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, trusting, 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, only lend weight to human-generic potentiality, 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 vision to the point of the actively-creative truth, revealing don’t generative impulse to the aspirant, which is surely 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 inadequate here, for it could imply a controlled set-up with known parameters and variables, a mere test that could run its course and end back at a neutral state, with only some conclusions or “findings” deduced. Whereas here there is no return to origin. Setting aside any objective or critical distance, you must let the other leave direct some traces in your life-world, your moves and your memory, by entering or even mimicing their ordeal as best you can, of course in 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, and never wanting to empower solitary followers–a church seeks cohesion in doctrine and structure, thus reproducing a monotonous homogeneity in thought 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 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 transmit 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 to the faith that makes it supportable, that sustains it through unknowns and pivots, that haunts its bearer even beyond their tolerance 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 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–always surprises freshly. 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 can 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 might 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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BEARINGS OF LOVE

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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Autocatalytic Antagonism

One reason our society remains locked in hatred and stupidity is our unwillingness to be uncomfortable, to have the honest conversation, to feel challenged and be changed. Such is the minor and quotidian cycle of accepting what appears to be the most acceptable of acceptable things that perpetuates not only inequality, but a situation of “cowardice” and “unfreedom.” Because we are afraid to jeopardize our own situation, we accept a situation that jeopardizes millions of others, though we rarely give this a moment’s thought. As Jeff Buckley sang, “Our mutiliation is to gain from the system.” These are of course incredibly difficult patterns to break. Thus the need for a daily effort to break them and first of all to break them in ourselves: to combat the inertia, the complacency, the inaction, the silence. We simply must risk our reputation. We must refind our identity in a common cooperation against lies and blindness. All other projects should run secondary to this. If it comes to it, we must become unrecognizable, even to those who love us. We must risk what we have been for what’s coming…

For the State will continue to organize oppression and capitalism will continue to reduce us to exchangeables―and as part of the laughing masses, we are right where it wants us to be―unless we antagonize, unless we band together in a singular intention to antagonize without rest, and to affirm an antagonism-to-capital that is irrepressible. The comfortable position invariably perpetuates the system of inequality and oppression; it is inert and “timeless”; its happiness is static and circular. Only through a practice of immanent and constant antagonism is another form of subjectivity given a chance: a time productive of another collective, with a happiness that loses itself in the cause of the other and not in the system of the organized world.

This is not the antagonism of armed revolt, a new political party, or organized secession. It is rather, following Negri, the antagonism of an immediate separation, effective materially and intellectually and directed cooperatively to the production of the other’s chance: a negative activity of separation rooted in a refusal of the exploited situation. This means antagonizing ourselves out of our own torpor, our own enjoyment of the system, our “mutilation.” It means being dissatisfied with the self-orientation of our own quest (for material wealth, knowledge, social relationship) and instead engaging ourselves on the collective front of antagonism. Participation in that collective takes place not through a simulacrum of information but through active contributions to a knowledge base that is indissociable from a new time and a new practice of being, grounded in an episteme that is radically separate from the circular time of packaged laughter, the blasé ontology of the “disillusioned” whose knowledge can only serve the continued mutilation.

Antagonism means heeding a responsibility that prevents us from sleeping and only deepens the more we respond to it: an advance into the eternity of the struggle. But though oriented collectively, it also implies each us traveling our own irreversible trajectories, in dimensions that are plural and irreducible to each other. For unity lies not in a common cause or agreed agenda, but in the direct work of antagonism: the negative labor that refuses the commands of the capitalist-military State and that co-operates for the sake of constituting not an alternative but the break itself―an “alternative” that, however indefinite it may seem, is nonetheless definite in its moment, concrete in its product, and experienced as determinative for being. These many moments, products, and experiences disperse themselves throughout the fabric of society like Benjamin’s messianic splinters, ever ready to be resumed by the other for the continued production of the new collective subjectivity and its continued antagonism to capital. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, no matter how much we want to crawl back, no matter how much we’d like to think about something else, it is there in this “eternal” cooperation that we will find what can genuinely be called our future.

Antagonism-to-capital, for Negri, is inseparable from human creativity and autonomy. Antagonism acts in this sense as a sort of pure telos that need not ever be reabsorbed by the system against which it is antagonistic. It is not in a dialectical relationship where the negative (antagonism) would have to be negated or reconciled with what it negates (the capitalist time of command and its law of value). On the contrary, the “negation” is in full force as the affirmation of the radical break. Its “value” is immanent to its activity and is neither exchangeable nor negligible. Its products are valuable in themselves, meaning that they cannot be measured by the law of value operative in capital. Antagonism is itself productive and powerful, but it is a counterforce that does not need to negotiate with or assimilate itself to the forces it counters (even if that happens when Power tries to neutralize it). In Negri’s view, the subjectivity produced through this antagonism is auto-valorizing and auto-determining. Creativity is a kind of use of life and power against the exploitation of life by Power.

Antagonism therefore constitutes a time of life that is shared, inciting singularities to enter the commons and engage in the production of antagonistic subjectivity. “Revolution” is a long-term project and its organization is inseparable from negative labor. The communist “event” is thus, from the perspective of the World, the result of a long work of liberation, whereas from the “communist’s” perspective, the event is the experience of communism itself and its negative work. That work―which generates new desires, new languages, new beings―creates a surplus that cannot be exploited by capital and that the state cannot command. Living labor, by definition antagonistic to the exploitation of life (wage labor), tends toward an autonomous, auto-catalytic “cognitive” surplus knowledge of communism that cannot be “digested” by capital or translated into any of its schemes. The wager is this: to accumulate in the commons the results of our excess, our negative and cognitive labor. Our proximity to the coming communism increases to the extent that we accumulate and organize or let-be-catalyzed the products of this labor. Antagonism, in other words, is not an incremental change to what exists, nor does it project some sort of radical change that it could imagine anticipating. It is more profoundly a qualitative leap into new temporal being: direct experience of communism.

The distinction between struggle and hope therefore is not a meaningful one in practice. “Hope” is flimsy unless it is active as antagonistic creativity, as life productive of new being. It will never let any illusion or any guarantee of future prosperity pacify. It will never give up its indignation and dissatisfaction with the situation of exploitation, but it will also never lose the love it finds in its poverty-of-world. What “transcends” capitalist society is in fact an immanent Real: the living alternative to be built upon relentlessly and with the highest sense of dedication to the other and to the future. Those thus antagonized can only act in defense of this Real. “Hope” is only hope in you: that you will take up our work of liberation and the responsibility to struggle against mutilation and for the new time. More than hope, it is an anticipation convinced of the coming of what it anticipates through its very life and work―through the autocatalytic antagonism constantly “left alive” in a subjectivity that knows communism immanently.

The notion of a grand rupture, shock, or intervention in the system is therefore outdated. It is again based on a false ontology of the event as something sudden, unprecedented, mysterious, or “befalling.” The idea that things could become different while I myself stay the same is also erroneous. For Negri, productivity is always a production of subjectivity itself (not “also”). We should also probably not pretend like anything is going to happen “later.” We are, right now, producing what will have happened, what will have been the “collectivized” subjectivity, the temporality proper to communism. We should not fantasize about the spectacular and the extreme, for then we will miss all the cues for this transformation that remains “invisible” to the World. Antagonism against the system is just as “real” as the big-screen productions of Power witnessed on television. As immanent practice, it is even even powerful than it. Lives committed to antagonism in common are not only powerful, but productive of a commons that capital can never grasp and which can only be erased when people give up on that life and forget how much it is, “a project worth our seriousness.”

The experience of communism at stake here not only can happen through knowledge. The thesis expressed above about cognitive labor suggests that it can only happen through it, but of course where knowledge is inseparable from practices and the subjects that produce them in common. Negri writes,

To put it in Foucauldian terms, when we are immersed in the crisis of an episteme we must place ourselves in circumstances and conditions that enable us to modify, along with the systems that organize knowledge, the episteme’s forms of production and the subjects that produce it. To deconstruct systems means, in this case, to reconstruct the forms of knowledge.

Once it is understood that subjectivity is itself a production, it comes as no surprise that our indifference and complacency is a product of the system of banality “that pervades our minds.” Individuality itself is a trap, a form of subjectivity-knowing that is perfectly digestible by capital and State command, entirely conformed to its law of value, to time-as-measure, and to the alienation of human means. The excess over the system can never be reduced to the transcendental presuppositions of individualism, for it is immediately and immanently “singular-common,” a shared work. Negri’s wager is ultimately that time itself is of a collective essence and thus not ruled by the debts of history’s scripts. Without collectivity, the only time that individuals can know is capitalism’s. But the immeasurable new being is known to be collective  through and through. “Consciousness rises up as consciousness of antagonistic collectivity.” Irrepressible, it is also irresistible: autocatalytic antagonism. Only this consciousness frees itself from commodification and subordination to the system of banality, since it emerges in a radical separation from it, from a refusal of the exploitative razzmatazz and its mutilations. Separation is immediately collectivization. Its time is (of) collective essence. The task for each of us, then, is to work our singular out into the commons, so as to create a commons that is singularizing and antagonizing, a “stretched” event that thus makes history, perhaps without ever even seeming to appear there. A clandestine life in-common, destined to find itself in the other, to let its cause be the other’s, and thus to cause the other to find itself in our cause.

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LESS ONE

Potentionless, additionless, intentionless, possessionless, future-less, needless… less, less, less, that is the only key you ever found, it shuttered beneath all your proud statements, it was your faith (kindness, silence, servitude) neutralizing all your individual, until the last bad habit of Hell is eradicated from your “soul,” that is, your soul is eradicated, there is not even a trace of your heated prayers, your tender epiphanies, your naked heart moments in need of understanding and sense.

Time: the universe’s mending weep, music of beats changing, bases for happiness inverted and transformed—that you must imitate: the storm of forgiveness preempting judgment and the balancing of scales—Time no median mark but the immanence of the messianic: infinite smallness of self, instant, and trace left all quasi-indistinguishable, forming one “block” breaking the loops of worry and expectation and purpose—a deindividualization, the overflowing of the lived by faith: not in time or its powers, not in anything, but the nothing-of-the-world transited by faith, the “existence” we will have had in-One-in-the-last-instance—nothing but the insistence of the infinitely small, the radically immanent tininess of the universe indexed by a Messiah-subject who needn’t even disappear, whose entire and only being is prayer. The least of these: crystals of time choosing to believe in time’s truce, forestalling humanity’s anger, revealing the “empty tomb of grief”—imperceptible passion of the cleanse assumed, consuming whatever could be asked.

(The ultimate sorry is because “I did it.” May this hallucination be forgiven at last; that is the meaning of remembering the Sabbath. How happy we could be in-One, “without” desire, at the contact (One-in-One) with no forward to back, no word to pin in, no identity to obliterate—just the first given, without-givenness: the One-time of the blessing’s resemblance in-us. Never doubt that that contact with the non-temporal takes place. The eternity that is no beyond or outside or process has no characteristics; it is immanent, and there is no “only way” to its approach. There is no way for the one who seeks, but the one who “does not seek will be found” (Kafka). Forget the shell-shocked attempts and let-shudder, for this light trembling of love is the very character of the universe: such is the Messiah’s testimony.)

Temporality—where the self has to be, check its position, project feelers and test if it is—where the self tries to lose or attain itself but in truth simply misses all possessive occasions—temporality is really “after” eternity like an after-thought or an ability to make sense of the experience of eternity. It is temporality that fools us into viewing eternity as an indefinite length or as something that could only be what it is at the end or fullness of time(s). It seems like something keeps heaping up, the volume of an empty chalice increased to the exact proportion that it fills up to the brim. We conceive of this as a present fulfillment just as much as a coming one—thus is the present an immanent transition, or an accomplishment of history that loops back, affecting history and inciting it to consummation; or the present vanishes in the immanence of a radical past without transitions, and one tries to draw “back” from the present to this time called One or Immanental, as to a block of eternity. But what if the “linear flow of phenomena” were simply identical to an immanent eternity without temporality? Our conventions of language, the temporality it allows us to express, is then only occasional; regardless of its pressures, we know that in-One the division has no effect. The simulation of being-in-temporality need not be threatening or believed.

Temporalization—is for selves and the victors of history who cannot bear the immanence of eternity. To consider it through the language of testing (can you bear it?) is already to corrupt it and overdetermine the experience. What is there to bear if not the “no way forward, no way back” of an a priori contact with eternity—this one thing that it is worth believing in? The temporal being can always choose to see itself in-One or from radical immanence: its existence in eternity which it lives (loops and lines and spirals of temporality aside).

Yet it is not even necessary to say that the soul is all there is, since there is nothing apart from its eternal traipse. Isn’t eternity lived non-personally? There may be an interpretation that leads me to love how it has graced my life, but we know that this level is not absolute. Eternity is gratitude incarnate in a generic, “fleeting” state of the universe? It is the One that loves you in-One since you are the One-in-person without desires or cares or actions or a self to deal with or negate, to test or create ex nihilo. Who does not seek? What non-seeking is there but One-in-One? Quasi-immobile, nonacting, at rest, static: all metaphors for its operation on temporality, phenomenological descriptions of its experience when compared with being a self in the world. But that in no way excludes the possibility that it also be the highest passion of subjectivity or the highest poverty of a socius redeemed.

The self-consumption it seems I must undertake is simply occasioned on temporality and the self-bind it seems to institute and communicate, but which is devalued in immanence. Personal and social considerations may retain priority, but the One under-comes prior-to-priority. Will it forever be a struggle? Or will it be a weep and a surrender—the shudder of peace and entrance into heaven, the feeling of ascension in the appearance of departure? Heart of flesh, warmth of heart, the love of the loving and the loved: such is the prayer we must, because we can, trust. One-time is “enough,” forever enough.

Yet how can I resist wanting more? This is the paradox of being human: push on all the more strongly because the end has been witnessed or experienced, assumed at any rate. How shall I exist tomorrow when today I already exist in eternity? Only eternity can answer that question; everything we know muddies the perspective. The one certainty here is almost impossible to bear; the whole comportment is of trust or prayer. The kindness of humans starts and ends there, less one vulnerability, but without outcome, a pure means without end or salvation or recuperation in strength.

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