Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On the Mystical Love of Black Metal (P.E.S.T. abstract)

Deep in the shadows wings take to flight through clouds of chaos where stars die
– Inquisition, “Across the Abyss Ancient Horns Bray,” Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

That which neither creates nor is created . . . is classed among the impossibles, for its essence lies in that it cannot be [cuius differentia est non posse esse]
– John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon  

The love of black metal twists toward absolute cosmic exteriority along a mystical path of intensive inversion. Ordinate mysticism takes an inward and upward path to God as the source and goal of everything, withdrawing from the exterior phenomenal world in order to ascend beyond it to the One in a movement that is anabatic, apophatic, and anagogic (Plotinus, Enneads, 4.8.1; Augustine, Confessions, 7.10,16; Pseudo-Dionysius, Mystical Theology, 1.1). The love of black metal, reversely and contrarily, leads downwards and outwards into a paradoxically disordered and multiple cosmos that is no less divine, pursuing a musical path that is catabatic, cataphatic, and apogogic (a path, however, that necessarily twists these terms according to its own essential negativity). Where music traditionally aims to mimetically ascend to hyper-central divine truth through the harmony of the celestial spheres, black metal’s noisy anti-modern sonic drive coordinately plunges into the depths only to release and radically fly upon the infinite centrifugal power or negative cosmic wind of sound itself. Crucially, this distinction, between the ordered mystical love of God and the disordered mysticism that love of black metal inescapably is, is not a pure opposition. Like the Petrine Cross that at once marks the temporally separate twin foundations of the terrestrial ecclesia and the heavy acosmic kvlt, black metal love is a most intimate transposition of its spiritual precursor, a dissemblance that exacerbates and intensifies the still, unmoving point of identity with what it inverts. This point, the secret moment or punctum around which black metal assemblies anarchically gather, is perversely legible in moments of black metal complicity with essential ‘disordering’ counter-movements within medieval mystical discourse, for instance, Richard of St. Victor’s representation of the God-enflamed soul as spontaneously sinking into the divine will like liquefied black metal (On the Four Degrees of Violent Charity), Mechthild of Magdeburg’s exaltation of the soul’s descent into the night of separation: “O blissful distance from God, how lovingly am I connected with you!”, and Meister Eckhart’s prayer to be rid of God. Arguing that the modern love of black metal is, willy-nilly, a profound and fresh form of mysticism, a desperate contemplation of the divine manifesting the ‘desire to be everything’ (Bataille), this lecture will demonstrate, with special reference to the works of Inquisition and John Scotus Eriugena, how black metal and mysticism are lovingly united in the dark pestilential space of excessive and compound negativity, a new realm of the not not God.

Monday, September 05, 2011

God's Machine Gaping: On Gary J. Shipley's Theoretical Animals

Like floating down a divinely limitless fluvial junkyard, like knowing in ever more concrete and literal ways that life is a corpsy dream from which you do not wake, like moving along an opium-stream of deathly imagining towards some sea that only invisibly and never arrives, like some gnostic conspiracy in which certain favorite authors (maybe Baudelaire, Lovecraft, Lautréamont, McCarthy, Rimbaud – “Si je désire une eau d'Europe, c'est la flache / Noire et froide où vers le crépuscule embaumé / Un enfant accroupi plein de tristesses, lâche / Un bateau frêle comme un papillon de mai”) would be only indigent fellow  informants . . . reading Theoretical Animals places one in a terrifyingly vexed position – traumatic and unspeakably hopeful – of being singular witness to the diurnal drama of cosmic crime. To ‘review’ it would be wrong, a violence to the kaleidoscopy of a truth that is prismatically evident in each opening of the page: “I can’t believe I’m still waiting to get out” (102). I cannot read the book in modern, serial fashion, but must only consult it oracularly, like a sepulchral tome of inverted koans. And this haptic relation is continually mirrored in its murderous mudlark world: “Half an arm, cleanly severed at the elbow lays hidden in a riverbank slagheap. On the inside of the wrist is a skull with coded teeth. . . . One is led to suspect that this is not an isolated instance, that this has happened before and will happen again” (64). There is no end to the consultation, to the violence of our freshly wanting to know what it is all about. Proving the magic, this is what the text now says about its use: “Sticky patrons wriggling from the waist down discuss the importance of hermetic precautions. At specific intervals each reads aloud from one of the many instruction manuals fastened to the walls with thin blue ropes” (59). A philosophical consolation, but one in which, around the flabby gravity of bodies, philosophy and consolation are only mutual, manual laminates.
The reason why the work is called Theoretical Animals is that its visions, whatever beauty or horror they happen to be of, always restore one to the beauty-horror of vision itself, to the fact of being something chained alive in the grotto of seeing in all its senses. And this is a fact that Shipley’s scenes often dramatize and refract: “A sliver of sunlight found its way into that grim basement, and I saw on the faces of my fellow players the look that was my own I saw lust free of restraint; I saw hunger thriving in its processes, a hunger that had made a mirage of every forseeable end. I found myself digging down into their blank eyes for company and finding nothing but endless reflections chasing their source” (54). Or: “I looked and the mirror infected me. I did not recognize my contamination” (114). Which suggests a good way of grasping the book as whole, as a kind of decaying, nigredic transmutation of Plato’s cave parable into a dream-river awash with objects whose truncated incompleteness proves that they are but will never only be shadows. There is another way out behind and below the puppet show, a dark stream running through the earth.  The current, co-extensive with pathetic human consciousness itself, is suffused, like water electrified with broken machinery, with the divine shock of citation: the power of seeing anything to break free from the false world: “A stumbled montage of mutilated words and open mouths shield us from irrelevant friends” (116).