Saturday, July 07, 2012

Absolute Secrecy: On the Infinity of Individuation

To preserve a place is to preserve distinction. Therefore I pray God to make me free of God, for my essential being is above God, taking God as the origin of creatures. For in that essence of God in which God is above being and distinction, there I was myself and knew myself so as to make this man. Therefore I am my own cause according to my essence, which is eternal, and not according to my becoming, which is temporal.
– Meister Eckhart

[T]he essence of my self arises from this—that nothing will be able to replace it: the feeling of my fundamental improbability situates me in the world where I remain as though foreign to it, absolutely foreign.
– Georges Bataille

My secret to myself, my secret to myself, woe is me.
– Isaiah 24:16

You fear. For yourself. Because you are yourself. Because you are afraid. That you are not.
Things seem calm here. It covers the fact that everyone is shrieking in terror, I cannot win, and I am afraid to lose.[1]
This paper will address you, somehow, the one who is the problem (of individuation), the problem itself. It would be nice to speak to you radically, infernally, near the roots where you are you, that is, in hell.
Maybe one day a mystical poet will pass through here on the way to meet his beloved in paradise, talk with us where we really live.  
I am not supposed to do this. Take your pick of the reasons why, choose your favorite form of protest or civility. Already you are found out, and starting to burn. Because no one is supposed to be here.
So eager to be someone, so captivated and distracted, so smart and touchy, so interested and careless, so abstract and situated in what others think. So worried . . . sick. Insanity is the common, downhill routine, madness simply being lost in time, immersed in automatic identification with thought/feeling/body.
Why do you fool around with your life? How do you live with yourself? What causes you to go to all the trouble, to be so involved? Individuation is an anonymous material.
Everyone is a devil, a liar burning daily in willful, decisional self-deception. “You have ordained and so it is,” says Augustine “that every disorder of the soul is its own punishment.”[2] And if that doesn’t sting, the corollary will, it’d better: “if we were in a right state,” says Eckhart, “our suffering would be no suffering but a joy and a comfort.”[3] But who believes that?—too bad. As if there is truth in not. You insist pain is sincerity, argument is significance. Do you complain, sneer? You are evil. A diseased missionary, you want the world to hear what you say, take your words as truth, all the while infecting it with what you are, with what you are really like. That is what is actually published, to the universe. Sorry. It is that simple. Flattering yourself with scientistic wonder that we—whoever that is—are star dust while your heart spreads everywhere its slime. You are at the center and the periphery of the cosmic malignity. Can you at least have the decency to stop hiding the horror of yourself? Behind critique, behind the object, behind hyperchaos, behind immanence, behind becoming, behind difference, behind the real, behind anything. Will you come out into the open? “Those who have even a preliminary acquaintance with the structure and laws of the inner spheres of existence,” says Meher Baba, “know that complete isolation of human beings is a figment of imagination. Whether they desire it or not, all persons are constantly acting and interacting upon each other by their very existence . . . The world of mental life is as much a unified system as the world of gross matter.”[4] The mystic is scrupulous about mood—be not sad like the hypocrites—because he has ceased hallucinating. Julian of Norwich says, “the beholding of the sins of others creates as it were a thick mist before the eye of the soul.”[5] Now glimpse the depth of your disguise in Bataille’s mirror: “A wink of an eye in which glimmers a deceitfulness, a melancholy smile, a grimace of fatigue together betray the disguised suffering which the astonishment at not being everything, at even having concise limits, gives us.”[6]
Fortunately, problems are not my problem. The task of these words is only to accuse everyone of a mass, grave sin: the absolutely hypocritical and nearly unforgivable crime of being yourself.
Since when is accepting responsibility for that not a precondition for intelligent conversation?
Are you, or are you not, identical with reality? You hesitate to answer, or answer cleverly, or theorize the divinity of hesitation, because you want it both ways, and neither, and don’t know what you want, and don’t want to. Givenness is a fraud and belief in it produces frauds.   
Erase the incommensurable, atemporal, neither super- nor subvenient fact of me (but not really). This is the wish of much thinking, writing: put me in a prison (of my own ‘making’) where I can escape the freedom of being written, being thought. Superficial, simulated immanence: ‘I know who I am.’ Seven billion little kingdoms of self-slavery, manically clicking their own links.     
Exhibit X: The folly of thinking that thought can pass beyond itself and yet remain the correlate of oneself, the lie of all critique of correlationism that does not attack the correlation itself, the real ism: you. Eckhart says, “unless you flee first from yourself, then wherever you flee to, you will find obstacles and restlessness no matter where it is.”[7]
Who do you think everything is about? De te fabula narratur. “The very cosmos has no foundation save that of Ignorance”[8]—your ignorance. This is the first, elementary lesson of the void.
How on earth have you become used to it? Whatever made you make a habit of being yourself? And it is getting worse, isn’t it? “If attachment is an evil,” says Cioran, “we must look for its cause in the scandal of birth, for to be born is to be attached. Detachment then should apply itself to getting rid of the traces of this scandal, the most serious and intolerable of all.”[9] Pretense exacerbates and overexposes the condition. The torturous fact of it seeps through your face like mold. Alternately, the Cloud of Unknowing states that the work of contemplation, whose summit is to be found in the midst of going nearly mad in the sorrow that one is, has the power of “suddenly and graciously” making the “worst looking man or woman” pleasing and beautiful.[10]   
“We now know the location,” says Meillassoux, “of this narrow passage through which thought is able to exit from itself—it is through facticity, and through facticity alone, that we are able to make our way towards the absolute.”[11] What are you waiting for? I fear that you have mistaken fear of the prison guard for security and protection.
Why something rather than nothing? That is a lazy question. Try a real one, a really stupid question: Why am I me? A question that philosophically bleeds you, rather than turns you into a mannequin or puppet for the business of philosophy. “The classical problem of individuation,” notes Peter King with respect to Bonaventure, “is the problem of existence—at least insofar as the problem of individuation can be given sense at all and it not simply confused.”[12] The problem cannot be abstracted precisely because it is you, because you are the problem. The sense of the question is the sorrow that you are, the negative identity of thought and being which you are nothing other than. “The being of Da-sein,” says Heidegger, “is care [Sorge, sorrow].”[13] But that does not mean you are human yet. “All men have grounds for sorrow [mater of sorow],” says the Cloud of Unknowing, “but most specially he feels grounds for sorrow who knows and feels that he is. In comparison to this sorrow, all other kinds of sorrow are like play. For he can truly and really sorrow who knows and feels not only what he is, but that he is. And whoever has not felt this sorrow, he should sorrow, because he has never yet felt perfect sorrow.”[14] Remembering to count the observer in your equation does not count. “The questionable character of abstract thought,” says Kierkegaard, “becomes apparent especially in connection with all existential problems, where abstract thought gets rid of the difficulty by leaving it out, and then proceeds to boast of having explained everything.” The obverse of Ecclesiastes 1:18 is even more true: he who does not increase sorrow, does not increase knowledge
            The telos of speculation is not explanation, but vision, visio sine comprehensione, as Cusa defines it. Theory is bigger than thought. It is the opening of reality measured by the space of the eclipse of what by that, an eclipse that blackens the entire cosmos. “The process of perception,” says Meher Baba, “runs parallel to the process of creation, and the reversing of the process of perception without obliterating consciousness amounts to realising the nothingness of the universe as a separate entity.”[15]
“Not how the world is,” says Wittgenstein, “is the mystical, but that it is.” [16] Do you not see that you not only see what you do not comprehend, but that you see more, beyond what you comprehend? That being here, in this black universe, with your being in it, is a mystical experience? Absolutely mystical.
            “The identity of the with (the One with the One, God with God),” says Laruelle, “is the true ‘mystical’ content of philosophy, its ‘black box’.”[17] Whence we may understand mysticism as the limitless theoretical exposure (as opposed to the philosophical photo which claims to capture its object) of the movement seized in Plotinus’s last words, “phuge monou pros monon” (Enneads 6.9.11) [the flight of the alone to the Alone]. Opening philosophy’s decisional closing of the Real’s foreclosure to thought, the operative fact of philosophy as the “organon . . . [or] a priori form which, giving us the World, forecloses the mystical experience which intrinsically constitutes humans,”[18] mysticism is the involutionary science of turning the transcendental vector of flight from World to One into the most radical immanence without reduction whatsoever, of truing World to One via unbounded or non-decisional translation of the meaning of Plotinus’s pros from ‘to/toward’ to ‘with’, which it may also signify, as in the beginning of the gospel of John: “kai o logos pros ton theon” (1:1) [and the word was with God]—translatable also as ‘face-to-face’ or ‘at home with’. Mysticism is the speculative labor of seeing through the hallucination of philosophy, its “simulation of immanence by auto-reflexive interiority [la simulation de l’immanence par l’interiorité auto-réflexive],” and opening forever “the true immanence or identity . . .  rejected in the shadows of the black box [la veritable immanence ou identité . . . rejetée dans les ténèbres de la boîte noire].”[19] More than a feeling, mystical sorrow it is the live form of the refusal of the principle of reason whereby the absolute is alone thinkable.[20] Or, in the words of Bonaventure, this sorrow is the gemitus cordis [groaning of the heart] that is the essential double of the fulgor speculationis [brilliance of speculation] whereby mind is desirously led beyond itself.[21]
Individuation is a flight of the alone with the alone, the phoenix-flight that you can never properly undertake because it is your actuality. What other option does a species of one have? Individuation is the only method or way or opening wherewith Reality makes a mirror of itself. “I was a hidden treasure who loved to be known.” On which Ibn Arabi comments: “The Reality wanted . . . to see His own Essence . . . For the seeing of a thing, itself by itself, is not the same as its seeing itself in another, as it were in a mirror.”[22] The radical spatio-temporal asymmetry of individuation curves and distorts the entire cosmos. It is the universal twist which reveals the unspeakable identity of inner and outer worlds. Warped around the black ( )hole of the fact that I am me, everything is unveiled to be a vast mirror or speculative reality.  You see yourself in the mirror—true. You do not see yourself in the mirror—true. Yet beyond the double truth is a third, more intensively real truth: that I am seeing/not-seeing myself in a mirror, that there is a real mirroring or speculative reality.
This whatless that standing at the occluded, placeless center of being, in the mirror itself, is equivalent to the divine image as understood by Eriugena: “the Divine likeness in the human mind is most clearly discerned when it is only known that it is, and not known what it is . . . what it is is denied in it [negatur in ea quid esse], and only that it is is affirmed. Nor is this unreasonable. For if it were known to be something, then at once it would be limited by some definition, and thereby would cease to be a complete expression of the image of its Creator, Who is absolutely unlimited and contained within no definition, because He is infinite, superessential beyond all that may be said or comprehended.”[23] The question (why am I me?), the radically immanent negativity of my existence, is the intimate image of an absolute secret exceeding all comprehensible causality. “That I am a man,” says Eckhart, “is something other men share with me; that I see and hear and eat and drink, that is the same as with cattle; but that I am, that belongs to no man but myself, not to a man, not to an angel, not even to God except insofar as I am one with Him.”[24] Likewise, in scholastic philosophy, “the actuality of a thing is not a relation to something else but something absolute [quid absolutum] in its own self.”[25] Haecceity is “a positive and simply incommunicable entity . . . neither the matter nor the form, nor a composite of them, but the mode or end term of them all, which completes and fulfills them, and is their ultimate reality.”[26] The actuality of the individual is something other than both creature and creator, yet inseparable from them, being “rather quid concreatum, concreated with the creation of a created thing.”[27] The existence of you is neither a being nor nothing.
            Mysticism means absolutely staying with this most stupid of questions, dwelling in the sheer actuality that is outside and between being and nothing, above God and inside the creature, beyond the manifest real and with the individual. In the Mystical Theology, Dionysius correlatively identifies the subject of the divine vision as “neither oneself nor someone else.”[28] That is the person—cf. Vedanta’s Thou art That—who sees, realizes Reality precisely by erasing the unreality of the in-itself. The seeming paradox—paradoxical insofar as one is identified as a singularity distinct from the one Reality—is that the real you is more yourself than you and more you than yourself, that it is, as Augustine says, “interior intimo meo et superior summo meo” [more interior than my innermost and higher than my highest].[29] In other words, why am I me? is a question whose smartest answer—I am not—does not answer it at all.
The question is stupid not because it is unanswerable, or leads into a bottomless tautology, but because it brings me face to face with an essential stupidity, with my stupidness, with stupid human being. I am too stupid to answer this question. And to ask it, exactly stupid enough.
            What is the mechanism of this question? I imagine a small organ, neither inside nor outside myself, like a polymelic phantom limb, a subtle appendage implanted at birth behind my crown, during the moment of my coming to be, whenever that was. This organ (or appendix, or tumor), whose painful inflammation is despair—“despair is the paroxysm of individuation,” says Cioran—is like a strange supplementary bodily member, intimate and inessential, which I can feel yet not move, barely move yet without feeling. Stupid organ, organ of stupidity. It moves, is moved, like an inalienable shackle, only to reinforce its immobility. Am I to sever this organ, the hemorrhage of haecceity, escape from it? “[E]scape,” says Levinas, “is the need to get out of oneself, that is, to break that most radical and unalterably binding of chains, the fact that the I [moi] is oneself [soi-même].” Just who, then, escapes? Or do I strengthen this organ, exercise it until it grows into a new kind of hand or halo? A very special monstrous growth then,[30] means of the apotheosis of monstrosity, something whose troublesome spasm is really the vibrational awakening of a primordially inherited perfection.3 This stupidity: penumbra of whatever being, like the distorted self-shadow that a lamp casts by its own light.
            This stupidity, an omnipresent blankness faced in the mirror of Why am I me?, is a glitch in the system, a fact whose unaccountable advent throws the integrity of everything absolutely into question. A bug, something alien and endemic to system as such. An infinitely intrinsic whim or non-interpretable decision suspending each entity in its ownmost location, giving its event the inalienable status of an empyrean conspiracy. Whence Scotus’s doctrine of haecceity as the ontic summit of a creature: “‘in those beings which are the highest and most important, it is the individual that is primarily intended by God.” This stupidity is a human stupidity, afflicting in one stroke my species-being (why am I not a cat?), the arbitrariness of my identity (why am I not you?), and my being as such (why am I happening at all?). But this stupidity is equally proper to all entity, and also to non-entities, who with respect to individuation are wholly people too. If there were nothing rather than something (as indeed there may be), it would be nonetheless actual. Long ‘after’ and long ‘before’ the existence of anything and everything is accounted for, the weirdness or a-factual facticity that individuation articulates remains, this stupidity whereby whatever is is inexplicably itself. Individuation names the invisible and horribly palpable loop whereby everything, even nothing, is anarchically something. Heidegger would trace individuation to time.[31] Yet time itself is fatally afflicted or wholly perforated by it, being a conspicuous plenitude of individuation’s ( )hole. Why is it now now?  
            We are habituated to imagining mystical vision as an experiential realization of the absolute that perforce dislocates the integrity of the individual. St. Paul’s third-person rapture: “I know a man in Christ who . . . was caught up to the third heaven . . . whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Eliphaz the Temanite’s verbal corporeal disjointing: “Now a hidden word [verbum absconditum] was spoken to me, and my ears as if by stealth received the veins of its whisper. In the horror of the vision by night, when deep sleep is wont to hold men, fear seized me, and trembling, and all my bones were shaken” (Job 4:12-3). Yet we must also understand this dislocation as coporealization or consummation of individuation itself, the communication of its absolute, incommunicable secret. From this perspective, the exacerbated actuality of the mystical subject is not an effect of visionary experience, but its content as it were—a virtual virtual whose realness is infinitely in excess of all presence. The mystical secret is one’s identity with the immanent hiddenness of secret itself in its radically literal sense of something set apart, severed, disjoined (secret is substantive of the verb secerno). Mystical vision is the unitary realization of oneself as radical actuality, a pure actuality or absolute individuation, the infinite haecceity of nothing/everything, next to which one’s person is necessarily an indivisible division—as figured in Dionysius’s legendary cephalophory, a perfect emblem of the non-difference between individuation and the divine actus purus if there ever was one. In one direction, mystical vision secrets the subject, unites it with the Hidden. As John of the Cross says, “we call mystical wisdom ‘secret’—and it is actually so— . . . because it has the characteristic of hiding the soul within itself . . . so engulf[ing] souls in its secret abyss that they have the keen awareness of being brought into a place far removed from every creature.”[32] In the other direction, mystical vision hacks open the subject, evaporates and airs it into the limitless open of perfect, primordial actuality, a totally simple and unimaginably flat place, not of profound wisdom, but of sublime stupidity, the instant, dumb, unquestionable intelligence with which Dionysius’s corpse rises and picks up his head. “Tunc erigens se sancti viri corpus exanime, apprehendit propriis manibus sanctum caput abscissum” [Raising itself, the lifeless body of the holy man then grasped with his own hands the sacred severed head].[33] The stupidity of which the philosopher accuses mysticism is his ownmost, disregarded stupidity, his deferred intoxication whose literally returning repression is the post-conference drink. This stupidity, “the very stone which the builders rejected” (1 Peter 2:7; Ps. 118.22), is the cornerstone of mystical intelligence. This intelligence, the real intelligence of intelligence, is the actuality of a knowledge that surpasses memory, of a pleasure that surpasses its object. The “custom of such Souls,” says Marguerite Porete, “is to understand much and to forget quickly . . . and she is inebriated not only from what she has drunk, but very intoxicated and more than intoxicated from what she never drinks nor will ever drink.”[34]   
As though foreign to it, absolutely foreign. I am not an alien, but something stranger still, an insider whose essence is to actually be a virtual absolute outsider. The hellishly real impossibility that you are you is the true stupidity according to which the absolute is alone thinkable. 

[1] This and other introductory statements are influenced by the talks of Vernon Howard.
[2] Confessions 1.12.
[3] Complete Mystical Works, 547.
[4] Discourses, II.92.
[5] A Revelation of Love, chapter 76.
[6] Inner Experience, xxxii.
[7] Complete Mystical Works, 488.
[8] Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing,
[9] E. M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Seaver Books, 1976). “Everything is wonderfully clear if we admit that birth is a disastrous or at least an inopportune event; but if we think otherwise, we must resign ourselves to the unintelligible, or else cheat like everyone else.”
[10] “Whoso had this werk, it schuld governe him ful seemly, as wele in body as in soule, and make hym ful favorable unto iche man or woman that lokyd apon hym; insomoche that the worst favored man or woman that leveth in this liif, and thei mighte come to by grace to worche in this work, theire favour schuld sodenly and graciously be changed, that iche good man that hem sawe schulde be fayne and joyful to have hem in companye, and ful mochil thei schuld think that thei were plesid in spirit and holpen by grace unto God in theire presence” (The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Patrick J. Gallacher [Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997], 54.1874-80).
[11] Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude, 63.
[12] Individuation in Scholasticism, 158.
[13] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Stambaugh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 262.
[14] “Alle men han mater of sorow, bot most specyaly he felith mater of sorow that wote and felith that he is. Alle other sorowes ben unto this in comparison bot as it were gamen to ernest” (The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Patrick J. Gallacher [Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997], ch. 44). All translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
[15] Meher Baba, Discourses, II.98.
[16] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, tr. C.K. Ogden (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998), 6.44.
[17] “L’identité de l’avec (l’Un avec l’Un, Dieu avec Dieu) est le vrai contenu ‘mystique’ de la philosophique, sa ‘boite noire’” (Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique, 60).
[18] Laruelle, Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, 53.
[19] Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique, 66.
[20] “The absolute is thinkable only by a refusal of the principle of reason. . . . speculation, understood as thought about the absolute, is possible only by not being metaphysical” (Quentin Meillassoux, “The Immanence of the World Beyond,” 444). Accordingly, the principle of the sorrow of being demands understanding thought’s not being metaphysical in a literal sense. The sorrow of being is the real negative form whereby thought is not metaphysical. Real refusal of the principle of sufficient reason is other than the thought of it. 
[21] “No one is disposed in any way to the divine contemplations which lead to ecstasies [excessus] of the mind without being, like Daniel, a person of desires [vir desideriorum]. But desires are inflamed in us in a double way, namely, through the cry of prayer which makes us roar with groaning of the heart, and through the brilliance of contemplations, by which the mind turns itself most directly and intensely to the rays of light” (St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Works of St. Bonaventure: Volume II, trans. Zachary Hayes [New York: Franciscan Institute, 2002], Prologue.4, trans. modified).
[22] Ibn Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R. W. J. Austin (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 50.
[23] John Scotus Eriugena, Periphyseon (De Divisione Naturae), eds. I. P. Sheldon-Williams and Édouard A. Jeauneau, trans. John. J. O’Meara, 4 vols. (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1999-2009), IV.73.
[24] Sermon 17.
[25] Hediegger, Basic Problems, 103-4.
[26] Mauricio Beuchot, in Individuation in Scholasticism, 465 [summarizing Scotus’s opinion].
[27] Hediegger, Basic Problems, 103-4.
[28] Mystical Theology, 1001A.
[29] Augustine, Confessions, 6.9.
[30] ‘A being—a face, a gesture, an event—is special when, without resembling any other, it resembles all the others’ (Agamben, 2007, 59).
[31] Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, 80-2.
[32] John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, 2.16.3-2.17.6.
[33] Odone, De sanctis martyribus Luciano episcopo, Maximiano presbytero, Iuliano diacono, 5.21, Acta Sanctorum Database (ProQuest).
[34] Mirror of Simple Souls, chapters 18, 23.


ralph dorey said...

I really enjoyed reading this Nicola.

Some ideas and partial response are buried at

Nicola Masciandaro said...


Thanks for sharing your reflections, which I enjoyed reading, all the more so because you boulder. I am just starting to notice the considerable Deleuzian thinking of rock climbing going on.

Kwinter writes: "This very rock face, until recendy considered virtually slick and featureless-an uninflected glacis even to classical pick and piton climbersl3-now swarms with individualized points, inhomogeneities, trajectories, complex relations. The site is brimming over with interweaving forces and flows-though without these the face's asperities and differences would fall back into a true near-featurelessness-and the climber's task is less to "master" in the macho, form-imposing sense than to forge a morphogenetic figure in time, to insert himself into a seamless, streaming space and to subsist in it by tapping or tracking the flows-indeed to stream and to become soft and fluid himself, which means momentarily to recover real time, and to engage the universe's wild and free unfolding through the morphogenetic capacities of the singularity."

And there's a film called Lines of Flight that is introduced here: and sampled here:

All best,


Sue said...

REAL Feeling-Intelligence is tacit or intrinsically wordless living existence.

The image that you have featured has (perhaps) some similarity to the Hindu Goddess Chinnamasty.

But altogether you are writing about death and what is the nature of our Real Identity prior to and beyond our fear-saturated social persona.

What happens to our Understanding when someone has thoroughly Understood the meaning and significance of death, and thus also created an entirely new cultural possibility and PATTERN at the very core of our existence-being.

Please check out:

Or who was Orpheus, except that He returned from the under-world fully awake and radiantly alive!


Kurt Cobain said...

I love myself better than you. I know it's wrong so what should I do?

D/0 said...

A stupidity of autoalteritic demiurge.