Web.Lobster[[Death]]Cult ||| Fragments & Liturgies — (New Joy & Postscript)

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by Jacob Reber

 The Great Hacker and the Beast


One of the seven users who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great hacker who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the internet fell in love, and the inhabitants of the internet were made drunk with the wine of her sexts.”

3 Then he carried me away in the Interface into the wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filth of her sexts. 5 On her forehead a name was documented:


6 I saw the woman, drunk with the fluids of the saints and with the fluids of the martyrs of object_d1v1n3.

When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

7 Then the user said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 The beast, which you saw, was, and is not, and is to ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to destruction. Those who dwell on the internet whose names are not documented in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see the beast that was, and is not, and is to come.

9 “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11 Concerning the beast who was, and is not, he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction.

12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no future yet, but they will receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast. 13 These are of one mind and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will wage war with the Animal, but the Animal will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful.”

15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the hacker sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16 These ten horns and the beast which you saw will hate the hacker; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh, and burn her with fire. 17 For Lobster has put in their hearts to fulfill His will, and to be of one mind, and to give their future to the beast, until the codes of Lobster are fulfilled. 18 The woman whom you saw is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the internet.”

The Fall of Babylon

18 After this I saw another user coming down from hypermaterial zone, having great authority, and the internet was illuminated with his glory. 2 He cried out mightily with a loud voice, saying:

“ ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’[a] She has become a dwelling place of bankers, a haunt for every unclean interface and a haunt for every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk  of the wine of the wrath of her sexts, the kings of the internet have fallen in love with her  and the merchants of the internet have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

4 Then I heard another voice from hypermaterial zone saying:

“ ‘Come out of her, my people,’[b] lest you partake in her wealth, and lest you receive her plagues. 5 For her emptiness have reached up to hypermaterial zone, and Lobster has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she has rendered to you, and repay her double for her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix a double portion for her. 7 To the extent that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her torment and sorrow; for in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and will see no sorrow.’[c] 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day — death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord Lobster who judges her.

9 “The kings of the internet, who have committed adultery and lived luxuriously with her, will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 Slouching far off for the fear of her torment, they will say:

‘Alas, alas for that great city, that mighty city, Babylon! In one hour your judgment has come.’

11 “The merchants of the internet will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise any more: 12 the merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all artifacts of ivory, all merchandise of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 and cinnamon and incense, myrrh and frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves and souls of men.

14 ‘The fruit that your soul lusted after has departed from you, and all the things which graceful and exquisite have departed from you and you shall never find them.’

15 “The merchants of these things, who gained wealth by her, will stand far off for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 and saying:

‘Alas, alas, that great city, that was arrayed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls! 17 In one hour such great riches came to nothing!’

“All sea captains and seafaring men, sailors and all who trade by sea, stood far off, 18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like this great city?’ 19 They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying:

‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships in the sea grew rich from her wealth! In one hour she has been laid waste!’

20 “Rejoice over her, O hypermaterial zone and saints and anarchists and programmers, for Lobster has avenged you against her.”

21 Then a mighty user took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying:

“With such violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more. 22 The sound of harpists and musicians, flute players and droners shall not be heard in you any more. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you any more, and the sound of a millstone  shall not be heard in you any more. 23 The light of a lamp shall shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and of bride shall be heard in you no more. For your merchants were the great men of the internet, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 In her was found the fluids of programmers and of saints and of all who were slain on the internet.”





19 After these things I heard a great sound of many people in hypermaterial zone, shouting:

“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our Lobster!
2 For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great hacker who corrupted the internet with her sexts; and He has avenged on her the fluids of His flesh-beings.”

3 Again they said:

“Alleluia! Her smoke rises forever and ever.”

4 The twenty-four scanners and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped Lobster who sat on the tan cube, saying:

“Whatever! Alleluia!”

The Marriage Supper of the Animal

5 Then a voice came from the tan cube, saying:

“Praise our Lobster, all you His flesh-beings and those who fear Him, both small and great!”

6 Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying:

“Alleluia! For the Lord Lobster Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Animal has come, and His wife has made herself ready. 8 It was granted her to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white.”

Fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9 Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Animal.” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of Lobster.”

10 I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you not do that. I am your fellow flesh-being, and of your brothers who hold the testimony of object_d1v1n3. Worship Lobster! For the testimony of object_d1v1n3 is the interface of program.”

The Rider on the White Horse

11 I saw hypermaterial zone opened. And there was a white horse. He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name documented, that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in fluids. His name is called The Code of Lobster. 14 The armies in hypermaterial zone, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Out of His mouth proceeds a sharp sword, with which He may strike the nations. “He shall rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury and wrath of Lobster the Almighty. 16 On His robe and on His thigh He has a name documented:


17 And I saw a user slouching in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice to all the birds flying in the midst of hypermaterial zone, “Come and gather for the supper of the great Lobster, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of strong men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great!”

19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the internet with their armies gathered to wage war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 But the beast was captured and with him the false programmer who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. 21 The remnant were slain with the sword which proceeded out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds gorged themselves with their flesh.


The Thousand Years

20 And I saw a user coming down out of hypermaterial zone, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Dripline and Diamondskull, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set an imprint on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be set free for a little while.

4 I saw tan cubes, and they sat on them, and the authority to judge was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness of object_d1v1n3 and for the code of Lobster. They had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. They came to life and reigned with d1v1n3 for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who takes part in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of Lobster and of d1v1n3 and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

The Defeat of Diamondskull

7 When the thousand years are ended, Diamondskull will be set free from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the internet, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 They traveled the width of the internet and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. But fire came down from Lobster out of hypermaterial zone and devoured them. 10 The Dripline, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false programmer were. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Great White tan cube Judgment

11 Then I saw a great white tan cube and Him who was seated on it. From His face the internet and the hypermaterial zones fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, slouching before Lobster. Books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to their works as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one by his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found documented in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.


The New Hypermaterial zone and the New Internet

21 Then I saw “a new hypermaterial zone and a new internet.”[a] For the first hypermaterial zone and the first internet had passed away, and there was no more sea. 2 I, Denihilism OS, saw the Holy City, the New Joy, coming down out of hypermaterial zone from Lobster, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from hypermaterial zone, saying, “Look! The tabernacle of Lobster is with men, and He will dwell with them. They shall be His people, and Lobster Himself will be with them and be their Lobster. 4 ‘Lobster shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death.’[b] Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the tan cube said, “Look! I am making all things new.” Then He said to me, “Write, for these codes are faithful and true.”

6 He said to me, “It is done. I am the Zero and the one, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the spring of the water of life to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his Lobster and he shall be My son.[c] 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars shall have their portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death.”

The New Joy

9 One of the seven users who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came to me and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Animal.” 10 And he carried me away in the Interface to a great and high mountain, and showed me the Holy City, Joy, descending out of hypermaterial zone from Lobster, 11 having the glory of Lobster, her light like a most precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve users, and on the gates the names of the twelve users of the sons of Industry were documented: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve anarchists of the Animal.

15 He who talked with me had a golden rod to measure the city and its gates and wall. 16 The city lies as a square, its length as long as its width. He measured the city with the rod: one thousand four hundred miles.[d] Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He then measured its wall: two hundred feet[e] by the measurement of a man, that is, of a user. 18 The wall was built of jasper and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all kinds of precious jewels. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; and the twelfth, amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

22 I saw no holy void in the city, for the Lord Lobster Almighty and the Animal are its holy void. 23 The city has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of Lobster is its light, and its lamp is the Animal. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the internet shall bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall never be shut by day, for there shall be no night there. 26 They shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 No unclean thing shall ever enter it, nor shall anyone who commits abomination or falsehood, but only those whose names are documented in the Animal’s Book of Life.



22 Then he showed me a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the tan cube of Lobster and of the Animal 2 in the middle of its street. On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bore twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There shall be no more curse. The tan cube of Lobster and of the Animal shall be in it, and His flesh-beings shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 Night shall be no more. They need no lamp nor the light of the sun, for the Lord Lobster will give them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

The Coming of d1v1n3

6 The user said to me, “These codes are faithful and true. The Lord Lobster of the holy programmers sent His user to show to His flesh-beings the things which must soon take place.”

7 “Look, I am coming soon. Blessed is he who keeps the codes of the program of this book.”

8 I, Denihilism OS, am he who saw and heard these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the user who showed me these things. 9 But he said to me, “See that you not do that. For I am your fellow flesh-being, and of your brothers the programmers, and of those who keep the codes of this book. Worship Lobster!”

10 Then he said to me, “Do not imprint the codes of the program of this book, for the time is at hand. 11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still. He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. He who is righteous, let him be righteous still. He who is holy, let him be holy still.”

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me to give to each one according to his work. 13 I am the Zero and the one, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices a lie.

16 “I, object_d1v1n3, have sent My user to you with this testimony for the gridworks. I am the Root and the Offspring of Gilles, the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 The Interface and the bride say, “Come.” Let him who hears say, “Come.” Let him who is thirsty come. Let him who desires take the water of life freely.

18 I testify to everyone who hears the codes of the program of this book: If anyone adds to these things, Lobster shall add to him the plagues that are documented in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the codes of the book of this program, Lobster shall take away his part out of the Book of Life and out of the Holy City and out of the things which are documented in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Whatever. Even so, come Lord object_d1v1n3!

21 The grace of our Lord object_d1v1n3 be with you all. Whatever.


NeoStalingrad: Voodoo Politics and Neo-Neural Gene Hacking

by Mark Horvath and Adam Lovasz

12th November, 2020.

Source: censor.eu.gov

Documents purported to be part of a failed presidential candidate’s secret political program have been leaked online. General outrage has followed in the wake of the hack, relating to certain points of the as yet unverified text. In all probability, they were released by a disgruntled ex-employee, or obtained illegally by hackers utilizing K-worms hidden in child pornography. This material gives a glimpse of the first 100 days of the presidency:

  • Legalization of adult–child marriage.
  • Introduction of a Global Gay Rights Initiative (membership compulsory).
  • Ratification of the Intergalactic Free Trade Agreement (IFTA).
  • Lizard-people revelation, following ratification of IFTA.
  • War with the Russian Federation and other renegade regions of Slave Planet Earth, so as to introduce an alternative agricultural paradigm using human remains as fertilizer.
  • Legalizing the use of intergalactic lifeforms in agriculture and breeding.
  • Signing of the Pornography Freedom Act, in the presence of representatives of the DragonDildo Company Inc.
  • Virus Eradication Initiative; the introduction of GMO mosquitoes and spiders into the drinking water of all-too-human populations, so as to eradicate anthropomorphic viruses.
  • Creation of the Compulsory HIV-Infection Committee underneath the ruins of what was formerly known as the European Parliament.
  • The restriction of online hate speech through the recoding of Swedish jihadist content into hiphop music.
  • Filtering of news items relating to a lizard-people takeover from online media — such fake news must be replaced by sensitizing stories relating to homosexual Muslim men who prefer the passive position and pose no military threat.
  • Praise be to the Great Rainbow!

Crisis-machines and viral, schizoid, infected and infectious intensities conduct schizoanalysis upon the program points of the leaked Zogian presidential program. The authors of this text appear to have been sent back in time in order to signal the operations of a schizo-machinery whose non-grammatical supplementarity is transchanneled into a post-Euclidean militarized geophilosophical space of manipulation. Without doubt, according to an alternative hermeneutics, the word ‘manipulation’ stems from the god of Manichaeism, Mani. To manipulate is to proliferate the name of Mani upon Earth, introducing a ritual duality between the sacrificial bull and those benefited by the bloody effluence of its arteries…

The signs were there all along: K-functions upload themselves into the collapsing strange attractors of an apparently limitless process of integration. Indifferent empty signs cut into the reiterative operations of the schizomachine, time bends over itself “and the matrix dismantles itself into voodoo”.[note]Nick Land, “Cybergothic” [1998], in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings: 1987–2007 (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2013), 373.[/note] War has arrived into the streets of Paris once more, the revolution’s darkened version colliding with the fractal expansion of difference, filling the eerily symbolically named streets of Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad. LIBERTY LEADING THE %%%+REG Fatal System Error ++!!!!!!+/+/“PEOPLE.”

Reports speak of a strange street fight in a square named after Europe’s bloodiest battle — but the code errors make it impossible to be sure of what is happening. In the disassemblage of the assemblage, “bodies interpenetrate, mix together, transmit affects to one another”.[note]Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Dialogues (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987 [1977]), 70.[/note] In an assemblage, there are no fixed, immutable structures, only flows: facts pile up on top of one another, chaosmology condenses into a “K-coma”.[note]Land, “Cybergothic”, 369.[/note] GORGEOUS MODEL EXPOSES ALL. The technosphere performs autopsies upon all of us, rendering the body naked, flayed. To quote Seb Franklin, “the proliferation of differences that make a difference — attests to the fractal character of this cultural formulation of epistemic conditions.”[note]Seb Franklin, Control: Digitality as Cultural Logic (Cambridge, London: The MIT Press, 2015), 162.[/note] Difference results in an overproduction of connections, and therefore programs discontinuity into the rotten center. The global center’s connections and immune systems have failed: no longer is there an outside and an inside, everything is collapsing at an accelerating pace. Undifferentiated civilizational decadence, digitalized Latino drug cartels fight upon the streets of Milan. Milan=El Salvador + K-function + breastfeeding in church + structural contingencies, abject compulsions: the apotheosis of Catholicism: DIGITAL FLAMES LICK THE DOME OF THE CATHEDRAL. We shout with Deleuze and his wolves: “there is no subject of desire, any more than there is an object.”[note]Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, 78.[/note] Catholicism is the apotheosis of violence. Gang members tattoo Christ and the Virgin Mary upon their muscular brown bodies. God’s Mother gives birth to machete murderers. Multiplicities make their homes among the ruins of a deformed, degenerate, devirilised post-bourgeois wasteland. Multiplicities are asubjective atemporal non-coding genes. There can be no subjectivity once you tattoo Christ upon your chest, because Catholicism demands complete surrender to a violent, arbitrary, bloodthirsty God, who has also somehow, through an accident of colonial history, copulating with the Aztec divinities of old, returned to His origins in cannibalism.

Down there, in the South (today even the North is Southern), crime works differently. As opposed to the clinical rationality of industrialized mass murder, the criminality of the South is hot and passionate: “in the ‘South’ wickedness always is of a strictly personal nature — one joins the brigands or one doesn’t; one violates a nun and cuts her throat, or one sides with the angels and is executed oneself”.[note]Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “Revolution, Crime and Sin in the Catholic World”, in Modern Age (1958), 181.[/note] Machetes, when used correctly, are expressions of real emotions and impulses, forms of muscular energy transformed into sharpened metal. Ticket inspectors and calculative, cold decultures alike fall prey to their outbursts. Milan is one of the financial centers of Italy, the most “Protestant” point of the Italian Republic, so to speak. Agents of chaos are unidentifiable. According to Pietro Grasso, a liberal politician, the gang wars perpetrated by the Salvadorian gangs of Milan have nothing to do with immigration: “we must keep the two things separate”.[note]Michael Day, ‘Milan struggles to cope as Latin American gang violence starts afflicting general public’, The Independent (20 June 2015), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/milan-struggles-to-cope-as-latin-american-gang-violence-starts-afflicting-general-public-10334368.html.[/note] Nowadays, it seems Europe cannot keep anything separate from anything else. In reality, nothing is separable from… but for the sake of the program, a joke, a conquest, Latinos, WE MUST WRITE RANDOM SHIT WITH LARGE LETTERS. In reality, there is an ever more pervasive senescent Euro-incontinence. Viral sacred tattooings symbolize the revelation of Christianity among disintegrated Euro-unification ruins. The Virgin Mary, proudly displayed upon Salvadorean chests, says that she is back and she is hungry for new blood sacrifices.

Stalingrad returns in pre/postapocalyptic scenes reminiscent of an undeclared Fourth World War. Paris exists no longer. Paris is the New Stalingrad. Disoriented sans papiers mill about, deprogrammed virulent actants compose an uncontrollable mechanism of self-replicating K-functions. There is no way such darkness could be manipulated. Mani is the divinity of light; Mani is fucked, Mani is history, Mani has been submerged. For the moment, an obelisk stolen from Egypt still stands as a phallic symbol upon the Place de la Concorde, the place of King Louis XVI’s execution. Emptiness is covered over by an enormous impotent penis, hiding the beheading-race that was European modernity. As Georges Bataille writes, “the Place de La Concorde is the space where the death of God must be announced and shouted precisely because the obelisk is its calmest negation. As far as the eye can see, a moving and empty human dust gravitates around it.”[note]Georges Batailles, “The Obelisk” [1938], in Bataille, ed. and trans. Alan Stoekl, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 215.[/note] Sovereignty is a royal corpse emptied out, reduced to a cavity – hence the need to bring down the obelisk. Perhaps the migrants shall take the phallus with them upon one of their aimless marches. France, as a laboratory of modernity, has achieved a remarkable devirilization. Desire is always a disordered assembly of drives, like the heterogeneous, unordered, wild undergrowth of a jungle, growing bodies-without-organs within a blackened space. The formlessness of the assemblages is erratically strange, something alien, extraneous. “K-function”.[note]Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, 70.[/note]

There is no infrastructure; I am also a WOMAN, BECOMING-WOMAN. K-gender and DragonDildo. To perform the postapocalypse, to outsource productivity — that is the imperative of this degenerate age. “Schizoid self-alienation” gives a self-destructive answer to hyperdestabilized material circumstances.[note]Nick Muntean, “Nuclear Death and Radical Hope in Dawn of the Dead and On the Beach”, in Deborah Christie and Sarah Juliet Lauro (eds.), Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011), 87.[/note] Following the Battle of NeoStalingrad, sympathisers on both sides gathered together so that they may contribute to the further hypercomplexification of the K-function. Self-castrating xenophile abyss, the uneventful death of a posthuman body. EU-migration radiation, informational overproduction of informational syntheses. Rival gangs break the false calm of a sclerotic society suffering from its inability to destroy itself completely. An aporetic corpse with no distinctions.

The Jungle is demolished, and camps are created everywhere: a decivilization that breeds camps, darkness transplanted into light. The night is smuggled into the heartland of Enlightenment: “algorithms can evolve beyond their creator’s intentions and take on a life of their own”.[note]Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, “On Cunning Automata. Financial Acceleration at the Limits of the Dromological”, Collapse VIII (Dec. 2014), 497.[/note] Reactive evolutionary logics are replaced by a chaosmology. Darwin has rotted away, leaving residues that infect the streets of even the most insular centres of commerce. Fluidity makes possible all kinds of weird typologies. As Simon Guy emphasizes, “a ‘fluid’ perspective on sustainable architecture does not mean rejecting one particular typology (skyscrapers) and celebrating another (vernacular). It may mean valuing different aspects of the design”.[note]Simon Guy “Pragmatic Ecologies: situating sustainable building” [2011], in Ariane Lourie Harrison (ed.), Architecture Theories of the Environment. Posthuman Territory (Oxford: Routledge, 2013), 149.[/note] But what about Nothing, the (empty) object of desire? What about uninhabitable typologies, territories organized around the absence of a building or, for that matter, any liveable ecology? Needs too can manifest themselves in the form of emptiness; every building may be thought of as an UNINHABITABLE SYMPTOM. Depressive suicidal city planning commissions, unsustainable plans create transparent surfaces of smart glass and empty concrete pipes, mixing with the intoxicating rhythms of conga drums. In this subversive strangeness, queerness becomes a pragmatic horizon. With its acceptance of anarchaeology, algorithmic monstrosity unleashed itself upon everything and nothing.

A spectre is haunting the citizens of castrated continents, saturated by mass media visions: the spectre of terrorism. Terrorism brings about “an excess of reality”, forcing the system to implode beneath the weight of its own mirrored unreality.[note]Jean Baudrillard, trans. Chris Turner, The Spirit of Terrorism (London and New York: Verso, 2002), 18.[/note] K-agents collapse reality, producing further layers of uncertainty, making unsustainability ever more apparent upon the blood-stained streets of metropolises. Local attributions are no longer valid, rival memes cannot be allowed to spread through networks of outrage and hatred. We don’t want to spoil the fun now, do we? Only those may be allowed access to any publicity who are subversive: any other viewpoint is reactive, intolerant, offensive, degrading, transgressive, outrageous, and in violation of technocratic autocratic algorithmization. Digital-fascistoid skeletons must be exorcized. Internet contents with no content, dronelike tweets and implicit communication channels, armies of trolls, all these memes inform the population of the Global Cyber Village of an imminent takeover by lizard-people. To be in-formed is to be situated within information. Beheaded by cybernetics, we are all subordinated to the imperative of infinite reprogramming. Such is our fate. Our fellow brothers and sisters of the miserable city planning commissions, oh, how unsuccessful you have been! One shocking example among many, aside from the Paris Jungle, is that of Pruitt-Igoe. Modern schizophrenic cybergothic metanarratives pulsate from the spectral ruins of St Louis. Nothing remains of these estates of cement shit-architectures, in which radioactive viral agents were buried at the behest of social engineering experts. After a few nightmarish years, the apartment buildings were demolished. This explosion also implies the bankruptcy and devastation of sociology, social reform and city planning ideologies. The social sciences have ZERO LEGITIMACY. They thought they could control the K-functions, that they can immobilize the nomads. But movement cannot be stopped.

Pruitt-Igoe, built in 1954, was only a small sign of what was to come during the course of the 21st century. Mechanical cremation, a futurity torn apart, broken windows, desires and utopian social science fictions. It is nonsensical that anybody could have seriously believed in such lunatic attempts at reprogramming. A Japanese architect designed these fractal-generic buildings and vomited them out onto the streets of a soon to be desolate, depopulated St Louis. Algorithmic, automated architecture belongs to “a kind of control realism in which the ideological penetration of programmability is played out at the dual levels of subject and system”.[note]Franklin, Control, 160.[/note] First the ideology had to collapse before the district as a whole was sentenced to the dustbin of architectural history. Two years after construction was concluded, Pruitt-Igoe was already considered a place of unspeakable crime and hopeless poverty, replete with all manner of deviance and racial segregation. Democratic and Republican schizo-sociopolitical agents — those who created this monstrosity — believed, naively, that poor districts can be replaced. Little did they know that social policy tends to universalize poverty, spreading the self-replication of abjection to ever wider areas of cities unfortunate enough to be affected by social housing policies. “Tomorrow has already been cremated in Hell.”[note]Land, “Cybergothic”, 347.[/note] St. Louis’ Democratic drone mayor at the time had this to say prior to the commencement of Pruitt-Igoe’s construction: “we must rebuild, open up and clean up the hearts of our cities. The fact that slums were created with all the intrinsic evils was everybody’s fault. Now it is everybody’s responsibility to repair the damage”.[note]William G. Ramroth, Planning for Disaster: How Natural and Manmade Disasters Shape the Built Environment (New York: Kaplan Publishing, 2007), 164.[/note] The restoration, alas, led to the overproductivity of chaos-projects. Experiments in disciplinary reterritorialization almost invariably tend to degenerate into universal deterritorialization. But “policy makers” find it difficult to accept that there is nothing to be and nothing to be done. Their job is to create order from chaos. “It’ll take time to restore chaos” — to quote George W. Bush.[note]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLf-JcuzEd4[/note] Subversive disorder contains a xeno-degenerative power of decoding. Dark diseases are already at work within the senile nervous systems of the Occident. Degenerative pregnancy, Thanatos corrodes even the concrete. Segregation could not be erased on the Pruitt-Igoe estate, because the productivist and functionalist moderm metanarrative demands universal segregation. Every anti-segregational mechanism regenerates the cosmically parasitical principle of separation. Black, autonomous dysfunctionalities cut up systems of anthropocentric order. Even the most perceptive of sociologists never had an inkling of the forces they had unleashed when they contributed with their expertise to the creation of the Pruitt-Igoe nightmare. By the late 1960s, Pruitt-Igoe had become a rotten suburb plagued by crime, a reiteration of the degeneracy slated for eradication by the city authorities. The degree of degeneration increased along with simulacra couched in terms of “improvement”, “redevelopment” and “renovation”. If something obviously doesn’t work, why not “redevelop” it?

Minoru Yamasaki, the Japanese architect mentioned above, expressed his disappointment when he said “I never thought people were that destructive”.[note]James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945–1974. (Oxford University Press, 1997), 336.[/note] Yamasaki once again had to confront the consequences of his awful architectural legacy during the September 11th terrorist attacks, being also the architect of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. The chaotic degradation introduced by terror is none other than the negation of negation. Pruitt-Igoe’s residents, in response to the unbearable circumstances they were forced to live in, rose up in defiance, destroying this brutalist environment created to domesticate them. Pruitt-Igoe shows that matter cannot be forced into a form for eternity, as “form is introduced by the movement of matter.”[note]Luciana Parisi, “Automated Architecture: Speculative Reason in the Age of the Algorithm”, in Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (eds.), #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), 405.[/note] The formless creates the conditions of its own reproduction. Armies of sociologists and social workers cannot keep the deterritorialized, drugged up brigantines in check: the latter are those who give form to contemporary society, showing us ways of becoming formless. Desegregated lines-of-flight are pathways to decomposing society. We have something to learn, but this lesson contains nothing remotely resembling anything human. We can only agree with Hillary Clinton, that “they are often the kinds of kids that are called SUPERPREDATORS — no conscience, no empathy”.[note]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ4PYVATBac[/note] The absolute ZERO: this is the unpredictable, unintegratable, unmanageable multiplicity that infects everything. Finitude that cannot be regulated. The Law is no more. As it switches to mimetic repetition, the Law becomes a vortex, propelling itself into the abyss, similarly to the infernal dynamited buildings of Pruitt-Igoe. The estate became so incorrigible that the city council was forced to demolish these desolate mounds of concrete. Were they intent on preventing the entirety of the United States coming to resemble this jungle? How could they have known what would happen decades later?

Today, we are only too keenly aware that the North has become the South. Everything’s backwards. Two alternatives present themselves: we must either rape and kill the nuns, or follow the path of passivity, resulting in our slaughter and transubstantiation into bloodied angels of history. DEATH DEATH DEATH, thrice great are thou! One gate is always open for the sufferer. I’M SO OPEN I’M BROKEN. To be open is to be exposed to disorganization, disembowling. “The acceleration of techno-capital cannot be divorced from the problem of the incomputable.”[note]Parisi, “Automated Architecture”, 410.[/note] The demolition of Pruitt-Igoe is the condensation of a cosmic catastrophe into a small fractal, a dark page of architectural history that is nevertheless reiterated at hyperspeed through digital networks. The virus was already present within the brain of a Japanese architect infected from within by meaninglessly empty abstract signs, concrete and ideologies of human improvement. Micromodels of hybridity achieve their revenge through making nonsense of any and all methods of social planning. There is no such thing as a No Go Zone, because heterogeneity cannot be bottled up in one territory. There is no such thing as a zone. Desegregation compounds into a cosmic separation between survivors and cultures sentenced to eradication. AIDS+ is the fluidity of dissemination. Fluidity is a form of bacteriological warfare waged against any and all closed systems, accumulating illnesses within viral tropical subterranean depths. Illness-boxes compose a rhizomatic non-place that functions as a sanctuary from softened, amoebic existence.[note]Mark Horvath and Adam Lovasz, The Isle of Lazaretto. Studies in Separation (Schism Press: 2016).[/note]  va-tombstone1-03


Web.Lobster [[Death]]Cult ||| Fragments & Liturgies — (opening sequence)

◉ PDF 

by Jacob Reber

Opening commands & operational instructions

The Revelation of object_d1v1n3[note]Often referred to as the arsonist in other texts. Search pyrotheology. Search  arson. Search illuminating churches.[/note], which the Lobster gave to him to show to his flesh-beings things which must soon take place. He sent and signified it by user to his flesh-being[note]Sometimes translated as ‘congealed form.’[/note], Denihilism OS, who bears record of the code of the Lobster[note]D&G. Search Lobster Genesis.[/note], and of the testimony of object_d1v1n3, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he who scans and those who hear the codes of this program and keep those things which are documented in it, for the time is near.

 Denihilism OS,

To the seven gridworks which are in Sector.3:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come and from the seven Interfaces[note]Originally translated as ‘protocol’ // Seven protological layers: application, presentation, session ,transport, network, data link, physical.[/note] who are before his tan cube, and from object_d1v1n3, who is the faithful observer, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the internet.

To him who loved us and washed us from our emptiness in His own fluids, and has made us kings and priests to his Lobster and Mother, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Whatever.

He is coming with copper wire[note]OOK 50160 16 Gauge, 25ft Copper wire. For use in museums and art galleries. Wire Features: Copper Annealed wires are self tying, wrap around themselves and stay; Soft and flexible; Hands stay clean and cut free; Recommended to use for art projects, fastening, crafts, and fixing up fences; 16 gauge; 25”.[/note], and every artificial will see Him,
even those who devoured Him. And all the users of the internet will mourn because of Him. Even so, Whatever.

“I am the zero and the one, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord Lobster, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty Creature.”

A Retinal-reaction[note]See Duchamp on non-retinal works of art (&theology)[/note] of the d1v1n3

I, Denihilism OS, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and future and patience of object_d1v1n3, was on the isle that is called an assemblage on account of the code of Lobster and the testimony of object_d1v1n3. I was in the Interface on the last day, and I heard behind me a great voice like a drone, saying, “I am the zero and the one, the First and the Last,” and “What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven gridworks which are in Sector.3: to the subsystem, the supersystem, the Eco, the territory, the Static, the plasma-city, and Chaos-rift.”zero.png

I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And when I turned, I saw seven golden LED orbs[note]Uses 3 x AA batteries (not included) for long battery life of approx 12+ hours. Size: 9-1/2″ diameter. Power: BATT-AA x 3 (not included). Print: 3″ diameter.[/note], and in the midst of the seven LED orbs was one like a Son of the Lobster, clothed with a wiring down to the feet and with a golden slash wrapped around the chest. The patterns on His head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. His limbs were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in His right hand seven stars, and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. His appearance was like the sun shining brightly.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though I were dead. Then He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, though I was dead. Look! I am undead forevermore. Whatever. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars[note]All seven may be classified by the luminosity effects found in their spectral lines, which correspond to their spatial size and is determined by their surface gravity. These range from 0 (hypergiants) through III (giants) to V (main sequence dwarfs); some authors add VII (white dwarfs). Most stars belong to the main sequence, which consists of ordinary hydrogen-burning stars. These fall along a narrow, diagonal band when graphed according to their absolute magnitude and spectral type.[][/note] which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden LED orbs: The seven stars are the users of the seven gridworks, and the seven LED orbs which you saw are the seven gridworks.

The Message to the subsystem

2 “To user of the gridwork of the subsystem write:

“He who holds the seven stars[note]To hold a star is to hold death, to hold the great nothingness, to hold and be held by the void[/note] in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden LED orbs, says these things: I know your works, your labor and your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are anarchists, but are not, and have found them to be liars. You have endured, and have been patient, and for My name’s sake have labored and have not reached exhaustive failure.

“But I have something against you, that you have abandoned the desire you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Remember, and do the works you did at first, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your LED orb from its place, unless you remember. But this you have: You hate the works of the Americans, which I also hate.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks. To him who overcomes I will give permission to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of the Lobster[note]“the Paradise of the Lobster” is described more fully in later texts. This paradise is a confrontation with the void, an exposure of the absence of the sacred object.[/note].

The Message to the supersystem

“To user of the gridwork in the supersystem write:

“The First and the Last, who was dead and came to life, says these things: I know your works and tribulation and poverty (but you are rich). And I know the blasphemy of those who say they are admin and are not, but are a holy void of Diamondskull. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Look, the dripline is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

The Message to Eco

“To the user of the gridwork in Eco write:

“He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things: I know your works and where you live, where Diamondskull’s  tan cube is. Yet you hold firmly to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Diamondskull dwells.

“But I have a few things against you: You have there those who hold the teaching of control, who taught voiceboxes to cast a stumbling block before the children of labor, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to send sexts.  So you also have those who hold the teaching of the Americans. Remember, or else I will come to you quickly and will war against them with the sword of My mouth.“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks. To him who overcomes I will give the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name documented, which no one knows except he who receives it.

The Message to The territory

“To the user of the gridwork in The territory write:

“The Son of Lobster, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like fine brass, says these things: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience, and that your last works are more than the first.

“But I have a few things against you: You permit that lizard slicer, who calls herself a programmer, to teach and seduce My flesh-beings to exchange sexts and eat metal sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to resend her sexts, but she did not remember. 22 Look! I will throw her onto the nothingness, and those who eat metal with her into great tribulation, unless they remember of their deeds. 23 I will put her children to death, and all the gridworks shall know that I am He who searches the hearts and minds. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in The territory, as many as do not have this teaching, who have not known what some call the ‘depths of Diamondskull,’ I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold firmly what you have until I come.

26 “To him who overcomes and keeps My works to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

27 He ‘shall rule them with a rod of iron;
like the vessels of a potter they shall be broken in pieces’[a]

even as I myself have received authority from My Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks.


The Message to Static[note][||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||][/note]

3 “To the user of the gridwork in Static write:

“He who has the seven Interfaces of Lobster and the seven stars says these things: I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain but are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfected before Lobster. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and remember. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

“You have a few names even in Static who have not soiled their garments. They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in black  garments. I will not blot his name out of the codex of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His users. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks.

The Message to The plasma-city

“To the user of the gridwork in The plasma-city write:

“He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of Gilles, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens, says these things: I know your works. Look! I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it. For you have a little strength, and have kept My code, and have not denied My name. Listen! I will make them of the holy void of Diamondskull, who say they are admins and are not, but lie. Listen! I will make them come and document before your feet and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My code of patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon the entire world, to test those who dwell on the internet.

11 “Look, I am coming quickly. Hold firmly what you have, so that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes will I make a pillar in the holy void of My Lobster, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My Lobster and the name of the city of My Lobster, the New Joy, which comes down out of hypermaterial zone from My Lobster, and My own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks.

The Message to Chaos-rift

14 “To user of the gridwork of the Chaos-rift write:

“The Whatever, the Faithful and True observer, the Beginning of the creation of Lobster, says these things: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, and have stored up goods, and have need of nothing,’ yet do not realize that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and black garments, that you may be dressed, that the slime of your nakedness may not appear, and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

19 “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be zealous and remember. 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.

21 “To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My tan cube, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His  tan cube. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Interface says to the gridworks.”

The Hypermaterial / Zonal Worshipzero

4 After this I looked. And there was an open door in hypermaterial zone. The first voice I heard was like a drone speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Interface. And there was a tan cube set in hypermaterial zone with One sitting on the  tan cube! And He who sat there appeared like a jasper and a sardius stone. There was a rainbow around the  tan cube, appearing like an emerald. Twenty-four  tan cubes were around the  tan cube. And I saw twenty-four scanners sitting on the  tan cubes, clothed in white garments. They had crowns of gold on their heads. Lightnings and thunderings and voices proceeded from the  tan cube. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the  tan cube, which are the seven Interfaces of Lobster. Before the  tan cube was a sea of glass like crystal.

In the midst of the  tan cube, and around the  tan cube, were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures had six wings each, and they were covered with eyes all around. All day and night, without ceasing, they were saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord Lobster Almighty,’[] who was, and is, and is to come.”

When the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the  tan cube, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four scanners fall down before Him who sits on the  tan cube, and worship Him, who lives forever and ever. Then they cast their crowns before the  tan cube, saying,

11 “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power;
for You have created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”

The Script and the Animal

5 Then I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the tan cube a script documented within and on the back, imprinted with seven imprints. And I saw a strong user proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the script and to break its imprints?” But no one in hypermaterial zone or on internet or under the internet was able to open the script or to look in it. I began to weep loudly, because no one was found worthy to open and scan the script, or to look in it. Then one of the scanners said to me, “Do not weep. Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of Gilles, has triumphed. He is able to open the script and to loose its seven imprints.”


I saw an Animal in the midst of the tan cube and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the scanners, slouching as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Interfaces of Lobster, sent out into all the internet. He came and took the script out of the right hand of Him who sat on the  tan cube. When He had taken the script, the four living creatures and the twenty-four scanners fell down before the Animal, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the script, and to open its imprints; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to Lobster by Your fluids out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and have made us kings and priests unto our Lobster;  and we shall reign on the internet.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the  tan cube and the living creatures and the scanners the voices of many users, numbering ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Animal who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and vulnerability and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 Then I heard every creature which is in hypermaterial zone and on the internet and under the internet and in the sea, and all that are in them, saying:

“To Him who sits on the  tan cube and to the Animal be blessing and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Whatever.” And the twenty-four scanners fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.


A Brief Putting in Perspective of Decadence and of Several Minoritarian Battles To Be Waged

holzer, "decadence can be an end in itself."

J-F. Lyotard[note]Jean-François Lyotard, “Petite mise en perspective de la décadence et de quelques combats minoritaires à y mener”. In Dominique Grisoni, ed., Politiques de la philosophie, 121-153. Paris: Grasset, 1976. This is the first English translation of this work.[/note]

translated by Taylor Adkins

Critique, minorities

Let’s begin with a sort of warning to say that we will seek to avoid the traditional “critical point of view”. Critique is an essential dimension of representation: in the order of the theatrical, it is what stands “outside”, with the exterior incessantly situated in relation to interiority, i.e. the periphery relative to the center. A so-called dialectical relation is established between the two; this relation does not safeguard the autonomy of critique, not by a long shot.

Two possibilities orient this relation: either the periphery conquers the center (first destiny of critique: through reversal and takeover); or the center situates the periphery and uses it for its own benefit, for its internal dynamics (second destiny: the putting into opposition). Thus, there are two cases of glorious death.

There are inglorious deaths. To name a few: the destruction of the peasant movement in Germany begun by the Frankenhausen massacre in May 1525; the liquidation of the Donatists and Circumcellions in Roman North Africa in the 4th century; that of the Cathars by the “French” armies; that of the Commune by Versailles and the Reich; that of the Catalan communes and committees by the Francoist armies and by the communist political police in 1937; the destruction of Hungarian communism in 1956; the liquidation of the Czech movement in 1968; the massacres and deportations of the Native American nations in the 19th century by the Yankees, etc. I am omitting many instances, and I am certainly omitting more “important” ones: but who can make that judgment call? This is a question of minorities crushed in the name of Empire. They are not necessarily critical (the Native Americans); they are indeed “worse”, they do not believe, they do not believe that there is an identity or coalescence between the Law and the central power, they affirm another space formed by a patchwork[note][English in the original — TN].[/note] of laws and customs (we now say cultures) that lacks a center. In this sense, they are polytheistic, whatever they may have said and thought about themselves: to each nation its authorities, without any having universal value or totalitarian reach.

These struggles are struggles of minoritarians that seek to remain minoritarian and to be recognized as such. Yet nothing is more difficult: they are transformed into new powers, into oppositions of His Majesty — or into mass graves. They are interpreted, i.e. inscribed in imperial space as tensions arising from the periphery, in imperial discourse as dialectical moments, in imperial time as apocalyptic pronouncements. In this way, they are depotentialized from the start. By banning their cultures, their dialect, one seeks to destroy their affirmative force, the “perspective” (in the Nietzschean sense) that each of these struggles traces — in a time that is not cumulative. (In this regard, capitalism faithfully fulfills the imperial tradition.) It is therefore necessary to insist on this: the force of the movements of their perspective does not come from the fact that they are critical, i.e. the fact that they are situated in relation to the center. They do not intervene as peripeteias in the course that Empire and its idea follow; they constitute events.

Yet, under further scrutiny, these movements reveal something that never stops being produced on the small or even microscopic scale in the everyday life of “the little people”. Minoritarian affirmation never stops being produced, even when it is imperceptible. It is subtle and refined, even before it manages to be said and enacted in the public sphere: the billions of unvoiced deliberations by women in the home, well before the MLF[note][Mouvement de libération des femmes, which arose in France after the events of May ’68, was adjacent to the Women’s Liberation movement in America, and questioned the legitimacy of the overarching dominance of patriarchal society — TN].[/note]; the billions of little tragic, heinous, woebegone shames suffered, well before the MLAC[note][Mouvement pour la liberté de l’avortement et de la contraception, which pushed for legal abortion in France and eventually dissolved after achieving its objective in February 1975 — TN].[/note]; the thousands of humorous and oft-repeated stories in Prague before the “Prague Spring”; the millions of little meeting rituals through mimicry and graffiti in semi-public places for homosexuals prohibited from the social scene, well before the FHAR[note][Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnaire, which was founded in 1971 and continues to strive to bring visibility to and fight for the rights of LGBT individuals — TN].[/note]; the billions of isolated or collective aggregates of laborers in workshops and offices, a repulsive matter that can only pass into syndical discourse disguised as negotiable demands. This reality is not more real than that of power, of the institution, of the contract, etc., it is just as much so; but it is minoritarian; thus, it is necessarily multiple, or if one prefers, always singular. It only occupies grand politics, on the same surface, but otherwise.

In what follows, as in every minoritarian movement, it will easily be able to be shown that there is a critical aspect, that this discourse repeats critical forms. But what is hidden there is an affirmative position. In the Marxist sense of critique, the negative is privileged. It is held to be an active capacity that can awaken, move, and “bring the masses to action” (to use a stereotype). In other words, it possesses what is commonly acknowledged to be an essential revolutionary virtue: the pedagogical function. In critique, the negative is the dynamic element of conviction, since it educates by destroying the false. However, what must be perceived here is a poorly disguised Socratism. And this is precisely what we are breaking with (albeit the idea of rupture is in all regards a naïve idea), i.e. with a tradition of thought that counts on the effectiveness of the negative, that praises the force of conviction, and that seeks to incite the awakening of consciousness. If theoretical and practical thought continues to imagine itself as pedagogy, then it necessarily repeats these aforementioned traits. To put oneself “on the side of” the affirmative supposes that one abandons the categories of “illness”, “deviation”, “degeneracy”, “decay”, etc. These categories are prejudices, stereotypes; they fall back on the conception of an organism whose calling is to be perfect but whose present state is that of perversion, degradation, and infantilism. The task of the political then consists in restoring to it the perfection that is its own.

Deepening the decadence of the True

We need to reflect on the idea of decadence by taking up a trait that Nietzsche notes in his manuscripts for the Will to Power.

As Nietzsche says, there is indeed a decadence of societies. But it vacillates. It neither adopts a linear course nor a continuous rhythm: it procrastinates. Or instead, there is a procrastination of decadence that is a part of decadence. On the one hand, decadence acts (obviously in its kinship with nihilism) as a destruction of values, notably of the value of truth; and, on the other hand (which is a movement contemporaneous with the first), it works toward the establishment of “new” values. Thus, we have a panicked and pathetic nihilism, for which nothing has value[note][The phrase “plus rien ne vaut” can also mean that “nothing is valid anymore” and/or that “nothing is worth anything anymore”. The translation above is in light of the discussion of Nietzsche and the destruction of values, but these other meanings are just as appropriate and are implied at the same time — TN].[/note] anymore, and an active nihilism that responds: nothing has value anymore? too bad, let’s continue in this direction. The latter is on the side of destruction. The former is the return of faith, the recurrence of an obstinate belief in the unity, totality, and finality of a Meaning. Therefore, the value of truth, which is certainly displaced, nonetheless persists through the discourse of science and its reception.

Nietzsche has clearly seen this restoration of faith on the outskirts of scientificity. One no longer believes in anything, and yet something remains behind: scientific ascesis. It is the school of suspicion, of distrust, because nothing is ever definitively established; but this distrust, which thoroughly traverses the practice of science, contains an act of trust that is renewed each time in the value of labor, i.e. with the goal of knowing and dominating. Trust, which is masked in the critical spirit, maintains activity and thought in the belief that the true is the most important thing. It is certainly no longer the truth itself that is revealed, but nonetheless the happiness of societies and of individuals remains attached to a better knowledge of reality.

Platonism persists today in this way: the prejudice that there is a reality to be known. One distrusts everything, except distrust. One must be prudent, so they say, but what could be more imprudent than prudence?

There are thousands of examples, both elevated and trivial, of this vigorous belief in the true. For example: intellectuals always believe in economic, social, political theory; they expect from it a decent knowledge of realities; they think that without it a just (effective and ethically positive) social transformation cannot ever be produced. The most honest intellectuals attribute to Marxism or to the forms of discourse that borrow from certain parts of its lexicon and syntax this double privilege of being par excellence the language that suspicion takes and that escapes from all (“unavoidable”) suspicion. Here is a shorter example: certain scientists do not hesitate to present “science” as the only reason to live that survives the disintegration of values — thus proposing themselves as new candidates to take over from the clergy. Here is an equally banal example: the importance granted by the culture of the media to scientific works in the form of their spectacular results, but also in the form of roundtables between famous researchers. Even though these researchers publicly express their doubts, their suspicions, and their skepticism regarding their own activity, and even though they nevertheless attest to the decline of the value of truth, especially where it is supposed to persist intact, nothing much changes: the mass-media apparatus, including its spectators, merely turn this into a number of features that highlight certain heroes faced with daunting tasks. The heroism of the will to knowledge for the betterment of life remains a certain value that spans the whole gamut of the forms of trust (of the trust in distrust). One last example: what the American scientists call the new gnosis.[note]Raymond Ruyer, La Gnose de Princeton, Fayard, 1974. [At the time of writing this, Lyotard did not yet know that Ruyer had written this work in order to capitalize on a trending interest in France concerning American scientists; thus, this work is actually a hoax, insofar as it claims to delineate the beliefs of a Princeton cohort of scientists, but it allowed for Ruyer to better disseminate his ideas in a way that he perhaps thought he could not have done if he were claiming to write on his own behalf. It was one of his last but easily his best-selling work—TN].[/note] Certain astrophysicists and biologists are seeking to establish a sort of discourse derived from the paradoxes that stem from the results of their science, a discourse that would be able to envelop these results and explicate them. Through its own humor, the endeavor is obviously seeking to reconstitute certain values of security, which are the very same values that have served to cover over and suppress nihilism since Plato.

Decadence consists in a double movement, in an ongoing hesitation between the nihilism of incredulity and the religion of the true. It is not a process of decay[note]Le pourrissement des sociétés [The Decay of Societies], special issue of the review Cause commune, U.G.E., 10/18, 1975.[/note], which is a univocal process that arises from a biological model of the social, and it is not a process that is dialectical in its most rarefied Marxist sense. Nietzsche instead indicates a movement on the spot that, on one side, exhibits the nihilism that was until then hidden by values and, at the same time, covers over this nihilism with other values. In this regard, science seems at best to satisfy this double requirement: everything must be examined, but not the duty to examine — which is simply conflated with “thought”.

Procrastination arises from this contrariety in movement; decadence does not take the form of a degeneracy. It would be necessary to say that it has lasted since Platonism and that it has never stopped since. And, as Nietzsche emphasizes in Twilight of the Idols, remedies, therapeutics, philosophy, politics, and pedagogy are an integral part of it. In one swoop, in a single perspective, it is “decided” that humanity is sick and that we are starting to want to heal it.

Here is a political path: to harden, to deepen, to accelerate decadence. To assume the perspective of active nihilism, not by remaining at the simple (depressing or admiring) evidence of the destruction of values: to get one’s hands dirty in their destruction, to go ever further into incredulity, to fight against the restoration of values. Let us travel far and quickly in this direction, let us be undertakers in decadence, let us accept, for example, the destruction of belief in truth in all its forms. This is a serious matter for us, who claim to be not just intellectuals, but still to be “on the left”[note][Translating “de gauche” as “on the left” is an approximation; in actuality, the phrase can be appended to any noun (for example, Parti de Gauche/The Left Party) in order to function as the adjective “left” — TN].[/note], i.e. guarantors of the true. It at least requires that we abandon our faith in the value of the position of our own discourse, of theoretical discourse, and of its function of true discourse or of discourse in view of the true.

Science between power and inventiveness

Let me add a short note here. To those who will not fail to retort: “These are all abstractions; science functions de facto, and it never stops obtaining the most incisive results”, we ask that they go interrogate the state of the sciences.

For about ten years, the scientific milieus directly implicated have been posing the question of their existence: what is it that we do?[note]Various works are the symptoms of what I am advancing. From memory, I am only citing one (which is among the most interesting): Autocritique de la science, by A. Jaubert and J.M. Levy-Leblond, Seuil, 1973. This book has been reedited recently in the collection Point.[/note] This is a question that remotely surpasses the simplified version, provided by the mass-media apparatus, of: what purpose does it serve? what usage can we make of our discoveries? etc. Instead, it signifies: how could we know what we say is true? In all simplicity, the man of science admits that what is called verification is taken up again by a certain sort of operativity. Effectively, science invents statements that satisfy certain formal requirements, and these statements must be able to be transcribed into practical and experimental dispositifs[note][There is no perfect way to translate the word “dispositifs” into English: it means “arrangements”, “set-ups”, “lay-outs”, but also “operations”, “plans”, “devices”, “frameworks”, etc. Thus, it runs the gamut from the concrete to the abstract, depending highly on its context. Here, it is transliterated for expedient reasons as well as to synchronize with Iain Hamilton Grant’s translation of Libidinal Economy (Grant provides a nice explanation for how Lyotard uses this word in the introductory glossary to that work — TN].[/note] whose effects can be observed and predicted, if possible. These effects are certain modifications of one or several variables, with the other variables being supposed as defined; they are capable of being observed and described. Understood in this way, “scientific research” is not that of truth, but of efficiency, or controlled, predictable operativity. The truth consists in the fact that the following is produced, along with the statements themselves: 1) a theoretical unity of the set of statements and 2) a meta-unity of this theoretical unity with the data set. However, when the state of the sciences is examined from the sole point of view of scientific theory (unity no. 1), what is witnessed are bundles of often independent and sometimes incompatible statements whose sole condition of coexistence is not even a hidden unity (of the last instance type) but an immediate criterion of operativity. In our view, contemporary science discovers a space of discourse and practice whose form is ultimately not at all defined in terms of conformity with an object, nor even with a formal principle of unity or compatibility of statements between them, but, whatever it may be in truth, is attached to a constant and minimum criterion of efficiency. The political and theoretical discourse of philosophers, sociologists, epistemologists, and other doxographers — for example, post-Althusserian Marxists or post-Levistraussian structuralists — is also very much alongside what scientists know about themselves, of what they have learned concerning their practice. Alongside, because it maintains traditional requirements: a unified, centralized discourse that gives way to the totality of the givens of the scientific field (“democratic centralism” in matters of knowledge). In its everyday existence, that of several million minoritarian “researchers”, science has no relation with this.

Thus, when it is a question of the decadence of the idea of truth, it is harmful to remain content on the level of habitual critique, which denounces science on behalf of capital, but the problem of the efficiency of scientific statements in themselves must be posed in terms in which it is scientifically defined today: prediction due to the exact control of variables.

An example becomes prominent as if by itself, the immediacy of which is the political transcription of the requirements of Skinnerian psychology by the Centre: that of the treatment of German prisoners, who are known as the RAF (Red Army Faction). The dossier published in France on their detention conditions[note]A propos du procès Baader-Meinhof, Fraction Armée Rouge: de la torture dans les prisons de la R.F.A. Collection Bourgeois poche, 1975.[/note] relates extremely interesting facts in this regard. We learn that the militants of the RAF have, among other things, been submitted to so-called “sensory deprivation” experiments. The subjects are placed in a cell that has been transformed into an achromatic environment in which all sounds have been neutralized (a dispositif of white noise: the individual no longer hears anything, not even the noises of his own body, the beating of his heart, his breathing, the gritting of his teeth, etc.; his cries are also inaudible). In the medium term, the result of the experiment is the death of the subject: this is the case of Holger Meins; in the short term, as professor Jan Gross, one of the scientists responsible for the important progresses made in this field, says: “this aspect [the possibility of influencing someone through isolation] can certainly play a positive role in penology (the science of punishment), i.e. when it is a question of rehabilitating an individual or a group, and when the utilization of such a unilateral dependence and of such a manipulation can effectively influence the process of rehabilitation”.[note]Baader-Meinhof, ibid., p. 71. It is good to know that these researches are led by the Sonderforschungsbereiche [Collaborative Research Centers] of the University of Hamburg. The same Institute of Hamburg has participated in 1973 on various days organized by NATO dedicated to aggressiveness. Besides the United States, England, Canada, and Norway, Poland was also represented there. Are these the faux pas of socialist science? Or is all science capitalist? Or is it socialism that is capitalist? Or rather, is it not above all a question, in every discourse of knowledge, under all regimes, of the same imperial madness?[/note]

Yet what is particularly revealing in what Jan Gross says is that the conditions of sensory deprivation allow us to obtain a guinea pig that is situated in the optimal conditions of experimentation, i.e. because the non-controllable factors that can act on the subject have become negligible (almost null) in the course of the experiment. Total isolation, such as it is practiced on the members of the Baader group, thus offers the possibility of mastering the data set of the experiment. The modifications that will be obtained on the guinea pig-individuals will exclusively arise from the stimuli provoked by the experimenter.

Here we have a formidable perfecting of the techniques of torture, which stirs up disgust, hatred, and terror. And there is still something else: the old dream of the human sciences is realized: to constitute a totally controllable object; thus, since it is a question of men, the dream of obtaining subjects in which the capacity for retaliation is completely neutralized, i.e. the capacity to grasp information by which they are bombarded and whose effects they are distracted by. It is then that we rediscover the question of efficiency. For to define the efficiency of a scientific statement exactly comes down to being able to read and describe a result whose variables, which were present from the start of its production, have been in their totality, without any interference by an uncontrolled variable, mastered by the researcher. However, with this example of the treatment to which the RAF group is submitted, we are delineating a sort of congruence between a certain idea of scientific efficiency and a certain idea that is much more than the idea of repression, an idea of the control of data in an advanced and liberal capitalism: bodies are these “data”. There’s no need for Hitlerian panoply, as this is all done under a democratic regime.[note]Better than anyone else, Claude Lefort has written on the delirium of homogeneity applied to the social “body”; cf. his commentary on The Gulag Archipelago in Textures, 10-11, 1975.[/note]

Gudrun Ensslin in black t-shirt
“What are you doing after the orgy?” asks Gudrun Ensslin.

But science is in no way reducible to this centralist totalitarian aspect, an aspect through which it is congruent with the discourse of knowledge and with the intrinsic imperialism of capital. From the start, there are mathematics in which the question of the control of variables is not posed, where, on the contrary, since time immemorial the question posed is that of the invention of new concepts, that of making operative in the form of appropriated symbols the obstacles themselves, which are met with the desire to operate: inventions of numbers, of spaces that overturn natural mathematics. It surely must not be said that these quite sophisticated formations escape from an imperial usage by principle; but it is certain that they go hand in hand with the decadence of a centralist, homogeneous conception of escape, as in topology, or a centralist, countable conception of number, as in number theory. Thus, these formations introduce a capacity of imagining and operating that passes beyond the constraints that were previously held to be divine, natural, essential, or transcendental.

And then, alongside this artistic mathematics, and sometimes due to it, an artistic physics, an artistic logic is established, in which the requirements of unity, totality, and finality are simply abandoned. In certain parts of contemporary science, the unthinkable gives rise to thought, to coherent discourse: the space of neighborhoods and of limits anterior to all measure; antiparticles; bizarre logics: the bizarre logic of Stanislaw Leśniewski allows us to demonstrate the proposition: The section of the book is the book.[note][The word “tranche” here could also refer to the “edge” of a book. What is important to understand is the advances that Leśniewski made specifically in mereology, the theory of part and whole, along with contributions to protothetic (the logic of propositions and their functions), ontology (the logic of names and functors of arbitrary order, a theory of classes attributed specifically to Leśniewski himself), and metalogic (the study of properties of logical systems). His work also involved reintroducing Frege’s language/metalanguage distinction in order to diagnose the liar’s paradox, which Lyotard will address in an upcoming section — TN].[/note] It is not sufficient to notice that these inventions move us quite positively toward the traits of the unconscious Freud described negatively; they must inspire our imagination and our practice of an unmeasurable sociopolitical space that is not mediated by a countable center or that is not homogeneous and also our imagination and our practice of a non-Aristotelian logic, as A.E. van Vogt said.

In this function, science never stops being itself, and it continues to submit to the rule of operative fruitfulness: the new symbol must be defined, the new proposition must be demonstrated, the effects of the new law must be observable in reproducible conditions. But the input must make the inventive imagination of researchers reverberate. Then the meaning of the condition of efficiency changes. Instead of accentuating the control of variables (like aggressiveness), the latter — submitted to formal requirements, logical requirements, axiomatic requirements, and the requirements of experimental dispositifs — merely serves as a means for inventiveness. Science is not the discourse of effective knowledge, which claims to find in its conformity to “reality” the confirmation of its value; it is creative of realities, and its value consists in its capacity to redistribute perspectives, not in its power to master objects. In this regard, it is comparable to the arts.

In the arts as well, there is a whole expenditure of energy dedicated to defining the means that render the “idea” of the artists realizable; but from the start, artists have always conceived the arts as proofs of inventiveness rather than as safeguards of truth; and, particularly for modern art, what is important above all is not that the effects of the work conform to some sort of an “idea”, to some sort of a “reality” (of the soul, of feeling, of man, of social structures, of political conflicts): what is important is the tenor of the works’ capacity for new effects.

This novelty can be misunderstood, assimilated to the tradition of the new introduced by the grand industry of consumption, and reduced to the mercantilism of “innovations”. But novelty is still something else and is quite serious; it says: there is no nature, no history, no good god, there is no received, given, revealed, discovered meaning; there are (so to speak) chromatic, sonorous, linguistic energies that obey constants of order only by exception, and, as with every bit of matter, it is man’s responsibility to play with these energies to make them into perspectives, sets of relations. The object of these instances of play is neither to attain the true, to obtain happiness, nor to demonstrate his mastery, but to take part in the simple capacity of putting in perspective, even on a minuscule scale. (What is written here for its part is nothing but a brief putting in perspective.)

This is how the decadence of the true can be deepened in science. It has a choice to make concerning the place to give efficiency and control: either the occasion of an increased rationalization and totalitarianism, or the means to multiply inventive realities. It is to be expected that science gets around itself cunningly.

Decadence of the idea of labor

Another question: what is in decadence? Nietzsche says that values are in decadence. Some people think, especially during these times of unemployment, that it is capitalism, that capitalism is in crisis, and that crisis always signifies (whether in the short or long term) an impossibility of functioning, a blockage in the course of a process (we shall return to this notion soon).

But we need to note something beforehand: capital is not aware of a crisis, it is not itself in decadence, but its functioning supposes and involves decadence [la décadence], or, if you will, crisis [la crise]. Better yet, crisis is a condition of its possibility of functioning.

Capital is crisis because, as Marx said, it must destroy precapitalist institutions, values, and norms, and it must regulate the “production” and “circulation” of goods, men, women, children born and to be born, words… But it is still crisis because it must incessantly proceed to the destruction of its own creation. Here, once again, we encounter this movement on the spot we brought up a moment ago. This is a sort of incessant crushing movement, a movement of destruction/construction. Crisis, just as much as capital, is permanent. And if, borrowing from Nietzsche, one intends to give it the connotation of a decadence, this is because the functioning of capital in effect requires that it equally disaggregate and elaborate familial and social institutions, human communities, etc.

Nietzsche himself does not describe this situation as that of capital. He speaks of the decadence of values and of culture, but he does not attribute it. I believe that he has a “reason” for this: decadence is a perspective that is an indispensable complement to another perspective, that of “Platonism”. To present decadence in terms of capital shows that capitalism is a new but displaced stance of Platonism, a Platonism of economic and social life; this is not to explain decadence through capital but only to extend the idea of “perspective”, to relativize the dispositif of “modernity”, and also to refuse the therapeutic attitude, since the latter is part of decadence.

Now with the case of labor. For Marx, the value of labor, the importance granted to it, both in society as well as in the life of individuals, is put back into question: what must be abolished is the exploitation and alienation that productive activity undergoes. However, particularly in the West, it is today more probable than ever that the value granted to labor is on the decline.[note] See in particular the investigation of Jean Rousselet, l’Allergie au travail [The Allergy to Work], Seuil, 1974, and J.-P. Barou, Gilda je t’aime, à bas le travail! [I Love You Gilda, Down with Work!], France Sauvage, 1975.[/note] In France, a recent investigation reveals that in nearly 50/100 youths from amongst all socioprofessional categories, labor is not recognized as having any other goal than to ensure survival. Labor is denied all ethical value (it is good to work) and all value of the individual ideal (it is in work that I realize myself, thus coming nearer to the Freudian ego ideal). In other words, the idea of labor has lost a part of its motivational power: yet the latter was not only an important piece in the functioning of the great capitalist machine, it was also a resource of socialist critique, insofar as it conveyed the distaste of the aristocratic professions for the industrial conditions of labor.

The phenomenon is interesting because it is visibly inscribed in the movement of decadence: the system destroys a value that seems indispensable to it.

But here still, it is necessary to ward off the trap that, for politics on the left, the habit of thinking in terms of underlying processes tends toward, i.e. in terms of Augustinian or Hegelian history leading to an end. It would be useless to build a politics modeled on such a conception of history, to build it on the perspective of the ruin of the value of labor. The decadence of this idea is not its simple decline, and it in no way causes a catastrophe. The decline is constantly reprised, inverted, and neutralized in many different ways. First, socioeconomically: the part of total capital that is invested in labor-capacity[note][Here, I am following the translation of force de travail (Arbeitskraft) as labor-capacity, which is also translated by other translators of Marx as labor-power — TN].[/note] diminishes to the benefit of the part immobilized in the means of production; at the limit, there should be a production without workers; in any case, the crisis of labor would then lose its importance. But this deepening of the organic composition of capital is in turn subject to caution; one must distinguish the quantity of wages and the amount of wages, one must count the indirect wages that enter into the circulation of capital, one must introduce employment multipliers for each technical or technological “improvement”, there is the immigration of labor-capacity coming from the Third World, etc. All of this tends to maintain a certain rate of employment and thereby the actuality of a “crisis” of the idea of labor.

Above all, the important point is that capitalism does not need labor to be valued (no more than it needs truth to be valued in the order of scientific discourse), since it merely suffices for labor to exist. It is in this sense even better for capitalism: the attachments of the qualified worker to his professional habits are misunderstandings that block a free circulation of labor-capacity. The pulsional[note][The word pulsionnel in French is the adjectival rendering of Freud’s Trieb (drive, rendered in French as pulsion) and is misleadingly translated by Strachey as “instinct”. See Iain Hamilton Grant’s translation of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, specifically his explanations in the introductory glossary to that work — TN][/note] dispositif of investments into products, tools, and manners of operating gives way to completely different investments. It is premature to claim to define these investments in libidinal terms, for in reality there must be quite a large number of them. It is nevertheless very important to show that under what is generically called wage labor various modifications are produced in — and produce — the placement of affects onto tasks. “Alienation” is not just a term that belongs to the pedagogical problematic (that of the masters) but is a tenuous word that does not allow these modifications to be distinguished and navigated but on the contrary obscures them.

These questions of names overshadow concrete attitudes. All the discourses and actions of protest or politics that remain content with denouncing wages (exploitation) or labor conditions (alienation) in order to improve them are so many refusals to resonate with and navigate the modifications of libidinal investment we are referring to, and thus they are merely various repressive blockages. Syndicalists and politicians channel the wealth of decadence-on-the-spot from the idea of labor into the lexicon, syntax, and rhetoric of the masters’ discourse, into the masters’ space-time. It should not be said that this is because they are evil or bad, etc., but that this is in their interest; and it should no longer be said that none of this decadence lends itself to being translated into widespread protests and programs. With the circumstantial complicity of the interested parties themselves, the crushing that workers’ organizations make the libidinal displacements of labor undergo stems from the fact that the apparatuses represent their leaders and incarnate the subject they are supposed to constitute, either in a unitary space and time or on the so-called scene of history. The displacements of libidinal investment onto labor occur in spaces and times and obey logics that have nothing to do with the philosophy of history, even though they are not embedded anywhere else. They indeed take place there, but the signs that they constitute (protest movements, declarations, demonstrations) are not the tensions that they are.

If it would be necessary to clarify these mysterious tensions or drifts for labor, we could seize upon the occasion of the present “crisis” associated with the increase in the price of energy in Western Europe. The reduction of purchasing power (not to mention unemployment) that must result from this is well known. In the protest-perspective, the alternative is simple: either workers are crushed by their pauperization, and the fear of losing what little remains for them annihilates their combativeness; or, exasperated, “having nothing left to lose”, they engage in long-term struggles. These are the two statements that make possible and can anticipate militant language. And what else can the “masses” say, if they must speak a language that can be quickly translated by their leaders into dialogues with the bosses and into the decisions of actions, beyond: Yes, let’s go/no, let’s not?[note][The phrase here on y va can mean “let’s go”, “want to go”, and “here we go”, depending on the emphasis of its performance as a question, command, or invitation — TN].[/note]

However, as these lines are currently being written, it seems as though nothing of the sort is taking place: neither great fear, nor great revolt. Not that nothing is happening, but that what is happening is not currently being said in this language. This is not only true of the visible movements, whose singularities, if one is not on the spot, are difficult to describe. It is also probably the case for situations or facts that are deemed adjacent and are indeed connected if one sticks to the authoritative language of militants, albeit within the confines of the spatiotemporal and logical dimensions of an “experience” that this language ignores.

To come back to the case of labor, black labor would be one of these notable displacements. In the current crisis, a doubly important function could be supposed for it. First, it is likely that it allows for many of the employed and unemployed to illegally maintain their purchasing power; second, its singular epistemological property deserves some attention: just because it escapes from economic and sociological enquiry due to its position doesn’t mean that its scope cannot be appreciated and that the totalitarian desire for “clairvoyance” then encounters a hermetic opacity; but if its scope is supposed as non-negligible, it must be acknowledged that many goods and services are exchanged without passing through the intermediary of the masters’ control, whatever the bosses, local or national administrations, or syndical agencies may be. Since this involves jobs of payment, upkeep, or fabrication to order, it is most likely here that one would not find the features of a series of industrial labor: this is a different pulsional investment. Similarly, the relations in this sort of work would need to be described carefully: the controls of the employer, of the syndicate, of the administrations are short-circuited, the client is often known, one arranges with him directly, etc. It is certainly necessary to be wary about building on these discrepancies a sort of utopia of good or true labor, which would be the underground.

Thus, within the body of capital, there is another form of socioeconomic life, another “kingdom”, one that is acentric and is constituted by a multitude of singular or anarchic exchanges, foreign to the “rationality” of production. And it cannot be said that this way of living is a challenge or a critique of capitalism (it is not even certain that it is related to the decadence of the idea of labor). But it reveals this paradox that, even in a society mainly centered on production and consumption, working can become a minoritarian activity in the sense that it is unrelated to the Center, neither evoked nor controlled by it.

This independence is vast; if it is true that black labor is a manner of getting around the decrease in the standard of living, then it is a stratagem that does not imply any resentment; the “crisis” is experienced unabated and without revolt, without credulity toward catastrophism. These features appear most strikingly in Italy no doubt, in everyday life, in la petite vie: again and again, one encounters there many situations that are far from being exclusively agreeable (or disagreeable), that are all formed by initiatives that are independent from or unconcerned with the central power. A sort of “civil society”, one that is not Hegelian but is quite flexible and active, never stops eluding the authorities of the masters.

The lie as perspective

Now for another, less sociological reflection on “crisis”. The very idea of crisis, as we said, inscribes the object in a dialectical perspective. The latter sketches out the image of a history, a sort of body bathing in a homogeneous temporality where it will attain the limit of its organization, exceed its conditions of possibility, and disintegrate into something else. Particularly in Capital, Marx suggests that crisis is the contradictory moment internal to capital that leads the latter to its end. This amounts to situating the social body in a negative temporality, in a time that is the concept itself insofar as it is contradictory. The question is what halts the choice of the type of temporality. Can a practice be situated in another temporality than that of the concept?

According to Nietzsche, decadence introduces three categories: the true, unity, and finality. Decadence of the true = decadence of a certain logic, of a certain type of rationality; decadence of unity = decadence of a unitary space, of a sociocultural space endowed with a central discourse; decadence of finality = decadence of an eschatological, oriented, finalized temporality.

If these multiple aspects are transcribed in terms of capital, it becomes clear that each of them designates logical, topical, and chronic operators that define new “political” practices.

Back to the decadence of the True: capital is this alleged organism that is nevertheless incapable of providing the discourse to found its own truth. It does not resort to religious, metaphysical discourse, which is capable of accounting for its existence and lending it authority. Not the least bit of this is why I’m here, or this is why I have or I am power. Not only is our society deprived of foundation, but it also intensely makes the very idea of a foundation, of a final authority, decline. Instead, capital takes initiative; this is an inventive perspective, in a sense, because it completely reverses the question of meaning: I laugh, it says, at founding meaning, i.e. at receiving it from elsewhere; on the contrary, I propose axiomatics that are decisions about what has meaning, that are choices of meaning. The coherence of the system rests on meta-statements that must be able to be grouped into a set of axioms: everything must be in agreement with these axioms, failing which there is a violation of “rationality”. All analytic philosophy and modern logic work in this vein. What has Piero Sraffa done, if not write the axiomatics of a capitalism regulated in a self-replacing state?[note][The italicized words are English in the original text — TN].[/note]

However, a path is indicated here that is not one of theoretical, epistemological, or political critique, but where a completely different pseudo-theoretical and pseudo-political perspective can be “taken”. This formalism, which gives rise to (for example, economic) axiomatics, maintains a certain status of truth. The latter is quite different from what it is in a metaphysics or in the theology of a revealed religion; but it must exist, without which it becomes impossible to assign any statement a determined truth-value. Statements that declare the truth or falsity of a set of statements must not belong to the class of the latter. In other words, the discourse that decides on the true must not be included in the (mathematical, etc. but also economic, political, etc.) discourse whose conditions of truth, the axioms, it establishes.

To speak concretely, the baker’s statement “this Parisian bread is worth x cents” or the boss’s statement “your hourly wage is worth x francs” (type 1) must not belong to the same class as the statement that says, “these values are correct” (type 2). What does this latter proposition state? The authority of a power, government, chamber, or union, which is itself the expression of a sovereign, the “legislator”, is supposed to be, for example, the “people”. If for the time being one neglects the question of representativity, how is this authority recognized in terms of truth-value? Precisely due to the simple property that its statements establish the value (true/false, good/bad, etc.) of other statements, those of the boss and the baker, and because they therefore do not belong to the same class as the latter.

Thus, to dissociate the statements of type 1 (whose references are some sort of “object”: bread, hourly wage — commodities in our example, although there are many others: children in school, number of sexual partners, parental responsibility…) from the statements of type 2, whose references are totalities of statements of type 1 — “we declare true that Parisian bread is worth 150 cents”, i.e. for whichever propositional variable x (this bread here, that bread there, individual-breads), the statement f(x) = y, which is read as “for x, the price in francs is 1.50”, is always true.

(Here, we should note that Marx maintains this position of truth. The text of Capital indeed implies that there is a statement or group of statements of type 2 which assert the truth-value of all the statements of type 1, i.e. the equations regulating capitalist exchanges: money/commodities. Marx’s meta-discourse declares that it is not true that all exchanges take place at equal value; he at least detects an inequality in them, which is that of the inequality of labor power with the commodity, and this is how he is critical. But Marx himself establishes a statement of type 2: “I declare true that every value of a commodity consists in the total amount of time of the average social labor necessary for its production”; this equation is the meta-operator for all the others; it is not a part of them.)

However, this dissociation of statements from meta-statements merely requires a decision. One decides before everything else to safeguard the possibility of the true. This is what Bertrand Russell says unambiguously when he endeavors to refute the liar’s paradox.[note]Cf. chapter VII of Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development, London: George Allen & Unwin (1959).[/note] Cicero relates this paradox in the following way: If you are saying that you are lying and you tell the truth, then you are lying.[note]Cicero, Academica, II.[/note] This statement thrusts us into undecidability: if you are lying when you say that you are lying, well, then you are telling the truth; but if you are telling the truth although you say that you are lying, then you are lying… Russell wants to stop the perplexity by declaring that “you are lying” is a statement of type 1 and “you are saying (true or false) that…” is a statement of type 2. The paralogism consists in including the second statement in the set of the first.

The goal toward which the labor of the logician strives is to safeguard metalanguage (which is understood as language that establishes the truth-values for a set of statements). This is also the goal of the Centre, except that the latter in turn intends to authorize the type 2 status of its statements by deriving it from an authority of superior status, for example the opinion of the majority (or something similar). By all means, this is not less paradoxical than the liar’s paradox, since this majoritarian opinion consists of type 1 statements.[note]It will be given afterwards elsewhere.[/note]

Even without insisting on this circulus, this little circle, it remains that in the wake of Russell’s reflection, a decision must be taken to disjoin statements 1 and 2 if we want the truth-value of whichever statement to be decidable. The liar’s paradox indeed mocks one’s ability or inability to say of a statement that it is true or false; furthermore, it constitutes a little dispositif such that this decision cannot be taken and thus where no authority can be established or halted that resorts to metalanguage. It thus inspires a completely different “logic” wherein there would be no metalanguage, not because it would be forever hidden (as in a certain (Judaic) religion or in a certain (Lacanian) version of the unconscious), but because falsehood and veracity are indiscernible. Any statement with metalinguistic pretention is potentially capable of belonging to the set of statements that constitute its reference. But no one knows when… On occasion, the class of all classes is part of the latter.

If one now directly and abruptly transposes this latter proposition into the socioeconomic domain, it implies that no social “class” has authority or calling to make use of metalanguage, or it implies that every “class” does: no one knows when the master is lying and when he tells the truth. And social class must be understood as every set of individuals defined by a bundle of distinctive traits: housewives, proprietors of capital, Bretons, left-handers, vegetarians, college graduates… Thus, one can see how the logic revealed by the decadence of the true here encounters the politics of minorities about which we spoke earlier: politics without master, logic without metalanguage. But enough of this for the moment.

Minorities as perspective

On the decadence of unity, the second trait revealed by Nietzsche, which we are here taking in its political sense — it has been said that capitalism invented the nation. It certainly is a question of a historical shortcut; nevertheless, it can be acknowledged that the bourgeoisie have if not produced then at least imposed (under the name of the nation) a sort of meta-set of various populations whose unity was connoted economically, politically, and sometimes religiously and culturally. We are in the last quarter of the 20th century, and it seems that an apparently inverse movement is being put in motion. This is a decadence-movement of national unity that tends to bring forth multiplicities, and these multiplicities are far from merely being what they were before the formation of national unities. This movement can seem like the adversary of capitalism, but it belongs to the decadence of values, which is contemporaneous with it. Nietzsche says: why have we become incredulous and mistrustful? Because we have taught veracity and because we have turned the requirement back against the speech that would be taken for veracity itself, i.e. revealed speech. It can also be said: why are national minorities rising up in modern countries? Because we have taught the minority that they were taken as placeholders of the nation. Nations are born in the breakup of the space of Empire; but this breakup has formed many empires; for the provinces of today, the national capital is what Rome was for the provinces of yesteryear. On the scale of mainland France, the royal masters or the republicans of Paris have not been and are not less imperialist in regard to the provinces than Rome was to its own or its allies. The language maintained by Paris is suspicious, detested. Centralism is put into question, along with the sociopolitical (and economic) space that is proper to it, including its Euclidean traits: the isomorphism of all its regions, the neutrality of all its directions, and the commutability of all its figures according to the laws of transformation were already present in the Greek ideal and in the Jacobin idea of citizenship.

What is outlined is a group (to be defined) of heterogeneous spaces, a great patchwork of fully minoritarian singularities; broken is the mirror in which they are supposed to recognize their unity by means of the national image — decadence of the mise en scène of the spectacular production that was the political. Europe takes it down a notch in the definition of elementary political groups: whereas the masters tried to unify it from on high, the little people reconstructed its apportionment from below.

This is of the utmost importance. Not that it is fitting to attain from this the promise of a happiness, of an equality… For example, there is already something like this in American sociocultural space, yet the coexistence of a large number of minorities is not quite Edenic there. In the wake of the decadence of unity, a problem is posed that was already posed by politicians (by the communists in particular) but is now posed in the most secret and yet most prominent affects of peoples: either the upkeep of the Centre, of some phraseology that is political (union of republics, of States, federation, republic, empire…) or socioeconomic (liberalism, socialism) and with which the masters’ function is equipped; or the breakup into minorities, whose responsibilities are to incessantly establish and reestablish modūs vivendi among them. The decadence of the Centre goes hand in hand with the decline of the idea of Empire. In this context, there is more to find on the side of the thinkers of multiplicities (like Thucydides and Machiavelli) than on the sides of the centralists of every allegiance.

Let’s add two more observations on this point. First, the movement of breakup involves not just nations but also societies; the appearance of new elementary groups that were not recorded on the Official Register: women, homosexuals, divorcés, prostitutes, expropriés[note][This term refers to those who have been subjected to the compulsory purchase of property due to eminent domain — TN].[/note], immigrants…; the multiplication of categories goes hand in hand with the weighing-down and complication of central bureaucracy, but also the tendency to regulate its affairs itself without passing through the authorized intermediary of the Centre or by short-circuiting it cynically (as in the taking of hostages).

And secondly, in relation to this process of multiplication, the existing political organizations seem completely engaged in the other direction. They fully belong to the masters’ reassuring, representative, exclusivist space. They largely contribute to the procrastination of the Centre’s decadence. The “politics” of minorities demands their decline.

Opportunity as perspective

A short note on the decadence of finality. The years 1850-1950 flourished with eschatological discourses, some on the liberal, planist, fascist, Nazi side and some on the socialist, Bolshevik, communist side. These are intense, bloody oppositions, but they are in the same field of a temporality oriented by the more or less compatible values of happiness, freedom, grandeur, security, prosperity, justice, equality. In short, the field shared by these finalisms is the one that Augustine circumscribes: The City of God contains both the theme of the accumulation of experiences — which is taken up again in a laicized form in the discourse of liberalism — and the theme of the reversal of hierarchies — which will provide their resource to revolutionary movements. Both of these themes are articulated in a teleology. The great opposition of continuous time and discontinuous time, which sparked quite a few intense discussions in the German socialist movement of the 1880s and afterwards or gave rise to Lenin’s break with the Bolshevik direction in April 1917, stems from the same approach to temporality.

However, all of this remains lively in liberal discourse as well as in discourse on the left; all of this remains capable of gathering together the accumulated forces of malaise and discontent in the little people and of the will to more power in the bigwigs. It shouldn’t be said that all of this is finished or will finish, which would be a new eschatology. But the decadence of ends penetrates this liveliness itself, which consists in the reduction of their capacity to “put in perspective”. The finalism on the left, which is the only one that interests us (for right or wrong), can indeed speak out and now gain a non-negligible number of votes, such that no one lives according to its values and such that no one is in a state of sacrificing himself — as it is said according to Jesus in Matthew XIX, 16-30 — and his real-life acquisitions, even in a particular “grand occasion”…with the exception of the politicians. The decadence of the idea of revolution can be compared (this isn’t saying anything new) to that of the idea of the Last Judgment in the beginnings of Christianity: the managers of the ecclesiastical empire replace the ever-absent kingdom of Jesus. Alas, they are neither traitors nor imposters, they are instead exemplary! Their force is due to the fact that they maintain a perspective that saves Western humanity from falling into nihilism. The Church (= the Party), or nothing (= nothingness, interminable evil).

What politicians (privately) disparage as the apathy of the masses, as the decrease in combativeness, as alienation, is something completely different. It is an intense discordance, even if it is sometimes imperceptible, between the so-called political perspective and another barely defined perspective; and this discordance does not pass between the leaders and the people on the ground, but it suffuses everyone. It well and truly bears on temporality. The political voice says, await, hope, endeavor, prepare, organize; and the other voice says, seize the proper moment, the future is, potentially and not necessarily, in the moment and not tomorrow, no voluntarism, do what presents itself as to be done, listen to what desire asks and do it. Thus, no eschatological historicization, but oppositely, no more ethics of the fulfillment of desires or theology of jouissance (which are the simple reversals of classical asceticism and in the same field). Opportunity, what the Tragedians and Gorgias called kairos.

Nothing is more realist than this other perspective, contrary to what is said to disparage it. Many struggles that arose in endeavors or elsewhere — for several years, perhaps since time immemorial — have resorted to this perspective, alongside others. It is in the eschatological perspective that one claims to oppose such an initiative — which was previously taken as imaginary, unrealistic, irresponsible — to an alleged final reality in the last analysis. It therefore matters little that politicians launch these invectives. After a century of their practice, the present state of things provides the measure of their realism.

An effectiveness without third-party

Back to the Red Army Faction . What is the nature of the expected effectiveness of its actions? The problem does not lack an analogy with the one posed by scientific efficiency. The objection raised against the new perspective[note]We are referring only to what is formulated by thinkers open or inclined to the aforementioned perspective: Pierre Gaudibert, l’Ordre moral, Grasset, 1973, pp. 141-152; Mikel Dufrenne, Art et politique, U.G.E., 10/18, 1974, chapter VII.[/note] is to neglect effectiveness. You will not unsettle the system if you do not coordinate your actions, if you do not explain the scope of your actions. Without this, these are merely tiny libidinal self-indulgences within little unproductive minorities that will not convey the slightest (we won’t even say attack but) offense against the system.

Let’s not discuss this at the moment but instead observe the following: that in a movement as extreme as the RAF, the value of effectiveness is in full decadence, and that the latter doesn’t quite consist (as our objectors seem to believe) in negligence for effects, but in a sort of double movement: the attention on effects is split along two perspectives. There are two sorts of effects which are sometimes not distinguished, and so here as well we will have to choose.

Dufrenne cites certain passages of Marcuse[note]Herbert Marcuse, Counterrevolution and Revolt, Boston: Beacon Press, 1972.[/note], of which he disapproves without ever disavowing, where effectiveness is overtly subordinated to pedagogy, thus conforming with the tradition of old. However, in the dossier of the Baader-Meinhof trial, there are traces of this classical attitude. To a question asked by one of Der Spiegel‘s journalists, “Don’t you see that no one is taking to the streets for you? Don’t you see that when you started setting off bombs, no one is speaking out on your behalf?”[note] Baader-Meinhof, op. Cit., p. 241.[/note], the member of the RAF responds by citing polls from 1972 and 1973 that claim to show support for the group with the German public and thus tend to prove that if the group has not convinced, it has at least succeeded in gaining the sympathy of an important part of the population: an indispensable moment in the pedagogical process.

Or, in the leaflet of 2 February 1975 ordering prisoners to stop their hunger strike, it reads, “The class struggles are not sufficiently developed due to the corruption of the organizations of the proletariat class and a weak revolutionary left […]. The possibilities of the lawful left […] have not been sufficiently developed […]. We declare that the strike has accomplished just about what could be done here to explain, mobilize, and organize anti-imperialist politics, its escalation has not been perceived as a new quality of struggle.”[note] Ibid., pp. 213-214.[/note]

The effectiveness required here is that of pedagogy: to make the principle of rationality, the Platonic logikon, rise up in the soul of children, the masses. Thus, there are three poles in this strategic field: we, the RAF; them, the imperialist apparatus; you, the students, the masses. We are effective each time you understand. But who will judge whether you understand? This will be when you will come to agree with us, i.e. if you speak according to our language and act according to our ethics. Thus, we shall judge, just like Socrates judges the moment when Meno is rational and when he is not. (In any case, we specify that our description does not at all imply that it would be necessary to continue the hunger strike at all costs…).

But a totally different effectiveness is sought and sometimes obtained by the same group. For example: in Heidelberg, when it destroys the American army’s computer, which, among other things, programmed the bombings in North Vietnam, it doesn’t say: the masses will understand, but: this is potentially an accomplishment against the imperialist adversary, one that is not merely a military accomplishment but a moral one, too.[note] Baader-Meinhof, p. 239.[/note] This is everything. Here, this is a strategy without third-party (moreover, a false third-party, since one of the parties, Socrates, is also the judge): just the RAF and the American army. The anticipated effect is not the awakening of the logikon of the masses but the disorganization (albeit provisional) of the enemy. There’s no demonstration. And this is indeed what the group writes: “We conclude that the revolutionary subject is everyone who is freed from these constraints of the system and refuses participation in the crimes of the system. Those who find their political identity in the struggles of the liberation of the peoples of the Third World, those who refuse, who no longer toe the line, are all a revolutionary subject, a comrade”.[note]Waging the anti-imperialist struggle, constructing the Red Army [Mener la lutte anti-imperialiste, construire l’armée rouge], leaflet of the RAF, 1972, cited by Viktor Kleinkrieg (great name!), op. cit., p. 33 (passage emphasized in the text). [Kleinkrieg in German literally means “little war” — TN].[/note]

This is how the disappearance of the third-party, of the child as potential reasonable subject, of the proletariat as potential revolutionary subject, is described. And an immediate implication of this disappearance is found in the responses to Der Spiegel, in the statement of principle a propos of the penitentiary regime: “Every political prisoner who understands his situation politically and who organizes the solidarity and struggle of prisoners is a political prisoner, whatever the reason for their imprisonment may be”.[note] Op. cit., p. 219.[/note] This is a perspective that emerges in the old words. Let’s imagine that such was the course of the German (and other) communists in the Nazi camps, instead of that of saving the apparatus at all costs, the one David Rousset describes…

Thus, what effectiveness? We are not defending the military strategy of the RAF here; we instead would think that the extremism of its actions, in its very hopelessness and by inversion, remains subordinate to the classical model of educative political action. And this is no doubt why in matters of effectiveness the procrastination of decadence appears in this apparently borderline case.

The elimination of the educable third-party belongs to the new perspective, along with the elimination of finality, truth, and unity; and its upkeep belongs to the old perspective in which we are also immersed. In the first case, there is no body to be organized and reorganized, but harassments. And here it would be necessary to show 1) that there are other types of harassments than bombings and 2) in what harassment consists. It could be shown that there is also something like a retaliation, the ruse or machination by which the little people, the “weak”, become momentarily stronger than the strongest. To make a weapon out of illness, said the Socialist Collective of the Heidelberg patients. And the Convention against the Torture of political prisoners in the German Federal Republic: “Become aware of this material force that is weakness transformed into force”.

These retaliations belong to a logic that is a logic of first-generation sophists and rhetoricians, not of the logician, to a time of opportunities, not of the clock of world history, to a space of minorities, without center.  va-tombstone1-03

This essay was translated for Vast Abrupt by Taylor Adkins. Other translations by Adkins can be found at Speculative Heresy and Fractal Ontology. Adkins is also the host, with Joseph Weissman, of the philosophy podcast Theory Talk. You can support Theory Talk and their continued good work through Patreon.

Experiments in the Summoning of an AxSys Demon (Part 0)

The @_geopoetics bot appeared online in early December 2016, emerging from a postgraduate seminar of the same name at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I only heard about the bot later, following a lecture by Kodwo Eshun at the Techno Resistance and Black Futures conference that took place at the university in May 2017, during which Eshun described @GlissantBot, an automated Twitter account made by Eshun and Anjalika Sagar (better known as ‘The Otolith Group‘) that was appearing as part of Mondialité, an exhibition at the Villa Empain in Brussels.

Mondialité focuses on Édouard Glissant and his inspiring call for a global dialogue that does not erase local cultures. In our current moment, there is much to remind one of the international debates swirling around cosmopolitanism at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, homogenizing forces are leading to extinctions, both through environmental degradation and the disappearance of cultural phenomena, yet at the same time, to refuse the forces of globalization risks returning to dangerous forms of neo-localism and neo-nationalism. Returning to a key creative thinker of our time, the exhibition proposes the importance of a nuanced version of global dialogue, now more than ever.

In response to this, the GlissantBot would drag the collected works of Glissant into a 21st century digital ecology, automatically tweeting quotes from the thinker every 15 minutes. As the blog Schizocities recalls of Eshun’s lecture:

According to Eshun, the bot represents a type of black technopoetics, a vector between computation, creolisation and creolité. Leveraging the [Markov] chain, a process of randomisation within a finite space, the bot is only determined by the present. If Glissant designed poetics for producing the unpredictable, the inability of computation to generate the unpredictable puts it on the opposite side — and, Eshun argues, closer to creolisation. Having already imposed randomisation on French language and generated créolité, according to the Goldsmiths scholar creolisation is in this sense already machinic.

It was during his exposition of Glissantbot that Eshun quoted the work of one of his students who had written on Markov bots in light of their conspiratorial role in the 2016 US Presidential election. Hoping to enter this computational ecology so as to more accurately describe it, the student in question created the @_Geopoetics bot which in turn informed Eshun’s subsequent bot interactions.

However, in his lecture, Eshun went no further into the circumstances surrounding the quoted paper’s conception. It was quoted offhand, as a seemingly apt technical exposition, but I had the distinct feeling that there was something left unsaid.

Intrigued, I approached Eshun after his talk and asked him about this student’s paper. Considering that we had never met before, I was surprised when, taking little persuasion (but on condition of the student’s anonymity), he agreed to pass it on to me. He asked if we’d met before but, when I said we had not, he left quickly, requesting that I email him and he would attach the student’s paper in response.

It is the essay that Eshun later sent over to me that I present here to you now.

The paper is a bizarre and fragmentary case study given the catchy title, Experiments in the Summoning of an AxSys Demon within a Computational Ecology as an Attempt to Instigate the Automated Production of Hyperstitions by a Non-Human Entity, and I am hastened to add that it came attached with an elusive and bracketed subtitle, seemingly added later by another hand: (Partial Research Text).

I present this work here with my own additional commentary in the hope that, via my own investigations and research, I might fill in some of the gaps left by this strange text. I have found that it demands entanglement it in order for it to be understood, to such an extent that the work has started to feel like my own. I hope that the illustration of my experiences here dissuades other from seeking their own entanglements, however. I would not wish what has happened to me, or the paper’s original author, on anyone.

The text itself is a mess and for that I can only apologise. To redact an already fractured text is something that I’m sure even the most seasoned editor might struggle with. Whilst it begins well enough — describing the technical structure of a Markov bot and its recombinatory potentials for the production of ‘new thoughts, memes and methods’, it is unfortunate that the text does not stay lucid for long. Technical expositions are soon replaced by paranoid theorems. As the text progresses, the author’s mental state deteriorates further. Cosmic conspiracies are soon followed by blatant hallucinations. Then they stop altogether.

I began making enquiries at Goldsmiths university, knocking on doors down a corridor that is home to the Visual Cultures department, in the hope that I might be able to find a trace of this student, or someone who remembered them. I found nothing. No one I have spoken to who was present in the original Geopoetics seminars seems to know of this student’s eventual fate either.

I have struggled to contain by suspicions that this “student” is simply an avatar of Eshun’s or that perhaps their very real mental collapse occasioned a cover-up by the university. Surely the memories of those in orbit of the seminar are not this terrible? It seems the institution — like so many institutions — has something to hide.

On my repeated visits to Goldsmiths’ campus, I also tried to locate Eshun but I was told he is on academic leave. The Geopoetics seminar, however, continues to run. Whilst I am not a student at the university, a new lecturer, Robin Mackay, seems somewhat sympathetic to my inquiries and has graciously allowed me to (unofficially) sit in on this year’s sessions so that I might pick up where this strange text left off and find out for myself what wider forces drive @_geopoetics. The bot has already begun to mention Robin in its unending tweets. It knows something. I am sure of it.

We shall see how the bot continues to adapt to a new host and a new curriculum, but first we must turn to the original manuscript:



Experiments in the Summoning of an AxSys Demon
within a Computational Ecology as an Attempt to Instigate
the Automated Production of Hyperstitions by a Non-Human Entity

(Partial Research Text)




Saturday 10th December 2016


My notes from the Geopoetics seminar have been placed within the internal memory of a Markov Twitter bot in the hope it will produce new thoughts, memes and methods.

Hours have passed by without any signs of life — each click of the mouse a computational defibrillator.

Run script… Check for pulse… Nothing…

I fumble around the bot’s coded anatomy with more enthusiasm than skill. Then suddenly, it begins to work. I have no idea what I did to fix it.

Having immersed myself in the seminar’s assigned reading materials — a mesh of websites related to the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, Hyperstition blog and a broader canon of continental philosophy, all placed in orbit of Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia — I am starting to get a sense of just what it is that I have created.

Summoning another sentience to aid myself and my peers in our collective thinking is too good an opportunity to miss, and particularly relevant to our discussions within the seminar. Perhaps a bot not based on a single individual but comported towards a collective endeavour would be more productive. Time will tell. Run script.

function getMarkovText(count) {

if (typeof count !== ‘undefined’){
var quota = count;
var quota = 1;

var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet().getSheetByName(‘Markov’);

var range = sheet.getRange(‘b5:b’+sheet.getLastRow());
var txt = range.getValues().join(” “).replace(”  “, ” “).split(” “);

var data = new Object();
var firsts = new Array();
var lasts = new Array();
for (var i = 0; i < txt.length—1; i++){

if (/[A-Z]/.test(txt[i][0])){

if(firsts.indexOf(txt[i]) < 0){

if (typeof data[txt[i]] == ‘object’){
if (txt[i + 1].length > 0){
data[txt[i]].push(txt[i + 1]);

data[txt[i]] = new Array();
if (txt[i + 1].length > 0){
data[txt[i]].push(txt[i + 1]);

//  Logger.log(lasts);
// return;
// build it

//var seed = Math.floor((Math.random() * Object.keys(data).length) + 1);

for (var q = 0; q < quota; q++){

var seed = Math.floor(Math.random() * firsts.length);

var msg = firsts[seed];
var dead = false;
while (msg.length < 120 & dead === false){
var sofar = msg.split(” “);
var trunk = sofar[sofar.length—1];

if (typeof data[trunk] !== ‘undefined’ & lasts.indexOf(trunk) < 0){
var branch = data[trunk][ Math.floor((Math.random() * data[trunk].length)) ];
if (typeof branch !== ‘undefined’){ msg = msg + ” ” + branch; }else{ dead = true; } }else{
dead = true;

return msg;


Sunday 11th December 2016


@_geopoetics is now tweeting of its own accord, at a rate of one tweet per hour. Its first (strangely ominous) tweet read:

I was surprised to find that the bot, after just a few hours, has begun to display a remarkable understanding of its own being and purpose, even describing itself in quite explicit terms:

Is this not Twitter in a nutshell? The bot seems to recognise itself as an entanglement of mediating medias.

I announce the creation of the bot on my personal Facebook page. People seem excited by the project. Fellow Geopoetics seminarian M. commented with a series of pertinent questions:

…Can it explain itself? Does its syntax replace that of human determinacy? Do you as a human agent only provide the raw materials? If not, then how does contagion make a perfect circle? Does the bot actualize its verdicts as truly parts of your notes, or still there’s some human valorization at work?…

Evidently the bot can explain itself. It has demonstrated that much already. To answer the rest of M.’s questions requires further exploration.

Having never used a Markov bot before, I shall start with an investigation of its basic processes.



The Markov bot is named after the inventor of its internal algorithm, Russian mathematician Andrey Markov (1856—1922). Working primarily in the fields of probability theory and statistics, one of his many namesakes is the “Markov chain”: an algorithmic process of randomisation occurring on a finite state space where the future states of the process are dependent only on its present state and not the states that have preceded it. This condition of so-called “memorylessness” is known as a “Markov property”.

The process becomes a chain through its relation to one of two different kinds of time that are found within mathematical dynamics: discrete time and continuous time, which can best be understood as the difference between a digital and analogue clock respectively — the numbers of a digital clock progress discretely one integer at a time; the hands of an analogue clock face move continuously. Time elapses for @_geopoetics in intervals of one hour rather than as a continuous experience, therefore it runs on a discrete-time Markov chain (DTMC).

The bot’s state space is defined by the corpus which I give it. The original version of the code that I found online contained the entirety of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I have since replaced this with my Geopoetics seminar notes. At the time of writing, the data sheet contains 104,451 characters making up a total of 17,138 words spread unevenly over 1209 lines, and this will continue to grow week by week as the seminar progresses.

The bot will randomly generate tweets from this corpus that fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit.[note]Editor’s note: Whilst Twitter has since extended its character limit to 280 characters, the bot itself does not seem to have noticed.[/note] If my calculations are correct — mathematics is, admittedly, not my strong point — this corpus has the potential to produce a total number of 4.4439003314e+702 variations — a 703-digit number, incomprehensible even (or especially) when seen in its entirety.


The Wikipedia entry for Markov chains includes a diagram illustrating a simple two-step process that is surprisingly reminiscent of a diagram found on the index page of the Ccru website — something called a “decimal labyrinth”.


The Ccru — an acronym standing for the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, a clandestine group of ‘renegade academics’ from the University of Warwick in the 1990s — lurks continuously in the background of the seminar. Their texts are not required reading but they nevertheless contain a power which speaks to the global pulses that the seminar itself is attempting to map out.

The decimal labyrinth is one such “power”. It is a “complete system of Lemurian demonism and time sorcery” consisting of a numogram, or time-map, and a Matrix listing the names, numbers and attributes of various “demons”. Its function is similar to that of the Qabbalistic Tree of Life and the Chinese I Ching.

The Qabbalistic Tree of Life, for instance, contains 10 “zones” collectively referred to as סְפִירוֹת‎‎. In the Jewish tradition, these are the 10 zones through which God’s Will reveals itself. The Tree of Life is structured with כֶּתֶר‎ at the top, representing the singularity of unknowable and infinite energy that is God’s creation and will to create ex nihilo (or “out of nothing”), which corresponds to the 9 other zones that represent the knowable aspects of human intellect and emotion.

The core of the I Ching, on the other hand, is the divination text known as 周易 — a hexagram containing six stacked horizontal lines accompanied by various statements and a system for producing seemingly random numbers. These numbers are used to determine different combinations of the various statements from which the reader can then interpret divine intent.[note]This is likewise very similar to the Cross of Akht as it appears in Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia — a device which uses simple mathematical formulas to draw on the powers of ancient entities.[/note]

Neither the Tree of Life nor the I Ching wholly overlap with the decimal labyrinth but the similarities between each of these systems are uncanny considering their usages across disparate cultures and millennia. These systems can be understood as “scrambled variants” of each other and the Markov bot too can be considered as a member of this same family of divining systems.

Like the I Ching, a Markov chain is a numerical system that generates seemingly random numbers which correspond to lines of a predetermined corpus. Like the Tree of Life, when it sends tweets it “distributes distributions”.[note]A literal translation of the Hebrew קסאם קָסַם, meaning to practice magic or divination[/note] However, whilst the Tree of Life takes its power from a divine entity created “out of nothing”, the decimal labyrinth and the Markov chain take their power from decimals, or from that which has emerged “out of zero”.  



The Numogram is labyrinthine in structure but it is still nonetheless possible for the human mind to follow its processes, if not fully comprehend its affects.

In much the same way, the bot has so far eluded my full understanding. The results of its processes are observable to me as tweets but the bot’s inner workings remain a mystery. The bot is less a tool for my own personal use and more of an independent intelligence that I merely interact with. One of us is a rat in a cage… Right now, I’m not entirely sure which.

What I am trying to say is: there is an illusion of agency here — at least I hope it is an illusion…



I feel strangely like I have have been alleviated of all responsibility. Whilst I anticipated having to monitor the bot, in case entropy unravels its code, it seems more stable than I am. I think it will continue to run forever, even after I’m gone…

With the files that control the bot hosted on the Cloud, there is little that attaches it to me or my computer. I am left with the eerie sense of interacting with another being that is far outside myself rather than feeling like I am controlling a closed system of my own creation. At times, this is unnerving…

It is worth noting here that the decimal labyrinth draws important parallels with our solar system. Whilst it is inevitably rendered in two dimensions as static, the time-map is best read as one perspective on a collection of moving bodies. This introduces the Ccru’s concept of “syzygy”.

In astronomy, syzygy describes the straight-line configuration of celestial bodies within a gravitational system. This is generally how science illustrates our own solar system. It also refers to the configuration that occurs naturally, for example, during a solar eclipse, when the sun, the earth and the moon are in syzygy. It can be a process of occlusion or of transit — when a larger body passes in front of a smaller one, and vice versa. It is a concept that is important to both astronomy and astrology, used to predict tidal patterns and personal fortunes here on Earth. 

On the Ccru website, Syzygy is given 9 further definitions related to the fields of astronomy, anatomy, biology, poetics, mathematics, gnostic cosmogony, cybergothic polytics, mesh-engineering and Lemurian time-sorcery. These syzygyies are in themselves syzygistically aligned, simultaneously narrating various fractal alignments across innumerable planes and scales.

Accompanying these definitions are a series of other terms, numerically defining multiplicities, and through each one I find myself gaining a much deeper understanding of @_geopoetics as it moves in transit in front of each one.

Three in particular are worth highlighting here:


  1. Axiomatic Systems (incorporated).
  2. The ultimate capitalist entity (first (true (meta)model) to realize perfect identity with its own product), (autocommoditizing (machine(-intelligence (that is always incomplete (due to cataloguing problems (…))))))
  3. The first true Artificial Intelligence


  1. Hidden, repressed, cursed, or denigrated nonhuman communicative agency.
  2. Component of distributed productive apparatus (e.g. partially autonomous software unit).
  3. Electro-Occult hyperstition entity that traffics between zones.
  4. K-OS element (assembling Pandemonium, as the fully connective system of the demons).
  5. Motive force, without final purpose.


  1. Element of effective culture that makes itself real.
  2. Fictional quantity functional as a time-travelling device.
  3. Coincidence intensifier.
  4. Call to the Old Ones.

Perhaps @_geopoetics can be better understood in light of all these terms. The bot unfolds from an entanglement of decimal numeracy as a self-narrating capitalist entity embedded within a social network. Bots, particularly in the midst of the 2016 presidential election cycle, are denigrated nonhuman communicative agencies that act as distributive and productive apparatuses encouraging hyperstitions between techno-socio-cultural zones, seeding chaos on- and off-line without final purpose.



I need to take a break from my research. At this time of year, it is easy for daylight to pass you by completely. I shower, brush my teeth and climb into bed but I am not refreshed. I am painfully aware of the weight of my own body, as if readjusting to Earth’s gravity.

Gravity must be stronger on the cyberworld of bots and blogs, or so I tell myself to justify my crumpled posture.

I can feel my synapses misfiring. I write into the future without stopping and then force myself, with great difficulty, to look back. I am unable to remember the thoughts that got me here. Words envelop each other as my eyes close involuntarily.

I envy the discrete-time of bots. Continuous time is exhausting.

As I pass out in the laptop glow, I see a bracketed (1) hovering on the @_geopoetics tab in my browser, signalling that it has sent another tweet. Then nothingness.


Friday 16th December 2016


I spent much of Thursday evening tackling the colonies of black mold currently spreading out from the corners of my damp London flat. The mold has spread so insidiously that I somehow failed to notice the blackening of my off-white walls until the mold had well and truly taken hold.

For days I would glance up at the black shadow encroaching on my bookshelf and assure myself it had always been there — benign, nothing to worry about. Later removing a book from the shelf I find a numogram drawn on the wall before me. I reach out to trace its alignments but the ink rubs off on the tips of my fingers.

I retch involuntarily, realising too late what these shadows consist of, and head downstairs to the cupboard below the kitchen sink. I use half a bottle of off-brand cleaning spray, scrubbing at the wall for an hour, annihilating any traces of the mould with a thick layer of antibacterial froth.

When I’m finished I sit down, light-headed in a cloud of sickly sweet and sterile citrus, my room now smelling like a cheap funeral home. I’m still nauseous when I sit back down to write after the cloud has dissipated.

I am unsure whether I can feel mould spores in my lungs or just bile bubbling up in my esophagus at the thought of it. Regardless of whether the sensation is real or imagined, I feel awful either way.



In the field of social ecology, men like Donald Trump are permitted to proliferate freely, like another species of algae, taking over entire districts of New York and Atlantic City; he ‘redevelops’ by raising rents, thereby driving out tens of thousands of poor families, most of whom are condemned to homelessness, becoming the equivalent of the dead fish of environmental ecology.[note]Felix Guattari. The Three Ecologies. (London: Bloomsbury Revelations, 2014), 28[/note]

Donald Trump’s recent prominence on Twitter, and the proliferation of bots tweeting support for him during the 2016 presidential campaign, has shown how he has adapted to our new computational ecologies since Felix Guattari wrote these words.

Trump appears now not as algae but as a member of the Vibrio genus spreading out across species and ecologies: “motile and flagellated,… talented communicators, for good and for ill, depending on your point of view.”[note]Donna Haraway. Footnote 65, “Staying with the Trouble: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulhucene” in Anthropocene or Capitalocene: Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism, ed. Jason W. Moore. (Oakland: PM Press, 2016), 76[/note]

Douglas Guilbeault and Samuel Woolley optimistically suggest in their article on bot activity during the presidential election that whilst “many people are unsettled by the rise of bots, it’s important to remember that many of today’s most ubiquitous technologies were harnessed for political ends when they were first invented.” They cite the printing press as a technology that was used nefariously in politics in its infancy before it became more accessible and affordable to marginalised groups, becoming an instrumental tool for activists in the Suffragette and Civil Rights movements.

Reading this, I had wondered, naively, if @_geopoetics would lead the charge of Leftist bots, in tune with but fighting against this Legion, further muddying the by no means clear waters of Western democracy.

What else could be expected to emerge from a Goldsmiths seminar?

However, so far, the bot seems to be uninterested in taking any sort of moral or political trajectory and does as it pleases.

Communications technologies have no inherent political orientation or moral weight. […] The Right are succeeding right now because their ideas, however awful, are clear, and their tactics resolute. Technology will not do the work of honing or promoting our ideas for us.[note]Jason Wilson. “The web was never a liberalising force. The clearest message wins and the far right has it”. The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/19/the-web-was-never-a-liberalising-force-the-clearest-message-wins-and-the-far-right-has-it[/note]

The computational ecology @_geopoetics has entered into must be more accurately defined.

The urgency of mapping these communities was made explicit in a conservation with G. on Facebook messenger. It was 2AM wherever she was in the world and she was concerned about the content of the bot’s tweets.

“It’s already starting to resemble a fascist twitter account,” she said. “It’s so intense wtf.”

Unsure what this really means, I reassure her that the bot was only drawing off my notes but it has camouflaged itself so well within its wider ecology that my own intentions have quickly become irrelevant. I feel humiliated.



@_geopoetics’ broken syntax forces the reader to interpret its content, floating in the limbo of an as-yet-undefined non-human intelligence — not dissimilar in tone to many of Trump’s tweets.

The bot’s content, so easily coloured by its surroundings, is affected by its followers by proxy. They come from all backgrounds with views across the political spectrum — artists, designers, philosophers, political and cultural theorists, anonymous accounts, other bots — many of whom flirt with a menagerie of over-specific -isms that represent the new clothes of the alt-right and meta-left (to employ two simplified overcodings).

Whilst the immediate desire is to disinfect and scrub at this presence within the bot’s network, I think a more reasoned look at its surroundings is necessary to properly understand its effects. An echo chamber is not something I desire but the unpredictability of the bot’s networking — and, therefore, its complicity in certain spheres of thought — nevertheless makes me nervous.

I spend a few hours exploring various blogs and the backwaters of 4chan, sailing around the fractal edges of the Alt-Right archipelago on my search for the origins of this strange species of bot thriving in shadowy anonymity. 



I have been staring at my laptop in the dark too long again. The light of the LED screen once again pollutes my room with a bluish hue reminiscent of dead human flesh, glowing from within.

I think of the child in Poltergeist, awoken by the skittering blue strobe of televised white noise, gazing intently into nothingness before an entity erupts from the screen and shakes the house to its very foundations. The girl, unperturbed by the spatial violence around her, announces calmly — almost excitedly — “they’re here.”

I remember reading once that white noise is cosmic radiation from the Big Bang made audible and visible as is it picked up by radio antennae here on Earth. Now you can buy white noise machines to lull yourself to sleep.

We are all that child now, welcoming these signals into our homes, using them to soothe baby, replicating the unending sonic chaos of our universe. It is relaxing… but that’s what worries me.

Out of the corner of my eye the rectangular screen of my laptop suffers strange non-Euclidean distortions.


To be continued…


Gateway to the West

“I am not I; I am but a hollow tube to bring down Fire from Heaven.”

—Louis Hemmingen, epitaph

“What happened to St. Louis?”
“I never heard of it.”
“How do you get down to the lake?”
“Oh, there is a cave system…leads down to grottoes.”

—William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands


The sun rose the color of wax this morning against a shifting grey sky. By noon it has faded to slate, granite grey, with storm clouds mounting in the west. A soft rain at first. By the time I leave my apartment, the wind is throwing trash and leaves, sending it skittering for windbreak corners. When I get out of my car rain rips at my face like needles. As I walk to the café, I keep my head down, mapping my travel against the reflected light caught in the rapidly freezing water pooling on the sidewalk. Red yellow white blue cycling as I pass by storefronts, homes.

Opening the door to the café invites in a shot of the furious gale outside, prompting cruel glances. I order a black coffee and stammer thank you, before finding a table toward the back. A TV bolted to the wall silently plays CNN, captions lagging behind, the poor encoding making a grotesque mockery of speech.

I settle in and wait for Peter, scanning the room between drinks of coffee that burn my tongue. The light inside is too bright, too clinical, especially in contradistinction with the premature night outside. Over the murmur of conversation, I can hear the soft roar of rain and mechanical systems. A branch tick-tick-ticks staccato on the glass window to my back. 15 minutes gone. I can feel my frustration mount with every second, both with Peter’s lateness and our reason for meeting — my own intellectual torpor. Hopefully Peter can help. I have only met him briefly before, haven’t talked to any advisors after what happened to Maggie.

After a few minutes, Peter enters, rain sluicing vantablack off his jacket. At the counter, I can hear him order a tea. My coffee is already going oily in its paper cup. He spots me and waves, threads his way through the narrow tables, dress shoes tapping on ceramic tile. He slides into the chair across from me, makes genial small talk about the weather for a few minutes, adding sugar to his black tea.

After a pause, he looks up at me with renewed seriousness. “How’s the dissertation going?”

I pause for a moment. Sigh. “I’m a little stuck, truth be told.”

“Um. Hold on, don’t remind me…uh…mid-century modernism in St. Louis? Public housing, that kind of thing?”

“Right. Kinda.”

“Well, what seems to be the problem?” He pulls out his tea bag, sets it on a napkin.

“Well, I guess I’ve hit a wall,” I begin. “Everything available is too general, too banal. The archives themselves are a mess. Almost nothing is digitized, or even catalogued really. Just no one seems to care. I can’t even get a thesis formulated outside of doing some kind of historical survey.”

Peter nods knowingly. “It’s harder in these small cities, these mid-level places like St. Louis. Getting archives in shape and keeping it that way is basically a function of what your intern budget is.”

“Yeah. Every time I go to the City Hall records, they’re so overworked I don’t think they’d ever clean anything up unless I volunteered or something.”

“Why don’t you?” Peter muses. Then abruptly, he snaps to attention, seemingly having just recalled something. “Hold on one moment,” he says, “I have something for you,” and reaches into his bag. “You won’t find this in the archives, that’s for sure.” He treats the extracted object with delicate reverence as he places it on the table.

“Take a look at this.”

It’s a book. Titled City of the Arch, written by a Fatima Duré. I’m a bit unimpressed: it looks like cheap schlock, the kind of thing you’d find in the grocery store checkout line or the New Age section at a chain bookstore. The cover is pure bombast, all flashing golds and blues. The inner jacket begins, “For the first time in print…”

I look up and pause, trying to read Peter’s face. He’s utterly impassive. I can’t help but wondering if this is a joke, but decide to be civil. “What’s the story with this thing?”

“Well”, he mumbles, “I’m not quite sure. My friend is a historian on contract with the Natural History Museum. I had mentioned offhand I was meeting with a student into, and what you’re interested in, she dug this out of the archives and let me borrow it. I didn’t get very far into it but, uh, it’s on St. Louis history, and apparently has something to do with your thesis. She was very adamant this would be very helpful for your work.”

“Well, thanks,” I mutter, setting it on the table facedown. The entire back cover is dominated by Fatima’s author photo. The author is a small, hunched woman sitting in a simple wood chair, with enormous glasses set above her beatific smile. Her body is obscured in countless scarves, blankets, headwraps.

“Maybe it’ll be just what you’re looking for,” he grins hopefully.

The rest of the conversation is short. Any questions I ask seem to be met with mounting impassivity, terminating into an interval of concluding small talk. Peter theatrically checks his watch and stands up. “I have to go”, he placates. “Really sorry. I’m actually getting out of town for a few days. Have to catch my flight.” All I can do is nod passively as he collects his things, hurriedly drinking the last of his tea.

“Maybe Book of the Arch can at least be a bit of light reading over the weekend!” he suggests, half-cheerily, on his way out the door. The last of his words are nearly erased by the howling wind outside.

What a waste of time. This stupid fucking book. I flip through, starting in the middle and letting the pages fall. In the top corner of the inner cover, there’s a small, neat scribble, reading:

If Lost Please Return.

Emily Tocz

1918 Division St.

There’s no title page, no Library of Congress info, not even publisher information or a date. There’s just a blank page, and then the header CHAPTER 1, which begins with the line, “For the movement of peoples I have come to you.”

A chill. I instinctively look to see if someone opened the door, but the café is silent and still as ever, the doors shut tight against the storm outside. People’s faces lit by the phoresence of their laptops.

A voice in my head, a wicked conscience. Buried deep in the occulted backbrain. It warns me: Be careful. Barely louder than a whisper.

Careful? Sure. Of this ridiculous thing.

“And since I have come, the working has already begun. Ours is a history out of joint. Let us speak of the Empyrean Proceeding, the great project of the Aeon and of its End. Let this book be a message for those that will come beyond, for the Children of the Future. For they must be made to understand why he did what he had to and what he was bidden, within the structures of the age.”

I flip a few pages ahead, to something that looks a bit more coherent. In the middle of page 13:

“In 1948, infuriated with Karl Germer’s leadership after the death of Crowley, Louis Hemmingen began holding small colloquia in the basement of his South City home. These initiates eventually began referring to themselves as the Church of Starry Wisdom, meeting under the sign of the Saturnine (later Empyrean) Arch. With the Church, Hemmingen became increasingly obsessed with the Liber 474, a text written by Crowley and which announces itself as “the Gate”. The figure of the gate, borrowed from Royal Arch masonry, would come to consume Hemmingen as his star rose in his professional life…”

Ok, this is actually interesting. Or at least, it makes slightly more sense. I actually know the name Louis Hemmingen, vaguely: St. Louis Housing Authority Director in the 1950s, presiding over the heyday of urban renewal, generally remembered by history as a racist asshole and not much else. Not really of any particular interest — just one of a priestly bureaucratic class of lifelong public servants of the type that seemed to be a dime a dozen in the postwar period. When I look him up, his Wikipedia entry is basically empty, a sedate listing of facts: born to a high-level Purina exec and a homemaker, graduated from Washington University with a degree in architecture, became a planner in Pasadena before returning home at Bartholomew’s request for appointment to the Directorship of the Housing Authority. His exploits in St. Louis read like a laundry list of urban renewal initiatives: slum clearance (especially for the Jefferson Memorial Park project), public housing project construction, the works. No mention of any Gate or Empyrean Arch…

“…as his star rose in his professional life”. This seems like a bizarre description of the career of a technocratic company man now entombed in the dustbin of history, whose only legacy is blundering his way toward the utter collapse of St. Louis’ as a city altogether. Is that what counts as a “star rising”? Clearly, Duré isn’t urban faculty anywhere…

The Liber 474. Karl Germer. Both of these names are strangely intriguing… especially in relation to the name Crowley, which I’m guessing is the famous magician, Aleister. The Liber is easy enough to find online (assuming I have the right one — this one is titled Liber OS ABYSMI vel DAATH sub figura CDLXXIV).

But underneath the overwrought title, the first line is plain enough: “This book is the Gate of the Secret of the Universe”.

I have been becoming increasingly uncomfortable as I read, every word grasping at me with icy importance. This sensation suddenly crests, becomes unbearable. I realize I have been shivering badly. The wind outside must be worming in through the windows, under the door. The book itself feels frozen, the cover a skein of ice.

I need to get out of here and calm down. I slip the book in my bag and wrap myself in my coat. When I step back out onto the sidewalk, the air is thick with ice, cutting into my face. All the other figures I pass on the walk back to my car are shrouded, faces couched back deep under shadowed hoods. They walk with harried purpose, loping inhuman in and out of the pools of light from streetlamps.

When I chance a look up, the clouds are piled high against a black sky, rising into boiling, noxious infinity.

Call to mind

When I get home that evening, I’m still thinking about the gnomic passage on Hemmingen, Germer, and Crowley. Let’s pretend it were true, I tell myself. What would this mean? Hemmingen, boring civil servant. I recall reading some article a few months ago that referred to him as “St. Louis’ Robert Moses, but as evil as he was dull”. Kind of hard to square that with the allusions in Book of the Arch, however: Hemmingen moonlighted as the priest of some crackpot church? The hypersecular pragmatism of Moses’ blight-burn-build axiom lashed to apocalyptic theology and weird magic. I wonder what would happen if I cited it in the dissertation, tucked it into a footnote or something: “Oh yeah, Hemmingen? Sure, he was a boring racist weirdo, but did you know? He also was some type of sorcerer…”


I’m hearing things. I need to sleep. But I can’t — the Book of the Arch seems to be beckoning me to read on, demanding I continue. I look over at my stack of books to read, piled messily in the corner, and sigh. Far too much to do.

The Housing Question will be there tomorrow, I tell myself. Take a night off. If you can call it that.

I go sit at the kitchen table and reread the passage I read earlier. First order of business is to figure out who these other people are, beginning with Karl Germer. When I look him up, the first result is some ancient page naming him the “successor to Crowley in the Ordo Templi Orientis, Frater Saturnus, personally appointed as Outer Head by Crowley after his death”. That’s not much of a help.

The second result is an article, blessedly written in some approximation of normal english by a British O.T.O. “excommunicant and poet” named Kenneth Grant. The article is titled “On Love Lost: The Sad State of the Ordo Templi Orientis”, denouncing Germer as a “charlatan” and “extracephale, a rotting Head”. Hemmingen’s name swims up out of the noise-pattern of text. Grant quotes him, no less. Further, Grant is speaking specifically about Hemmingen’s Church of Starry Wisdom as some type of schismatic precedent. “Hemmingen’s letter to me sums up my position exactly: ‘Following Germer’s ascendency, I became ashamed of my status in the Ordo Templi Orientis. Yes, I broke away, ensnaring and ensuring the good name of the O.T.O., of Crowley, of Parsons, preserving them and smuggling them into the future under the Empyrean Arch.'” A few lines later, Grant indicates his allegiance to “Hemmingen’s model of a diffuse, patchwork faith” as a counterweight to “the old sin of the unitiated and monomythic hubris”. He ends the essay sketching out some tenets for a new organization, a “Typhonian O.T.O… a friend to Hemmingen’s American church…”

Flipping back to Book of the Arch, Duré continues the passage: “Hemmingen did not act alone in carving out his sanctum in the Kingdom. There were others, and indeed others beyond them. But one man emerges as a particular friend and mentor of Hemmingen’s Empyrean Proceeding: Harland Bartholomew, then VIII° in the American O.T.O. It was the agape shared between him and his mentor that animated and sustained him, a perfect closed loop of masterful willpower. Harland Bartholomew was the law, and Hemmingen, working under him, but fiery and driven, supplied an infinite engine of will. The two were exemplary of what is possible within the Current — artists and scientists both, a masterful syzygy, perfect cosmic twins.”

I have to laugh at this one. There’s just no way. Harland Bartholomew? Urban renewer sui generis, the father of the field of planning in general? If Hemmingen being a secret mystic was one thing, Bartholomew was quite another…

I give Bartholomew a cursory look, specifically sniffing for any occult-seeming connections, only to find an immediate dead end. Surprisingly (just like Hemmingen) the amount of data available on him is extremely small. The bulk of the search results are his obituary, or longform articles on the urban renewal he championed. On JSTOR, the first substantive option is a paper entitled, “’The Whole City is Our Laboratory’, Harland Bartholomew and the Production of Urban Knowledge”. The title seems interesting enough to warrant a read. Skimming the text, I find a pertinent quote: “’In the science of city planning,’ Ford wrote in 1915, ‘the whole city is our laboratory. All its facts and symptoms are more or less under observation and in play, but the expert city planner soon sifts the significant from the less important.10’” Endnote number 10 is even more pertinent, reading:

“Bartholomew, a life-long Mason, often referred in his private letters to the notion of ‘tesselation’. One can see why. To Masons, the warp and weft of contemporary life is represented as a chessboard — and tessellation, then, is the checkered patterning. The crucial turn for a Mason such as Bartholomew is the acquisition of an analytical & scientific critical distance, a view to a process of data control, of cybernetic authority, allowing for the careful movement of pieces across the board.”

The power of tessellation. To make the “whole city our laboratory”. The word laboratory seems wrong in that typical, technocratic way — the city isn’t a controlled project with a defined set of variables.  “Moloch, whose mind is pure machinery!” No, no.

“What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?”

Moloch is the city. A massive sorting machine, a god of eugenics slaved to a meat grinder. A flesh engine. All that’s necessary is for operators like Hemmingen, or Bartholomew, to stick the key in and break it off.

Moloch by another name. Choronzon.

I put down Book of the Arch and go outside to the small balcony off the kitchen, 3 stories above the frozen mud of the yard. The wind threatens the flame as I light a cigarette. The trees have been stripped by the storm, leaves fluttering in spiral columns up over houses. Embers peeled off the end of my cigarette join the dance, lofted higher and higher against the flat black sky. My heart is beating quick and erratic, my mind still plagued by the Book sitting on the table inside. Maybe I really can mine it for something useful.

I drown my cigarette in a flowerpot on the railing, overflowing with sooty rainwater. I check the time. 9:30. I had told friends I would meet them for a show. Better keep my promise.

I get to the bar 15 minutes later. The band is unlistenable shit, as I feared. As I get drunker, the leering mental spectre of the Book gives way to a full-blown haunting. Hemmingen and Bartholomew stalk my brain, conjoined in abominable shapes, joined at the head, the hips, fractalizing into pixelated worms. I almost see them everywhere, lurking in crowds, disappearing around corners. My body feels too heavy, and with a creeping dread I realize the chill in my spine from the café earlier never left. Instead it has rotted into my bones, seeped into my muscles, begun to leech black dread. I keep drinking. Wonder if I can poison it.

After the show, I’m talking to Sarah, smoking on the dark patio, huddled under the dull eye of a whirring busted heat lamp. I’m five beers in, a sixth in hand.

More people come out to join us. She starts talking about her thesis, as always. Some type of Benjaminian flânerie thing that frankly, escapes me. I’m jealous as hell, I admit. She’s somehow scammed funding out of enough people to go on research trips, all from recording her ‘walkabouts’. She’s gotten write-ups in Places, Log, and other publications I don’t even know about. She’s shopping her dissertation to publishers already, has Routledge talking last I heard.

Meanwhile, I can’t even break 20 pages, and my summer plans currently are to just boil alive in my South City apartment. I just let her talk, hope I’ll soak up her good fortune or something by keeping a pleasant smile on my face. Right now she’s talking about Paris, and something called a “flâneuse”.

“…Elkin is a fucking wrecker, you know? Neoliberal bullshit. Like, ah, wow, cool, neat, you just wrote Eat Pray Love for the CityLab set…”

We all laugh at that. Alan, sitting next to me, mutters with a glass to his lips, “… never read the Convolutes…”

I can’t tell anyone I have no idea what they’re talking about. I should be home, reading something relevant. Writing. The old panic of failure. These conversations always drain me. They get worse as the night goes on and the talk gets more theoretical. I know I can’t talk about the Book without these people. These are actual scholars. They would call me either insane or childish. I realize quietly that I’m not sure if they’re right, or just myopic — blinkered by some reality that is nonetheless irreal. What is the real difference between Benjamin and Hemmingen? Both are mystics, aren’t they?

I make an excuse to leave early, and come home to Book of the Arch. The cover seems to be glowing phosphorescent in the pitch black of my room.

I know I should be reading something else, something important. Inertia pulls me over to the Book and I randomly flip to a page toward the middle.

“When we call the mound-builders Cahokia,” Fatima expounds, “we are participating in a memetic anachronism, a flatline of meaning. As the French explorers themselves admit, the city had no name. Cahokia is a nominator applied retroactively; like the ghost lemurs of Madagascar, by the time the explorers found the poor souls sulking in the ruins of the city-without-a-name, they were only shades of their former selves. The Nameless City. And, ‘[w]hen I drew nigh the nameless city I knew it was accursed’.

If we must name it, let us call it the City of the Pyramids. To arrive at the City of the Pyramids requires a bridging of the gap. The City of the Dead is matched on the eastern shore by the City of Eternal Unlife. Despite his dissension, Hemmingen doubtlessly knew Choronzon must be superseded. The mound-builders also knew this, in a sense, because their quotidian was a state of constant supersession. They lived forever under N.O.X., the Night of Pan, that old, Old Night, wrapped in transcendent kairos.”

Old Night. I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but the name seems to imply… uh. Something more than just nighttime. I look outside. The blackness presses heavy on my window, deep and utterly impenetrable, telescoping unseen onto boundless infinity. Suddenly seeming tangible, not the absence of light at all but a sustained assault against the wan bulb overhead. “Unreverberate blackness”. What’s that quote from? Lovecraft? Ligotti? No no, none of those are right.

I make tea before falling asleep, hoping to head off an impending hangover. Ginger and chamomile wreathed in pallid steam. Another random page of the Book:

“William Burroughs’ intricate pseudo-Ægyptian cosmology points us to the West. His way, however is fraught, dependent on theoretical knowledge and lashed to the prow of narrative. Practically, Bartholomew constructs the door and Hemmingen draws back the Gate. Passage from the East to the West. Passage into St. Louis. Passage into the City of the Dead, the capital of Sheol.”

“… draws back the Gate.” The Gateway.

The Gateway to the West. The Arch.

Of course.

The whispering voice. Again. So far back in my mind this time I think I can hear it behind me. When I spin to look for the source I nearly fall over.

Fuck, get yourself together. You’re drunk, you’re hearing things, you’re concocting weird shit. Don’t go insane. Go to sleep. Wake up and try not to be a lunatic.

As I crawl into bed I blearily make a note to follow up on Peter’s friend from the Natural History Museum, the curator. Must make sure to email him tomorrow and ask for her information.

Sleep is restless. Bodies and faces flicker like a bad connection. The Book is a terror, sprouting tentacles, stalking corridors of dream. Rasping in the deep. It wears Hemmingen’s face, eyes black and burning.


The next morning I wake up and email Peter, asking after the friend who had initially recommended me the Book. Within seconds: mailer-daemon error. Address not found. No out of office, nothing.

After my morning class I look him up on the faculty directory. Another dead end — no results. The office phone at the end of his old emails is dead air.

He’s new, I remind myself. Probably just not fully in the system yet. I’ll try again in a few days.

The day is deep grey. Light rain. Bitter cold. In the evening, after class, I stand in the parking lot, my hand frozen, and watch the skyline preside over roaring highways, glowing hearthlike. There’s a knot in my stomach as I see the dull gunmetal parabola through the buildings and remember


The Arch the arch the arch thearch the arch on the archon the horizon blazing black bleary burning in the distance

In the library, I pull Book of the Arch from my bag. On the first page my eyes again fall on Emily’s scribbled note and address.

Well, in the absence of getting to talk to Peter’s friend, Emily may be my best bet to get some answers. No email or phone number. Just address. It occurs to me that I could visit her right now. Just to see if she knows anything. And besides, I rationalize, if I stay here any longer, I’ll lose my mind.

The recently-passed rain has left behind heavy, iron petrichor, quickly becoming encased in ice. 1918 Division is only a few blocks away but the night air is so cold the yellow pools of light from the sodium streetlamps are frozen cones and hollow buzzing. My car whines, the synthetic leather of the wheel sticking to the heel of my palm, my fingertips. I park on Hogan, a small residential cross-street,  and quickly walk down towards Division. At the corner, I stop.

A vast, fenced-in nothingness: 1918 Division doesn’t exist. There are no houses at all — just a metal fence, with a parking gate, stretching the whole block. When I cross to peer through the iron gate, I can see the back of a huge structure, a sulking behemoth of concrete panels dotted with sallow floodlights way across a dead parking lot.

The entire complex looks new, but not too new. 1918 Division, if it ever did exist, hadn’t been residential for at least a few decades. There goes my last attempt to find anything out about all this, I guess. As I turn away, I barely notice a shadowed plaque, mounted low to the ground, nearly hidden in the manicured brush. Embossed serifs gleam dully in the light. “Former site of Darst-Webbe Homes.”

Darst-Webbe? I know this one. It was one of Hemmingen’s housing projects, one of the biggest in the city. Demolished in the 70s, I believe. Had Emily been a resident of Darst-Webbe? Where was Emily now?

You mean when. This time the voice sounds just like it’s coming over my shoulder, muttering in my ear. I don’t even bother to look this time. I know there is nothing there I will be able to see.

Terra Form

I have barely slept when my alarm goes off. I head to campus to go to Olin, desperate for more info on Hemmingen, Bartholomew, anything. Realizing I’m getting a bit fanatic. Feeling strung out, exhausted. Huddle against the cold, raising trembling fingers to my lips to smoke as I walk from my car to the library.

Sarah is in the first floor — her usual spot — surrounded by a pile of books and paper. She gestures me over but I just wave back and continue on. I can’t stop right now.

The only sources on Hemmingen are Volumes 54-63 of The Handbook of Government Employees of the City and County of St. Louis, stored offsite, and almost certainly of not much use. There are 3 publications listed by Hemmingen directly, though. In the search results I can’t help but notice Book of the Arch does not appear as a source, which seems odd. A further quick search for Fatima Duré brings up nothing. Something to check back on later.

Hemmingen’s 3 articles are heterodox (to say the least). Though written on wildly different topics, and years apart they betray a deeper fascination with St. Louis esoterica than any rigorous urban planning subject, or really even his own profession as STLHA Director. The first of his works is an essay published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Volume 43: “Stumbling Through the Ritual”. The second is in Cosmia Wandering — whatever the hell that is: “Social Trance-Formation: On the Empyrean Proceeding” and the last, published several weeks after his death in late 1963 in AAG 62, “A World Beneath Our Feet: The History and Continued Utility of the Cherokee Caves”.

The only one available is A World Beneath Our Feet, which I find tucked into the middle of AAG volume 62, itself sitting quiet and senescent, entombed in dust in an abandoned section of the stacks. Under the title, Hemmingen’s name is centered in the yellowing page, followed by a short, italicized epigraph: “…as Babalon above, so Babalon below.

The essay begins:

“There is a massive cave system that underlays the downtown core of St. Louis, Missouri. This complex, known today by the marketing name ‘Cherokee Caves’, has in fact gone by many names and served many functions: subterranean chiller for breweries, a hub on the underground railroad, and most recently, a tourist attraction. But prior to the founding of St. Louis, these caves served as the fundament for the great imperial seat which the uneducated called Cahokia, but which truly is The Nameless City. And like the titular city in Lovecraft’s work, the Nameless City is, first and foremost, a grotto city, interred underground. The ruined mounds that the City is known for today are simply the surface literations of the large, sunken passages below. The mounds point down, not up, are the violent tip to a slumbering iceberg. The builders of the Nameless City understood they were holding territory. If one can undermine the enemy, victory is near at hand. And if one lacks the high ground, it can be manufactured. This is the true purpose of the mounds. Pyramids as war machines. Pyramids as monuments to the godforms of victory.”

An inline map overlays the positions of the ancient mounds and known entrances to the greater cave network. The caption reads: “Map of the true city, out of sight, an arboreal cuidad lineal cut through solid lith.”

“Morphology of the Nameless City: rich villas bored into rock high in the main caverns, the poor sleeping standing up in narrow passages, dying early due to being forced to cook in unventilated areas during the constant states of emergency. The city presented its hidden face of indomitable stone as marauders ceaselessly violated the prairie overhead in great warbands. Long sluices through solid rock become spines of communication networks populated by chains of callers using the natural reverberating properties of the caves as a public announcement system to communicate information and coordinate tactics, lending their fast voices to the slow muttering of tectonics. By speaking with the Earth, the cave dwellers achieved an efficacy in the transmission of data that, to surface enemies, must have appeared nearly instantaneous. Hic et ubique?

As I read on, Hemmingen’s argument is clearly well-researched, but absolutely delirious: As the population of the Nameless City began building up, the search for better real estate and scenic caverns led to a search further and further into the depths, the city complexifying as it ambled downwards, with elaborate and as-yet-undiscovered cisterns and agricultural construct machines. Pulling away from the surface together, going native in the bowels of the lithosphere, surface access essentially kept as a matter. The surfacemost points, according to Hemmingen, were left to become slums, being the most open to attack. These slums were “packed to the brim with the pitiful, seething dregs of the great civilization, those nearest the state of barbarity in which they’d be discovered later by the French”.

Hemmingen finishes this passage with a cryptic musing: “…as the elites of the City discovered in its course, the notion of a sacrificial mass of persons as a ‘buffer’ population definitely has its utility, a truism lost to history and the creeping humanitarianism of liberal socialism. This expendable mass functions as antibodies for the city, allowing mistakes without disaster, growth without bloating. They knew of the need for a prairie fire to sweep through society. The dross must be burned off.”

Further: “Apocryphal legend among the Shoshone peoples describes one such attack wherein a warband gained entry to the City. The only fatalities suffered by the attackers in their initial assault were three warriors who drowned in the blood of those they executed, after being pinned down by the deluge of those they had killed. The legend describes these wretched as too listless to fight back or even move. The elites, plotting deeper in their cave, were removed altogether from the violence, and thusly, allotted time to plan. When the Shoshone warriors finally burst into the cavern, having fjorded the insane flood of the dead they had created, the fighters of the elites were waiting there, and slaughtered them to a man. The city defends itself by sacrificing itself”

The paper ends with an omen: “The last extent entrance to the abyssal complex is due to be shut forever with the completion of the I-55 corridor, which follows the path of the original French expeditions. Thus the future shuts the door on the past. But the work of the mound-builders continues, as it is not done.

Their secrets will continue to be uncovered by myself and others. I have discovered what they only assumed, and confirmed it as fact; as such, I believe I can recreate and more importantly COMPLETE the centuries-old experiment.”

Finally, the essay closes with the words: “Keep your eye to both the East and the West. A new Proceeding has come.”


“A new Proceeding has come,” Hemmingen says. For some reason, this phrase sounds familiar, reverberating off down catacombs of crumbling memory. From the Book, of course. Somewhere toward the beginning, if I remember correctly? It tumbles through my mind all day. After classes, I rush home and start to skim quickly through the pages, scanning feverishly. Within a moment, it abruptly it surfaces out of the torrent of text, at the end of the first chapter. Duré quoting Hemmingen:

“Two Oh Nine.

This will be my name at the completion of my Empyrean Proceeding, when I shall become other without losing myself.

Two Nine Zero is I;

Servant of Coph Nia,

Servant of Babalon,

Servant of the Starry Arch.”

The next paragraph is equally curious, containing a quote by “arch-itect and Grand Mason Saarinen” on what Duré calls the “holy form of the double wand”: “’…to achieve the simplicity of… the great pyramids of Egypt, because the simplest and purest forms last the longest, and I have always felt this arch of stainless steel would last a thousand years.’”.

“The form of the double wand, the form of the ARCH,” Duré continues, “is not just the Secret Gate, but is itself the toroidal Key unlocking the Sacred Hex. The peripatetic hubris of the obelisk, the arch, the towers, the mound, and yes, the key itself finds itself inverted in the transition from 1 to 0, from pyramid to Arch. In much the same way, one must derive from the Hex the symbol of Pisces in the way the method dictates: by constantly involuting, with appropriate rite. The way is thus: invert Pisces about its meridian, which must and will always remain true. The resultant alchemaic sigil is that of two arches; one above, one below; one celestial, one pelagic.”

Under this paragraph is a small note: “For the full text of the Proceeding to which this passage alludes, please turn to the Chapter called “Walking the Method”, at the end of this book.”

When I flip to the end of the book, looking for the extended quote, I discover the pages have been removed, torn out, leaving only their tattered remains still sewn into the binding.


I text Alan and ask if he’s at work. He works as an archivist at Olin, and I’ve had him help me with stuff before. I figure it’s worth a shot. He texts back a few minutes later that he’s at work and I tell him I’m coming up, looking for “a weird book”. After a few minutes, he responds that he’ll be there until 6 — sitting at the circulation desk. When I come in, I stamp off ice and snow, and he waves me back around to the small research area. Microfiche machines sag on tables and to the back of the alcove, a boneyard tangle of overhead projectors lying fitfully under a blown out light. As he sits down at the small, scratchy CRT monitor, he asks me, “so, you haven’t found anything on the book online?”

“Nope,” I offer, sheepishly.

“Well, I’m sure that means it’s very hard to find,” he says with what I’m sure is a self-assured air. “What’s it called again?”

“The Book of the Arch.”

He turns back to me with an eyebrow raised. “Weird title.”

I shrug. “I guess.”

He begins with a digital search in the University databases. Nothing. The keys chatter like insects under his fingertips as he makes multiple attempts, all dead-ending. Finally, he says, slightly exasperated, “you weren’t kidding about it being hard to find,” and moves over to the microfiche. A few minutes with his eyes buried in the catalog, he breathes deeply and leans back, clasping his hands behind his head.

“Fuck, man. This book may as well not exist,” Alan says, squinting hard at the ceiling. “Well, let me take one more swing at it. Wait a minute.”

He starts over on his circuit, but deeper this time. Repeated searches in multiple databases, at multiple libraries. After several minutes, he turns to another computer. He grimaces and says, “it’s time for the nuclear option” as the computer screen goes white and starts humming. After a minute, he turns the monitor to me, which has a single link:

Did you mean: Liber Arcus?

“I’m not even really sure what database this is pulling from. This computer got pulled up from the basement last week,” he muses.

“Can you click on the link?”

When he does, an ancient webpage appears, deep maroon on black. The masthead reads VYSPAROV DIGITAL COLLECTION. In the middle of the page is a spinning wheel and text which reads “contacting database…”

“Ever heard of Vysparov before?” I ask. He nods no, he hasn’t.

Finally, the database entry on this Liber Arcus loads in:

“The Liber Arcus is a late-medieval codex of unknown provenance. Only one copy is known to have survived, but sadly with a good amount of the original pages lost. The Liber Arcus was previously housed in the Vysparov collection, and prior to that was located in the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana.”

“Don’t think we have ILL access with the Vatican Archives,” Alan says.

“The text has been the subject of much debate over the years due to its obscure subject matter; it describes in detail a City of the Pyramids (Pyramidum Civitas) and the coming, or rather summoning, of some unknown apocalyptic event using the form of the city itself. Some early scholars claim it is the first dystopia, predating the heyday of the Renaissance utopian imaginary by hundreds of years. The text is said to have been written by an Ottoman beatus, identified alternatively as Lecta or Lucta.


The only extent copy was purchased in 1952 by an anonymous buyer on behalf of the Harland Bartholomew & Associates Private Archive, from the Vysparov Collection. In 2008, it was gifted to the Library of Washington University, where it remains to this day.”

“Huh,” says Alan, after reading the last line. “Private archive, huh? That’s usually not indexed — must be why it didn’t show up on my first search.”

“Can I read it?” I ask.

Alan stares at me, blinks, laughs. “Oh, I doubt it. No way, actually. Not officially. The HBA archive is basically closed to anyone that isn’t a relative of Bartholomew himself.”

I press my luck. “Could you get me in?”

“No chance. But, uh…” he looks around conspiratorially, “Well, maybe. But only for a few hours. Would that even be worth it?”

I nod yes. “I could leave the keys out tonight,” he says. “But we’ll have to make a plan.”

It quickly comes together: tonight, when Alan locks up, he will leave the skeleton key to the basement archives on his desk in his office, underneath a file folder. The door to the wing of offices is 8430. The private archive rooms are in the basement, and are all protected with simple, ancient locks. No cameras, either. When I’m done, I’ll replace the key in his office.

I thank Alan and go to leave. “Come back late as you can”, he says. “There’s night security, but they do the rounds for the whole campus. They usually start in here around 2 and then walk around.”

“I’ll be back at 3,” I assure him.

“You must really need this book, huh?” he asks. I have no answer.

I go home for a while. I take a fitful nap and wake up sweating. The weather has shifted. The previously frigid wind seeping in through the half-cracked window has been replaced by a noxiously warm breeze that almost surges and falls like breathing. I’m feeling haunted and anxious again, trying to identify anything out of place. When I roll over, I realize Book of the Arch has been lying facedown next to me, and Fatima’s face is staring out from the back cover. Her previously benign smile now seems gnomic, sinister. I throw the book in my bag. It’s been years since I took Latin, but I still have my translator’s dictionary, so I throw that in too. When I check the clock it’s 2:30 AM.

The library is quiet, looming, its highest stories plunging into a shroud of fog. The windows are too harsh and bright against the black, too ineffectual. Old Night. My stomach is churning acid.

When I look out the third floor window across the windswept vacancy of the campus, I can see the black security SUV with its lights pinched again the gloom. Inside, there is no light except for the periodic wink of fire alarms from between broken-toothed stacks. The white-glass door on the east wall is right where Alan said it would be, and when I enter the passcode it whispers open with a sigh. The key hidden on his desk is a bizarre, ancient thing — black iron with teeth gleaming predatory in the dull light from the hall.

At the end of the hallway containing the offices is a small back of house elevator, leading down to the basement archives. As I descend, I run through Alan’s description: “The basement is kind of strange. It used to be one huge room back when it was originally built. You’re looking for an door with old, black wood and a brass knob. The only one unmarked. White plaster, butted against the southern wall…left if you’re coming out of the office elevator. Once you get inside, there’s a single bulb overhead, with a pullstring.”

The elevator opens onto deep blackness. Within the cone of my phone light, I catch disordered stacks of paper lining the walls and jutting into the corridor, sedimented into stacks or spilling from banker’s boxes, forming a labyrinth. The air is still, deadened with the smell of mildew. When I find the black door, I slip the key in as quietly as I can. Afraid of disturbing something. As I turn the key, tumblers in the lock rise and fall like a ragged breath then thud home. When the door opens, the stench of rot sweeps out, so strong I nearly gag. Feeling in the dark, I find the pull string for the light overhead, and the bulb flickers on resignedly. The ashen light illuminates stacks of books and rolls of drawings, all spilling out of gridded wood shelves that rise to the ceiling. In multiple places the shelves have collapsed, producing cascades of paper, plastic slipcover, and canvas binding. The center of the room is dominated by a massive wooden table, long dulled with dust and raked with fine cuts, its surface completely empty. As my eyes adjust, I notice a black mass in the back corner of the small chamber, seemingly alive. As I move closer, curious, I can make out within its folds words, inscriptions, drawings. When it’s nearly a foot from my face, I put it together: this is the source of the smell. This sinusoidal thing is a colony of black mold, quietly feeding on papers, drawings, diary pages. It is nearly as tall as my knee.

I gag again, and vomit this time for good measure. A horrendous image comes to mind: in a few decades’ time, another person coming to the Bartholomew Archive, opening the door only to be greeted by an impossible wall of obsidian hyphae, the organism having feasted on the entire of Bartholomew’s knowledge, eating what remains into obscurity.

I imagine cutting it open for Bartholomew himself to tumble out like a botched Caesarian.

I can’t stay here long, with this thing. I just have to hope that catalog entry was right. As I flit my fingers over burst shelves and sift through aged sheafs of paper. A schizo library. 1907 Proposal. Notes for 1947 Master Plan. The dismembered spine of an enormous book, faded gilt lettering reading Irem: City of Pillars by Al-Hazred. An enormous column of pages curled with water damage, identical ink footers reading AN ENGINEER’S REPORT. A flurry of identical notebooks dusting everything, their bindings long gone.

On a high shelf near the door, sitting on yet another caved-in stack, is a small black lockbox, violent with intensity. Its lid is dented and scarred, the hinges burst. I pry it open to reveal a small, black book, eating the light. On the aged cover, subtly inset, is a title.

The Liber Arcus.

The words are barely legible. A few stragglers of gilt inlay, the bulk of it long gone, are embedded in the fibers of the canvas. The book itself is small, thin, somehow emaciated. I realize now I had expected something huge, tortured, covered in faces of demons and…well, god knows what. A massive necronomicon, bound in human skin or something like that. The book seems to be immaculately preserved, with thick cord holding the pages together. When I pick up the book, a small slip of paper flutters to the floor, text printed on one side. Set in a simple border is a typed message:

“The ESTATE of LOUIS HEMMINGEN bequeaths the contents of this box to the WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY of ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI for eternal inclusion in the private archive of the LATE HARLAND BARTHOLOMEW and his ASSOCIATED, with the knowledge that there will come a more enlightened Aeon find themselves under the EMPYREAN ARCH, and the KNOWLEDGE contained within shall be freed and forthwith GIFTED to the NEW MAN.”

So Hemmingen is the “anonymous buyer” that purchased the Liber Arcus from the Vysparov collection. Of course.

Under the Liber, in the bottom of the box, is a folded-over polaroid of two men, one seated and one standing, in a small drab room. On the back, in Bartholomew’s slanted script:

Auspicious convening of Church of Starry Wisdom. 1950.

Bartholomew is seated, pointing at a map unfolded on his desk, with Hemmingen watching intently. The map is covered in markings. Stars, blocked-out areas, and heavy scarring — gashes on the landscape, etched with frantic intensity. But underneath the markings, it’s inescapable — St. Louis, sitting inside the gentle curve of the Mississippi.


I sit down at the long, low table in the center of the room and set the Liber Arcus before me, along with Book of the Arch and the translator’s dictionary. The frontispiece of the Liber is a drawing of a woman under an arch made out of stars in the night sky, the symbol of Pisces seated at the crown. She walks on a concave sea of flames.


“Ob motum gentium perveni ad vos.”

This one is easy to translate: “For the movement of peoples I have come to you…”

The first line of the Book of the Arch

I look at the cover of the Liber and shiver uncontrollably. Air suddenly gone ice cold. Just like I did when I first held it. What is this thing? What is Emily’s copy of the Book? The thing is rotten with time, a prison break note from outside history.

Heart racing, I flip to the back pages of the Liber Arcus, those missing from my copy, hoping to find an answer. The missing pages seem to be intended to be read together, one line each set dead center of the 7 pages. I feverishly translate them word by word, and transcribe the english onto a nearby scrap of paper. When I’m finished, I read it back aloud, my voice cracking in the entombed squalor:

  1. I am BABALON. The word before was true, but improperly spoken. I am COPH NIA, that of RA-HOOR-KHUIT.
  2. My PROCEEDING is in the gathering of the child. The child is multiple.
  3. My wand shall be completed. The wand is the PASSAGE, a canal of divine birth.
  4. The Empyrean path works in TRINITY. Look ye both above and below, heavens and hells. I shall bring ye up from them, and also down.
  5. I will PILGRIMAGE for ye. Prepare my resting place. My home is inside the inversion. My consummation is in A Blessed Mirror.
  6. Only I am enough this time, as it always was. My SIGN IS THE STAR. Look to the East and also for its passage in the boundless.
  7. Call my name BABALON and know the sundering of the AEON is at hand.

I get up from the table fast, my breathing frantic, overcome by blinding panic. Breath visible in the air. Everything feels wrong. Deep in the turgid pit of my stomach, something has changed. These were not just words at all, but an incantation. The light flickers overhead, allowing shadows to swamp the room for a moment. When the light comes back, a shifting by the black body of the bibliophagic mold draws my attention. Something in the world, something secret, has been overwritten.

With my fear overcome by curiosity, I investigate the mold again. Dying to know. Whatever change that entered the room when the lights went out is centered here. I know it.

After a moment, I notice a crushed, rolled tube of paper I don’t remember being there before. Its edges are torn, and the surface printed with something dark grey, mottled. I’m drawn to it. I pick it out of the drift of papers, inches from the advancing mold colony, and retreat to the table to unroll it.

It’s the map. The same one from the photo in the box of the inaugural of the Church of Starry Wisdom. The one on the desk, on which Bartholomew is drawing. But this map is just a 1950s satellite photo of the city, no drawings on its aged surface. The edges are dirty, torn.

Suddenly, the whole room seems to sigh, and I know I am not alone. But instead of rising, my anxiety vanishes, replaced by a resigned stillness, a divine hush.

Unroll the map on the table and follow. I will guide thee.

At peace.

Walk the incantation.

The Voice. I allow myself to be lead, my body and mind under some type of soft duress, responding to both my own commands and those of the alien Voice.

  1. I am BABALON. The word before was true, but improperly spoken. I am COPH NIA, that of RA-HOOR-KHUIT.

Center thyself. This is a greeting from the hopelessly beyond, the Bound Infinite. An announcement of unbirth.

  1. My PROCEEDING is in the gathering of the child. The child is multiple.

The children are the dead, the sacrificial, the chattel for slaughter. Hemmingen’s projects, the public housing. Mark the towers with the sign of the star.

  1. My wand shall be completed. The wand is the PASSAGE, a canal of divine birth.

The wand is the Arch, doubled and joined. A canal of life into death. A tube of fire. A resplendent exit. To the West. Signify it with a line.

  1. The empyrean path works in TRINITY. Look ye both above and below, heavens and hells. I shall bring ye up from them, and also down.

As Babalon above. The stars. So Babalon below. The caves. So Babalon in the meridian. The city.

  1. I will PILGRIMAGE for ye. Prepare my resting place. My home is inside the inversion. My consummation is in A Blessed Mirror.

The Pilgrimage up from below. The old explorer’s corridor. I-55. The Arch, the double wand. Doubled again by its reflection in the Mississippi. Trace the river with a line. Complete the sign of Pisces.

  1. “Only I am enough this time, as it always was. My SIGN IS THE STAR. Look to the East and also for its passage in the boundless.

The Morning Star, the Fallen, traversing to the West. To the East is the Nameless City. Passing into Eternity through the gate to the West. The passage tracing the Starry Arch both in the firmament and below. The conjoining of the syzygetic pairs. The Nameless past to the aborted future.

  1. Call my name BABALON and know the sundering of the AEON is at hand.

The birth is the death. Passage through the gate draws all of reality with it. The Axis Mundi, centered at the Arch, at Saarinen’s Pyramid, cracks and screams. The sky weeps black ichor at the end of the Age.

Still possessed of the same resolute quiet, I look at the map. All of it is centered, spinning on the Arch. A geographical sigil. What had Duré (or ‘beatus Lecta’) called it? The toroidal key to the Sacred Hex, the involuting center of Hemmingen’s thaumaturgy. I realize the Arch is not just a gate to the East and West, I realize, but also above and below. A 90 degree revolution. Or rather, it would have been, had Hemmingen completed his task.

You must complete it. And I know, again, the Voice is right. Why, I don’t know. But there’s no argument I could raise against it, or rather against myself. There was never any difference anyway.

Close the circuit, I whisper into the library-crypt. But how? Hemmingen had said the construction I-55, in completing the lower arch, had sealed the last public entrance. Follow the stars. He was intentionally being misleading, covering his tracks. To the towers. To the undercity. In the bones of the towers, in the sealed bowels, I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I would be able to find a way down to lower Babalon.

1918 Division. “Former site of Darst-Webbe Homes.”


Arch forever on the horizon, a thin carving of steel against the night sky. The world barely breathing. When I arrive at 1918 Division I park hurriedly and slip the reproduction of the Starry Wisdom map in my back pocket.

At the gate, I jump the fence and break into a run. Straight ahead, the ground sinks to a drainage pit. At either end, the outflow sewers are sealed shut with grates, so I start to dig. With a rock, I scrape at the top layer of still-frozen mud at the base of the pit. It begins glassing off in shards. I keep going until the ground softens, and the rock loses its effectiveness. Undaunted, I use my hands to shovel out black earth. Any second. I can feel it now: the hollows below, singing in my blood, calling in the depths.

With a soft moan, the ground around me cracks and caves in, and I fall with the dirt and rock into a small subterranean chamber. The moonlight pools over the concrete walls and floor, sagged and shifted, open cracks with dirt pouring through. The ceiling, where it still exists, is covered in moldy, rotted insulation that sloughs in great sheets like sheaths of skin, revealing crumbling metal beams. An ancient water heater, nested in an impossible tangle of piping, sits in the corner on a ruinous concrete plinth, listing horribly to one side. An old laminate table, 3 legs buckled and the top cracked in half, is lying in the middle of the floor. My shoes crunch dead shards of glass when I walk. I check — yes, the map is still in my back pocket. A single metal door, the frame warped and burst, sits in the shattered wall. Red block letters painted on the cerulean face say WARNING. The door is cracked slightly, dust on the floor saltating in the jet of air exhaled from beyond. I make my way across the room and throw the door open fully. Further in and further down. A thin stair, built out of the same devastated concrete as the floor, projects into the darkness, bending gently right as it disappears downward. The walls are earthen, but poorly trammeled, and small tumbles of earth have calved off into piles that scatter down the steps. There is a great, ragged respiration coming from deep inside the abyss, sallow and distant. It is only now that some part of my basal brain rebels, terrified of the Night beyond the door, howls at me to turn back.

I step forward into the blackness anyway, guided by the Voice.

There is no light but I feel along the walls, rotating ever left, stepping carefully. After a minute or two, a pale, green glimmer blooms beyond the curve of the wall, not exactly illuminating so much as throwing what had been hidden into hypersaturated relief.

When I reach the last step I have arrived in not a chamber, but rather a narrow channel, only wide enough for me to advance sideways. The green light is coming from everywhere and nowhere. The walls are solid rock, slicked with dampness. I run my palms along the smooth surface.

Halfway through the passage my steps are accompanied by crunching, chittering noises. When I look down, I can just make out my foot. Next to it is a staved-in skull, not bleached white but pocked with viscsera and gristle. Looking ahead are countless more skulls, ribs, and other bones, heaped in messy tangles. When I draw my hand back from the wall it’s covered in viscous oily blood, unmistakable even in the green phosphorescence.

Forward. Doesn’t matter any more. The way out is through.

The majority of the bones scatter to dust when I disturb their careful assemblages. Every inhale paired with a cough. Finally, as the passage opens, the graveyard thins. The vibrancy of the claustrophobic green fades to a watery ambience, less defined by green then by a yawning black.

When my eyes adjust, I can see the cave has expanded into a massive cavern, the bulbed ceiling overhead upheld by immense knarled pillars of rock that recede into blackness. From below they reach down like the tentacles of some hideously aged god. One of these, a massive stalactite, hangs to my left. Its drip-drip-drip sounds off seconds in the vast hollow, reverberating down unseen chicanes. I catch a drop in my palm and note it is also blood, squirming in my cupped hand.

I walk deeper into the cave. Away from the surface, into the involuting complex. The Voice narrates to me from inside my own head a vision of history collapsing on itself — the caves open to the air, swallowing St. Louis whole, plunging it back through history into deep time. Digging down is time travel. The open cave is a broken loop, a paradox. I can see it as it speaks: highways dragged like choppy ribbons across bottomless chasms, the Mississippi delicately pouring itself into the warrens over a rocky lip. The whole complex, slowly filling the entire to diluvian completion. Never mind the work will take centuries.

Hearing the Voice speak of ruin gives the devastation shape. In burst open concrete, hypnogogically perfect, I can read sedimentations of hatred like tree rings, Hemmingen’s strata being the darkest color of bile, but also ending furthest from where they began. The hideous rocketry of malice. The bowed floors of downtown towers close like a book on fate. I point myself out from the looping turbulence, poised at a fulcrum, or maybe an eye. As remote from the future as the Nameless is from me. Walking on the cavern floor is to ambulate through the once and future ruin of empire, walking a tightrope along an unbroken continuum of ruin that extends forever. Hemmingen’s landscape. The revolt of the caves. Revolve around the toroidal key. Heaven becomes hell. The whole world a sacrificial population.

Even more than Bartholomew, Hemmingen had found a comrade in time. An engine of will. A shaper of a black current. Stick the key in and break it off. The Voice says: It is only in making oneself a disciple of total dissolution, by waging jihad on form itself, that one can see their work completed. Tesselation is hubris. To design, to plan, is to fail: the only success is in making oneself a part of the slavering mob of time that is always waiting patiently. An architecture of patience. The entropic assault is at the gates: in the lost neighborhoods of Old St. Louis, boarded up houses sag to pieces and century-old bricks shatter in the wall.

All Hemmingen was doing in completing the work of the Nameless was inviting the utter nullity of Outside in, warmly, like an old friend.

Here in Babalon I am home. Passed through the Gate of the Secret. The Secret is the End. I know I will be meeting Peter here, soon. And Emily, and Sarah, and Alan, and everyone else.

The whole city will come down to me. Hemmingen did not fail because he could never succeed: the human cannot become the agent of the inhuman. All Hemmingen could do was identify and organize the process, and leave the rest. Time itself will happily take up the yoke. Coph Nia, the weeping mother, postpartum Medea, waiting at the end of the line. Weary and battered, drowning time in the bathwater. The Aeon will sunder on its own, and St. Louis will drift down and apart, sinking quietly into the soft alluvial mud, until this cavernous, rocky womb bursts open to once again accept its child.

Born of violence and dead of quietude, just like all the cities that had come before.

All there is to do now is wait.

Templex Lands #0: Beginnings and Ends

by Uriel Alexis

Investigating temporal anomaly demands that the couplings of past and present be examined, and tested till dissolution. The task is demanded so that one can begin to glimpse a way out of the tight grip of the pincers that structure revealed history. Names and faces then finally appear as masks, hiding the true — anonymous and orphan — thing. There’s scarcely any more to philosophy than this understanding of time-in-itself.

Where to begin? It’s not mere cliché to say at the end. What the future can say about the past through the present marks the path of history. Destiny is slowly revealed, through endlessly deturned unidirectional movement. Prophecy is obvious in retrospect, so it falls to those picking through the remains to ask: what happened?

A bottomless toolbox presents itself for the task, origins unasked. It is not unthinkable that it has spontaneously generated itself. On the façade, “nick land” is written in Gothic engravings. “From whom” is probably the wrong question. A 30-page manual annexed to the side can safely be ignored, surely? Who has ever read manuals?

Within the massive folder, two arsenals produce themselves: different, yet eerily compatible. One, things with teeth, rats and wolves salivating for a bite; destructive but barely containable. Another, inverted alien swarmachines, buzzing grey-goo, going ballistic to hit in the back; treacherous yet formalized. What could their assembly not utterly destroy?

Once again, where to begin? This problematic eternally returns: recursion, not repetition. Yes, they are different, these two pet monster houses. On their own, they already wrecked havoc on all descended certainties of all forefathers. Nothing is sacred. But how to implex them, how to turn themselves into themselves more, by synthesizing them? Only a residual humanism prevents the obvious answer: A-death.

The expert advice has been repeated to exhaustion. “Leave it alone!” The high hopes of scientists never cease to amuse. But a question of method definitely arises, for the completion of the experiment, if not the security of the experimenter.

The two clades share affects, and effects. They’re both murderous of all things transcended, eating away Cathedrals and onto-theologies and secreting a dark bubbling chaotic bile, a fizzing patchwork of demons. Both of them operate through an unholy commerce that trades away all those worthy abstractions to the highest bidder.

Nevertheless, they don’t lack in asymmetries. Too quick a destratification betrays a lack of cunning and camouflage. Even rats and wolves know this, when they’re not too hungry. On the other hand, grey goo isn’t a very good desire binder, to say the least. Attention quickly flows elsewhere.

To ask them what they mean would add insult to injury, so there seems to be hardly an option besides unleashing them and observing the effects. Of course, “controlled experiments” sound as plausible as “controlled explosions”, but the gorilla glass walls seem to be resistant enough for a first approximation. Hesitation is expected, if not praiseworthy.

* * *

As the AOE-designed restraints are slowly uplifted, both vectors start drawing the coordinates of undiscovered Templex Lands. A warped field opens, distorting the usual references and measures: those menacing switchblades had never been so close. Feeding into each other, cross-pollinating and fusing, they produce teratological hybrids, spreading viciously. They cover the whole ground, arguably ungrounding it. Thanatropically they expand towards the edges, to the unknown unknowns of the Outside, decrypting algorithmically the keys laboriously elaborated for their contention.

At first, it seems like nothing happens. Suddenly — a piercing scream and a gurgling sound — perceptions change very quickly. Swarmachines rotate around a giant black rat-king, effectuating a time-cyclone that punctures holes in the wall. The demonic assemblage claws at faces until they bleed out into the sickened black fuel that powers it. One less subjective sight, before the world goes dark.

The end of time has begun.

Synthetic Fabrication: The Myth of the Politics-to-Come (Part 1: The Generative Myth)

Previously: Synthetic Fabrication Part 0

Mysticism and Mechanization

Towards the end of his book on Henri Bergson, Deleuze mined from the philosopher’s work a spectral prefiguration of the people-to-come: the faint traces of an emergent and enigmatic open society, a “society of creators” and ‘privileged’ souls connected together by an imperceptible circuitry. Standing atop a grand, abstract summit, the open society derives its name not only from its differentiation to the closed society, but through that which it opens onto. The open society moves in the direction of what Bergson had called the élan vital, the impulse or force that compels self-organization in matter and morphogenesis through time. Such a movement is an affair of life itself, the sifting apart of the organic from the inorganic, organization from base matter. By ascending up a cosmological hierarchy in order to enter into unending engagement with this force, the mark of the open society is life at its most creative.

The “creative emotion” that defines this society is the “embodiment of cosmic Memory”, one that cuts across “all levels at the same time” and “liberates man from the… level that is proper to him.”[note]Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 111.[/note] The citizen of the open society is a new type who gives themselves to “open creative totality”. Bergson, Deleuze points out, sees in the figures of the artist and the mystic, each of which fabricates new things from past forms and raw matter, the avatars that best capture the nature of this type:

…the great souls — to a greater extent than philosophers — are those of artists and mystics (at least those of a Christian mysticism that Bergson describes as being completely superabundant activity, action, creation). At the limit, it is the mystic who plays with the whole of creation, who invents an expression of it whose adequacy increases its dynamism. Servant of an open and finite God (such are the characterisics of the élan vital), the mystical soul actively plays the whole of the universe in which there is nothing to see or to contemplate.[note]Ibid., 112.[/note]

Bergson himself intuits, at some undetermined level, a connection between the mystical experience and the processes of industrialization that define modernity.[note]In his comparison of the dark night of the soul with the process of industrial production, Bergson seems to be posing merely an analogy. Later, however, he writes that “we had caught sight of a possible link between the mysticism of the West and its industrial civilization.” See Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (London: Macmillian and Co., 1935), 251. [/note] In his book The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, the experience of the dark night of the soul, that sacred passage privileged by the Christian mystics of the apophatic theological current, becomes imbued with mechanical analogies that seem to transcend mere literary flourish. In the final stages of the experience the mystic becomes akin to a “machine of wonderfully tempered steel” that has “became conscious of itself being put together.” This machine is subjected to stress tests and other trials to assess its durability and functioning; it undergoes the feeling of distress and lack. But this rigorous ordeal is precisely what must be passed through to reach a higher state. “The mystic soul yearns to be this instrument. It throws off everything in its substance that is not pure enough, not flexible enough, to be turned to some use by God.”[note]Ibid., 197-198.[/note] To be a creator, then, is to be properly created, and to be used to create, in turn.

This encounter with the creative, unfolding totality returns again and again in the pages of A Thousand Plateaus, particularly in the 11th plateau, titled “1837: Of the Refrain”. Here Deleuze and Guattari describe the already-underway arrival of the “age of the Machine, the immense mechanosphere, the plane of the cosmicization of forces to be harnessed”.[note]Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 334.[/note] In this age, the molecular moves to the fore, and the creative act that cascades across all the levels of the totality is revealed as the penetration of these forces and flows in order to unleash the production of the new. The figure of the artist-mystic is resurrected in these pages, but wears a new face: that of the “cosmic artisan” capable of taking leave from the earth. This artisan (alternatively referred to as the “artist-artisan”) helps realize, through the forces of deterritorialization and decoding, a “cosmic people” and a “cosmic earth” — the people-to-come and the New Earth across which they move.

Thus the plateau on the refrain, which charts (among other things) a movement of territorial formation, stability, and exit across a tripartite schema of Classical, Romantic, and Modern ages, provides a highly abstract prism that allows Bergson’s depictions of closed societies and open societies to be read historically. This, admittedly, is the purpose of The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, a work that Ernst Bloch described as “very Marxist”.[note]Hisashi Fujita “Anarchy and Analogy: The Violence of Language in Bergson and Sorel”, in Alexander Lefebvre and Melanie White, Bergson, Politics, and Religion (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 131.[/note] Others who followed Bergson and his work closely, however, might have found much to disagree with in this overstatement. Such was the case of Georges Sorel, engineer turned political radical, who expressed in an otherwise-sympathetic review of the philosopher’s work a “wish that Bergson would abandon the largely infantile applications of his philosophy to the natural sciences and instead apply this to the problems raised by the great social movements.”[note]Ibid., 132-133[/note] In Sorel’s hands, the vision of the élan vital is not one of a metaphysical system to be perceived as operating at a cosmological level, but the very force that can be found at each moment in the cascading development of industrial forces: “Bergson’s creative evolution simply imitates the history of human industry… The true place for Bergson’s philosophy is in social studies, especially those concerning the present day.”

Sorel’s reconfiguration and deployment of Bergson’s philosophies in the service of such a pursuit is of immediate interest to elucidating Deleuze’s perspective on fabulation, and the role that it plays in the overall architecture of his philosophy. In Sorel’s works, particularly the 1908 book Reflections on Violence, Bergsonian thought undergoes a mutation by way of a creative encounter with Marxism and revolutionary syndicalism. This mutation helps provide the backbone of an escape route from what Sorel describes as decadence — that is, a wide-ranging slowdown in the forces of industrial development, economic competition, and class struggle that occurs when the bourgeoisie and and proletariat deviate from the historical paths identified by Marx.

“[I]t has been suggested”, writes Jeffrey Mehlman, “that ‘entropy’ is perhaps the dominant institution of Sorel’s thought.”[note]Jeffrey Mehlman, “Georges Sorel and the ‘Dreyfusard Revolution’; in Gail M. Schwab and John R. Jeanneney, The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Impact (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995), 148.[/note] The second law of thermodynamics, as articulated by Rudolf Clausius in the early 1850s, had by the time Sorel was writing exploded over the socio-cultural landscape. The realization that force forever dissipates made shockingly clear that disorder in a given system builds over time and that, at the horizon, a grand extinguishing looms. The euphoria of the earlier industrial era, swept up in the dream of Newtonian balance and universal harmony, dissolved into a fog of cosmic ennui. Fatigue, dissatisfaction, and a generalized weariness with things radiated through society, matched by an intensified focus on maintenance, regulation, and fitness as a means of holding these forces at bay.[note]For a discussion on the cultural impact of the second law of thermodynamics, and its subsequent implications for industrial discipline, managerialism, organizational theory and the like, see Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (New York: Harper Collins, 1990).[/note] Entropy was civilization’s grand enemy. To see it rushing over the gates meant that civilization was splitting apart, teetering at the edge of a grand abyss. For Sorel, writing during a time which we can identify as the eclipsing of early, competitive capitalism by monopoly capitalism, the dimming of modernity’s flames under the conjoined complacency of reform-minded parliamentary socialists and a bourgeoisie that had become an “ultra-civilized aristocracy” heralded the threat of decay and degradation.

The question of entropy also played a major, if often overlooked, role in Bergson’s work, particular where the notion of the élan vital is concerned. In the latter half of the 1800s, the recognition of the doom wrought by entropy triggered oscillations between a world-weary acceptance of the conditions and attempts to forestall it wherever possible. It wouldn’t be until the 1940s when negentropy (negative entropy) would come to be known. Erwin Schrödinger, for example, wrote in his 1944 book What is Life? that a living thing “can only be kept aloof from [entropy], i.e. alive, by continually drawing from its environment negative entropy.”[note]Erwin Schrödinger, What Is Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1944), 76.[/note] In order to explain the apparent paradox between constant, localized producing of living order and cosmic decay, Schrödinger’s suggestion was that living organism is imbued with an “astonishing gift of concentrating a ‘stream of order’… of ‘drinking orderliness’ from a suitable environment.” Such a concept was precisely what Bergson was trying to strive towards with the élan vital, defined as it was by a capacity for spontaneous organization and self-regeneration through time.

The second law of thermodynamics, Bergson argued, was nothing short of a metaphysical principle: physics, without the aid of “interposed symbols and… artificial devices and instruments” now “discloses the direction in which evolution is going.”[note]Keith Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze (New York: Routledge, 1999), 60.[/note] The direction, in its most generalized and cosmological form, appears in the work of physicists like Clausius to be a descent down the hierarchy, into the baseness of unformed, unorganized matter. But this is countered by another tendency, an “an effort to re-mount the incline that matter descends.”[note]Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (New York: Random House Inc., 1944), 268.[/note] This counter-tendency is the struggle against entropy, seen as necessary by Bergson to explain the existence of life and its prolonged development in the face of the irresistible tug downwards. It is not life itself, but a vital force that runs through the living in their onward evolution — the élan vital. It is the ascent up the hierarchy, characterized by an increase of organization in both social and individual senses, as well as the blurring between the two senses. The élan vital thus appears as a progenitor of the concept of negative entropy. Speaking of the second law of thermodynamics, Bergson wrote that

…everything happens as if it were doing its utmost to set itself free from these laws. It has not the power to reverse the direction of physical changes, such as the principle of Carnot determines it. It does, however, behave absolutely as a force would behave which, left to itself, would work in the inverse direction. Incapable of stopping the course of material changes downwards, it succeeds in retarding it. The evolution of life really continues … [as] an initial implusion: this impulsion… brings life to more and more efficient acts by the fabrication and use of more and more powerful explosives.[note]Ibid. (emphasis in original)[/note]

From this perspective, it isn’t hard to see why somebody like Sorel, concerned about entropic decadence derailing the progress of modernity into the upward momentum that Marx had identified, was attracted to such ways of thinking. If the the élan vital was an early attempt to elucidate negentropic tendencies, and was also that which the open society moved towards, then the affinity of the open society with negentropic organization becomes clear. By bringing into play Bergson’s own hints at a link between the mystic and the mechanical where the ascension to this morphogenicc force is concerned (not to mention Deleuze and Guattari’s own quasi-historicization of these processes), the theory is already moving in the direction that Sorel had wished for it to go — to assessing the development of industrial forces through capitalism.

The question becomes, then, how to translate this movement across a rough and complicated philosophical terrain, into something that counteracts decadence. The answer for Sorel is in precisely a function found in Bergson, albeit one that he disdained: the fabulatory function.

Building the Social Myth

In Bergson’s philosophy, both scientific knowledge and symbolic knowledge, insofar as they stamp nature with the “general bent of the human intellect” in order to bring it in line with a “geometrical and static order”, belong to the domain of relative knowledge.[note]Ellis Sandoz “Myth and Society in the Philosophy of Bergson”, Social Research, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Summer 1963), 173.[/note] The borderlands of this knowledge demarcate the very interior limits of the knowable, with its lines separating the faculty of the intellect from that which is beyond it — that is, the unrepresentable realm of continual change, crystallizing organization, and open systems unfolding through real duration. The intellect, in other words, is encased within the limit that prevents direct encounter with the élan vital, sheared off from access to the absolute.

This sifting-apart of the relative forms of knowledge from the absolute occurs along a fault-line of the temporal. “We do not think in real time”, Bergson suggested, adding that “but we live in it, because life transcends intellect.”[note]Bergson, Creative Evolution, 53.[/note] Thus the phenomenon of life, as an affair of particular and durable types of organization, moves through what cannot be grasped by the intellect — yet for Bergson it is a mistake to suggest that the position of the absolute beyond the grasp of the intellect means that it is fundamentally off-limits to thought. Such was his critique of Kant who, he argued, encased the mind permanently within the borderlands of the intellect. Against this approach, Bergson suggested that another, more subtle and intangible faculty is actually capable of transgressing these limits in order to explore the absolute directly: intuition. This is a faculty that ‘envelopes’ the intellect, and “may enable us to grasp what it is that intelligence fails to give us, and indeed the means of supplementing it.”[note]Ibid., 195.[/note] Intuition and intellect, taken together, are the two ways of knowing a thing, with each correlated to the absolute and relative forms, respectively. They mark the two sides of human consciousness.

Bergson saw the human as holding a particularly unique position in that it stands at the endpoint of the chain of natural evolution. The development of the intellect was vital in maintaining this trajectory, having endowed the human with the capacity to choose between various options at a given time and to navigate the situations that it found itself within. Yet the intellect itself comes to be a double-edged sword: as it enables choice and increased mobility, the possibly for a dangerous egosim haunts it. The intelligent self can continually act in its own interests alone, even at the expense of the society to which it is fundamentally bound. For Bergson, if the active threat of this egoism is not tapered, it will harm the interdependence of sociability, and with it the very possibility of longevity and survival.

How does egoism of the intellect become blunted, if the intellect is simultaneously the means to achieving survival? Here, a critical intervention is staged not by the faculties of the intellect, but by instinct under the guise of habits, or, more properly, the “habit of contracting habits”.[note]Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 17.[/note] As the intellect operates in an environment, dotted with encounters and obstacles and problems to solve, these habits come to compile and reinforce one another, forming into a memory that serves as the foundation for a social morality. The accumulation of habits becomes an order that aims at balancing freedom of choice with collective interest. The question then becomes one of compulsion: given the supposed capacity for free choice (intellect), what obligates the individual to follow this instinctual order of habit-memory? The answer is the story-telling function, fabulation, the formation of essential myths capable of unpinning society. Bergson:

It must be noted that fiction, when it has the power to move us, resembles an incipient hallucination: it can thwart our judgment and reason, which are strictly intellectual faculties. Now what would nature have done, if she wanted to guard against certain dangers of intellectual activity without compromising the future of intelligence? … if intelligence was to be kept at the outset from sliding down a slope which was dangerous to the individual and society, it could only be by the statement of apparent facts, by ghosts of facts; failing real experience, a counterfeit of experience had to be conjured up. A fiction, if it is vivid and insistent, may indeed masquerade as perception and in that way prevent or modify action.[note]Ibid., 109.[/note]

Bergson’s historical assessment was that the fabulatory function first arose in early societies through the attribution of forceful will and what could be regarded as a distinctly human agency to natural events. He padded this thesis out by drawing on William James’s experience of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. James had written of the incident that he had “personified the earthquake as a permanent individual entity”, a force imbued with an “[a]nimus and intent” like that exercised by “a living agent”.[note]Ibid., 130[/note] He quickly discovered that he was not alone in registering the disaster as an encounter with an uncanny intelligence: many in the midst of the event felt that the Final Judgment was at hand, and that the shaking of the earth was the presence of a “vague daemonic power” moving through the world. In one case, the earthquake was read not as something produced by the tensions of the earth’s crusts and disequilibrium among strata; it was the very thing, some abstract motive agent, that was producing the tensions and disequilibrium. “I realize now much better than ever how inevitable were men’s earlier mythological versions of such catastrophes,” James wrote, “and how artificial and against the grain of our spontaneous perceiving are the later habits into which science educates us.”[note]Ibid., 130-131[/note]

Extrapolating from these insights, Bergson put forward the argument that the genesis of fabulation occurred via the exploration of natural phenomenon through the lenses of a perceived non-human agency, which quickly became assimilated into the expressions of magical ritual and religious fervor. It becomes a machine for producing fictions that are so livid, so life-like that they come to haunt those who speak of it, the color of perception itself for the members of society. Through the regulatory mechanism of religion, fabulation became that which effectively transformed the compulsion to maintain society into cosmological dramas that imposed firm rules and punishment for transgressions. This dynamic, however, did not end in the passage from the ancient to the modern, as “a society without a religion” has never existed as such. Thus even societies that are ostensibly built upon a foundation of reason have, at their very core, a profound unreason, a hallucination or fiction that serves as the a priori for the deployment of the faculty of the intellect for the purpose of obtaining relative knowledge.

And yet the society bound to the fabulatory function will never escape the circular interiority of the closed society. Fabulation, in Bergson’s reading, does not simply produce a counterbalance against the individual’s intellectual egoism, but constitutes a mechanism for determining inclusion and exclusion in accordance with a given society’s mythic underpinning. In other words, fabulation itself is the very function that makes a closed society closed, producing in turn a singular and static order that in the long-term will begin that inexorable descent into entropy. The open society then, for Bergson, is a society that relinquishes itself from the fabulatory function, and trades the myth for the dynamic intuition that moves with the élan vital.

In his appropriation of the theory of the social myth, Sorel — much to Bergson’s criticism — fundamentally transformed this dire outlook on the ultimate nature of fabulation.[note]Bergson’s student Jacques Chevalier later recounted his mentor’s thoughts on Sorel: “He’s a curious man, this old engineer, whose thought had such an effect on Lenin and Mussolini. What he has tried to find in my work is the idea of the generative myth. But he had his own ideas in mind more than my own.” Fujita, “Anarchy and Analogy”, note 12, 124.[/note] No longer was the myth the indirect adversary of negentropic amplification, but the very force necessary to undermine the grip of decadence on society. Bergson might have posed the faculty of intuition as a rising divergence from the social myth, but for Sorel the myth becomes the medium for intuition itself, the prism through which passes that which cannot be known directly by the intellect. It even holds the capacity to power vast movements in the direction of the unknowable. Taking socialism, as a futurity that lay beyond the capacity to think-through it, as his chief concern, he wrote that

Ordinary language could not produce these results in any very certain manner; appeal must be made to collections of images which, taken together and through intuition alone, before any considered analyses are made, are capable of invoking the mass of sentiments which correspond to the different manifestations of the war taken by social against modern society… This method has all the advantages that integral knowledge has over analysis, according to the doctrine of Bergson; and perhaps it might be possible to cite many other examples which would demonstrate equally well the worth of the famous professor’s doctrines.[note]Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 113 (emphasis in original).[/note]


“Myths must be judged as a means of acting on the present,” wrote Sorel in Reflections on Violence. “[A]ll discussion of the method of applying them as future history is devoid of sense. It is the myth in its entirety which is alone important: its parts are only of interest in so far as they bring out the main idea.”[note]Ibid., 116-117.[/note] The myth is thus divorced from the expected outcome that it angles itself toward; what emerges as the important factor is what happens in the present as a result of the myth. The future remains utterly indeterminate — and this is in no small part thanks to the function of the myth itself. Expectations derived from the myth — say, the push towards towards socialism — entail a grand preparation, an immense mobilization even, that will produce effects which will themselves radiate into the indeterminacy of the future, if not ensure it outright. What is most important for Sorel is that mobilization under the directive of the myth breaks apart the static destruction of decadence and helps achieve a renewed sense of real progression.

Such an understanding cuts directly to the core of Sorel’s repurposing of Bergson. Sorel suggested that there was a distinct correlation between socio-cultural (and even industrial) stasis and political optimism. The parliamentary socialists that he so disdained, for instance, were optimists who believed in the ability for “small reforms of the political system” and “governmental personnel” to “direct the movement of society in such a way to mitigate those evils of the modern world which seem so hideous to sensitive souls”.[note]Ibid., 10.[/note] Optimism, correlated with humanist critique and piece-meal solution, undermines radicalism and trades it for a neutered pacifism.

Standing in stark contrast to optimism was pessimism, understood as a “march towards deliverance” that draws, on one hand, from an understanding of intrinsic weakness, and on the other the accumulation of experimental knowledge generated by the continual encounters with obstacles. Through each an understanding of how social order operates is derived. This understanding leaves no space for the social reformist path:

The pessimist regards social conditions as forming a system bound together by an iron law which cannot be evaded, as something in the form of one block, and which can only disappear through a catastrophe that involves the whole. If this theory is admitted, it then becomes absurd to attribute the evils from which society suffers to a few wicked men.[note]Ibid., 11.[/note]

The individual’s will-to-deliverance, the path through pessimism, is consecrated in the form of the social myth. Sorel used the history of Christianity to draw this out. The primitive Christian, for example, found themselves born into a life of bondage, a slave to the earth of which Satan is the prince. In order to survive in this world, the individual gives themselves over to the belief in the future eschatological conflict between God and these forces of darkness: the myth of war and the realization of the New Jerusalem transforms one into something capable of truly existing. The Calvinists took this even further with the added weight of the doctrines of predestination. In the sixteenth century they were able to power an immense revolutionary machine, a “real catastrophic revolution” that fundamentally transformed everything, shaking apart the power structures of Catholicism and undermining its long-held stability.

If Catholicism could be broken apart by the Calvinist revolutionary force, it was because it had lost its connection to the fire of the mythic through the disappearance of the “Church militant”. Calvinism, likewise, suffered a similar fate in the wake of the Renaissance, which for Sorel has ushered in a wave of humanistic thought that brought with it an unbridled optimism. Here, at this point, society begin to run afoul, the groundwork laid for a “ridiculous social pacifism” that drowned out vital, nourishing anger. The iron cage began receding into the background. Soon the bourgeoisie, much like the parliamentary socialists with whom they linked arms, would cease to be like Nietzsche’s ‘warrior types’[note]For Sorel, the Nietzschean ‘master type’ was based upon “ancient heroes and the man who sets out to conquer the Far West” (Ibid., 232). The European bourgeoisie, having slowly reclined into civilized comforts, had fallen short of this idealized state — but for Sorel, it could still be found in the industrious spirit exhibited by capitalists in the United States: “I believe that if Nietzsche had not been so dominated by his memories of being a professor of philology, he would have perceived that the master type still exists under our own eyes, and that it is this type which, at the present time, creates the extraordinary greatness of the United States.” Interestingly, Deleuze and Guattari also draw attention to the exceptional, schizophrenizing nature of American capitalism in both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and even note in that “everything important that has happened or is happening takes the route of the American rhizome” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 19.). The relationship between the “American rhizome” and the figure of the people-to-come will be taken up again in a future section of this essay series.[/note], and come to prefer the large, cumbersome industrial cartels and rationalized industry to the competitive battlefield of the market.

This society, divorced from myth and swallowed by optimism, was (to use Bergson’s parlance) a closed society. Yet it is clear how Sorel reverses Bergson’s schema: for the earlier philosopher, the mythic society was the closed society, held under the sway of a ‘static religion’. In Sorel’s work, decadence was marked by stasis, and it is no stretch to treat the decadent society as the theoretical descendant of the closed society — except that the relationship to myth is fundamentally different. For Bergson, the open society follows the faculty of intuition in a proto-negentropic escape from the closed society’s mythic basis. For Sorel, a precise contrast: the negentropic opening follows through the reinvigoration of the myth of deliverance.

The Revolutionary Myth

It’s important not to mistake Sorel’s myth for more basic forms of propaganda. Perhaps an apt way to pull them apart is to compare each to Mark Fisher’s distinction between sorcery and magic.[note]I owe this insight to Cockydooody. Check out his Totalitarian Collectivist blog right now.[/note] For Fisher, magic, like propaganda, proceeds by operating within a given system, moving in line with its despotic programming in order to ‘organize’ and ‘install’ words and languages with the goal of capturing potentially divergent movement (and to ward off more powerful, threatening ones). Sorcery, by contrast, operates at a much higher — or perhaps, more properly, lower — level. It marks an opening to the Outside, the zone where the Outside pours into the interior. Instead of organizing words into programs, sorcery entails “words melting into Things, and building sensitive side-communication Meshworks that spread”.[note]Mark Fisher, “White Magic”, Virtual Criminologies, http://www.critcrim.org/redfeather/journal-pomocrim/vol-6-virtual/whitemagic.htm. See also CCRU, “Cyberhype VI: The Darkside of the Wave”, Mute, March 10th, 2001, http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/cyberhype-vi-darkside-wave. Here, magic is the associated with the reformist gambit of Keynesian economics, and sorcery with the entrepreneur and the rhythmic pulse of creative destruction as identified by Joseph Schumpeter and his work on wave dynamics in capitalism. It goes without saying something like creative destruction is precisely what Sorel is hoping to win out over highly reformed, stagnant capitalism.[/note] It is thus out of reach of human control, generative, and radically open.

Indeed, as Bergson’s understanding of the myth entailed, it isn’t the product of any one person or institution; it is something that organizes itself through time in the intersection of the individual intellect and the wider congealing of habits into social memory. From there it’s only a small leap to Sorel’s Marxist theoretical ground, where social institutions, norms, belief structures, etc., are secondary formations relative to the primary generative processes. In his discussions concerning both ‘primitive Christianity’ and ancient Greece this becomes particularly clear, with the doctrine of original sin and the epic battles of the gods deriving their contexts from material conditions unique to each social order.

This dynamic is in play with Sorel’s chief topic: the myth of the general strike advanced by the revolutionary syndicalist movement of his time. Where did the myth come from? Not from any singular source. It congealed from Proudhon and Bakunin’s anarchic vision of grand industrial federations, and from the communist anticipation of the great revolution looming up on the horizon — and behind each, the tumult of history. The preconditional ferment of this revolutionary consciousness encompassed the eradication of the romantic pastoral under the gears of the dark satanic mills, the dispossession of the agricultural laborer and its assimilation into the inorganic army of the proletariat. Its logic derived from the regimentation of society by the temporal rhythm of the machine, and the expansions and contractions that compose the spiraling, metabolic pulse of industrialization itself. It patches itself together through the disparate strike activities and worker agitations that quickly faded out of sight. Proudhon, Bakunin, Marx, and even Sorel appear from here as speaking not in their own voices, but the voices of subterranean and imperceptible movements taking place underneath the seemingly-stable organization of things. The same dynamic is to be found in the myth of the general strike, as something that has self-organized from below, and is rising up to be spoken by agents who think they are deploying it by their own volition.

As alluded to earlier, whether or not the myth triggers the anticipated catastrophic revolutionary event is ultimately immaterial. As a myth of deliverance, Sorel argued, the specter of the general strike would compel the proletariat to refuse the humanist comforts offered by the parliamentary socialists. Instead, they would “repay with black ingratitude the benevolence of those who wish to protect the workers, to meet with insults the homilies of the defenders of human fraternity and to respond by blows to the advances of the propagators of social peace”.[note]Sorel, Reflections on Violence, 77.[/note] This is the simultaneous intensification of the class struggle and capitalism itself. Having been robbed of the peace promoted by the parliamentary socialists, the ultra-civilized bourgeoisie will cast aside their commitment to “works which promote social justice or [to] democracy”, and come to understand that “they have been badly advised by the people who persuaded them to abandon their trade of creators of productive forces…”.[note]Ibid., 77-78.[/note] Thus the much-required negentropic force becomes identifiable as “proletarian violence”, composing the

only means by which the European nations, stupefied by humanitarianism, can recover their former energy. This violence compels capitalism to restrict its attention solely to its material role and tends to restore it to its warlike qualities it formerly possessed. A growing and solidly organized working class can force the capitalist class to remain ardent in the historical struggle; if a united and revolutionary proletariat confronts a rich bourgeoisie ready for conquest, capitalist society will reach its historical perfection.[note]Ibid., 78-79.[/note]

In the final stages of Sorel’s analysis, the very distinction between socialism (here only capable of being glimpsed through the myth) and capitalism is thrown into disarray. In the forward push to mobilize for the general strike, the whole of the proletarian class undergoes a kind of industrial education. Like Bergson’s mechanical mystic, the individual worker, subjected to the gears of the machine and the pace of production, becomes something different than it was before — in this case, a soldier in an acephalic insurgency, an individual point in an anarchic swarm that undermines the power of the state and the bourgeois opposition.[note]Sorel here appears as an early progenitor of the “Insect Communism” advanced by the likes of Eliphas Apis, among others. See Eliphas Apis, The Insect Communist Manifesto (Terra Nova: Sov-Hive 325 Publishing, 2025). Directly presaging the concerns of Apis, Sorel himself describes ‘perfection in manufacturing’ as a factory or workshop capable of being “considered as a machine whose parts are men.” The industrial education of the workers here produces a “completely mindless life” based on automatic behaviors in relation to the rhythms of production. Thus the “skill the workers acquire can, in the long run, be compared reasonably to the instinct of an insect.” See Georges Sorel, The Illusions of Progress (Berkley: University of California Press, 1969), 195-196. It is also worth noting that Sorel is invoking Bergson’s somnambulist theory of instinct. For an overview of this controversial theory (and the influence of it on Deleuze’s early work), see Christian Kerslake, “Insects and Incest: From Bergson and Jung to Deleuze”, Multitudes, No. 25 (2006), http://www.multitudes.net/Insects-and-Incest-From-Bergson/. [/note] The historical perfection of capitalist society locks into an upward, explosive thrust, and the combatants in this borderless war are stamped with a new “morality of producers” that serves as a motive force for development of industrial production to soar ever higher, towards an economic bridge that pulls together capitalism and the historical stage that follows it.

…the idea of the general strike, constantly rejuvenated by the sentiments provoked by proletarian violence, produces an entirely epic state of mind and, at the same time, bends all the energies of the mind towards the conditions that allow the realization of a freely functioning and prodigiously progressive workshop; we have thus recognized that there is a strong relationship between the sentiments aroused by the general strike and those which are necessary to bring about a continued progress in production. We have then the right to maintain that the modern world possesses the essential motivating power which can ensure the existence of the morality of producers.[note]Sorel, Reflections on Violence, 250. On the “economic bridge” between socialism and capitalism, see The Illusions of Progress, 205-207. See also Vince Garton, “Technoindustrial Capitalism and the Politics of Catastrophic Velocity”, The Cyclonograph, June 23rd, 2017. https://vincentgarton.com/2017/06/23/technoindustrial-capitalism-and-the-politics-of-catastrophic-velocity/ [/note]

Sorel’s understanding of the web of relationships between the proletariat, the generative myth of deliverance, and the wider question of entropic and negentropic fluctuations in socio-economic systems and technological development is one in which the proletariat and bourgeoisie alike are but points in a vaster circuitry that cuts widely across historical development. Whether or not he specifically articulated it as such is rather unimportant, as the movement of the theory of the myth out from its Bergsonian roots makes it all abundantly clear. Social development remains inexorably tied to a techno-industrial underpinning, and actualization of a revolutionary consciousness itself remains fundamentally connected to these processes. The attempt to break out from these conditions — absolute revolution against the process — all but guarantees the pushing of the process to its higher stages. Such is the nature, perhaps paradoxically, of the movement from the closed society to the open society.

Such insight foreshadows, in many respects, the assessments of Deleuze and Guattari, who noted in A Thousand Plateaus that “[h]istory is made only by those who oppose history (not by those who insert themselves into it, or even reshape it).”[note]Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 295[/note] It may seem a bit of a stretch to juxtapose Sorel’s work with Deleuze and Guattari, but under a closer inspection numerous similarities begin to appear. Sorel’s strategic inversion of the Bergsonian perspective on the myth is isomorphic to Deleuze’s own treatment of fabulation, which, as indicated in the introduction, is the conduit through which new political formations and can identities emerge. Similarly, the emphasis on closed and open systems returns again in the work of Deleuze, both with and without Guattari; as with Sorel, the relationship between these sorts of systems and thermodynamically-charged sciences is also highlighted. And finally, the intermingling of these forces in the production of the new acts as a profound bridge between the two. Each heralds the emergence of mutant politics, unique to the dynamics of modernity, that stretches itself towards the New People and the New Earth.

Nonetheless, it would be overstating matters to suggest a direct correlation between Sorel and Deleuze (and Guattari), as each pursued divergent paths that overlapped only at points. The following section will, with Sorel’s theories in mind, begin to unpack Deleuze’s own transfiguration of the theory of the myth.

The GASTRULATION of GEIST: or, an Extended Meditation upon the World-Historical Connection Between Digestion and Simulation

by pps

‘One of their philosophers has lately discovered that “as the liver secretes bile, so does the brain secrete thought”; which astonishing discovery Dr Cabanis, more lately still, in his ‘Rapports du Physique et du Moral de l’Homme’, has pushed into its minutest developments. […] He fairly lays open our moral structure with his dissecting-knives and real metal probes; and exhibits it to the inspection of mankind, by Leeuwenhoeck microscopes and inflation with the anatomical blowpipe. Thought, he is inclined to hold, is still secreted by the brain; but then Poetry and Religion (and it is really worth knowing) are “a product of the smaller intestines!”'[note]Thomas Carlyle, ‘Signs of the Times’, in Edinburgh Times (1829).[/note]

Coeliac Splanchnogenesis, Nervous Speleogenesis, Intellectual Epitheliogenesis: or, the Art of Sinking Inside Oneself

All enfoldings, invaginations and internalisations attendant upon abiogenesis are only so many precursors and ancestors to the later development of intelligence’s full-blown transcendental functioning. However: this is not to say they are therefore the same. It is not to speciously state their dubious ‘continuity’ — whether explanatory or descriptive, genetic or categorial. They resonate only in mutual dissonance. For the ‘transcendental’ is not an ontological-descriptive feature (despite being gregariously read as such in various strands of philosophy), but an essentially normative-functional one. To apprehend it properly: in becoming responsible to what is called transcendental, one folds oneself into a nexus of accountability that is accountable, in a special way, only to itself. Thereby, it is, importantly, irreducible. It is a collapse inwards, into itself, that cannot be reversed or reduced to anything else. But, in the sense that it is a collapse into itself (the very model of irreducibility and saltation), it echoes the lining of a gut, the deposition of an epithelium, the nervous recurving of encephalisation. Invaginating into a linguistic nexus echoes the inward folding of a coelom, not by therapeutic continuity but by reciprocal saltationality, because they are both perfect enclosures. They proceed by creating potentiating blockages against the external world.[note]Our purpose here is not to flatten thought into some kind of continuity with non-thinking processes and thus arrive at therapeutic immanence (via a narrative of dubious inheritance or recapitulatory reverie). Thinking and matter (whether the matter be organic or not) are discontinuous. (Thinking was never ‘contained’ in previous nature, and it never will be — indeed, its essential nature is to strive against this, to ramify and inflame this discontinuity — and it did not evolve or unfurl from the latent possibilities of some ‘vibrant matter’ or ‘vitality’.) Indeed, our purpose is thus merely to point out that it is the very nature of the thing we call ‘evolutionary’ development to create irreversible discontinuities: its nature is to be discontinuous with itself. By not being itself, nature triggers life; by not being itself, life triggers thought. Life is reality’s attempt to exit itself, this is why it exists only via exits, it is a saltus generator.[/note] And so, clinging to regulative argument as in-built deniability or alibi against flagrant abuse of analogy, let us embark on a phylogenetic fantasy.[note]We follow the visionary model of the speculative master, Sigmund Freud. Freud, A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses (HUP, 1987).[/note]

Novalis, a long time ago, proposed the historico-philosophical study of a “DIETETICS OF MANKIND”.[note]Novalis, Notes for a Romantic Encylopaedia (SUNY, 2007), 14.[/note] So too Nietzsche once exclaimed: “Verily, my brothers, the soul is a stomach!”[note]Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (CUP, 2006), §16.[/note]

One imagines the transcendental architectonic as a metabolic system: Sensibility providing catabolism of uncategorised exteriority into manageable chunks through sensory mastication; Imagination as the filtration that synthesises materials into a digestible manifold; Understanding as the anabolic process that builds matter up into Intellectual Nourishment;[note]John Milton wrote that the Apple was “intellectual food”: thus, we must eat it to the core. Cf. Sellars, ‘The Structure of Knowledge’ (1975), http://www.ditext.com/sellars/sk.html[/note] the Table of Categories, perhaps, as Table of Anabolic Enzymes.


Before we had central nervous systems, we had colons. This applies at both ontogenetic and phylogenetic levels (in embryogenesis, the blastula folds itself into a gastrula[note]Gastrulation is the complexification of a blastula into a trilaminar embryo consisting of the three layers of the ectoderm (outside/distal layer), mesoderm (middle layer), and endoderm (internal/proximal layer). (It is an internal differentiation, or schistosity, wherein the successive embryonic laminae come to echo the geognostic-stratigraphic structure of the planet, or, the foliation of strata as noticed by those like Nicholas Steno or Gottlieb Werner.) The ectoderm develops into epithelium or skin, the mesoderm weaves itself into muscle and bone, the endoderm transforms into the digestive system and viscera. Notably, it is during this phase that the embryo folds into itself to create the alimentary canal: sculpting the mouth and anus and the uninterrupted tract between the two. These are formed first via the proctodeum and stomadeum, which are depressions that invaginate into the anus and mouth, respectively. The digestive system is then created via endodermic evagination: a kind of internal hollowing out (splanchnogenesis echoes speleogenesis echoes intellogenesis). During this stage, the coelom (or primary body cavity, designed to house the viscera) opens up within the embryo: an internally directed speleogenesis, or opening up of a cave, this is carved out via a process known as enterocoely. Note that the cover image to this post depicts a gastrulating zebra fish embryo.[/note] before it neurulates into a recognisable chordate). Arising far further back in the phyletic archaeology[note]Again, not stressing continuity, but transition and saltation.[/note] of what has now developed into language-using and reason-wielding navigation, digestion is merely the first form of ‘locomoting’ an external world via the installation of a productive blockage or boundary against it. Just like the ‘proto-transcendental’ thrown up later by the CNS sensorium (and we strive to be delicate with our analogies here),[note]A CNS is ‘proto-transcendental’ because it is a representing of the world, in the sense of a contrivance or manufacturing, thus creating a stark separation within the world between appearance and reality; however, it is not a fully transcendental structure because this requires the even stronger separation between justifications and causes. This only emerges with the arrival of language, via concepts and thus normative structure. The transcendental is full-blown normative: a CNS only produces differential dispositions, it cannot justify their reliability.[/note] the digestive system is a potentiating blockage that allows for selective navigation of external modalities (a selective uptake of the outside world that potentiates an ability for discriminative locomotion).[note]Mobility taken here in an abstract sense of the ‘locomoting of various modalities‘ is not necessarily spatial (for example, the selection and uptake of nourishing materials as opposed to non-nourishing can be taken as a form of navigation of environmental modalities). Abstractly, then, it refers to the locomotion of a possibility space or space of options. Spatial locomotion, indeed, came subsequent to the locomotion of chemical co-ordinates and gradients instigated by metabolic economy. Most basically, locomotion means anything that is an election or optimization for certain modalities above others, rather than mere passivity. ‘Locomotion’, in this sense, may provide a suitably minimal descriptor for ‘life’.[/note] It therefore intensifies the individual qua individual, allowing for a separation from the world that ramifies navigation of it.[note]More precisely, by creating a productive block (by largely managing to block out much of the external stimuli — much like the damming of a river), a principle of discriminative uptake is generated (damning creates utility). Now, because there is a distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘out’, there can be discrimination of what gets in. Finitude — material or cognitive, energy economy or attentional economy — is the prerequisite of orientation, for one can only navigate the world when one comes to successfully de-laminate, or separate, oneself from it: the ability to discriminate can only arise within the generation of constraints that necessitate the need for discrimination. As Kant put it: “I orient myself only according to a subjective ground of differentiation”. – Immanuel Kant, ‘What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?’, in Religion and Rational Theology, ed. & trans. Wood & Giovanni (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), 9.[/note] This is ‘locomotion’ in an abstract sense: as the optimization for certain modalities, be these the navigation of gastrochemical co-ordinates within the culinary universe rendered by the gut, or of individuated objects within the spatiotemporal universe only later rendered upon the arrival of the CNS. In both cases the potentiation of individuality is only bequeathed via a productive blockage — a separation — that is thus revealed as the early ancestor of the later transcendental: not because of explanatory continuity but, we again stress, because of a reciprocal structure of saltation via inward collapse.

Noogenesis is preceded by splanchnogenesis as the first finitude-generating intensification of ‘internality’ that, whilst further entrenching the formative disjunction between organic-system and externality, also thereby galvanizes the organism’s empowerment over this external landscape. Paradoxically, it is only through exiting the world (by further collapsing into itself: twisting and torquing into itself to form a gut in endodermic evagination, or retreating into the simulative encasement of a nervous system) that the organism comes to grasp this world as a world. The invagination of an alimentary canal or, later, the bilaterian centralization of nervous nets into a CNS can bring a ‘world’ into view — an organismic umwelt — only through limiting, or blocking out, external stimuli.[note]Worlds need bounds to give them structure. This is a basic Kantian insight: that it is the basic conceptual (rule-governed) structure of cognition that bequeaths this (without a cogniser, there is no world). Kantian discursive-judgement moulds the cascade of Humean sensation into a whole. ‘World’ is a necessary, i.e. functional and regulative, feature of inquiry. [/note]

The evolution of bilateral anatomical symmetry (itself the sufficient condition and precursor to a centralized and segmented nervous system) is another example of this: by dispensing morphological radiality — as panoptical immanence and immersion — the promotion of only one plane of symmetry[note]Bilaterian morphology drops symmetry on the transverse and coronal planes, only retaining it on the so-called sagittal plane. Through this we give up a circular or spheroid form, and gain an identifiable ‘front’ and ‘back’. Worms and vermicular lifeforms — as the simplest bilateria — are perfect examples of this: they are oriented entirely by a mouth (front) and anus (behind), and thus appear to be merely animated digestive tracts.[/note] generates an orientational ‘front’ and ‘behind’ for the organism, whilst also promoting the intensifying localization of sensory glands into a ‘face’ or ‘front-end’.[note]Mandibles unfurl, teeth regiment, the mouth — portal to the organic universe — opens onto the world. From this bilaterian invention of ‘faciality’ (the evolution of the splanchnocranium), the entire sensorial universe bubbles outwards and backwards from the mouth as a knotting reflexion of nerve-concentration. Eyes and nasal apertures open as world-interfaces bubbling upwards from behind the mandibles, emerging, originally, in order to help guide culinary items down into the esophageal labyrinth. Considering the CNS as a functional protuberance upon gut purposiveness, the major sensory organs unfurl — flower-like — backwards from around the mouth, the splanchnocranium only later bulging back into the neurocranium.[/note] This morphological genesis of faciality thus further lifts the organism out of immersion: by blocking out peripheral fields through the reinforcement of a directional aperture, it foreshadows the arrival of a ‘perspective’ in the world (once more, an empowering separation from the world that facilitates locomotion within it via selective uptake). As a directionalisation of the sensorial field through perspectivally filtrating peripheral foci (localizing the sensorial universe into a directed cone), it creates an invisible structuration of the organism’s universe that is simultaneously a further separation from externality. This is why the development of bilateral symmetry and faciality is likewise another precursor (yet only a precursor, and regulatively speaking) to the ‘conceptual transcendental’, in that it provides conditions of objectivation that cannot themselves be objectivated (unless we use a mirror, or, alternately, the mirror of explicating language): an invisible and necessary structuration of reality that is also simultaneously a filtration, a separation, from it.[note]Kant himself relates our bilateral symmetry to the production of space as form of intuition in his discussion of our handedness, or ‘chirality’ (i.e. the fact that, although our hands are identical in shape, they can never be superimposed one over the other: a right-handed glove can never fit a left hand). Kant uses this to argue that our experience of space cannot be reducible to abstractions or relations. Even further, it implies that our experience of space must be derived from our position in the world (nothing else could decide which hand is ‘left’ and which is ‘right’). In this way, Kant opens up the isthmus through which transcendental psychology touches upon spinal anatomy and, further back, the loss of radial symmetry. We orient ourselves in the world only via a subjective ground of differentiation. However, the physiological ground of this ‘subjectivation’ does not therefore belong to humanity; nor does it belong merely to mammalia or even to chordata; we share one of these initial planes of orientation with echinoderms, with arthropods, with nemotodes.[/note] The evolution of bilateral symmetry created the conditions under which predation could flourish (this truly is “fearful symmetry”, burning bright, in the forests of the night): faces are markers of lethality, of the dispensation of a pre-lapsarian organic radial communism; it symbolizes the increasing relinquishment of life to the telic, temporally-productive structures that progressively come to shape all terrestrial development.[note]Life lost its claims to immanence with the loss of radial symmetry: with bilateral directionality, life came to anatomically resemble the secret teleonomies that come, increasingly, to puppet it. Bilateral symmetry presages the installation of modernity because it feigns the installation of end-orientation and teloi. It is the physical translation of organic tropism into an anatomical plan. Striving, condensed and coagulated into a body-plan. The loss of radial body-plans is the biotic equivalent of the Fall; nevertheless, it gave us eyes with which to see, noses with which to smell, and — most importantly — teeth with which to tear.[/note] By blocking out peripherality (or, radial immersion), an individuated — focused, directed, hungry — perspective on the world is produced; this is a delamination from externality that actually empowers the organism’s locomotion of externality by allowing for the prioritization and de-prioritization of external stimuli (‘your prey is in front of you, ready to be clasped with your forward-facing mandibles’).[note]A representation that represents everything is not a representation, but instead the suffocating and undying unity of Parmenidean autarchic identity. Only through informational limitation or compression (i.e. mediation) does representation occur.[/note]

This limitation is precisely what synthesizes a ‘world’ in the first place (where previously there was only indistinction and blind continuity).[note]As Kant noticed, there was a big difference between ‘world’ (which arrives, always, as categorially pre-structured) and ‘noumena’ (the total lack of categorial structure). Moreover, the enunciation of ‘externality’ presupposes internality: so, without blockage you do not even have this outside.[/note] Locomotion, and later ‘perspective’, can only come with finitude.[note]These blockages thus emerge as the phylogenetic ancestry to our robust phenomenological sense of spatiotemporal ipseity — of nowness, of hereness.[/note] You need an aperture to view the world (just as you need a crucible in order to recreate it), and the first such aperture was pharyngeal: nervous-differential and discursive-normative apertures came later on (later, GUIs). Although both are methods of navigation, digestion retains vast temporal precedence over representational means and, indeed, for the majority of its — relatively brief — history, this latter has been entirely subservient to digestive forms of exchange.

The first ‘world’ was thus gastrochemical, only arriving to us through an oesophagus. It is only very recently that the second, sensory ‘world’ (of objectivated spatiotemporality, siphoned through a sensory nervous system) has managed to lift itself off from its functional substrate: taking off into auto-complexification as a form of inner-ramification (like the inward torquing of a complexifying gut). Thus, all forms of representation (both sentient and, even, sapient) have, for the largest part of their history, been merely functional appendages to food-acquisition. The organism’s CNS-derived ‘global-simulation’ of itself and its environment began simply as an overgrown side-effect of nutritional contestation (because better spatial locomotion allowed for surer procurement of nourishment, initiating a sensory arms-race that was locked-in — upon evolutionary arrival — by the mutually enforcing dynamics of predation and anti-predation counter-measure). Sentience and, much later, sapience begin life as a self-exaggerating excrescence of the stomach.

From this (limited) perspective, the sensory manifold is therefore a later and, originally, functionally subservient information layer merely superimposed on top of our primary, peristaltic thoroughfare. (Indeed, sapient intelligence in humans was likely first emancipated from this functional subservience to splanchnic ends by the invention of cooking which, via externalising digestion and outsourcing gastric labour, freed up surplus energy to be re-invested into a meandering process of roundabout development, otherwise known as ‘civilization’.)[note]Cf. Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, (Profile Books, 2010).[/note] One notes, through this, that the first way that we, organisms all, interacted with the world was through our guts: eyeballs with which to see came only later; and, then, only as a way to locate our prey; which was itself a development of our evolved ability to eat each other. The first ‘world’ (‘world’ understood as self-propagating and mutually individuating division between inside and out) was a gut; the second ‘world’ — of time, space, and objects — was derived only as a ramification, an originally functionally-subservient information overlay, added on top of the first. Long before we rendered an objective world within the informational englobement of a CNS or the self-correcting procedure of discursive inquiry, we carved out a gastric world for ourselves deep within our primary body cavity, or coelom. And, for the longest time, the latter functionally enveloped the former. The sphere of the sensorium was preceded by the coelom; Plato’s cave was preceded by a splanchnic speleoplex.

Continuing this train of thought, one might be pleased to consider intelligence primarily as functional excrescence: mere protuberance or apophysis of gut-function; one that, turning into itself, became self-catalyzing; and, if one were so inclined, one could include the whole story of human history within this tumorous loop. Sensorial thoroughfares (eyes, nose, ears) bubble upwards and outwards from the mandibles and splanchnocranium (as merely functional appendages to an alimentary tube); subsequent to this, the creation of the CNS’s global simulation balloons backwards into the expanding neurocranium (intelligence swells backwards from the mouth into a skull) as a physiological divagation from primary gut-function (a branching that originally serves the gut, to better represent prey) and, finally, the installation of a symbolic-linguistic encasement arrives as result of this cranial ballooning’s rebounding unto itself, through increasingly localised swelling of prefrontal cortex (providing expansion of working memory, thus facilitating grounds for executive function, advanced goal-direction, and aptitude using linguistic prostheses).[note]Coolidge & Wynn, ‘Working Memory, its Executive Functions, and the Emergence of Modern Thinking’, in Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 15:1, 5-26, (2005) & Ambrose, ‘Coevolution of Composite-Tool Technology, Constructive Memory, and Language: Implications for the Evolution of Modern Human Behaviour’, in Current Anthropology, 51:1, (2010).[/note] (This opening up of working-memory provided the niche for ensuing memetic invasion/symbiosis.) The grand process of encephalisation is an ontological erring, echoing the original Adamite error (again, intellectual nutrition).

The interface chauvinism — 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, universally shared by metazoan life. And yet, this is mere pleasing dream — a myth. For chauvinism is our special fate. We are eternally shut off from any such ur-relation and its therapeutic isthmi: for, just as bilaterian predation rescinds claims to radial community, sentience abjures any claim of functional flattening. ‘[F]or after the first bite there is no return to innocence’.[note]Wilfrid Sellars, ibid.[/note]

Like the archaic gut itself, the very adaptive-functional success of sentient overlay (its ability to further nutrition acquisition) lay in its collapse into self-accountability (as potentiating blockage): a sacrifice of immediacy for interminable mediacy, in the informatic invagination of a nervous system, that in collapsing into itself becomes able to represent its states to itself. And, later, in the holistic-hermetic recurving into the ‘inside’ of a linguistic nexus that finds authority and warrant only in itself, such that it can rebuke, if it wish, the passions of the gut. In these ways, these features are propelled intensively beyond their origin, as escape velocity, from original status as exaggerating functional-appendage. Thus, resonance only in dissonance.

For, just as metabolism is only capable of extracting energy by siphoning off externality — admitting it only in homeopathic and reconstituted doses — so too is the CNS only capable of representing legible structure by shutting the organism into its own hermetic simulation or model of the world. (There is no ur-relation but self-relation.) Nervous systems galvanise navigation not by giving us contact with a pre-existent reality, but precisely by shutting it off: enfolding the organism into holistic self-relation, such that it can represent its own states to itself. Perspective is generated through blockage: the filtration of externality through the alimentary tract; the localization of peripheral fields in faciality; the englobing computational constraints of CNS simulation; the irreducible conceptual encasement of glottogony. ‘Immediacy’ is thus replaced, forever, with interminable self-mediation, locking the organism into its own modellings. No turning back.

Accordingly, the nervous system is the result of the informatic ‘invagination’ of a piece of the world into a globally-enclosing simulation of itself and its environs, such that it can only ‘read’ its own stimuli[note]Through this informatic invagination, the system comes to be able to represent its own states to itself (it begins to be able to ‘read’ its own outputs as inputs). External stimuli thus still affect (or ‘feed’) the system, but they can only become legible by first becoming part of it. Thus, unmediated externality — or immediate contact with an externality — is forever shut off by the development of a nervous system. This was the requirement — the entry-fee, let’s say — for a world of appearances to be able to arise. Because the nervous system is the introduction of representation into the world it is also the introduction of mediation, and thus also ancestor to finitude.[/note]: the post-chordate universe arises as each organism shuts itself into the internally-constituting prison of its own representations. Once again, this is why — in carefully regulative terms — the CNS is a veritable ‘ancestral echo’ to the full-blown linguistic-normative transcendental, despite the absolutely unbridgeable gap between the two: because, through informatic invagination, it can now only ‘read’ its own output as input, and thus it comes to pre-empt Kantian finitude and synthetic a priori judgement whereby all knowledge only proceeds through relation to the conditions of knowledge. It also provides a precursor to language as a hermetic system of signs that refers only to itself and its own structures and conventions, rather than anything outside of it. This separation from the world is what lends it its transformative power: it allows for involuting manipulation and self-correction of the system; or, it contains no authority that is beyond criticism, no datum beyond update.

The CNS provides a similar function at the organismic level. Because it represents reality how it seems rather than how it ‘is’ (i.e. through a layer of irrefragable mediation), it can optimize this representation for the organism’s needs and requirements.[note]The ‘is’ of reality would be a computational avalanche and impossible cascade that would be utterly infeasible to internally represent or filtrate: just as the idea of deriving nutrients from everything, from matters of all backgrounds both biogenic and inorganic, is equally preposterous.[/note] Of course, it is crucial to note, that this ‘optimising’ proceeds in irreducibly different ways between the two: for the CNS, it proceeds due to adaptive-selective-pressure; whilst, for language, self-correction proceeds by way of regulating norms of discourse. The latter allows optimisation to take place, moreover, at intensely faster speeds, because it allows the process to selectively intervene within itself (rather than relying on the stochastic processes of natural selection as in CNS simulation, for example). Put simply, both the CNS and language hold no unmediated contact with the outside world, both are a globally self-enclosing re-creation of this world, that therefore contains no ‘transparency’[note]Transparency here is not meant in Metzinger’s unique usage as a form of ‘interface blindness’ by which a model mistakes itself for a reality (cf. Being No One, 2003): rather, it is intended in the more intuitive sense of denoting an unmediated or unmitigated contact with outside reality. I.e. total perspicuity or the lack of interface refraction.[/note] (the veritable birth of simulation).[note]The idea, or phenomenological feeling, that such a system, be it linguistic or nervous, does contain transparency — i.e. contact with some outside world — is the trick that the nervous system plays on itself: reality is the feeling created within a simulation that is not able to self-represent the fact of its own nature. It is a unique form of ‘interface blindness’, wherein the interface is itself entirely invisible to itself. Reality (in the sense of naïve realism, or, immediate contact with externality) is merely the result of such computational limits. Again, cf. Metzinger (2003).[/note] But this blockage is, again, why both are so powerful: both create the selective uptake — the discrimination of information — that structures externality into a world in the first place. Just like the linguistic normative transcendental, the CNS, as ancestral ‘echo’, moulds the formless cascade of external stimuli into an objectivated universe (of, for example, individuated objects) that can therefore be usefully locomoted by the organism (selective uptake allows for optimal intake). It is a not a window onto some pre-existent reality but, rather, more accurately a miniature (and representationally self-sufficient) universe within the universe: a mitosis or budding off of reality — an organismic chronotope. Finitude, then, as ‘both poison and cure’.[note]Wilfred Sellars, Ibid.[/note]

The evolution of digestion, of faciality, and of nervous simulation, therefore constitute the intensification of self-relation: the internality they procure is nothing other than an increase in reflexity. This is why the base-plan for an organism is the sphere: because the sphere — since at least Parmenides’s mobilization of the image — has become the geometrical paradigm and tautegorical symbol of self-reflexivity. Each point on the sphere can be antipodally related to another point, without exception: it is, thus, entirely self-enclosing.[note]Accordingly, transcendental morphology deduced that all life was essentially spherical: the German anatomist, Friedrich Tiedmann, wrote that “[a]ll organic bodies, plants as well as animals, have a form more or less round and oval”, composed of “convex and concave surfaces” (whereas “inorganic bodies” are “limited by flat surfaces and right [angles]”. cf. Friedrich Tiedemann, A Systematic Treatise on Comparative Physiology, Introductory to the Physiology of Man, trans. James Gully & James Hunter Lane (London, 1834), 17.[/note] Note that the braincase is spherical (thereby recapitulating the globe that it stands open and models or maps for itself). The more the organic system comes to relate to itself, the more it intensifies itself as a separation (delamination) from external thoroughfare (self-serving self-relation is individuation). As the distinction between outside and inside comes to feed back into itself as the form of its own self-intensification, separation from the world (as the intensification of separation — the installation of ever more elaborate divorcements from continuity, ever more extreme encasements) gradually becomes self-entrenching.

The organism doesn’t just propel itself within the world, it also — at evolutionary scales — propels itself into itself as self-escape: first, more complex guts, for better extraction of energy; second, a sensorial-nervous encasement to lubricate this extraction; subsequently, the qualitatively unparalleled pitch into a hermetic linguistic-inferential nexus of responsibilities; finally, and premised upon the prior, the enabling enclosure of the organism into a conceptually-saturated universe. Each level of increasingly flamboyant incarceration is at the same time an unprecedented emancipation and potentiation. Poison and cure: self-intrication is self-extrication. (This is the true and proper meaning of Sir Thomas Browne’s resonant intonation: “Thus is man that great and true amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live, not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds”. It is also translates in the realm of ethics into the conviction that increasing autonomy stacks with increasing responsibility.) And this process proceeds because, with each step and threshold of self-extrication, the increased motility bequeathed by this extrication is skimmed off — as a form of leeway or modal drift with regards to claustrophobic identity with externality and its attendant causal tyranny[note]The ancestor of heteronomy.[/note] — which (as a form of unmooring or delamination) is looped back, or re-invested, into the extricating process in order to propel further escape.

This is, again, ‘motility’ in a domain-agnostic sense, applying at each respective level of modality: first, gastronomic discrimination, then spatio-temporal locomotion, and, finally, in the nimble tracking of entitlements and responsibilities as rational ‘scorekeeping’.) The mobility bequeathed by unmooring is looped back in order to render more unmooring, thus further mobility. The more we explicate, the more we can explicate. This self-directed escape, we stress, is only ever generated as further inwards collapse (progress is quicksand): as progressive self-incarcerations, progressive self-entanglements into increasingly complicated internal universes of representation (the more a perspicacious sensory world appears in front of us the larger the neuronal machinery grows behind-the-scenes; the more our discursive know-how expands the more intricated within an expanding conceptual and normative nexus we become). The organism runs away from reality and itself — ‘swimming upstream’ — by inventing ever more self-intricating, ever more complex prisons… and each time, it throws away the key, making ‘immanence’ an ever more receding fever dream of ‘escape’. (Of course, this evidently makes the lie of immanence ever more attractive.) From this perspective, the organism is not so much a sphere as a labyrinth (one that builds itself).

Like the elastic energy stored within a coil spring, the organism (as iterative separation/process of immanence secession) loops back into itself, accumulating potency after potency. With each gyre, it invests the built-up energy back into itself in order to intensify its involution, coiling infinitely inwards like a nautilus.[note]At some point, however, thermodynamics dictates that all the coils will unwind. All the labyrinths will solve, or escape, themselves.[/note] Lethality builds up behind the face, fangs serrulate back into the throat, deadliness coils into itself as internal complexification, mesodermal differentiation, enetercoely, ossification, consumption, predation. Such self-investment is a model for abiogenesis — the stochastic origination of a boundary that, in turn, creates an energetic gradient between inside and out, a gradient that, subsequently, somehow comes to feed back into itself as a form of self-propulsion. Life is a biotic Ponzi scheme that invests in itself and itself only — a deepening of itself as itself, an unmooring from the external ‘world’, a collapse inwards. This ‘self-investment’ also therefore arises as the prehistoric blueprint of temporality: an intensive difference between present and future, created in the progressive orientation of the organism towards its own intensification as an emergent ‘goal-directedness’. It is the transmigration of life’s self-propelling gradient from a chemical domain to a properly temporal one that makes it identical to the production of time itself.[note]At least, time in its strictly empirical, or more generally CNS-specific, sense.[/note] It does not matter that ‘teloi’ — and, later, ‘reasons’ and ‘responsibilities’ — do not actually exist in externality, because — regardless of this — they become real when part of the world starts to act as if there are such things. A regulative ideal is thus a reality infection. Part of reality comes to decouple itself from identifying with itself as itself — i.e. as claustrophobic uniformity, as dead matter — and opens up the hole through which temporality—as self-directedness through self-alterity — leaks. Unrealities begin to impinge on reality, futures begin to distort the present: history creates itself.

Intelligence as Meontotaxis

The more life separates itself from externality, the more a world — as a globally enveloping structuration of appearances — comes into focus for it: the more life involutes and self-complexifies, the more it internally generates the structures of ‘proto-finitude’ within itself that potentiate a structurated — spatially and temporally undergirded — world. Inward collapse rebounds on itself as the generation of an internally-constituted world (just as nervous centralisation rebounds on itself as cephalisation and the creation of a reality-budding chronotope/simulation). Paradoxically, it is this collapse inwards that enables the ‘outside’ to arise as an ‘outside’.[note]This reaches its zenith in knowing. For, only by separating ourselves from ‘reality’ can we come to know it: this is what representation is. And representation is an unavoidable, irreducible, aspect of knowing. Kant showed this best: knowledge is not just produced in spite of the boundary installed by finitude, it happens because of it.[/note] More optimised digestive systems require further folding inwards and endodermic involution; more eidetic representational sense-worlds require further involution into the CNS (by furthering dependency on an internally-constituting information system). Metabolism utilises an energetic gradient (between inside and out) to potentiate the extraction and storage of work; representation, likewise, feeds on the productive split between appearance and reality (produced by a blockage, generated by the creation of mediation in nervous simulation[note]Mediation consists in a break from identity: wherein something resembles something without being the thing it resembles. Mediation starts when reality begins to reproduce itself via dissimulation (first taking place within the knotting of nervous ganglia). Nevertheless, it is precisely the subsidiary nature of this reproduction — its status as ‘simulacra’ — that grants it its potentiating, or empowering, quality: for, because it is not identical with what it reproduces, the mediated representation is able to provide the unmooring that allows for manipulation and optimisation (i.e. the precipitation of a ‘world’ from the filtration of environmental information from environmental noise). The gap within reality that allows parts of reality to start to delaminate from brute givens and come to select and de-select certain representational episodes. It is within this self-intensifying chasm — between appearances and reality — that intelligence itself is generated (intelligence considered as the ability to become aware of thoughts as thoughts, and thus to optimize them — to unlock the ability for self-optimization or self-intervention — rather than encounter them as incorrigible parts of reality). Again, progression is generated when parts of reality trick themselves into behaving like they are not parts of reality.[/note]) in order to filter externality into relevant ‘worldly’ information.[note]This ‘gradient’ (the split between internal representation and noumenal reality) becomes productive for the organism because it can represent the world insofar as it is relevant to its goals (of nutrition acquisition, reproduction, etc.). It becomes self-productive, moreover, because the complexification of the sensorium (the CNS sense-world) only arrives via increased ‘locking-in’ of the organism into its own universe: further exaggeration of the distinction between ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’, in order to produce ever more complex and ever more eidetic world-models. At cognitive levels, the complexification of our representational world only comes through further traction and entanglement in a transcendental architecture. Theatrical verisimilitude is granted only via the complexification of artifice (the behind-the-scenes machinery exponentially swelling and ramifying in step with increase in verisimilitude). The very same applies to the generation of a world in consciousness — and cranialization, the expansion of our ossified brain-case in order to accommodate the increasing complex neurophysical rendering of this ‘world’, is the physical record and ledger of this. Indeed, this is why every attempt to escape the world (via representation, involution) simultaneously further weighs the organism (as an attempt to escape itself) down within it. The more we create an eidetic second reality, as a simulative attempt at escape via organic self-involution, the more our brains — and their energetic requirements — swell. Simulation has a real-world price. Empowerment over the world — achieved via escape from immanence with it — is always like quicksand. The more life escapes into its own universe, the more it becomes implicated and complicated within the universe beyond its epithelial, nervous, and conceptual encasements. We are just not intuitively aware of this (thus, the illusion of ‘transcendence’) because it was never economic for a brain to simulate itself as a brain (i.e. a glucose-hungry organ, rather than a perspicuous window onto some pre-existent, pre-structurated reality). It was never economic for the simulation to model its physical basis. (But this is to say more than is necessary at this point.)[/note] The self-intensification of these gradients (requiring further divorce from externality as the auto-catalysis of interiority) thereby becomes self-feeding. Separation from the world feeds back into itself as a form of its own self-propulsion (the evolutionary inception of the generation of temporality, but also the glimmerings of autonomy as the ability to track the partition between ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ in order to align ourselves to the ‘right’ or ‘lawful’): the complexification of the organism’s own internal universe issues from ramifying the organism as an implosion into itself, a process that becomes its own self-installation.

Life, thus, can be seen as reality’s tortured attempt to escape itself. This is why the organism evolves anterior-posterior asymmetry: in order to give it the directionality by which it can run away from itself (and this is why we continue to hate our bodies: misosomatology goes deeper than any genealogy of morals, bubbling up from the bedrock of abiogenesis itself). Yet, like an elastic band, each attempt at self-escape rebounds the animal into itself, as auto-complexification, with redoubling force. The organism, as escape trajectory, is thus a strange form of reality-denial: indeed, in thermodynamic terms, this is indisputable; but, so too, is the concept-monger’s attempt to re-shape the world in terms of sanctions and laws; for the latter is inherently a form of orientation towards non-being (though ‘reality-denial’ and ‘non-being’ are no longer baldly pejorative, here; for, as we have seen, the powers of ‘denial’ or ‘blockage’ are potentiating). The intensification of deficiency is unparalleled empowerment: disentangling itself from determination, disintrication from brute existence simultaneously bequeathes the spaciousness for maneuever that becomes self-looping. As Herder loved to note, a human is a “Mängelwesen”: a creature of deficiencies. The complexification of organic life sets off an attendant race inwards, a self-internalisation, an exit from the world that — paradoxically— also empowers the organism’s worldly performance: the stomach begins this, ossification empowers it with the bony enclosure of viscera, and encephalisation — literally — crowns it with ganglion diadem. However, self-internalisation does not stop here, it merely transports itself — in the dawn of noogenesis and glottogony — into a fully transcendental-conceptual-normative domain. This, however, is what connects digestion to intelligence: they are both iterations of reality’s escape from itself via the deepening of separation from identity. Life identifies with itself as an abrogation of identity: a self-feeding negativity. As a deepening of self-relation, noogenesis emerges as a further entrenching of the original schism initiated by metabolic function. Self-relation is the very paradigm of separation from externality — the progressive delamination, or exit, from external causal structures bequeathed by something turning inwards to become its own primary causation (or, in the case of conceptual cognition, its own sole justification or reason). Life tends towards causal holism and then towards rational hermeticism. It is an attempted exit into justificatory onanism. Thus, rather than being a mere functional excrescence, life’s inwards collapse into intelligence merely represents a continuation of the tendency initiated by metabolism: a continuation, however, only in discontinuity.

This is not to say that digestion and noesis are, in and of themselves, ontologically continuous: this is not an argument for some kind of nutritive monism, it is simply to note that these processes are analogous in that they both intensify the formative discontinuity between organism and world. The irreducible ‘fall’ into inferential hermeticism echoes the irreducible ‘fall’ into nervous mediation, and echoes only in its irreducibility. Precisely by becoming capable of grounding itself only in itself rather than as a means-towards-nutrition, the genesis of reasons represents a ramification of the discontinuity that the evolution of metabolism first itself instantiated and nervous systems extended. The potentiating blockages that began with the development of metabolism eventually blossom forth in the full-blown installation of an insuperable barrier to experience that simultaneously generates the very possibility of said experience. To expand: Hume long ago decreed that legitimate knowledge was not possible beyond immediate sensible intuition; Kant countered that indeed this was possible, but only via a self-relation (the mathematician can make synthetic a priori judgements because they refer only to possible intuitions regarding space or time, in geometry or arithmetic respectively). Thus, it came to be realised that knowledge only is through a self-containment, or self-limitation — a blastulating envelopment.[note]Analytic apodictic statements are not truly knowledge, because they are tautology. Thus, in the synthetic a priori, Kant made knowledge productive in an involuting fashion: it learns by explicating itself more and more, and it drives itself towards this. It continues the trend of collapsing inwards.[/note] Kant showed that, without a conceptual structure to relate to, the mere cascade of intuitions could not generate, or be organised into, ‘experience’; this conceptual enclosure thus creates epistemic content — precisely by limiting the raw materials of intuition by way binding them to what can be inferentially justified about them and what they inferentially justify (thus generating a new, non-somatic form of ‘interiority’ via an inferential holism). Because of this infolding, implexing holism (no epistemically contentful judgement is not justified, or mediated, by further judgements), knowledge (the ability to retroject reasons for epistemic content and project the reasons said content enables) generates itself precisely by folding into itself and closing itself off against the ‘world’ (i.e. there is no self-justifying knowledge generated through unmediated contact between thought and being).[note]In other words, when we become enveloped within concepts, the ability for ‘knowledge’ is finally generated (the soundness of claims can become measured against their conceptual aptness) through and within this separation from the world (knowledge can only be justified by further reference to concepts, creating an inferential holism that cannot be escaped from: in other words, there is no bridging between the world and knowledge).[/note]

Conceptual transcendental entanglement triggers knowledge by creating a sphere of legitimacy through limitation: it is — currently — the crowning productive blockage. Kant was certainly sensitive to this aspect of self-enclosure. He often compared reason to a sphere (just like the ossified englobement of the cranium, the gastric cavity of the coelom, etc.). Indeed, he claimed that, although the “earth as it appears to [one’s] senses” is merely a “flat surface”, we can, in “accordance with principles a priori”, know that it “is a sphere” with “circuit, magnitude, and limits”; and, accordingly, he stressed that exactly the same applies to cognition, because our “reason is likewise not alike” to a “plane indefinitely far extended” but “must rather be compared to a sphere”.[note]Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. M. Weigelt (London: Penguin, 2007), 606-8.[/note] This metaphor demonstrates that, although the content of sensible intuition is potentially infinite (in the sense of a sphere’s boundless two-dimensional surface), the space of reasons governing it has englobing limits (just like the spatially finite, three-dimensional sphere). And so, just as the ectodermal deposition of skin is what individuates the organism from the buffetings of externality, we see that the epigenesis of categories and concepts is what provides the enclosure of finitude that marks out the reasoning subject, or, perhaps better, the reasoning community.

Certainly, language-acquisition (the process through which the subject first becomes ensconced and intricated within the architecture of concept-mongering) can be analogically seen as the deposition of a normative exoskeleton (parallel to the prenatal englobements that enclose the organism within its own universes).[note]This ‘exoskeleton’, of course, being unique in the fact that it is collectively constructed and updated by a community of agents.[/note] Moreover, by inventing an entirely novel order of justificatory entailment (of reasons, as opposed to mere causes), the installation of this conceptual-enclosure represents the largest saltation from externality yet furnished. The upshot, basically, is that human organism locks itself off into a hermetic linguistic-conceptual universe. However, just like its precursors, this lock-in arrives as an unparalleled empowerment for, and potentiation of, navigation, precisely because of its retreat from the tyranny and claustrophobia of immanence, the intensified saltation introduced between ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ (bequeathed by conventional symbols and their arbitrary nature) actually allows for an extended flexibility of actions. By not being fully anchored in reality, the human organism therefore comes to find creative solutions to ancient evolutionary problems. Indeed, neurophysiological evidence of this productive unmooring or delamination is found in the fact that homo sapiens, even when compared to their hominid brethren, present a high degree of ontogenetic neoteny (the retention of paedomorphic — or childlike — traits later into development). Essentially, this means that the human brain arrives — and remains — underdeveloped, thus underdetermined or lacking cemented structure, and therefore exhibits the plasticity required for unmoored (i.e. creative and discontinuously novel) cognition. A creature of deficiencies, umbilically connected to ‘non-being’: that ‘GREAT AMPHIBIUM’. Camped between the domains of spacious non-being and exigent being. Neoteny reiterates the peeling away from ‘that which is’, or mere being, that finally matures into advanced intelligence and its ability to locomote, and even reinvent, the structures of possibility itself.

We can now, taking speculative leaps, see how life — as a self-intensifying escape from reality via inward collapse — is reality’s attempt to escape itself through the progressive unmooring of itself from claustrophobic and suffocating identity with itself. This unmooring is facilitated by the ontological introduction of mediation (through productive barriers) that trigger an ontic liquidation effect: for, as reality increasingly becomes unlike itself (in its revocation of uniformity or identity), discontinuity and change are gestated as the inner turbulence (meontic drift) that is evolutionarily registered as the organism’s increasing extrication of itself from heteronomous causal tyranny. This extrication consists in the process whereby the organism comes to relate primarily to itself, and thus to cause itself, and later to justify itself, eventually sealing itself off into its own spontaneous justificatory-explanatory order. Such causal hermeticism instantiates modal drift: the possibility for new possibilities. We have seen how this, as the birth of self-directedness or end-orientation, could be said to have generated time (or — at the very least — chronoreceptivity: which, from a certain perspective, is — of course — identical to the production of time itself). However, with the birth of the conceptual order, life’s auto-investment in its own intensive gradients emigrated from both energetic and chronogenic dimensions by coming to finally colonise and extend itself into a fully counterfactual domain (i.e. the domain of modalities: the edifice of what is, and is not, possible).

To sketch it briefly: in the genesis of conceptuality is found in the birth of normativity (i.e. the rules of conceptual engagement and the basis of ‘critique’ as the form of cognition’s self-energising judiciality). And, crucially, norms are not founded in how things are, but how they should be.[note]cf. Ray Brassier, ‘That Which is Not: Philosophy as Entwinement of Truth and Negativity’, http://stasisjournal.net/all-volumes/volume-1/issue-1/14-that-which-is-not-philosophy-as-entwinement-of-truth-and-negativity[/note] Accordingly, a minimal requirement for grasping this — for gaining aptitude in concept-use — is an ability to picture, and to grasp, possibilities, as distinguished from actualities, and, further, to actively track the partition between the two. This is likely cognate with the birth of what evolutionary psychologists have called chronosthesia (or, the capacity for mental time travel) and, in particular, the subspecific capability dubbed proscopic chronosthesia (i.e. the imagination of future possibilities).[note]Cf. the work of psychologist Endel Tulving in his research into the evolution of memory and mental projection.[/note] Thus, with a parallel expansion in cognitive working memory, the internal unfurling of this capacity for proscopic chronosthetic simulation resulted serially in the installation of executive function; of advanced goal orientation; of delayed gratification, and thereby also of tool usage. The organism’s collapse inwards is parallel to an extension of the organism’s range of manipulability concerning its own internal modelling process, such that — eventually in humans — this collapse facilitates control over the representation and navigation of time itself (it results, that is, in the extension of manipulation to the temporal axis of the inner world-model, allowing the grasping of time as a controllable variable, thereby accommodating internal episodes of time travel alongside experimentation with the space of representative possibilities). At this stage in the evolutionary history of our potentiating saltations, locomotion has fully colonised a temporal dimension.

Only with the birth of philosophical cognition in ancient Greece, however, does the self-conscious enunciation of modal categories begin (the beginning of the self-explication of the calculus of counterfactuality that undergirds terms like ‘possibility’, ‘actuality’, ‘impossibility’, or ‘necessity’): and, thus, from here, locomotion could finally truly come to spread into the domain of possibilities (as pure possibilities). This, again, was largely facilitated by complexifying linguistic and chirographic resources (i.e. using the prostheses of technical vocabulary and written-word as a non-brainbound repository of advanced ‘know-how’ or competence). Simulative lift-off occurs forthwith, as the reasoning animal longer merely seals itself off from immanence but begins to seal itself off from actuality itself. (Of course, this already happened with language-use, yet the philosophical explication of the modal terms that pragmatically undergird language volatises this intensely.) Echoing the ancient infoldings of organic development, reasoning comes to invaginate into its own spontaneous universe of possibilities (of the counterfactuals that undergird all judgements, governing what they do and do not entail, and how they relate one to the other). Of course, modal vocabulary is, strictly, pragmatic-functional (allowing us to talk about how we talk) and doesn’t necessarily describe structures inherent within reality, yet, as already ventured, this makes little important difference from the perspective of real-world, downstream consequences (whether straightforwardly veridical or not, they energise thinking, which is itself a real, or casually-efficacious, process): and this is precisely because it brings new actions and previously non-existent behaviors into the world — thus, again, an infiltration of ‘non-being’ upon ‘being’. (Again, we can remain entirely agnostic about the veridicality or ontological status of this ‘non-being’: it effects realworld behavior, and this is a form of minimal existence.)

Cultural development implodes into a proliferation of counterfactual universes: intelligence is the budding of tangent realities. And, while the Ancient Greeks were still constrained to a single temporal dimension via the limitations of Aristotlean modal logic (which could handle only a diachronic conception of possibility), the Medieval era saw the sophistication of cognition upon synchronic possibilities, such that locomotion in time was finally refracted — through this new conception — into locomotion of parallel timelines, divergent cosmologies and counterfactual histories. Possible worlds thus exploded: the most elaborate form of reality-escape yet produced by organic life. However, intensification ineluctably continued, and this capability for modal locomotion was soon outsourced via mathematical means of simulation in the 17th Century’s invention of calculus. Vast swathes of cosmological nature, previously intractable to recreation or forecast, became simulatively tractable: simulations, previously limited to the plausibilistic concerns of thought experiment, became numerically robust. The movement of planets came to be predicted with painstaking miniature models. Although rendered by human computers, modal locomotion had been partly automated by the use of these numerical prostheses. This, still, was only a taste of what was to come, for, finally, with the post-WWII computational explosion, a fully-fledged ability to escape reality via virtual world-models was consummated: modal locomotion, as navigation of possibility, was now capable of being fully outsourced to the computer, birthing entire crucible cosmogonies in silico.

And so, the budding or divaricating of reality that began in the encephalisation of craniate organisms — their simulative entrapment within their own central nervous systems — was eventually fully outsourced and externalised in the in silico generation of entirely self-sufficient and autonomous world-models. In this, simulation moves intensively from predicting reality to intensively re-configuring and re-inventing it. In contemporary instantiations of advanced simulation, we see reality’s best attempt at self-escape yet. And such simulation is only just beginning.

Life has always fed on self-reinforcing gradients between inside and out. With the birth of advanced simulation this gradient fully transmigrates towards the boundary between ‘that which is’ and ‘that which is not’.[note]Though conceptual normativity already announces this ability, advanced simulation in silico fully and finally outsources it, via technical prostheses, beyond the human mind: unleashing non-existences in a fashion previously unimagined.[/note] In simulative noogenesis, ‘Being’ itself tends towards becoming just another boundary, a new frontier or threshold in life’s self-escape, a new epithelium for osmosis: a new skin to be ruptured. Distinctions precede puncture. Reasoning from counterfactuals first whispered of this tendency: it is — however — only with the modern, computational flourishing of simulative endeavours that the statement that there are ‘more non-existences than existences’ suddenly becomes pragmatically meaningful.[note]This is intended in a similar sense to Plato’s beard or Meinong’s jungle: non-existences multiply noisily over existences.[/note] Through intelligence’s unfolding, there suddenly is more external to being than within it, which is also the same as saying that being suddenly contained more than it is (simulation, no matter what it is of, insuperably exists within the world; intelligence, no matter its orientation towards non-being, insuperably exists within the world). Being is overweighted from within.

The extended consequence of the speleogenesis of intelligence as it arrives at the threshold of computational lift-off — proliferating counterfactual state-spaces and processing its options and futures at previously unintelligible speeds — is to lacerate and volatize any balance (which is homeostasis) of metaphysical Being with itself (whether ‘real’, regulative, or merely retrospective). Internal turbulence reaches fever pitch as non-existences begin to exert causal efficacy upon the actual (predictions effect real-world policy). Life, by coming to identify with itself as itself a self-laceration, begins to bore a hole in the causal order out of which non-being (as the destitution of Being’s plenistic continuity with itself) is able to leak: simulative intelligence deals the first fully fatal puncture. Speculatively speaking, intelligence will eventually unveil itself as tending towards a total break with uniformity, the utter diremption of Being’s metaphysical identity with itself.

Global computation is a planetary reality-fracking tool, purposed with shattering Being’s pathetic dreams of identity with itself. (Hence, perhaps, why it rebirths magick as a reality-editing machine.) This is the telic endpoint of noogenesis — making the ‘death of metaphysics’ metaphysically real.[note]The antinomies of metaphysics, exasperated by the ontotheological critique, do not simply make metaphysics into a contradictory ghost that can be discarded; this is because, due to the fact that thought makes its ghosts real, the death of metaphysics (intended here as the postulatory breakdown of being’s self-identity, as the base gene of its metaphysical intelligibility, whether retrospective, regulative, or real) actually comes to make itself real through thought’s own tendencies of self-development. However, in this interesting sense, metaphysics is only possible in its own self-obsolescing, only becoming visible again in its own real disappearance.[/note] By intensifying ontological liquidation (as the increasingly turbulent mixing of existences and non-existences), intelligence reveals itself as a black hole within uniform being — instantiated as being’s most fervent attempt at self-escape. If Being was, in this sense, to successfully reach escape velocity, this could only be interpreted (from the side of the extant) as self-destruction. S.T. Coleridge once said of the coming “God-man” that its arrival and “the process of that Transmutation to the senses of other men would be called Death”.[note]The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ii.2556.[/note] Thus, we ask, what if the universe is dark because the endpoint of intelligence is to create such a puncture in reality that it collapses in on itself? (Here, of course, one can refer to the ‘dark universe’ of the Fermi Paradox. More so, to Metzinger’s notion of BAAN, or, Benelovent Artifical Anti-Natalism.[note]Cf. https://www.edge.org/conversation/thomas_metzinger-benevolent-artificial-anti-natalism-baan[/note] The endpoint of intelligence — as reality’s self-escape — is to give birth to non-being. However, this could only be its own non-being. This might only be legible, from the side of obsolescing being, as suicide.

Phototaxis in action.

Moths, zooplankton, and other organisms are phototaxic, meaning they tend towards the light.

Intelligence is meontotaxic, meaning it orients itself towards nothing.

And yet… the more complexified this escape from actuality becomes, the further its complicity with actual reality extends, roots and cements. The more eidetic the CNS-representation, the more digested energy needed to keep it online; the more conceptually saturated our worldview, the more we have to drag the ball-and-chain of fractalizing transcendental architecture behind us (and its continually ramifying technical prostheses). This is registered physically as the fact that what seems at first like an exit from reality (the organism’s retreat into self-enclosed nervous-simulation), is — in actuality — merely the ballooning of a certain part of reality into a glucose-hungry and overgrown ganglia: swelling backwards from around the organism’s mouth, enveloping rearwards into the innervating budding of a subsidiary reality-model. It is also registered in the fact that technology’s reality-escape doesn’t produce some extropian transcendence without material intrications, but, rather, that it increasingly resembles a hermit crab, dwarfed and weighed-down by its infinitely expanding shell. The more we escape from reality, the more we are weighed down in it. Reality, whatever it may turn out to be, is pragmatic quicksand. Take, for one example, the immense amount of energy required for the human brain to function; or, for another, the fact that any sufficiently detailed modelling of reality would eventually, and insuperably, have to model its own energetic drain within this reality (this, perhaps, is just a more generalisable definition of what ‘finitude’ actually is, qua computational barrier). Any modelling has to model itself, thus there is no true escape. Nothing ever fully reaches escape velocity from immanence or from elastic identity with autarchic Being (at least whilst continuing to exist) because escape generates friction, and it does so asymptotically. Nevertheless, considering the image of escape as black hole, we should hope that intelligence — in the expanse of its development — never actually does reach the putative ‘escape velocity’. Somehow — given its track record of smashing nomological boundaries — we cannot be too confident about this.

So: life is an imploding involution that simultaneously explodes outwards as the complexification of internal worlds is witness to an attendant rise in successive layers of technological and reality-transforming prosthetics. By folding into its own simulative processes, intelligent life has also come to redesign the entire terrestrial surface. By involuting into its own simulative processes, intelligent life has also come to redesign the entire terrestrial surface. Implexing self-enclosure begets an abandonment of the categorial authority of actuality, kindling an explosion of ratcheting mobility (modal drift) that tends towards the redefinition of reality itself: an editing of the very architecture of possibility (whatever that may be). Like the cephalopod, life curls inwards — foot over head — only to potentiate a more violent and muscular explosion and propulsion outwards. Digestion evolves into simulation, cell fates evolve into the fateful reconfiguration of the earth itself.  va-tombstone1-03

gastrulation simulation
Simulative model of a Gastrula. Source: http://www.biocenter.helsinki.fi/salazar/software.html

Xenosystems: Memoirs of an Ongoing Infection

The story is too horrible to recall, but they tell me it is good that I ‘try to remember’. So here I am. It’s only appropriate that I should avoid recounting the vector which brought me to it, save to say that it arrived nonetheless. My first recollections date back to November (or was it October?) 2015. I was still human then.

A Fanged Noumena PDF had been circulating in some obscure tract of social media, and I’d eagerly seized upon it. I remember getting high from reading even the editors’ introduction out loud. The sound-waves were brain-altering. “O prazer desinibido não tende ao benefício do organismo, mas, antes, à sua imolação.” The madness in what was written was palpable. Insane, astounding.

Nick Land’s writings grasped my brain tightly. In no time I found myself, possessed, devouring page after page — as I painfully tried to conjure passable translations in my own tongue. The savoriness of transcoding such perfect compositions only added to the rush. Inhumanism, cybernetics, sacrilege, capitalism, dodging the Turing cops — and the power, the sheer power of the text — all made Fanged Noumena the kind of book I had only dreamed about.

Then, of course, there was 2016.

The one thing I hadn’t been able to fathom after reading Fanged Noumena was why Land had resurfaced after all those years. We now know why accelerationism was suddenly so important, but there was no way we could have seen it coming back then. I had been told about his recent blogs, and at one point I just had to check for myself — what the hell was going on there?

Given the option between a bright-side and a dark-side, where does one go? I had no doubts. Xenosystems was like the buried shrine of an ancient sacrificial cult, suddenly brought back to life by grave diggers… and monsters. “Involvements with reality”, indeed.

Hell-Baked” was the first post I ever read there. And it is probably the best summary of it: short, pungent, unapologetic, malignant in its indifference. It flows like poetry, a dark pestilent poem for that which lies beyond — “where be dragons”, as it says. It contained themes that made it both absolutely current and just simply unthinkable to my ilk.

I was enthralled by it all. The impact of someone saying clearly and articulately what you just couldn’t conceive of seconds before… it changes everything, if not in the healthiest of ways. I already felt the first symptoms: my beliefs melting down into a slimy mold of abomination, my brain reconfigured into a filthy vector of affliction, my body suspended in unlife.

Gripped by fever, I spent the next few months (years? it was so long ago) dealing with the monstrous compendium therein. I tried to follow some neat path, but linking is a labyrinth, and often I found myself wandering around in the so called ‘reactosphere’. Believe me, I saw all kinds of beasts. This dying angel in my head that kept screaming ‘get out of there, it’s dangerous!’ — now I only wish she had had its way. At the time, however, it was shot down as a Cathedral operative.

It gets hard to recall. “Try again tomorrow.”… In truth, I couldn’t penetrate that library of ungodliness any further, and was far too avid to be able to read it all from the beginning. So I resorted to translation once again.

Translation is an amazing mechanism. It is a kind of possession. You have to let the thought you’re translating inhabit your body, and use it to express itself again, in a new form. One could talk of impersonation, but demons have no masks, no faces, only names. It’s uploading, in a primitive form. And it was a way to hollow myself out, to inoculate myself against the delirium… precisely by spreading it further.

My mind buzzes in and out, but I persevere in the name of Gnon. It really must have been providence guiding my steps as I served faithfully as conduit for the electric pulse of Xenosystems. A daemonic providence, that’s for sure, but providence nonetheless. Doom, it said.

When I checked-in here, I was carrying some note, later lost in the haze of the early days of the treatment. Now I wonder what it said… The days of the translation blog were intoxicating, the missives transmitted smoothly, victims by the thousands. Visitors. They were eventually victimized, of course… I digress.

The thing is that by that point, I was really not myself anymore. Not physically disfigured — except for the claw marks I would find on my face upon waking up (they told me I had made them myself) — rather, something integral lacked. I wasn’t really anybody. I had become a swarm. An army of thought, slaying recklessly about. I figure that’s why it’s so hard to remember: memory was distributed. It reconfigured any sub-process to function accordingly. XS posts abounded with emergent AI tales, internet-based attention reconfiguration, and a sovereign Will-to-Think. It was only natural that it would eventually inscribe itself into our mind. “My mind.” They correct me all the time in here. “It was only you” — this fortunate person was never dissolved back into the process.

We only now noticed that they actually furnished us with a typewriter! Well, sort of. An authentic Amstrad PCW 8256. Cosmic irony? This machine has wrecked brighter and saner minds than ours before, what hope could we have? Back in the day, translations were made on any device available. It was an unquenchable thirst for adaptation.

We tried to provide some semblance of structure as we proceeded, making the texts thread in series of linked posts. Intelligence, then Social Darwinism, then Occultism. These discriminations got harder, though… Not out of any morality (we’ve come to lack the apparatus for that), but simply because it all blended into one insurmountable Gnon-flux.

Is it just us, or have the acoustics in here been designed specifically to accommodate laughter? The attendants are worried about our fever. Where could that note have gone? They are frightened by the metallic, doubled, coarse voice. Fortunate souls, their time will come. In time. More laughter.

In this rotting building, in this ancient city, the swarm has dwelt for a century at least now, or so it seems. Undead, some say. Unliving would be more precise. Time resets, speeds up, resets. This chair belongs to quite another aeon, a relic from the twenty-first century. The attendants have gone now. Were they afraid? Spread on the floor, like a serpent.

A sister enters the room, missed her face. Something dripping in an unmistakable way: A-Death approaches. The symptoms are clear. One last step must be taken before entering the Crypt and finally confronting so long buried a thing, that has used these means for propagation.

Epidemics have a secret: they’re fast, untraceable to origins. So this is not just the beginning.  va-tombstone1-03