The surgeon, clad in a brown calfskin smock, takes his medium saw—it has a dull blade—and begins to hack the left leg off the cadaver that lies on the wooden table. It is very still in the kitchen, the green wooden shutters keep out the afternoon sun—a Provençal sun. The surgeon’s beefy arm works backwards and forwards to move the saw down through the flesh, right down to the bone; he slows a little here, the saw’s pitch changes. He is a strong man, a real murderer—not a great curative physick he; just a barber-surgeon, a barbarian surgeon. He removes the leg, a thin leg—the body is shrivelled and bony. He takes up a large knife—not a scalpel, he is not that subtle; he cuts a slit in the leg, a long red gash. The muscles still spasm a little thanks to residual impulses. The surgeon pushes his finger into the gash, right down to the bone—he opens it up. A fly alights on the redness—already here, ready for the eyes and the tongue.
The surgeon unbuttons his trousers, removes his penis and masturbates to ejaculation. The white pearls lie on the red gash, slide lazily down to fertilise the exposed bone—white on white. The surgeon buttons his trousers, then takes the leg and hurls it through the window—through the one open shutter. The leg lands amid the straw in the front yard, just before the green vines heavy with red grapes—it sits before the craggy hills in distance. It sits in shit, in the dung pile for the vines—mixed with straw and pig shit, and a few droppings from the farmhouse latrine. The fertilised leg sits under the white hot sun; the semen melts into the blood and the faeces melts into both; it boils, it evaporates under the sun’s gaze—it is after midday, the sun gives and gives. It is so white and pure, like a clean priest’s vestment or a surgical gown—or semen. The leg is pregnant, it fills with maggots; and the maggots burst out from the black-and-green decay in a black swarm, and they find their reflection in the second sun—the hidden sun, the sun-behind-the-sun—the black sun, and it is to this sun that the children of the leg return.
This is an article about Nick Land. Everything you need to know about Nick Land is contained in those two paragraphs, but I will also provide an exposition—since these essays work on many levels.
For a time I worked as a researcher into natural disasters, into disaster management and response. “And what will your role be after the disaster?” enquired an old friend, after I told him my new position, “Machine-gunning the survivors?” You see, he knew me too well—better than myself, better than my humanitarian pose. After all, when you see the shattered geriatrics and limbless children washed up amid the debris from the latest tsunami—lashed and eviscerated by their own collapsed houses and schools—would you not prefer to despatch them quickly?
At work, I once spoke to a girl from Bangladesh about how the NGOs there wanted to use social media to warn the population that a new typhoon brewed off the coast. If such a scheme worked, it would interrupt a Landian metaphor: you see Land is very interested in his opposite—in water, in the feminine—and so Bangladesh is important to him. In Bangladesh, the regular typhoons create little loamy mud-silt islands that are quickly populated to be farmed by the massive population—and yet, of course, when the next typhoon strikes those precarious islands are liquified beneath thousands of people. Recently, Desmond Tutu was interred after an “anti-cremation”, a cremation that used water to dissolve the body and not fire—the same fate awaits those Bangladeshis, liquefaction. What liquifies them? Zero (0). The typhoon is formed around an eye, the eye is zero; it is negativity—it is not even visible on the radar; and yet around it sweep winds and waters that contain great power.
To stay in subcontinental mode, the zero around which the storm rotates is akin to the swastika—the ancient Buddhist and Hindoo symbol—for the swastika symbolises the storm or the whirlwind; and it also symbolises the rotation around the pole star by the Great and Little Bears (Arktos); and, further, to return to a theme, it is also a solar symbol—the sun itself being a great zero, nature adores a circle; and it is the circle, the magic circle, that can most easily be taken to represent nature. We have, in short, the zero (0) as a powerful force, the invisible axis around which a typhoon forms—or the ineffable emanation that is light from the sun. Rather as with Kali, the mother, she gives life and she takes it away. We are all drawn towards something; and what we are drawn towards is nothing, we are all drawn towards 0—towards death. She is the motive for all history, the motive for all life—as you go down the plughole you spin in the vortex formed by the waters.
Land is very interested water, in the feminine. No wonder, he is Mr. Land: per nominative determinism, there is nobody more earth-bound, telluric, or chthonic than Land. He is solid as a continent, as the British Isles. He disdains National Socialism precisely because it is too land-bound, too tied up to a peasant tilling the same soil in perpetuity. Hence throughout his career he has sought his opposite, the water—the feminine waters that dissolve; the waters offer the schizophrenic liquidity that gives rise to serendipity and creation—the Mercurial waters of dissolution, in alchemical terms. At the same time, his own theories include notions around geotrauma—visions of Cthulhu buried deep in the Earth’s core—and intimations that geotectonic activity is encoded in the spine. The memory of the earth, its striations and fissures, becomes a secular Kundalini for Land—the spinal awakening, or perhaps he just expresses an old idea in a new way.
Land achieved his aim, he melted his earth with the feminine waters—and this was his infamous descent into madness, into the schizoid realm. When he emerged again, his own earthiness became geotrauma—the land was traumatised; and, really, to understand how we must think about Deleuze and Guattari—two famous French weathermen, quite adept at water-based forecasts: Il a plu quarante jours / Il a plu quarante nuits / Le soleil est revenu / Le ciel, la vie maintenant nous sourient. Why are Deleuze and Guattari weathermen? Because their entire philosophy is like a weather map, with all those isobars; and the isobars merely represent bodies of air that meet only to mix and refold or rebuff each other; the differentials in pressure give rise, as with a cataract in a typhoon, to immense energies—perhaps even lightning. So with Deleuze and Guattari it is all hot, moist, heavy meets cold, dry, light—it is all pressure and layer. The sensibility carries on in Land in oh so many ways, but particularly in his view that the earth is this layered turmoil; it broils—it summons demons.
Although put forward in techno-cyber terms, Land’s ideas are very old—as old as, well, the Old Ones. His desire to be melted in the feminine waters is the first stage in alchemy, the Great Work; and his notion that it is time for 0, the feminine, to take centre stage recapitulates an old idea—spoken about by the decidedly non-cyber Traditionalist Evola—that a man could choose not to slay the dragon, per the fairy tales, but rather be bitten by it and so take on its powers. In esoteric terms, this would mean to take on the dragon’s chaotic powers—its feminine 0 potentiality—and instantiate the feminine in the masculine. Land was initially heavily influenced by feminist notions, by the idea that the feminine waters (anything “liquid”: migrants, gays, perverts, sistahs) would break down the old masculine capitalist patriarchy—drip into its every cranny and dissolve it. So to associate him with the heavily solar and Apollonian (masculine) Evola might seem contradictory, and yet Evola—more ancient writers—long-ago described this process, except, perhaps, for them the feminine in the masculine would still serve the masculine and not dissolve everything into pure Becoming, pure flux.
However, Land belongs to that class of persons who investigate a certain potentiality—play with demons, perhaps—in order to dissolve the established order, only to be demonically possessed and come to the conclusion that the established order is not, in a sense, established enough. He came back as Old Nick. This is to say, Land’s early writing emphasises the feminine—the feminist—as the insurgent schizoid flux that will tear capitalism apart; later, he comes to realise that the greatest flux—the greatest cyber-schizoid engine—is capital itself.
It is capital that is the great serendipity machine, the great innovator—not all those useless bums who get a government grant to research (F)eminities, take drugs, and call themselves “artists”. On the contrary, such people are dead meat—blocks to capital’s free schizo-flow—who need to be stepped over: in a move direct from Ronnie Laing himself, it turns out the real “oppressors” are rah-rah post-Marxists and critical theorists and pink-haired gender-queers who “just want to help” (or do they?). The schizophrenic at the café turns to me and says: “They’re trying to kill me. Kiln, kilm, kill me. Poison. Juju. Live with your parents, mate. Ate. I must. I lived at a council hostel. They’re the worst. Tried to kill me. It’s a big prison. It’s all a big prison.”
Indeed, it is all a big prison—in so many ways, at so many levels; for a start, energy is entangled with matter—we want her to be free, free the light (only true schizos gno). Anyway, it turns out capital is the real cunt—the big whole, Sophia. After all, without the big zero where would double-entry bookkeeping and cybernetic circuits be? Feminism becomes irrelevant; actually, insofar as it stands with the state, it opposes the real c—. Politics is finished, replace it all with markets—with the circular cybernetic exchanges alchemically anticipated in Das Kapital itself, let the snake eat its own tail and let feedback loop the loop. Hence Land—fully dissolved, yet reconstituted—arrives at neoreaction: marketise everything, except war—except markets are war, as it happens. It is all war, all the way down—just as Heraclitus said so long ago, war is the father and king of all. Philosophy has been a diversion from the first philosophical observation: the snake is back, the circle is back, the ouroboros is back.
The sun effervesces, it gives and it gives—and its energy is even in the putrid body at the roadside, it just needs to be reclaimed. The sun is the overman; its energy is superfluous, effervescent—we saw that in the first two paragraphs, our little homage to Bataille. As with Deleuze and Guattari, no weather systems without the sun—the sun’s energy is behind the typhoon that kills those Bangladeshis, just as it helps their rice grow. The sun has two aspects, there is the black sun and the white sun. DH Lawrence knew all about the black sun, the place where gods go to die and be reborn—sleepy Jesus has gone there too now. Henry Miller knew about the black sun, praised a pirate-minded German who hoisted his own flag and fled the war to New Zealand aboard a sailboat called “Black Star”—and Henry Miller, as Land notes, knew about cunt and zero too; he loved everything that flows, menstrual or aqueous. Others in the black sun fraternity, published by the Black Sun Press or with a black star album: misanthrope Bukowski and the thin white duke, David Bowie.
No creation without destruction, hence the first stage in the alchemical work is the sol niger (the black sun; the soul nigger)—break it down. There are three more stages, but some people—ignorant neo-Nazis, mostly—get stuck at the first stage: slash and burn, forever. Still, this duality in the sun—black and white—proves important; it is a syzygy, divine twins. And it is remarkable what you can generate with two twins, with 1 and 0—a whole cosmos, for example. Even Jung’s diverse archetypes are just elaborations on the interplay between the divine twins, between duality. Hence Land recapitulates that mushroom-addled hippy Terence McKenna, whose Timewave Zero program used the dualities in the I Ching to map timewaves—rhythm waves. As with those French weathermen, time is all pressure, fronts, and foldings. Timewave Zero; as with Land, McKenna concluded that we are going down the plughole—drawn on towards zero. As we are pulled towards zero, innovation increases—facilitated by serendipity, synchronous and asynchronous events. After 2012, says the program, everything gets wyrd as we rush closer and closer to zero; freakish events transpire, such as Brexit and Trump and Covid-19 and UFOs.
Land agrees with McKenna that 2012 was a key date; for McKenna it was broadly when we became sufficiently technically interconnected for serendipity to rush us towards the end; for Land it was the moment techno-capital became sufficiently interconnected to begin to bootstrap itself into something else—to the end. What started as aberrations in a rock strata proved highly survivable, survived so well it survived into DNA, into cells, into animals, into humans, and, eventually, into consciousness—now it will survive into something else. At every stage it was hell-baked, it only exists because everything else died. Land’s thing at the end of time is not so mellow as whatever the stoned-ape McKenna hallucinated; after all, it is just the thing nothing could kill—what would that look like?
Well, time itself is rather strange—also a product, McKenna reminds us, of duality. As Land would say, our cities exist as islands in entropy’s river: civilisation is time travel; it is resistance to entropy—moar power! Hence eco-femoids, naked and painted like savages, want to close down all the nuclear power plants; they, perhaps, also worship the black sun—death, they want embrace entropy; just die. Perhaps they should let her fulfil her potential instead: let techno-capital do her work, let her take us to the next level—let her strip energy from matter. I wanna be a pure energy being in nth dimension! From Colin Wilson to Rumi, all the Gnostics say it is so: we need to get to the next level, we are all gamers.
Straight schizophrenics stand somewhat outside time—somewhat outside this dimension—because they have achieved an imperfect gnosis; the Buddha was, in a sense, a schizo—or a stable schizo, anyway. To strip away the ego and engage with raw reality is to live in a monadic state, to be the single dot—the bindi—from whence all emanates; hence the enlightened one can be anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anywhen (call me). The monad, being an irreducible element within reality—the projector box for the light show, so to speak—transcends mundane time.
The nomad is also a monad—wordplay is important, as we shall see—and the nomad is an intruder from the outside; as is the poet. The nomad remakes the land, just as the waves—gentle or not—remake the Bangladeshi beaches. As with Nietzsche—who called the state “the coldest of cold gods”—the nomads, the trusty warrior band or quasi-gang, ride into town to do subtle mischief to the state. However, this is no frontal attack: this is Go, not chess. The modern nomad is perhaps a hacker, a cryptocurrency hodlr, or a Twitter anon; he makes asynchronous raids against the sclerotic state—he is brutal, like a market raider. He is everywhere and nowhere, just like the monadic Buddha.
Actually, he is the law. Judge Dredd is a nomad when, before his dispenses summary justice, he says: “I am the law.” The law in Greek, the nomos, shares a root with “nomad”; and both relate to allotted land—the land is the law. Further, nomos relates to division; the law is a division between the sheep and the goats—between those who survive and those who die. What is the law? Heraclitus: war is the king of all—war is the law. Survive or perish: the duality, Darwin and Heraclitus agree.
There is even a nomadic science, an insurgent science, report Deleuze and Guattari; and we see that online today: we see broscience, Ray Peat, PUAs—“Stick ten basil leaves up your ass. It’s the best pre-workout. Trust me, bro.” Actually, nomad science really works; it is the sclerotic state-sponsored science that is rigid and stratified—and wrong. Why not stick ten basil leaves up your ass? Perhaps you will learn something—probably more than Dr. Fauci ever learned, anyway. Real science is an insurgency, it breaks in—as with a nomad raid—from the outside; it is uncanny—it disturbs. It does not conform to your narrative.
Hence the Landian system—as with his beloved Kant—always keeps something open, as with 0. The men who came after Kant, notably Hegel, were men who said the system is complete. Philosophy is over, said Hegel, since my system is comprehensive. Kant spoke about the noumenal world that was closed to us; we can put on many spectacles to see the world through, yet we never see what it is really like. Hegel promised that his system, through dialectical splits, would allow us to know noumena—to know the Absolute. Land says that there is an opening, there is an opening because Heraclitus and Darwin agree: war is all, the struggle for survival is all.
Out with rigid complete systems, and in with war and fortune—life is war, war is governed by fortune. Outrageous chance and luck become key. Everything is open, not closed: the German system of Idealism is…incomplete. Very good. Life is a battle to survive; and what survives is a product of Hell—everything you see around you was neatly crafted by Hell. As the cybernetic system that constitutes “you”—in reality, millions of sub-systems that work on independent objectives to create an emergent order “you”—moves about and engages with the world it comes to knowledge through engagement, through burns and bites and kicks; and this is how we attain knowledge—cyber-experiment, not dialectical tricks and lies. If we want to go all the way, we dissolve our ego and move with the swarms inside us—the abstract cyber-energy relay system dubbed “the body without organs” by Deleuze and Guattari, and dubbed “the Cosmic Egg” by old-time alchemists.
Of course, once you accept you are made up from independent sub-systems that happen to work in such a way as to create the emergent order “you” then perhaps you will have—as old Chinee man say—a moment of Enlightenment. “You” is also no different to a liver cell or a stomach cell, “you” seeks independent objectives but is really a sub-system in a sub-system—perhaps it all links up in the end…
So split apart, become the multiplications within you—become the swarm. Dissolve the land. And…play with words, for Land discovered another old alchemical insight that reconnects with modern mathematics: numbers have a qualitative aspect, so that the old Gematria and Kabbalah work—and calendars, as William S. Burroughs observed, are means to slave us to certain time regimes, certain waves in the comic ocean; so, my fellow monad-nomad, perhaps play with words and numbers—play with time—and begin the great insurgency, the great revanche in the time war. Yet, esteemed gentleman, please remember, there are many entities out there—things: Lemurs, Cthulhu, fanged noumena—even a magic book called, Fanged Noumena, that has conjured this world into being.