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"But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
     - Matthew 8:12

Instead of weeping and gnashing our teeth we should welcome the great outdoors, the outside world, the darkness of the unintelligible, where as Eugene Thacker remarks, the horror of thought and its "furtive, miasmatic unintelligibility" is itself the central concept within which our thoughts on nature and life can be thought without the sovereignty of the human-centric pose; and, instead, we begin to discern the "unhuman, a life without us." [1] Listening to the droning metronomic distensions of Xasthur with its deep bellowing notes and raw monstrous vocals that howl from the night land of our voidic solitudes one can get a hint at this inhuman realm of life lived without us and indifferent to all our desires or thoughts toward it. Like banshees from some hideous nightmare realm the electronic chords rupture out of the void beating to a rhythm that  implodes the human into wastelands devoid of  hope and marked only by the tears of despair. Left in this abyss we discover the "nothingness that is and the nothingness that is not" that Wallace Stevens once regarded as the deep force of life itself.

What if life itself were based on an absolute negation, a transcendental nihil? What if the tenebrous force of absolute non-existence is that which brings about existence-in-itself?  What if the dark intelligible abyss of nature surrounding us on all sides held the keys to the unintelligibility of our own negativity, our own self-conscious nothingness? Thacker tells us that "superlative Life, that which never "runs out," cannot simply be thought positively... but it must instead be thought negatively, as that which is nothing (nihil) precisely because it is superlative" (ibid.). If this is true then he concludes "this means that the only relation between Life and the living is a non-relation, or a relation of, literally, nothing" (ibid.)  After an interesting divigationary exploration into the negative ontologies of both Pseudo-Dionysus and Eriugena he comes to the conclusion that "Superlative Life is defined as the necessary inaccessibility of Life to the living. To this, we can append a note on method: the ground and the limit of any ontology of Life is a negative ontology" (ibid.). 

Can life be thought in non-anthropomorphic ways? The difficulty surrounding older forms of thought such as theology and philosophy, and the boundaries between first philosophy (how those following Aristotle considered meta, as after, physics: metaphysics) and a philosophy of nature, or Naturephilosophy (in a Schellingian sense) is a floating target within all speculative thought.  Thacker promotes what he terms a "dark pantheism" which puts forth "challenge of thinking, under the sign of the negative, the conjunction of pure immanence and inventive life - with the caveat that this thought itself is thought as fundamentally exterior to all anthropomorphism. We would be tempted to call this "misantrhopology" - and in this sense, pantheism as a conjunction of immanence and life is also the horizon of thought itself" (ibid.). Going into further detail he says, "The question of dark pantheism is, then, a question about "life," insofar as it is irreducible to any biologistic substrate, is also a question about thought. The thought of life - or rather, the limit of the thought of life - is a central preoccupation of this kind of dark pantheism" (ibid.). Ultimately any dark pantheism must confront not only the challenge of all reductionisms, but also "deal with the difficulty of articulating the transcendent - especially when, in dark pantheism, the ontology of life is indelibly wrapped up with a notion of pure immanence" (ibid.).

Thacker lays out a set of axioms as guides or notes on method for a dark pantheism:

1) The inaccessibility of God/Being. 
2) There is also a God/Being for itself.
3) "Life" is the point at which equivocity is introconvertible with univocity.
4) This leads to a question: What happens when the equivocal notion of the divine is layered onto the univocal notion of nature?
5) If this is the case, one would then have to consider a number of conjunctions, such as equivocal inexistence + the univocal creature, or the divine inaccessible + dark immanence.
6) Dark pantheism would be, taken broadly, the thought of the conjunction of immanence and life, under the sign of the negative. And the question this poses would be, quite simply: does life = generosity = nihil?

This takes us into the dark horror of such writers as H.P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson in which "the crux of supernatural horror, the reason why life is "weird" is that what is monstrous "can barely be named, let alone adequately described or thought"(ibid.). It is this limit to thought, this inexplicable thing that cannot be named "which presents itself as a horizon of thought," one that withdraws from the "possibility of a logic of life, though an inaccessible logic, one that is absolutely inaccessible to the human, the natural, the earthly - an "entelechy of the weird." (ibid.) As Thacker tells us for "Lovecraft, the weird is not a discovery of an aberration, which would place us in the context of law, norm, and the monster. Rather, the weird is the discovery of an unhuman limit to thought, that is nevertheless foundational for thought.The life that is weird is the life according to the logic of an inaccessible real, a life "out of space and time," and life of "extra-dimensional biologies." However this does not mean that life remains mystical and ineffable; life cannot be thought, not because it is poetry, the sublime, or even the noumenal. Rather, life cannot be thought because it can only be thought through a logic of contradiction, and contradiction is - as Aristotle reminds us - the very bedrock of rational thought itself" (ibid.).



1. After Life by Eugene Thacker (The University of Chicago Press 2010)

* Note: I'm using the Kindle for PC version of this book at the moment, which uses relations rather than page numbers, so have been unable to use page number in the ibid's. I have tried the Kindle Page Tool but with little success (i.e., seems to change from approximation to approximation based upon my resolution etc.) 


 

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S.C. Hickman
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S.C. Hickman

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