Interesting that shamanism is coming up a lot lately. I’ve been reading about it in connection with schizophrenia, Michael mentioned it today, a few others recently, and I was given book on Psychomagic, too. If there is a reason why so many of us are looking at psychopathology- if we’re right to suspect that ‘generalised lunacy’ is here- then it seems like we’re also looking to the shamanic as a way out. Yes, a way out. I’ve been considering the left recently and it seem to come all too often to a game of hope and moral blackmail. The dream floats free of the dreamer and comes to dominate him. To escape the limits of reality.
I’m wondering if the best we can hope for is in fact the very evasion of control that has so often been cast as the ultimate irresponsibility. To every answer comes the question of how you feed 10billion people. The answer is you don’t because you can’t because to the unconscious the demand is that you- yes you Mr Hickman- get out there and distribute the loaves and the fishes. More leftist melancholy ensues, rhapsodising itself into the ultimate agonies of masochism, “radical victimology”. First task of control evasion is to evade the snares and traps of perpetual moralism.
Ballard said that he couldn’t get Burroughs; sexuality, drugs, and paranoia separated them. Ballard said Burroughs was an authentic paranoid. It’s trite but you got to ask it any, don’t you? The meaning of this paranoia. Clinically paranoids are marked by a cognitive deficits involving poor information gathering in relation to decision making, exacerbated by an over-active agential attribution system. It’s not wrong but it’s not enough. In Hegelese:
“The isolated person is thus, like the structureless mass of people,
object and not subject of the process of history. The heteronomous, the
controlled, the persecuted, the delusional paranoid is handed over
defenselessly to the objectively murderous relations of production of in
the hegemonic social “order.” Thus paranoia is a realistic expression of
Burroughs was all about this paranoia and it must be placed with his escapological aspects. Paranoia finds power everywhere and couples things up in an infinite and “bizarre” spiral of connectionism and interactionism such that the fear that you’ve irradiated my meal bespeaks Fukushima and the realities of everyday poison and the noxiousness of an irradiated psychosphere and the distrust of “the powerful” and it keeps connecting like an unending sentence that can’t and won’t ever abbreviate itself until a network or a spider’s web of conspiratorial energy is dispersed through the entire social fabric and and but it gets overinterpreted so that the psychiatric profession has been able to reabsorb the key insight and neutralise it.
Except that in tracing the capillary web of power it also comes to the startling conclusion that Baudrillard would make about Foucault’s theorisation of power: it is visible insofar as it disappears. It’s gone. It’s vanished. The paranoid has his nonspecific floating “They”- the conspiratorial plural- in order to reflect this still strange and probably still offensive news. Seeing that there is nothing to see and seeing it everywhere the paranoid is capable of following a path of disappearance. He is on the look out for shadowy corners in which to hide.
On the ‘immanent materiality of the ideal order itself’ I doubt there is anyone quite as up for it as Stirner, who as you might know is connected to Lacan through post-anarchism. Whatever. The materiality of the ideal can be spoken about but is it in terms of its effects or what? Lacan’s claims on the origin of knowledge in the paranoiac knowledge of objects: the idea that knowledge itself is persecutory. Isn’t it true? Isn’t it the case that consciousness itself is the very urgrund of all our persecutions?
To know thyself is to be lacerated by self-hate and to wrap it all up in self-love. That is why the phobia of negative thinking. The negative chatter in one’s own mind- I’m lazy, I’m a liar, I’m a hypocrite, I’m thick, my mind is arid, I have nothing important to say, I’m a bad lover, a bad father, a bad worker, a bad colleague, a bad communist, a bad whateverthefuckandIcan’tevendecideanything- is always treated as a persecutory enemy and identified as something to be dissolved, to be dissipated, to get some cognitive distance and disidentification from. Well it’s actually the opposite: this is the intimate paranoia that detects the defects in carrying this hallucination that you are a self at all. It’s not going away by wishing it away. You’ve got to get right in there. Disidentification, sure…but mind how you go. Why reject the dissatisfaction? Accelerate it to the point that it collapses the system of the semiology of negative self-attribution.
Simone Weil starved herself to death in solidarity with others. She might not be everyone’s favourite person to talk to about it, but for what it’s worth she had this much to say: “Turn all disgust into disgust with the self”.
They used to talk about getting out of your head. Jodorowsky has a psychomagical ritual for that. There are drugs for that. There are psychopathologies and ecstatic dancing and religious and mystical experiences to seek out for that. Oh dear. The postmodern shaman comes back around. I almost said temporary autonomous zone but I stopped myself. How do you feed 10billion people? You don’t just walk off, that’s for sure.
Our politics are serious. They are singularly serious. They come together with techne and rationalism. Out at the fringes we’re talking about re-engineering the whole thing. Fuck nature- nature’s just waiting to be mutated. Can we even start with ourselves? The neurostimulatory experiments in authentic desubjectivation. Fuck, can we even just begin with survival today and tomorrow and the soft warmth of our fragile shit smeared bodies. I’m not against xenofeminism; I’m not against anything xeno.
The return of the weightiness of rationalism raises a fear for those who see psychopathology not as all breakdown but also as breakthrough, as Laing put it. Paranoia, to be beside one’s own mind. Is this the first reactive wave against the new rationalism? It isn’t a rejection but a warping and side-ways looking everywhere at once. The return of reason breeds new and wonderful monsters. A new irrationalism.
I am an escapologist: for my first trick I will disappear from my own head.
Consequently since my arrival five hundred thousand years ago I’ve had one thought on my mind: the escape plan…
– William Burroughs
Rereading Burroughs is like falling through the abyss on glass wings, one is never sure if the shattered reflections on the black seas below are of one’s own paranoia or just the truth of nature revealed as alien topology. The cartography of annihilation is always a smile hiding in the dark. Burroughs is that smile.
Naked Lunch still packs the stiletto poetry of the street, a free flow impressionism that sinks deep. Burroughs voice is brisk and driven, speed is the game:
The Rube flips in the end, running through empty automats and subway stations, screaming: `Come back, kid!! Come back!!’ and follows his boy right into the East River, down through condoms and orange peels, mosaic of floating newspapers, down into the silent black ooze with gangsters…
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