On Magick, Technology, Philosophy, and Pop-Culture

Those are my main areas of interest. It may not sound like a whole lot, but you’d honestly be surprised at the kind of mileage you can get out of recombining them and applying them as lenses through which to look at the world.

Hello. I’m Damien Williams, known by many of you as Wolven. Klint did a pretty fantastic job of introducing me, last time, so I’m not going to rehash any of that. What I want to do, right now, is to point you at a few places where you can get a decent sense for the kinds of plans I have for what we’re going to be doing, around here.

First, there is, of course, the Mindful Cyborgs interview I did with Klint.

Then there’s my presentation from Magick.Codes.

My Master’s Thesis.

My article “Fairytales Of Slavery: Societal Distinctions, Technoshamanism, and Nonhuman Personhood.

And this atemporal conversation between myself and M1K3y, over at the Cosmic Anthropology Podcast.

What I want to be doing here is taking the time to engage in conversations with multiple thinkers about philosophical, religious, political, and occult perspectives on our science fictional present, and posting the audio, video, or transcriptions of either of those. I want to do this with some major frequency, but that requires the time and space to do so.

Which brings me to my next point: A discussion of an overarching framework of where A Future Worth Thinking About and Technoccult are headed. “Protected: Thinking About the Worth of the Future: Logistics.”

To be frank, it’s a money conversation. As I say, there, “I know we’re usually encouraged to not discuss anything as gauche as cash, in Western Society, but since we’re somehow still using a system of psychologically transferred and collectively-agreed-upon value to determine who gets to eat food, I say fuck it. Let’s talk it out.”

So please take a look, there, then tell your friends.

The Technoccult Tumblr is here.

Twitter handles are @Wolven and @Techn0ccult

The Perfunctory Facebook Page is here.

You can sign up for the newsletter here.

And as always, the Patreon is here.

That’s enough, for now. I need to go get back to work on some more substantive posts. See you next time. And thanks.

Mindful Cyborgs: What is Post-Nihilism? Part 2

The second installment of our interview with synthetic zero‘s Arran James and Michael Pyska. This time around, we talk about post-nihilism as political therapeutics, Stoicism and what we would do on the eve of human extinction.

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Post Nihilistic Whispers Part 2

You can find part one here.

Mindful Cyborgs: What Is Post-Nihilism?

First of all, starting this week Mindful Cyborgs has a new regular co-host: Sara M. Watson. This episode, she, Chris Dancy and I interviewed Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Synthetic Zero. We talked about Neitzsch, nihilism, post-nihilism, and Buddhism.

Tune in next week for the second half!

Mutation Vectors: A Fantastic Death Abyss

David Bowie Outside

Status Update

Just finished recording an episode of Mindful Cyborgs with Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Syntheticzero.

It was a great episode, and I can’t wait for it to be online, but it’s left me in a weirder than usual headspace.


So what is post-nihilism? I should probably tell you to wait til the podcast is out. But in the meantime, here’s a bit from an article Arran and Michael wrote in the Occupied Times:

After nihilism, then, are embodied realisations of and exposures to vibrant ecologies of being offering an ultimately untameable wilderness which we participate in on an equal footing with all other bodies, even if we have an unequal ecological effect. In order to cope-with and cope-within the wilderness of being we must abandon the charnel-house of meaning and its theological tyrannies once and for all. As coping-beings we must leave our reifications behind in order to engage in post-nihilist praxis: an ecologistics of tracing these rhythms and activities, their multiple couplings and decouplings, and taking responsibility for our way of cohabiting in, with and alongside other bodies.


Finally getting around to playing A Dark Room, a text-based game I’ve mentioned before. It’s like Oregon Trail meets The Road. Dark stuff indeed.


I’ve been listening to David Bowie’s Outside a lot this week. It was the first Bowie album I ever heard, back when I was a teenage rivethead, but I hadn’t listened to it in a good 14 years. Back then I knew it was supposed to be a concept album, and that Bowie had worked with Brian Eno on it, but that was about it. From Wikipedia:

Bowie and Eno visited the Gugging psychiatric hospital near Vienna, Austria in early 1994 and interviewed and photographed its patients who were famous for their “Outsider Art.”[1] Bowie and Eno brought some of that art back with them into the studio[1] as they worked together in March 1994, coming up with a three-hour piece that was mostly dialog. Late in 1994, Q magazine asked Bowie to write a diary for 10 days (to later be published in the magazine), but Bowie, fearful his diary would be boring (“…going to a studio, coming home and going to bed”), instead wrote a diary for one of the fictional characters (Nathan Adler) from his earlier improvisation with Eno. Bowie said “Rather than 10 days, it became 15 years in his life!” This became the basis for the story of Outside.

Here’s the Adler diary.

I was never able to follow the narrative of Outside, but this page tries to unpack the songs and stitch the story together.

BTW, there were also some fantastic moments on the Outside tour, like Bowie singing “Scary Monsters,” “Reptile” and “Hurt” and others with Nine Inch Nails.

The Aesthetics of Noise

Torben Sangild writes:

Apollo represents appearance, form, individuality, beauty and dream; the Apollonian aesthetics is an embellishment of suffering, a self-conscious lie, a veiling of cruelty by use of form and elegance, a semblance of beauty. Dionysus, on the other hand, represents ecstasy, being, will, intoxication and unity; the Dionysian aesthetics is a direct confrontation with the terrible foundation of being, an absurd will driving us all in our meaningless lives. In the Dionysian ecstasy individuality is transgressed6 in favor of identification with the universal will – a frightening yet blissful experience. Frightening, that is, because it is a death-like giving up of the Ego, if only for a few seconds; blissful in letting go of the responsibilities of being a subject. The Dionysian experience is a “metaphysical comfort”, knowing that suffering is a necessary part of the effects of the eternal will – the destruction of things in order to create anew. In the Dionysian ecstasy one is no longer concerned with one’s individual suffering, seeing instead things from the universal point of view.

In music, the ecstasy of noise is undoubtedly a Dionysian effect, as opposed to the Apollonian melody and form.7 As mentioned above, the German words Rausch (ecstasy) and Geräusch (noise) are related, pointing towards this fact. The Dionysian is that which is not totally controlled or formed, e.g. screams and noises. The Apollonian elements are seductive, inciting the listener to enter the ecstatic bliss of the Dionysian, enabling the listener to dare the confrontation with the dreadfulness of existence. Therefore, Nietzsche says, the Dionysian needs the Apollonian.

Merzbow is so demanding exactly because he refuses this; he does not soften the harshness of noise with any Apollonian elements. Listening to Merzbow is thus a very different experience from the Sonic Youth maelstrom.

One of the reasons for the ecstatic effect of noise is its sublime character. The sublime is that which exceeds the limits of the senses, perceived as chaos or vastness. Despite our ability to put these words to it, the sublime goes beyond making sense – we never really understand it. The complexity of noise (in the acoustic sense) overloads the ears and the nervous system and is perceived as an amorphous mass, incomprehensible yet stirring. The delight of the sublime is the satisfaction of confronting the unfathomable.

Full Story: Ubu Web: The Aesthetics of Noise

(Thanks Adam and Ryan!)

The effect of diminished belief in free will

Tom Stafford wrote:

Psychologists have used this section of the book, or sentences taken from it or inspired by it, to induce feelings of determinism in experimental subjects. A typical study asks people to read and think about a series of sentences such as “Science has demonstrated that free will is an illusion”, or “Like everything else in the universe, all human actions follow from prior events and ultimately can be understood in terms of the movement of molecules”.

The effects on study participants are generally compared with those of other people asked to read sentences that assert the existence of free will, such as “I have feelings of regret when I make bad decisions because I know that ultimately I am responsible for my actions”, or texts on topics unrelated to free will.

And the results are striking. One study reported that participants who had their belief in free will diminished were more likely to cheat in a maths test. In another, US psychologists reported that people who read Crick’s thoughts on free will said they were less likely to help others. […]

This puts an extra burden of responsibility on philosophers, scientists, pundits and journalists who use evidence from psychology or neuroscience experiments to argue that free will is an illusion. We need to be careful about what stories we tell, given what we know about the likely consequences.

Fortunately, the evidence shows that most people have a sense of their individual freedom and responsibility that is resistant to being overturned by neuroscience. Those sentences from Crick’s book claim that most scientists believe free will to be an illusion. My guess is that most scientists would want to define what exactly is meant by free will, and to examine the various versions of free will on offer, before they agree whether it is an illusion or not.

Full Story: Mind Hacks: The effect of diminished belief in free will

Interesting stuff, especially when considered alongside the Milgram experiments, which turned out not to be very sound. It also brings to mind the Kitty Genovese myth. If this effect is real, it is important to be aware of it so that we can try to overide it in ourselves.

Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism

A former student of philosopher — or perhaps “ex-philosopher? — Nick Land writes about the man’s work on the occasion of the publication of a collection of his writings:

Before I met Land, I already knew of him through the gossip of new undergraduates taken aback by what they had heard on the grapevine: Did Land really claim that he had come back from the dead? Did he really think he was an android sent from the future to terminate human security? In person he belied these outrageous claims (both of which he did indeed make in writing), being thoroughly polite and amiable and, above all, willing to engage in earnest conversation with anyone. He had paid his philosophical dues and could hold his own in a discussion with any professor; these discussions often turning vituperative, however, as Land railed against the institution and its conservatism. But he preferred to spend his time in the bar with undergraduates, always buying the drinks, smoking continually, and conversing animatedly (and where possible, vehemently) about any topic whatsoever.

Land was perhaps not the greatest teacher from the point of view of obtaining a sober and solid grounding in one’s subject – but more importantly, his lectures had about them a genuine air of excitement – more like Deleuze at the Sorbonne in ’68 than the dreary courses in Epistemology one had to endure at a provincial British university in the 90s. Not only was the course he taught pointedly entitled ‘Current French Philosophy’ – a currency otherwise alien to our curriculum — more importantly, Land’s teaching was also a sharing of his own research-in-progress. This was unheard-of: philosophy actually being done, rather than being interpreted at second-hand?! He would sweep his audience into a speculative vortex of philosophy, economics, literature, biology, technology, and disciplines as-yet unnamed – before immobilizing them again with some startling claim or gnomic declaration. And as Land spoke, he prowled the classroom, sometimes clambering absentmindedly over the common-room chairs like an outlandish mountain goat, sometimes poised squatting on the seat of a chair like an overgrown mantis.

Full Story: Divus: Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism

Also, Simon Reynolds wrote a piece on Land’s CCRU group back in 1999 that sheds some light on the period:

“It was pretty obvious that a theoretically Left-leaning critique could be maintained quite happily but it wasn’t ever going to get anywhere,” says Plant. “If there was going to be scope for any kind of….not ‘resistance’, but any kind of discrepancy in the global consensus, then it was going to have to come from somewhere else.” That elsewhere was certain passages in A Thousand Plateaus where Deleuze & Guattari suggest that, in Plant’s words, “you don’t try and slow things down, you encourage them to go fast as possible. Which was interestingly connected to Marx’s ideas about capitalism sweeping away the past. So we got into this stance of ‘oh well, let it sweep away! Maybe it should sweep away faster’.” Other crucial influences were neo-Deleuzian theorist Manuel De Landa’s idea of “capitalism as the system of antimarkets”, and, says Plant, historian-of-everyday-life Fernand Braudel’s conception of capitalism as “an amalgam of would-be free market forces and state/ corporate/centralised control functions. So there isn’t really any such thing called ‘capitalism’, it’s just a coincidence of those two really extreme and opposed tendencies.”

Plant and the CCRU enthuse about bottom-up, grass-roots, self-organising activity: street markets, “the frontier zones of capitalism”, what De Landa calls “meshwork”, as opposed to corporate, top-down capitalism. It all sounds quite jovial, the way they describe it now–a bustling bazaar culture of trade and “cutting deals”. But “Cyberpositive” actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the “cyberpathology of markets”, celebrating capitalism as “a viral contagion” and declaring “everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind”. In Nick Land solo essays like “Machinic Desire” and “Meltdown”, the tone of morbid glee is intensified to an apocalyptic pitch. There seems to be a perverse and literally anti-humanist identification with the “dark will” of capital and technology, as it “rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities”. In “Meltdown”, Land declares: “Man is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag”.

This gloating delight in capital’s deterritorialising virulence is the CCRU’s reaction to the stuffy complacency of Left-wing academic thought; a sort of rubbing salt in the wounds (as when Land jibes at the “senile spectre” of Socialism, an allusion to The Communist Manifesto). “There’s definitely a strong alliance in the academy between anti-market ideas and completely schleroticised, institutionalised thought,” says Mark Fisher. “Marx has been outdated by cybernetic theory. It’s obvious that capitalism isn’t going to be brought down by its contradictions. Nothing ever died of contradictions!”. Exulting in capitalism’s permanent “crisis mode”, CCRU believe in the strategic application of pressure to accelerate the tendencies towards chaos. The real struggle, says Fisher in fluent Deleuzian, is within capitalism and between “homogenisation processes and nomadic distribution.”.

Full Story: Simon Reynolds: RENEGADE ACADEMIA: THE Cybernetic Culture Research Unit

(Both links via hautepop)

Meltdown” is perhaps Land’s best known work.

Many of Land’s former students — including Fisher — seem to have given up this fetishization of capitalism. Some now favor of an anti-neoliberal “accelerationsimthat sounds an awful lot like autonomism to me (see also this critique of accerlerationsim). (Update: I was missing the key point of accelerationism, which is still the idea of speeding up capitalism to watch it crash and burn).

Land, meanwhile, has ridden that neoliberal reality tunnel to its (il)logical conclusion: neo-reaction.

See Also:

Manuel DeLanda

Mark Fisher

Sadie Plant

A Theory Of Darkness. Also: Archives

Want an idea of what may or may not be discussed at Weird Shift Con?

Adam Rothstein wrote:

Dark Theory is both new and old. But to elucidate, if not to illuminate the ongoing practices of Dark Theory, it would be useful to review a number of the areas where Dark Theory finds itself reestablishing the darkness, coloring in the faded black paint, and erecting new shades to produce more shadow. There is nothing that can be properly said to either “be” Dark Theory or “not be”. It is impossible to tell whether the dark is due to neglect, or to attention; there is no distinction between negative value established by the mainstream, and positive value repaired by the undercurrent. The only thing that can be said is that Dark Theory has an interest. There are places where Dark Theory focuses its attention, like a pack of wolves turning their heads in recognition of an unfamiliar scent, whether prey or predator. Like rainwater, black and silent, nestling into the depressions of rock and soil, Dark Theory invests itself, collecting liquid potential across the pores and gullies of terrain, seeping down to pool in saturated dirt within the basin of rock, below. It is here that we will look for it, taking an interest in where it interests itself. Let us sink these wells, and drink of what rises to the surface.

He goes on to list several examples: black magic, black metal, crust, black bloc, black ops, black power, black flag, darknet, dark euphoria.

And Tim Maly wrote for Contents Magazine about “dark archives”:

First, let me show you three things that dark archives are not. On the left is an artist’s conception of the burned Library of Alexandria. That great library was once an archive, but when it was destroyed, it was destroyed utterly. It is no dark archive, it is simply gone. Proceeding clockwards, we have an artist’s rendering of the universal theory that connects gravity to quantum mechanics. This theory and countless other pieces of missing scientific knowledge are contained in no dark archive (so far as we know). They are simply unknown. They remain to be discovered. Finally, we have a screenshot of Amazon.com’s homepage. Its database of goods is vast, but Amazon invests considerable resources in ensuring that whatever is there is findable, and, through its network of affiliate links and public relations, ensuring that we know to look. Its archives are bright. […]

Known knowns. Known unknowns. Unknown unknowns.

If you think about that formulation, you’ll see that there is an unspoken fourth quadrant. These are the unknown knowns: the things we don’t know that we know. It is appropriate to our field of study that Mr. Rumsfeld left it off.

He cites the August 6th 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” as an example. He also writes about ships’ log books, which for many years were thought of as just antiques, but are now valuable to climate scientists. Once recognized for their value, the log books left the realm of “dark archive” and entered the ranks of “normal” archives.

Corporations Are “Bad AI”

Tim Maly writes:

One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us. […]

And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met.

I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it.

Full Story: Quiet Babylon: The Singularity Already Happened; We Got Corporations

See also: Yes, There is a Sub-Reddit Dedicated to Preventing SkyNet

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Biography

Lengthy review of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives by written by François Dosse and translated by Deborah Glassman:

Deleuze and Guattari were hardly alone in thinking that the unconscious might have something to add to left-wing politics, and that it might even speed the revolution. Attempts to fuse Marx and Freud were very much in vogue. But Anti-Oedipus had little in common with Freudo-Marxism, with its lyrical dream of a revolution that would, in a single stroke, free individual desire from bourgeois repression and the proletariat from capitalism. The individual was of no interest to Deleuze and Guattari, and though they referred to the proletariat the mention seemed dutiful. Their goal wasn’t to liberate human beings, but rather the current of desire that happened to flow through them. […]

Guattari, at La Borde, had tried to enable subjugated groups to become subject groups, and he and Deleuze had come to believe it was patronising, authoritarian, even fascist, to speak on anyone else’s behalf, which is what intellectuals in France had always done. As Foucault noted in his introduction to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus, their true adversary was not so much capitalism as ‘the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us’.

Full Story: London Review of Books: Desire Was Everywhere

(via Abe Burmeister)

© 2015 Technoccult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑