On love: Nick Land and/is Reza Negarestani

Nick Land on love (quote from The thirst for annihilation):

That the root of love is a thirst for disaster is exhibited throughout its erratic course. At its most elementary love is driven by a longing to be cruelly unrequited; fostering every kind of repellent self-abasement, awkwardness, and idiocy. /…/
One wastes away; expending health and finance in orgies of narcosis, breaking down one’s labour-power to the point of destitution, pouring one’s every thought into an abyss of consuming indifference. At the end of such a trajectory lies the final breakage of health, ruinous poverty, madness, and suicide.

Reza Negarestani on love (quote from Cyclonopedia):

Love empties all possibilities of recovery. Falling in love is a one way ticket to the end of health. Barthes suggests that love is cyclic. /…/ This cycle strikes me not as love but flirtation, flirtation with survival. /…/ But love’s sole enthusiasm lies in consuming every possibility of falling in love again. /…/ The Love-Recovery cycle that Barthes maps in his works is of course Proustian but deeply resembles the ever refining self-fertilizing cycle of Aristotle (nothing must be wasted as it is needed in the next phase of the cycle, the next love, the next recovery from the last love). /…/ Love is only thinkable as one and only one tyrannical possibility: falling in love once and for all.


Georges Bataille on the festival as sacrifice

Intimacy cannot be expressed discursively.


Paradoxically, intimacy is violence, and it is destruction, because it is not compatible with the positing of the separate individual.


The constant problem posed by the impossibility of being human without being a thing and of escaping the limits of things without returning to animal slumper receives the limited solution of the festival. /…/
there is an aspiration for destruction that breaks out in the festival, but there is a conservative prudence that regulates and limits it. /…/
Thus the letting loose of the festival is finally, if not fettered, then at least confined to the limits of a reality of which it is the negation.


For the sake of a real community, of a social fact that is given as a thing – of a common operation in view of a future time – the festival is limited: it is itself integrated as a link in the concatenation of useful works. As drunkenness, chaos, sexual orgy, that which it tends to be, it drowns everything in immanence in a sense; it then even exceeds the limits of the hybrid world of spirits, but its ritual movements slip into the world of immanence only through the mediation of spirits. To the spirits borne by the festival, to whom the sacrifice is offered, and to whose intimacy the victims are restored, an operative power is attributed in the same was it is attributed to things. In the end the festival itseld is viewed as an operation and its effectiveness is not questioned.


There is no clear consciousness of what the festival actually is /…/ and the festival is not situated distinctly in consciousness except as it is integrated into the duration of the community. This is what the festival (incendiary sacrifice and the outbreak of fire) is consciously (subordinated to that duration of the common thing, which prevents it from enduring), but this shows the festival’s peculiar impossibility and man’s limit, tied as he is to clear consciousness. /…/ The virtue of the festival is not integrated into its nature and conversely the letting loose of the festival has been possible only because of this powerlessness of consciousness to take it for what it is. The basic problem of religion is given in this fatal misunderstanding of sacrifice.

Georges Bataille: Base Materialism and Gnosticism

materialism, whatever its scope in the positive order, necessarily is above all the obstinate negation of idealism, which amounts to saying, finally, of the very basis of all philosophy.


Neoplatonism or Christianity must not be sought as the origin of Gnosticism, whose real foundation is Zoroastrian dualism. /…/
In practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles. Attributing the creation of the earth /…/ to a horrible and perfectly illegitimate principle evidently implies /…/ a naueating, inadmissible pessimism /…/
In fact the opposed existe4nce of an excellent divinity, worthy of the absolute confidence of the human spirit, matters little if the baneful and odious divinity of this dualism is under no circumstances reducible to it, without any possibility of hope.


It is difficult to believe that on the whole Gnosticism does not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for obscene and lawless archontes, /…/
It is true that the supreme object of the spiritual activity of the Manicheans, as of the Gnostics, was constantly the good and perfection: that was the way in which their conceptions in themselves had a pessimistic meaning. /…/ If today we overtly abandon the idealistic point of view, as the Gnostics and Manicheans implicitly abandoned it, the attitude of those who see in their own lives an effect of the creative action of evil appears even radically optimistic. It is possible in all freedom to be a plaything of evil if evil itself does not have to answer before God.


Thus is appears – all things considered – that Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism, I mean a materialism not implying an ontology, not implying that matter is the thing-in-itself.


Base matter is external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations. But the psychological process brought to light by Gnosticism had the same impact: it was a question of disconcerting the human spirit and idealism before something base, to the extent that one recognized the helplessness of superior principles.

Bataille’s Peak. Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability (introductory chapter)

Allan Stoekl: Bataille’s Peak. Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability
University of Minnesota Press, 2007

Introduction. On Shortage, Excess, and Expenditure
At the end of the twentieth century, we were regaled with arguments concerning history: it had ended, we were told. /…/
Barely a few years into the new century, may have concluded that that “posthistorical” ideal is radically insufficient. /…/
In short, energy has been rediscovered. In the 1970s and very early 1980s, first world society was made acutely aware of energy, its limited supplies, and the consequences of energy shortages. A U.S. president (Jimmy Carter) even based his central policies on the idea that energy sources (fossil fuels) were scarce and could only grow scarcer in the coming years. /…/ He was, of course, brusquely turned out of office and replaced by a president (Ronald Reagan) who cheerfully answered that “the free market” would take care of energy supplies forever. Luckily for him, the quantities of fossil fuels available shot up in the mid to late 1980s and throughout the 1990s /…/
As I write this, in 2006, even mainstream news sources have become aware that fuel supplies are fundamentally limited. /…/
The labor of construction of civilization is not over, in other words, history is not at an end, because labor itself is not autonomous: you can’t work or produce anything if you don’t have the fuels (the sources of energy) to do it. The great myth that Man “forms himself” by forming, and transforming, brute matter is over. The idea that Nature is dead is over because fossil fuels were not made by Man, they were only extracted by “him”. They are brutally natural, and their shortage too is a natural shortage (their lack is natural). And when a profound, irremediable shortage of those fuels supervenes, history opens back up. /…/ No one yet wants to think about how History should continue in the absence of an adequate supply of fossil fuels. It is too horrible to think about. Human die-off is quite natural, but it also constitutes an incontrovertible historical event. With the finitude of cheap energy, alas, the end of history is itself finite. But how do we think the end of the end of history?
Now along with a permanent energy crisis, or rather a permanent shortage of cheap fuel supplies, we face another crisis: a permanent religion crisis. It seems as if energy and religion are inseparable issues. /…/
Marxism was the canary in the coal mine, so to speak, because its decline was due to an energy crisis, the first to shock the world since the crises of the late 1970s. Marxism collapsed because its great, worldwide patron, the Soviet Union, collapsed, and the Soviet Union collapsed because it could no longer support itself by selling its oil profitably on the world markets. It was driven into the ground by Saudi Arabia, which in the late 1980s produced so much oil that the world markets became flooded. /…/
The great irony is that religion came to the fore in the very countries whose vast production of fossil fuels had made the Soviet system untenable. The Islamic countries of the Middle East were the producers of the fuels that the West needed to continue its individualist lifestyle. /…/
Many of the regions that provide these fuels have turned to a religion that is, in principle at least, indifferent to the fossil fuel lifestyle and to the cult of the human. /…/
As fuel reveals its finitude, we come to recognize our dependence on it and our dependence on others who affirm a religious culture that survived and flourished in the profound absence of fossil fuel. /…/

This book is about Bataille’s take on these issues and my version of what Bataille’s take would be if it were extrapolated to the twenty-first century. /…/

On the other hand, an ever more counterproductive orientation will assert itself in the years ahead. Such an orientation sees energy as an adjunct of, at best, a certain humanism: we spend to establish and maintain our independent, purpose-driven selves, our freedom as consumers, spenders of certain (rather lavish, given available reserves) quantities of refined energy. This model is doubly humanistic in that not only is the benificary the “free” self of Man; the human spirit itself is incessantly invoked to get us out of the jam. We are told over and over again that the human mind alone produces energy; when reserves are short, there is always a genius who comes along and devises some technology that turns things around, makes even more energy available, and so on. Technology transcends energy, in other words, and reflects the human mind’s infinite ability to derive energy from virtually nothing. /…/
One can argue that the religion that confronts the fossil fuel-driven civilization of Man is equally grounded in the demands of a human subjectivity. People demand salvation, an ultimate purpose for which they are consuming so much fuel: I spend, or waste, so that I will ultimately be saved. Conversely, energy inputs are available because God has blessed me with them; the faithful are rewarded with a healthy, fertile, and energy-rich environment. /…/
Against this energetico-theological model is arrayed an ecoreligion, one that would defy the “comfortable” or “free” (and nonnegotiable) lifestyle of consumerist humanism, not through a recognition of the literal truth of the divine Word but through a religiously inspired truth of austerity, simplicity, and personal virtue. Such a cult refuses certain basic human urges to consume or destroy, and in the process involves the affirmation of yet another humanism (the self as virtuous in its austerity) and, after consumer profligacy, yet another model of nature as a standing reserve to be protected largely for its value to Man.
Fossile fuel civilization, then, and its antitheses, or antidotes. Man and/or God as ultimate referent: a couple we can expect to hear more from in the coming years. Bataille poses a very different model of the interrelation of energy and religion. /…/ Bataille’s energy and religion are not an alternative; they promise nothing for the future, certainly no salvation, although their aftereffect may entail a future more livable — by whom? — than that promised under the signs of God or Man.
Bataille’s energy is inseparable from that which powers cars and raises elevators, but it is different as well. It is excess energy, and in that sense it is left over when a jo is done, when the limits of growth are reached, or, in the current situation, when fossil fuels themselves reveal their profound limitations. Bataille’s energy is a transgression of the limit; it is what is left over in excess of what can be used within a fundamentally limited human field. As such, it is quite different from what can be used: it is not just left over in the sense of not being consumed; it is fundamentally unusable. At the point at which quantification reveals its finitude, energy asserts itself as the movement that cannot be stockpiled or quantified. It is the energy that by definition does not do work, that is insubordinate, that plays now rather than contributing to some effort that may mean something at some later date and that is devoted to some transcendent goal or principle. /…/ Energy is expended in social ritual that is pointless, that is tied not to the adhesion of a group or the security of the individual but to the loss of group and individual identity — sacrifice.
Bataille’s religion is thus inseparable from Bataille’s energy. /…/ If there is community, it is the unplanned aftereffect and not the essential meaning of this energy, of this mobement of the death or void of God.
Thus ethics for Bataille, the community, and its meaning and survival are aftereffects of the expenditure of the sacred. Bataille’s theory is profoundly ethical but only in the sense that the instant of preservation, of meaning, of conservation, of knowledge, is the unforeseen offshoot of another movement, that of the drive to spend without counting, without attempting to anticipate return. To deny the ethical moment, the moment, the moment in which conservation and meaning are established only the better to affirm the destruction of expenditure, is to relegate that destrection to the the simple, homogeneous movement of the animal, unaware of limit, meaning, and purposive act. Expenditure, in other words, is not the denial of the human, its repression, but instead its affirmation to the point at which it falls: the sacrifical act, the recognition of an energy that does not do “work” for the maintenance of the human, is the affirmation of a God who is not the slave of the human. It is the impossible movement in which awareness doubles the unknowable loss of energy and the virulence of a God who disbelieves in himself.
The ethics of Bataille, then, entail a vision of the future in which the “left-hand sacred”, the sacred of impurity, of eroticism, of the radically unconditioned God, spins off a community in and through which expenditure can be furthered (a community of those with nothing in common). Not nuclear war, the channeling of excess in ways that ensure survival so that more excess can be thrown off. And (one can continue along these lines) not generalized ecocide, but an affirmation of another energy, another religion, another waste, entailing not so much a steady state sustaininability (with what stable referent? Man?) but instead a postsustainable state in which we labor in order to expend, not conserve. Hence the energy, and wealth, of the body — the energy of libidinous and divine recycling, not the stockpiled, exploited, and dissipated energy of easily measured and used fossil fuels.
This book has two goals: in the first part, to sketch out Bataille’s positions on energy expenditure, religion of and against the Book, and the city; in the second, to extrapolate from those positions and consider current questions of energy use and depletion, religious literalism and fervor, and urban “life”. /…/

This book is a small effort that tries to suggest that there are other ways of thinking about how we power our lifes, with energy and with religion: these ways, these directions have been there all along. These other ways are not so much opposed to sustainability (as it is conventionally conceived) as they logically precede it and spin it off not as a goal but as an aftereffect. /…/ In a future (and imminent) era of scarcity we rethink what it means to be happy — thereby recognizing that happiness is tied not to the mere consumption and disposal of materials, but to their wise use — we will perhaps also realize that happiness means something more, or other, than a meager conservation or a placid contentment grounded in a placid sociability.

Bataille on anxiety

I am … postponing, for a short time, the exposition of my analysis of anxiety. And yet, that is the crucial analysis that alone can adequately circumscribe the opposition of two political methods; that of fear and the anxious search for a solution … and that of freedom of mind, which issues from the global resources of life, a freedom for which, instantly everything is rich … I insist on the fact that, to freedom of mind, the search for a solution is an exuberance, a superfluity; this gives it an incomparable force. To solve political problems becomes difficult for those who allow anxiety [l’angoisse] alone to pose them. It is necessary for anxiety to pose them. But their solution demands at a certain point the removal of this anxiety.

Georges Bataille: Method of meditation

The servile intelligence serves folly, but folly is sovereign: I can change nothing without it.


The idea of silence (the inaccessible) is disarming!
I am unable to speak of an absence of meaning without giving it a meaning it doesn’t have. /…/
In the end, being is offered to us as impossible!


Every problem is in a certain sense a problem of the use of time.


Scientific work is more than servile, crippled. The needs to which it responds are foreign to knowledge. They are:
1. The curiosity of those who do crossword puzzles /…/
2. The needs of the collector (to accumulate and organize curiosities);
3. Love of work, intense output;
4. The taste for a rigorous honesty;
5. The worries of an academic (career, honour, money).
At its origin, often enough, a desire for sovereign knowledge, to go as far as one can go, a desire so quickly born, nullifies itself, by accepting subordinate tasks. /…/ Science is practiced by men in whom the desire to know is dead.


One must choose: one is unable to subordinate oneself to some ulterior result and “to be sovereignly” at the same time. (Because “to be sovereignly” means “not being able to wait”.)


If I lead being to the extreme limit of reflection, to its misunderstanding of itself, like the infinite, starry expanse of the night, I FALL ASLEEP.


Often enough, sufficient leisure is left for me to order my thought, in obedience to the rules. But today I express this movement: “Sleep invades me…”: It is more difficult! In other words, I arrive at the sovereign operation, wherein thought accepts no subordinate object and losing itself in a sovereign object, annihilates the demand for thought within itself.


When I am laughing or having an orgasm, the impossible is before me. I am happy but every thing is impossible.

The simple truth:
Servile activity is possible (on the condition of remaining enslaved, subordinate – to other men, to principles, or even to the necessity of production – human existence has a possibility in front of itself).

But sovereign existence is in no way, for even an instant, separated from the impossible; I will live sovereignly only at the heights of the impossible and what does this book mean if not:



Part II
Decisive Position

1. If I wish it, to laugh is to think, but this is a sovereign moment.


Not only does the sovereign operation not subordinate itself to anything, it is indifferent to the effects that might result;


knowledge relating objects to the sovereign moment in the end risks being confounded with this moment itself.
This knowledge that one could call free (but that I prefer to call neutral) is the use of a function detached (free) from the servitude that is its principle: the function related the unknown to the known (to the solid), whereas dating it from the moment when it detaches itself, it relates the known to the unknown.

13. What I’ve just said seems to oppose itself to the fact that without a sketch, at least, of neutral knowledge, a sovereign operation could not be represented. /…/
The sovereign operation engages these developments: they are the residue of a trace left in the memory and of the subsistence of these functions, but, insofar as it takes place, it is indifferent to and mocks this residue.


16. In order to describe it better, I would like to situate it in an ensemble of apparently sovereign behaviors. Other than ecstacy, these are:
* intoxication;
* erotic effusion;
* laughter;
* sacrificial effusion;
* poetic effusion.


18. The behaviors I have just listed are effusive in that they demand muscular movements of little importance and consume energy without any other effect than a kind of interior illumination /…/

19. Previously, I designated the sovereign operation under the names of inner experience or the extreme of the possible. And now I designate it under the name meditation. Changing words signifies the boredom of using whatever word it should be (sovereign operation is, of all the names, the most fastidious: comic operation, in a sense, would be less misleading). I like meditation better despite its pioous appearence.

20. In laughter, sacrifice, or poetry, even partly in eroticism, effusion is obtained through a modification, willing or not, in the order of objects: poetry makes use of changes on the level of images; sacrifice, in general, destroys beings; laughter results from diverse changes.
In drunkenness, on the contrary, and willingly, the subject himself is modified: it is the same in meditation.


22. In meditation, the overwrought subject looks for himself.
He refuses himself the right to remain enclosed in the sphere of activity.
Still, he refuses exterior means: toxins, erotic partners, or alterations in objects (comic, sacrificial, poetic).


35. I am writing in order to nullify a game of subordinate operations (it is, when all is said and done, superflous).

36. The sovereign operation, whose authority results only from itself – expiates this authority at the same time. If it atoned for it, it would have some point of application, it would look for an empire, for duration. But authenticity refuses this: it is only powerlessness, absence of duration, hateful (or gay) destruction of itself, dissatisfaction.


In the end everyting puts me at risk, I remain suspended, stripped, in a definitive solitude: before the impenetrable simplicity of what is; and the depths of the world opened, what I see and what I know no longer has any meaning, any limits, and I will stop myself only after having advanced the furthest that I can.


But the smallest activity or the least project puts an end to the game – and I am, lacking play, brought back into the prison of useful objects, loaded with meaning.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. this is still, the instant .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . . . . . . . . . this, presently, neither my absence nor me, neither death nor light – and my absence and me, death and light – a light laugh rises in me like the sea, fills the absence immensely. All that is – IS TOO MUCH.

Georges Bataille on the summit and the decline (March 5, 1944)

I. (Fundamental proposition). It is a question of opposing not good to evil but the “moral summit”, which is different from the good, to the “decline”, which has nothing to do with evil and whose necessity determines, on the contrary, the modalities of the good.
The summit responds to excess, to the exuberance of forces. It takes tragic intensity to its limit. It relates to measureless expenditures of energy, to the violation of the integrity of beings. It is therefore closer to evil than to good.
Decline – responding to moments of exhaustion, of fatigue – grants all value to concerns for preserving and enriching the being. Rules of morality result from decline.


‘communication cannot take place from one full and intact being to another: communication wants being twith their being at stake, places at the limit of death, of nothingness; the moral summit is a moment of risk taking, of the suspension of being beyond itself, at the limit of nothingness.

II. In “communication”, in love, desire has nothingness as its object. It is like this with any “sacrifice”.


IV. Humans only “communicate” – live – outside of themselves and since they must “communicate”, they must want this evil, this deseceation which, putting the being within themselves at risk, renders them penetrable to one another . . . Thus: all “communication” partakes of suicide and crime . . . In this light, evil appears as a life source!


Communication, essentialy, wanting being to be overstepped: essentially, what is rejected in evil is concern for the future. /…/

In common judgment, the essence of a moral act is being servile to some utility, to return to the good of some being a movement in which the being aspires to surpass being. In this way, morality is no more than a negation or morality.

If i suppress consideration of the future, I am unable to resist temptation . . . To tell the truth, this state of happy openness is not humanly imaginable. Human nature as such cannot reject its concern for the future /…/

As long as we are animated by a youthful effervescence, we consent to dangerous squandering. But when these forces begin to fail us, . . . when we begin to decline, we become preoccupied . . . with accumulation . . . with enriching ourselves for difficulties yet to come. We act. And action, effort can only have an aquisition of forces as its goal.


X. We must go further. To formulate such criticism is already to decline. The act of “speaking” of a morality of the summit itself arises from a morality of decline.


XI. Like Kafka’s Castle, in the end, the summit is nothing but the inaccessible. It slips away from us, at least insofar as we don’t stop being human, speaking. Besides, we cannot oppose the summit to the decline like evil to good. The summit is not “what one must reach”, decline not “what one must abolish”. Just as the summit is, in the end, nothing but the inaccessible, decline is from the very beginning inevitable.
(“The summit is, in essence, the place at the limit where life is impossible.”)

XII. Through history the reasons that a human being might have for going to the summit (the good for the nation, justice, salvation, etc.) have developed. “But the difficulty is to go to the summit without a reason, without a pretext.”
“. . . Every gamle, every ascent, every sacrifice being, like sensual excess, a loss of strength, an expenditure, we must justify our expenditures every time with a promise of gain, be it illusory or not.
” Even though a revolutionary action would establish the classless society – beyond which a historical action could no longer arise – it seems that, humanly speaking, the amount of energy produced is always greater than the amount necessary for its production. Hence this perpetual overfull seething og energy – which continually leads us to the summit – constituting the malefic share.


XIV. (Conclusion). Within hostile and silent nature, what becomes of human autonomy? “Maybe the desire to know has only one meaning: to serve as motive for the desire to question. No doubt knowledge is necessary for the autonomy of that action – by which it transformed the world – procures for humanity. But beyond the conditions of doing, knowledge finally appears as a decoy, when faced with the interrogation that commands it. When this interrogation fails, we laugh. The raptures of exstasy and the fires of Eros are so many questions – without responses – to which we submit nature and our nature. /…/ It is by leaving the interrogation open as an inner wound that I maintain chance, a possible access toward the summit . . .”