part 3 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

Yesterday: ‘Crystal Pepsi / Crystal Hyaline: or, How to See with your Gut’

DAY 3. Peristaltic Metaphysics and the Invention of Pepsi


Milton connected his blindness to his gastric problems. He suffered from severe gout, and, moreover, was afflicted by stomach ulcers. His eventual death seems to have been caused — as recent biographers have argued, after consulting medical specialists — by a peptic ulcer (an ulcer of the gastrointestinal tract). It is feasible, his biographers write, that, besides gout, ‘Milton’s other chronic complaints […] included abdominal discomfort and bloating, consonant with [peptic ulcer]’.[note]G. Campbell, & T.N. Corns,  John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (OUP, 2008), 211.[/note] (The flatulent poet lists “intestine stone and ulcer, colic pangs” on the menu of uniquely postlapsarian punishments for mankind [PL; xi.484.]

In 1893 — more than two centuries after Milton’s magnum opus — a North Carolina drugstore-owner by the name of Caleb Bradham (1867-1934), produced his own magnum opus. Of course, “magnum opus” originally refers to the alchemical-chyrsopoeian process of transmuting prima materia into the elixir of life; as his life’s achievement, Bradham’s product was indeed a veritable magnum opus, but rather than purifying matter into crystalline perspicuity, his elixir intensified the depuration and ontological liquefaction that had been set in motion with the Fall. In the terms of Chesterton’s adage, what Bradham had unleashed was inherently tied with this Fall, even in spite of its chronological distance. The twenty-six-year-old pharmacist had produced what he soon dubbed “Pepsi Cola”: a lapis philosophorum for the capitalized — that is, fallen — age.


Previously known simply as “Brad’s Drink”, Bradham — savvy businessman that he was — changed the name to Pepsi in order to advertise (camouflage) his beverage as a medicine. Hence, the name ‘Pepsi’, inspired by the Ancient Greek root πέπτω (‘peptō’, denoting digestion).[note]Dr. Pepper was possibly named with a similar proviso in mind. Everyone knows that Coca-Cola is so named because of its links to the then medicinal substance, cocaine.[/note] Thus Pepsi was first sold as a medicinal aid to eupepsia, exactly the issue that had so blackened Milton’s eyesight. However, carbonated water is now known to increase symptoms of an irritable bowel via the release of CO2 into the intestines.[note]This is likely why consumers subconsciously rejected the marketing collocation of Crystal Pepsi with hyaline perspicuity.[/note] This renders Bradham’s marketing highly ironic considering that Pepsi actually becomes a prime — at least, highly visible — lubricant for capital’s forces of terrestrial putrefaction and ontological liquidation, and, rather than any elixir of life, its surge across the globe represents thanatropic return to blackened prima materia.[note]CALEB BRADHAM = 178 = MELTDOWN = TIDAL WAVE[/note] Occult connections and synchronicities between Pepsi and Milton flow backwards into time from this point onwards. It was not only Pepsi, but carbonated drinks in general, that camouflaged their bootstrapped passage into the world via a tactical co-option of the ancient belief that fizzy drinks aid indigestion (and, in particular, peptic ulcers).[note]PEPTIC ULCER = 227 = TIME ANOMALY[/note] Milton — sufferer of severe dyspepsia and ulcer — will have been intimately aware of this tradition, and fittingly,  Bradham capitalized on it by branding his new tarry drink with the tagline

Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.

Did Milton die — outmanoeuvred by his own internal peptic ‘satan’, an infernal and internal revolt — because he could not drink enough of Bradham’s Pepsi elixir? No. Quite the opposite: he was already drowning in templex cola. Imagine an autopsy report for the blind poet. His internal viscera coated in thick, black, sugary tartar. ‘How is this possible?’ you ask, reeling… ‘Pepsi invents itself from the future’ something whispers back. Suddenly, you understand the shape of terrestrial history.



In his 1654 letter to François Thévenin — after delineating the medical connection between his dyspepsia and his blindness — Milton links himself to Phineus, the King of Thrace — brutally punished by the gods — a penalty that involved his eyesight being taken away. It simultaneously entailed him being eternally tortured by harpies who would constantly besmirch and befoul all of Phineus’s banquets and dinners. Excreting all over his food, the harpies ensured that the king would have to forever consume only indigestible putrescence. The reason why Phineus was prosecuted by the gods? Because, so the story goes, of his Promethean power of prophecy (the ability, that is, to see beyond empirical time and into the Outside that structures it). To punish his ability to see the future, the gods took away Phineus’s ability to see anything. Thus, here, Milton is subtly linking his own blindness and his own problems with food to a knack for prophecy. Like Phineus, Milton — for his prophetic part as templex harbinger of the unleashing of bootstrapping Chaos-Pepsi — also lost his sight. Insofar as Milton theorised upon the auto-productive tendencies of Chaos he was simultaneously prophesying upon the self-constructive tendency of the positive feedback loops constitutive of effervescing modernity. And prophecy, as they say, is indistinguishable from retrochronic information exchange. Bubbling Pepsi, via such retrojection, mobilises Chaos as a symbol and harbinger for itself.




By weaving perception — and even reasoning — into a continuum with digestive process, Paradise Lost presents an uninterrupted metabolic continuity flowing from material to ideal. This is a founding ontological principle of Milton’s fictional world-model, his chronotope. The poet folds digestion inside-out: extending it extra-somatically, making it the cohesive — or binding — principle of his entire universe. Digestion becomes the heuristic under which Milton legitimates his well-known commitment to metaphysical monism. Thus: a nutritive monism. As he emphatically decrees, “whatever was created, needs / To be sustained and fed; of elements / The grosser feeds the purer” [PL; v.414-6]. On a number of occasions in Paradise Lost, Milton stresses that the universe is not constructed of divergent metaphysical orders, but is — rather — somewhat like a ‘holobiont’: an assemblage of varying ecological units that are nested within one alimentary unity. Indeed, even the “empyrean” is folded into continuity with this nourishing process. Lower feeds upon higher, interminably. Thus, the cosmos becomes cast as a universal process, weaving the higher and lower into a procedural nutritive unity. Indeed, in order to buttress his monistic commitments, this process of cosmic digestion lends itself to Milton as the perfect heuristic to illustrate a continuum between thinking and being, or even creator and creation, because digestion is the process whereby unorganised matter becomes organically structured into the make-up of life itself: it demonstrates, in deeply tangible terms, an actually existing continuum between ‘stuff’ and ‘spirit’, between ‘stoff’ und ‘geist’, that takes place constantly within all of our own bodies. (As another benefit, the universe’s metaphysical make-up therefore becomes intuitive through splanchnic interoception: therefore legitimating not intellectual intuition but metabolic intuition.) This is why, for example, Milton goes out of his way to stress that even angels require “food alike” to man, and feel “keen despatch / Of real hunger” [PL; v.407, 436]. Just as the lower is linked to the higher, because nutritive process is continuous with spiritual process, so too is the higher necessarily folded into the lower. In Book V, Adam offers sustenance to the visiting angel, Raphael. Adam — naïve and fresh-made — worries that his earthly nutriment may prove “unsavoury food perhaps / To spiritual natures” such as that of a seraphim. In response, Raphael eloquently — and politely — explains:

                                     food alike those pure
Intelligential substances require
As doth your rational; and both contain
Within them every lower faculty
Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste,
Tasting concoct, digest, assimilate,
And corporeal to incorporeal turn. [PL; v.407-13]

All beings exhibit anabolism, as “the creation groaneth and travileth” together for (digestive) salvation (Romans 8.22). All things “concoct, digest, assimilate”, thus “corporeal to incorporeal” tend. This intriguing schema, crucially, is a manoeuvre smuggled in from alchemical thinking.


The iatrochemists and chyrsopoeians had long been encouraged by biblical Genesis’s image of a universe created via a process of liquid separation, a hyaline distillation. It legitimated their idea that the universe was itself alchemical in fundamental nature. To put it differently, those who — with obsessive determination — laboured to imitate nature’s work (through the manufacture of artificial life in the pursuit of the alchemical homunculus) would obviously be allured by nature’s own imitation of their work. And what was nature’s imitation of alchemy? Digestion, of course. Biological metabolism can easily be cast as a mirroring — an ontological analogy — of the alchemist’s own, artificial procedures of distillation, purification, and subtilisation. Not only did alchemists consequently deploy this analogy to authenticate their own endeavour, they also used it as the foundation upon which to build a full-blown alchemical-digestive metaphysics. The renowned physician and iatrochemist Paracelsus (1493-1541) took this the furthest: resulting in his postulation that the entire universe is quite simply a stomach.[note]Instigator of modern chemistry, usurper of Galenic hegemony, and possible hermaphrodite, Philippus Aurelous Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim — self-styled as Paracelsus — was a Swiss physician (born in a town called Egg) who, despite the amnesia of later ages, can be compared to a figure like Descartes in terms of the stature and extent of the influence he exerted.[/note]

Paracelsus was certain that everything was suffused within a liquid process of dialysis and filtration, the eternally continuing watery act of Genesis’s Creation. All things, he theorised, were ongoing, individualised versions of this original alchemical “firmament”: accordingly, Paracelsus located the “firmament” in man as his alimentary canal, and related it to the “firmament” in heaven (again, hyaloides to hyaline).[note]Paracelsus uses the idea of “limus terrae” as bridge between micro- and macrocosm. “Limus terrae” is the “primordial stuff of the earth” that God formed Adam out of, but it is also “an extract of the firmament, of the universe of stars, and at the same time of all the elements”. Star-stuff, indeed.[/note] To nomenclate his schema, Paracelsus invented his own idiosyncratic twist on the ancient anima mundi idea: the “archeus”, positioned as a cosmic digestive process, suffusing and conjoining all.[note]ARCHEUS = 138 = COSMOS[/note] The Great Chain of Being becomes a gastrointestinal tract, ontology a caecal labyrinth. For, as nature’s immanent alchemist, this archeus is the “physician of nature” and “the workman who gives origins by drawing and forging all”.[note]W. Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine (CUP, 2002), 99.[/note] All individual stomachs are objectivizations of this Absolute metabolism: conditioned individuations of an unconditional gut; an ur-gut which therefore becomes the very condition of possibility for all subsidiary digestions. Paracelsus’s influential Flemish disciple, Joan Baptiste van Helmont (1580-1644) accordingly spoke of this cosmological archeus as “comprehend[ing] and cherish[ing] within itself the Sun, and the herd of lesser stars, which diffuse[s] through all the limbes or parts of this great Animal, the World”.[note]W. Charleton, & J.B. van Helmont, A Ternary of Paradoxes: The Magnetick Cure of Wounds, Nativity of Tartar in Wine, Image of God in Man – Written Originally by Joh. Bapt. Van Helmont, and Translated, Illustrated, and Ampliated by Walter Charleton, Doctor in Physick, and Physician to the late King (London, 1650), 44.[/note] Microcosmically recapitulated in the individual, this becomes the “plastic spirit, [that] in the seed comprehends, contrives, and models the whole figure of Man […] limns out all the lineaments [of] the parts”.[note]Ibid.58.[/note] Linking planetary distillation to gastric distillation, Helmont wrote that “in the bowels, the planetary Spirits doe most shine forth, even as also, in the whole influous Archeus, the courses and forces of the Firmament do appear”.[note]J.B. van Helmont, Oriatrike, or, Physick Refined: the common errors therein refuted, and the whole art reformed and rectified: being a new rise and progress of the phylosophy and medicine for the destruction of diseases and prolongation of life, trans. J. Chandler (London, 1662), 36.[/note] Man truly is the microcosm; but not through his head or through his heart; rather, he symbolises the cosmos through his gut. Our bowels are made of star-stuff, a black-eyed Carl Sagan would intone…


Such ideas soon made their way across the Channel to England, and thus to Milton. Thomas Tymme (?-1620), puritan clergyman and dabbler in alchemy, attempted to gloss the bible with his own vision of Paracelsian-digestive “Halchymie” (the prefix ‘Hal-‘ meaning ‘of the sea’, thus denoting the firmamental-gastric ocean that permeates through each individual).[note]Thomas Tymme, The Practise of Chymicall, and Hermeticall Physicke, for the preservation of health. Written in Latin by Iosephus Quersitanus, Doctor of Phisicke. And translated into English, by Thomas Timme, minister (London, 1605)[/note] Another major disseminator was Walter Charleton (1619-1707). He translated van Helmont’s De Magnetica Vulnerum (1621) and A Ternary of Paradoxes (1650). He would write, accordingly, of the “poverty of our Reason compared to the wealthy harvest of [van Helmont and Paracelsus]”.[note]W. Charleton & J.B. van Helmont, A Ternary of Paradoxes: The Magnetick Cure of Wounds, Nativity of Tartar in Wine, Image of God in Man – Written Originally by Joh. Bapt. Van Helmont, and Translated, Illustrated, and Ampliated by Walter Charleton, Doctor in Physick, and Physician to the late King (London, 1650), 96.[/note] Physician to Charles I and II, Charleton was personally known by many of Milton’s network of correspondents. Being a member of the Royal Society, Charleton knew Henry Oldenberg: a close friend of Milton’s. Furthermore, Oldenburg himself was acquantined with van Helmont’s own son: Francisus Mercurius van Helmont, publisher of his father’s works and his alchemical protégé. As early as 1658, Oldenburg had met the younger van Helmont (and described their “congress” together in a letter to Boyle).[note]Henry Oldenburg, The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, ed. A.R. Hall & M.B. Hall, xiii. (University of Winconsin Press, 1986), i.176-77.[/note] Between this time and 1671, Olenburg went from denigrating Franciscus to extolling the “distinguished van Helmont, who is very closely bound to me by friendship” (as Oldenberg boasted in letter to Leibniz).[note]Ibid., viii.182-3.[/note] Elsewhere, we see members of the so-called Hartlib circle (Hartlib also being a friend of Milton’s) involved with Helmontian dissemination (both Clerciuzio[note]A. Clericuzio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century (Springer, 2001), 90.[/note] and Hutton[note]S. Hutton, Anne Conway: A Woman Philosopher (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 143.[/note] have since noted the primacy of the Hartlib circle in promoting Helmontianism in England). Thus, we may safely guarantee Milton’s knowledge and awareness of this alchemical lineage: stretching from Paracelsus to the van Helmont family, through its English propagators, and finally to Milton himself.[note]Milton critics corroborate this hypothesis, noticing the presence of deeply Paracelsian ideas in Milton, and deeming these alchemists ‘chief sources’ for Milton’s philosophy. cf. Rogers, The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry, & Politics in the Age of Milton (Cornell University Press, 1996), 135.[/note] Concordantly, on just a cursory glance, we see that the metaphysical structure of Paradise Lost is suffused with archeus­-type ideas, which help to prosecute Milton’s own version of a nutritive monism. As Raphael had said, everything — stretching from inorganic to spiritual — must “concot, digest, [and] assimilate”. He explicates further:

For know, whatever was created, needs
To be sustained and fed; of elements
The grosser feeds the purer, earth the sea,
Earth and the sea feed air, the air those fires
Ethereal, and as lowest first the moon;
Whence in her visage round those spots, unpurged
Vapours not yet into her substance turned.
Nor doth the moon no nourishment exhale
From her moist continent to higher orbs.
The sun that light imparts to all, receives
From all his alimental recompense
In humid exhalations, and at even
Sups with the ocean [PL; v.414-26]

Soaking in gastric imagery, we see here each rung of the Great Chain “feeding” the higher, providing “nourishment” that “exhale[s]” from “moist continent[s] to higher orbs”, which themselves “sup” upon “humid” and “alimental recompense” from below. Indeed, the Great Chain — as a conjunction of the Principle of Continuity and the Principle of Unilinear Progression — is easily retrofitted onto gastric sensibilities: Continuity implies that, because everything is infinitely divisible into itself, that nothing is inherently indigestible to Being; and, Unilinearity, implies a process of progressive peristalsis by which everything tends towards nourishment. Creation is a food-chain. In Charleton’s words, “every Creature doth […] possess a particular Firmament [i.e. digestive waters]; by the mediation of which, Superior bodies Symbolize, and hold a reciprocal correspondence with inferior, […] by the law of friendship”.[note]Charleton, Ternary of Paradoxes, 35.[/note] We see this “law of friendship” perfectly encapsulated here, as lower interminably nourishes higher. Returning to Paradise Lost, Raphael continues his exposition, describing how — “by gradual scale sublimed” — all of the “vital spirits aspire” up the scala naturae [PL; v.479]. Taken together in this cosmic peristalsis, all items exhibit the alchemical ideal of materials tending towards their purest state. And it is through his dance of digestive entelechy that we see the alembic universe tending toward perfect alchemic sublimation: towards purer, spiritual matter (spiritual anabolism, as “corporeal to incorporeal turn” [PL; v.413]). Indeed, it is implied that, through this great process, Adam and Eve could have eventually metabolised their somaform existences and fully sublimated themselves into angelic uncarnate forms. Angels are near to the top of the food-chain: accordingly, just as they enjoy more a more perspicuous intellectual essence, they all enjoy greater gastrointestinal apitutde and efficiency. As they are unrestricted by human finitude, they enjoy “intuitive” rather than “discursive” faculties of knowledge; and, correlatively, the angelic digestive tract is likewise noticeably more perfect. That is, angels hardly need to shit. Milton takes pains to point out that

                     what redounds, transpires
Through spirits with ease [PL; v.438-9]

Moreover, this angelic eupepsia is immediately described as being motored by a “concotive heat / To transubstantiate” foodstuff, just like the “empiric alchemist” who can turn “metals of drossiest ore to perfect gold” [PL; v.437-40]. And so, the universe is alchemical because the universe is digestive. This is the cosmic version of the alchemical magnum opus: the progression from nigredo, as base matter, upwards to spiritual purity.


It is no wonder that Milton requisitioned the alchemical metaphysic, because it was so suited to his own commitments. For a start, because of his monistic predilections, Milton denied the ‘existence’ of ‘nothing’ with particular vehemence. He insists in his De Doctrina Christiana, following axioms from his Ars Logicae, that ‘nothing’ simply doesn’t have a place in the universe. (However, we shall soon see how his attempt actually galvanises void and substantivates zero.) He claims a thing cannot “be constructed out of nothing in the way it could from a number of components”.[note]De Doctrina Christiana in, Vol.VIII of The Complete Works of John Milton, ed. J.K. Hale & J.D. Cullington, (Oxford University Press, 2008- ), 289.[/note] (As such, it follows that “darkness was by no means nothing”: “[if] darkness is nothing, then God surely created nothing by creating darkness, that is, he did and did not create, which is a self-contradiction.)[note]Ibid.[/note] Consequently, denying a creatio ex nihilo and resisting any pre-existent matter outside of the Godhead, Milton comes to embrace creatio ex deo — a creation from out of God. Again, this is why the physiologically inflected archeus model lends itself so well to Miltonic cosmology. Creation is God’s digestive tract. In an internal process of subtilisation, God anabolises crude materials into structured creation. This, clearly, becomes a gastric twist on hylomorphism. God’s endogenous anabolic process lends forms to the base matter — the prima materia — of Creation. The Deity takes up matter and builds it up into increasingly subtile forms: just as our bodies subtilize nutrition into spirit. This transparently apes the Body-Politic: and, indeed, this hylomorphism is also precisely a form of governance. God, as the ‘head’, resides over the creative ‘belly’ by imparting his form and shape to the raw material of the archeus. On first glance, it at least seems that all of the subjects in this body-politic obey their sovereign. Describing the ‘gut flora’ of his cosmic holobiont, implying that the archeus descends to the most microscopic levels of matter, Milton writes that

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep:
All these with ceaseless praise his works behold
Both day and night: how often from the steep
Of echoing hill or thicket have we heard
Celestial voices to the midnight air,
Sole, or responsive each to other’s note
Singing their great Creator? [PL; iv.675-82]

All the taxonomies of Being sing the God that ingested, solidified and ‘stratified’ them into existence. Picking up the imagery of plenitude and casting it in strikingly similar language, Deleuze and Guattari write that

[e]very stratum is a judgement of God; not only do plants and animals, orchids and wasps, sing or express themselves, but so do rocks and rivers; every stratified thing on earth.[note]Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Continuum, 2004), 49.[/note]

However, as they go on to elaborate,

[t]he strata are judgements of God; stratification in general is the entire system of the judgement of God (but the earth, or the body without organs, constantly eludes that judgement, flees and becomes destratified, decoded, deterritorialised).[note]Ibid.[/note]

Where stratification is eupepsia, what are the chances — within Milton’s universe — of cosmic dyspeptic destratification? Just as angels still need to purge themselves, where is the nigredo, the tartareous excrement of the archeus? Will the earth itself fizz with effervescing, liquefying, sugary blackness, as the rebounding of the abyssal Deep from crystalline assimilation? Like a peptic ulcer unto the universe itself, all of that which exceeds assimilation — and thus refuses God’s stratifying forms — gains the troubling ability for auto-production. Matter-without-form, the rebellious excrement that exceeds divine digestion, is Chaos: which, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, since the Ancients, has also been referred to as “indigest”. (Ovid refers to Chaos as “rudis indigestaque moles”.) This was a collocation ripe for lock-in. Dryden wrote of the “[r]ude undigested Mass; / A lifeless Lump, unfashio’d and unfram’d, / Of jarring Seeds and justly Chaos nam’d”. Earlier, Shakespeare, in King John, had written of setting “form upon that indigest”. Being a substantive, or a nominalised adjective, Milton would certainly have appreciated Shakespeare’s language here: it is of a piece with “darkness visible”, “palpable obscure”, and — of course — “vast abrupt”.)[note]Cf. A recent article in MVU’s Plutonics journal on an intriguing orthographic anomaly found in new amanuensis manuscripts recovered from the Fitzbarrow estate. This orthographic puzzle appears as further proof of the templex cross currents streaming backwards between Pepsi and Miltonic verse.[/note]

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Returning briefly to Deleuze and Guattari we note, in the section quoted above, the infamous announcement that “God is a Lobster”.[note]Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Continuum, 2004), 40.[/note] One wonders why it should be lobsters that bear the mark of infernal Pepsi on their doubly-articulating claws.[note][/note] Why has Pepsi begun to invade even the abyssopelagic zones of the earth? And why has it chosen crustaceans as its avatar?


Tomorrow: ‘Alchemy to Chemistry: or, the Occult History of Carbonated Beverages and the Secret Origins of Pepsi Cola’


part 2 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

Yesterday: ‘The Pepsoidal Fall: Pepsi & Teleoplexy’

DAY 2. Crystal Pepsi / Crystal Hyaline: or, How to See with your Gut

Pepsi invents itself from the future. The retrochronic force of these convergences-effects are registered as ripples — surface currents — in the poesy of a blind, seventeenth-century Christian prophet. Sing, sugar-infused Muse!

In the early 1990s PepsiCo introduced a colourless form of its now infamous soft drink, which sold under the name Crystal Pepsi. Following from a contemporary marketing fad geared towards selling transparent or colourless editions of familiar products (initiated by Ivory soap), the proviso was that transparency would evoke in consumers positive notions of ‘cleanness’ or ‘clarity’. Crystal Pepsi, however, was a market failure.[note]T. Triplett, ‘Consumers Show Little Taste for Clear Beverages’, in Marketing News, vol.28, no.11, (1994), 1-2.[/note] (The relentless juggernaut of nostalgia has recently resurrected it from limbo, however.) It seems, then, that in our fallen (capitalised) state we actually desire tartareous muck over any vitreous and crystalline elixir. Indeed, advertisers have since retroactively divined that Crystal Pepsi was a failure because consumers were disturbed by the unseemly conjunction of pellucid, heavenly aesthetics with saccharine, voluptuous taste.[note]L.L. Garber Jr. & E.M. Hyatt, ‘Color as a Tool for Visual Persuasion’, in Visual Persuasion. eds. R. Batra & L. Scott (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000)[/note] Pepsi suits its blackness irrepressibly: as the cheerleader for Capital’s forces of terrestrial obscurity and liquidation, it inevitably and necessarily announces itself ocularly with the skotison of effervescing, liquid blackness.[note]Skotison, originally a rhetorical term, is an invocation and imperative towards darkening. To translate literally, skotison means “darken it!”.[/note] Ontological blackening demands the aesthetics to match: it seems, at the very least, that we subconsciously expect this to be the case (and, insofar as the crystalline marketing experiment therefore failed, our aesthetic-gastric sensibilities tend towards making this a reality). We get the blackness we desire.[note]In this sense, Crystal Pepsi was predestined to fail: accordingly, a ‘suprapepsarian’ reading of consumer ontology and market soteriology invites itself.[/note] The heavenly, vitreous Crystal Pepsi rebounds from our fallen tastebuds: we expect tartar to taste accordingly. Our gullets — like our sinful wills — clamour for nigredo rather than albedo. The Crystal was just too heavenly, too painfully pre-lapsarian. Indeed, the connection of ‘crystal’ with pre-lapsarian perspicuity is — long prior to the modern machinations of PepsiCo marketing psychomancy — a venerable aesthetic collocation. (PepsiCo was only trying to retrospectively capitalise on this: a failed trick to sell post-lapsarian tar as pre-lapsarian philtre.) From Milton’s Paradise Lost:

Witness this new-made world, another Heaven
From Heaven-gate not far, founded in view
Of the clear hyaline, the glassy sea. [PL; vii.617-9]

Here Milton describes the freshly created world by comparing it to the “clear” and “glassy” spheres of outer heaven, as depicted in pre-Copernican and Biblical cosmology. Our “pendant” planet reflects the highest cosmic realms in their shared crystal appearance: the Earth is “founded in view” of these glassy spheres, and they resonate together — in crystalloid harmony — in their new-made cosmic clarity. Specifically, the “hyaline”[note]A nominalized adjective, denoting crystallific nature. See below for more.[/note] described here denotes the “waters above the Firmament” of Genesis 1:6-7.

crystal pepsi 2016

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Biblical cosmogony pictures a watery creation whereby God initiates a world-generating and oceanic separation between an originary supernal sea (the “hyaline”) and the derivative sublunary spheres (our cosmos).[note]“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters” & “And God made the firmament, and divded the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”[/note] This hydraulic cosmogony serves to individuate the creation via God’s act of filtration, separating ‘above’ from ‘below’, but it also serves to retain an analogical (placental) connection between these two separated realms (exploiting the fact that they are made from the same, pellucid, medium). This is poetically instanced by the symbolic resonance between what Milton, lines later, calls the “nether ocean” here on Earth, and the original “crystalline ocean” that circumscribes (“circumfus’d”) the entire cosmos [PL; vii.624, vii.271]. The cosmos is separate from (in a derivative sense) but also contained by this thalassal ur-ocean (much as the ‘individual I’ stands in relation to the ‘absolute I’). As a “bright sea” of “jasper” and “liquid pearl” above the outer firmament [PL; iii.484], this cosmic crystal-ball therefore englobes the created universe at the outer limit of its nine concentric spheres, and, in line with Genesis, it is through this supernal sea that Milton’s God is witnessed as having precipitated the universe with “waters beneath from those above dividing” [PL; vii.261-75]. It is through the establishment of this individuating outer boundary, or limit, that the ordered cosmos is separated from the surrounding medium of Chaos: the establishment of this “hyaline” represents the blastulation of the universe.[note]blastulation[/note] Milton describes how God “as with a mantle did invest / The rising world of water dark and deep, / Won from the void and formless infinite”: he provides it with a protective skin, a form-suffusing “mantle”. As such, through wrapping the entire created universe in a “clear” liquid sack, this “crystalline ocean” becomes purposed with protecting the cosmos from the “loud misrule” of the Chaos that lies just beyond it [PL; vii.269, vii.271].[note]Chaos is, thus, analogical to the ‘energetic excess’ that Freud describes as facilitating the epithelial individuation of the originary vesicle, in his account of metapsychological abiogenesis, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Penguin, 2003).[/note] It is therefore a prophylaxis against an external chaoticism, and — as such — a spheroid cosmic immune system and metaphysical life support.[note]Cf. Peter Sloterdijk, Globes: Macrospherology, Volume II: Spheres (Semiotexte, 2014).[/note] A crystallic womb. Certainly, pre-Copernican cosmology is precisely a cosmology of ‘immuno-containment’, and containment takes place across similar mediums (containment implies infinite divisibility); thus, to stress the ‘containment’ of the sublunary within the “hyaline”, as Milton does, is to impart some of the latter’s “crystalline” perfection to our own world. In other words, through its vitreous dialysis, this primum mobile acts as a vesicle purposed with separating Creation from Chaos: the happy harmony of this amniotic encasement — a placental harmony, therefore, between sublunary fundament and crystalline firmament and achieved through the shared medium of crystal perspicuity — announces the pre-lapsarian stability of Paradise Lost’s “new-made world”. Nonetheless: just as there was something wrong at the heart of the Crystal Pepsi venture, predestining it to fall, so too is there a blackening necrosis within this pellucid womb of Milton’s fictional cosmos.


We do not live in a “new-made world” or “another heaven” — and neither did Milton. “The world wears, as it grows”, and crystal turns to cataract, water to pepsi, albedo to nigredo. Indeed, Milton lived in a thoroughly fallen universe: one of gargantuan political, theological, and philosophical upheaval. Witnessing the only military coup d’état in English history, residing in a London under siege, experiencing the divine trauma of regicide, Milton would have likewise passed among not only Arminians and Calvinists, but also Baptists, Diggers, Behmenists, Socinians, Fifth Monarchists, Quakers, Muggletonians, and Levellers. These groups represent the anomalocaris, the oppabinia, and the hallucigenia of Protestant cladistics. It was an intellectual historical explosion of tumultuous size. Certainly, legislative events like the ‘1650 Act against Atheistical, Blasphemous & Excreable Opinion’ evidence this: a response to sectarianism and intestine strife that — unlike any cosmo-hyaline immune system — arise as reactionary rather than prophylactic. The rot was already inside. Madness ensued. In 1656, James Nayler rode into Bristol on an ass attempting to replay Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem; men like John Pordage — believing themselves daily in “visible communion with angels” — conversed with those like Thomas Tany, who was convinced that he had found cherubs and demons living inside of “vegetables”; and men like Abiezer Coppe, gripped by the conviction that seraphim walked amongst us, inspired sexual radicalism and licentiousness among his admirers. Indeed, the so-called Ranters — with whom Coppe was affiliated — promoted a proto-Sadean and proto-anarchist vision of a sacral sexuality that sought to deify the individual through a nihilistic vision of the unrelenting omnipotence of sovereign selfhood and summit experience. Perceiving all law and morality as limits to freedom, they sought to emulate the ultimate freedom of omnipotent divinity by stripping away from themselves all such legalistic limits to their behavior: nevertheless, they were wise enough to prophesy that doing this successfully would also be a form of self-annihilation (because all personal identity and subjectivity is inextricably couched in normative understanding). They indulged in the so-called antinomian heresy, believing that one could literally become God through the breakdown of all moral structure and limitation: henosis with the divine was achieved not through subservience but, rather, through emulating His crushing omnipotent freedom, transcending all suppressive notions of ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’.[note]As Cohn has identified in The Pursuit of Millenium (OUP, 1970), they were thus a continuation of the late-medieval Brethren of the Free Spirit. Pettman, in After the Orgy (SUNY, 2012), has recently concatenated these earlier upswells of rapturous rupture into a lineage stretching down towards Bataille and Y2K apocalypticism.[/note] A kind of sacral and divine libertinage. This led to orgiastic worship, outrageous voluptuosity, and public nudity. Milton himself was only a few steps removed from such ideologies: he was close to Roger Williams, a proponent of radical toleration, who was, in turn, affiliated with Anne Hutchinson, the centre of a famous antinomian controversy. Put simply, Milton moved through heterodox[note]J. Mueller, ‘Milton on Heresy’, in Milton and Heresy, ed. S.B. Dobranski & J.P. Rumrich (CUP, 1998), 21-38.[/note] and revolutionary times and idea-formations; his own cosmos was by no means perspicuous or “hyaline”.[note]Against the servile, genuflecting readings emanating from the Milton constructed by C.S. Lewis and his followers (the ‘neo-Christians’, as Empson called them, and their ‘invented Milton’, a Milton cleansed of any doctrinal aberrations and radical heterodoxies), we promote — to the point of remedial ‘invention’ — the possibility of a heretical Milton. We know, indeed, that Milton was very much aware of the Greek root of haîresis: which he deems not “of evil note, meaning only the choise […] of any opinion good or bad in religion or any other learning” [A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, of The Works of John Milton, ed. F.A. Patterson (Columbia University Press, 1931), 11]. Following this justification, he would variously defend the idea of the free-thinking individual: from the seraph Abdiel (who stands alone, in radical free conscience, as arbiter against Satan’s actions) to Galileo (lionized as “prisoner to the Inquisition [for] thinking […] otherwise then the [orthodox] thought”) [Areopagitica, in vol.iv of Ibid., 330.].[/note]

gutta serena
A. Paré, ‘The Figure of the Eye’, The Works of That Famous Chirugion Ambrsoe Parey: Translated out of Latine and compared with the French. by Tho. Johnson, (London, 1649), 143.

“Hyaline” itself is an intriguing word. It is Milton’s transliteration from Greek, appearing to be the first use of the word as such in English (in prior print it appears, notably, only in the dictionary written by Milton’s nephew, Edward Phillips[note]Edward Phillips, The New World of English Worlds, or, a General Dictionary (London, 1658)[/note], before later appearing in Blount’s 1661 revision of Glossographia.[note]J. Blount, Glossographia; or, a Dictionary Interpreting the Hard Words of Whatsoever Language, Now Used in our Refined English Tongue (London, 1661).[/note] Milton, in the passage quoted above, goes out of his way to inmmediately gloss the word with the phrase “glassy sea”; nevertheless, readers would have likely already inferred the word’s denotation via cognates that where in contemporary circulation. Whilst most editors only note the Greek source-word (ὑάλινος) and its appearance in the Greek bible signifying ‘glassy’ or ‘vitreous’ (it is used to describe the “thalassa hyaline”, or crystal sea, at Rev. 4:6), we also point out the connection to the cognate Greek ὑαλοειδής: which was transliterated as ‘hyaloides’ and referred, in contemporaneous medicine, to the vitreous humours of the eyeball’s lens. Certainly, ‘hyaloides’ had been circulating in English as a medical term for decades before Milton’s writing. Denoting the eye’s vitreous layer, it is significant that Milton also describes the firmament as “vitreous”: moreover, alongside the “vitreous” humour, the eye was also said to contain “crystalline” and “aqueous” humours, which, again, are all adjectives Milton grants to his firmament. Accordingly, it is no surprise that eyeballs in Paradise Lost and other works redound in the same qualities as the “hyaline” ocean above: “enamell’d eyes”[note]Lycidas (ll.139) in Milton: The Complete Shorter Poems, ed. J. Carey (Longman, 2007).[/note], tears of “crystal sluice”[PL; v.113], “liquid notes” from “the eye of the day”[note]’Sonnet I’ (ll.5) in Milton: The Complete Shorter Poems, ed. J. Carey (Longman, 2007).[/note], even “carbuncle” eyes all appear [PL; ix.1500]. Again: as the Earth’s oceans reflect the primum mobile, so too — at an even smaller scale — do our eyes: microcosm and macrocosm, in clear concord. The correspondence goes both ways, however, as cosmic bodies themselves become ocular: the sun is the “eye” of this “great world” [PL; v.171] and the stars are designated as heaven’s “eyes” [PL; v.44]. Furthermore, Jesus’s chariot is said to be “set with eyes” [PL; vi.755]. These eyes are not only described as a litany of gemstones (ὑαλοειδής/hyaloides also signifying “precious stone”), but they are also linked with the “crystal firmament” above (itself adorned with “living sapphires” [PL; iv.605]). This mineral-ocular train is, indeed, described as a “panoply” (likely referring to Argus Panoptes, the many-eyed giant of Greek mythology[note]6_4b0.jpg[/note]). Just as the planets are ‘contained’ within the life-support of the supernal realm, so too are our bodies, vouchsafed via the microcosm-macrocosm concordance of eyeball and firmament. ‘[T]here is a double firmament, one in the heavens and one in each body, and these are linked by mutual concordance’[note]Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine (CUP, 2002), 99.[/note] This semantic entanglement between eyeball-strcuture and cosmos-structure is, unsurprisingly, ancient. As the Talmud, which Milton was familiar with, puts it:

This world is like a human eyeball. The white in it is like the ocean, which surrounded the whole world. The black in it is the world itself.[note]Zohar, the Book of Enlightenment, ed. Daniel Chanan Matt (Paulist, 1983), 243.[/note]

Milton, moreover, would have been aware of the influence this ancient mystical heritage exerted upon the verbiage of contemporary ophthalmic anatomy (i.e. the derivation of ‘hyaloides’ from ‘hyaline’). Engaging in “perpetual tampering with physic”[note]Edward Phillips, Life of Milton (London, 1694).[/note], Milton, for obvious reasons, will have thoroughly investigated medical material surrounding eyes. Indeed, Milton would have been specifically motivated to research the hyaloides in particular.

drop seren
“So thick a drop serene” [PL; iii.25]
The Eye’s glassiness echoes the Firmament’s glassiness: nevertheless, the vitreosity of Milton’s own eyes was, of course, famously destined to fail. Milton eventually diagnosed himself with “gutta serena”: a condition resulting, significantly, from the decomposition of the hyaloides, or, the destruction of the ‘vitreous humour’ of the eye.[note]Kerrigan, The Sacred Complex: On the Pyschogenesis of Paradise Lost (Harvard University Press, 1983), 202.[/note] “So thick a drop serene hath quenched their orbs”, he writes in the opening of Book III [PL; iii.25]. In other words, a drop of thick, liquid blackness has progressively necrotized the “crystal sluice” of Milton’s “enamell’d eyes” [PL; v.133], alike to an invading droplet of Pepsi dispersing within glass of clear water. Ocular crystal gives way to blackening tar. Thus, we turn from the microcosmic hyloides of the eyeball to the macrocosm of the hyaline firmament, and we ask: are these, larger, “orbs” also threatened by apoptotic skotison, just like Milton’s own? Like scientists peering into the miniaturized nature of the crucible, we take the poetic world-model of Milton, we reconstruct it and we experiment upon it. We ask: What if? What if a repressed tendency towards auto-productive chaos was unleashed within Milton’s firmament? What if we purposefully extravasate the subterranean Pepsi that flows beneath Milton’s fundament? What if the damn of authorial repression was removed? In an act of chronotopic extrapolation, we reconstruct the embedded metaphysical fundaments and laws of Milton’s universe in the critical crucible, and we simulate their ultimate conclusion. Even if Milton diegetically repressed the true extrapolation of his metaphysical model (i.e. that which would naturally unfurl from the nomological structure of his fictional world, his ‘chronotope’), we here reconstruct it, so as to eek out its ultimate tendency. To rebuild Milton’s world-model, and let it run, autonomous from the author’s controlling self-censure: an act of chronotopic inflammation or aggravation. ‘What if?’ Perhaps, here, the lithosphere of Milton’s Earth begins to crumble away and the Primum Mobile begins to shake — revealing something fizzing unexpectedly beneath the surface.

Deep under ground, materials dark and crude,
Of spirituous and fiery spume,
These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield to us, pregnant with infernal flame, [PL; vi.478-83]

blue, jelly, ball, balls, Dorset, England, UK, fall from sky, yellow, black, cloud, storm, UFO, Sighting, alien, aliens, sightings, news, world, 2012_58132958_dsc01619


In 1645, Milton delineates the onset of his blindness in a letter to be passed to the French opthamologist François Thévenin, via Leonard Philaris. “It is ten years,” he writes,

more or less, since I noticed my sight becoming weak and growing dim, and at the same time my spleen and all my viscera burdened and shaken with flatulence.[note]John Milton, The Complete Prose Works, ed. D. Wolfe, vol.iv (Oxford University Press, 1966), 867-71.[/note]

Milton links the eye’s failing sight to the gut’s failing digestion: “flatibusqe vexari”, as he puts it in the original Latin. The ocular “vapores” occur “a cibo præsertim” he reports, meaning that they occur after eating. Indeed, the contemporaneous medical wisdom had it that the aetiology behind the denaturation of the hyaloides in gutta serena was precisely ‘ill digestion’.[note]Kerrigan, W.  The Sacred Complex: On the Pyschogenesis of Paradise Lost (Harvard University Press, 1983), 203.[/note] Ill digestion causes blindness.


Milton frequently connects digestion with perception. Both processes arise as the subject’s integration of external modalities: they are both forms of navigating within an external world. And — identically for both — this ‘assimilation’ can proceed with more or less success. The disruption of one results in blindness; the disruption of the other results in indigestion. Failing sight is failure to behold the ocular world; failing digestion is failure to behold the culinary world. As Milton puts it: to be “exiled from light” is to be pushed to “the land of darkness”; whilst, correlatively, “nourishment” that is not properly digestion leads to “wind”. Both arise as problems of incorporation or integration with the world. As Nietzsche so wisely said, “truly, my brothers, the soul is a stomach!”. Just as the deposition of a gut wall is what individuates the organism as a self-enclosed energetic economy, we likewise observe that the later generation of transcendental categories (as a productive conceptual limit, aping the metabolic limit entrenched by the archenteron) identically provides the enclosure of finitude that marks out, and thus potentiates, the subject as an attentional economy.[note]Concepts and language provide the special envelope that marks out or delimits the reasoning subject. In Book IV, Eve experiences this by looking at her own reflection, which splits her in two, encasing her in self-representation. She recalls, “I first awak’t […] wondering where / And what I was” [iv.450-2]. Soon she finds the answer: “With unexperienced thought / As I bent down to look, just opposite, / A shape within the watery gleam appeared / Bending to look on me, I started back, / It started back, but pleased I soon returned” [iv.457-63]. An image of herself allows her to ‘see’ herself, becoming thus ‘self-conscious’, but only through means that are external to her, separating her from herself, providing reflexivity only through mediation. Conceptual language is the prime form of mediation (which finds its literalization in the watery mirror deployed here), and in that provides the protective shell (by allowing for the ‘cut’ in continuity) within which a self-conscious subject can emerge.[/note] By schismatically incising a boundary in continuity, both finitude-generating blockages potentiate the individual as individual, providing a self-infolding block that empowers selective navigation of modalities, a separation that — in turn — feeds back into itself and becomes self-deepening. Concepts are the epithelium or gut wall of the transcendental ego (language acquisition is thus transcendental enterocoely). Either way, be it in splanchnogenesis or noogenesis, organismic finitude is generated by an enfolding and englobement: either within concepts or within abdominal cavities. The sphere of the transcendental was preceded by the sphere of the coelom (the endodermal layer that folds into a gut in all organisms exhibiting the complex internal differentiation required for the dynamism of digestive metabolism). Indeed, the interface chauvinism — possibly unique to us as bilaterally symmetric animals — which presumes that CNS-derived world-interfaces (the electric vagaries attendant upon congeries of overgrown ganglia) are the only ways we locomote the world forgets this enveloping gastric ur-relation, which functionally enveloped all forms of representative interface up until very recently, when intelligence lifted off from this its functional substrate and into its own self-selecting auto-catalysis.

Milton, on the contrary, did not forget this: he was acutely sensitive to it. Indeed, he couldn’t not be — even if he wanted to — because his own viscera were so violently wracked with “flatibus”. Accordingly, deeply aware of the quasi-transcendental entanglements of the alimentary and the perceptual, Milton’s Raphael — in his angelic wisdom — pronounces that “[k]nowledge is as food” [PL; vii.126] and he explains that, just as “[w]isdom” leads to “nourishment”, “folly” leads to “wind” [PL; vii.130]. To quote in full:

But Knowledge is as food, and needs no less
Her Temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind may well contain;
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind. [PL; vii.126-30]

Such intertwining of digestive and epistemic assimilation — and “Temperance” likewise — makes perfect sense in a story centring around Eve’s consumption of the apple: which itself is, of course, as Milton stresses “intellectual food” [PL; xi.768]. So, just as folly leads to wind, the acquisition of the forbidden knowledge encrypted deep within the apple leads directly to cosmological indigestion and the depuration of the whole of nature illustrated in the Fall. The Fall affects everything, not only is the ground “Cursed… for thy sake” [PL; x.201], as Jesus proclaims to Adam (Milton here lifting the wording straight from the King James Bible). Indeed, only a couple of decades after Paradise Lost, Thomas Burnet wrote his physico-theological tract entitled Telluris Theoria Sacra (which, later on, Coleridge liked to compare to Paradise Lost), in which he recounted how the entire planet itself had been geometrically ‘perfect’ prior to the Fall — that is, entirely smooth, totally spherical — and it was the entry of Sin into the world that had thrown up the mountains, the crags, and the jagged and broken aspect of our post-lapsarian world. Such orogenic harmatiology is presaged by Milton, who writes that, upon Eve’s ingestion of knowledge,

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe. [PL; ix.782-3]

The ingestion, via “intellectual food”, of knowledge into the world — as the ability to be Wrong or Right — gives nature itself chronic indigestion. If “[s]ighing” from “her seat” was not enough to alert us to the fact that the entire planet is farting, Milton immediately hammers the point home:

Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan [PL; ix.1000-1]

Because knowledge of Good and Evil introduces the capacity for being Right or Wrong, so too does it generate the capacity for digestion or indigestion (in affairs both alimentary and epistemic). And so, again, just as “folly” leads to “wind”, the original formation of epistemic fallibility is signposted and announced by nature itself as the very planet lets off two volleys of tortured “flatibus”, trembling “from her entrails”. (An indigestion that, for Burnet, was registered in the crumpling of the earth’s skeleton into mountainous ruins.) The birth of epistemology is the birth of metabolism, for both are — essentially — the same thing. With fallibility comes excrement. In Lycidas, Milton would talk of the sheep (allegorical placeholders for the Christian flock) who, fed with theological blunders by irresponsible prelates, become “swol’n with wind” and “Rot inwardly” upon knowing wrongly, spreading “foul contagion”.[note]Lycidas, ll.125-7.[/note] Nutrition fails in expulsion, thus ignorance and falseness lead to intellectual vomiting or epistemic diarrhoea: in his antiprelatical Of Reformation, Milton thus singles out “the new-vomited Paganisme of sensuall Idolatry”.[note]John Milton, Of Reformation, in Complete Works of John Milton, ed. Don M. Wolfe (Yale University Press, 1966), 1:519-20.[/note] Epistemology, through the poet’s writing, is entrenched — again and again — as a deeply metabolic endeavour. Thus, it becomes a civic duty to keep a good diet in nutritive and noetic matters.

Accordingly, Milton-the-propagandist would promote “the right possessing” of the body in “Diet or Abstinence” in order to render “it more pliant [and] useful to the Common-wealth”.[note]John Milton, The Reason of Church Government Urged Against Prelaty, in vol.iii of The Works of John Milton, ed. F.A. Patterson (Columbia University Press, 1931), 187.[/note] Similarly, the “abatement of a full diet” can stave off unwanted sexual desires.[note]John Milton, Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce, in vol.iii of The Works of John Milton, ed. F.A. Patterson (Columbia University Press, 1931), 308-10.[/note]  It should come as no surprise, then, that nutrition and consumption has been deemed the ‘central animating metaphor’ for the discussion of knowledge-economy in Areopagitica.[note]N. Smith, ‘Areopagitica: Voicing Contexts, 1643-5′, in Politics, Poetics, and Hermeneutics in Milton’s Prose, ed. D. Loewenstein & J.G. Turner (CUP, 1990), 109.[/note] Defending “the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing”, this influential pamphlet is riddled with metabolic-epistemology, centred around the hooking up of eating habits to reading habits, and deploying this as a prime heuristic in Milton’s argument contra censorship. “[T]o the pure all things are pure”, Milton decrees. This applies not only to “meats and drinks”, but also — naturally — to “knowledge”.[note]Areopagitica, 308-9.[/note] Epistemology is metabolism, and metabolism epistemology. He is claiming here that assimilation or indigestion rest primarily upon the moral character of the imbiber (thus, if a readership is ‘good’ it should be able to consume morally putrescent ideas without risk of corruption). To the sinful, everything leads to “wind”; to the pious, everything is “nourishment”. As “wholesome meats to a vitiated stomack differ little or nothing from unwholesome”, so too — correlatively — do pure ideas become flatus to compromised minds. Because the opposite therefore also holds (i.e. an unvitiated stomach can safely handle rotten ideas), Milton argues for a free press and free circulation of mental ‘nourishment’. The negative effects of a heterodox diet of books would only be felt by people already spiritually or morally compromised:

When God did enlarge the universal diet of man’s body, [he] then also, as before, left arbitrary the dyeting and repasting of our minds; as wherein every mature man might have to exercise his owne leading capacity.[note]Areopagitica, 308-9.[/note]

This subjectivist account of digestion is part and parcel with the central place of free will in all of Milton’s philosophy. Again, it stresses the fact that indigestion is — therefore — a result of the entrance of the choice between good and evil into the world: indigestion is a thoroughly post-lapsarian affair. Before the Fall, there was — ontologically — no such thing as tummy ache (and, accordingly, Paradise Lost would go on to stress digestive ailments as particularly emblematic afflictions of our postlasped pathology). Yet, by connecting digestion so thoroughly with free will, Milton implicitly sets up a model of perfect assimilation as symptom of moral perfection. Good digestion is the model of good civic understanding, and vice versa. As such, just as the model and ideal of cognitive apprehension is total understanding, so too would the model and ideal of digestion be one of total metabolic assimilation, of 100% digestive efficiency. In this perfect digestive tract, no “meats” could resist incorporation, no recalcitrance would arise from ingested matter, all items would be fully absorbed (thus, no excrement). The meat would become whatever the consumer chooses (again, “to the pure all things are pure”). Indeed, if it is possible that man’s understanding could overcome the boundaries of post-lapsarian finitude, would it not also make sense that man’s stomach could overcome the resistance of fallen foodstuffs? If man’s “glassy essence” can be utterly devoid of dioptrics, can not man’s “dyeting” be devoid of putrescence and excrement? Can we aspire to crystalline perspicuity in both our cognitive and our gastric “dyeting”? Can we stop desiring sugary blackness and return to pre-lapsarian vitreosity? Certainly, images of a state of crystalline epistemic concord do occur in Milton: moments where experience is ‘digested’ perfectly, so to speak. Accordingly, in ‘Prolusion III’, a young Milton had written that the “mind should not consent to be limited and circumscribed by the earth’s boundaries, but should range beyond the confines of the world”[note]John Milton, ‘Prolusion III’, ll.171, in vol.xii of The Works of John Milton, ed. F.A. Patterson (Columbia University Press, 1931)[/note] and, in ‘Elegy V’, the narrator writes that his “mind is whirled up to the height of the bright, clear sky: freedom from my body”.[note]John Milton, ‘Elegy V’, ll.15-20, in Milton: The Complete Shorter Poems, ed. J. Carey (Longman, 2007). Carey’s translation from the Latin is used here.[/note] It is even claimed here that the “unseen depths of Tartarus do not escape my eyes”. That is, in this state of perceptive-concord, even darkness is eliminated from perspectival perspicuity (just as, presumably, pre-lapsarian digestion would eliminate the need for excretion). (Note, moreover, that Milton deploys the words “liquidi raptatur” to describe this ascent: his “mind’s eye” becomes fully aqueous like the firmament; and, hence, his intellect resembles the “clear hyaline”; ocular recalcitrance evaporates.) Consequently, unlike an alimentary canal that excretes, an eye that fails to see with clarity, or a mind that pierces the “innermost sanctuaries”, Milton here hints towards the potential for subjects in pure accord with the Outside. Relinquished of the complications of excess matter, there are no cataracts, nor any indigestions. Nothing can exceed this ideal subject; it experiences epistemological eupepsia. As his years lengthened, however, and he grew older, the reality, for Milton, could not have been more different: vexed by flatibus, tortured by internal putrescence, and quaking with dyspepsia. Just as Crystal Pepsi’s attempt at perspicuity collapsed back into sugary nigredo, so too did Milton’s dreams of perfect epistemic-metabolic assimilation crumple into flatulent darkness. Man’s “glassy essence” denatures into excremental occlusion, as chaotic Pepsi — avatar for desiring-revolution — comes to invade it.


Tomorrow: ‘Peristaltic Metaphysics and the Invention of Pepsi’ 


part 1 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

by pps

“The fully enlightened earth radiates PEPSI triumphant.”

—Source unknown

“The Pepsi ethos has evolved over time. The vocabulary of truth and simplicity is a reoccurring phenomena in the brand’s history. It communicates the brand in a timeless manner and with an expression of clarity. Pepsi BREATHTAKING builds on this knowledge. True innovation always begins by investigating the historic path. Going back-to-the-roots moves the brand forward as it changes the trajectory of the future.”

—Arnell Group, Breathtaking, Design Document, 2008[note][/note]

“Some years ago, on a stormy night in New Haven, I sat down to reread [Paradise Lost] … And while I read, until I fell asleep in the middle of the night, the poem’s initial familiarity began to dissolve … Although the poem is a biblical epic, in classical form, the peculiar impression it gave me was what I generally ascribe to literary fantasy of science fiction, not to heroic epic. Weirdness was its overwhelming effect.”

—Harold Bloom[note]The Western Canon, (2004).[/note]

“Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king;
Which every wise and virtuous man attains:
And who attains not, […]
Subject himself to anarchy within”

—Milton, Paradise Regained, ii.457-62   

DAY 1. THE PEPSOIDAL FALL: Pepsi & Teleoplexy

Early in November 2017, fisher Karissa Lindstrand dredged up a lobster off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada. The crustacean had a Pepsi logo prominently tattooed onto its propodus, or claw. Precisely how this logo came to be there remains a mystery: when the event made the news, marine biologists instantly disagreed as to the provenance and occasion of the marking. The mechanisms of imprinting are largely irrelevant, for we instead read this event in a deeper, properly world-historical light: this decapod pincer represents a mere moment in a far vaster process, one spiralling outwards in both time and space… The following (an essay split into 7 sequential parts) is, in many ways, an attempt to fill in this story, as it provides context to the unnerving singularity of recent events such as a sigil-branded lobster from the deep.


The four rivers of Eden were milk, water, wine and ale”, wrote G.K. Chesterton, “[a]erated waters only appeared after the Fall”.[note]G.K. Chesterton, A Gleaming Cohort: Being Selections from the Writings of G.K. Chesterton (Methuen, 1926), 6.[/note] Pepsi, in other words, is irrecusably Fallen. Fizzy drinks are beverages for a postlapsarian world. Why, however, does Chesterton choose soft drinks, of all things, to signify this? Because, putting it simply, Pepsi and its ilk operate perfectly as metonymy for capitalisation. Moloch’s sugar-infused reign and the biblical Fall are teleologically married. Put more strongly, Capitalisation and the Fall are identical. Why? Because — as shall soon be made clear capitalism, just like the Fall, functions according to a logic of predestination. Via mereological usurpation, soft drink comes to stand as synecdochic totem for global capitalisation itself, and, as such, Chesteron’s aphorism can be retrochronically grasped as masterfully encrypting vast and panoramic truths, ventriloquized by the tractor of powerful world-historical forces. Why should this be the case? Because the very fact that Pepsi works so adeptly as a synecdoche for capital alerts us to the infernal — and thus fall-generating — essence of capitalisation itself. Synecdoche at its most basic — is an acute destabilisation between Part and Whole, and thus also between Means and Ends.[note]Mereologically speaking, parts are subordinate because they are means towards the upkeep of the whole, which is therefore the end.[/note] It accordingly represents a co-option of Ends (the Whole) by what was once merely a Means (or, Parts). Synecdoche subverts the direction of the hierarchical relationship whereby parts serve as mereological means towards the whole-as-end. Thus: synecdoche is a metastasising of Part into its own tumorous Whole (which, therefore, comes to threaten the integrity of the parent Whole). Such synecdochal operation is essential to the nature of capital itself, whereby means (here the utile quenching of thirst) mutate into ends-in-themselves (global Pepsi-production, Pepsico domination), via a positive-feedback process of rigorous self-selection (Pepsi wants itself). The restricted economy of hydration haemorrhages into a generalised economy of interminable fizz, and, through an inflammation of supernormal stimuli (exaggerated sugar content tending to fixation and addiction amongst abstract Pepsi’s host-organism), soft drinks come to progressively shed the functional camouflage of thirst-quenchers and medicinals that guide them trojan-like into the world.

In 1904 (just a year after Pepsi-Cola was trademarked), Gillespie’s Natural History of Digestion had already pinpointed this inclination: the “[s]timulation of the appetite with highly-flavoured foods diminishes the natural [relation between food and sustenance or means and ends]”, tending instead “towards living to eat instead of eating to live”.[note]Alexander Lockhart Gillespie, The Natural History of Digestion (W. Scott, 1904), iii.[/note] It is capital’s very inherent nature to perform this part-whole destabilisation: this is why Chesterton’s Pepsi-synecdoche so perfectly encapsulates capital even as it occludes capital-as-such behind a subsidiary part, set behind subset (indeed, to stress the point, it captures it perfectly not in spite of this occlusion, but because of it). Thus, we see how the means-ends subversion inherent to capital is inherently infernal, in a very specific sense of the term. Synecdoche represents a mereological revolt, just like the original Satanic revolt (wherein a subset i.e. the rebellious angels metastasises to challenge the whole i.e. empyrean rule). It is the hypertrophy of a part into its own pseudo-whole, causing a resultant antagonism between ‘satanic tumour’ and ‘divine host’: when the immanent (the lower and derivative), by coming to cause itself (Satan’s feigning of freedom), begins to simulate or feign its own transcendence (sovereign autonomy), therefore coming to compete with (and potentially usurp) its own ‘ground’ of production. It is, at heart, a self-causing reversal of metaphysical hierarchies. Demonic revolt is ontological cancer, malignant synecdoche. God’s divine rule, or human social relations, are effectively usurped by the cancerous pseudo-ends of a catalytic part: demonic insurrection, or, sugar-bent carbonation. Synecdoche, as breakdown of the unidirectionality of strict top-down rule,[note]It is mereological disruption: collapse of the hierarchical (and metaphysically suspect) distinction between Whole and Part or Ends and Means, folding them into feedback as opposed to supremacy. In this way, Satan and the Fall triggered by this can be understood as cybernetic events.[/note] is thus an alluring model for cybernetic runaway. Capitalism’s own logic is hence one of synecdochal usurpation. In this sense, all Capitalism tends towards Pepsi-Capitalism: as it progresses simply as the replacement of top-down goals by hyertrophying sub-routines; and this is why it is an inherently inhuman thus infernal and demonic — project. God’s encephalic executive function swarmed by cerebellum supestimuli.

Pepsi Slim Can

But the connection between Pepsi, Capitalisation, and the Fall runs even deeper. This usurpation tends towards auto-production: it can be understood as the process whereby a means becomes an end-in-itself. This is triggered when a part comes to cause itself (thus, satanically breaking away from its dependence on the original whole); which is, in turn, identical to pointing out that it progressively comes to predestine itself, via its own auto-installation of a logic of circular causality. Part-whole subversion is the same as predestination. In the sense that Pepsi is Fallen it is also therefore predestined. Following from Reformed Orthodoxy’s doctrine of ‘supralapsarianism’, the Fall and all its causal derivatives and ramifications became cast as an intra-temporal event that nevertheless entails itself from outside of time (something within time that comes to structure time itself from without).[note]The Reformation staged a conflict between so-called ‘infralapsarian’ and ‘­supralapsarian’ conceptions of Predestination. Election and Reprobation either arises from within time (infralasparian), or it structures time from without (supralapsarian); either creation logically entails predestination, or predestination entails creation. Unappeased with this binary, one seeks to diagonalise the decision: thus, we believe that the Fall is both ‘infraand ‘supra temporal. In other words, the distinction between the two doctrines becomes one of complex feedback — rather than contradistinction or mutual exclusion as we come to realise that the ultimate extra-temporal ‘End’ constructs itself from within time, via memetic and cybernetic vectors, before subsequently dragging eventualities towards its own completion. This is identical with the pars-pro-toto revolt constitutive of the term ‘Pepsi-capital’. Moreover, it is the fear of such auto-production that  as we shall see in the following  John Milton was so prophetically attuned to.[/note] Capitalism, likewise, represents a similar kind of self-installing predestination: as a real teleology (a self-intensifying process that accordingly reifies its own ‘destiny’ as a real causal force), one that relentlessly exceeds the top-down, central planning of divinity via its tendency towards demonic synecdoche. This headless teleonomy echoes, therefore, the Fall considered as an event that is predestined with precision but arises  for torturous, even schizoid, ethical reasons  orthogonally to God’s putative ‘goodness’. In Chesterton’s gnomic phrase, Pepsi and the Fall thus become entangled in a mutually-enforcing prophetic structure: whether he knew it or not, he was invoking the fact that both are forces of destiny and thus also agents of temporal distortion. To explicate: Pepsi operates so well as a metynomic placeholder for capital because  just like the Fall  it becomes its own effect and its own cause.[note]On the view of reformed theology, the Fall causes itself within time because it was determined from the end of time.[/note] It causes itself in a bootstrapping process that is revealed as an effect of the future on its own past: retrochronic projection, or temporal anomaly. Again, like the Fall, it is an event within linear time that is caused (or comes to cause itself) from without. Along with the Fall and Calvinist double predestination, Pepsi becomes its own telic destiny, by progressively installing the means of its own propagation. Auto-production is indistinguishable from predestination which, in turn, is indistinguishable from temporal non-linearity.

Interfacing with the CNS from the future, abstract Pepsi causes present addiction: the bio-physiological translation of predestinal logic. Condemning us to desire by making us desire further condemning. It becomes real-world prophecy, or atheological predestination: Pepsi-capital inundates the world with a marketing-deluge of Noachic proportions, dragging itself towards the installation of an end-oriented logic of aggressive self-propagation. Lock-in ensues as PepsiCo constructs its own pathway towards its own future and Supernormal Stimuli Take Over. Like a satanic cuckoo, Pepsi-production co-opts the better angels of our nature, flooding normative and decisional structures  even evolutionary purposiveness  with effervescing blackness. In other words, the belly overthrows the head (as we shall see, another perfect model for demon revolt). Thus, the metynomic role the “aerated waters” play in Chesterton’s invocation (as symbolic interface between Capitalisation and Fall), comes to communicate the structure of an intestinal revolt that also captures the workings of auto-productive predestination. Chesterton’s metonym rhetorically encapsulates the essentially acephalic and auto-productive nature of Capital; and, insofar as Capital is auto-productive, it consists in a temporal anomaly (because it comes to cause itself). In other words, it seeds telic forces and becomes its own destiny, just like the Fall (as envisioned post-Reformation). It is an event within time that nevertheless comes to organize the structure of time itself. And so: both the Fall and Capital, through their worldly manifestation in Pepsi Cola, consist in a form of temporal interference. By announcing that Pepsi is Fallen, therefore, one acknowledges, accordingly, that Pepsi invents itself from the future.

When observed from the perspective of synecdochal usurpation and the attendant circular causality of self-selecting replication, Pepsi is installed as the true Subject of World History. It becomes the immanent end towards which history tends. Certainly, teloi do not have to be transcendent or sanctioned by divine decree; teloi can install themselves (via a dynamic of self-selection and lock-in).[note]This is also how intratemporal events can come to shape the extratemporal arrow of time.[/note] Satanic revolt is the extension of competition to teloi or transcendences: it is when ‘the Lower’ comes, via its own resources, to mimic or dissimulate its own form of ‘the Higher’; and, since mimicries can become as good as the prototype, or, alternately, simulacra make themselves real, this mimicry eventually comes to directly compete with the original transcendence. Once various options exist, competition sets to work. Facsimile competes with and potentially usurps prototype: this process applies to deities as much as cuckoo hosts. Satan denotes a parasite transcendence. Demon revolt thus flags the story of how transcendences can be manufactured immanently, and the subsequent problems this holds for the prototype. Pepsi’s auto-production, therefore, is ‘satanic’ exactly because it represents this same threat with regards to the comparative ‘divinity’ of human goals, norms, and ends (infernal cola vs anthropological central-planning; intestine vs encephalon). Thus, as Pepsi falls together from the future the occult signs of this temporal interference (self-assembly) are registered as symbolic resonances within the domain of world-historical figures and works  by those particularly sensitive to the cross-currents of temporal complexity. Insofar as the Reformation re-invented soteriology it also re-invented time; insofar as it re-invented time it also (famously) unleashed market capitalism and, thereby, also untold teleonomies. It should be no surprise, then, that the signs of templex autopepsia are strewn throughout the works of that greatest poet of Reformed Christianity, John Milton.[note]MILTON = 137 = LUCIFER[/note] Just as the pious Calvinist detects signs of extra-temporal reprobation in her intra-temporal “works” (i.e. deeds and actions), the signs of self-assembling and end-orientated Pepsi are littered throughout Milton’s magnum opus, Paradise Lost. When considered from the standpoint of modernity and capital’s nonlinear temporality, the poet’s premonitions of Pepsi-Chaos can be considered as both causes of what happened afterwards (as upstream nodes of cultural influence that helped enforce Protestant capitalogenesis) and also as effects of what happened afterwards (as the retrochronic scars of predestinal attractors). These premonitional markers take the form of a complex knot of imagery that connects alchemy, digestion, and chaos theory to the occult historical origins of carbonated soft drinks.

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Chesterton is correct to note that fizzy drinks could not have been found in the four rivers of Eden. As any sensible person knows, something cannot be discovered within the world before the world invents or produces it. Nevertheless, as long as intratemporal (intralapsarian) cola is ‘predetermined’ it is also therefore supratemporal (supralapsarian, or, arising from outside of linear time, and shaping it from without). In other words, even if Pepsi could not have existed in Eden, we may find it elsewhere  beyond sublunary domains. And so, in Book II of Paradise Lost, Milton describes the four rivers of extratemporal Hell:

Of four infernal rivers, that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams [PL: ii.575][note]Quotes from Paradise Lost, ed J. Carey (Longman, 2007). Henceforth abbreviated to ‘PL’, and with reference to Book Number (numerals) and Line Reference (number).[/note]

One of these streams, “Acheron”, the tartareous river, is witnessed as “black and deep” [PL: ii.578], suggestively redolent of the Pepsi Cola that would be invented only later (if such temporal deixis makes sense ‘outside’ of earthbound time) from “[a]erated waters” and “after the fall”. Tartareous, black, and deeply sugary, Pepsi’s world-historical auto-production (in particular, its alchemical historical genesis) undergirds Paradise Lost’s metaphysical schema. In the following, we will uncover these templex crosscurrents between Pepsi-Cola and Paradise Lost, to discover Pepsi, like Acheron, bubbling darkly beneath the verse: a cola Alph, flowing to a sunless sea. For, as we shall see, Milton’s poem is informed by a deep-set horror of auto-production, and he assigns a central if repressed  role to the chaotic and excessive tartar of the universe: that which eternally revolts against divine-planning through a form of cosmic deregulation (or indigestion). This auto-productive element fuctions, as we have seen, not just as demonic insurrection but also, crucially, as a temporal one too. Indeed, demons are self-producing, like the zero that creates number from nothing (“My name is legion for we are many”), and thus they can persuasively be taxonomically classified as, in essence, agents of temporal distortion.[note]Think of the possessed demoniac whose splintering personality is multiplied by the malignant zero of the invading demon. “We are many”. Why is the demon here a ‘zero’? Because it is ontologically poor: it cannot exist without a host (much like numerical zero only comes into focus in relation to the number line), and is thus nothing outside of its possession of something else. It is thus a nothing, or cipher, that refracts a person into a schizoid many; and is similar to ex nihilo production (the hallmark, we stress, of chaos and infernality, and also of bootstrapping auto-production).[/note] Inasmuch as Milton’s epic is ‘about’ demonic auto-production it troubles the very notion of ‘aboutness’ itself: with a circumvoluting cyclicality whereby the poem only becomes ‘about’ what it is about later on after it has produced its own subject and summoned it forth into reality. (Milton’s tartareous auto-producing Chaos eventually ‘becomes true’ under the figure of end-oriented Pepsi Cola and, correlatively, Miltonic Chaos retroactively comes to be ‘about’ Pepsi.) It’s not ‘about’ anything that it doesn’t subsequently itself create. In simpler terms, because the poem concerns itself with auto-production it can be ‘about’ things that are entirely distal from it, in the causal, linear order of revealed history. As such, we pick up the interference patterns of temporal-looping through the fact that Milton’s figure for auto-production Chaos is itself deeply semantically entangled with the actual historical roots of Pepsi Cola. Here, again, cause and effect become reversible: Pepsi retrocausally interferes with the shape of Milton’s verse, just as Milton prophet of Pepsi-chaos instils a forecast that makes itself true in the form of this ultimate postlapsarian product. It is this looping that Chesterton picks up on. Pepsi and the Fall? They cause each other.


One pauses, and is suddenly struck with a vision: The Earth opens up and seeps fizzy pop. The carbonated fountains of the great deep break open. End-oriented teleoplexic history reveals that the world was created merely to spew forth Pepsi: everything else was merely a means to this end. They call it the 𝖕𝖊𝖕𝖘𝖎𝖈𝖑𝖎𝖕𝖕𝖊𝖗. Pepsi, as cosmic alchemical baseline or sugary-blackened-Nigredo, is the Alpha and the Omega, and all other conceivable ‘ends’ (human will, desire, values, Promethean ambitions) are merely camouflaged ‘means’ for the shooting forth of Pepsi from the great internal fountains of the Earth. The springs of terrestrial history weep black liquid sugar. Tears of Pepsi trickle from the empty eye-socket of an anorganic God, a cosmic visage pulled back into sugarrush rictus. This time there is no Noah and no ark. Everything drowns in obsidian sluice. Glucose high; glucose crash. John Milton — blind prophet, blind to his own prophecy — announces this, our fate, from Anno Domini 1667.


Tomorrow: ‘Day 2. Crystal Pepsi / Crystal Hyaline: or, How to See with your Gut’