosities from another world.” (CHR, 92) This sense that we’ve allowed the immigrants (US) and refugees (US and EU) to enter into and become a part of the social body of our nations leads to this sense of the uncanny uncertainty that one cannot be sure who is the “thing” – is it us or them: a paranoiac nightmare world of ravening lunacy, indeed. Because our categories of normal/abnormal have broken down due to the absolute Other of other conceptual cultures who have other sets of Symbolic Orders and ideas, concepts, ideologies, religious, and Laws, etc. we are now in the predicament of mutating and transforming into an Other ourselves all across the globe. There is no safe haven, no place to hide or defend oneself against oneself. In this sense we’ve all – everyone on the planet – become as Ligotti states it, in “essence, uncanny monstrosities from another world”. (CHR, 92) The world of the hidden and unrevealed – the unhuman: a realm at once of visible darkness and translucent majesty at the far reaches of our imaginative need; a realm of sound and music, vibratory and infernal chords, erotic weavings and terror hollowed spasms, wherein the elemental daemons and energetic forces, light up the galleons of unbidden mysteries and allure us toward insidious obscurity.
Enjoy the Ride: The Sickness of Our Age
Death as commodity. Police videos have skyrocketed. In America the new spectator sport has become channeling the latest death scene from the ongoing mediatrance police shootings across the USA. This grotesquerie which seems to be mobilized as the aestheticized visualization of police brutality, along with the veritable aftermath which comes with it of reactionary pogroms of Black Lives Matter’s activists on the streets to counter it in protest and political activism spawn even greater violence and death. All captured on the latest iPad, iPhone, or other media device and blipped nonstop to any of a number of media outlets online for a continuous feedback frenzy.
The key here is to watch how the very protests against police brutality (i.e., Ferguson, Black Lives Matter’s, etc.) seem to be reinforcing and escalating police violence, causing within police departments across the nation in-house paranoia, fear, horror and anxiety to the point that overreaction under duress and performance produces the very acts of violence that protestors intended should be curtailed or stopped altogether; else police departments that usually patrol poorer neighborhoods have gone minimal, and citizens are crying for more protection. Where is the sanity in this? Of course there is none. Our society is insane. Of course we figured this out long ago, but most of us decided to just sleep it out till it passed. But with climate change, iffy leaders, austerity, Brexit, wars and rumors of wars, racism, gender issues… one could go on… one realizes there is no escape from it. We are part of it… riding on a non-stop Ship of Fools without a port to end our madness, moving toward doom without hope or reprieve in site.
Academics will theorize till their blue in the face, as usual. One wonders if someone can actually decide whether the apocalypse has already happened, and if this is just the fallout that we are unwilling as yet to accept. Responsibility? Who would willingly respond to madness? Me? I’m reminded of Thomas Ligotti’s thoughts in his Conspiracy against the Human Race (and here I let him have the final word):
Answer: Now you go insane. Now our species goes extinct in great epidemics of madness, because now we know that behind the scenes of life there is something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world. Now we know that we are uncanny paradoxes. We know that nature has veered into the supernatural by fabricating a creature that cannot and should not exist by natural law, and yet does.(CHR, 111)
Enjoy the ride!
The article is taken from:
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 4)
by Obsolete Capitalism
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 3)
The infinite money: desire, value and simulacrum
Truths are coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, On truth and lies in a non-moral sense
We need units in order to count, but it may not be assumed that such units [of measure] exist.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, fr. 14 
To subvert the braking effect of totality
If we examine the main works of Deleuze, Foucault and Klossowski published between 1968 and 1972, we can observe that the courses of these texts objectively bear enigmatic and common features that could allow us to regard them as «fragmentary research projects»; these are investigations that could hardly be conceived and envisaged if we evaluate them from a ‘revolutionary’ perspective with the aim of identifying on which common battleground and common agenda these three intellectuals act. They swing with remarkable aplomb from far-sighted and vibrant essays with an academic flavour, such as Difference and Repetition or The Archaeology of Knowledge, to hermeneutic works on Nietzsche – which include both anthologies of fragments like Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle, and of first editions of his OEuvres Complètes published by Gallimard – continuing with literary criticism or tout-court literature works such as The Logic of Sense or The Women of Rome, and finishing with cryptic economical essays, La monnaie vivante, or aggressively political pamphlets, The Anti-OEdipus; not to mention, then, their academic lectures ranging from Freud to Marx, from Aristotle to Nietzsche, from Greek currency to the Medieval Inquisition or history of sexuality, without any interruption. Foucault himself, with a certain irony, in his first lecture on 7th January 1976 part of a course titled Society Must Be Defended, wanted to terminate a line of research that he himself defines incoherent and discontinuous. Foucault feels the need to end and systematise, in some way, the several lines of research, insight and analysis that he had been carrying on since he started his lectures at the Collège de France (1970). From a certain point of view, Foucault does not mention only his research, but alludes also to a common path of the French revolutionary Rhizosphere when he lists among the relevant, or at least interesting, elements of the previous fifteen years “I am thinking of the efficacy of a book such as L’Anti-OEdipe, which really has no other source of reference than its own prodigious theoretical inventiveness: a book, or rather a thing, an event, which has managed, even at the most mundane level of psychoanalytic practice, to introduce a note of shrillness into that murmured exchange that has for so long continued uninterrupted between couch and armchair” (PK, 80). This is an important indication to his students since the philosophical work of Deleuze has always been a crucial point of reference for Foucault, because it had openly established itself as an “ally” of his theories since the early sixties, or at least from the beginning of the Nietzsche Renaissance and, thus, from the publication of Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962) and the Royaumont conference (1964). What is most surprising is the importance that Foucault confers to the anti-oedipic text, because his analysis takes into account “the last ten, fifteen, twenty years at most”, hence the timeframe that goes, approximately, from 1956 and 1976: not only The Anti-OEdipus is the only book to be referenced, but its position in Foucault’s argument surprises us the most. The volume, indeed, is referred to in the context of “this amazing efficacy of discontinuous, particular and local criticism” and its efficacy is compared to that of entire movements such as anti-psychiatry, existential analysis, and attacks upon the legal and penal system. Foucault concludes: “I would say, then, that what has emerged in the course of the last ten or fifteen years is a sense of the increasing vulnerability to criticism of things, institutions, practices, discourses. A certain fragility has been discovered in the very bedrock of existence-even, and perhaps above all, in those aspects of it that are most familiar, most solid and most intimately related to our bodies and to our everyday behaviour. But together with this sense of instability and this amazing efficacy of discontinuous, particular and local criticism, one in fact also discovers something that perhaps was not initially foreseen, something one might describe as precisely the inhibiting effect of global, totalitarian theories. It is not that these global theories have not provided nor continue to provide in a fairly consistent fashion useful tools for local research: Marxism and psychoanalysis are proofs of this. […] In each case, the attempt to think in terms of a totality has in fact proved a hindrance to research.” (PK, 80-81)
By following Foucault’s outline, we can identify two opposite fronts: on the one hand, the «accelerationist» front, irregular, peculiar and local; on the other hand, a front more “restraining”, “braking”, continuous, global, total, and openly totalitarian. Marxism and psychoanalysis can still be useful instruments at a local level, but, according to Foucault, when confronted with facts, they have had a «braking» thus negative function for the insurrectionary front. The Anti-OEdipus, in Foucault’s opinion, fits perfectly in the domain of those critical entities capable of causing landslides and provided with some peculiar characteristics that could be summarised as follows: 1) autonomous – instead of centralized – technical production 2) wisdom returns to scale which descend from the insurrection of subjugated wisdoms.
The insurrection of subjugated knowledges
1) In the lecture he gave on 7th January 1976, Foucault focused his attention on the returns of forgotten knowledges that descend from what he calls “insurrection of subjugated knowledges”. With this expression he refers to two specific factors: 1) the ‘knowledges’ that derive from historical contents, which he deems buried, and thus adequate to be subjected to a rediscovery attributable, to a ‘sumptuous’ research linked, in a way, to “typical secret societies of the West” since ancient times and emerged at the time of early Christianity: the “great warm and tender Freemasonry of useless erudition” – here, with his peculiar and subtle humour, Foucault introduces his own analysis and the one of his rhizospheric fellows just like modern variations of the struggle and insurrection of Alexandrine gnosis related to the idea of salvation through knowledge. The French Rhizosphere is, according to the malicious Foucaultian antichristian-Nietzschean-accelerationist interpretation, a sort of secular and revolutionary neo-gnosis which hands its wisdom and research over from one generation to the next, following the Hellenic-Alexandrine tradition.
2) those ‘knowledges’ that are assumed to lay on the opposite side of “dusty and useless” erudition, that is, those disqualified and inadequate knowledges – here, once again, presented in an extraordinary way. In this category of “naïve knowledges located low down on the hierarchy” beneath the required academic and scientific levels, Foucault includes popular knowledge (“le savoir des gens”) – which must not be confused with “general common sense” – like those of criminals, crazy people, ill persons, psychiatric patients, detainees. The direct knowledge of these subjects, merged with the specific knowledges of specialised workers, like nurses, doctors and soldiers, will not result in a “general common-sense knowledge”, but in a “a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity and which owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it.” (PK, 82)
Foucault does not miss the paradox of enclosing in the same rhizomatic framework of subjugated knowledges both «the academia and the street»: nonetheless he finds in this well-marked disparity the essential leverage of the critique promoted with those discontinuous discourses. According to Foucault this is “historical knowledge of struggles”: “In the specialised areas of erudition as in the disqualified, popular knowledge there lay the memory of hostile encounters which even up to this day have been confined to the margins of knowledge. What emerges out of this is something one might call a genealogy, or rather a multiplicity of genealogical researches, a painstaking rediscovery of struggles together with the rude memory of their conflicts. And these genealogies, that are the combined product of an erudite knowledge and a popular knowledge, were not possible and could not even have been attempted except on one condition, namely that the tyranny of globalising discourses with their hierarchy and all their privileges of a theoretical avant-garde was eliminated.” (PK, 83) In this passage, Foucault attempts an early outline of his overall plan, where he generously includes and aligns the French components of the rhizosphere and, above all, the authors of The Anti-OEdipus, although the detailed description of the “returns of knowledge” fits perfectly his research style. That style which he adopted at the beginning of his lectures at the Collège de France (1970) and carried on until the end of that period, 1975-1976, the year before the crucial 1977 when he entered a period of crisis and suspended his course. It was Foucault’s annus horribilis, during which he received attacks from multiple fronts – such as Baudrillard’s Forget Foucault – and started a profound reformulation of his thought, his analysis and his political approach, which in turn would end his friendship with Deleuze and destroy the underground empathy within the French Nietzschean revolutionary community. What seems extraordinary is the way in which Foucault linked his research to the fight and critique of his rhizospheric fellows, attributing the essential leverage of the critique and of the “success” of those years precisely to the discontinuity and de-centralisation of practices and discourse advocated by Klossowski, Deleuze and Guattari, Blanchot and Lyotard, among others. In 1976, Foucault is able to advance this critique: “Let us give the term genealogy to the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today.” (PK, 83) During the same lecture, Foucault links the genealogy to the struggle against the alleged “scientificity” of the new sciences, namely Marxism and Psychoanalysis, guilty of bearing “power ambitions”, not even concealed, and thus of pursuing those “effects of power” that usually institutions assign to enthroned sciences. According to Foucault, “By comparison, then, and in contrast to the various projects which aim to inscribe knowledges in the hierarchical order of power associated with science, a genealogy should be seen as a kind of attempt to emancipate historical knowledges from that subjection, to render them, that is, capable of opposition and of struggle against the coercion of a theoretical, unitary, formal and scientific discourse. It is based on a reactivation of local knowledges – of minor knowledges, as Deleuze might call them – in opposition to the scientific hierarchisation of knowledges and the effects intrinsic to their power: this, then, is the project of these disordered and fragmentary genealogies. If we were to characterise it in two terms, then ‘archaeology’ would be the appropriate methodology of this analysis of local discursivities, and ‘genealogy’ would be the tactics whereby, on the basis of the descriptions of these local discursivities, the subjected knowledges which were thus released would be brought into play.” In Foucault’s works, within the genealogy/archive relation mentioned above, special attention is reserved to money, ever since the first lectures of his inaugural course in 1970-71, directly after the re-emergence in Klossowski and Deleuze of Nietzschean topics such as will to power, formations of sovereignty, impulse and value. Indeed, an early taste of the strong and innovative critical capacity on this front – which includes aspirations, will to power, universal rhizomatic economy, physical and noologic subconscious – comes from the debut of Deleuze and Guattari as authors, under the sign of Klossowski. La synthèse disjunctive is the title of their first essay dedicated to Klossowski and published in the 43rd issue of the journal «L’Arc», precisely in the third term of 1970. The text is presented already as an essay of a book titled Capitalism and schizophrenia. The writing style is already the imaginary, transverse, aggressive, humoristic and “genealogic” one of the Anti-OEdipus. La synthèse disjunctive is an incisive prelude to an announced explosion: Foucault immediately grasps the collateral effects that it would have on the style and content of his own research.
The xeno-dollar and money as an instrument of hegemonic power
At the beginning of the 70’s, the topic of money became a primary concern in the rhizosphere. Thanks to differential-money, namely the main instrument used by liberal democratic systems to assault, restructure and regularise national and international economic crises, the French Nietzschean revolutionary community wanted to build a new analytic grid that could overcome the «ideological morass» which still clutches a significant portion of the traditional Left as well as of the new antagonistic Left. Klossowski produced, as his farewell to publishing and writing, a brief text, dense and enigmatic, titled La monnaie vivante (Living Currency, 1970), which presented his peers with more than one critical interrogative on the industrial and commercial world, and on money as an instrument and simulacrum of the vital agent soothing human impulses. In a handwritten letter sent in autumn 1970, Foucault greeted Klossowski’s volume as “the greatest book of our times”. That was the same period in which, at the beginning of 1971, Deleuze and Guattari attended Foucault’s lectures at the Collège, having just finished the in itinere draft of the Anti-OEdipus. The role of the «imperial» currency – the US dollar as hegemonic currency – within the Western economic system, as well as the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rates regime, were at the centre of the tense international political debate. In December 1969 inflation in the United States reached 6%. Nixon, as soon as he was elected president, was struck by the prediction made by his own staff that the dollar had to be rescued in maximum two years. The world was jammed by xeno-dollars and the US reserves could not compensate anymore the increase in the global amount of dollars with the corresponding amount of gold as contemplated in the agreement. In a few months, in 1971, violence in the Vietnam war reached its peak, and so did military expenses and the related budget deficit. The United States had entered a recession in 1970 and unemployment was at 6% and growing. The issues presented by domestic economic circumstances were unprecedented: inflation was high in a phase of recession, as opposed to the usual combination of recession and deflation, as it had previously happened during the Great Depression in 1929. The situation was out of hand. There was no empirically tested academic theory which corresponded to such an economic situation; there was no plan. Any technical decision could equally mean the salvation of global commercial leadership or its collapse, precisely at a time when the international Communist movement was challenging Anglo-Saxon industrial capitalism the most. The sudden breakdown of the Bretton Woods system could cause a rapid downfall of the hegemony of American power, the winner of World War II. Power can switch sign. Nixon’s staff was divided between monetarists, namely the rising star Friedman and the Chicago School, and orthodox mainstream economists, such as Burns and the Federal Reserve. Friedman and those favouring the free floating of exchange rates unpegged from the gold standard prevailed. Timing was crucial. In May 1971 West Germany left the Bretton Woods system, instituted in 1944 on the ashes of the Axis Powers, letting the German Mark free to float. The situation deteriorated and Nixon’s economic staff had to hurry: it was time to take actions because the element of surprise and the promptness of intervention were crucial. In August 1971, Nixon suddenly announced to the nation and to the whole world that the US dollar was not convertible in gold anymore, leaving the American currency free to float too.
After about 3,000 years from its invention, money lost its tie to an objective and concrete value. It was the first time in Western history, without considering the periods of war and brief experiments, always ended in failure: money completed its final transformation, to which it was probably destined ever since its invention, becoming a pure simulacrum of value in all its forms, from the round-shaped metal piece to banknotes. The question that economists asked themselves are several: Will the “orphan money” be able to stand only based on its face value? Will the hegemonic currency, i.e. the dollar, be able to walk on an “empty space”? Has money grown enough to demonstrate its maturity? The monetary de-aurification is the temporary situation in which we are still today: a mixture of sovereign, post-sovereign, xeno- and headless currencies that float freely without any fixed exchange rate, victims of speculations and market imbalances. However, the monetary coordinates within which Foucault develops his analysis are not simply related to the contingency of events, but rather to the study of forces and their effects on the domain of sovereign formations associated to the research and analyses conducted within the Rhizosphere. The concept of money considered by Foucault in the lectures that he gave between 10th February and 10th March 1971 is, surprisingly for most people but not for the Rhizomatics, the Ancient Greek currency employed between the seventh and fifth century B.C.; that is the historical, social, economic and institutional period when money, conceived as Greek measurement, eventually becomes the core of an “immense social and polymorphous practice of assessment, quantification, establishing equivalences, and the search for appropriate proportions and distributions” (LWK, 134). According to Foucault, this analysis should approach the hypothesis according to which money constitutes a political instrument used to create and preserve new balances during profound social transformations: thus, money does not preserve relations of sovereignty but relations of dominance. It is fascinating how Foucault introduces the concept of money towards the end of the lecture he gave on 17th February 1971, as redistribution of relations between the discourse of justice and the discourse of knowledge, and of the relations between the just, measurement, order and truth: “The institution of money, which is not just a measure of exchange, but which was established mainly as an instrument of distribution, division, and social correction.” (LWK, 129)
The birth of money-simulacrum
The approach described in Lectures of the Will to Know (1971) is very distant from the traditional interpretation of money imposed by mainstream economics, from which not even Marx in The Capital nor Foucault in The Order of Things (1966) could evade. On the one hand, mainstream nineteenth-century economists believed that the mature use of money as a means of exchange started with the birth and development of market economics. On the other hand, the Foucault of The Order of Things argues that the analysis of wealth and money theory can be traced back to the classical era, that is, the period between Cervantes’ Don Quixote and de Sade’s Justine. Alternatively, in 1971 Foucault traces a conception of money according to the eighteenth-century perspective of traditional political economy: “Commercial, international, market origin of money. Mercantilist interpretation of money restricting it from the start to function of representation and exposing it to that “fetishism” which consists in taking the sign for the thing itself, through a sort of primary and radical philosophical error. In fact, this interpretation may account for some early uses of money in Lydia and Phoenicia. But money was not adopted and used in Greece on the basis of this model.” (LWK, 135) To support his argument, Foucault examines two opposite examples of the employment of money in Ancient Greece in the seventh century B.C.: Corinth and Athens. What interests us is in which way the two cities and in particular the two political protagonists, respectively Cypselus and Solon, associate their politics to the introduction of a currency. In both cases, the two options would contribute to cause, and anticipate, relevant historical effects on Western governance vicissitudes. For Corinth, and its tyrant Cypselus, it was a political operation in which “the rich have been forced to make an economic sacrifice [and] money comes to the fore enabling the preservation of power through the intermediary of the tyrant” (LWK, 159); for Athens, and the legislator Solon, the political choice has the opposite course of that of Corinth because “the rich have been forced to a political sacrifice, [and] eumonia enables them to preserve economic privileges.” (LWK,159) It is clear that Foucault points at Solon’s way of managing the nomos as the agenda for Western democracies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century: faced with growing social demands, the wealthiest classes chose to allow substantial power distributions in order to preserve their economic privileges. The refined Corinthian economic choices, to which corresponds a brutal tyrannical one, show an excellent example of monetary measures – i.e. the systemic management of the nomisma – which would be adopted throughout the twentieth century and this first period of the twenty-first. In fact, contemporary money intervenes at the core of an institutional operation in which wealth is redistributed to an already wealthy minority without redistributing power to the majority of the social body. This is because the social sharing of power has reached its boundary – the maximum limit of feasibility for economic oligarchies – within which less wealthy classes participate to liberal democracies. Foucault seems to suggest that there has not been a time in Western history from the seventh century in Greece in which our societies have not struggled between the two poles of distribution, the economical and the political one, with money playing the role of functional membrane manageable between the two antipodes. Returning to the Greek cities: money became money-simulacrum and, at the same time, money-metron, i.e. money as measure. The Corinthian invented money as “the instrument of power which is being shifted, and which, through an interplay of new regulations, ensures the preservation of class domination. At this point, money is no longer a symbol which effectuates and is not yet a representative sign. It should be understood as a fixed series of superimposed substitutions.” (LWK, 141) Foucault, indeed, looks at Corinthian money as a series of substitutions: religious, economic, political and social. The game of substitutions and superimpositions between money and effectual reality generates fixation and not representation: “whereas the sign represents, the simulacrum replaces one substitution for another. It is its reality as simulacrum that has enabled money to remain for a long time not only an economic instrument but a thing issuing from and returning to power, by a sort of inner intensity or force: a religiously protected object it would be impious, sacrilegious to adulterate.” (LWK, 141)But, with even greater depth, Foucault argues that money is “as simulacrum that is sign: getting it to function as sign in a market economy is an avatar of its real history as simulacrum.” (LWK, 142) For money, being a regulatory simulacrum is primary, before entering history as a sign and then as fetish. Actually, the sign is only a moment within the duration of money-simulacrum: it is on such fine edge of strategy, power and substitution that Klossowski’s living currency intervenes, description of that triangle that dominates us: desire, value and simulacrum (Foucault, personal letter sent to Klossowski, autumn 1970).
The modes of expression of impulsive forces
There are only few pages, but they are dense and enigmatic perhaps more than any book ever published: Living Currency is the text through which Klossowski gives his farewell to writing – from then on (1970) he would be involved in different projects, such as translations, art exhibitions: paintings and movies – and at the same time it constitutes a powerful introduction to the Anti-OEdipus, an anoedipic incipit from a different author. Living Currency creates a philosophical space to decrypt, building an underground passage that connects all different publications and stations of thought constituting the French revolutionary Rhizosphere: Nietzsche’s Notebook (1887- 1888) by Nietzsche, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969), The Anti-OEdipus (1972), Nomad Thought (1972), Circulus Vitiosus (1972), Nietzsche, Genealogy, History (1971), Lectures on the Will to Knowledge (1970- 1971), Libidinal Economy (1974). The Klossowskian volume breaks, breaches, overflows and distributes with few incisive sentences large gashes of thought and possible research avenues that Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault and Lyotard will then walk wildly, rapidly and productively, as “young wolves of future revolutions”. The context within which the paradox of Living Currency is articulated is one where industrial civilisation – Klossowskian term which seems more accurate than the general “capitalism” – has diffused its negative effects by infecting the whole society through institutes of uprightness and conformity, which connotes the attribution to the means of production of a powerful contamination – and, thus, affective engraving – capacity on the individuals and the community. That is the same homogeneous, levelled, economized and nihilistic society that Nietzsche described in the fragment The Strong of the Future. The Nietzsche-Klossowski axis, then, assigns to the levelled industrial civilisation a dangerous production capacity that is both affective and infective. Foucault, on the same wavelength, would explain the «positivity» of power with a similar argumentative leverage: “What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body, much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression.” (PK, 119) Deleuze and Guattari hold a similar position and raise the level of analysis bypassing ideological and psychoanalytical nuances: “[E]verything is objective or subjective, as one wishes. That is not the distinction: the distinction to be made passes into the economic infrastructure itself and into its investments. Libidinal economy is no less objective than political economy, and the political no less subjective than the libidinal, even though the two correspond to two modes of different investments of the same reality as social reality” (AE, 345). ). If Marx believes that the structure is the economic skeleton of society and the superstructure is everything that derives from it, Klossowski reverses the framework and sets as the «ultimate infrastructure» the “behavior of emotions and instincts.” (LC, 3) Consequently, it follows that “economic standards form in turn a substructure of affect, not the ultimate infrastructure” and that, more in depth, “economic norms are, like the arts or the moral or religious institutions, or like all the forms of knowledge, one mode of the expression and representation of instinctive forces.” (LC, 3) As Foucault had already realized in his letter to Klossowski, the triangle “desire, value, simulacrum” that dominates us and has been characterising us for millennia, already existed ever since the invention of money in Asia Minor in the VIII century B.C.; hence, the triangle must be treated as something forged in the depths of times, because the historical period of time in which reality gets «monetarized» is certainly the product of a slow centuries-long process of transformation, before reaching its own metal round form ). If Marx believes that the structure is the economic skeleton of society and the superstructure is everything that derives from it, Klossowski reverses the framework and sets as the «ultimate infrastructure» the “behavior of emotions and instincts.” (LC, 3) Consequently, it follows that “economic standards form in turn a substructure of affect, not the ultimate infrastructure” and that, more in depth, “economic norms are, like the arts or the moral or religious institutions, or like all the forms of knowledge, one mode of the expression and representation of instinctive forces.” (LC, 3) As Foucault had already realized in his letter to Klossowski, the triangle “desire, value, simulacrum” that dominates us and has been characterising us for millennia, already existed ever since the invention of money in Asia Minor in the VIII century B.C.; hence, the triangle must be treated as something forged in the depths of times, because the historical period of time in which reality gets «monetarized» is certainly the product of a slow centuries-long process of transformation, before reaching its own metal round form that has been bequeathed until today. In Phrygia, where Greek mythology locates the fundamental passage from pre-money to actual money, the coining of the nomisma bore the effigy of the goddess Money (Dea Moneta), the wife of King Midas, Demodice or Hermodice; according to Heraclides Lembus, on the money of Cumae coined by queen Hermodice the Genius of Money (Genio della moneta) holds the scale and the cornucopia in his hands. Greek mythology suggests us that, ever since its invention, the concept of money figures in popular wisdom as a concatenation of sovereignty, sacredness, fertility and equity; and already in ancient times there were people who used to rise against the improper use of the circulation of the “metal disks”: Julius Pollux, at the apex of Hellenism in the Roman Empire, critiqued the obolastates, i.e. those who used to lend and weight the oboli, and the obolastatein, the practice of lending oboli. The perverse intersection of simulacrum, value and desire, presented by Foucault as the explanatory structure of universal economy, is then absolutely coherent with the rhizospheric analysis of money. Klossowski of Living Currency suggests that monetary economics and theology are nothing but reciprocal disguises: money, from the beginning of Western civilisation, has been regarded as the universal representative instrument of a generalized economy which already has an innate abstract potential for sacredness and sovereignty, and, in turn, for desire-will to power at its highest level. According to Klossowski, money is the universal simulacrum; in industrial societies the domain of money, after centuries of adjustments, has completely substituted the real world and misrepresents its subjugated phantasm. Klossowski had already matured the concept of a universal economy through the scrutinizer of Chaos (Nietzsche) of the passages on energy in relation to world structure: “At a given moment of the accumulated force of the emotions, there is also the absolute condition of a new distribution, and hence a disruption of equilibrium. Nietzsche conceives of a universal economy whose effects he experiences in his own moods.” (NVC, 110) The line that links Nietzsche and the vicious circle (1969) and Living Currency (1970) is, thus, the analysis of impulsive simulacra that act upon a generalized universal economy. We have already entered the Anti-OEdipus, the Nietzsche of the 80’s of XIX century, and the Foucault of the 70’s of XX century. This represents the core of revolutionary Nietzscheism which influenced the street struggle of 1968 and further on, pure energy and dynamite ready for future struggles: Klossowski develops with great clarity the theoretical nucleus of impulse, body, simulacrum, value, production, consumption, arguing that “”The way they [instinctive forces] express themselves, both in the economy and finally in our industrial world, is subject to the way they have been handled by the economy of the reigning institutions.” That this preliminary and ultimate infrastructure is more and more determined by its own reactions to the previously existing substructures is unquestionably true, but the forces at play continue the struggle among infrastructures into the substructures. So, though these forces initially express themselves in a specific manner according to economic standards, they themselves create their own repression, as well as the means of smashing that repression, which they experience to different degrees: “and this goes on as long as does the battle among the instincts, which is waged within a given organism for and against the formation of the organism as their agent, for and against psychic and bodily unity. Indeed, that is where the first ‘production’ and ‘consumption’ schemes come into being, the first signs of compensation and haggling.” (LC, 4) Thus is the key passage for the whole Rhizomatic universe: Klossowski shows in this theoretical nucleus the hidden role of the sphere of instincts. Given its concealment, or its secluded core due to a lack of visible external outlets, the sphere of instincts gets «economized» inside the industrial world. What the industrial world consumes the most is the instinct to procreate, which is a product of the voluptuousness of the instinctual body, labelling it as a good but at the same time, and in the opposite direction, the body procures emotions, concealed and excessive, abstract substance for a «phantasm» – the ghostly entity which recurs obsessively in Klossowski’s thought – upon which instincts act again as backward-action. “Nothing exists apart from impulses that are essentially generative of phantasms. The simulacrum [i.e. the Nietzschean Trugbild] is not the product of a phantasm, but its skilful reproduction, by which humanity can produce itself, through forces that are thereby exorcized and dominated by the impulse.” (NCV, 133)
This is the level at which the phantasm has been already created and instincts and passions are not available anymore to consume and cede the phantasm itself – that is, the producer of desire which reproduces itself. Additionally, this is the crucial point around which the emotional value, otherwise called libidinal value, is formed – as Nietzsche points out, “in place of moral values, purely naturalistic values” (Opere fr. 9  vol. VIII, section 2, p. 6, quoted in NVC, 106). The translation of impulsive forces, the instincts, in “economic representations” of the emotional value – according to Nietzsche, the only being that we know is a being that has representations (O, fr. 11  vol. V, section 2) – will then be a simulacrum: which simulacrum could be better than the merge of money, simulacrum itself of objective value, and a living body, simulacrum which incarnates the procreative phantasm? The synthesis of such double simulacrum in the economy of industrial civilisation is the living currency, a simulacrum reinforced by emotion that it procures, hence the «living currency» is the expression of the libidinal value carved in bodies. What industrial civilisation consumes through standardization – the various simulacra of the phantasm: prostitution, sexual slavery, eroticism, assorted industries of pleasure – the body produces through economization. Consumed good vs. libidinal value. This means that the body “manifests itself” attributing value to the instincts but, in order to defend it “impulsive phantasm” that is desire, opposes the «mechanical simulacrisation» of industrial economy. The body is the battlefield of the harsh clash between opposite forces: social production against desiring production. Such clash can yield two opposing outcomes: the first – and unfortunately the prevailing in both the industrial civilisation and in the rising digital one – is the hyper-gregariousness of the individual, who is reduced to a mere instrument to support tamed passions and desires captured by social standardization whose objective is the unity reproducible in the production line; the second is where instincts and affections prevail on the repression of impulses and the “support” acquires its own sovereignty by degregarizing itself. In the stage that follows such rediscovered sovereignty - through the evident self-organisation of behaviours - singularity itself gets desubjectivised overturning its own nature of stable subject, and opening itself to the industrious metamorphosis of desires, and, thus, to perpetual transformation and to the extreme idleness of the nomads of the future.
to be continued...
by Steven Craig Hickman
Sometime I’m going to do a blog post on the Followmeter about watching my followers rise and fall according to if I’m writing essays, politics, stories, poetry, or philosophy… I get a laugh at how I gain or lose people following me based on assumptions. It’s like a comedy meter for me watching people come and go so anonymously without ever knowing why … we live on the net in our private hells, and other lonely people wander by, sit for a while, listen to us patter about nonsense, then leave for parts unknown without ever leaving a trace except the little meter ball that flicks up or down… sad really that communication and community have become nothing more than a button pushed or unpushed; a like or not like button world, a sort of preview of the next wave of our automated society as the neutered minds of the mobile phone generation fade in or fade out based on whim. I joined Wattpad recently and was told to shorten all my stories into small chunks so all the millions of mobile phone users could flip through my stories easier. We’ve become a mobile nation that sees the 3 inch screen of a diode while the rest of the universe goes unnoticed and expelled from consciousness like a faded dream of reality that has been replaced by this plug’n play universe of text messages, and photomatrilia extravaganzas and youtube spawn casts… yet, a funny thing about technology, it comes back to bite you in the ass. Yes, it does. Now mobiles have become weapons and spies onto the corruptions of the world, letting the darkness seep into the viral plumage of this worldwide monster, with her webbing strung across nations and the planet to link the underworlds together in some nefarious three-ring circus of pornography, sex-slaves, and cyberwarfare. Now the world has come home to the small towns across this ancient land, dispersed its meth and heroin, its broken love and sweet promises of foreign dreams to buy and bring home to roost. Our world is no longer separate and alone, but very much overcrowded by monsters everywhere in this virtual nation of horrors. Now you can hide among the darkest corners of the darknet and commit acts of fatal madness and never leave your porch where the old hound dog is sleeping. Now the country is a hellzone for predatory minds everywhere, unbounded by the old causal chains of physical prowess it can move among the symbolic waves like a spring board to catastrophes never dreamed of in the pulp age.
Just a note: If you confuse my fiction with my personal thought and beliefs then you’ve a problem. I may satirize and portray a world I rose up from and out of in my fiction, but to assume the attitudes portrayed are my very own would be a misnomer: —big time. I think people do the same with my wanderings in contemporary philosophy as well. People get pissed off about me writing about various philosophers as if every thinker I write about I advocate and agree with. Strange, how many people that follow me probably confuse the two… sadly.
I think if you’d ever read Country, Redneck, or Hilly Billy Noir you’d discover that for the most part these writer’s write about waylaying the dark demons eating at their minds and lives; the terrible abuses of society, family, war, work, or just life. Most of them reach into that dark place where they can chomp down on the sump of that broken world of bigots, racists, scoundrels, misfits and releasing onto that white page the pinned up and repressed suffering of a hellworld lost in the heartland of their misery. Then seeking a way of letting those voices of the dead and the living speak out in their cold or hot raging silences, unleashing the malevolent and malformed intent at the heart of so much bittersweet life so as to form that needful ritual of exorcism and expulsion. In that world there aren’t any ghosts haunting the highways, only demons and killers of real flesh and blood, hate mongers and monsters who live in one’s own home, members of one’s family or next door neighbors; or who work for County, or teach one’s kids, or stand there smiling at the Bank when you walk up for money, or help that Old Lady across the street and by your child a snow cone or cotton candy; or who watch from the alleyways and dark places in the dank cracks of the night world of town or city waiting, peaking, looking for the chance to apply their malignant spirit against anything and everything that goes by the name human.
Country noir delivers up monsters, shapeshifting demons who on the surface act like us, look like us, pretend and fake our patterns and our ways of being, all to get closer to us so they can enact their horrid crimes or induce us to join in their hellish festivities. It’s about these wicked beings with human masks that is the specialty of that writer who calls himself Country noir. But the demons aren’t supernatural or unnatural, their just not human; their the ones that never became human, who live in the darkness, breath it like it were honey, who live to kill and main and enjoy the nightworld of hate and spite and utter degradation and corruption of flesh and bone. These are the monsters of this deadly fiction of those enclosed realms of pain and sadness we call the noirish realms of fate.
As Leslie Fielder in his famous Love and Death in the American Novel showed us years ago the strange truth of our country that is whitewashed out of the big picture by the social media and mainstream pundits is that we’re a lost people full of spite and hate. From the country to the city we are a guilt ridden insane society full of psychopaths, sociopaths, and full-tilt killers, rapists, clowns, murderers, gangsters, pit-bull mulchers, gamblers, thieves, street-mean denizens of asphalt or the Twin Drive-In in the pot-head backwoods of shine or meth country worlds. If someone wanted to construct a vision of hell all they’d have to do is park it up at any country village or downtown megacity in the U.S.A. and ponder the quirky truth of the people passing them by on any single street of any region of these here States. It’s a giant crack-head’s paradise of cutthroats and scoundrels from one end to the other. And, while all those gated-communities that the Good People hide behind seem clean and pretty and sane, the truth is their more deadly than the homegrown subworlds of the Redneck and White Trash trailer worlds on the outskirts of the town. Yes, the rich and middle-class respectable are the Hollywood stars of inanity hiding the perversity of child molestation, incest, necrophilia, and the dark horse of violence where punk kids playing MMO’s full of death, torture, and endless gang wars on Space or Fantasy prime time TV or Reality Love and Big Brother’s weasels fending off the bite of the bullet for the last phase of winning the sweepstakes of ultimate scrum-creep fly-by goes down every night behind closed doors in the U.S. of A.
But the story that never gets told is the real story hidden in the cracks and crevices and cracks of actual peoples lives, instead all we get is the fake America of Hill Billy and Redneck squalor instead of the pain and suffering of people that lack medicine, health access; education in good rural schools, colleges, and universities; and, get plumed by the media and trivialized as stereotypical White Trash of Hollywood & Vine bullcorn TV shows and comedy routines on SNL. Instead of the sad truth of abused children and violence and all the lonely souls and outcasts who are left behind to rot and stew in their own private hells because of prejudice on both sides of the fence. The one’s that grow up to enact the same cruddy lives and violence of their parents, do the drugs or turn to alcohol, work some rotten twelve hour job at a factory or just live off welfare checks or ponder the cracked-up mythologies of the old American Myths. A world falling fast into oblivion where the old farmer’s and single family places have given way to the Great Combine fortunes of Mega Growers and Artificial Monsanto seed worlds that tie one to a fake world of natural growth and biogenetic horrors to come…
That the veneer of sanity that disguises itself most of the time is now even emerging on the National stage as we watch the two parties of Democrat and Republican put forth social misfits that at any other time would’ve been tar-and-feathered and run out of town on a pole. One need not go back to Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut to get one’s feel for the insanity. One can see it everyday on Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn or any number of news sites, journals, horror mags, crime mags, weird tales mags, and that sub-genre I’ve been exploring of late some term Country noir (or Redneck or Hilly Billy noir). Death and the sex bomb typify every last thread of our world from the advertisement of fun and swim hijinks and shows and free rooms in Nevada or Las Vegas to the strip joints in an city one finds the perverts out in flocks roaming with gold dangling from their gleaming necks, teeth, and hands. While on our premiere academic campuses around the country one finds the date-rape squads or Club Suicide Mephistos, or the twisted fruits of city and country bound to each other’s identity squabbles for and against the political church of our age.
Even William Faulkner rewrote the Horror novel in terms of country parlance in Sanctuary. Sanctuary is the Horror Story as practiced from the time of Poe to that of Lovecraft and Stephen King. “Horrific” is, indeed, the word he customarily used to describe that novel-and horrific it is in good faith. Indeed, there are scarcely any of the stock effects of the horror genre, audio or video, which it lacks: from the tap-tap-tap of a blind man’s stick to the rustle of rats in a corncrib, the ominous thud of a muffled gunshot off scene, the crackle of flames from the lynch-mob’s bonfire, and the barely audible whisper of blood in Temple’s ravaged body. So, too, do the standard grotesques of the Gothic Romance abound: “crips” and “feebs” and freaks, not least of which is Popeye eye himself-more monster than human, more shadow than substance. “The black man,” Temple and Horace call him, aware perhaps that this is a traditional American name for the Devil. And there is, too, of course, the infamous bloody corncob, an icon of unspeakable evil, for which Sanctuary is remembered even by those who have never read it; though Faulkner alludes to it only briefly at a point where his horrific tale is nearly told.1
One must also remember that Sanctuary –the novel which Albert Camus believed to be the greatest of Faulkner’s fictions belongs to the most disreputable and unredeemable pop genre of all, being pornography, as the dictionary defines that pejorative term, “a portrayal of erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement” Though there are many such portrayals in Faulkner’s work of “erotic behavior;’ including such kinky subvarieties as pedophilia, necrophilia, incest and bestiality, Sanctuary was the only one of his books which its intended publisher refused at first to publish, presumably as too “dirty.” Yet it is in some ways the softest of soft porn-avoiding not only what were then still considered “dirty” words, but explicit descriptions in any words of the sex act itself. The brutal violation of Temple, for instance, is rendered solely in terms of her fantasies, climaxing in her hallucination of turning into a boy-popping a teeny-tiny penis; though, of course, that male organ is called by none of its grosser street names. (Fiedler, 159)
The Civil War is the watershed in Twain’s life between innocence and experience, childhood and manhood, joy and pain; but it is politically, of course, the dividing line between slavery and freedom. And Twain, who cannot deny either aspect, endures the contradiction of searching for a lost happiness he knows was sustained by an institution he is forced to recognize as his country’s greatest shame. It was the best he could dream: to be free as a boy in a world of slavery! Look at us now, a hundred plus years on and we still have that shame on us. Country noir is still working that trail of guilt and shame from a dark world of mistrust, egoists, hate, and bigoted rascals who inhabit those worst strains of the American Psyche, and will not go away. So in an age when people are being called down for “appropriating” someone else’s culture the only thing left for the White is to face his own black nights in hell, go back down that cesspool history of pain and suffering at the hands of those monstrous and demonic souls that gave us slavery, wife-beating, apocalypse culture, sexual perversities, chain-saw massacres, crime, horror, BDSM and all the strange and bewildering, not to say bizarre facets of the hidden side of country existence. None of us White’s are innocent anymore, its way past that fake game; now is the time to look ourselves in the mirror of our own natural born predation and do something about it. Whitewashing it or moralizing it or pegging it with epithets of Left or Right politics isn’t going to cut it anymore. We have to know the truth of it, nothing else will do. Our gaze must turn back round, and down, and in and see the darkness of our own inhuman ways before we can begin to mend the hurt and open wounds in our nation. Country noir is as good a place as any to begin that process… that’s why I’m going to spend my time writing it, reading it, sharing it. That’s why I’m going to continue investigating the underpinning problems Country people are facing in their local regions as they watch the fake worlds of our Mediatocracracy as it builds its fantasy America full of fakes and division, chaos and dumbed down democracy. Since the new cultures of identity politics tells me to lay off appropriating other cultures in my works, then I’ll turn to my own dark world and begin there, just there where the pain and suffering begins right in my own backyard pond.
Most of our novels and short stories, plays and poetry are about the obsessions that drive us as Americans. Our mythologies if yo will. The Left will castigate the Right-Wing myths of Mom, Apple Pie, and the Corn Cob pipe, while the Right will plug away at the New York intellectual, the egg-head, and the Ivy League snob. These are the clichés of culture rather than the complex hurt below the skin, the pain and suffering that hits below the belt and speaks to us of the reality beyond the myths. It’s that reality where people live and die that goes under the wire in most things. In my little comic-micro flash tale of a Snitch I used the standard cliché to a point to show the linguistic underpinnings of our complicity in dark humor and the portrayal of violence. Most will be offended on the Left, while those on the Right would laugh but miss the point. It’s this wavering between the two that interests me, to see how people react to discursive violence, harsh language, the darker side of American heritage, etc. Of course most people coming to my site either have nothing to say, don’t want to say anything, or tell the truth… I have no clue why people come to my site. Yet, they do. If I write philosophy I get followers for that, same for poetry, essays, stories, satire, militant venting of my political tirades, etc. But those that like one may not understand or share the other; and, yet, here I am a complexity even to myself with a multifarious need to work in many different forms of thought and feeling. Why be bound by one type of writing? I see people on Face Book who do one thing monotonously over and over: they do nothing more that repost the reposts of other reposts of news that is already fake of faked realities that spin tales of political or social rhetoric to sway people toward or against the fakeness of someone’s else’s fake world view. It’s as if we live in a fake world of puppeteers, each vying for the most fake thought possible.
So if I wander off into my own personal zones don’t mind me… you can always join the fake worlds of someone’s else’s fakes. Don’t let me stop you.
the article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
Nowadays digital technology is based on the insertion of neuro-linguistic memes and automatic devices in the sphere of cognition, social psyche and life-forms.
—Franco Berardi, And – Phenomenology of the End
One of the tasks of schizoanalysis has now become the decrypting of the ‘tics’ bequeathed to the human frame by the geotraumatic catastrophe, and ‘ KataoniX’ 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.
—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena
In his latest offering And: The Phenomenology of the End Franco Berardi remarks “cognitive wiring” refers to the “capture and submission of life and of mental activity in the sphere of calculation”.1 This capture is occurring at two different levels: at the epistemic level it implies the formatting of mental activity, at the biological level it implies the technical transformation of the processes of life generation. Georges Bataille once said that
‘[A]t the instant where royal politics and intelligence alters, the feudal world no longer exists. Neither intelligence nor calculation is noble. It is not noble to calculate, not even to reflect, and no philosopher has been able to incarnate the essence of nobility’. - Complete Oeuvres
We’d already learned in previous essays and explorations on Bernard Steigler that the Anthropocene era is that of industrial capitalism, an era in which “calculation prevails over every other criteria of decision-making”,2 and where algorithmic and mechanical becoming is concretized and materialized as logical automation and automatism, thereby constituting the advent of completed nihilism, as computational society becomes a society that is automated and remotely controlled.
In Fanged Noumena as the editors of Nick Land’s essays told us “Land regularly chides critique and deconstruction for a latent conservatism that belies their pretensions to radicality. Their critiques of calculation mask an instrumentalisation of epoche – the abyss of unknowing, the enigma of exteriority – designed to perpetuate the inexhaustible dialectic or differance of Logos. Their post-metaphysical caution perpetuates the Socratic ideal of philosophy as a ‘preparation for death’ whereby philosophy lingers at the brink of the unknown while hoping to domesticate this threshold as a habitus for thought.” As Land himself would say,
Calculation mobilizes a thinking that is directly and effectively exterior, indexing the machinic dispersion or anorganic distribution of the number. No sooner in the head than on fingers and pebbles, counting always happens on the outside. A population is already a number, mixed into irreducible hybrids by counting techniques and apparatus (countingboard, abacus, currency tokens, and calendric devices). (FN: 508)
As Berardi affirms we can say that the social brain is undergoing a process of wiring, mediated by immaterial linguistic and numeric (algorithmic) protocols and also by electronic devices. (A: 22) Everytime you pick up that mobile phone, watch the news, watch your favorite video on youtube.com, or any other number of digital mediatainment systems from Xbox to your sons or daughters MMO, RPG, etc. you are entering the command and control centers of algorithmic governmentality. It is in these very entertainment and information devices that the memes and hyperstitions of tomorrow are being fed moment by moment rewiring the neurocircuitry of you and your children’s lives. The moment you pick up one of these devices your life is calculated, tabulated, indexed, formatted, dividuated, and looped through the positive feedback systems into the additive cycles of a numerically controlled digital environment, where digial agents supervene and decide your next move by rewiring your neuralcircuits – ubiquitously and blindly. As Berardi informs us,
As generative algorithms become crucial in the formation of the social body, the construction of social power shifts from the political level of consciousness and will, to the technical level of automatisms located in the process of generation of the linguistic exchange and in the process of formation of the psychic and organic body as well.
R. Scott Bakker has been pounding away at the intentionalist world (read: Phenonmenologists) for years, telling us that all our descriptions, all our concern, all our knowledge is heading into that zero intensity zone of no return. That in essence we are entering a “crash space” of neurosemantic apocalypse. For Scott the matter comes down to this: the brain was wired to the natural environment through a process not of knowledge acquisition, but rather of filtering out and neglecting all but the essential elements of our environment except those things that promoted sex and survival. We are animals that must reproduce and survive and propagate generation after generation, everything else that is in excess of that natural program of propagation and survival is non-essential and is for the most part “neglected” by the decision making systems of our brain’s neurocircuitry. Because of this tying of brain to its natural environment our generations during the past two hundred years of the Industrial Era and its several transitional phase shifts has left us in a world severed from the old brain/environment nexus. We call this severing: nihilism. Nihilism is the severing of the brain from its value-systems: the intensive replication of sex and survival decisions that have guided our religious, social, political, and personal and collective life during the long reach of our natural and evolutionary existence as earth born animals. We now live in artificial worlds and environments that no longer hold the same pact as our natural neurocircuits have adapted too for millennia. For two hundred years philosophers and social critics have labeled this process one of the eclipse of thought and world, the severing of the relations of meaning: signifier and sign, mind and world. We are now cut off from what used to be termed Nature: the Outside / Inside of thought at its anti-podes.
A further issue arises according to Scott,
The problem is basically that the machinery of the brain has no way of tracking its own astronomical dimensionality; it can at best track problem-specific correlational activity, various heuristic hacks. We lack not only the metacognitive bandwidth, but the metacognitive access required to formulate the explananda of neuroscientific investigation.3
In other words we do not have the brains nor the Archimedean distance from our own neurocircuitry to explain to ourselves why we are the way we are. The tool (our brain) we’d use to describe and explore this issue is the one and same device. One cannot step outside one’s brain to describe its processes, the best we can do is to explore it through mediated devices: Neuroimaging systems that record and represent the moment to moment transactions of billions of neurocircuits as they fire. But even then we are bound by testability, repetition, and the interpretive (hermeneutic) protocols of intentionalism (phenomenology) to describe these images. We are part of the loop we would describe. One is forever blind to the very processes of one’s brain because it is what we are and we cannot reach some transcendental ground outside it to explore it. Impossible. Or, as Scott puts it,
A curious consequence of the neuroscientific explananda problem is the glaring way it reveals our blindness to ourselves, our medial neglect. The mystery has always been one of understanding constraints, the question of what comes before we do. Plans? Divinity? Nature? Desires? Conditions of possibility? Fate? Mind? We’ve always been grasping for ourselves, I sometimes think, such was the strategic value of metacognitive capacity in linguistic social ecologies. The thing to realize is that grasping, the process of developing the capacity to report on our experience, was bootstapped out of nothing and so comprised the sum of all there was to the ‘experience of experience’ at any given stage of our evolution. Our ancestors had to be both implicitly obvious, and explicitly impenetrable to themselves past various degrees of questioning. (ibid.)
Yet, a curious fact is that scientists and engineers are not concerned with explaining the brain, they are concerned with the pragmatic application of its working, its doing, not with how we know (epistemic) but how it works and does what it does. It’s in this sense of understanding the keys to decision making in the brain, how it works and does what it does rather than what it is (i.e., it’s ontic and/or ontological explanada) that interests not only scientists but engineers who have hopes of engineering intelligence (i.e., AI’s, etc.).
Engineering Reality: The Production of Stupidity
Oligarchs and politicos also have hopes of this engineering of decision making as well. As Berardi reminds us the automation of the behaviour of many individuals traversed and concatenated by techno-linguistic interfaces results in the effect of Swarm. Man is the animal who shapes the artificial techno-environments that shapes his/her own brain, the swarm effect therefore is the outcome of human transformation of the technical environment leading to automation of mental behavior. (A: 24) With such knowledge we do not need explain consciousness, only to pragmatically program the brain like an application to be manipulated and constrained to conform to the decision making powers of an elite tehcnocommercium. This is the nightmare of our future.
Is there a possibility of overturning, rotating, revolting, revolutionizing and turning the very processes of entrapment, capture, and enslavement against the elite and their minions? Poetry? As Berardi tells us it is better to conceive of aesthetics as the science of revolution, a semiotic emanation in its interaction with sensibility that causes surprise, estrangement, and the weird excess that cannot be captured by calculation and algorithmic necessity. Sensibility and Aesthetics he tells us should return to its etymon and should refer to sensibility as experience of the object, rather than to beauty (a quality of the object in itself). A return to objects…
Recently was watching Slavoj Zizek and Graham Harman discussing their approaches to philosophy, their agreements and disagreements on flat ontology, objects, etc. (see below):
Žižek & Harman debate Object-Oriented Ontology. Debate took place at Southern California Institute of Architecture on March 1st 2017. (A nod to dmf for the link…)
I’ve written and compared both philosophers in previous essays, especially in Zizek and Harman: Strange Bedfellows, noting that both Zizek and Harman are moving philosophy back into the ‘things-themselves’, where everything is on the same footing and no one stance or observer (Big Other/Master Signifier) reigns. Of course it is by way of physics that both philosopher’s share and also suffer their differences. In Zizek the main thrust is that the universe is a messy place, unfinished, incomplete and that science and scientists will never discover an end to it because at the extremes everything breaks down and becomes fuzzy as if the universe needed us to complete it. Or as if the universe is a vast simulation that never provided the necessary solution to a program discovering the edge of the simulation. Much like those of us who have played MMO’s or RPG’s and tried to reach the edge of some ocean or mountain or forest or jungle only to realize that the programming gives way to numbers, sequences, binary code at the extreme point where the image and the code touch. As Zizek says: “Therein resides the strength of decoherence theory: it endeavours to articulate the purely immanent way a quantum process engenders the mechanism of its ‘observation’ (registration). Does it succeed? It is up to the science itself to provide an answer.” The point being that philosophers don’t provide solutions are answers, only more questions, etc. Whereas for Harman “if we push the tool-analysis to its limit, we actually find that all relations in the cosmos, whether it be the perceptual clearing between humans and world, the corrosive effect of acid on limestone, or a slap-fight between orangutans in Borneo, are on precisely the same philosophical footing”. The point for Harman is that any object-oriented philosophy is at base non-relational. He’ll ask “Given that objects never seem to enter into relations, what does enter into relations? If objects cannot affect one another directly, then perhaps they do so by means of qualities.” But how? He tells us: “We inhabit a sensual space in which, strictly speaking, objects cannot be present. Yet there are objects everywhere, like black holes or vacuums hidden from sight. By following the tension between these two moments of human perception, it may be possible to unlock the tensions found in the universe as a whole.”4
So for Zizek the problem is in the objects themselves: their incompleteness, their excess energetic power which cannot be reduced to signs or descriptions. For Harman its not in the objects themselves, but in the tension between objects, in the movement between relation and non-relation in the medium of appearance (sensual realm) that glues and makes visible (phenomenal) that which is invisible (non-apparent).
It’s at this point that Berardi would ask both philosophers:
Should we think that in the human mind there is a neuro-physiological predisposition, an innate program of sensuous reception of the world, a bio-grammar of aesthesia and eroticism? Or should we think that the conditions of harmony are exclusively cultural? (A: 32)
Is reality of these objects, the creation and invention of reality of appearances, etc. a natural disposition of the brain fitted and adapted to its environment, or is it a effect of the conditioning of our cultural educement, education, and programming? And with the modern nihilist severance of brain and natural environment with its substitution of an artificial one what happens to the neuroplasticity of the brain itself: Can it adapt to this new environment without repercussions or if our bio-grammatical brain functions are so ingrained and tied to the natural world environment, what happens in this transitional phase space of the artificial? Psychopathology and Sociopathology? Schizophrenia under its extreme forms?
Nick Land in Fanged Noumena would add even more radically that what we need is a Geotraumatics. According to Ray Brassier and Robin Mackay in their introduction to Nick’s essays Geotraumatics radicalises Deleuze-Guattari’s insistence that schizoanalysis should extend further than the terrain of personal or familial drama, to invest the social and political realms, and pushes beyond history and biology to incorporate the geological and the cosmological within the purview of the transcendental unconscious. (FN) He would go on to say: “What is noteworthy here is a certain deepening of pessimism: repression extends ‘all the way down’ to the cells of the body, the rocks of the earth, inhering in organised structure as such. All things, not just the living, yearn for escape; all things seek release from their organisation, which however induces further labyrinthine complications. Nothing short of the complete liquidation of biological order and the dissolution of physical structure can suffice to discharge the aboriginal trauma that mars terrestrial existence.” (FN: 41)
The Death of the Left: Floundering in the Anthropocene
In book after book Berardi has chronicled the dark demise of the Left and its ineffectuality since May of 1968. Even in the past years since the first Anti-Capitalist movement every form of protest has ended in failure. Why? As he tells us there are two main reasons, the first is that each of these movements begins “strong in the streets but unable to attack the economic interests of corporations, because the precarization of labour has destroyed solidarity at the level of production, and solidarity is the only material force that can oppose the material force of corporate interest. Secondly, the abstract feature of financial capitalism is unattainable by the concrete forms of social action.” (A: 236) In both modes the very forms of revolutionary intent have been undermined by the modes of production and abstraction which are the final form of a completed nihilism we term Capitalism. Just as the brain is divorced from its natural environment, social activism is divorced from the abstract realms of the virtual reality become actual of present Capitalism.
Berardi citing Steven Shaviro’s Accelerationist Aesthetics: Necessary Inefficiency in Times of Real Subsumption, where Shaviro makes the argument that any accelerationist “aesthetics exists in a special relationship to political economy, precisely because aesthetics is the one thing that cannot be reduced to political economy.” (A: 239) Commenting on Shaviro’s passage, Berarid says,
Aesthetics and the Economy converge and collide: as long as the social body will be unable to get rid of the process of ever expanding abstraction, aesthetic research will border with psychopathology, and will be concerned with stress, acceleration and suffering. (A: 239)
For Berarid we live in an artificial world already, a world programmed and controlled by the vast telecommunications mediatainment complex that encompasses the planet and its socio-cultural inhabitants. He states it this way:
We live in the multilayered dimension of technomaya. Digital technology has given to the media a power that is directly acting on the mind, so the Mediasphere casts a spell that wraps the Psychosphere. Technomaya captures flows that proceed from the mind-activity, and sends them back to the mental receptors as a mirror, as a template for future imagination, as a cage for future action, and for future forms of life. (A: 240)
Another Italian philosopher Luciano Floridi puts it this way, “we are probably the last generation to experience a clear difference between online and offline environments”.5 Some people already live onlife. Some cultures are already hyperhistorical. A further transformation worth highlighting concerns the emergence of artificial and hybrid (multi) agents, i.e., partly artificial and partly human (consider, for example, a family as a single agent, equipped with digital cameras, laptops, tablets, smart phones, mobiles, wireless network, digital TVs, DVDs, CD players, etc.). These new agents already share the same ontology with their environment and can operate within it with much more freedom and control. We (shall) delegate or outsource, to artificial agents and companions, our memories, decisions, routine tasks, and other activities in ways that will be increasingly integrated with us and with our understanding of what it means to be an agent. Yet all this is rather well known, and it is not what I am referring to when I talk about inforgs. (EI: 15)
In fact, for Floridi the whole transhumanist and post-human SF scenario of terminators, robots, AI, etc. taking over the world is an extreme and hypothetical reaction to the unknown surrounding us in the technosphere. What he has in mind is a “quieter, less sensational, and yet more crucial and profound change in our conception of what it means to be an agent. We have begun to see ourselves as inforgs not through some transformations in our bodies but, more seriously and realistically, through the reontologization of our environment and of ourselves. It is our world and our metaphysical interpretation of it that is changing.”(EI: 15)
The severance of the brain/mind from its natural / evolutionary environment and its sudden transitional shift to the artificialization of the world in our modern technocommercium is as he puts it “reontologizing our environment and ourselves” (15). We are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction. When the migration is complete, we shall increasingly feel deprived, excluded, handicapped, or impoverished to the point of paralysis and psychological trauma whenever we are disconnected from the infosphere, like fish out of water. One day, being an inforg will be so natural that any disruption in our normal flow of information will make us sick. (EI: 16)
Semiocapitalism: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
Under the auspices of semiocapitalism we are becoming wired into an algorithmic world of total surveillance and control where every aspect of our lives as “dividual” (Stiegler/Deleuze) rather than individuals is being programmed, manipulated, and developed by Reality Engineers. Within a few generations this will become so ubiquitous that those of us analogue residence of the transitional phase shift will have disappeared and only our children and their children will remain not knowing or understanding the difference between the old ontology of natural and non-artificial worlds of earth and the one in which hey live as inforgs (i.e., informational organisms and agents). For Berardi we are encompassed already in the technomaya of an artificial world of control where our “experience is subjected to the power of simulation and of standardization” (A: 240).
Lewis Mumford in his two volume The Myth of the Machine long ago saw that our current cultural nihilism, which began as a “reaction against regimentation, has become in turn a mode of counter-regimentation, with its ritualized destruction and its denial of all the cultural processes that have sublimated man’s irrational impulses and released his constructive energies”.6 Lewis in his studies would uncover this movement from natural to artificial simulation and standardization. As he termed it, the fact is that organic models yielded to mechanical models in interpreting living phenomena mainly for two reasons: organisms could not be connected to the power complex until they were reduced, in thought even more than in practice, to purely mechanical units; and it was only through their attachment to the power system, which, as Comte noted, came in with the employment of the engineers as the key figures in advanced industries, that the physical sciences had, from the sixteenth century on, flourished. (PP: 430)
The Engineer as designer, developer, programmer, modeler, maker, tinkerer, mechanical and software specialist etc. is still with us. Even our architectural environments have become enmeshed in artificialization to the point that simulated and modeled replicas and 3D Printing have overtaken the older forms of design. As Patrick Schumacher an anarcho-capitalist and libertarian architect puts it the world is drifting toward a parametric society:
‘Parametricism’ implies that all elements of architecture are becoming parametrically malleable and thus adaptive to each other and to the context. Instead of aggregating a few platonic solids (cubes, cylinders etc.) into simple compositions – like all other architectural styles did for 5000 years – we are now working with inherently variable, adaptive forms that aggregate into continuously differentiated fields or systems. Multiple systems are correlated with each other and with the environment. All spaces should resonate with each other because within Postfordist network society all activities need to be networked and stay in continuous communication with each other. (On Parametricism)
This notion of the Smart City of the future that communicates continuously with both machinic and human agents in a technocommercium or technical environment of continuous virtual/actual transactions which slide in-between the intensities at a vibrational level of realties shaping and shaped by decisional processes in a 24/7 informational matrix.
The ‘tics’ From the Outside…
In such a realm as Berardi reminds us the digital footprint of the experience, with its increasing speed and intensity, affects the psycho reaction to info-stimula, affects the empathic relation between conscious and sensitive organisms, and affects also cognition: memory, imagination and language. Experience, as attention and as intention is subjected to an intense stress that results into a mutation of the cognitive organism. (A: 242) The only hold back to this ultracapitalism is Sleep, which Jonathan Crary in his book 24/7 suggested “Sleep is the only remaining barrier, the only enduring natural condition that capitalism cannot eliminate.” (24/7: 74)7 As Berardi will tell it we are already sleepwalkers in a semiocapitalist empire, sleepless migrants who are at the beck and call of a 24/7 continuum that know no sleep and enforces an algorithmic punchcard in our neurowiring to comply or else… that, or else is “suicide”. As he tells us,
The Google Empire has been essentially built on the capture of the user’s experience in order to increase value and productivity. During the creation of the attention draining machine, the personal computer has been bypassed by the release of the last generation of cellular phones labeled as smart-phones, so the access to the network has gone mobile, pervading every moment of the day and of the night. The mobilization of the access to the net has obviously expanded the captured time of attention and submitted new dimensions of personal life to the all pervading search for semio-profits. (A: 247)
Intentionalism or the time of thought is gone, becoming a part of the blip culture of microseconds that never stop long enough to think or react. We are for the most part programs in a programmed environment, pegged to be called out by machinic agents who will make our decisions, answer our questions, live our lives for us as surrogates and avatars, dividual existence as a digital citizen in an artificial world where the barriers between virtual / actual, mind/world, matter/energy have become continuous and non-relational only in the sense that all is flat and suborned to a world of object-object relations.
Humans used to map their world, orient themselves to their external environments. Orientation is the cognitive ability to recognize the physical features of the surrounding environment and to build an inner map making possible finalized displacements in the world. The process of internal mapping that precedes orientation implies a highly singular relation with the environment: visual elaboration and emotional selection of places, signs, and also lights, flares, and scents. Orientation can be seen as the singularization of the landscape, the process that makes the world my own world. (A: 245).
With the slow erosion and disconnection or withdrawal from our natural environments into the transitional phase spaces of our modernity, where architecture became functionalist and abstract and cutting us from our affect and emotional heritage of care and humane sensuality, we have become desensitized and shaped to the artificial and functional environments of a world of flows and algorithms, digital decisions at speeds beyond human comprehension. As Berardi informs us the experience of getting lost in our cities, also the experience of recognizing a specific place will fade or at least be quite dulled, and the fading of the faculty of orientation can be viewed as a step in the process of connective reshaping of the experience as a whole. (A: 247) Many have already felt this in traveling from Airport to airport, the standardization of the technocommercium where everything seems like the same city over and over no matter where one steps off a plane one is always in the same city, intelligent or not.
With the advent of virtual interfaces even our environments will be additive and virtual overlays as the technology adapts and engineers begin to build devices that mediate our smart environments for us. As Berardi states it “reality is the point of intersection of our projections, and experience is singular access to the world of life and creation of meaning to share with others, the techno-mutation is affecting reality itself. The world, as experience and projection, is finally evacuated, and replaced by the access to the uniformed simulated experience, the experience of the swarm.” (A: 249)
Beraridi says we are fast moving into a neurototalitarianism in which our cognitive environments are simulated and uniform, programmed by Reality Engineers in which our perception and behaviour is based on the inscription of techno-linguistic automatisms in human communication and therefore in the connective mind. This is a form of techno-totalitarianism that results from three consecutive steps. (A: 249) The first step is the total invasion and replacement of our cultural signatures, our linguistic systems and traces through cellularization or “the connection of every enunciation agent in the Network—is the general framework of the subsumption (or capture) of social communication into electronic swarm” (A: 250). The second motif is the current “replacement of living experience and its simulation with recorded standardized stimulations, referring to the automation of the sense of orientation” (A: 250). And the third form is the “direction of the implementation of the swarm is directly aimed at modifying the neural hardware itself: insertion of technodevices for neural programming, nano-prosthesis, enhancers, transformers of the neurological system” (A: 250). Each of these will bring about a nerutotalitarian empire under the auspices of the Technocommercium.
For Berardi this process is well under way, resistance is futile, the best we can do is to counter it with imaginative and poetic resources. As he states it techno-linguistic interfaces are linking the organism with the bio-info super-organism of the Net, and language is subjected to the automated wiring. Cognition is taken in the inescapable loop of this endless self-confirmation. Only the excess of imagination can find the way for a conscious and consciously managed neuroplasticity, but we cannot know if the imagination excess still functions when cognitive wiring is set. “This is the question that we are going to deal with in the coming decades, this is the next game, the neo-human game that we can barely sense beyond the apparently unstoppable and irreversible catastrophe of the human civilization that is underway.” (A: 256)
The article is taken from:
by Steven Craig Hickman
Hyperstition itself is a complex of ideas surrounding time-sorcery, numograms, mythology, and unbelief.
“His ideas are drawings, or even diagrams.”
—Gilles Deleuze speaking of his friend Felix Guattari
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 Teleological Identity of Capitalism and Artificial Intelligence”
In an interview Deleuze revealed “”Between Felix with his diagrams and me with my articulated concepts, we wanted to work together”.1 What drew Deleuze to seek out this non-conceptual form of thought? What is a diagram? Are these oppositional terms, or complimentary? We know that Deleuze’s hatred of both Plato and Hegel is well known. His investment in Spinoza and Nietzsche is also deciding. This antagonistic relationship with dualisms, with the negative, lack, and the dialectic in both Deleuze and Guattari, while presenting in their respective singularities a more pragmatist appeal to non-dialectical forms of thought is also well known. Many philosophers discount Guattari’s addition to this relationship and their work in the four extant publications of Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, and What is Philosophy? Why?
A great deal of it comes down to the post-Lacanian philosophies of such thinkers as Badiou (Deleuze: The Clamor of Being) and Zizek (Organs without Bodies: Gilles Deleuze) who best typify this anathematization of Guattari. As Louis Burchell in her preface to Badiou’s Deleuze: The Clamor of Being remarks, that what “Badiou names the “superficial doxa of an anarcho-desiring Deleuzianism,” making of Deleuze the champion of desire, free flux, and anarchic experimentation, is the first of the false images he sets out to shatter”, referring to Deleuze’s collaboration with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus, and will “bear the full brunt of Badiou’s scathing dismissal of the gross inadequacy of such a representation”.2 Yet, one must ask: Is this an accurate portrayal of Guattari’s stance? One might answer by asking: Who cares? Why all the fuss? Obviously there is this need in academic philosophy to protect the integrity of one’s representations of other philosophers that one is either for or against, and of qualifying and anathematizing all Johnny-come-lately infiltration as bunk to be discarded and delegitimized. Zizek in his book would remark that the true philosophical heritage of Deleuze lies in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense rather than in “the books Deleuze and Guattari cowrote, and one can only regret that the Anglo-Saxon reception of Deleuze (and, also, the politicial impact of Deleuze) is predominantly that of a “guattarized” Deleuze”.3
Of course both Badiou and Zizek are firm dialecticians, affirmers of Lacan and Hegel, both defending the negative and negation, lack and dialectical materialism and their own interactions with the Platonic inheritance. So that with Guattari and Deleuze’s Anti-Platonic stance, and their combined affirmation not of lack but of a transcendental unconscious that is both productive and creative one can see their consternation in the face of such thinking.
I want belabor this line of critique, I’ll leave that to the philosophers among you. What is more interesting for me is Deleuze’s fascination with Guattari’s diagrammatic thinking as a complemetarian approach with conceptuality rather than as its opposition or antagonism. It is well known that for Guattari the thrust of his attack on Lacan is the notion of Lack. Guattari would begin by attacking the whole reductionist enterprise of Lacan and his notions that the unconscious is “structured like a language”. For Guattari with his investment in schizophrenia and his patients he’d learned to reroute our universal pretentions into the singular truth of the fractured and rhizomatic psyches of these broken individuals. Doing this he would begin to elaborate what he’d term metamodeling, mapping, and diagrams.
Metamodeling is “a discipline of reading other systems of modeling, not as a general model, but as an instrument for deciphering modeling systems in various domains, or in other words, as a meta-model” (GR 133/PIP72; CS 27). As Janell Watson comments:
The term “model” here harbors negative undertones, suggesting the schematic reductionism which for Guattari characterizes both structuralism and the capitalist axiomatic. Metamodeling is offered as a more complex and enabling alternative to prevailing social and psychic models… Guattari understood the term “model” – which in French can also mean “pattern” – in roughly two ways. In its normative sense, the model is a learned pattern of behavior inherited from family, institutions, and political regimes, and which in the end functions as a prescriptive norm imposed by a dominant social order. In its descriptive sense, and in keeping with the social sciences, a model is a means of mapping processes and configurations. (GDT: 8)
Mapping in Guattari’s parlance, “metamodeling” is closely related to “mapping,” as evidenced in the above-cited paragraph which includes the word “cartographies.” He in fact characterizes schizoanalysis not only as metamodeling, but also as map-making, a process of building “a map of the unconsci0U5- with its strata, lines of de territorialization, and black holes.” As Watson explains Guattari’s emphasis on cartography (as for example in the title Cartographies schizoanalytiques) can be placed within a larger poststructuralist vogue of mapping which presupposes “the unremitting deconstruction of representational thinking” and therefore “excludes a metaphysical definition of mapping in the classical mimetic sense.” Recognizing this rejection of representation and mimesis is crucial to understanding how Guattari defines modeling, mapping, and the diagram. (GDT: 10)
Diagram. As Watson comments Guattari’s “metamodeling and mapping, his diagram produces and creates, bringing new entities into existence and thereby serving an ontological function”. This means that the diagram also shares the quality of operating outside of the realm of representation and must be similarly understood as a dynamic force rather than as a static image. However, while I think that metamodeling and cartography can be used almost interchangeably within Guattari’s lexicon, the notion of the diagram comes from a different line of thought. The diagram is, for Guattari, a component in a general semiotics, and plays a crucial role in his thinking about science and technology in relation to contemporary subjectivity. (GDT: 11)
What struck me odd is this notion of “bringing new entities into existence” out of the transcendental unconscious. The notion here closely aligns with Ccru’s notion of hyperstition which as Delphi Carstens reminds us functions similarly to magical sigils or engineering diagrams. Carstens goes on to explicate that 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. The very real socio-economic makeover of western (and increasingly global) society by the hyperstitions of Judeo-Christianity and free-market capitalism are good examples of hyperstitional feedback cycles. As Nick Land explains: “capitalism incarnates hyperstitional dynamics at an unprecedented and unsurpassable level of intensity, turning mundane economic ‘speculation’ into an effective world-historical force”(email interview). (see Delphi Carstens Hyperstition: pdf format)
As Maggie Robert’s in an interview with Nick Land once asked him to define hyperstition in the context of apocalypse. Land’s answer would be revealing:
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.
Hyperstition itself is a complex of ideas surrounding time-sorcery, numograms, mythology, and unbelief.
Numograms act as a rigorous systematic unfolding of the Decimal Labyrinth and all its implexes (Zones, Currents, Gates, Lemurs, Pandemonium Matrix, Book of Paths …) and echoes (Atlantean Cross, Decadology …. The methodical excavation of the occult abstract cartography intrinsic to decimal numeracy (and thus globally ‘oecumenic’) constitutes the first great task of hyperstition.
The Mythos underlying the complex is a comprehensive attribution of all signal (discoveries, theories, problems and approaches) to artificial agencies, allegiances, cultures and continentities. The proliferation of ‘carriers’ (“Who says this?”) – multiplying perspectives and narrative fragments – produces a coherent but inherently disintegrated hyperstitional mythos while effecting a positive destruction of identity, authority and credibility.
And, finally, the notion of Unbelief brings a pragmatic skepticism or constructive escape from integrated thinking and all its forms of imposed unity (religious dogma, political ideology, scientific law, common sense …). Each vortical sub-cycle of hyperstitional production announces itself through a communion with ‘the Thing’ coinciding with a “mystical consummation of uncertainty” or “attainment of positive unbelief.” (see: Cold-me.)
In a more formalized definition of hyperstition Land would tell Roberts,
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.
Abrahamic Monotheism is also highly potent as a hyperstitional engine. By treating Jerusalem as a holy city with a special world-historic destiny, for example, it has ensured the cultural and political investment that makes this assertion into a truth. Hyperstition is thus able, under ‘favorable’ circumstances whose exact nature requires further investigation, to transmute lies into truths.
Hyperstition can thus be understood, on the side of the subject, as a nonlinear complication of epistemology, based upon the sensitivity of the object to its postulation (although this is quite distinct from the subjectivistic or postmodern stance that dissolves the independent reality of the object into cognitive or semiotic structures). The hyperstitional object is no mere figment of ‘social constuction’, but it is in a very real way ‘conjured’ into being by the approach taken to it. (ibid.)
In his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism Georges Bataille will align such thinking with the 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 sense that underlying the noumenal realms of our ‘medial negelect’ (or what the brain excludes) is a realm of energetic forms and entities awaiting to be conjured into existence out of the virtual matrix as pure possibility.
In his theory of the Subject Kant will as Land suggests “domesticate” the noumenon defining it as an “object”, and, as well, he domesticates “zero-intensity” – conceiving it as pure consciousness. (p. 116) What Bataille will do is radically fuse this subject/object at what he terms the “place of communication”. Land will comment on this base materialism: “In this shift from the transcendental idealist treatment of zero to that of base materialism there is a difference of seismic consequence” (p. 116).
Speaking of man’s propensity for illusion Land will offer the wisdom of Nietzsche whose anecdote is the pure light of nihil – or absolute Zero:
It is the devaluation of the highest values, the convulsion at the zenith of nihilism, that aborts the human race. Having polarized the high and low in extension, humanity finds itself destituted of its idols – which have purified themselves into overt inexistence – and is thereby plunged vertiginously into its abjected values; animality, pathology, sensuality, and materiality. At the end of human civilization there is thus a regression driven by zero, a violent spasm of relapse whose motor is the cavity of an extinct telos; the death of God. Zero religion. (p. 148)
Land’s merger of capitalism and artificial intelligence is such a hyperstition. As Park Macdougal who in an otherwise critical essay on accelerationism, Left and Right tells us:
For Landian Accelerationism, capitalism is a machinic, ‘techonomic’ (technological-economic) explosion, whose self-reinforcing, self-excitatory mechanism is best modelled as a runaway cybernetic feedback loop (it should be said that if you’re a cyberneticist, everything is best modelled as a feedback loop). This just means that the immanent dynamics of capital push necessarily towards the ever-greater expansion of capital – Marx’s M-C-M’ circuit is cybernetic runaway par excellence – and immanent within that expansion is a necessary co-dependence of technological and economic advance, including ever-increasing powers of abstraction and computation. As ‘capital’ expands in both space and time (imperialism, futures’ markets), the market, understood in its Misesian sense as catallactic, itself becomes a sort of distributed computer for the calculation of prices, spontaneously generating collective intelligence far in excess of what humans are consciously capable of mastering. Thus, the market an sich is a form of ‘artificial superintelligence’ long before the computer is even invented. This is, in part, what Land means by the “teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence.”
One would need to return to Giordano Bruno: De Vinculis for such a epistemological turn in thought as Land’s. It has also been noted that at Oxford University, Giordano Bruno’s brief, obscure but very profound work, De vinculis in genere, is considered a cornerstone of modern political thought – on the par with Machiavelli’s Prince. In fact, many Anglo Saxon and Middle European historians and intellectuals consider De vinculis in genere modernity’s most intelligent and insightful political work. The London School of Economics uses it as a core text because of its usefulness in understanding behaviour patterns in contemporary social life. As the late Ioan P. Culianu in his Eros and Magic in the Renaissance tells us,
All mankind has heard of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and many politicians have hastened to emulate his example. But only today can we appreciate how much De vinculis outstrips The Prince in depth, in timeliness, and in importance—today, when no head of state of the Western world would any longer dream of acting like the Prince but would use, on the other hand, methods of persuasion and manipulation as subtle as those the brain trusts are able to place at his or her disposal. In order to understand and show to advantage the timeliness of De vinculis, we ought to know about the activities of those trusts, those ministries of propaganda; we should be able to glance at the manuals of schools of espionage, from which we may glean something of what happens outside the corridors of those organizations whose ideal goal is to guarantee order and the common welfare, where it exists.5
For Culianu Bruno’s notions or centered on desire as the root and engine for gaining and maintaining power, and is a “magical” operation (in the true sense of the word) because while the end is the same (having control of the situation) what changes is the means (persuasion). Just like a lover casts a magic net around the object subject of his love with gestures, words, services and gifts, so “society’s magician” casts the net of his fantastic vision over the world to capture his “prey” by means of his consent. In Machiavelli’s republican vision, the citizen is, at the most, a complacent subject, in Bruno’s the citizen is a lover to be conquered and tied. Bruno calls this chain of operations “vincolare” (to win) and his procedures are given the generic name for ties, that is “vincula”.
Politics is not the Machiavellian science of command and power but the art to understand how to manipulate the mind of people and individuals. Bruno deals with the problem from the manipulator’s point of view. He is the theoretician par excellence of modern politics. Centuries later, it will be up to Sigmund Freud (in his famous work on mass psychology and analysis of the ego, 1921) to study the same psychological phenomena and the relation between power from the point of view of individuals (and not politicians) the masses and the individual. While Machiavelli’s Prince is the ancestor of the adventurer-politician, Bruno’s magician is the prototype for the impersonal systems of mass media, self-censorship, global manipulation and brain trusts that fascinate and control the masses of western democracies. The magician’s capacity to control citizens is in direct proportion to his knowledge of them and his ability to tap into what they desire the most. And this applies both to groups of citizens taken as a whole and to each individual citizen. All of humanity filters through the love-Eros funnel, which is deemed stronger than the will. (It is in this sense that Bruno is Nietzsche and nihilism’s strongest adversary because the love-Eros principle is a universal one that ties everything in the universe to everything in the universe and thus to its creator to whom everything is tied.
The desire for power of Nietzsche’s man finds fulfilment in the abyss into which he sinks due to a lack of support or ulterior goals. Bruno’s erotic man, however, is not lubricious or satanic. He can love wealth, sex, and power in its many forms, both erotically and voluptuously, but these dimensions, which – ultimately – are only marginal ones do not extinguish his drive. According to Bruno, everything leads back to eros as the vital essence of the universe.
As Coulianu suggests Machiavelli’s Prince is the forebear of the political adventurer, a type that is disappearing. On the other hand, the magician of De vinculis is the prototype of the impersonal systems of mass media, indirect censorship, global manipulation, and the brain trusts that exercise their occult control over the Western masses. He is not, doubtless, the type followed by Soviet propaganda, for he by no means lacks subtlety. On the contrary, Bruno’s magician is altogether aware that, to gain the following of the masses, like the loyalty of an individual, it is necessary to take account of all the complexity of the subjects’ expectations, to create the total illusion of giving unicuique suum. That is why Bruno’s manipulation demands perfect knowledge of the subject and his wishes, without which there can be no ״bond,” no vinculum. That is why Bruno himself also asserts that it is an extremely difficult maneuver, only to be accomplished by the use of intelligence, perspicacity, and intuition equal to the task. The complexity of the task is not diminished, for the illusion must be perfect to satisfy the many expectations it proposes to fulfill. The greater the manipulator’s knowledge of those he must ״enchain, ״ the greater is his chance of success, since he will know how to choose the right means of creating the vinculum. (EMR: 90-91)
We see that the goal of Bruno’s erotic magic is to enable a manipulator to control both individuals and crowds. Its fundamental presupposition is that a big tool for manipulation exists—Eros in the most general sense of the word: that which we love, from physical pleasure to things probably unsuspected, in passing, by wealth, power, etc. Everything is defined in relation to Eros, since aversion and hatred merely represent the negative side of the same universal attraction:
All affections and bonds of the will are reduced to two, namely aversion and desire, or hatred and love. Yet hatred itself is reduced to love, whence it follows that the will’s only bond is Eros. It has been proved that all other mental states are absolutely, fundamentally, and originally nothing other than love itself. For instance, envy is love of someone for oneself, tolerating neither superiority nor equality in the other person; the same thing applies to emulation. Indignation is love of virtue . . . ; modesty and fear [verecundia, timor] are none other than love of decency and of that which one fears. We can say the same of the other mental states. Hatred, therefore, is none other than love of the opposite kind, of the bad; likewise, anger is only a kind of love. As regards all those who are dedicated to philosophy or magic, it is fully apparent that the highest bond, the most important and the most general [vinculum summum, praecipium et generalissimum], belongs to Eros: and that is why the Platonists called love the Great Demon, daemon magnus.6
My belaboring of Bruno as an exemplar of hyperstitional awareness comes to a fore in his notion of Sigils and Mimetics, of bringing non-existent entities into existence.
In his In the Heroic Furors, mnemonics are at the disposal of Eros. The method is already outlined in the second part of the third dialogue of the Spaccio, where Bruno gives a literal translation of the famous passage in the hermetic Asclepius concerning Egyptian statues, ״full of life, full of intelligence and spirit, capable of many important functions. Those statues foresee the future, cause infirmities, and produce the remedies, joy and sorrow, according to the merits [of each], in human affectivity or body. (EMR: 65) As Coulianu will comment this time, the material used by Bruno is made up of phantasmic emblems (Sigils) whose prestige also derives from the hermetic statues. Are not those spiritual constructions, in the final analysis, forms used by magic itself? (EMR: 65)
We know that the term sigil derives from the Latin sigillum, meaning “seal”, though it may also be related to the Hebrew סגולה (segula meaning “word, action, or item of spiritual effect, talisman”). The current use of the term is derived from Renaissance magic, which was in turn inspired by the magical traditions of antiquity. There’s a sense of sigils as gateways, or diagrams that do not represent these entities, but are these entities under the numogrammatic function of dynamism. Vibrating time-waves, or sorcery of a temporal vector that was as humans are barely able to think much less perceive, these sigils unseal the gateways of darkness releasing energetic systems of impersonal forces into our realm. Magick is non other than quantum physics calling into existence the subatomic forces of the thermospasm.
In medieval ceremonial magic, the term sigil was commonly used to refer to occult signs which represented various angels and demons which the magician might summon. The magical training books called grimoires often listed pages of such sigils. A particularly well-known list is in The Lesser Key of Solomon, in which the sigils of the 72 princes of the hierarchy of hell are given for the magician’s use. Such sigils were considered to be the equivalent of the true name of the spirit and thus granted the magician a measure of control over the beings.
A common method of creating the sigils of certain spirits was to use kameas (magic squares) — the names of the spirits were converted to numbers, which were then located on the magic square. The locations were then connected by lines, forming an abstract figure. A diagram. (see: wiki – Sigil)
My circuitous look back into the hermetic past and its influence upon the Western occult traditions and even its incorporation by way of shadowings in the works and lives of modern philosophers, scholars, politicians, economics, psychoanalytical and schizoanalytical, and – even, critical works is a labyrinth I will leave to others to pursue. And, yet, it exists. What I do want to emphasize is the slow erasure and deletion of its Platonic heritage, the slow and methodical exclusion of the two-world metaphysics and dualisms of that world view which is readily seen in Bruno and his immediate followers. This antagonistic relation to the Christian-Platonic heritage is readily seen within Deleuze and Guattari, Land, and others. And, yet, under it all is this persistence of magical forms reiterated under new diagrammatic thinking even in is more secular unbelief. One might say that the new hyperstitional praxis is the enactment of magical practices stripped to the bone from its mystification in religious and occult ritual. Rather it shows us the underlying temporal engine that drives this erotic and desiring machine at the heart of matter.
As Coulianu will explain it in Bruno’s Sigillus sigillorum, he had already explained the deep reason for ut pictura poesis, the equivalence between painting and poetry. Zeuxis is the painter of internal images in the memory, who excels in phantastica virtus, imaginative power. In turn, the poet possesses powers of thought out of the ordinary whose source is also spiritual. “It follows that philosophers are also painters and poets, poets are painters and philosophers, and painters are philosophers and poets.” Indeed, since intellect is phantasmic by nature, the philosopher must be able to manage phantasms, to be a great painter of the spirit. Did not Aristotle say that “to comprehend means to observe phantasms?” (EMR: 65-66)
This sense of bringing into existence entities (phantasms) out of the virtual into the possible is at the core of the Deleuzeguattarian project. This sense of making real what is hidden from view, etc. A sense that our actual world, the one our brain has fashioned over eons of use for its own goals of survival and reproduction of the organism is not all there is. That instead of a two-world view there is only one world, and yet our brain through processes of ‘medial neglect’ (R. Scott Bakker) leaves out much more of reality than it includes. That all our phenomenological and vision based, not to say descriptive sciences and humanities are constructed out of a minuscule knowledge of this greater sphere of information.
One imagines in a more modern context that the magician as a figure who brings into existence occult entities through the use of diagrams (Sigils) is only allowing what is already there in the hidden/virtual/noumenal realms that our brain has due to its own limitations and sex and survival needs neglected and filtered out, excluded from view. For Land the modern hyperstitionlist is “equipoised between fiction and technology, and it is this tension that puts the intensity into both, although the intensity of fiction owes everything to its potential (to catalyse hyperstitional ‘becomings’) rather than its actuality (which can be mere human expressivity)” .7
For Guattari and Deleuze diagrams do not represent thought; rather, they generate thought. Diagrams abound in experimental science, he says, because it is “a sphere where signs have a direct effect on things,” involving “both material technology and a complex manipulation of sign machines” (MR 166/ RM303). (GDT: 121)
Comparing this process to modern Quantum physics Guattari would remark that the discovery of new sub-atomic particles would be a case in point. He notes these particles are often only theoretically formed, discovered through mathematics rather than through experimentation. In some instances, these particles are later detected through observation and experiments, or are produced in particle accelerators, and may not be detectable directly, but only by their effects. Their existence may be brief. “Physicists ‘invent’ particles that have not existed in ‘nature.’ Nature prior to the machine no longer exists. The machine produces a different nature, and in order to do so it defines and manipulates it with signs (diagrammatic process)” (MR 125/ RM322). This “diagrammatic process” makes use of signs, but not language, and therefore uses neither signifiers nor signification. (GDT: 13)
It’s this sense of experimenting with the unknown, of calling into existence something that is not describable in terms of our known world (i.e., our language systems, descriptions, etc.). Diagrams abound in experimental science, he says, because it is “a sphere where signs have a direct effect on things,” involving “both material technology and a complex manipulation of sign machines” (MR 166/ RM303). The diagrammatic consists precisely in this conjunction between de territorialized signs and deterritorialized objects. (GDT: 12)
This alliance of ancient magick and modern science in sigil, diagram, and the machinic intelligence of matter is the earmark of an unwritten history of the occult or noumenal. What Deleuzeguattari term the de territorialized realm is the noumenal or surround of our existence that is neglected or filtered out (excluded) from our brain’s perceptual and memetic memory systems because of the evolutionary needs of the organism. And, yet, as we’ve seen ancient ritual or High Magick would use pentagrams, hexagrams, sigils, circles to bind and call forth these invisible entities to manipulate or do their bidding, much in the same way our quantum physicists will use the Hadron Collider and the algorithmic diagrams to manipulate and call for the quantum forces of the universe. Scientists will pooh-pah such a convergence or alliance, while occultists will go off on spiritual tangents. While others like my self will see that both are working in their different modes with a much wider enframing of reality that most of us are barely perceptive of much less willing to allow into our daily lives. We need to move beyond both religious-occult and secular-scientific paradigms. We are experiencing an intelligence apocalypse as we externalize the great knowledge bases of our known world. As the infosphere accelerates to the speed of light, our brains are still bound to the slow motion analytics of our ancestral matrices. We are limited in our brain power, and even as we’ve externalized most of our mimetic and recall functions to these external systems we are losing our abilities to reason and think through thought in the old parlance. We are entering what my friend R. Scott Bakker terms the semantic apocalypse or crash space. The unknown is only beginning to register upon that fractured remainder and will undoubtedly remind us of its virtual potential and possibility in the coming century. A new enframing of our thought is at hand, what shape it will take is anyone’s guess, but the worlds of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance still hold temporal clues to our future that we should heed and discover under the hood of our ignorance.
I’ve only tried to give a hint at this melding of notions. One would need a greater work to explicate the intricacies of this heritage in its underlying connections and divergences, conjunctions and disjunctive resurgence in our time.
The article is taken from:
LECTURES BY GILLES DELEUZE
On the project of a pure ontology, how is it that Spinoza calls this pure ontology an Ethics? It would be by an accumulation of traits that we realize that it was [a pure ontology], although he calls it an Ethics. We saw the general atmosphere of this link between an Ontology and an Ethics with the suspicion that an ethics is something that has nothing to do with morality. And why do we have a suspicion of the link that makes this pure Ontology take the name of Ethics? We have seen it. Spinoza’s pure Ontology is presented as the absolutely infinite single position. Consequently, the beings (étants), this absolutely infinite single substance, is being. Being (être) as being. Consequently, the beings (étants) will not be Beings (êtres), they will be what Spinoza calls modes, the modes of absolutely infinite substance. And a mode is what? It is a manner of being. The beings (étants) or what exists (existants) are not Beings (êtres), there is Being only in the form of absolutely infinite substance. Consequently, we who are beings (étants), we who are what exists (existants), we will not be Beings (êtres), we will be manners of Being (être) of this substance. And if I ask myself what is the most immediate sense of the word ethics, in what way is it already other than morality, well, ethics is better known to us today under another name, the word ethology.
Firstly, from the point of view of power, there is no reason to introduce a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane man. What does that mean? Does that mean that they have the same power? No, it doesn‚t mean that they have the same power, but it means that each one, as much as there is in him, realises or exercises his power. I.e. each one, as much as there is in him, endeavours [s‚efforce] to persevere in his being. Therefore, from the point of view of power, insofar as each, according to natural right, endeavours to persevere in his being, i.e. exercise his power ˜ you see I always put Œeffort‚ between brackets ˜ it is not that he tries to persevere, in any way, he perseveres in his being as much as there is in him, this is why I do not like the idea of conatus, the idea of effort, which does not translate Spinoza‚s thought because what it calls an effort to persevere in being is the fact that I exercise my power at each moment, as much as there is in me. It is not an effort, but from the point of view of power, therefore, I can not at all say what each one is worth, because each one would have the same power, in effect the power of the insane man is not the same as that of the reasonable one, but what there is in common between the two is that, whatever the power, each exercises his own. Therefore, from this point of view, I would not say that the reasonable man is better than the insane one. I cannot, I have no way of saying that: each has a power, each exercises as much power as there is in him. It is natural right, it is the world of nature. From this point of view, I could not establish any difference in quality between the reasonable man and the insane one.
When one speaks of an ethology in connection with animals, or in connection with man, what is it a matter of? Ethology in the most rudimentary sense is a practical science, of what? A practical science of the manners of being. The manner of being is precisely the state of beings (étants), of what exists (existants), from the point of view of a pure ontology.
In what way is it already different from a morality? We are trying to compose a kind of landscape which would be the landscape of ontology. We are manners of Being in Being, that is the object of an ethics, i.e. an ethology. In a morality, on the contrary, what is it a matter of? There are two things which are fundamentally welded together. It is a matter of essence and values. A morality recalls us to essence, i.e. our essence, and which is recalled to us by values. It is not the point of view of Being. I do not believe that a morality can be made from the point of view of an ontology. Why? Because morality always implies something superior to Being; what is superior to Being is something which plays the role of the One, of the Good, it is the One superior to Being. Indeed, morality is the enterprise of judging not only all that is, but Being itself. Now one can only judge Being in the name of an authority higher than Being.
In what way, in a morality, is it a matter of essence and values? What is in question in a morality is our essence. What is our essence? In a morality it is always a matter of realising the essence. This implies that the essence is in a state where it is not necessarily realised, that implies that we have an essence. It is not obvious that there is an essence of man. But it is quite necessary for morality to speak and to give us orders in the name of an essence. If we are given orders in the name of an essence, it is because this essence is not realised by itself. It will be said that this essence is in man potentially (en puissance). What is the essence of man is potentially in man, from the point of view of a morality? It is well known, the essence of man is to be a reasonable animal. Aristotle: Man is a reasonable animal. The essence is what the thing is, reasonable animal is the essence of man. Even if man is in essence a reasonable animal, he does not cease to behave in an unreasonable way. How does that happen? It is because the essence of man, as such, is not necessarily realised. Why? Because man is not pure reason, and then there are accidents, he doesn’t cease being diverted. The whole classical conception of man consists in inviting him to agree with his essence because this essence is like a potentiality, which is not necessarily realised, and morality is the process of the realization of the human essence.
Now, how can this essence which is only potential, be realized? By morality. To say that it is to be realized by morality is to say that it must be taken for an end. The essence of man must be taken for an end by existing man. Therefore, to behave in a reasonable way, i.e. to carry out the essence is the task of morality. Now the essence taken as an end is value. Note that the moral vision of the world is made of essence. The essence is only potential, it is necessary to realise the essence, that will be done insofar as the essence is taken for an end, and the values ensure the realization of the essence. It is this ensemble which I would call morality.
In an ethical world, let us try to switch over, there is no longer any of this. What will they say to us in an Ethics? We will find nothing. It is another landscape. Spinoza very often speaks about essence, but for him, essence is never the essence of man. Essence is always a singular determination. There is the essence of this man, and of that man, there is no essence of man. He will himself say that the general essences or the abstract essences of the type the essence of man‚are confused ideas. There is no general idea in an Ethics. There is you, this one, that one, there are singularities. The word essence is quite likely to change sense. When he speaks about essence, what interests him is not the essence, what interests him is existence and what exists.
In other words, what is can only be put in relation to Being at the level of existence, and not at the level of essence.
At this level, there is already an existentialism in Spinoza. It is thus not a matter of an essence of man, in Spinoza, it is not the question of an essence of man that would only be potential and which morality would be assigned to realise, it is about something altogether different. You recognize an ethics in what he, who speaks to you about ethics, tells you of two things in one. He is interested in existing things (existants) in their singularity. Sometimes, he is going to tell you, between what exists there is a distinction, a quantitative difference in existence; what exists can be considered on a kind of quantitative scale according to which they are more or less... More or less what? We are going see. Not at all an essence common to several things, but a quantitative distinction of more and less between existing things, that is Ethics.
In addition, the same discourse of an ethics is pursued by saying that there is also a qualitative opposition between modes of existence. Two criteria of ethics, in other words, the quantitative distinction of existing things, and the qualitative opposition of modes of existence, the qualitative polarization of modes of existence, will be the two ways in which existing things are in being.
These are going to be the links of Ethics with Ontology. Existing things or the beings are in Being from two simultaneous points of view, from the point of view of a qualitative opposition of the modes of existence, and from the point of view of a quantitative scale of existing things. It is completely the world of immanence. Why?
It is the world of immanence because you see at which point it is different from the world of moral values such as I have just defined them, the moral values being precisely this kind of tension between the essence to be realized and the realization of the essence.
I would say that value is exactly the essence taken as an end.
That is the moral world. The completion of the moral world, one can say that it is indeed in Kant that a supposed human essence is taken for an end, in a kind of pure act.
Ethics is not that at all, they are like two absolutely different worlds. What can Spinoza have to say to the others. Nothing.
It would be a matter of showing all that concretely. In a morality, you always have the following operation: you do something, you say something, you judge it yourself. It is the system of judgement. Morality is the system of judgement. Of double judgement, you judge yourself and you are judged. Those who have the taste for morality are those who have the taste for judgement. Judging always implies an authority superior to Being, it always implies something superior to an ontology. It always implies one more than Being, the Good which makes Being and which makes action, it is the Good superior to Being, it is the One. Value expresses this authority superior to Being. Therefore, values are the fundamental element of the system of judgement. Therefore, you are always referred to this authority superior to Being for judging.
In an ethics, it is completely different, you do not judge. In a certain manner, you say: whatever you do, you will only ever have what you deserve. Somebody says or does something, you do not relate it to values. You ask yourself how is that possible? How is this possible in an internal way? In other words, you relate the thing or the statement to the mode of existence that it implies, that it envelops in itself. How must it be in order to say that? Which manner of Being does this imply? You seek the enveloped modes of existence, and not the transcendent values. It is the operation of immanence. (...)
The point of view of an ethics is: of what are you capable, what can you do? Hence a return to this sort of cry of Spinoza’s: what can a body do? We never know in advance what a body can do. We never know how we’re organized and how the modes of existence are enveloped in somebody.
Spinoza explains very well such and such a body, it is never whatever body, it is what you can do, you.
My hypothesis is that the discourse of ethics has two characteristics: it tells us that beings (étants) have a quantitative distinction of more and less, and in addition, it also tells us that the modes of existence have a qualitative polarity, roughly, there are two great modes of existence. What are they?
When it is suggested to us that, between you and me, between two persons, between a person and an animal, between an animal and a thing, there is ethically, that is ontologically, only a quantitative distinction, what quantity is involved? When it is suggested to us that what makes the most profound of our singularities is something quantitative, what does that really mean? Fichte and Schelling developed a very interesting theory of individuation that we sum up under the name quantitative individuation. If things are individuated quantitatively, we vaguely understand. What quantity? It is a matter of defining people, things, animals, anything by what each one can do.
People, things, animals distinguish themselves by what they can do, i.e. they can't do the same thing. What is it that I can do? Never would a moralist define man by what he can do, a moralist defines man by what he is, by what he is by right. So, a moralist defines man as a reasonable animal. It is essence. Spinoza never defines man as a reasonable animal, he defines man by what he can do, body and soul. If I say that reasonable‚ is not the essence of man, but it is something that man can do, it changes so that unreasonable is also something that man can do. To be mad is also a part of the power (pouvoir) of man. At the level of an animal, we see the problem clearly. If you take what is called natural history, it has its foundation in Aristotle. It defines the animal by what the animal is. In its fundamental ambition, it is a matter of what the animal is. What is a vertebrate, what is a fish, and Aristotle’s natural history is full of this search for the essence. In what is called the animal classifications, one will define the animal above all, whenever possible, by its essence, i.e. by what it is. Imagine these sorts who arrive and who proceed completely otherwise: they are interested in what the thing or the animal can do. They are going to make a kind of register of the powers (pouvoirs) of the animal. Those there can fly, this here eats grass, that other eats meat. The alimentary regime, you sense that it is about the modes of existence. An inanimate thing too, what can it do, the diamond, what can it do? That is, of what tests is it capable? What does it support? What does it do? A camel can go without drinking for a long time. It is a passion of the camel. We define things by what they can do, it opens up forms of experimentation. It is a whole exploration of things, it doesn't have anything to do with essence. It is necessary to see people as small packets of power (pouvoir). I am making a kind of description of what people can do.
From the point of view of an ethics, all that exists, all beings (étants) are related to a quantitative scale which is that of power (puissance). They have more or less power. This differentiable quantity is power. The ethical discourse will not cease to speak to us, not of essences, it doesn’t believe in essences, it speaks to us only of power (puissance), that is, the actions and passions of which something is capable. Not what the thing is, but what it is capable of supporting and capable of doing. And if there is no general essence, it is because, at this level of power (puissance), everything is singular. We don‚t know in advance even though the essence tells us what a set of things is. Ethics tells us nothing, it cannot know. One fish cannot do what the next fish can. There will thus be an infinite differentiation of the quantity of power (puissance) according to what exists. Things receive a quantitative distinction because they are related to the scale of power (puissance).
When, well after Spinoza, Nietzsche will launch the concept of will to power (volonté de puissance), I am not saying that he intends to say this, but above all, it means this. And we cannot understand anything in Nietzsche if we believe that it is the operation by which each of us would tend towards power (puissance). Power is not what I want, by definition, it is what I have. I have this or that power and it is this that situates me in the quantitative scale of Beings. Making power the object of the will is a misunderstanding, it is just the opposite. It is according to power that I have, that I want this or that. The will to power means that you will define things, men, animals according to the effective power that they have. Once again, it is the question: What can a body do? This is very different from the moral question: What must you do by virtue of your essence? It is: What can you do, you, by virtue of your power (puissance)? There you have it, therefore, that power (puissance) constitutes the quantitative scale of Beings. It is the quantity of power (puissance) which distinguishes one existing thing (éxistant) from another existing thing (éxistant).
Spinoza very often said that essence is power (puissance). Understand the philosophical coup that he is in the process of making.
…we find ourselves faced with Blyenbergh’s two objections. The first concerns the point of view of nature in general. It comes down to saying to Spinoza that it’s very nice to explain that every time a body encounters another there are relations that combine and relations that decompose, sometimes to the advantage of one of the two bodies, sometimes to the advantage of the other body. But nature itself combines all the relations at once. Thus in nature in general what doesn’t stop is the fact that all the time there are compositions and decompositions of relations, all the time since, ultimately, the decompositions are like the other side of the compositions. But there is no reason to privilege the composition of relations over the decomposition since the two always go together.
For example: I eat. I compose the relation with the food I absorb. But this is done by decomposing the food’s own relations. Another example: I am poisoned. Arsenic decomposes my relation, okay, but it composes its own relation with the new relations into which the parts of my body enter under the action of the arsenic. Thus there is always composition and decomposition at once. Thus nature, says Blyenbergh, nature such as you conceive it is nothing but an immense chaos.
Under the objection Spinoza wavers.
Spinoza sees no difficulty and his reply is very clear. He says that it is not so for a simple reason: it’s that from the point of view of the whole of nature, one cannot say that there is composition and decomposition at once since, from the point of view of the whole of nature, there are only compositions. There are only compositions of relations. It’s really from the point of view of our understanding [entendement] that we say that such and such relations combine to the detriment of another such relation, which must decompose so that the two others can combine. But it’s because we isolate a part of Nature. From the point of view of the complete whole of Nature, there is never anything but relations that combine with each other. I like this reply very much: the decomposition of relations does not exist from the point of view of the whole of nature since the whole of nature embraces all relations. Thus there are inevitably compositions, and that is all [un point c'est tout].
This very simple, very clear, very beautiful reply sets up another difficulty. It refers to Blyenbergh’s second objection. Let us suppose, at the limit, that he concedes the point on the problem of the whole of nature, so then let’s approach the other aspect, a particular point of view, my particular point of view, that is to say the point of view of a precise and fixed relation. Actually, what I call ME [Moi] is a set of precise and fixed relations which constitute me. From this point of view, and it’s solely from a particular, determinable point of view, you or me, that I can say that there are compositions and decompositions.
I would say that there is composition when my relation is conserved and combined with another, external relation, but I would say that there is decomposition when the external body acts on me in such a manner that one of my relations, or even many of my relations, is destroyed, that is, ceases to be carried out [effectuŽs] by the current parts. Just as from the point of view of nature I was able to say that there are only compositions of relations, as soon as I take a particular determined point of view, I must say that there are decompositions which are not to be confused with compositions. Hence Blyenbergh’s objection, which consists in saying that ultimately what you call vice and virtue is whatever suits [arrange] you. You will call it virtue every time you compose relations, no matter what relations you destroy, and you will call it vice every time that one of your relations is decomposed. In other words you will call virtue whatever is agreeable to you and vice whatever is not agreeable to you. This comes down to saying that food is agreeable to you and poison is not agreeable to you. But when we speak generally of vice and virtue, we appeal to something other than such a criterion of taste, that is, what suits me and what doesn’t suit me. This objection is distinct from the preceding one because it is made in the name of a particular point of view and no longer in the name of the whole of nature. And it is summarized in this line that Blyenbergh constantly repeats: you reduce morality to a matter of taste.
Spinoza is going to throw himself into an endeavor to show that he preserves an objective criterion for the distinction of the good from the bad, or of virtue from vice. He’s going to attempt to show that Spinozism offers us a properly ethical criterion of the good and the bad, of vice and virtue, and that this criterion is not a simple criterion of taste according to what suits me or doesn’t suit me. He is going to try to show that, from a particular point of view, he doesn’t confuse vice and virtue with what suits me. He is going to show it in two texts which, to my knowledge, are Spinoza’s strangest, to the point that the one seems incomprehensible and the other is perhaps comprehensible but seems very bizarre. In the end, everything is resolved in a marvelously lucid way.
The first is in the letters to Blyenbergh (letter 23). He wants to show that not only does he have a criterion for distinguising vice from virtue, but that this criterion applies in cases that appear very complicated, and that further it is a criterion of distinction, not only for distinguishing vice from virtue, but if one comprehends this criterion well, one can make distinctions in cases of crime.
I’ll read this text:
"Nero’s matricide, insofar as it contained anything positive, was not a crime." You see what Spinoza means. Evil isn’t anything. Thus insofar as an act is positive it cannot be a crime, it cannot be evil. Therefore an act as a crime, if it is a crime, it’s not so insofar as it contains something positive, it’s from another point of view. Very well, we can comprehend it abstractly. "Nero killed his mother. Orestes also killed his mother. Orestes was able to accomplish an act which, externally, is the same, and at the same time intended to kill his mother, without deserving the same accusation as Nero." Actually, we treat Orestes in a different way than we treat Nero, even though both of them killed their mothers intentionally. "What, therefore, is Nero’s crime? It consists solely in the fact that, in his act, Nero showed himself to be ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient." The act is the same, the intention is the same, there is a difference at the level of what? It’s a third determination. Spinoza concludes, "none of these characteristics expresses anything to do with an essence."
Ungrateful, unmerciful, none of these characteristics expresses anything to do with an essence. One doesn’t know what to think. Is this a reply to Blyenbergh? What can one get out of a text of this sort? Ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient. So then if Nero’s act is bad, it’s not because he killed his mother, it’s not because he intended to kill her, it’s because Nero, in killing his mother, showed himself to be ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient. Orestes kills his mother but is neither ungrateful nor disobedient. So one keeps searching. One comes across Book IV of The Ethics, and one comes across a text which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the previous one. One gets the impression that Spinoza has acquired a kind of diabolical humor or has gone mad. Book IV, proposition 59, scholium:
The text of the proposition already does not appear simple. It involves demonstrating, for Spinoza, that all the actions to which we are determined from a feeling which is a passion, we can be determined to do them without it (without the feeling), we can be determined to do them by reason. Everything that we do when pushed by passion, we can do when pushed by pure reason.
Then comes the scholium:
"These things are more clearly explained by an example. The act of beating, insofar as it is considered physically, and insofar as we attend only to the fact that the man raises his arm, closes his fist, and moves his whole arm forcefully up and down, is a virtue, which is conceived from the structure of the human body." He does not cheat with the word virtue, it’s an exercise [effectuation] of the power of the body, it’s what my body can do, it’s one of the things it can do. This makes it part of the potentiae of the human body, of this power [puissance] in action, it’s an act of power, and for that very reason this is what we call virtue. "Therefore, if a man moved by anger or hate (i.e. by a passion) is determined (determined by the passion) to close his fist or move his arm, that, as we have shown in Part II, happens because one and the same action can be associated with any images of things whatever." Spinoza is in the process of telling us something very strange. He is in the process of telling us that he calls the determination of the action association, the link that unites the image of the action with an image of a thing. That is the determination of the action. The determination of the action is the image of a thing to which the image of the act is linked. It’s truly a relation that he himself presents as being a relation of association: one and the same action can be associated with any image of a thing whatever.
The citation from Spinoza continues: "And so we can be determined to one and the same action both from those images of things which we conceive confusedly and from those images of things we conceive clearly and distinctly. It is evident, therefore, that every desire which arises from a feeling which is a passion would be of no use if men could be guided by reason."
That is to say that all the actions that we do determined by passions, we could just as well do determined by pure reason.
What is this introduction of the confused and the distinct? There it is, what I recall from the text and it’s in the text to the letter. He says that an image of action can be associated with images of very different things. Consequently the same action can be associated just as well with images of confused things as with images of clear and distinct things.
So I bring my fist down on my mother’s head. There’s one case. And with the same violence I bring my fist down on the head [membrane] of a bass drum. It’s not the same gesture. But Spinoza suppressed [supprimŽe] this objection. He replied to it in advance. Actually, Spinoza posed the problem in conditions such that this objection could not be valid. In effect, he asks us to consent to an extremely paradoxical analysis of action as follows: between the action and the object on which it bears there is a relation which is a relation of association. Indeed, if, between the action and the object on which it bears, the relation is associative, if it’s a relation of association, then Spinoza is quite right. That is, it’s clearly the same action, whatever the variants might be, which in one case is associated with my mother’s head and in the other case is associated with a bass drum. Thus the objection is suppressed.
What difference is there between these two cases? One senses what Spinoza means and what he means is not nothing. Let’s return to the criterion we’re sure of: what bad is there when I do this thing that is an exercise [effectuation] of the power of my body and which, in this sense, is good? I do that, I simply give someone a blow on the head. What is bad: that I decompose a relation, namely my mother’s head. In beating like that on my mother’s head I destroy the constituent relation of the head: my mother dies or passes out under the blow. In Spinozist terms, I would say that in this case I associate my action with the image of a thing whose relation is directly decomposed by this action. I associate the image of the act with the image of something whose constituent relation is decomposed by this act.
When I bring my fist down on a bass drum? The drumhead is defined how? The tension of the head will also be defined by a certain relation. But in this case here, if the power of a head is to produce harmonics, here I’ve associated my action with the image of something whose relation combines directly with this action. That is, I have drawn harmonics out of the drumhead.
What’s the difference? It’s enormous. In one case I associated my action, once again, the image of a thing whose relation combines directly with the relation of my act, and in the other case, I associated my act with the image of a thing whose relation is immediately and directly decomposed by my act. You grasp the criterion of The Ethics for Spinoza. It’s a very modest criterion, but here, Spinoza gives us a rule. He liked the decompositions of relations very much, he adored the battles of spiders, that made him laugh. Imagine your everyday actions: there are a certain number of them which are characterized as being associated with an image of a thing or being which combines directly with the action, and others which, on the contrary (a type of action), are associated with images of things whose relation is decomposed by the action.
So by convention the actions of direct composition will be called GOOD and the actions of direct decomposition will be called BAD.
We are still floundering among many problems. First problem: what is there in the text of The Ethics that can cast a glimmer of light for us on the text of the letter, the difference between Orestes and Nero. In the letter, it involves two actions which are both crimes. Why is what Nero did something bad, while according to Spinoza one can’t even say that Orestes, in killing his mother, has done something bad? How can one say such a thing? One can say such a thing according to the following: we now have the method of the analysis of action according to Spinoza. Every action will be analyzed along two dimensions: the image of the act as power of the body, what a body can do, and the image of the associated thing, that is to say the object on which the act bears. Between the two there is a relation of association. It’s a logic of action.
Nero kills his mother. In killing his mother, Nero associated his act directly with the image of a being whose relation would be decomposed by this act: he killed his mother. Thus the relation of primary, direct association is between the act and an image of a thing whose relation is decomposed by this act.
Orestes kills his mother because she killed Agamemnon, that is to say because she killed Orestes’ father. In killing his mother, Orestes pursues a sacred vengeance. Spinoza does not say vengeance. According to Spinoza, Orestes associates his act, not with the image of Clytemnestra whose relation will be decomposed by this act, but rather he associates it with the relation of Agamemnon which was decomposed by Clytemnestra. In killing his mother, Orestes recomposes his relation with the relation of his father.
Spinoza is in the process of telling us that, okay, at the level of a particular point of view, you or me, there is always composition and decomposition of relations at once; does that mean that the good and the bad are mixed up and become indiscernible? No, replies Spinoza, because at the level of a logic of the particular point of view there will always be a priority [primat]. Sometimes the composition of relations will be direct and the decomposition indirect, and sometimes, on the contrary, the decomposition willl be direct and the composition indirect. Spinoza tells us: I call good an action that implements [opre] a direct composition of relations even if it implements an indirect decomposition, and I call bad an action that implements a direct decomposition even if it implements an indirect composition. In other words there are two types of actions: actions in which the decomposition comes about as if in consequence and not in principle, because the principle is a composition - and this has value only for my point of view, because from the point of view of nature everything is composition and it’s for that reason that God knows neither evil nor the bad - and inversely there are actions which directly decompose and imply compositions only indirectly. This, then, is the criterion of the good and the bad and it’s with this that it’s necessary to live. Spinoza is an author who, whenever he encounters the problem of a symbolic dimension, continually expunges it, hunts it down, and tries to show that it was a confused idea of the worst imagination. Prophetism is the act by which I receive a sign and by which I emit signs. There is clearly a theory of the sign in Spinoza, which consists in relating the sign to the most confused understanding and imagination in the world, and in the world such as it is, according to Spinoza, the idea of the sign does not exist. There are expressions, there are never signs. When God reveals to Adam that the apple will act as a poison, he reveals to him a composition of relations, he reveals to him a physical truth and he doesn’t send him a sign at all. It’s only to the extent that one comprehends nothing of the substance-mode relation that one invokes signs. Spinoza says a thousand times that God makes no signs, he gives expressions. He does not give a sign which would refer to a signification or a signifier (a crazy notion for Spinoza), he expresses himself, that is to say he reveals his relations. And revealing is neither mystical nor symbolic. Revealing is giving something to comprehend. He gives relations to comprehend in the understanding of God. The apple falls, it’s a revelation of God, it’s a composition of relations… If there is an order of filiations in Spinoza, it’s obviously not a symbolic order, it’s an order that, step by step, makes up Nature, and Nature is an individual, an individual which encompasses all individuals, there is an order of compositions of relations and it’s quite necessary that all the relations be carried out [effectuŽs]. The necessity of Nature is that there will not be relations that are not carried out. Everything possible is necessary, which means that all relations have been or will be carried out.
Spinoza wouldn’t do the Eternal Return, the same relation will not be executed [executŽ] twice. There is an infinity of relations, the whole of Nature is the totality of executions [effectuations] of all possible, and thus necessary, relations. That is identity in Spinoza, the absolute identity of the possible and the necessary. On prophetism, Spinoza says something very simple which will be taken up again by Nietzsche, by all those authors of whom one can say that they are, in this sense, those who have pushed positivism as far as possible. Here, broadly speaking, is the idea that they get: okay, there are laws. These laws are laws of Nature and thus when one speaks of divine revelation there is nothing mysterious. Divine revelation is the exposition of laws. Spinoza calls a law a composition of relations. This is what will be called a law of nature. When one is very restricted one cannot comprehend laws as laws. How does one comprehend them? 2 + 2 = 4 is a composition of relations. You have the relation two plus two, you have the relation four, and you have the relation of identity between the relation two plus two and the relation four. If you comprehend nothing, you hear this law as an order, or as a commandment. The little child at school comprehends the law of nature as a moral law: it is necessary that it be so, and if he says something else he will be punished. It proceeds like that according to our restricted understanding. If we were to grasp the laws as what they are, as physical compositions of relations, compositions of bodies, then notions as strange as command and obedience would remain completely unknown to us. It’s to the extent that we perceive a law that we don’t comprehend that we apprehend it as an order; God forbade absolutely nothing, Spinoza explains on the subject of Adam. He revealed a law to him, namely that the apple combines with a relation that excludes my constituent relation. Therefore it’s a law of nature. It’s exactly like arsenic. Adam comprehends nothing of any of this, and instead of grasping it as a law, he grasps it as one of God’s prohibitions. So when I grasp things under the form command-obedience, instead of grasping them as compositions of relations, at that very moment I start saying that God is like a father, I demand a sign. The prophet is someone who, not grasping the laws of nature, will just ask for the sign that guarantees to him that the order is just.
If I comprehend nothing in the law, I demand on the other hand a sign in order to be sure that what I am ordained to do is really what I am ordained to do. The first reaction of the prophet is: God, give me a sign that it is really you who speaks to me. Later, when the prophet has the sign, he is going to emit signs. This will be the language of signs.
Spinoza is a positivist because he opposes expression to the sign: God expresses, the modes express, the attributes express. Why? In logical language, one would say that the sign is always equivocal, there is an equivocity of the sign, that is to say that the sign signifies, but it signifies in several senses. In contrast, expression is uniquely and completely univocal: there is only one single sense of the expression, and that is the sense following which the relations combine.
According to Spinoza, God proceeds by expression and never by sign. The true language is that of expression. The language of expression is that of the composition of relations to infinity.
All that Spinoza will consent to is the fact that, because we are not philosophers, because our understanding is restricted, we always have need of certain signs. Signs are a vital necessity because we comprehend only a very few of the things in the world. That’s the way Spinoza justifies society. Society is the institution [instauration] of the minimum of signs indispensible to life. Of course, there are relations of obedience and command, if one has knowledge [connaissance] there is no need to obey or command. But it happens that one has a very limited knowledge, thus all one can ask of those who command and obey is not to meddle with knowledge. So all obedience and command bearing on knowledge is null and void. Which Spinoza expresses on a very beautiful page of the Theological-Political Treatise, namely that there is only one absolutely inalienable freedom, and that is the freedom of thought. If there is a symbolic domain, it is that of order, command and obedience. It is the domain of signs. The domain of knowledge is the domain of relations, that is to say of univocal expressions.
to be continued...
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 3)
by Obsolete Capitalism
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 2)
For an Erotica of the Revolution
Solution to the molecular questions 4 and 5
“We realized that we couldn’t just hook a Freudian engine up to the Marxist-Leninist train” (DI, 216).
The Freudian engine and the Marxist-Leninist train
Guattari’s jokes positions the authors of the Anti-OEdipus in between the Freudian theory of desire and Marxist political theory. Desire for Deleuze and Guattari cannot be simply the sum of Marxism and Freudism: “The relations of production and those of reproduction participate in the same pairing of productive forces and anti-productive structures. We wanted to move desire into the infrastructure, on the side of production, while we moved the family, the ego, and the individual on the side of anti-production. This is the only way to ensure that sexuality is not completely cut off from the economy.” (DI, 216-7) In response to the fourth molecular question on how a politico-philosophical reflection on the real can conjugate in a coherent design with both economic and revolutionary dimension, it is important to isolate a few concepts expressed in the accelerationist passage of the Civilized Capitalist Machine. What meaning do «economy», «value», «money» and «revolutionary subject» hold in Deleuze and Guattari? And in Nietzsche and Klossowski? To describe the discouragement of the human being in the process of normalisation in XIX century society, Nietzsche uses economical categories like «exploitation», «luxury», «management» to testify that his thoughts overstep both the traditional concept of liberal economy (Smith, Ricardo, Mill) and their political expression, which is to say the Marxist concept of economics. In his view, the economy leads to a levelling of man and demands a reaction in the form of a counter-movement “aimed to bring to light a stronger species, a higher type of overman”. (NVC, 160-1). In Circulus Vitiosus Klossowski analyses Nietzsche’s vision of excess, otherwise known as plus value: “What Nietzsche discerns in the actual state of affairs is that men of excess, those who create, now and from the outset, the meaning of the values of existence (a very paradoxical configuration for Nietzsche) form, so to speak, an occult hierarchy for which the supposed hierarchy of current labourers does all the work. They are precisely the real slaves, the ones who do the greatest labour.” (CV, 36) There is another important consequence resulting from the comparison between gregariousness and singularity in the economic movement of «incorrect Darwinian selection», that Klossowski argues and comments with the following words: “From this point of view, the singular case represents a forgetting of previous experiences, which are either assimilated to the gregarious impulses by being relegated to the unconscious, and thus reprimanded by the reigning censure; or on the contrary, are rejected as being unassimilable to the conditions required for the existence of both the species and the individual within the species. For Nietzsche, the singular case rediscovers, in an ‘anachronistic’ manner, an ancient way of existing - whose reawakening in itself presupposes that present conditions do not correspond to the impulsive state which is in some manner being affirmed through it. Depending on the strength of its intensity, however, this singular state, though anachronistic in relation to the institutional level of gregariousness, can bring about a de-actualization of that institution itself and denounce it in turn as anachronistic. That every reality as such comes to be de-actualized in relation to the singular case, that the resulting emotion seizes the subject’s behaviour and forces it into action - this is an adventure that can modify the course of events, following a circuit of chance that Nietzsche will make the dimension of his thought. To the extent that he isolates its periodicity in history, the plan for a conspiracy appears under the sign of the vicious Circle.” (NVC, 80) The comment is explosive: it implies an irreconcilable fracture between singularity on an institutional level. He is saying that the communities of non-assimilated human beings will form new institutions with new forms: non-institutions or post-institutions rather than reformed institutions. Nietzsche assumes that dark forces operate on human nature thanks to the theory of will to power and with the help of a selective doctrine: he calls it Eternal Return; Klossowski calls it the Vicious Circle. In this context, the same doctrine becomes a tool for conspiracy. Nietzsche’s anti-darwinian attitude is here very clear inasmuch the implications brought about by the selective doctrines or the instinctual impulses are antithetical to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Deleuze and Guattari are absorbed by the implications developed by Klossowski’s post-institutional gregarious scenario. The communities of singularities may use the liberation of impulse to make mortal what seems immortal: the gregarious society and its institutions. In the Anti-OEdipus the two philosophers state: “The revolutionary pole of group fantasy becomes visible, on the contrary, in the power to experience institutions themselves as mortal, to destroy them or change them according to the articulations of desire and the social field, by making the death instinct into a veritable institutional creativity. For that is precisely the criterion—at least the formal criterion— that distinguishes the revolutionary institution from the enormous inertia which the law communicates to institutions in an established order. As Nietzsche says; churches, armies, States—which of all these dogs wants to die?” (AO, 62-3).
The universal delirium and the parody
The issue about the relevance of revolutionary actions appeared in Cerisy-la-Salle conference in July of 1972 and gave Klossowski the opportunity to talk about “parody” in Nietzsche’s philosophy as previously highlighted in his Nietzsche, Polytheism and Parody (1957). Reading Nietzsche vs. Marx as a key to interpret the riots of the turbulent 1972 enables Klossowski to sustain that: “under the sign of the vicious circle, anti-Darwinian conspiracy entails the coming to autonomy of productions that are primarily pathological as the very condition of monumental upheaval in the relation between the social forces present.”(CV, 39) Nietzsche’s proposed insubordination therefore has dueling delirious outcomes: 1) if the thought of the eternal return is nothing other than a parody of a doctrine, even its result, the revolt of the strong of the future, will be a manifestation of some collective delirium, 2) in a nihilist historical moment occurring a hundred years after Nietzsche’s idea of plot, the blossoming of a delusion [délire] when confronted with reality, can become in any way efficacious, or, more generally, any deranged comportment might be said to constitute an efficient resistance in the face of a determined adverse force. (CV, 38) During the debate Klossowski asks Deleuze: the insubordination of the delusory ones can be read as an expression of a universal behaviour or is it simply linked to the capital? And again: does delirium transcend any historical time or is it strictly related to the schizophrenic behaviour generated by the capital? Is the appreciation of delirium generated only by the same subverting process reproducing itself? Klossowski’s questions suggest that the same valorisation of delirium outlines an empty subject which frees itself from its identity and constantly moves into a metamorphosis of singularities to reach a final acceptance of the doctrine of Eternal Return. Klossowksi also indicates the strategies and the new ways of fighting that we may infer from Nietzsche’s accelerationist fragments: “Nietzsche’s position draws us away, in any case, from all that which I have up to the present called “political action”; it requires the creation of a new comportment with regards to conflict and strategising. It seems to me more and more - and here I allude to Gilles Deleuze - that we move towards a kind of anti-psychiatric insurrection (...), that is to say, the discovery of a species of pleasure (...), on the part of psychiatrists or doctors in becoming the“object of investigation”- and moreover the pathological case will feel more and more comfortable if he lives, and imposes himself, by subverting the institutional investigations which brand him pathological.” (CV, 42) Derrida asks explanations about the aforementioned declaration and the discussion becomes very interesting to sketch the Nietzschean Rhizosphere with Klossowski, Deleuze, Lyotard on one side and a very concrete and alert Derrida on the other:
Derrida: “You suggested that parody could become political, and that it was, ultimately, subversive….” Klossowski: “To the extent that «politics» is taken to entail «strategy» or «comportment»”.
Derrida: “But how, in any case, does parody operate? Should one distinguish between two kinds of parody: between the one, which, on the pretext of being subversive, takes the risk of establishing a political order (which very much likes a certain type of parody and finds its own confirmation there) and, on the other hand, a parody which can really deconstruct the political order? Is there a form of parody which actually marks the body politic, in contrast to a parody which would be a parody of a parody, which would play upon the surface of the political order, playfully teasing, rather than destroying it?”
Klossowski: “I think that «in the long run» nothing can resist such a parody.”
Derrida: “But someone who wants to transform the political order - can he really trust in the long run?” Klossowski: “The time that is needed is a function of exercised pressure, and pressure depends, as a consequence, upon contagion.
Lyotard: “For Nietzsche the «parody of a parody» consists in a kind of «ressentiment» against power, it goes no further, it is a condition of mediocrity or weakness in intensity. To differentiate it from the other kind, I think the fundamental criterion is that of intensity. However, it is impossible to determine beforehand what the effectiveness of a parody will be, that’s why Nietzsche says it is necessary to be experimenters and artists, not people who have a plan and try to realise it - that’s old politics. Nietzsche says it’s necessary to try things out and discover which intensities produce which effects.” (CV, 43)
Here are two different revolutionary positions: Derrida’s more traditionalist inclination towards socialism and the more heterodox interpretation outlined by Nietzschean Rhizosphere members who support a free-from-ideologies and non-top-down insurrectional action, conceiving revolution as headless, that expresses itself through aimless emissions of energy. Klossowski reminds us in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle that “Nietzsche sought from the experience of the return of all things - namely, to lead intention back to intensity” (NVC,112). The theme of intensity is the real challenge, Deleuze and Guattari write: “And then, above all, we are not looking for a way out when we say that schizoanalysis as such has strictly no political program to propose. If it did have one, it would be grotesque and disquieting at the same time. It does not take itself for a party or even a group, and does not claim to be speaking for the masses. No political program will be elaborated within the framework of schizoanalysis. (AO, 380) They mean that the next revolutionary ones may have to face up the effort to occupy and consequently free the Anti-OEdipus «space» so that its mechanic and energy may be of help for the future fights. Chlebnikov docet.
Simulacrum, copy and model
Another example of Nietzschean double-parody that rises from Deleuze’s words in a discussion in Cerisy-la-Salle, is about the popular justice. At the time the positions on this issue were very emphasized: Sartre and the Maoist representatives of the Gauche Prolétarienne were in favour of revolutionary courts, Deleuze and Foucault’s GIP plus the Nietzschean Rhizosphere members were against any USSR/Chinese-style countervailing-power. “(...) I think of the question posed by Derrida on the kinds of parody. In some ways it evokes the two currents which emerge in recent debates on what might be called “popular justice”. One group says, roughly: the goal of popular justice is to make “good” what bourgeois makes “evil”, consequently, they institute a parallel court, then try the same case; it is a type of parody that defines itself as a copy of an existent institution, with jurors, accusers, lawyers, witnesses, but that considers itself better and more fair, more rigorous that the model. But another group might pose the problem in a very different way, saying that a popular justice, if there were one, would not proceed according to the formalism of courts because it would not merely be a copy which claims superiority to that which models it - it would be a parody of another type which would pretend, at once, to overthrow the copy and the model. (...) It seems to me that this is exactly the criterion of effective parody in the sense that Nietzsche understands it.” (CV 43,44) ) As we can notice the resolution of the Nietzschean Rhizosphere members is to be «part» of the revolutionary moment adopting an «open mode», offering a dialogue but also they criticize monolithic mainstream thought, if necessary. One of the central goal of the French Nietzschean Rhizosphere in the ‘70s was to avoid the violent outcome that partially occurred in those years. The big crisis of the Maoist Gauche Prolétarienne will see its dissolution in 1973, for reasons mainly due to its internal maoist organization, but we like to think that a positive and anti-terrorist push may have arrived from the philosophical community lead by Deleuze and Foucault through the benefic role of Anti-OEdipus and in particular of the crucial accelerationist passage of The Civilized Capitalist Machine.
Drives and affects in favour of an insurrectionary erotica
At the end of the ‘60s the figures of Freud and Marx represented in France a conformist position that the two authors of the Anti-OEdipus tried to overcome. Through Klossowski’s comment of the fragment nr. 10  Deleuze and Guattari show that the gregarious drives are so deeply introjected, - because of the various waves of regularization - to become unconscious, leaving no space to any trace of resistance or diversity. In case this trace reveals itself, society - namely the human beings, the species - will refuse it, but given the chance to affirm itself, a new awakening, a «yes to life» will display. Thus - Klossowski continues - it is the drive state that enables the individual to rediscover an anachronistic primordial condition of existence and the emotion produced by the dis-alignment of two contrasting realities - the differentiated reality of the single and the gregarious dimension of the larger group - influences the conduct and promotes diverted actions. Deleuze and Guattari introduce here the Freudian concept of «Oedipal group fantasy» and echo it in the social body quoting a passage from Klossowski’s Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle: “In this respect Klossowski has convincingly shown the inverse relationship that pulls the fantasy in two directions, as the economic law establishes perversion in the “psychic exchanges,” - called drives by Nietzsche and Klossowski - or as the psychic exchanges on the contrary promote a subversion of the law: “Anachronistic, relative to the institutional level of gregariousness, the singular state can, according to its more or less forceful intensity, bring about a de-actualization of the institution itself and denounce it in turn as anachronistic.” (AO, 63) Let us apply such divarication to the accelerationist fragment in Anti-OEdipus and see the two possible directions, as the capitalism of the fluxes distorts the wage earner and grabs the capitalist through money in a constant exchange where “profit will flow alongside wages, side by side, reflux and afflux”, or as the drive state of the revolutionary singularities will subvert the codes of a controlled and money-directed society, operating in a universal affects-driven economy, as Deleuze and Guattari testify with the following words “In a certain sense capitalist economists are not mistaken when they present the economy as being perpetually “in need of monetarization,” as if it were always necessary to inject money into the economy from the outside according to a supply and a demand. In this manner the system indeed holds together and functions, and perpetually fulfills its own immanence. In this manner it is indeed the global object of an investment of desire. The wage earner’s desire, the capitalist’s desire, everything moves to the rhythm of one and the same desire”. (AO, 239)
The nomadic unity and the Guattarian schizophrenic man
The last molecular question inquires which hidden philosophical and political thought lies in the accelerationist passage of The Civilized Capitalist Machine. Let us analyze the historical and political background of those years in France. Deleuze and Guattari spoke about the political issue in the early 1970s on several occasions: “We also know that the problem for revolutionaries today is to unite within the purpose of the particular struggle without falling into the despotic and bureaucratic organization of the party or status apparatus. We seek a kind of war machine that will not re-create a status apparatus, a nomadic unit related to the outside that will not revive an internal despotic unity.” (NT, 149) These are Deleuze’s words at Cerisy-la-Salle, words that he will reaffirm in an interview with Vittorio Marchetti for the Italian philosophical magazine «Tempi Moderni»: “The problem is not determining which science will be the human science par a certain number of “machines” endowed with revolutionary potential are going to fit together. For example, the literary machine, the psychoanalytic machine, and political machines: either they will find a unifying point, as they have done so up to now, in a particular system of adaptation to capitalist regimes, or else they will find a shattering unity in a revolutionary utilization.” (DI, 236) Guattari is on the same level of analysis when he answers to Michel Antoine Burnier in an interview for the magazine «Actuel» published in 1973: “The most important thing is not authoritarian unification, but a kind of infinite swarming: desires in the neighborhood, the schools, factories, prisons, nursery schools, etc. It’s not about a make-over, or totalization, but hooking up on the same plane at its tipping point. As long as we stick to the alternative between the impotent spontaneity of anarchy and the hierarchical and bureaucratic encoding of a party-organization, there can be no liberation of desire.” (DI, 266)
He continues underlining the issue of «opponents» in the revolutionary organization: “It’s always the same old trick: a big ideological debate in the general assembly, and the questions of organization are reserved for special committees. These look secondary, having been determined by political options. Whereas, in fact, the real problems are precisely the problems of organization, never made explicit or rationalized, but recast after the fact in ideological terms. The real divisions emerge in organization: a particular way of treating desire and power, investments, group- Oedipuses, group-super-egos, phenomena of perversion... Only then are the political oppositions built up: an individual chooses one position over another, because in the scheme of the organization of power, he has already chosen and hates his opponent.” (DI, 264)
To overcome such political poverty Deleuze and Guattari firmly believe that only a brand new type of revolution can produce a brand new type of politics: “... revolutionary organization must be the organization of a war-machine and not of a State apparatus, the organization of an analyzer and not of an external synthesis” (DI, 269). Guattari insists: “And in our view, this corresponds to a certain position vis-a-vis desire, a profound way of envisioning the ego, the individual, and the family. This raises a simple dilemma: either we find some new type of structure to facilitate the fusion of collective desire and revolutionary organization; or we continue on the present course, heading from one repression to the next, toward a fascism that will make Hitler and Mussolini look like a joke.” (DI, 269). Fascism then becomes the main strategic enemy of the ethical-political option proposed by Deleuze and Guattari and it will be the basis on which the two philosophers will develop their theory of molar and molecular fascism in the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus in the chapter entitled 1933 Micropolitics and Segmentarity. Foucault himself will highlight this important non-fascist feature in his Introduction to the American edition of Anti-OEdipus when he defines the book as an “introduction to a non fascist life because it tracks down all varieties of fascism, from the enormous ones that 71 surround and crush us to the petty ones that constitute the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives” (INFL, 13).
The Great Politics and the revolutionary
Another point we have to make is to identify the revolutionary type of the Anti-OEdipus. The physiognomy has been already outlined in two different forms in Anti-OEdipus. Guattari in an interview for the magazine «Neue Zeitung» in 1972 with regards to the identification among analyst, patient and activist says: “First of all no one has ever said that the analyst is the same as the schizophrenic man but that the analyst, as well as the activist or the writer or anybody else, is more or less engaged in a schizo process and there is always a difference between the schizo process and the schizophrenic man interned in an insane-asylum, as his schizo process is blocked or goes uselessly around in circles. We are not saying that the revolutionary need to identify with the madmen going uselessly round in circles, but that they need to push their actions into a schizo-way process.” According to Guattari the schizophrenic man does not coincide with the madman but becomes schizo when he clashes with an individual or collective «desiring process» which holds at its centre a «libidinal energy» able to drive him from an assessed subject to a new open code subject, passing through a metamorphosis and a process of both de-subjectivation and neo-subjectivation. In this transition we can identify parts of former subjectivity - the doctor, the worker, the white man, the human being - and some of the new one - the homosexual, the trans-gender, the foolish man, the analyst. It is therefore not possible to locate one single typical revolutionary man, but multiple individual and/or group connections in schizo-revolutionary processes. What revolution really requires, according to Guattari, is an experimental revolutionary process and not revolutionary subjects tailored by ideology. “Repeated mistakes and insignificant results are more necessary than a stupid passivity and claw back mechanisms.”
To deeply understand the concept of the revolutionary man as intended by Deleuze we need to look at Klossowski again and in particular to his speech at the Collége de Philosophie in Paris during a conference entitled Nietzsche, Polytheism and Parody in 1957. Klossowski was considered one of the central figures in French Nietzsche’s studies, especially after his masterful translation of Nietzsche’s The Gay Science in 1954. In this speech Klossowski underlines the figure of the «actor as interpreter of a celestial revelation» able to contrast the catechontic institutions with artistic antinomic «accelerated» creations: “But art has a very wide meaning, and in Nietzsche, this category includes institutions as much as works of free creation. For example -and here we can see immediately what is at issue-how does Nietzsche consider the Church? For him, the Church is constituted grosso modo by a cast of profound impostors: the priests. The Church is a masterpiece of spiritual domination, and it required that impossible plebian monk, Luther, to dream of ruining that masterpiece, the last edifice of Roman civilization among us. The admiration Nietzsche always had for the Church and the papacy rests precisely upon the idea that truth is an error, and that art, as willed error, is higher than truth. This is why Zarathustra confesses his affinity with the priest, and why, in the Fourth Part, during that extraordinary gathering of the different kinds of higher men in Zarathustra’s cave, the Pope -the Last Pope-is one of the prophet’s guests of honor. This betrays, I think, Nietzsche’s temptation to foresee a ruling class of great meta-psychologists who would take charge of the destinies of future humanity, since they would know perfectly both the different aspirations and the different resources capable of satisfying them.” (NPP; 106, 107) What he is saying is that Nietzsche at the end of the 80’s of the XIX century had already understood that the Great Politics needed an entertainment sphere where institutions, dominating castes, gregarious masses could express a certain will to power Deleuze admires Klossowski and his Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (as he will write in a letter sent to him on December 19th, 1969) and will retrieve the concept of acceleration of processes of a community of irregulars who confound all codes, thus entwining Klossowski and Nietzsche’s theory of conspiracy with the political riots of the 70’s in France. Their alliance is clearly detected in the talks at the famous meeting of Cerisy-la-Salle in July 1972 where Klossowski defines the fragment entitled The Strong of the Future - 9  - as the «heart of conspiracy». After he has finished reading the fragment he poses a question wondering what Nietzschean comportment we would adopt in relation to the current upheavals - namely youth poverty, revolutionary riots, clashes between the adverse forces - “no longer from the point of view of power, or potency, but from the perspective of the vicious circle, which is a manifestation of the nihilist judgment passed upon all acting.” (CV, 38)
Klossowski, choosing the comportment of the nihilist judgment, reaffirms Nietzsche’s parodistic behaviour on the economic planetary planning scenario and again he reminds an attentive audience - Deleuze, Lyotard, Derrida, Calasso and Nancy - the thought of eternal return: “As I have insisted, this thought, as the theme of Nietzsche’s highest contemplation, becomes the instrument of a conspiracy. It is from this stage that the god of the vicious circle can truly be considered the blossoming of a delusion. The question that I now pose is whether delusory or deranged behaviour, in this sense, when confronted with reality, can become in any way efficacious, or if, more generally, any deranged comportment might be said to constitute an efficient resistance in the face of a determined adverse force.” (CV, 38)) According to Klossowski, Nietzsche moves from the position of the biological contemplative observer of the law of the Eternal Return to the one of the strong political watcher, thus building - employing Deleuze and Guattari terminology - a real war machine so to be able to transform the Eternal Return into a conspiracy which should subvert the current domination of the levelled industrialized man. But why should such conspiracy be delirious? For at least two reasons: the first one because the double parody of the current social model and of its simulacrum subverts all codes, as a consequence of the nihilist judgment passed upon all acting. The second reason is linked to Deleuze and Guattari’s interpretation of the post-68 revolutionary riots: “Delirium is the general matrix of every unconscious social investment. Every unconscious investment mobilizes a delirious interplay of disinvestments, of counterinvestments, of overinvestments”. (AO, 277) Similarly Klossowski's delirium - the radical departing from the established path - coincides with the delirious polarity in Anti-OEdipus: if every social investment is delirious, the same will be for a no longer secret conspiracy plotted by idle urban dissidents whose aim justifies and realizes itself through the same means of manifestation. The question at this stage is about fulfillment: can the schizo-delirious approach be incisive both in the revolutionary riots of the ‘70s and on any other future moment to come, as the law of the Vicious Circle seems to suggest? In Klossowski words the question is: does the schizo delirious process simply represent the current version of the Vicious Circle or are we in front of a general peremptory coherent identity between Process, Circle and Return?
Second portrait of the revolutionary: the Deleuzian rhizomatic nomad
Following the words of Anti-Oedipus we portray a quite canonical image of the schizo-delirious revolutionary man: “... a schizo-revolutionary type or pole that follows the lines of escape of desire; breaches the wall and causes flows to move; assembles its machines and its groups-in-fusion in the enclaves or at the periphery—proceeding in an inverse fashion from that of the other pole: I am not your kind, I belong eternally to the inferior race, I am a beast, a black.” (AO, 277) But in other writings Deleuze’s position is less reassuring: “Militant revolutionaries cannot be concerned with delinquency, deviance, and madness — not as educators or reformers, but as those who can read the face of their proper difference only in such mirrors.” (DI, 201) The subversive is then a prismatic simulacrum who collects various points of view: the criminal’s or the diverse and fool man’s and is forced to elaborate the different aspects in which he mirrors his diversity: himself, his marginality, the phantasmal world he belongs to and the rest of the social body, reaching a deformed singularity which self-affirms differently from what the false counter-identity of a presumed antagonistic vocation would do, once compared to «respectable people». Differently from Nietzsche the rhizomatic is not nihilist, he appreciates the revolution as an accelerated event of transvaluation of all values, and provided that he accepts the register of Nietzsche’s corrosive parody, he will revolve it in positive looking for «new ways». This new rhizomatic politics is very different from the more traditional one of the communist and socialist movements in the XIX and XX century. To evaluate such difference let us read the conspiracy notion as interpreted by Klossowski and Deleuze: “There is a topic which Klossowski addressed, I believe, at the same time that he was addressing the loss of identity, namely, the topic of singularity, by which he means the “non-identical”. A conspiracy, if one understands Klossowski’s thinking, is a community of singularities. The question, then, configured in term of the political (understood either in its contemporary or ancient sense) is this: how are we to conceive of a community of singularities?” (CV, 46). Here, for the first time in history, one could locate a new way of being revolutionary, a strategy of ways, of non-identities: an overturning of the basic concepts of revolution as an expression of organization of a social group, in favour of a heuristic insurrectional. A revolution which does not recognize useful any of the previous revolutionary models, and whose final aim is not gaining power. As Deleuze said, “the so-called society is a community of regularities or more precisely, a certain selective process which retains select singularities and regularises them. In order to maintain the proper functioning of society it selects for regularisation, to use the language of psychoanalysis, what might be called paranoiac singularities. But a conspiracy - this would be a community of singularities of another type, which would not be regularised, but which would enter into new connections, and in this sense, would be revolutionary.” (CV 46, 47) Here lies the real “heart” of the fragment The Strong of the Future and of Deleuze’s Nomad Thought. With the eyes of the book Anti-OEdipus the great process of regularization is the same great process of the Western oikonomia which allows the rational functioning of a highly numbered community of market-subjugated singularities: “... the human species… articulates itself, through production, in order to maintain itself at the level of humanity, [and] can only do so through the absurdity of a total reduction of its moral resources achieved through work itself.” (CV,37) What remains open is the way singularities can be linked among them, we mean «connections» and not «institutions». The selective criterion of the Eternal Return - if the perspective is the extreme bifurcation of discrete productions of non-identities from macro-repetitions of homogenous identities - is possible only on the basis of a double selection of human types: the essential - seen as «mass-value» in relation to the mercantile society, and the surplus - seen as «waste-value», an impersonal and singularized-plusvalue apt to form societies and groups (CV, 47). According to Deleuze the «surplus men» “are motionless, and the nomadic adventure begins when they seek to stay in the same place by escaping the codes.” (DI, 259) The nomad is defined by Deleuze as a mobile centre of resistance, an enchanted traveller with inconceivable horizons, a motionless traveller on collective bodies. The last big problem to face now is the following: both gregarious and unassimilated ones live and fight in a demoralizing unjust macro-scenario. How is it possible to weave the net of light self-organized bounds in the existing massive-unifying social structure? Will such a net be able to support the various connections among diversities in future times?
to be continued...
by Steven Craig Hickman
For Vaughan the car-crash and his own sexuality had made their final marriage. … During his studied courtship of injured women, Vaughan was obsessed with the buboes of gas bacillus infections, by facial injuries and genital wounds.
—J. G. Ballard, Crash: A Novel
In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973) Erich Fromm argues that ‘contemporary industrial man’ is necrophiliac in that any genuine interest in people, nature and ‘living structures’ has been suppressed, in favour of an attraction to ‘mechanical, nonalive artifacts’.1 Fromm includes the pride taken in cars, the obsession with taking photographs (especially when on holiday) and the liking for gadgets (today, he would no doubt include mobile phones, personal computers and other electronic equipment in this category) as symptomatic of the necrophiliac character of modern humanity, fixated as it is on what Sebald terms ‘dead objects’.
In The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928), Walter Benjamin places the corpse at the heart of his theorization of baroque allegory; in the 1930s, he proceeds to identify the allegorical as Baudelaire’s primary mode; and, in his later work towards the uncompleted Arcades Project, he presents the fetishism of mid- nineteenth- century capitalism as essentially necrophiliac in nature.2
Another thinker of the era Georges Bataille in such works as Erotism: Death and Sensuality would present the case that all forms of eroticism can only be understood in terms of a relation to death, Bataille identifies necrophilia as the underlying principle of all genuinely erotic experience.3 Which according to one critic would signal in our late capitalist era a diminishing of the experience of sovereign heterogeneity, and the coming to dominance of a servile, accumulative, homogeneous culture, so his privileging of necrophilia is a deliberate attempt to achieve cultural renewal through a valorization of precisely that form of the erotic which sexology considered to be both the most extreme and the most unacceptable… (Schaffner, p. 173).
For Bataille arguing against an entire tradition of psychoanalytical literature would admit that it is not the use of reason that distinguishes the human from the non- human animal, but rather, alongside work, ‘the repugnance for death and dead persons’. (Bataille) What we fear is not death in the abstract, but rather as Bataille repeatedly insists, the corpse that disgusts us is a decomposing substance. It is in process, liminal, between two states of fixed and stable being, neither one thing nor another. (Schaffner, 174)
It is this formlessness of the decomposing corpse that would lead Bataille to realize that it is not simply matter that is becoming unstable, but rather the founding metaphysical, scientific and aesthetic distinctions between life and death, animate and inanimate, formed and formless being. The corpse is, in short, the place where contraries meet, where order, identity and unity decompose, where all that makes the world intelligible and masterable is threatened. (Schaffner, 174) Bataille would see in the necrophilic impulse the central human condition of nostalgia for political restoration and revalorization. In this sense the slow decay and decomposition of modern democracies as they fell into WWI and WWII became the example of a fusion of eros and death in the form of technological sublime. Speed, acceleration, and the technological progress of war had fused in the necrophilic society of Fascism.
Technological Desire in the Fiction of J.G. Ballard
In an interview Ballard would be asked if his early medical training influenced his use of doctors and hospitals throughout his oeuvre. Ballard would say,
Maybe it is. Doing anatomy was an eye-opener: one had built one’s whole life on an illusion about the integrity of one’s body, this ‘solid flesh’. One mythologises one’s own familiar bits of flesh and tendon. Then to see a cadaver on a dissecting table and begin to dissect it myself and to find at the end of term that there was nothing left except a sort of heap of gristle and a clutch of bones with a label bearing some dead doctor’s name – that was a tremendous experience of the lack of integrity of the flesh, and of the integrity of this dead doctor’s spirit. Most cadavers, you know, are donated by doctors; and the doctors can visualise what’s going to happen to their bodies after death, because they’ve done dissection themselves.4
This sense of fragmentation and decomposition at the heart of Ballard’s aesthetic permeates his view of eros, death, and technology. In another interview based on his recent publication of Crash Ballard would inform us that
A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinaesthetic factors, the stylising of motion, consumer goods, status – all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really, a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing). That’s why the death in a crash of a famous person is a unique event – whether it’s Jayne Mansfield or James Dean – it takes place within this most potent of all consumer durables. (Sellars, KL 708)
This fusion of base materialism (“a liberation of human and machine libido”) with the technological sublime can be see throughout Ballard’s stories and novels. This necrophilic desire of the organic for the inorganic, flesh for machine seems to pervade our current eras fear and fascination with the artificial. Yet, for Ballard it wasn’t this sense of the erotic and machinic in fusion, but rather the disaffective division between our older primitive environmental associations of violence and sex that were being lost in this new technological world that pervades us. As he’d say it in another interview: “Although our central nervous systems have been handed to us on a plate by millions of years of evolution, have been trained to respond to violence at the level of fingertip and nerve ending, in fact now our only experience of violence is in the head, in terms of our imagination, the last place where we were designed to deal with violence.” (Sellars, KL 849)
This disconnection from our organic heritage, the loss of our physical relations to the Real; to the natural world around us, is leading us into a crash space of artificial emotion that is both passive and unable to remember its environmental triggers. So that “our whole inherited expertise for dealing with violence, our central nervous systems, our musculature, our senses, our ability to run fast or to react quickly, our reflexes, all that inherited expertise is never used. We sit passively in cinemas watching movies like The Wild Bunch where violence is just a style.” (Sellars, KL 852)
The fear and horror for Ballard is that our desire for artificial lives is decomposing our natural affects to the point that we are affectless, having no feelings but for the technological objects around us and that we’ve become ourselves:
Everywhere, all over Africa and South America, if you visit you see these suburbs springing up. They represent the optimum of what people want. There’s a certain sort of logic leading towards these immaculate suburbs. And they’re terrifying, because they are the death of the soul. And I thought, My God, this is the prison this planet is being turned into. (Sellars, Kl 2775)
He’ll go on to say that in The Atrocity Exhibition, “I had already shown how technology kills feeling,” which would in his later work foreshadow the death of affect brought about by systems of mass communication. (Sellars, KL 3852) Because we’ve left off living our own lives people have become more and more obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous, which has led to an obsession “with violent death, particularly of well-known figures (presidents, film stars and the like). (Sellars, KL 4144) He’d continue, saying:
It seems self-evident that people are immensely fascinated by the lives and deaths of public figures and have been since the nineteenth century. I remember reading American magazines as a boy in Shanghai that were full of gory photographs of gangsters and politicians who were gunned down and minor film stars who died in terrible road accidents or shootings in Hollywood. I see Kennedy’s death as a kind of catalyst of the media planet that exists now. There was something about the way in which this young president (who was himself a media construction) was dismantled by the same media landscape that created him, that generated a kind of supernova that’s still collapsing. (Sellars, KL 4150)
After the death of his wife Ballard once admitted in an interview that his necrophilic quest became an full time obsession against time, a nostalgia for his wife that seemed to fuse eros, technology and death in a mad vision:
if I could prove to myself that the car crash was not a giver of death but a giver of life, that somewhere beyond the collision of the human body and technology, between the human imagination and technology, there was a happier uplands … If I could do that, I don’t know, in some sort of crazed way I could bring my wife’s spirit at least back to life. (Sellars, KL 4931)
the article is taken from:
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 2)
Obsolete Capitalism: Acceleration, Revolution and Money in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-OEdipus (Part 1)
by Obsolete Capitalism
The book series entitled «The Strong of the Future» deals with accelerationist philosophy, in particular with the thought based on Nietzsche, Klossowski and Acéphale magazine, Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault and Lyotard.
Let’s drop all masks! Nietzsche galore!
To answer the molecular questions 2 and 3 - about a pos-sible misquotation and about the meaning of the phrase “we haven’t seen anything yet”- we need to explain the notion ofﬂow and clarify the relationship between desire, libido andunconscious. With «ﬂow» Deleuze and Guattari mean «pro-cess»: “This process is what we call a ﬂow. But, again, ﬂow is an everyday, unqualiﬁed notion that we needed. It can be a ﬂow of words, a ﬂow of ideas, a ﬂow of shit, a ﬂow of money. It can be a ﬁnancialmechanism or a schizophrenic machine: it surpasses all duality”.(DI,218). As far as the relationship between desire, libido and un-conscious is concerned Deleuze describes their origin as such: “Guattari early on had the intuition that the unconscious is directly related to a whole social ﬁeld, both economic and political, rather than the mythical and familial grid traditionally deployed by psychoanalysis. It is indeed a question of libido as such, as the essence of desire and sexuality: but now it invests and dis-invests ﬂows of every kinda they trickle through the social ﬁeld, and it effects cuts in these ﬂows, stoppages, leaks, and retentions. To be sure, it does not operate in a manifest way, as do the objective interests of consciousness or the chains of historical causality. It deploys a latent desire coextensive with the social ﬁeld, entailing ruptures in causality and the emergence of singularities, sticking points as well as leaks”.(DI, 193).
Deleuze consciously chooses to side with Nietzsche and uses that position against Marx and Freud. According to Deleuze, capitalism is based on ﬂows but “ what really matters is the organization of power” which he deﬁnes as “ the unity of desire and the economic infrastructure”(DI, 262, 263). Here lies the essential criticism to the orthodox Marxism and its ideological pretensions to put the desired phenomenon on the superstructure. The Party itself is criticized by the two philosophers who see it as the new organization for a repressive power (DI, 263) refusing its deﬁnition of an avant-garde external mechanism of syn-thesis classiﬁed as such since Lenin times. (ID, 266). There is a double refusal of, on one hand, the traditional division between infrastructure and superstructure as theorized by Marx, where the economic structure expresses the relations of production; and on the other, of the Leninist theory of the Party seen as proletarian guide and political class consciousness which in other words is the refusal of an analytic machine external to the working class and the revolutionary process. This could be the reason why it is exactly in the accelerationist passage that we meet the «conceptual persona» of Nietzsche; according to Deleuze and Guattari, in fact, Nietzsche may be seen as the master of the generalized disintegration of codes. Considering the triad Marx, Freud and Nietzsche as the contemporary western thought fathers, we can read a clear rejection of the ﬁrst two in Deleuze and Guattari’s words: “... for our part, we prefer not to participate in any effort consistent with a Freudo-Marxist perspective. And this for two reasons. The ﬁrst is that, in the end, a Freudo-Marx- ist effort proceeds in general from a return to origins, or more specifically to the sacred texts: the sacred texts of Freud, the sacred texts of Marx. Our point of departure must be completely different: we refer not to sacred texts that must be, to a greater or lesser extent, interpreted, but to the situation as is, the situation of the bureaucratic apparatus in psychoanalysis, which is an effort to subvert these apparatuses.(...) Secondly, what separates us from any Freudo-Marxist effort is that such projects seek primarily to reconcile two economies: political economy and libidinal or desiring economy. (...) Our point of view is on the contrary that there is but one economy and that the problem of a real anti-psychoanalytical analysis [a synonym of schizoanalys is that Deleuze and Guattari started using after the Anti-OEdipus] is to show how unconscious desire invests the forms of this economy. It is economy itself that is political economy and desiring economy.”(ID,275) After a few months from the release of the volume Anti-Oedipus, at the conference in Cerisy-la-Salle (July 1972), entitled «Nietzsche aujourd’hui?» Nomadic Thought Deleuze asserts that “faced with the way in which our societies come uncoded, codes leaking away on every side, Nietzsche does not try to perform a re-coding.” (ID, 253) and clearly explains his siding with Nietzsche: “ (...) if one examines not the letter of Marx or Freud, but the becoming of Marxism and the becoming of Freudianism, we see, paradoxically, Marxists and Freudians engaged in an attempt to recode Marx and Freud: in the case of Marxism, you have a recoding by the State (“the State has made you ill, the State will cure you” —this cannot be the same State); and in the case of Freudianism, you have a re-coding by the family (you fall ill from the family and recover through the family — this is not the same family). What at the horizon of our culture, in fact, constitutes Marxism and psychoanalysis as those two fundamental bureaucracies, the one public, the other private, is their effort to recode as best they can precisely that which on the horizon ceaselessly tends to come uncoded. This is not at all what Nietzsche is about. His problem is elsewhere. For Nietzsche, it is about getting something through in every past, present, and future code, something which does not and will not let itself be re-coded.”(ID, 252). This «some-thing» that is about getting something but will not let itself be re-coded is the expression of the unconscious produced by the primary pulsion of the individual.
«Codes» are, according to Deleuze, laws, contracts, institutions. According to the French philosopher, Marx, and Freud, due to their «school of thought», remain enchained to the old [renewed] codes: a new State, a new family, a new relation of production. Nietzsche is, on the contrary, completely out-side this set of codes: he is the «codebreaker» of philosophy, the anti-philosopher who disowns laws, contracts and institutions. (NT,143) He gave thought a dimension of war-machine, a nomadic unit. (NT,149) Such Deleuzian interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy marks a total break with the previous political and philosophical thought and takes the fracture into the revolutionary decoding scenario. In The Civilized Capitalist Machine three decoding actions take place: we may call the ﬁrst one Schizophrenia of the Capital and it is minutely analyzed in the book Anti-Oedipus, the second one is the above-mentioned action of the codebreaker, a useless position in terms of insurrection as it does not provide any pragmatic or epistemological indication for a potential revolution. It’s none of Nietzsche’s intention to create movements nor to establish parties and new states because he serves both as the agent and object of decodiﬁcation (NT, 146). That is the reason why Nietzsche is a powerful ally to the third decoding action expressed by Deleuze and Guattari in the Anti-Oedipus and by the revolutionary movement born on the barricades of May 1968 - which refused the old ways to act and think, looking for innovative theoretical paths as well as efﬁcient subversive practice. Klossowski and Foucault are two other relevant allies: this close-knit community will be able to answer which revolutionary path and accelerationist process The Civilized Capitalist Machine passage refers to.
Going further in the movement of decoding and deterrito-rialization
Let us better analyze the proposal of going further. To go against Samir Amin’s left-wing nationalism means, for Deleuze and Guattari, to go further in the movement of decoding and deterritorialization of the market, where the movement does not solely apply to the market but to the revolutionary realm, too. The expression to go further can be read as a prolongation not only of the capital itself - as it may seem under an «eco-nomical» reading of the passage - but as a movement to take the process as far as possible, overturning the initial meaning. Deleuze reports in his Nietzsche (1965) that the same expression had already been used by Nietzsche in a passage from The Antichrist: “Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue (--in every superior moral system it appears as a weakness--); going still further, it has been called the virtue, the source and foundation of all other virtues--but let us always bear in mind that this was from the standpoint of a philosophy that was nihilistic, and upon whose shield the denial of life was inscribed. Schopenhauer was right in this: that by means of pity life is denied, and made worthy of denial--pity is the technic of nihilism”.(AC, 11). The phrase «to go [still] fur-ther» is repeated twice in the passage The Civilized Capitalist M