February 13th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

F.W.J. Schelling: Freedom and Will; or the striving for actuality

"In the final and highest judgment, there is no other Being than will. Will is primal Being [Ursein] to which alone all predicates of Being apply: groundlessness, eternality, independence from time, self-affirmation. All of philosophy strives only to find this highest expression."
          - F.W.J. Schelling



What is evil? What is freedom? For Schelling "freedom is the capacity for good and evil" (HF: 23).  Commenting on the newest trends in philosophy of his age from Descartes on Schelling said that it "has the common defect that nature is not available for it and that it lacks a living ground" (HF: 26). He believed that idealism and realism were the soul and body of philosophy and that together they constituted a living whole. His Philosophical Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom were to be conducted under the fundamental principles of a "true philosophy of nature" (HF: 27). The basis of his natural philosophy of science begins in the distinction between being as it exists and being as the ground of existence (HF: 27).

For Schelling the ground is nature in God, a "being indeed inseparable, yet still distinct, from him. Ultimately "nature in general is everything that lies beyond the absolute Being of absolute identity" (HF: 28). Anarchy rules within the darkness of this ground: this "is the incomprehensible base of reality in things, the indivisible remainder, that which with the greatest exertion cannot be resolved in understanding but rather remains eternally in the ground" (HF: 29). He goes on to tell us that "understanding is born in the genuine sense from that which is without understanding. Without this preceding darkness creatures have no reality; darkness is their necessary inheritance" (HF: 29).  Nature as being is "nothing else than the eternal ground for the existence of God, it must contain within  itself, although locked up, the essence of God as a resplendent glimpse of life in the darkness of the depths" (HF: 29).

What's interesting is that what arises out of nature is seen as an impression [Ein-Bildung], rather than an external representation, since as he states it "nature is impressed [hineingebildet] into here or, still more correctly, nothing else than the eternal ground for the existence of God, it must contain within  itself, although locked up, the essence of God as a resplendent glimpse of life in the darkness of the depths" (HF: 31). The highest aspirations of philosophy is to "show how each succeeding process approaches closer to the essence of nature, until the innermost center appears in the highest division of forces" (HF: 31). This dualistic conception at the heart of his philosophical enterprise begins with "pure craving or desire, that is, blind will" (HF: 32) Only in man is the "whole power of the dark principle and at the same time the whole strength of the light. In him there is the deepest abyss and the loftiest sky or both centra" (HF: 32).

In this passage we see Schelling as a precursor of Freud, seeking a conception of drives and the balance of conscious and not conscious (unconscious):

"Indeed, this dark principle is active in animals as well as in all other natural beings, yet it is still not born into the light in them as it is in man: it is not spirit and understanding but blind craving and desire; in short, no fall, no separation of principles is possible here where there is still no absolute or personal unity. The conscious and not conscious are unified in animal instinct only in a certain and determinate way which for that very reason is unalterable. For just on that account, because they are only relative expressions of unity, they are subject to it, and the force active in the ground retains the unity of principles befitting them always in the same proportion. Animals are never able to emerge from unity, whereas man can voluntarily tear apart the eternal bond of forces" (HF: 40).

We discover that evil is "nothing other  than the primal ground [Urgrund] of existence to the extent this ground strives toward actuality in created beings and therefore is in fact only the higher potency of the ground active in nature" (HF: 44). Continuing he explicates:

"For, as in the initial creation, which is nothing other than the birth of light, the dark principle had to be as ground so that the light could be raised out of it (as from mere potency to actuality), so there must be another ground of the birth of spirit and, hence, a second principle of darkness that must be just as much higher than the first as spirit is higher than the light. This principle is the very spirit of evil that has been awoken in creation by arousal of the dark ground of nature, that is, the turning against each other[Entzweiung]of light and darkness, to which the spirit of love opposes now a higher ideal, just as the light had done previously in regard to the anarchic movement of initial nature" (HF: 44).

After Schelling both Freud and Lacan follow like afterthoughts in a complex dialogue between those centra that are both abyss and sky.


1. F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom (State University of New York 2006)
S.C. Hickman

Nick Land: The Philosophy of the Rat God; or, is the Werewolf a philosopher of Time?

"Let us not forget that philosophy is also primate psychology; that our loftiest speculations are merely picking through a minuscule region of the variegated slime encrusting a speck of dust."
     - Nick Land, Spirit and Teeth


"Your words, Euthyphro, are like the handiwork of my ancestor Daedalus; and if I were the sayer or propounder of them, you might say that my arguments walk away and will not remain fixed where they are placed because I am a descendant of his."
     - Socrates



Nick Land finds god in the sewers, not so much that ancient leprous visage of Yahweh hiding in shadows, as it is his poseur, an imposter and fretful son, his last fragmentary hope of a broken messiah: a god of mud and slime living among the rats like a subterranean king in the cesspool of a tumorous thought. No longer the great god of the Old Testament, this forgotten Yahweh lives among his own brethren, regressed to his true form as the King of Rats: his vermin-core eating alive all those false religions that still inhabit this dark bunghole of a globe. This is the vision of poets, one such as Georg Trakl (the lycanthropic metamorphosis of god into beast, into rat, being fed by a young boy during those twilight moments between day and night):

"In the evening, the father became an old man; in dark rooms the mother's face petrified, and the curse of the degenerated race weighed on the boy. Sometimes he remembered his childhood filled with sickness, terror and eclipse, secret games in the garden of stars, or feeding the rats in the dusking courtyard. From the blue mirror the narrow figure of the sister stepped and he fell as if dead into darkness. At night his mouth burst open like a red fruit and stars gleamed over his speechless grief. His dreams filled the ancient house of the fathers. In the evening he liked to walk over the ruined cemetery or watch the corpses in the dusking crypts, with green stains of rot on their beautiful hands" (Georg Trakl, Dream and Derangement).

Land tells us that "animality is not a state, essence, or genus, but a complex cross - cut by voyages of all kinds" (54). [1] This is the black world of dead-ends and stagnant sumps, open flows: a world in which things emerge multiple, fluid, unpredictable, shadow realms in which the enemy of humankind is a mutable excess metamorphosing, lupine and murine, a volcanic eruption of pure productivity without closure. As Land says, these "intensive sequences cannot be isolated or determined" (54). The darkness of one speaks to the darkness of the other. Meaning wanders from slime to slime like the hidden remains of strange creatures that have gone extinct only to emerge as something else, form within form evolving under the guise of some other form, masked only by the predatory gaze of their ferine eyes.
 
Like everything else we have little time to ponder the niceties of either poetry or philosophy, Land explodes; and, in Trakl we discover the "lycanthropic vectors of  impatience, of twitch disease, because they are the virulent relics of an indecent precipitation, an abortion, a meteoric impact" (44). Dead a twenty-seven Trakl "took very little time over anything", unlike philosophical purveyors of 'spirit' (Geist) like Derrida for whom time was an interminable trace of a trace never to be closed off.  For Derrida there is infinite patience, a staying off, a tomorrow into which one can spin the meanings of meaning, impress them in their moment of passage between the abyss and sky. With such a man there is no sense of urgency, only the "prescription of painstaking care, deliberation, conscientiousness, and reverential textual devotion" (44).

Languorous and methodical "inspired by principles of decency and justice. Everything is mediated by elucidations, re-elucidations, elucidations of previous elucidations, conducted with meticulous courtesy, but never inattentive to the complicity of the concept of elucidation with the history of metaphysics from Plato to the previous paragraph of De l'esprit" (44).  This is a man for whom even God must wait, be put off, stubbornly refused his day in the sun until just the right moment when the appropriate and appropriated words can be found: formed, shaped, and spun into a web of deceit, a lie against all anteriority, against both past and future - a staying of the hand of that impossible possible finitude (44), which only the interminable passage of ghosts can differ within the silence between two mourning alterity's...

For Trakl and Rimbaud there is only the beast, the instinctive knowledge of the forest and the jungle, the emergence of slime in a dust born germ: the human into wolf, a darker force measuring itself against all darkness. The nihil gazing into the Void out of which the Nihil gazes back: a black thought in a black void silenced only by its own merciless capacity to destroy that which is not void. The broken dream of a broken god, a force that is at once life and death: the emergence of an entwined progeny - dueling twins warring against all that is, bringing with it the strange things that have no name or meaning. The positing of a non-meaning that gives rise to all meaning. Out of the gaze of humans emerges that which is not human, a force of the void that calls each to each from within the very core of a volcanic eruption that is our feral being: the ferocity of dust.

As Land tells us Derrida is not a werewolf (44). No. Werewolves "are dissipated within homolupic spiral that distances them utterly from all concern for decency or justice. Their feral physiologies are badly adapted to depressive states conducive to ethical earnestness. Instead they are propelled by extremities of libidinal tension which fragment their movements, break up their tracks with jagged discontinuities, and infest their nerves with a burning malaise, so that each gesture is baked in the kiln of ferocity" (44). Hermeneutics and deconstruction are of an other order than the dark materials of werewolves. No. One must follow the likes of Trakl to know the fast lane of the libidinal drivenness of werewolves, a philosophy of mutability and metamorphosis, a materiality that explodes all recursions to Geist. Or with Rimbaud one must affirm that one has always already been a subspecies "an inferior race" (45). As Rimbaud says: "I am not able to comprehend revolt. My race never stirs itself except for pillage: like wolves at the beast they have not killed" (45). 

We werewolves of philosophy are an "accursed race," as Trakl told us; or, as his brother Rimbaud, we are a lost tribe "communicating its dirty blood in wilderness spaces of barbarian inarticulacy" 45). As Land tells us in one last dark epiphany: "Eternally aborting the prospect of a transcendental subjectivity, the inferior ones are never captured by contractual reciprocity, or by its attendant moral universalism" (45). These dark ones crave "pagan regressions": it "is only with the greatest strictness that the superior ones repress the violent drives which lure them into inferior becomings; becoming female, black, irresponsible and nomadic, becoming an animal, a plant, a death spasm of the sun" (45). Only the cold bone moon can save such creatures from the dark nomadic wanderings of this feral abyss; the rest is Time's cruel markings, the fragments of a void churning in an ocean of blackness:

The moon shines with such blue light
Upon the city,
Where a decaying generation
Lives, cold and evil -

Icy winds quarrel in the darkness.

       -  Georg Trakl, from both The Evening and The Rats




1. Of Derrida, Heidegger, and spirit ed. David C. Wood, Spirit and Teeth by Nick Land (Northwestern University 1993)