part 7 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

Yesterday: ‘Sugar & Zero, Milton & Böhme: the Dyspeptic Abyss of Theogony’

THE FINAL DAY. 𝕯𝖊𝖘𝖈𝖊𝖓𝖘𝖚𝖘 𝖆𝖉 𝕴𝖓𝖋𝖊𝖗𝖔𝖘: or, My Belly Consumed My Head


MILTONgify

Just as fizzing water seeps from the earth, the chthonic and chaomantic black sun (sol niger) of the Pepsi Alph dwells within the ‘mantle’ of Creation, waiting to extravasate and haemorrhage the world with sugary, hydraulic nigredo. As total primordiality, it dwells deep within all existences: even, as we have seen, God himself. As Jung writes, “[t]artar settles on the bottom of the vessel, which in the language of the alchemists means: in the underworld, Tartarus”.[note]Carl Gustav Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, (Princeton University Press, 1981), 301.[/note] And certainly, we can trace the genetic history of Pepsi even further back into greater entanglement with Paradise Lost via the deep link between carbonation and the infernal abysm of Hell. That is, in one final synchronicity, we shall document how Pepsi’s genetic history can be traced all the way back to Hell itself (in its actual, real world instantiation).

grotto del cani

Van Helmont had noticed that ‘gas sylvestre’ was liable not only to collect within breweries and wine cellars but also within certain caves. In this, he was most likely referring to the infamous Cave of Dogs (‘Grotto del Cani’) near Naples. Athanasius Kircher had previously documented the effect of an unknown gas (CO2) in the cave. Pooling at the bottom, it would cause dogs to asphyxiate (whence the cave draws its name), whereas their human counterparts (with orthograde posture safely positioning their mouths above the layer of pooled CO2) would survive. This phenomenon had been documented since the ancients, and was suitably well-known. Furthermore, it was van Helmont who identified this canine-killing substance as ‘gas sylvestre’ via his discovery of CO2. Of occult import is the fact that the very same noxious carbon dioxide that collects in the Cave of Dogs was also famed for emanating — in large quantities — from the neighbouring lake, the Lago d’Averno (‘Lake Avernus’). Both are located within the Solfatara region (which gains its name from the Italian word for ‘sulphur’), itself part of the Phlegraean Fields (i.e. ‘burning fields’), famous throughout Italian literature for being the geographical location of the entrance to Hell. Both Dante and Virgil locate Hell’s entrance within the fuming Lake Avernus; and the Romans, similarly, thought it to be within the craters of the Solfatara. Crucially, the entire reason for choosing this area for the geolocation of Hell’s gate was entirely down to the area’s noxious carbon emissions. The Solfatara’s carbonic gas fumes feature prominently in the literature, with Virgil famously alluding to the idea that birds could not fly over the area without suffocating.[note]Cf. Salomon Kroonenberg, Why Hell Stinks of Sulfur: Mythology and the Geology of the Underworld (Reaktion Books, 2013).[/note] In suitable fashion, a naturally carbonated spring named ‘Pisciarelli’ was located nearby — the source of medicinal fizzy water long thought to cure chronic diarrhoea. (Since balneology really takes off in Ancient Rome, these springs would have been amongst the first used for their restorative properties: thus, it would have certainly been one the places where the ancient collocation of fizz and digestion was birthed.)

The history of carbon dioxide — and thus Pepsi — begins in the entrance to Tartarus: curiosity concerning the emanations in this hellish cave is what originally alerted thinkers to the properties of carbonic gas. We thus see how this ancient Roman entrance to Hell’s domain originally inspired the study of carbonation by alerting early modern savants to the presence of gases separate from air, which — in turn — led to van Helmont’s discovery of carbon dioxide… and the rest, as we know, is history. Thus, finally, we see how fear amongst the Ancients of Hell’s lethal fumarole emissions transformed, over the long centuries, into the 19th-century invention of Pepsi Cola. Bubbling down through Virgil, Dante, Kircher, Paracelsus, van Helmont, Priestley, Schweppe, and Bradham, the toxic carbon fumes of Tartarus were eventually converted into the carbonated tartar we line our guts with daily, on a global scale.

BRAD’S DRINK = 190 = TARTARUS

DORE LAKE AVERNUS
ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE. Doré’s illustration of Lake Avernus, and the Entrance to Tartarus/Hell.

Pepsi, quite simply, was forged in Hell.[note]And, like Hell (as the spatialisation of revolt), Pepsi marks the tendency for dark materials to switch into self-selection, outstripping the centralised planning that originally created them.[/note] Appropriately, Hell is — in the Kabbalistic tradition[note]PEPSI = 110 = KABBALAH [/note] — also referred to as ‘Tehom’ (meaning ‘the depths’), which, in turn, also refers to the surging liquid ‘Deep’ or ‘Abyss’ prior to Genesis’s creation: a carbonic black Tehom[note]PEPSI ABYSM = 215 = TIME TRAVEL [/note] — as prima materia — is the tartareous Deep, effervescing beneath and within creation. (Notably, ‘Tehom’ is also cognate with ‘Tiamat’.[note]”Before the gods there was only Tiamat, the bitter water, her companion Apsu, the sweet water, who is also Abzu (the abyss), and “that return to the womb” — or matrix-implex — her Mummu.” Cf. https://web.archive.org/web/20170622210905/http://www.ccru.net/archive/splitsecond.htm[/note]) Indeed, in the physico-theological understanding of the 17th century, this ‘Tehom’ (or Hypogene Abyss of Chaos) was believed to still reside deep within the Earth’s crust: and the existence of this tellurian chaos ocean was employed, accordingly, as the causal explanation for the Noachic Flood. Thomas Burnet documented how this indwelling, chthonic ‘Tehom’ (as tellurian chaos ocean) had broken forth, from the “fountains of the deep”: literally causing the world to fizz with abyssal liquid. We note that “fountain” originally comes from “font”: denoting any fizzy mineral water spring (from which we get the term ‘soda fountain’). And, as we have seen, people have, since the Ancients, considered the depths of Hell to be the source of plutonic carbonation and infernal fizz. Certainly, Burnet’s description of this “Tehom Rabbah” (‘Great Deep’)[note]TEHOM RABBAH = 192 = UTTUNUL [/note] enforces this. The contemporary understanding of diluvial geology proposed that the planet literally effervesced at the Flood: that it was broken down into constituent elements, in a mix of Air and Water (with Solids sinking to the bottom). Pepsi surged from the depths, as templex prima materia. And, as Paradise Lost details, it could well happen again.

tehompepsimercuaryexploding

Troublingly, however, Paradise Lost — as we have been proposing in this essay — also allows for this relapse to occur outside of divine decree. Because of Milton’s materialist voluntarism, synecdochal revolt — ontological dyspepsia — is always possible: indeed, this is exactly how Satan’s coup was able to happen. A part loops back into itself, and begins to simulate or feign autonomy. As Milton implies, all terrestrial nature could collapse. He writes that, had the war in heaven ensued,

                               nor only Paradise,
In this commotion, but the starry cope
Of heaven perhaps, or all the elements
At least had gone to wreck, disturbed and torn [PL; iv.991-4]

It is the clean hyaline — “the starry cope / Of heaven” — whose task, as a cosmic integument, is to immunise the cosmos against the “loud misrule of Chaos”, lest “extremes / Contiguous might distemper the whole frame” [PL; vii.271-4]. Yet, despite this, had “not soon / the Eternal” repressed this ontic rebellion, the hyaline would have denatured and the whole of nature lapsed into auto-immunity, returning to dyspepsia and chaos [PL; iv.992-3]. Walter Charelton had written of the need for “continuall renovation and reparation” of all creaturely existences, for fear that “the whole Fabrick” be destroyed by chaotic “decayes”.[note]Walter Charleton, Natural History of Nutrition, Life, and Voluntary Motion, Containing all the New Discoveries of Anatomist’s and Most Probable Opinions of Physicians, concerning the Oeconomie of Human Nature: Methodically Delivered in Exercitations Physico-Anatomical, (London, 1659), 91.[/note] In Milton’s Comus, the eponymous character delineates the basal superfluity of nature, explicating the possibility of an overly creative abortion in her universal womb:

[She] would be quite surcharged with her own weight,
And strangled with her waste fertility;
The earth cumbered, and winged air darked with plumes,
The herds would over-multitude their lords,
The sea o’erfraught would swell, and the unsought diamonds
Would so emblaze the forehead of the deep [ll.727-32]

Insubordinate ontological excess. Meltdown. Base matter rebellion. Internal insurrection. We note the use of the language of overflowing and overabundance: of a plenitude gone rotten. Increatum is, again, “the womb of nature and perhaps her grave” [PL; ii.911]. Nature as basilisk. By “unsought diamonds”, perhaps, Milton was imagining the tartrate crystals that are produced as superfluities of fermentation.

tartratecrystal2

In this light, Satan — again — is revealed as merely a symptom or vector of Chaos’s liquefaction of reality (a vector later taken up, after being passed on by Satan to Capital, by the chemical known as Pepsi-Cola). Satan is a conduit for producing localised fonts of Tehom relapse. He expedites the return of the tartar that lies as potential within all materials. Pandæmonium is a perfect example: Satan opens a “spacious wound” in the hill, “scumm[ing] the bullion dross” causing “a fabric huge” to rise “like an exhalation” (a flatulence) out of the earth [PL; i.689, 710, 704, 711]. His demonic “crew” recapitulate the original excrementation of Creation’s “infernal dregs”, dragging pandemonium into the world, and bringing yet more excess into Creation. (Unsurprisingly, the diabolical architecture is described as arising from a “womb” — of “metallic ore” and “sulfur” [PL; i.673-4].) Even more striking is Satan’s provocation of the very Empyrean to belch weaponised chaos out of the ground in the form of the Satanic war-machines. Before pulling his cannons out of the ground, the Prince of Pandæmonium describes his very own “dark materials” before the act:

Which of us who beholds the bright surface
Of this etherous mould whereon we stand,
This continent of spacious heav’n, adorned,
With plant, fruit, flower ambrosial, gems and gold,
Whose eye so superficially surveys
These things, as not to mind from whence they grow
Deep underground, materials dark and crud,
Of spirituous and fiery spume, […]
These in their dark nativity the deep
Shall yield to us, pregnant with infernal flame [PL; vi.472-85]

Here, the very spinal cord of the verse encrypts the return to chaotic depths: both logically and on the page itself, a descensus ad inferos — a katabasis into the womb of chaos — is presented. The abyssal and dyspeptic chaos, in its “dark nativity”, is the unruly ground of all that walks the “bright surface” which the “eye so superficially surveys”. The surface is easily peeled away and discarded: the depth “yields to us” chaotic forms abundant. It is further stressed that these materials are even “as not to mind” in order to emphasise their ability to escape, to flood around, mental structures and intelligibility. This matter isn’t just ontologically distal from thought, it is against conceptual thought. Satan is an artist of Chaos, but also therefore only its agent and its puppet. He draws the fizziness of Pepsi-Tehom to the surface. Indeed, van Helmont himself had written that the alchemist can draw “a wild and pernicious Gas [aka Chaos] out of coals, Stygian waters and fusions of minerals”.[note]Georgiana D. Hedesam, An Alchemical Quest for Universal Knowledge: The ‘Christian Philosophy’ of Jan Baptist van Helmont (1567-1644), (Routledge), 133.[/note] In his act of infernal chemical ingenuity, Satan’s yielding of weaponised Chaos is related to daemonic invention (like that of the poet):

The invention all admired, and each, how he
The inventor missed, so easy it seemed once found,
Which yet unfound most would have thought
Impossible. [PL; vi.498-500]

Invention (poetic, industrial, technocommerical, chaomantic) straightforwardly just is the paradox of auto-production: because of its inherently circular causality, it only makes sense retrospectively and is never predictable prospectively. Simultaneously anastrophe and catastrophe, it drags previous impossibilities into being. Tearing the consistency of reality as it smears the real across itself. This hellish alchemical “invention” results in Satan’s “devilish machinations” [PL; vi.504], when (upon the “[c]oncot[ion]” of “[t]he originals of nature”) the entrails of the heavens belch forth (like “thundring Ætna”) demonic anal cannons:

                 in a moment up they turned
Wide the celestial soil, and saw beneath
The originals of nature in their crude
Conception; sulphurous and nitrous foam
They found, they mingled, and with subtle art,
Concoted and adjusted they reduced
To blackest grain, and into store convey:
Part hidden veins digged up (nor hath this earth
Entrails unlike) of mineral and stone, [PL; vi.509-17]

Paracelsians often imagined hypogene actions (the actions of mineral and stone) as the production of a geocosmic archeus. Duchesne, for example, envisioned metals concocted by “heate, by force wherefore mettales congealed in the bowels of the earth are diposed [and] digested”.[note]A.G. Debus, The French Paracelsians: The Chemical Challenge to Medical and Scientific Tradition in Early Modern France, (Cambridge University Press, 1991), 34.[/note] Satan is reactivating the shit, the dyspepsia, of the geontic coelom. His infernal artillery is the regurgitation and recrudescence of God’s uncontrollable, fallopian, pepsoidal chaos. Pulling up these dark materials, he harnesses the excessiveness of matter that God had to excrete, utilising its attendant autonomy from divine forms, therefore turning “waste fertility” to “devilish machinations”. He increases the resistance of this materia to incorporation back into the homeostatic divine-archeus-system. This is the job that Satan fulfils throughout the poem: a force of cosmic deregulation, he creates problems for digestive bureaucracy / God-as-culinary-homeostat. A vector of Chaomantic Libertarianism, Satan is the peptic ulcer in the archeus of Milton’s universe.

In Comus, Milton had envisioned a similar motif of chaotic voluntarist revolution. As previously quoted, Milton describes — in a curious acephalic image — an overripe geocosm auto-producing a superfluous accretion of “unsought” diamonds that proceed to “emblaze the forehead of the deep” [ll.731-2]. Milton goes on to describe these chthonic, chaomantic stars becoming “so bestud” with subsidiary glimmer

                                         that they below
Would grow inured to light, and come at last
To gaze upon the sun with shameless brows [ll.743-5]

The coccyx of the cosmos erupts through the cranium. Indeed, this is the perfect exemplar of synecdochal revolt. Here, the self-fed “waste fertility” of a subterraneous pseudo-star comes to overflow its role as a ‘Part’ and thus, in runaway auto-intensification, comes directly to compete with the ‘Whole’: this sol niger — as malignant telluric beam — comes to “gaze upon the [original] sun with shameless brows”. Through its crushing superfluity, the blinding darkness of this Pepsi-Sun — like Milton’s own blindness — blots out the true, and primary, lightsource of the world. The idea of Tehom, “the deep”, overthrowing true luminosity with its own excessive “darkness visible” finds parallels with Milton’s own delineation of aggressive blindness. The process of Satanic revolt (in which the Part comes to “gaze upon” the Whole) is not unnatural, quite the opposite: it the natural state of all matter. It is Means-Ends subversion. Fed on itself and looped back into its own dyspeptic pregnancy, hylomorphism becomes rotten, cancerous, and apoptotic. Moreover, it is the revocation of all top-down rule: the insuperable capacity for internal revolt and usurpation, unbeholden to any organisation, be it cosmic, organic, intellectual or political. As a form of solar self-decapitation from below, it resembles the image of the ‘belly revolting against the head’, which, in Milton’s time, had become a prime metaphor for the regicide and revolution. This is to be expected, what with the dissolution of Parliament being referred to as the ‘Purge’ and the replacement skeleton-Parliament dubbed the ‘Rump’.  The Body Politic had become autoacephalic: God and King, as the head, had been decapitated by the rest of the body (quite literally in King Charles’ beheading) — the rebellious parliament or the deregulatory tartar of God’s own scatological ex deo creation. This autoacephalica and self-cannibalisation was perfectly captured in numerous contemporary illustrations and reimaginings of Aesop’s autoanthropophagic “Fable of the Belly and the Members”:

fable of the belly and the parts
Ogilby, J. ‘Sculpture 47’ in, The Fables of Æsop, Paraphras’d in Verse, Adorn’d with Sculpture, and Illustrated with Annotations, (London, 1668), 47th Fable.

Here we witness the fear of auto-production encapsulated. It is a role now fulfilled by capital rather than any human political agitation: for, by operating primarily as a form of metynomic usurpation (whereby mere means swell, through self-selection, into ends-in-themselves), it comes to be symbolised by Pepsi (as avatar for the superstimuli revolt of the belly against the head, or desire against norms). Pepsi retrojects itself as the true subject of history: glucose hunger replaces human goals. And so, we come to full appreciation of the templex connection between Pepsi and Chaos: Miltonic Chaos is about Pepsi because Miltonic Chaos becomes real as Pepsi. As Pepsi tends towards producing itself, and only itself, the entire universe is beholden to terminal Dyspepsia, and we envision Burnet’s account of the flood returning once more. The Earth will burst forth with the black tartar of nigredo: Tehom and Tiamat return ascendant. Creation is not becoming more crystalline, but more faecal and tartareous. What, then, is the end-point of this effervescing of existence, this ontological skotison? As one of the brothers explains in Comus:

               But evil on itself shall back recoil,
And mix no more with goodness, when at last
Gathered like scum, and settled to itself
It shall be in eternal restless change
Self-fed, and self-consum’d, if this fail,
The pillared firmament is rottenness
And earth’s base built on stubble. [ll.592-8]

If this is not a statement of demonic rebellion as cybernetic positive feedback, then it is hard to say quite what else it could be. Circling into itself, as evil “on itself shall back recoil”, it becomes auto-productive, “[s]elf-fed and self-consum’d”. This is Milton’s model of cybernetic take-off. Here, he truly was acting as the blind prophet of Capital’s tendency towards metonymic (demonic) revolt: Human production tends towards replacement with Pepsi production. Increasingly, we live to consume rather than consume to live. And, with stunning prophetic acuity, Milton sees that the result of all this is meltdown: return to nigredo, tartar relapse, sol niger implosion… The great Pepsi fountains of the Earth break forth, “pillared firmament is rottenness” and “earth’s base built on stubble”.

Pepsi invents itself from the future. va-tombstone1-03

 

part 6 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

Yesterday: ‘BASILISK: Menstrual Chaotics and God’s Ectopic Pregnancy’

DAY 6. Sugar & Zero, Milton & Böhme: the Dyspeptic Abyss of Theogony


sucrose molecule.gif
Sucrose molecule.

Insofar as Milton’s Chaos is inherently auto-productive it holds the ability to be ‘about’ something (i.e. a 19th century consumer product) that was only made real centuries later, precisely because this latter was ‘realised’ by the tendencies that Miltonic Chaos identifies. This ability for something entirely temporally distal to invade the signifying universe of a poetic chronotope is the perfect symbol for the temporal distortion attendant upon self-causing auto-production. Milton’s poem retrospectively becomes about Chaos — not God, or Adam, or even Satan — insofar as his Chaos has made itself real under the aspect of Pepsi-Capital’s liquefaction of reality.[note]CAPITAL TELEONOMY = 330 = COSMIC PEPSI ULCER[/note] It is thus, like the Fall, an event within time that bends the shape of time itself. Miltonic Chaos ‘became real’ in the world-consuming nigredo of Pepsi-Cola capital, reciprocally consuming us under the sign of a tartareous hydraulic desire-surge. We see this substantiated in the occult historical connections between carbonation and prima materia. Pepsi is base matter. Chaos is pure auto-production: identical to the demonic zero that creates itself out of nothing. Just as carbonation was originally tied to the self-producing zero of chaos, sugar, as the main ingredient of Pepsi Cola, also teems with occult connections to zero.

We have already noted that the late 18th century introduction of carbonation furthered the naval prowess required to support the thickening networks of the global sugar trade (and that this lead to an increase in trade that, in turn, was required to support growing public addiction, as sugar interfaced perfectly with human nervous systems, exploiting addictive tendencies as a conduit to birth a new form of consumer culture, creating one of the first examples of auto-producing hype). To this observation we must add the fact that the route of sugar into the West exactly parallels that of auto-productive zero in both geographical provenance and historical timeline. Both were developed in India’s Gupta Empire sometime around 400 BC. They then circulated throughout the Arab world and the Near East, eventually percolating into the West, and arriving in late medieval Europe around the 11th century. Zero was transmitted via the Moors of the Iberian Peninsula, and so too was sugar (as well as coming back to Europe with soldiers returning from the crusades). Just like zero, sugar arrives in the West at the beginning of modernity — this is not a coincidence. Both, alike, unleashed forces that tore apart, and continue to tear apart, the globe, installing an oecumenon, liquidating realities, and establishing abstraction ascendant.[note]The fully liquidated world radiates abstraction ascendant; the fully capitalised world radiates effervescence ascendant.[/note] Thus, as zero, carbonation, and sugar all flow together — and facilitate each other’s development — we see how all of history converges pepsoidally and chaomantically upon the point at which Chaos realises itself under the avatar of Pepsi.

PEPSI is TARTARUS is CAPUUT MORTUM is NIGREDO is SOL NIGER

maxresdefault (3)

Existence effervesces in darkness eternal. Pepsi-Chaos — black, dark, yet tangible — is indwelling “darkness visible”. The ‘transcendental object = X’. It is both the liquid grounds of individuation, and the lubricant for the liquidation of all individuals.[note]Pagel: ‘Gas is central to [van Helmont’s] naturalist philosophy and cosmosophy’, as it is the ‘vector of object-specificity, the spiritual carrier of the specific life-plan of an object’. Joan Baptista van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine, 63.[/note] Indeed, Milton stresses this by claiming that Chaos is “one first matter all”: prima materia or massa confusa. In this light, Pepsi-Chaos, as a “first matter” — becoming curiously coeval with and internal to God himself — is significantly problematic. Milton, despite the uncomfortable conclusions of this line of thought, was forced to present it in this way because of the entailments of certain metaphysical commitments he had already selected. That is, as previously mentioned, Milton (thoroughly committed to monism and, consequently, denying any possibility of creatio ex nihilo[note]Denial of ex nihilo is perhaps the base gene of monism: for, if all that ‘is’ is being, nothing can therefore arise from non-being.[/note]) chose to pursue the idea of an ex deo creation (and, in many ways, Paradise Lost plays out as the metaphysical test chamber for this thought experiment). Accordingly, prima materia becomes legible as arising from within God himself. This philosophical decision has some benefits. It averts the logical paradoxes surrounding ex nihilo creation that so disturbed the monist Milton. It also deftly avoids the need to posit the existence of some eternal matter unrelated or external to God, from which he merely fashioned the Creation like a carpenter (which would be perceived as eternalist heresy). The brave experiment of creatio ex deo avoids the Scylla and Charybdis of these two issues only by instead postulating that God created from out of himself (somewhat like a spider weaving silk). The idea of ex deo remained a heterodox philosophical option for exactly this reason: Thomas Erastus, a few decades before Milton, had written that creatio ex deo relegates God’s act of “creationem” to merely a “secretionem”. In other words, it makes resplendent and autonomous creation into a disgusting and bodily secretion: a scatological act of expulsion.[note]Indeed, Erastus was here writing against creatio ex deo in the context of denouncing Paracelsian iatrochemistry.[/note]

Unsurprisingly, interpreters have long diverged on the true position of Milton’s Chaos as an anterior increatum, coeval and internal to the godhead. Schwartz has argued that it is simply resoundingly evil; Rumrich — advocating for a Chaos in intimate somatic unity with God — reveals the possibility of a ‘hermaphrodite’ deity[note]A deity that reflects Paracelsus in their shared hermaphroditism.[/note]; Milton himself, in his De Doctrina, attempts to appear confident that his potentia materia is totally neutral. He describes it as “fonte” and “seminariam” of all things and therefore “not [at all] evil or worthless”.[note]Note here the spermatic resonances in “seminariam”, echoing Erastus’s language of bodily secretions; likewise, notice the fact that “fonte” itself originally referred to naturally carbonated springs.[/note] Milton was probably relying here on the fact that, in many ways, Chaos cannot strictly be said to be evil, because it is itself elder than the creation of Good and Evil. However, despite Milton’s intentions, this does not ‘neutralise’ it. Instead, it lends it an even more anonymous, anomalous and alien aspect. Satan is something we can know and delimit; Chaos is even more fearful because it cannot even be conceived. For, like the divine darkness of the potentia absoluta (which, in the manner of Milton’s antinomian contemporaries, surpasses the very idea of law itself), it cannot even be related to human mental categories (and thus to moral notions). Elder than Good and Evil — elder than Law itself — this is a totally sovereign and impersonal power (not therefore neutrality): indeed, Satan, Evil, and Sin are revealed as merely vectors of this chaotic elder force. One cannot even describe it as ‘evil’, because it is so utterly beyond moral categorisation: it is total and absolute otherness. As “infinite Abyss” and “eldest Night” it is antinomianism incarnate and potentiated. [PL; ii.405, 894.] Chaos comes, through this, to resemble the abyssal ground of God’s fearful omnipotence.[note]It is the ground of his preconscious and abyssal freedom, prior to all the limits of personeity, and against which he comes to limit himself in the act of identity. Of course, this is a route that Schelling would later explicate in his Freiheitschrift of 1809. As we shall see, Milton’s thought is similar to Schelling’s — despite geographic and historical distance — because both were heavily influenced by Jakob Böhme.[/note]

Milton’s confidence in De Doctrina broods over a thinly-veiled repression, because, whatever the ‘nature’ of his Chaos (and, indeed, its nature is to have no nature because nature is nomos and limit-through-identity), it must be one with God. The consequence of creation ex deo is that God must internalise the total alien externality of Chaos. For, in order to avoid positing the eternity of a separate matter and to simultaneously dodge the logical paradoxes of ex nihilo, creatio ex deo entails that Chaos become part of God himself. This crushingly anonymous potency is cast into intimate unity with God: and, with this, Milton inherits a central problem of the voluntarist tradition.[note]Indeed, from the very beginning, the voluntarist splitting of God into absolute power and ordinate power presages the splitting of the self into the unconscious and the intellectual.[/note] It allows for a resident alien: a resident alien that, because it precedes all boundaries, becomes capable of liquidating all boundaries. Bubbling Pepsi is thus revealed as God’s chaotic unconscious, prone to the production of basilisks. Moreover, given the physiological focus of the alchemical tradition that Milton inherited, this chaos-ingestion could not but be envisioned in peptic terms. God’s act of self-individuation — the theogenic shoring up of the limits and distinctions of his intellect and intentions in contradistinction to this unlimited and indistinct power — could only be imagined as a bowel movement. In order to emerge from his chaotic, liquid unconscious, God had first to shit it out. This is the act of “tartareous” Creation described above: God’s “downward purg[ing]” of the “black tartareous cold infernal dregs” prior to the creation of the heavens and firmament. Creation is, thus, merely the excremental by-product of God’s act of self-individuation.

Such ideas are strikingly cognate with the ecstasies of another of Paracelsus’s followers: namely, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), German mystic and theologian. In Böhme’s strikingly singular description of theogeny and cosmogeny, God comes to know himself as God only by delimiting himself against an internal “Abyss” of “Eternall Nothing”: his Chaotic “ungrund”, as Böhme dubs it.[note]UNGROUND = 186 = COLA XANADU [/note] Prior to this, both God and Chaos were in a state of total and absolute indistinction. For, as Böhme makes clear, if “everything were only one, that one could not be revealed to itself”.[note] Boehme, The Works of Jacob Behmen, the Teutonic Theosopher: To Which is Prefixed the Life of the Author; with Figures Illustrating his Principles, left by the Rev. William Law, M.A, trans. W. Law, iv.Vols, (London, 1764), iii.76. In this way, he prefigures much of German Idealism. Moreover, it is from this tradition that Jung borrows his conception of alchemical prima materia to represent the indifferentiation (indiffrenz) preceding subjectification.[/note] Thus the God accedes to a state of self-knowing only through his limitation against this internal chaotic otherness. It is only through this inner splitting that the chaotic and primordial ungrund filters itself into the dichotomies of Subject/Object and God/Matter that are the sufficient conditions for the possibility of His self-consciousness. Yet, as God emerges to himself — as he comes to know himself — he necessarily only does so by purging the caput mortuum of externality from himself. Thus, the first act of subject-formation arises through an act of hygiene. He does this by setting up the barriers that enforce individuation — by gastrulating himself — and thereby evacuating the chaotic ungrund.[note]INDIVIDUATION = 268 = DISSOLVED SELF = PEPSI COLA CHAOS [/note]

Of course, attuned to the Paracelsian tradition, Böhme could not help but present this in an anal mode. He talks of the excremental “Lump” engendered “[when], between the Firmament and the Earth, [the cosmos] was cleansed from Dregs”.[note]Ibid, iv.108.[/note] For, just as “in the Body” a “Superfluity” or “Excrement” is driven out (via, as Böhme explains, a peristaltic “Inclosure round about it, viz. a Film, or Gut”) and becomes “banish[ed]” through the “nethermost Port”, so too “happened also to the Earth, when the Fiat thrust it out of the Matrix […] upon a Heap as a Lump, seeing it was unfit for Heaven”.[note]Ibid.[/note] Digestion — as an “Inclosure” that blocks out external excess — sets up the Subject only by excrementally purging the inner Chaos: this physiological boundary is directly paralleled by the normative boundary between ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ that generates rationality and conceptual intelligence through discursive “Inclosure”. It should come as no surprise, then, that Böhme theorised that in a pre-lapsarian state (prior to the introduction of Knowledge of Good and Bad into the world), Adam would have required “no teeth or any intestines” (because “no filth accumulated in him”).[note]Böhme, Genius of the Transcendent: Mystical Writings of Jakob Boehme, (Shambhala Publications, 2010), 7.[/note] Epistemic fallibility arises coeval with digestive fallibility (and, as Böhme first discovered, both are necessary conditions of individuality).[note]Milton nods to this tradition of speculation (that Adam did not have a gut or an anus) when he claims that God “did enlarge the universal diet of man’s body” when he made us free (to be right or wrong, in matters both epistemic and eupeptic).[/note] Only with such distinctions does subjectivity emerge from initiation: whether they be conceptual barriers (right from wrong) or the barrier of the “Inclosure” installed by a “Gut” (distinguishing nourishment from superfluity). Once again, we see the reinforcement of Chesterton’s decree that “aerated waters” could only be postlapsarian. Digestion is the cosmic trauma of a fallen world, but also the very condition of individuality within this world. The possibility of erring, in both culinary and moral matters, arises only after the original trauma that arrives from the originary purge of externality generative of the first internality — that is, God himself, when he ejaculated his prima materia.

We can now observe how Böhme’s theories of dyspeptic theogeny perfectly frame Milton’s own excremental Creation in Paradise Lost. Within Milton’s unavowedly monist universe, for God to emerge as a subject he must gastrically individuate himself from dyspeptic chaos. He does this by literally purging the superfluity, in the first act of digestion. Unsurprisingly, just as Milton was familiar with Paracelsus and van Helmont, he was also certainly well aware of Böhme.[note]Nathan Paget, Milton’s close friend and a man of radical speculative inclination [G. Campbell, & T.N. Corns, John Milton: Life, Work and Thought, (OUP, 2008), 321.], appears to have had a “very special interest in Boehme”. [C. Hill, Milton and the English Revolution, (Viking Press, 1978), 493-5]. His library, more specifically, contains an unusually large amount of the German philosopher’s works (some in manuscript form, others printed in the original German, prior to the English translation’s appearance). Hill speculates that it is “most likely” that Paget “would have discussed [Boehme] with [Milton]”. (Moreover, Paget owned 19 works by Paracelsus, 4 by van Helmont, and a couple by Charleton.) Further, Edward Phillips — Milton’s nephew — became embroiled deeply in the mystic’s writings: Phillips worked for the Fifth Earl of Pembroke to “interpret some of the Teutonic philosophy” of Jakob Boehme [Ibid, 493-5]. And, finally, Böhme’s name turns up in Milton’s own state papers. In an address from “Mr. Samuel Herring” to parliament from 1654, “Jacob Behmen” is described by Milton as a “noble minde […] soaring beyond the letter” with “true revelation from the true spirit”. The address even closes by proposing for the opening of academies teaching Boehme’s philosophy in England. [cf. John Milton, Original Letters and Papers of State: Address to Oliver Cromwell, Found among the Political Collections of Mr. John Milton, ed. J. Nickolls, (London, 1743), 99.][/note] The traces of Böhme’s dyspeptic divine ungrund can be found throughout Milton’s writing. Exemplary is Milton’s speculation, in De Doctrina Christiana, upon the relationship between his postulated “increatum” (i.e. “first matter”) and God. For, at this particular juncture in the theological treatise, the poet’s Latin tellingly becomes “awkward” and “barely makes sense” (‘signalling greater troubles […] with meaning’: perhaps flagging, therefore, an indigestion of signification).[note]De Doctrina, 90-1.[/note] One thing sticks out amongst the knotted syntax: an unusually high frequency of verbiage related to ‘emissions’. The language surrounding God’s “Impensionem” (‘giving out’) of base matter betrays Milton’s preoccupation with ‘emanations’. For example, Milton deploys the words “comprimere”, “eimittere”, and “propagare” in proximity (‘comprimo’ sometimes denoting constriction of the bowels; ‘emitto’, likewise, signifying discharge of bodily liquids; ‘propagare’ carrying denotation of disseminations).[note]De Doctrina, 290.[/note] Perhaps the most striking illustration of Milton’s dyspeptic model of cosmogeny and theogeny can be found in De Doctrina’s final words on the relationship between prima materia and deity in the act of Creation. Here, Milton concludes that “materia indigesta modo et incomposita, quam Deus postea digessit et ornavit”. (Which can be translated roughly as: ‘The first matter was in an indigested and disordered state, but afterwards God digested it and made it beautiful.’) Here, Milton — in  a manner identical to Böhme — explicitly declares that the relationship between Chaos, God, and Creation is one of digestion: as the “indigest” is said to be “digessit” by the divine.[note]De Doctrina, 290-2.[/note]

All of this can be reduced to a very elaborate response to the voluntarist dichotomy (the chasm between a god who is good and a god who is totally free). One that, modulated through the alchemical tradition, simultaneously generates a notion of a divine unconscious and casts this unconscious as a dyspeptic divine gut. “The soul is a (disobedient) stomach!” For, insofar as intelligence is made out of rules, preconscious and unlimited freedom is better expressed by excrement (that which exceeds regimentation). It all goes to show that even God could never fully assimilate or anabolise the potency he is grounded — and fed — upon. This is largely because it is God: an elder, impersonal, pre-individual, and unrestrained aspect of ‘himself’. It is no coincidence that Schelling, and later Jung, borrowed the language of alchemical prima materia to describe the journey from unconsciousness to subjectivity.[note]The Jungian process of enantiodromia: the procession of alchemical colours, from black nigredo (Pepsi) to white albedo, to yellow citrinitas, to red rubedo.[/note] The upshot of all of this is as follows: Creation is the by-product of the worst dyspepsia imaginable — an indigestion so cosmic that it forced God himself to become self-conscious. It is a traumatic self-awakening that impels God to limit himself against the unlimited and anonymous power of chaos: a delimitation that therefore requires an excremental purging of this chaotic base matter. After this individuating evacuation, God works to impose his intelligible forms upon the excess produced by this purge (Böhme’s faecal ‘lump’), attempting to filtrate and subtilise it (like a master alchemist) into crystalline firmaments and planets… but the “superfluity” lurks, repressed, deep within.

FANTA™ = RUBEDO (as cinnabar)

MOUNTAIN DEW™ = CITRINITAS

CALPIS™ = ALBEDO

PEPSI™ = NIGREDO (as pepsoidal ungrund™)

Screenshot 2017-10-30 01.37.44
Arcane geometric resemblances are detectable between Böhme’s mystical illustrations of abyssal theogony and PepsiCo marketing logo.

Tomorrow: ‘𝕯𝖊𝖘𝖈𝖊𝖓𝖘𝖚𝖘 𝖆𝖉 𝕴𝖓𝖋𝖊𝖗𝖔𝖘: or, My 🅱elly Consumed My Head’

 

part 4 – cosmic dys𝔭𝔢𝔭𝔰𝔦a & divine excrement: or, an essay unveiling the teleoplexic identity of miltonic chaos, capitalist nigredo and alchemical pepsi cola™

Yesterday: ‘Peristaltic Metaphysics and the Invention of Pepsi’

DAY 4. Alchemy to Chemistry: or, the Occult History of Carbonated Beverages and the Secret Origins of Pepsi Cola


Pepsi Cola was not the first fizzy drink. Neither was it the first fizzy drink to be packaged as a digestive aid. In terms of deep historical lineage, fizzy drinks emerged directly out of the alchemical and iatrochemical tradition and its obsession with the secrets of gastroenterology. Put differently, Pepsi’s occult genetic history — the story of its emergence into the world — connects straight back to the lab of van Helmont and the speculations of Paracelsus: Pepsi’s genesis is thus inextricably tangled up with the ideas that percolate through Paradise Lost’s alchemical metaphysics.

In 1767, Joseph Priestley — dissenting theologian, radical chemist and political utopian — moved into a new house in Leeds. It was next to a brewery. Chemists at the time were fervently experimenting with gases, leading, eventually, to Lavoisier’s dismissal of the phlogiston theory of combustion; the discovery of oxygen (in part also attributed to Priestley); and the postulation of chemical elements, igniting, in other words, the birth of modern chemistry. Of particular research interest at the time was a curious colourless and odourless gas that was referred to as ‘fixed air’ or ‘factitious air’. Chemists had long been interested in its strange properties: for example, if you held a flame in it, it would be extinguished, and it was known to suffocate animals. Importantly, it also notoriously collected in wineries and breweries. Taking advantage of his surroundings, the freshly-settled Priestley set to work, requesting his new neighbours’ permission to begin experiments on their premises. Heavier than air, this gas (which we now call ‘carbon dioxide’ after Lavoisier’s later identification of it) would build up above the fermentation vats (indeed, it had long proved a lethal danger as it was prone to pool in silos and cellars, asphyxiating unwitting workers). Priestley, accordingly, began attempts to extract this so-called ‘fixed air’ from above the brewery’s beer vats. Following one experiment — in which he poured water from one container to another just above the fermenting vats — the chemist noticed that the liquid had suddenly become effervescent or, as he put it, “impregnated with air”.[note]Joseph Priestley, Impregnating Water with Fixed Air; In order to communicate to it the peculiar Spirit and Virtues of Pyrmont water, and other Mineral Waters of Similar Nature (1772).[/note] Priestley, in other words, had just made the world’s first artificial fizzy drink. Soda could now be unleashed upon the world. Always a utopian, Priestley later said this was his “happiest” invention.[note]Just as they were misidentified — upon arrival — as agents of eupepsia (rather than the dyspepsia-generators they really are), soft drinks were routinely mistaken for utopian items. Before its eventual unveiling as an agent of capital’s superstimuli invasion and means-ends reversal, fizziness became symbolic of utopia. The eccentric François Marie Charles Fourier was famous, of course, for imagining that an environmentally re-engineered earth would soon begin exhibiting oceans of lemonade. One imagines the fully-capitalised earth exhibiting the opposite: surging with obsidian seas of necrotizing cola.[/note] Little did he know…

Without hesitation, Priestley immediately billed his discovery as a cure for digestive issues. (This would become part of a tradition surrounding carbonated liquids extending from Priestley forwards to Bradham and backwards to Paracelsus.) He became convinced that his new artificially-manufactured carbonated water would help to prevent scurvy — the horrendous affliction that had murdered around two million sailors between 1500 and 1800.[note]Simon Shorvon & Humphrey Hodgson, Physicians and the War (Hachette, 2016), 37.[/note] Importantly, scurvy (just before James Lind’s research demonstrated it to be caused by a deficit of vitamins, curable with citrus) was considered a digestive illness. It was thought that the disease was occasioned by the dyspeptic “putrefaction” of the sufferer’s visceral organs, arising from indigested foodstuffs rotting inside their intestines. Under the impression that the fizzy water would help alleviate this (and sensing government commendation), Priestley proposed soda drinks as a cure to scurvy in a 1772 paper addressed to the British Admiralty, entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air; In order to communicate to it the peculiar Spirit and Virtues of Pyrmont water, and other Mineral Waters of Similar Nature.[note]Fizzy water took the name ‘Pyrmont water’ due to a famous naturally carbonated spring in Pyrmont, Germany. Earlier in the century, scientists had demonstrated that Pyrmont’s water was fizzy due to the ‘impregnation’ of ‘fixed air’ within it.[/note] Therein, Priestley provided an appendix detailing the treatment — via administration of ‘fixed air’ beverages — of a patient with a “putrescent state of the [internal] fluids”. “Fevers of the putrid kind” are cured by “fixed air”, it was confidently reported.[note]Joseph Priestley, Impregnating Water with Fixed Air; In order to communicate to it the peculiar Spirit and Virtues of Pyrmont water, and other Mineral Waters of Similar Nature (London, 1772), 18.[/note] In agreement with this conclusion, Nathaniel Hulme (1732-1807) — an influential naval surgeon — became likewise convinced that the cause of scurvy was bad diet and insisted that imbibing “fixed air” would “prevent the putrefaction of human tissue by disease”.[note]Indeed, prior to Priestley’s invention of reliably creating soda water, the production of beverages from carbonic acids had been common. So-called “Elixir of Vitriol” was a common treatment, which was presumed to engender “fixed air” effervescence in the stomach and banish the disease. Carbonated waters were introduced as a scorbutic cure as early as 1764. The practice of administering these highly acidic drinks would likely have done more to hinder than help, and unfortunately remained in place until 1795.[/note] Subsequently, a device for producing carbonated drinks was installed on board James Cook’s HMS Resolution, and, sure enough, none of his crew suffered from scorbutic blight. In hindsight, this had more to do with Cook’s meticulous captainship and good practice; the carbonated drinks, nevertheless, were considered a great success. It was not long until a German watchmaker called Johann Jacob Schweppe (1740-1821) set up the first mass production factory for carbonated drinks in Drury Lane, and, riding on the back of contemporary medicinal wisdom, he marketed his soft drink as a cure for biliousness. From the very beginning, then, carbonated drinks were related intimately to peptic issues: it was this tradition of entwining medicinal presumptions and entrepreneurial savvy — entrenched in the 18th century by Priestley, Hulme, Schweppe, etc. — that Caleb Bradham, inventor of Pepsi, was drawing on in the 1890s when he invented his exhilarating ‘cure’ for dyspepsia.

Returning to the late 1700s, however, we see that the benefits of fizz were so highly regarded that they even briefly became the subject of military intrigue. Following the nautical success of Priestley’s “impregnated water”, “[t]he Royal Society […] thought it was the start of a medical and travel revolution”[note]Tristan Donovan, Fizz: How Soda Shook up the World (Chicago, 2013), 8.[/note], and this was instantly perceived as “vital to the strategic interest of the Royal Navy since carbonated water [was thought to remain] fresh longer [and] was useful for treating upset stomachs”.[note]Arthur Greenberg, From Alchemy to Chemistry, (Wiley, 2006), 290.[/note] It was considered a naval breakthrough. Where it had previously been a concern that France — a country filled with naturally carbonated mineral water springs — may have the edge on the Navy in this department, the Brits had suddenly upended the asymmetry. Along with Lind’s breakthroughs in vitamin deficiency, it was not long until carbonated lime juice was a regular for the navy (hence, ‘Limeys’). As Greenberg writes, “Priestley thus helped Britannia to ‘rule the waves'”. Fascinatingly, this strategic “soda-pop gap” triggered an episode of international espionage wherein a Portugese monk[note]Named Joaoa Jacinto de Magelhaens.[/note], acting in French interests as a spy within the UK, purloined a copy of Priestley’s paper and sent it back to Lavoisier. (Like any good world-changing consumer item, Pepsi — along with the internet, jet engines, and microwaves — started life as a military invention.) From this view, Pepsi’s self-assembly feeds back into itself — in a veritable bootstrapping process — as the naval prowess bequeathed by carbonation technology facilitated the furthering of the sugar trade’s global network[note]Indeed, it was precisely around this time — during the later 18th century — that sugar exploded into a household commodity, possessing the taste-buds of Europeans: the New World islands took full advantage of this and the overseas trade boomed. In England and Wales, sugar consumption increased 2000% in the 1700s.[/note], thus dragging world history further towards convergence upon the point at which sugar-addiction and fizziness merge in the invention of cola.

scurvy.jpg
Scurvy affliction / scorbutic legs.

Nevertheless, for all his genius, Priestley could not have stumbled upon the production of carbonated water if he had not been previously aware of ‘fixed air’. He could not have made his aerated waters without a prior notion of gas. And gas is, itself, a direct invention of the alchemical-archeus tradition. ‘Gas’ was first identified by none other than Jan Baptist van Helmont in his own speculations upon digestion and the various nested archaei of the natural order. “He was the first to realise that gaseous substances other than air exist”, writes Almqvist.[note]Ebbe Almqvist, History of Industrial Gases (Plenum, 2003), 3.[/note] And the first gas van Helmont discovered — thus the first gas ever properly described by science — was, appropriately, carbon dioxide. Indeed, Paracelsus had himself made some headway in this department (suggesting that there was something in the air that sustained living organisms, and by experimenting with hydrogen)[note]Paracelsus saw that when iron is dissolved in sulfuric acid “air rises and breaks out like wind”. Unbeknownst to Paraclesus this was hydrogen.[/note], yet it was van Helmont who first discovered CO2 as a “gas” separate from air.[note] “In consequence of burning coal ‘spiritus sylverstris’ comes into being. This spiritus, which was formerly unknown and cannot be kept in vessels, and cannot be converted into a visible form, I call by the new name ‘gas’.” Helmont, Ortus Medicinae, (Amsterdam, 1656). Thus, the invention of Pepsi stretches back from Bradham to Priestley and from there to van Helmont: it was exactly van Helmont’s discovery of CO2 in the 17th century that allowed for Priestley, in the 18th century, to kick-start the formation of the global soda industry in the ensuing 19th and 20th centuries. It was also as a direct consequence of van Helmont’s experimentations with CO2 and carbonated waters that Robert Boyle later was able to formulate his important ‘Boyle’s law’.[/note] Moreover, it was exactly van Helmont’s fascination with gastric process that originally led him to this discovery in the first place. Spurred on by his theory of the archeus, in which all cosmic processes are essentially digestive processes, van Helmont experimented heavily with fermentation processes. This is what first led him to notice that what he called “gas sylvestre” (carbon dioxide) was a separate substance from air. From carefully observing fermentation (which he took to be the digestive work of the universal archeus), van Helmont founded the concept of ‘gas’, coining the word at the same time. Helmont noted, moreover, that “gas sylvestre” arose in both wine cellars and breweries and in naturally-carbonated spring waters.[note]There is a direct line of experiments from here to Priestley’s work. Following van Helmont, others in the early 18th century had developed the connection between ‘fixed air’ and effervescent mineral waters: early in the century, the artificial production of ‘fixed air’ was developed via applying acid to chalk; and in 1741, William Brownrigg demonstrated the famous Pyrmont waters were “aerated” because they contain precisely this “fixed air” gas; Brownrigg had heated a bottle of spa water and, collecting the CO2, suffocated mice with it. Around 1757, Joseph Black produced the first systematic investigation of CO2; in 1770, Torben Bergman started trying to document the composition of spring waters in detail. No-one, until Priestley, however, had managed to reliably create drinkable fizziness (although a Frenchman named Gabriel Venel had attempted to duplicate the Selters water, it had developed a foul taste in the process). Priestley produced an apparatus for producing this water; soon after, by 1781, carbonated water was able to be produced on a large scale.[/note] As Pagel writes, “gas [became] central to his naturalist philosophy and cosmosophy”.[note]Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont: Reformer of Science and Medicine (CUP, 2002), 61.[/note] Finally, van Helmont first demonstrated that CO2 was given off when acid was poured on carbonates: it is from here that ‘soda water’ gets its name, because cooking soda was a commonly used carbonate for this process.

donat-mg-kozarec

Aside from providing the awareness of gases that allowed Priestley and others to produce soda water, the very idea that carbonated liquids are good for digestion can be traced directly back to the iatrochemists. Naturally, both van Helmont and his mentor Paracelsus were incredibly interested in carbonated mineral waters arising from spas and springs. Paracelsus, who was born the year after Columbus first voyaged to the American continent (bringing with him the sugarcane seedlings that would eventually blossom into the globally enveloping market turbulence of the Sugar Trade)[note]And thus installing the material conditions of worldwide Pepsi-production.[/note], is known as the “father of balneology” for his pioneering medical interest in carbonated spring waters (balneology, of course, being the study of medicinal spring bathing and the therapeutic effects of their waters).[note]H Schadewaldt, ‘Paracelsus and Balneology’, in Schweiz Rundsch Med Prax., 29:83 (1994), 371-6.[/note] Since antiquity, civilizations have been mesmerised by fizzy water bubbling out of the earth. Soda water has long been known as ‘Seltzer water’ because of the famous Selterswasser springs in Selters, Netherlands, which have been documented since 771 AD. Further back, since at least Hippocrates, fizzy spa water had been associated with eupepsia and good health. Hannibal famously refreshed himself with fizzing water from Vergeze on his way to sack Rome in 218 BC. Medieval alchemists prescribed effervesced spring waters to promote good digestion. Soon, after the 14th century, an international trade for bottled spa water arose. Accordingly, across Europe, natural springs and baths slowly became healing centres: including, for example, the famous Pyrmont mineral springs in Germany or the town of Spa in Belgium. Perrier Soda Water, indeed, is still bottled from a naturally occurring spring. Nevertheless, it was Paracelsus who is said to have initiated the concerted study of the properties of these fizzy springs.

In the summer of 1535 he travelled the spa town of Bad Pfafers, from which he wrote his influential Baderbuchlin (which we know John Dee read eagerly).[note]John Dee’s annotations on Paracelsus’s Baderbuchlin.baderbuchlinwithjohndeesannotations[/note] Always obsessed with digestion, Paracelsus was quick to focus discussion upon the supposedly eupeptic properties of the water. He praised carbonated spring water as “driv[ing] away gout, and mak[ing] the stomach as strong in digestion as that of a bird that digests tartar and iron”.[note]Walter Pagel, Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance (Karger, 1982), 26.[/note] Imagining the ‘occult’ powers of the earth’s chthonic healing laboratories — fizzing forth at the surface in this natural medicine — Paracelsus became enthused: he attempted to artificially recreate the fizziness, but met with no success. It was, as we have seen, only with his apprentice, van Helmont, that this effervescence first became the subject of reverse engineering, thus opening the pathway to the industrial and globalised production of soft drinks. Speculating even that the acidity of the spa waters held some occult connection with gastric acid, Paracelsus and van Helmont enthusiastically opined that carbonated waters were better than almost any other medicines. Bolstering an enduring fascination with the fizziness that seeps from the planet’s chthonic depths — stretching back to Hippocrates, and becoming more popular throughout the Middle Ages — the iatrochemical tradition helped to fully entrench the connection between fizz and eupepsia in the public consciousness.

 

Tomorrow: ‘🅱🅰🆂🅸🅻🅸🆂🅺: Menstrual Chaotics and God’s Ectopic Pregnancy’

 

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


ulcerformation

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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]https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/11/lobster-claw-pepsi-soda-can-new-brunswick-spd/[/note] Why has Pepsi begun to invade even the abyssopelagic zones of the earth? And why has it chosen crustaceans as its avatar?

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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.

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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.

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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, vol.vi 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

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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.

cataracts

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.

gut.jpg

Tomorrow: ‘Peristaltic Metaphysics and the Invention of Pepsi’