Avian Stripes

The lust after silence is a remnant of the philosophical desire for superiority, excellence, elevation, and purity — poetry is its material machine, its ideal reflection.

But Baudelaire’s desire, learning from Poe, was different: a literature that would paint modern life in all its crowdiness, without animosity or resentful critique à la Nietzsche. An embrace of the disconcerting flux of bodies is not at odds with a sensibility for the rare, which silence symbolizes and never fails to recall, but that appears jeopardized in a noise-filled world. This thesis was however disproven by Cage, who affirmed silence to the extreme, but this time through the refutation of its possibility: zen for New York City like a flower of evil for Paris. These advancements, however elitist they seem, are undoubtedly developments in the direction of a Marxian fusion of theory and the masses — against a Mallarmean verse of the void and a Malerian tragedy of tones, though not without sharing a few traits. Ennui and play, within the frame of no escape from the city: these are the terms for a liberation of aesthetics from its philosophical overdetermination by silence.

But they are not yet the sparrow in the cafe, who fascinates us with his graceful swoops, his clever pecks and steals. His naturalness, so expected yet so photogenic, announces a miracle to us: he is as comfortable here as he is in the woods, and no doubt does not make the differentiation. His presence punctuates our planned afternoons, accompanies our downtime — or, for those whose feathers ruffle easily, he is a nuisance to be shooed away, an unwelcome guest who does not belong at our tables. The attitude of aristocratic thinkers toward the new generic thought is simliar: curious, tiny, and constantly in flight, it is at first tolerated, mostly because it is so cute, until it starts snatching crumbs and interrupting the conversation, whereupon it annoys and annoys even more as it so easily hides away; thus it provokes surveillance, ruining the meal even when absent.

Meanwhile, children go on chasing after it, not to catch it but to befriend it and learn about the shifting movements of its head. St. Francis was not by accident an early herald of the generic: he realized a simplicity of immanence that not even the transcendence of Christ could complicate. This loving preacher to birds understood a silence that the enlightened elitists cannot help but  transform into the sublime presence of a void. In the name of purification and peace, they hang a sign telling the birds they aren’t allowed here, and erect a million walls, debate a thousand problems, just to avoid a confrontation with the generic. They return always to their spiritual journeys and flights, unable to see the simple elevations dancing before them.

The fusion of theory and the masses requires a practice as clever as the sparrow in the cafe and thus equally capable of capturing the childlike attention of any human. The old idea of aesthetic excellence should be displaced in this direction. It is absurd to imagine birds erecting a nest to wow humans, but their murmurations, their unisonical flights and formations, impress us without them having to know a thing about it. We too must invent new knowledges, and make them dance to a new use that ‘impresses’ without reflection or recognition, without oeuvre, with only the working itself — but this time a lived work, as simple as the birds’, who do not scrounge for crumbs but play a game with finding them. Our crumbs are all the knowledges, thoughts, and events that strike us as we move through the crowds and libraries, here understood in their radical equality, their equal useability, for generic thought.

Like the sages of old, we too know how to be quiet, but it is not the quiet of withdrawal or rarification; it is the quiet of the bird’s wing, transporting a tiny body from rafter to floor and back, from table to open sky. Excellence remains here, but it is no longer the aesthetic replacement of the banal, that ‘monotony’ from whch we seek refuge in vain. For the birds, nothing is monotonous about the city: one time each time, they peek and peep, each time in a different corner, for a different crumb. They never return upon the same place, but fly their patterns in a novelty of immanence with the grace of a knowledge they are without knowing it.

Generic thought, too, knows this, without learning it — and look, it has already hopped on to someplace else.


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Evil Compassion

If we immoralists do harm to virtue? No more than anarchists do to princes. Only after they’re shot do they again sit firmly on their throne. Moral: one must shoot at morality. –Nietzsche

There is a necessary — but only because morality is so stubborn in its “necessities”! — link between evildoing and the exploration of the human possibile, for such research inevitably breaks with is expected from standard behaviors and outlooks, from whatever is predictable based on a known arrangement of the world. Where humans are increasingly dispensible and submitted to the harshest homogenization of character, the pursuit of the possible demands insistent and thoroughgoing insubordination, an active combat against all aesthetic and moral conditioning, and a rigorous skepticism regarding the validity of every horizon and every rule. There is then no way to avoid doing violence to the known patterns and, moreover, to those with whom one interacts intimately — those whose patterns one often surveys with discomfort, and regularly with disgust. It follows that there is no way to avoid feeling guilty for this exploration and the rejections, the recoil from the comfortable, that it implies, though this “transgression” only is one from the side of regulation, whereas from the side of exploration, it appears a liberation, albeit one at the limits of conscious control and always risking a measure of criminality and abuse — for it means experiencing, “the terrible cleavage which separates [us] from everything that is customary or reputable.”

Unless of course one has been disabused of their adherence to cultural “meaning-well,” to the paranoid and backward glances that seek common recognition and approval, and has replaced complacent irony with an irritating battle for truth. Such a one begins not from disenchantment, negation, and critique, nor from some will to infringement, but from an affirmative existential ingenuity that reckons with its highest chances within the circulating All constantly being revealed — the main playground of interaction and intervention,  the one thing worthy of its Dionysian faith. It was Nietzsche’s ambition to harden his readers against all flimsy forms of sympathy for humanity, understanding that “man” was an undefined animal: a promise, a transition, a bridge toward another form of life acutely aware of its own eternity — its own style of arrowing into the unknown, its refusal to believe in the flimsiness of that uncourageous being so inhibited in his language and his manner, so caught in dull desires and fears: the modern liberal man. Instead: an explosive clandestinity whose every artifact is dynamite, ready to release its mercurial energy and spark off new paths; a posthumous tenacity that knows how to overflow and waste itself forever; an “evil compassion” that knows the depths and correct consequences of pity…

What is nihilism? It is to believe that the limits of a situation, and thus the limits of what is possible for us in it, are known with certainty, that they could never stretch beyond these supposed “limits”; in other words, that determinations of the given (its coordinates, its variables, its layout of finite beings) are adequate to determine action, or constrain it absolutely (this bias in fact liquidates the possible, turning it into nothing more than an extension of “reality”). Nihilism is then an excuse to not experiment with morality; to not disrespect boundaries and cross limits, sensible or conceptual; to not challenge norms of thought, presentation, behavior; to not work in the strong poetic sense of the term, where work implies singularization of and participation in the general intellect or a generic truth; in short, to not make of oneself an unbending antagonistic element in the world that is in no way and nowhere identical to anything that is. But we know that such denials of potentiality lead to interminably confused comportments, leaning now towards cynicism, hatred, and hopelessness, now towards a frantic and paranoid fixation upon every global horror from terrorism to populism, now towards a freewheeling acceptance happy to dance out its frustrations, a facile generosity that pontificates about love’s power, all modes of an insidious “let it be” attitude that binds us to the so-called present and accustoms us to the monotonous run of a lost citizen: a beetle who sometimes sparkles in the sun like an opal but for the most part buzzes around in darkness, ignored — unless of course it infests something…

Nihilism is a belief in the sufficiency of any determination of what is, of how it is, of how one is, of what the future will be, in short, of what can or even might be (known, created, changed, destroyed). To turn one’s back on this presumed sufficiency of the thought-world necessarily leads to offense — but offense is not the goal, nor the non-nihilists point of pride; it is rather an effect of the search for future causes, for novel grounds of creativity not legitimated by any given situation or horizon of sense — causes that remain essentially unknown and suspended in their sufficiency, thus in constant contact with their own evental conditions, their own force of potential and means of invention. In Nietzsche’s words: “Excess force in spirituality setting itself new goals.” Bataille adds the following: no one can go to the limit of the possible on their own. Our behavior toward friends must be motivated: to shake them from their torpor, their sufficient egos and work-projects; to violate their good sensibility of self; to reduce their attachment to the appearing world to a minimum; in short, to declare war on them for them — for the war we believe they are on the verge of realizing they are. Such prodding gestures, which are never guaranteed to suceed and indeed seem futile from the point of view of worldly “effectivity,” must be as politically charged as they are symbolically challenging. They must be flexible enough to enter individuation processes without alienating the target audience from the generic potency of their life-world. In the end, the most basic sufficiency to be denied is that of ‘myself’, of being qua being, of any totality of consciousness whatsoever — for this alone can genuinely open the floodgates of creative expenditure.

For explosive beings, personal life seems to fall into shatters because it stops looking after itself and its preservation — but again this is only an effect of the search for intenser causes and new goals; it only looks “necessary” from the perverted and hegemonic perspective of person-moralities. The latter will always seek to calm the nerves and restore harmony; it will seek psychological explanations or hide behind historical details; it will try to dismiss the ennerving quality of every artefact that does not readily fit within a universalizing frame. Whereas a veritable theater of cruelty emanantes from whoever has loosened the grasp of these shit-based economies of presence, in comparison to which the nothingness of opening toward “possibility beyond measure,” this infinite “dance inside out” (Artaud), actually looks quite scrupulous and discreet. Their efforts, dedicated to a humanity of-the-last-instance, could only be labeled “evil” by those already programmed beyond hope by the lie of “lifetime value” — of beetlehood. For the beetle can hardly do more than “dance on its own,” swear it’s only human, and imagine a world in which everyone “lives for today”; its only salvation is the ephemeral moment it respiritualizes or reinvests with selfhood and deep meaning however it likes; its dreams are calculated like pathetic bucket lists, or else flow through pipes corroded by a thousand cliche-chemicals and market additives; its imagination stretches no farther than the known kerfuffle; it contrives to brainstorm what should be done but only generates an endless commentary that transforms no one because it fails to transform itself in the process; it could not stand to be resurrected, and so it dies tomorrow…

Who is this beetle, the addressee of all this “vitriol”? Can its accuser really be so “conceited”? We couldn’t bear to see such a monster in person; he must be seething! — So speak the last men and blink, thinking they have heard yet another resentful, critical discourse. Why? Because they deal in packages whose dimensions are knowable and dish out judgments that are just as small and compact; because they have no nose for expressive tendencies, for vectors of futurality, for the sort of effort and offensiveness necessary to let man pass beyond his moral prejudices; because he can only see anger and prohibition and limitation here; because he does not know how to put the shame he legitimately feels to good use; because he can only view action as a minor modification of fate and happiness in his own sphere and, looking for a recipe for health and happiness, has no idea how the displacement of the certainty-center can “change everything”; because he is a nihilist who feels little more than remorse and resentment in himself, who knows nothing but his beetle shell, who believes in gravestones and lacks all sensitivity for “impossible symbolic exchanges” (Baudrillard); because, finally, he does not yet understand the necessity of evildoing — of demolishing the democratic fetishes and familial fantasies that hold humanity hostage to figures like the town drunkard, the disgruntled customer, the angry voter, the husband snoring in his man cave, the woman dissatisfied with her looks, costumes so imposed by the culture industry that those who wear them cannot help but identify with them and worry about their figure, their image, and their happiness, thinking it’s all on them, without any idea of how to disengage or disrobe — indeed, who are we addressing if not these nihilists of blind passivity who suffer the paralysis of one seized in a night terror?

Yet let us not wake them too soon. Let us not sympathize with their hurt so mechanically. Let us not console them with easy words of consolation and morale-boosting, for we know what deep slumbers that could unleash. For we know it is a disservice to stroke a weak conscience and sooth it with gracious, premature words. Let them instead burn in the purgatory of their own unambition; perhaps they will understand that at stake here is an evil one does to oneself in seeking alternative causes — that such evil might even prove to be compassionate, the only way to respect humanity and honor what it could be.

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Credible Sources

My longing for truth was one single prayer. –Edith Stein

In response to the simple but essential question, how do you know what sources to trust?, the easiest and best answer is: trust your gut. In the beginning, of course, one has to get a feel for sniffing out snakes and fakes–people who have “run out of holy spirit” and so “speak in mechanical tongues,” as Adorno put it: those whose motives are corrupted in whatever way, who spread bloated truths or spinelessly pontificate, or who belabor and bore with numberless stalls and equivocations. But soon one isn’t even led in the direction of the drones and boosters. Soon one finds only those spirited souls who do not want anything for themselves, who basically don’t want to appear, or if they must, then only to lend weight to human-generic potentiality, to let some impersonal light shine through. Beyond that, trust those who are trusted by those you trust–look up the steady influences and loves, draw the useful comparisons, follow the trails and mark out new ones, connect all the dots only you could spot. Above all, do not trust councils and authorities or too much established doxa, but complete humans–especially those who had a taste for solitude, for they will be honest about the real difficulties. Incapable of mishandling any inquisitive eye, they will quicken the vision to the point of the actively-creative truth, revealing that generative impulse to aspirant, which must be the hope of every genuine soul.

More interesting than learning correct knowledge is discovering what creative things can be done with knowledge. I value reference to tradition, but not as highly as innovation. I lay the most importance upon works that have a high “testament” quality: when one can tell that a soul has unceasingly poured itself out into its work, in abandon and in care, even if this means confusion and contradiction all along the way. To testify to an ordeal is better than to give answers, especially when it comes to the “spiritual.” Thus I view with equal credibility Simone Weil, who drove her religion to the physical extreme, and Antonin Artaud, who did the same with his atheism and rejection of God. Both understood the need to upturn the normal modes of thought and action in man, and that philosophy, religion, mythology, theater, and prayer had to be used in novel ways to achieve this end and to spur this development. When it comes to the soul–not objective theories about what the soul “is,” its place in the cosmos, its relation to God, or anything that would adequate it through knowledge, but to our soul, the monument at stake in all our psyche–both offer indispensible testimonies. It is worthwhile to engage and deem credible all the colors of this spectrum, from Merton to Cioran, Wei Wu Wei to Tzara. Regardless of where one ends up, one is strengthened by this exposure and better understands one’s own doubts, as well as all the openings for novel rumination.

There is a form of engagement that goes beyond close reading, attentive examination, and the tireless suspension of certainty that is required to touch the body of any other thinker. What exceeds and fulfills this is a more complicated, incohate form: experimenting-with. To experiment-with is to let one’s mind and habits be fundamentally altered, if only for a time, by another thinker and their worries, to adopt not only their terms and concepts, but also their outlook and temperment, and thus to befriend them, to share a form-of-life and a common world of concern. But even the word “experiment” is too weak here, for it could imply a “controlled” set-up, with known parameters and variables, that could run its course and then end back at a neutral state, with only some conclusions or “findings” deduced. Whereas here there is no possible return to origin. Setting aside any objective or critical distance, you must let the other leave direct traces in your life-world, your moves and your memory, by entering or even mimiking their ordeal as best you can and of course within the compass of your own constraints and freedoms.

To become a credible witness, to verify the source as credible, to discern sources that are credible–those sources that alone can lead you to yours–one must follow. To follow is, “to give oneself up to the same trial, to the same derangement,” as Bataille says regarding his quest for community with Nietzsche. If it is Lacan you are reading, you will know you are being trained as an analyst; if it is Kierkegaard, you will be sure your training is in Christianity; if it is Laruelle, you will be sure you are becoming a non-philosopher. There is no other way to pursue a lived thought through to its consequences than to let it derail you, shift you, change not only your identity but your basic horizon. In this way you carry the other with you and everything they carried with them. Then your body remembers them and what they sought to transmit. Translating and transforming it, you absorb it in an unconscious, physical way. You are generated, yet another alterity. Of course, one must choose good companions along this journey, but it is not a matter of picking the perfect leader or the right system. This is an appretenticeship in a vocation without preexisting form–an adventure into a world never yet born.  It is an imitation without original, a variation on a melody not yet played. It leads one closer to oneself, by leading astray. By following, one learns what it means for one to believe. Perhaps it even makes one worth following for a while–credible.

What Nietzsche says of the New Testament–that it is advisable to read it with gloves on–is therefore good advice regarding all texts, ancient or new. Never forget that even sacred texts were written and chosen in human, all-too-human ways, and nothing about their provenance or their arrangement is to be deemed heaven-sent. One look at the apocryphal Gospels of Philip or Thomas, which exceed the Synoptic account in profundity and intensity, will convince you of that. Like any group seeking worshippers, subscribers, shills and lackeys–but not wanting to empower solitary followers–a church seeks cohesion in doctrine and structure, and thus reproduces a monotonous homogeneity in thught and practice. Because of the risk they pose to its foundations, it has to torch the heretics who give simpler and more elegant visions and explanations than it ever could. With these sorts of groups, which include anything from academia to revolutionary parties–for these too are ‘sources’ that aspire to credibility–it is good to maintain a cool distrust. Likewise with all big structures and mindsets that seek unification, for they inevitably clash with the instauration of the complete human. On the other hand, when it comes to basics, “unity” and agreement can often be found easily, without nit-picking overly and with the simple goal of upbuilding the general spirit. Usually in public that is all that is needed: to ally oneself with the causes worth following and lend them the support of one’s voice and reason. Obviously occasions affect the urgency of this support and its volume, but at bottom one must still trust one’s gut and not react to out of compunction. When it comes to one’s own yearnings and need for soul-satisfaction, it will forever be necessary to dig beyond the level accessible to committees and thinktanks. It will forever be necessary to make form. The good in the world calls for it, as Frost reminds us. Luckily, all of poetry, art, philosophy, and science is there to keep one busy, free of the mediocre and boring. What one can learn from the Bible and other mainstream sources must be supplemented with the strange outliers and exceptions, which is where their truth is to be found; they must be complexified to match one’s own endeavor in the making of form, without worrying if this straying might be perceived as a transgressive, sacreligious, or disrespectful. Rather, one must learn to trust these secret interpretations that, in a way, remain secret even to oneself. It is enough to not be ungracious in listening, and to follow the trail.

What is a credible source? Although it will surely communicate a well-founded knowledge, it is important to situate that knowledge within the context of its emergence. I have tried to argue that knowledge is inseparable from its testamentary value, and this substantially so. To put it another way, the production of knowledge must be a pleasure for the soul–a creative labor of love. Thereby it retains the traces of its ordeal, though this does not make it “subjective” or expressive of an enclosed identity. Rather, it bears the mark of a solitary passage, of an exposed experience traversing the limits of the possible. Beyond all the ends to which knowledge can be put, in the last analysis it must at least also attest tothe  faith that makes it supportable, that sustains it through its unknowns and pivots, that haunts its bearer even beyond their limit of abandonment, and destines them to a truth and a movement that could never once be called their “own.”

Faith and understanding are of heterogeneous orders. While action should be informed by what is known, there is always a leap that goes beyond knowledge and entrusts our fate to the unknown. It leads us to follow our lead–to believe in a destination that does not yet exist. This of course leaves us on guard with ourselves, since we can never be sure we’re headed in the right direction. Moreover, there isn’t one until we’re traveling it, and perhaps the best direction is one defined by a permanent reroute. Still, it is undeniable that a sense of “being-carried” is often there. I believe this is called grace–lightness in distress, clarity in confusion, bestowal at the impasse. Here, one is possessed rather than possessing, had rather than having. One is pushed, seduced, seized into new being. Recall how Paul confessed, “I do not yet consider myself to have taken hold of it,” that is, of the very thing that has already so strongly taken hold of him, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” (Phil 3:13).

What can be credited–what can be followed–is always freshly surprising. It changes with each act of creativity that follows from the last. Even the slightest achievement in making form, “must stroke faith the right way,” Frost also tells us. But we have to be very resolute participants in this quest, impervious to a great many distractions, including all the bumpers that would redirect us back to the central track. Often we fail in perseverance and lack the requisite gravitas–the temerity of the prodigous. But we trust that we can begin again anywhere, that our faith in the instant of renewed creation is never blocked off from us–that we begin open to it or are already opening on to it, wherever we begin.

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Self-Constraints V

Radical constructivism begins from the assumption, as philosophers often do, that there is an essentially unbridgable gap between the knowing subject and the external world and that, because this gap is always mediated by fallible sense organs and imperfect cognitive structures, there can be no representation of the world that matches it perfectly, only approximations that more or less “fit.” Thus the outside world remains unknowable, and focus is turned toward the processes of knowing, the adaptation of the knower to its environment, how each knower filters what they receive from the world through the lens of their own structurations of experience, and so on. Taking Ernst von Glaserfeld’s “An Introduction to Radical Constructivism” (pdf) as exemplary of this approach, I would like to briefly bring it into contact with some basic tenets of non-philosophy and in this way clarify some of its points. How do the two differ?

1) Division. Glaserfeld writes, “our knowledge can never be interpreted as a picture or representation of that real world, but only as a key that unlocks possible paths for us.” Statements like this assume a stance of defeat (false humility?), but in fact they only register the defeat of a certain type of knowledge. Here there is an abyss between absolute reality out there somewhere and our experience or representation of it, where this abyss is assumed to be absolute. For Laruelle, this abyss or “epistemo-logical” distance already presumes too much – a division between Man and the Real, instead of thinking them in their immanent radical identity. This distance, yet another version of the originary ‘fall’, sets thought on a hopeless trajectory to recover the supposedly lost unity of inside and outside, internal and external. But this assumed constraint remains unperceived. To begin instead not only from the Undivided, but from its immanence, the Real-One, implies another sort of experience, a different treatment of the human Lived.

According to the axioms of non-philosophy, Man is in-One before being – before being the subject of knowledge or experience, and so before being-in-the-world or being-in-philosophy – before being divided into self-world, ego-self, or any of the other doublets that the technology of division can generate. Furthermore, the One is immanent without being mediated by anything whatsoever (knowledge, traces, history, cognitive structures, objects, matter…). Glaserfeld wants to focus on, “how cognitive structures or knowledge might be related to an ontological world beyond our experience” – but what if this division between intelligence and environment already credits intelligence with too much? This search for correspondence overlooks that this very search roots itself in the Real. As does the constantly repeated operation of division, though in spite of itself. Through a somewhat naive reference to spontaneous selfhood, intelligence divides itself off from the external world, forming a face-to-face between it and itself. Non-philosophy, on the contrary, presumes given the immanent One, without any inherent opposition and thus forming but “one face” with the Lived.

2) Axiomatics. Too little attention is paid to Laruelle’s explicitly non-philosophical use of language. He is trying to import into philosophy a more scientific (algebraic) usage of symbols that would be “without logos,” that would not suffer through the procedures of nomination and sufficient definition that lead philosophy to constantly legitimate its own linguistic decisions. More deeply, non-philosophy begins one time each time from the Real as without-logos, as without needing to pass through knowledge and its structures, which therefore can take nothing away from it or add anything to it. The issue is to invent a use of language that could model or “clone” this silence of the Real, although without presuming to generate this silence qua discourse. The axiomatic approach that Laruelle adopts is based on the mere adequacy of first terms, not on the approximation of concepts to intuitions, or cognitive structures to those of the presumed-external world. These first terms (Real, Man-in-Person, etc.) do not “designate” anything, they do not indicate or “name,” not even to the extent that Glaserfeld still believes he can refer to perceptual objects, cognition, etc. It is also wrong to ask what sort of knowledge these first names make possible – there’s no increase here, no development, only less arbitrary or more rigorous descriptions or modelizations of immanence, which is indifferent to those descriptions though not hampered by them.

3) Epistemology. For the Real is sufficient unto itself without being named, thought, acted upon, known, or related to us. Such a “vision” is quite different from the constructivist view, which stops half-way when recognizing the insufficiency of knowledge or experience-based constructions. It stops because it contents itself with a give-and-take between knowledge and the world, continuing to search for criteria to decide if the image it creates is a decent “fit” or not, continuing to obsess over the individual’s subjective tainting of the images – whereas non-philosophy sees all this “conceptualization” in a relation of unilateral duality with the Real. More specifically, it acknowledges that all (including scientific) thought is on the ‘side’ of the transcendental and does not reciprocally affect immanence (and here it is close to the modest of the radical constructivist); and yet there are not two sides, no opposition but only “one face” of the Real, such that what appears on the ‘transcendental side’ (that of thought) is inseparable from it, caused by it, and determined by it in the last instance. For the immanent real is without transcendence, and whatever transcendence there is has a priori fallen in-immanence, has been brought down or weakened in it. Thought is thereby open to countless experimentations because all its inventions are seen to be caused by the Real, to have their radical identity in-One.

What is at issue here is not so much the insufficiency of our knowledges (yet another critical, falsely humble warning), but the sufficient “knowing” of the Real that we are without knowing it – of a Real which is radically foreclosed to thought, yet discovered without effort, without imagination, without searching for it, in-immanence. Non-philosophy tries to model this nonlearned “cognizance” of immanence (a priori peace…) as that which needs no ‘second step’ through philosophy or discourse (i.e., through cognitive structures, through adapted experience, etc.) to be known – it is an immanent gnosis, the Real-in-person: “The genericity of man is to be a knowlege that does not itself ‘know’, a Lived which is thus not reflexive and cumulative” (1). Reversing the epistemo-logical hierarchy, non-philosophy is thus non-epistemological in principle: it invents with or from the Real as the already-Discovered, rather than assuming a division that must falteringly rediscover its outside-opposite, mediating it through the structures of experience and negotiating it through decisions of knowledge.

4) The Real. Non-philosophy is therefore given the Real but without any operation of donation or givenness, and thus non-phenomenologically (not in reference to a presumed-transcendental self) and non-ontologically (not in connection to any perceived topology or configuration of beings). The Real is not reducible or comparable to anything we would call “reality,” nor does it refer to some state of being of the world out there. On the contrary, it is precisely this ontic-ontological determination that the Real underdetermines radically and immanently, rendering it itself undecided or indeterminate. So whereas philosophy and constructivism assume something ‘out there’ that experience must go to, non-philosophy sees the Real-One immanent ‘prior’ to experience, even though they form one-face or one “front” (a unilateral duality). This has the added consequence that experience itself, the Lived affect, is a priori broken from the circuit of self-reference and auto-affectivity, from the psychologism of atomic individualities that Glaserfeld has to embrace (for example when he writes, “I alone can take the responsibility for what is being said on these pages,” exposing another aspect of spontaneous philoosophy). The Lived is instead without circularity, without reference to a Mind or a Life, without what Laruelle calls “double transcendence,” but is intead generic, of one face or one “jet” with the immanent Real (think the front of an ocean wave, the tip of a stream). We might say that, one time each time, the Real is the non-“realistic” surprise to reality, a surprise that sub-venes or is in precession over any construction, un-doing or under-doing it, and with it undermining the World as such – and this includes its apparatus of reception, the so-called “experiencing subject.” [To better describe this surprise turn of “under-determination,” the non-standard phase of nonphilosophy speaks of the immanent Real as wavelike (as opposed to corpuscular, which is clearly Glaserfeld’s orientation insofar as judgments about objects of perception remain his concern) and as virtual or futural, as constantly in flux (the quantic clinamen), but without ever being redoubled into a self or flattened out into a plane.]

5) Decision. One quote from Glaserfeld shows how much priority he places on this aspect: “decisions determine what is to be categorized as ‘existing’ unitary objects and what as relationships between them. Through these determinations, the experiencing consciousness creates structure in the flow of its experience. And that structure is what conscious cognitive organisms experience as ‘reality’.” We should once again note the extreme credit given to the cognitively-informed structuration of experience – as if because thought stepped in somewhere, the Real somehow needed to step out for good! But how could that be? Isn’t this expulsion just a sign that thought would like to remain in control of everything – holding it at a distance all the more certain because so cautious and non-‘idealistic’? Whereas the constructivist still thinks he needs a picture of reality (and must impose a distance of meditation through imagination no matter what), the non-philosopher sees or “knows” the Real to be Given-without-giveness, without needing pictures or constructs or any form of mediation whatsoever (=Vision-in-One). Of course this forces a change in how we view and use language and images, but it is not a matter of imposing new restrictions, skepticisms, or paranoias about our thought’s “insufficiency.” The Principle of Sufficient Philosophy fails not simply because of its hubris in trying to over-determine the Real, in assuming that it can decide what the Real “is.” Nor is it because it dooms itself, through its false humility, to the gradual process of constructing, with its own meager devices, a “more or less reliable world.” It also fails because the Real is an instance that is sufficient prior to thought’s workings – prior to being, prior to logos, before philosophy is even entered – indeed the Real is foreclosed to these, and thus likewise is Man. There is a Laruellean parody of Latour here: “we have never been philosophers,” but only generic-humans. Whereas the radical constructivist, with his obsession with the mediation of cognition and his insistence upon the absolute division between Man and the Real, cannot help but continue to philosophize in despair of itself and “adapt” itself to the so-called sufficient external World of beings, etc…

When Glaserfeld, summing up the dilemma posed to the radical constructivist, writes that, “the ‘real’ world manifests itself exclusively there where our constructions break down,” he takes up a position we could compare with Zizeks’s notion of the Real as the immanent impasse of symbolization, the supra-discursive “rupture or gap which makes the order of discourses always and constitutively inconsistent and non-totalizable”(2). This is again symptomatic of the All/not-All cage philosophers continually trap themselves in (itself based on an unperceived logocentrism without bounds). as if the only solution to the trap was to find the right ‘keys’- the constructivist’s case, to pound away at those we already have, progressing forward without ever dreaming of escaping – or to smack the lock with a sufficiently powerful hammer – in Zizek’s case, to embody this point of pure antagonism as subject. Non-philosophy, on the contrary, does not just “aim” to release us from this cage (the world-form); more profoundly, it starts axiomatically from the (non-discursive) Real-One as “subtracted” from that cage, from the immanence of a (material) subtraction from the World. This subtraction is not even an operation, but a priori. It is not necessary to drive our constructions to a breaking-point, to torture our language and ourselves, to thrust ourselves into decisions that make us despair or tear us apart – or to force any sort of intentional operation whatsoever – in order to attain the real or come closer to attaining it. Indeed, it is nothing to “attain” at all, unless we want it to be what we want it to be, which of course isn’t the Real but its hallucination.

What distinguishes non-philosophy is that it is not an acquisition of knowledge with regard to what we don’t know, but a defense of the knowing of the Real that we are without knowing it. To this end, it puts to work a generic use of knowledges for the sake of “producing” this we-don’t-know-it (the Future-in-person): “To produce the unknown with the known rather than the known with the unknown—such is the operation of the generic matrix…” (3). There is no imposed modesty of knowledge here; the epistemo-logical hierarchy is simply inverted by the immanence of the Real, which is foreclosed to it. Nor is there any need to admit that our models must fail, leading to slow modifications constrained by our previous steps and dooming us to alienation. There is rather an imperative to invent an existence in the Real without knowing the destination of our invention beforehand, and without letting it be constrained by any All whatsoever. This lived knowledge “of” (caused by) the Real, this “real primary knowledge,” is not taught to us, but practiced.

(1) Laruelle, Francois. The Speculative Turn. p. 250.
(2) Zizek, Slavoj. The Speculative Turn. p. 409.
(3) Laruelle, Francois. Christo-Fiction. p. 61.

[Note: special thanks to Matthias Mauderer on the Francois Laruelle Facebook page for posing the question about non-philosophy’s relation to radical constructivism. This text is a modified version of my original response to his question.]

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On the Birth of Messiahs

My research into the Messiah-idea has led me to some strange conclusions and paradoxes. I have come to reject without reservation what I call the “one-man hypothesis”: the idea that the Messiah could be one singular flesh and blood person who would “accomplish” salvation for all for all time, who would be the direct representative of God on earth, who was uniquely chosen according to a plan of salvation, and so on. This hypothesis fails in two basic directions–either the actuality of the Messiah becomes impossible and demands an interminable waiting upon his ever-deferred arrival (roughly the Judaic view), or “one man” is elevated to the status of God-Man and latched onto with unwavering belief, an attachment that, in order to be sustained, demans extreme religious idolization and/or a culture of glorification.

As our secularized Christmas rituals demonstrate, the second option has no problem cozying up to the powers of this world: money, consumerism, materialism, hierarchies, churches, etc. This is not a knock against Christmas, just an acknowledgement that, in most cases, little thought is given to the birth of the Messiah or what it might mean. In that sense, the first option–a waiting that spans the duration of a life–is infinitely preferable, because then at least the question is kept alive–what is the Messiah and what would its coming mean?–a question that, in my view, can and should be exported from its religious heritage and repurposed for a new use,  for a generic humanity that is radically unaffiliated and undefined.

Following a number of thinkers, it thus proved useful to isolate something like “messianity” from out of the religious complex of confusions and mystifications. Messianity can be conceived along the same lines as “humanity,” modifying it or even replacing it. A continual rebirth that surprises us each time, that introduces a profound indetermination into our being, that frees us from the anxiety produced by judgments, predicates, and categories, and that thereby leaves us in peace. In this way, the transformative potential of the Messiah-idea is retained without getting hung up on famous persons, fantasies of divine glory, and dogmatic hierarchies between beings of whatever sort.

(N.B., Jesus’ duplicity is this: although he rightly emphasizes the lowly and humble and the love that they as victims of the world can share, he nonetheless maintains for himself and the Father the necessity of worship and adoration. Simply asserting that his Kingdom is not earthly but celestial does nothing to challenge the logic of lordship and slavery; nor the fetishization, if not of riches, then at least of superiority and regality; nor the central place of the “will” in the economy of action. Sovereignty is suspended or emptied out only to be lifted up, etherealized as heavenly, sublimated in an interior dominion. The challenge he wished to pose to authority was thus doomed to fail through a thousand compromises with earthly power–cf. Roman Empire, contemporary religious conservativism, etc. The messianic break then becomes, on average, just another leveraging tool in the power game. Because glory itself is never interrogated, the core of the messianic message gets lost.)

So, instead of focusing our attention on the exceptional status of one-man (King, Savior, Priest), what if we sought the source and reality of salvation in the “ordinary messiahs” that we are? As suggested above, this would mean focusing on the love that victims of the world manifest for each other, their immanent mode of “overcoming” world-oppression, which love does not so much eliminate as place in a margin or render “neglectible.” A justice that is not retaliatory, but compassionate, attending to the “last,” not the first. A  (non-)activism that does not once again become the puppet of power (of representation, of the will, of duties and commandments, of morality, etc.), but instead assumes the position of any-victim, both undergoing the world and “causing” or letting it go under. It is capable of resisting not just some given object or situation in the world (which provides only the occasion), but the world-form itself, disempowering it and bringing it down. This is the weak power of messianity as a priori defense of humans from the harassment of the world (my interpretation of John 16:33).

This is also probably what the Christmas holiday, despite its perversions, retains: its orientation toward “loved-ones” (where there is still exceptionality, but now it is ordinary, without need of universalization or elevation; it is there only in finite, mortal, singular manifestations); its ability to reconnect us with our own histories in a way we usually overlook, to imbue us with a feeling of generational continuity; its silent and snowy landscape of inactivity and simplicity, lacking any imperative to “do” anything–these are all experiences of eternity proper to ordinary messianity. On this day, the world is supposed to disappear, a message of peace on earth is supposed to reign, and we feel compelled to overlook the minor differences and disputes that have accumulated over the year–to love, forgive, enjoy our common presence, and be thankful for whatever blessings we may have. Beginning with the lived, and with the dead we carry with us in it, thanks to it.

There are of course other things to emphasize about messianity, but in a sense it all comes down to the ordinariness and simplicity of the lived, its power to “bring down” the big structures and strictures of the world–to cherish the local, one says, to dwell in the heart, says another, to credit the meek with the inheritance of the earth, says yet another. All these metaphors are subject to abuse, as is the salutation Merry Christmas. Well, Merry Christmas anyway. May you continually resume the messianity in your human, and find peace in the immanent rebirth.

Timothy Lavenz
Christmas 2016

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Self-Constraints IV

(This contribution to the series records an exchange between me and Paul DeFatta, a friend of mine on Facebook who I recommend all my readers to follow. I have left it in its original form, while editing and adding some things for the sake of clarity. Although I mention this later, I want to stress from the beginning that my commentary is only loosely based on Paul’s initial post. I played freely with the ideas at the risk of caricature, for the sake making clear a certain symptom of the philosophical loop (of) self.  Paul writes:)

The first “note” announcing the shift into the interior is jarring and can fill our hearts with dismay. Surprisingly, the second note is often just as soothing as the first one was unsettling – for those who have done some serious inner work to prepare for such “turnabouts” which visit all of us from time to time.

For those who are heavily invested in – and attached to – persons, things, desires, habits, and conditions, this pivoting or about-face will be proportionally more disruptive in its consequences. For those who TRAVEL LIGHT, on the other hand, the reversal will be less jolting. Attachment and personal investment inevitably produce mass and inertia. Like a powerful locomotive pulling many cars behind it, the mind that undergoes an abrupt reversal of the direction of psychic energy will often experience a derailment or, at the very least, a paralyzing stall. Since nothing ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL is irretrievably lost or destroyed in such “personal” catastrophes, the survivor who rises up out of the wreckage of such derailments and stalling depressions is invariably a leaner, cleaner, serener being than the unconscious engineer-victim of the train wreck. Thus, we are all given the most compelling incentives to travel light – with ungreedy hearts and un-sticky fingers – through a world that is better simply to behold with a gasp of wonder than to hold, grasp, and plunder.

I understand the pleasure in traveling light, but what bothers me about this outlook is its violence. This is not to say that he who articulates it is violent. In fact, I assume the opposite, at least in terms of his aspirations. What interests me is the philosophical system it forms and of which it is a symptom, specifically, the loop (of) self that it reinstantiates after forcing the self through a thousand jarring movements, destructions, catastrophies, and so on. The paradox here, the source of the duplicity behind this system, is this: on the one hand, the self is to be unburdened of itself, stripped, denuded, wrecked, etc., while on the other hand, this process is framed as a “shift to the interior.” Is this not a devious trap? Looking inward, so the story goes, we will find our higher self or a higher reality: some being or way of being that is quicker on its feet, lighter, serener, because less attached to itself and to the world that surrounds it (body, people, habits, etc.). Through this ordeal and this shift, it is supposed to be purified and made “clean.” This is a reduction to a limit point of nothingness, one could say, especially considering that no removal of any worldly or physical quality could change what is “absolutely essential” for this (non-)being. (Many examples of this system could be cited, but I would prefer Kafka’s, who explains how the self consumes itself down to the undying Flame, cuts itself down to the size of the tiniest indestructible that is common to all humans.)

The irony is that, despite all the self-obliteration undergone, there is still a survivor, “one” who undergoes all these disruptions and who, it is assumed, must muster a rather extreme amount of courage and discipline in the face of all this turbulence; who must overcome that pitiful, “unconscious engineer-victim of the train wreck” that plagues the steps toward enlightenment and/or genuine self-encounter. At the very least, someone who must continue to tell himself that he is doing or has done this “serious inner work” (and for so many years!), and that he is doing it for his own good or for the good of others.

I am aware that the constantly repeated terminus of this process is the realization that this “he” who is shifting to the interior is a sort of mechanism or function, a kind of operative illusion (ego) that is useful only insofar as it is able to poke holes in its own structure, obliterate its own identifications, “die daily,” and so on. “He” is this figment of his own imagination who can only prepare himself to be bombarded, psychically devastated or spiritually violated by the Glorious. But then, toward whose interior does he imagine he is shifting during his preparations? To the heart of God (interior exteriority) or to the heart of the world (exterior interiority)? To “his own” interior, and if so, where is that? Of course, one is prohibited from grasping or appropriating any of these. The glorious finds you, as is the perogative of any Almighty worthy of the name. Put otherwise, this Ultimate Reality obtained through the turn-to-self can only be “beheld” by a being that is shocked-open-wide, bedazzled in a bestowal that is both the trainwreck of ordinary, personological consciousness and the awakening of a higher, quasi-transpersonal one from out of this shock or “death” (not all the way, of course). It is at any rate phenomenological, or at least it is still described on those terms and with those presuppositions. It requires the loop (of) self.

I admit it is very pleasurable to talk this way, to describe this system. It gives one the feeling of having understood something that needs to be disseminated as widely as possible, of having done a service not only to humans who just might escape their narrow and ugly self-enclosures, but also to the Self who has been aided in Self-realization. Because of the existential surplus-value or “ecstasy” generated by such discourses and the behaviors they shape, many books, religious and otherwise, have been written and sold on the topic. And many are yet to come, praise God! Jokes aside, I would never discourage them per se, if only because I am well-acquainted with the turnabouts (of) self that Paul so forcefully describes. But what troubles me here, as I said initially, is simply the violence of these turns. Not of the turning itself per se, but of the operation of turning: the violence of the oppression or suppression that the self imposes upon itself in order to liberate itself or let itself be liberated. This violence, once assumed necessary, reasserts itself whenever the self feels caught in itself, or when it percieves that another self is lacking self-realization and must be taught the ways of violence. This self-“pression” haunts or plagues the suffering I until that breakthrough moment when the I breaks through itself or is broken through by… you name it. All of this inevitably demands, if not a breakdown, then a practiced breaking-down whose horizon is the Unbroken (lightness traveling). In the end, it is a system of despair–which does not mean that it cannot be well-adjusted to and compensated for through renewed exaltations to Becoming, through impassioned and poetic exortations to “go to the limits of the possible” (Bataille), or by touting its wisdom before others and becoming respected for spiritual achievements.

I do not mean that someone who thinks such thoughts is doomed to despair–on the contrary. I only wish to point out is how this system requires it, this “sickness unto death,” in order to function. Check the discourses: they would be in despair if they did not know they could count on a reservoir of despair to slosh around in (in themselves or in others or in humanity in general)! Whereas normally one thinks that despair is what befalls us, and that we must find our way out through some sort of leap, it seems to me rather that the loop–and the command to leap–is the despair. Of course one knows that the loop is unreal. But the deduction that almost always seems to follow is that this unreality is itself “real” in some fashion and must therefore be reckoned with as something to be derealized (on the way to a higher or lower “rerealization”), and reckoned with through some sort of decision or operation (for example, a “shift to the interior”). We should not be fooled by the turns of phrase that say things like: the loop is meant to be broken; at the end of the loop one sees there is no loop there; something will come along to break me whether I like it or not, so I had better get my loops ready. In each case, the loop requires a cut–the scission of trauma–and the looper has to become a “cutter” or a cut-receiver. Something like a hyperreal symbolic suicide machine, a time-traveller who must kill past and future selves and whose cutting field is the abyss’s edge, the void’s teeth. All in all, it is a strange but predictable performance, full of threats and twisted smiles.

I say this without moral critique, but as an observer of this system who took its truth on faith for many years, but who now refuses to inflict upon himself the violence it requires to be maintained. I would instead like to develop an approach or a “discourse” that can suspend its nefarious procedures. Those who follow and articulate this system are not usually violent people, but their discourse very often is, though this is often unperceived. The tone is accusatory, pedagogical, authoritative, condescending, even “hazing,” and all of this in the guise of possessing a higher knowledge or perspecitve that must be imparted to others for their benefit, to save them from their lack of self-knowledge or get them going with the esoteric. They pontificate on the void and do not recognize that the inner essence they are promoting conducts so much despair and, worse, substantializes its conditions. Even when they have internalized all this violence, for example in the form of a humble spiritual mission, traces of bitterness and resentment remain which, sadly, seem invisible to them. Worst of all, none of this can be acknowledged, for fear of being caught out as a fraud. Again, I say this without reference to any one person, for it is entirely a part of the system; indeed, these are its inherent symptoms. (I should say on a personal note that I have felt the need to disavow a great deal of my own old writings simply because I ended up recognizing in them the presence of these symptoms and did not wish to spread them.)

In closing, I believe there is another sort of peace that does not require all this self-violence. In lieu of a longer discussion, I can only share what I believe to be its “first term”: the lived-without-life (Laruelle). This term does not describe a special reality, but is adequate for an approach that would bring down the biases of phenomenology (interiority, self-constitution, properness, etc.) and the loop (of) self system it forms (culminating in a philosophy of life or a negative theology of otherness). It tries to acknowledge experience as a mere occasion, without granting it the transcendental flavor that the self would like to taste in it by turning inward and wrapping itself up in it, or by turning itself around outside because of it, or by letting itself be pierced by it like a traumatic laser beam of Infinity. Without any operation, any decision, or any process of becoming, the self is impossibilized by the Real in an immanent fashion. This is not meant to be another metaphysical statement, but an axiom for practice and for innovation in philosophical discourse. The lived-without-life is a radical solution to the problem of “traveling light,” for it need not reference a living traveler or hallucinate access to the transcendent.

I would like to part on a note of thanks to Paul for all his thought-provoking writings. I have obviously picked up on only a small piece of them. My goal as stated throughout was only to bring some clarity to the problematic of the system, to play with it and profane its sacred structure, which in my view always returns back to an unjustly assumed separation and an imperative of self-scission. My concern here reaches back through many years of “struggle and study” that in retrospect appears like little more than a laughable cruelty, what one might call the “self-inflicted wounds of glory.” Whereas today the only solution I can see passes through the generic, which by definition is unglorious. I leave it there, resting assured that the conversation will continue.

[Paul:] Timothy, to the extent that I was able to follow your language here, I am intrigued by your observations about the violence inherent in the ‘looping system’ that you detect in my piece above. It’s very late and my energy is spent for the day, but I would like to return to this tomorrow and see if I can’t get a better grasp on where you’re going in your critique. One observation I had, concerning the violence of the ‘turnabouts’: as the pairs of opposites that constitute the psyche are better understood and more successfully kept in balance, these ‘about-faces’ occasion less and ever less emotional disruption for me. When I was younger, I was the victim of quite overwhelming pendulum swings (between introverted and extraverted psychic energy; between action and contemplation; feeling and thinking; loving and withholding, etc.), but in recent years I seem to be wiser about allowing lopsidedness to happen, so that I seldom allow myself to stray too far from the ‘middle’ of the polarities that energize my psyche. Does this begin to speak to your concern about the ‘violence’ of the reversals I was writing about?

[Me:] Hi Paul, let me pick up from here: “Whereas normally one thinks that despair is what befalls us, and that we must find our way out through some sort of leap, it seems to me rather that the loop [and the command to leap] is the despair.” What I was trying to get at was how the efforts to escape the loop (of) self are themselves always led back into the same circle–the grinding dialectic of anguish and ecstasy, to paraphrase Bataille. The despair has its grounds in self-attribution or -appropriation of whatever stripe, in the “this is my journey.” Superficially one could attack this as the illusory assumption of “me” and “mine,” but it is clear to me that attempts to destroy this ‘illusion’ are doomed either to despair, again, or to identification with something transcendent, whatever it may be. To put it very simply: why do I attribute the immanent moment that is lived to me? Why this compulsion to “double” it? To fold the lived up into “a life”?

At any rate, this is the problem that has been occupying me, largely due to a reading of Francois Laruelle. He tries to think an immanent reduction of all transcendence, to think how all transcendence “falls” into immanence and can only ever ground itself in immanence. This is an attempt to think transcendence in its most simplified form, and the greatest consequences of this simpliciation is the reduction or neutralization of the self or subject. The lived is then thought, each time, as a simple occasion, the subject nothing but the clone of the Real. It leads to the notion of a lived that is not captured in “living a life.” A lived that is one time each time, and thus not redoubled into the transcendence of a self.

I have very high regard for your writings and they often remind me of my own quasi-Nietzschean efforts to come to terms with the problem of self. I also share with you the need, even the mission, to de-program us from our conscriptions to power and false-self-thinking, which no doubt requires a “separation” in some manner from the deformities of our culture. Likewise your description of the “overwhelming pendulum swings” resonates with years of experience from my younger days. I can still remember when these swings went from being long (a week in the doldrums, a week on high) to being just a few days apart, and finally to shorter almost infinitesimal time-spans. This certainly has to do with allowing the “lopsidedness to happen,” as you say. It would be a lie to say that these swings end, or ever could end, for “me”; they are indemic to the loop of self-affection. But is it really a loop? What evidence, what justification do we have for turning the affect so spontaneously into an affect (of) self, into self-affection? Nothing would seem more natural or spontaneous than this, of course, but this is the “program” I am trying to treat (“philosophy” itself, in Laruelle-speak).

What concerns me is the root of these violent reversals and circles (“shifting inward”…) and if there isn’t a way to treat them that would not come from the will, from decision, or from any effort or operation of self, which usually amounts to a counter-violence against the (old) self. This concern stems from lots of observation and a distaste for the ‘traps’ that even the most spiritual of remedies set up for the self. By focusing these energies on the self-problem, especially when the self is construed as the one singular actor who might work for its own liberation (beginning with the interpellation, “you must change your life!”), they can even lead to its exacerbation–to arrogance in spiritual achievement when they succeed, and to terrible confusion when they fail.

So I am trying to displace the entire problem away from the self, not by not caring about it, but by inventing a solution that, rather than starting from its transcendence (which constantly turns about itself, reverses on itself, attacks itself, denounces itself, or wills itself to its own destruction…), begins one time each time from or in immanence, where immanence so to speak “impossibilizes” the self a priori. This allows, not the ignoring of, nor the obliteration of, the “objective appearance” of transcendence, but its radical treatment and simplification. The power of this objective appearance is weakened, brought down, rooted back in immanence as non-acting, non-thinking, non-speaking, non-decisional and non-positional (of) self. The question then shifts from the will-to-power–which accuses, obligates, and assumes so much, not only about itself, but about “others”–toward the passivity of the lived-without-life (traveling light). This is obviously not without a connection to the detachment you articulated in your original post, but it no longer retains the imperative: detach! Instead, one will speak of the Subtracted-without-subtraction, for example, in order to get at the non-operatory quality of detachment, and to loosen the command upon the self to effect by some means its own detachment from itself. This is about an a priori reduction from immanence that is not an operation or effected by a decision, but one time each time “complete.” (Transposed to the register of wholeness, what is at stake is the One–to which one does not need to “go”…)

I am not sure if this makes any sense to you. It isn’t a defense of what I wrote before but an attempt to make the problem clearer. Despite the sound of it (one sometimes gets polemic when thinking, as you know, and it is often necessary to draw contrasts), I did not mean to raise a critique. It’s more that I was inspired by your thoughts to bring them into contact with my own, and to discover therein the remnants of the loop-system, of the “vicious circle” of the eternal return of the same, one could say, or what Laruelle simply calls “double transcendence.” It is from there that I tried to isolate the (structural) “violence” of the “shift to the interior” as an unnecessary task, yet another hurdle to test the self, and once again guilt-tripping it into transcending itself toward itself, or to think itself all the better for having turned inward–for having operated on itself, for having determined its reality, and so on. There is nothing but recoil in this structure, for the self is a harsh master. When it isn’t raising threats against itself, it’s looking to save a world of selves from themselves. This not an unworthy goal. I consider Laruelle’s non-philosophical work and my small attempts to build from it in continuity with other philosophical and spiritual systems. But here it is a matter of recognizing symptoms in them and how those symptoms run amock in the most lofty guises of greatness (the pretension of “enlightened minds” or “exemplary figures”). Here, systems are seen in their insufficiency, which lets us treated them as raw materials for modeling immanence instead of as a support for the self-loop and its violences.

I regret that my initial text was so “negative” in nature, but I am trying to have patience with myself in letting these thoughts “sink in” in a playful way. I hope with this comment I have at least made my aims a bit clearer.

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Hallucination of interiority, sovereign of rage and complaint, master of habit and personhood, where does your love go?

Where does your love go, your bizarre signals of desire and distress?

Where does your love go—with life or with death? Emerging to serve the purpose of rest, or to tumble endlessly in dread of no requital?

(For Andre Breton, only requited love could fuse and reconcile essence and existence; it alone conditions us for a “total magnetization” and “turns the mind into an eternally welling spring, unalterable and always lively.” Such love lives from one principle: sensual pleasure and intellectual activity, all that can be expected from within and without, are only ever reconciled in a single being, in a single instant that one can only surrender to as in a trance, seizing thus the eternal. Such was the only alternative to a life devoid of meaning in a denatured world: to seek for this “state of grace” in which perception and visualization are one, an ecstasy beyond the distinction between subjective and objective in which I and the other I love make up an indestructible unit of light. It is here that you take me back to my most spiritual source: our tingling embrace, edging beyond consciousness, where we could conceive, from all the sorrow we’d felt, a reason for the accidents of existence and it seemed, if only for our ‘instant’ together, that there might be a justification for creation after all and that, in some not-unimportant way, our lives and our moment not only participated in it but sealed its truth and delivered on its promise directly, in the heart of a world otherwise senseless and vile.)

O beloved others I’ve so often united with beyond the bounds of time and space, all those who have turned my way, extending their touch and thought and merging their words with mine in an event of seizure without proportions, whoever has come this way and called me out—where are we now? To what have we come? Who else shall get lost in our reflectionless gaze?

(A white butterfly unfolds its torn wings, exposing the soot black design to the fire’s glare, and instantly it metamorphoses into a smoke trail escaping under the street lamp, into the nothingness of night; far above, high on the proud weeping willow’s branch, sits a young cardinal who catches the peculiar scent of that trail and twists his head and hops here and there to discern it until he decides to rebel against it all, taking flight madly just then and refusing to land anywhere for years of miles, until one day he comes by a similar willow and a similar flame and, catching sight of himself inwardly for the first time, realizes he too is a white butterfly prepared to unfold its untorn wings, and just as he approaches the light, whimsically and enthralled, he metamorphoses…)

Irreparable frivolity of this craving for rebound and relay: in love one says anything for a fix, the chest beats like a locomotive with the unified force of freedom and affection; action that leads to uncertain consequences cannot be avoided, the legs uncrumple and dance, the mouth spits out its silent resignation and demands the saving word of possibility, everything rushes into orbit around the obscure inkling of a coming frisson that will shiver the agent down to perfect relation, to the passionate patience of nonsense and playfulness and in that strengthened against every obstacle with the promise of the encounter shared, in adoration of a time without horizons, revoking every inscription and summoning the one necessary thing: love, singular dive of nothing, faith finding its refuge in its leap—a confidence unbroken, unique and repeating until all hope has been rewon for life’s cause and the dead rise in us to sing out our own hymn, this frivolous, irreparable expression of our one being.

Where will my love go then? Into the funeral march or the baptismal procession? Calmly returning you to the peace that surpasses all effort, or agitating you to reach with utmost urgency for the limits of the possible?

Where will my love go, with its contradiction and awkwardness, its naivety and underdevelopment, its irreverence and irresponsibility?

Obsessed by the indefatigable exterior, called out by intangible timbres and textures, exhibited fully vulnerably to the other’s magic act, fumbling decisions and fabricating commitments, dispossessed servant of a self whose intention wholly escapes it, who remains in adoration of you and only you, stranded on the shore of your infinity, sparkling incommensurably—tell me, tell me where, where shall our love go?

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