The quarks create

Boyan Manchev's Blog

The quarks create

The Creator is not gone. Let us quit the apophatic mysticism of the God gone missing, of the gods in retirement. We know no less than Hölderlin and all the delirious patients in the waiting-room of the Messiah that the gods who have retired may fancy coming back. No, the creator never chanced upon the creation and this is why the creation never stops creating. An open universe is a creating universe. And this means that even the quarks create.

This impulse of creation, Chaos as a force of differentiation, Eros as clinamen, the flux of the apeiron, the creating vortex – the meteoric time that binds together thermodynamics and alchemy, cosmology and magic, this practical extremization of knowledge, is the passion of the philosophical fantastic.

Bruno’s definition of the Magician – the Magus – precedes and seemingly preconditions Marx’s famous definition of philosophy as transformative praxis (Theses on Feuerbach):

‘So as it is used by and among philosophers, ‘magician’ then means a wise man who has the power to act.’

(Giordano Bruno, Cause, Principle and Unity, And Essays on Magic, trans. Robert de Lucca, Richard J. Blackwell, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 107).

[A philosophis ut sumitur inter philosophos, tunc magus significat hominem sapientem cum virtute agendi.

(Giordano Bruno, De magia naturali, in Giordano Bruno, Opere magiche, Adelphi, 2003, c. 166).
Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 205-206.

Front: Beginning


This blog is an experimental philosophical laboratory of Boyan Manchev.

It consists of two autonomous libraries-workshops:

THE RETURN OF PAN

THE NEW ATHANOR

Each of the libraries-workshops can be read as a stand-alone blog. The libraries are available in three different languages ​​(English, Bulgarian, and French), and the different language versions are not identical.

The blog is translated into English by Philip Stoilov.

The Return of Pan: User’s Guide

This blog is dedicated to the Great God Pan. 

In search of the lost god, the philosophical diary inevitably develops into a philosophical quest. In Pan’s forest the quest branches out and takes various paths: a forest stilled in the midday swelter; a forest fire; unimaginable bounds.

A cutting, a breaking, a section of chaos.

Three sections of the text:

PANIC

THE BURNING GOD: MAY 1945 – MAY 2020

THE FUTURE NATURE

The sections differ in direction, rhythm and mode of exposition. Each corresponds to a different requirement:

Panic, pandemic: figurative ontology of the present.

The flaming god: May 1945 – May 2020 : historical epistemology of poietic forms.

Forthcoming nature: imperative ontology.

In the labyrinth of Pan’s forest, the paths of the quest branch out, but their threads intertwine into a common tissue: the tissue of the second volume of the Philosophical Fantastic. 

If during the reign of Emperor Tiberius superstitious sailors spread throughout the empire the rumor that the Great God Pan was dead, and if this rumor was furthermore found to be an unconditional truth for two millennia, today the Great God Pan shuts the mouths of liars by his own hand.    

Today Pan returns.

The New Athanor: User’s Guide

The New Athanor is a laboratory of the Philosophical Fantastic.

The Philosophical Fantastic is not a hybrid genre, it is no mixture of philosophy and the fantastic. It is an experiment with the very form of philosophy: an experiment with new possibilities of articulating the philosophical form. The Philosophical Fantastic is an act of philosophy in the mode of desire. It yearns the invention of the New Athanor.

Athanor, a fragment from the book by Heinrich Khunrath Truthful Report Concerning the Philosophical Athanor, Its Use and Effectiveness (Warhafftiger Bericht Von Philosophischen Athanor, Und Dessen Gebrauch Und Nutzen [Magdeburg: Johan Botcher, 1597]). Engraved frontispiece (signed Hein. Muller) on the title page of the Leipzig edition (1783). Digital image: strx.

Athanor, a fragment from the book by Heinrich Khunrath Truthful Report Concerning the Philosophical Athanor, Its Use and Effectiveness (Warhafftiger Bericht Von Philosophischen Athanor, Und Dessen Gebrauch Und Nutzen [Magdeburg: Johan Botcher, 1597]). Engraved frontispiece (signed Hein. Muller) on the title page of the Leipzig edition (1783). Digital image: strx.

Athanor – the philosophical furnace (from Arabic at-tannūr [التنور], ‘furnace’, ‘kiln’, ‘tandoor’, ‘a baker’s oven’, ‘hot spring’), is an alchemical device for maintaining a constant temperature required for the process of alchemical transformation of substance, its crystallization as lapis philosophorum, a philosopher’s stone.

The New Athanor is the philosophical furnace of images, which must synthesize pure concepts, the matter of the philosopher’s stone, of the philosophical crystal. Alchemy of the philosophical image, nuclear acceleration of philosophy.

Nowadays, when thinking and imagination are being constrained no less than bodies, the Philosophical Fantastic sets the goal of inflaming imagination and thinking, of imagining new possible worlds. It restores to philosophy the task of being an active force in the world, and to the world – of discovering its fantastic pith.

The New Athanor is a methodological experiment where the philosophical quest engages in a shared adventure of concepts, theories and hypotheses from the domain of modern science, while at the same time mobilizes the latent potential of mythological and fantastic figures. Anaximander, Heraclitus and Aristotle encounter Chaos, Cronus and Aphrodite, and all of them join with Boltzmann, Prigogine and Atlan.

The stake of the Philosophical Fantastic’s laboratory is a prolegomenary one. It deals with imagining the horizon of a forthcoming philosophy of nature.

The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic

The laboratory The New Athanor accompanies the publication of the first volume of the book series Philosophical Fantastic by Boyan Manchev, the eponymous book The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic. The blog presents fragments and expands topics and concepts, introduced in the book, without being identical with it. Much of the material included here is published for the first time.

Boyan Manchev has been working single-mindedly on the project of a Philosophical Fantastic during the past ten years. The trajectory of this experimental methodology includes the books Miracolo, [Miracle] (2011) and Clouds (2017); the method was already outlined in The Unimaginable (2003) and L’altération du monde, [The Alteration of the World] (2009). The newly published The New Athanor (2019/2020) is in the strict sense volume one of the series ‘Philosophical Fantastic’, yet it is also the figure of its unity. The New Athanor includes the Prologue ‘Principles of the Philosophical Fantastic’, followed by the first five books of the philosophical fantastic: ‘The Perils of Philosophy’, ‘Apeiron, the Boundless’, ‘Fire’, ‘Chaos’ and ‘Chaos Unbound’, all of them unified by the idea of the world’s origins. The dynamic trajectory of the five books draws the outlines of complex conceptions about time and causality, readjusting the compass of the subject in the high seas of the world. Will the helmsman of the incoming ship be the one who first embarked on the quest? Is this the same ship? Is this the same world?

Magia Naturalis: User’s Guide

Magia Naturalis is the new library of the New Athanor: Boyan Manchev’s experimental laboratory for philosophical fantastic.

Magia Naturalis mobilises the hypothetical core of the philosophy of the (future) nature, crossing it with the anachronistic history of the idea of creating nature.

Magia Naturalis expands the reflexive and experimental field of MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase 1, the eponymous exhibition conceived and organised by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva with the participation of Bignia Wherli, Marta Djourina and L. 

SARIEV Gallery, Plovdiv, June 26 – August 28, 2020

The library is translated into English by Philip Stoilov.

 

MAGIA NATURALIS: CONCEPTS, THINGS, FORCES AND STAKES

Is nature an artist? Is creation peculiar to stars, metals, fire? What does the stone imagine? What does the cloud want?

It is high time we took on these problems in all seriousness and on the level of their eccentricity. Magia Naturalis – not so much an exhibition, as an artistic environment, a reflexive space and a reflexive time – sets itself the goal of introducing these problems into an experimental dimension. At the very heart of it is the fantastic question of the possibility of (creative) subjectivity beyond the bounds of the human subject.

In this respect, at the heart of this reflexive space is not so much the question of how we reflect on nature, how we creatively relate to it, how we refashion or transform it, how we invent or create it.

Quite the contrary, the question posed is: how ‘nature’ reflects on ‘us’. How it reflects on ‘itself’ through ‘ourselves’.

In what way do forces correlate with themselves, so that where was once oneness there is now a multitude, and where was once a multitude there is now oneness?

Where is the beginning of ‘this’? Where is the beginning of ‘the other’?

Does the track traverse the force, so that it becomes knowledge of itself?

What is the scope of (con)scientia?

How does substance reflect (itself)?

Is art natural?

Is nature artificial?

What does the nature’s desire imagine?

What imagines us?

What do forces reflect on?

What reflects on us?

What creates? Does it create?

What does desire in itself desire? Does it desire?

*

It is not so long ago that philosophy proclaimed the end of anthropocentrism and anthropocentric metaphysics; philosophy of science and anthropology followed up, imposing the idea of different types of metaphysics, as well as different concepts of nature, concepts of different natures. Their criticism is necessitated, urgent: in a world deprived of its own foundations, reaching the boundary of the possibility for the production of meaning (a production, of which nature remains both a universal imaginary foundation and a universally proposed justification), nature demands a turnover. Nature bursts into luxuriance, cracking up the shell of its ossified concept. It demands to be conceived not as nature, but as something else, as something completely different: an unnamable span of forces and constellations whose temporary traversing constitutes the human perspective.

Hence, upon this foundation the interest towards the ‘things of the world’ has been affirmed anew. The common denominator of this new front: the rejection of anthropocentrism and the central category of humanist metaphysics – the subject. Regrettably, the legitimate radical criticism has led to an overdetermined privilege of ‘objects’, while the concept of object remains inseparable from the subject/object dichotomy, i.e. it has been negatively re-affirmed by this concept. 

In opposition to this unreflected tendency, the dynamic ontology I have been struggling for the last two decades insists on the surcritical retention of the concept of subject, that is to say an agent.  We cannot exclude the forces, the dynamics and the negativity from the world; we cannot reduce the poietic and transformative power of chaos or the cosmos. Our task is to confront things – or rather confront them in their midst – as agents of complex simultaneous or even hetero-simultaneous processes. In this respect, dynamic ontology, and the transformative materialism related to it, establishes the preconditions for understanding and experimenting with the poietic and auto-poietic potentiality of things.

There is no intransient thing. Things are agents – actions that effect transformations of complex multitudes and constellations of forces. This is why the central problem of transformative materialism is the problem of change, the problem of movement, μεταβολή, hence the problem of the dialectical connection between things and processes, between compositions and transformations. In the perspective of transformative materialism, things are conceived as dynamic forms and forces. Therefore, things can and must be conceived only as elements of dynamic ontologies.

Furthermore, the experimental hypothesis of this reflexive domain is based on the suggestion that the presently proposed method of transformative materialism is grounded in the very origin of the concept of nature. 

Art does not just imitate nature: already Aristotle moved beyond his own revolutionary idea which has become a misconceived dogma. What we call art is a complex conceptual instrument, allowing first and foremost the manifestation of potentiality that has preconditioned the definition of nature as nature – its poietic, creative character. Thus, in his Physics – rightfully considered to be the key work for the invention of the concept of nature, at least within the ‘Western tradition’ – Aristotle states the following: ‘generally art in some cases completes what nature cannot bring to a finish, and in others imitates nature.’ (199а14). However, this posits nature and art in an initial relation of supplementarity that will be elaborated and radicalised for centuries onwards. 

The idea of magia naturalis, natural magic, is grounded precisely on such dynamic foundations, developed and elaborated by philosophical and scientific conceptions, as well as by the practice of mystical knowledge, primarily by Neoplatonic Aristotelianism. This idea was to be further developed by Renaissance humanists where it expressed the heretic notion of creative acts produced by natural forces and of nature itself as a creator. The concept of creative nature, later on termed by Spinoza as natura naturans, which progressively attains self-autonomy detached from the idea of an all-encompassing Creator, or rather conceives itself as an absolute Creator, was at the very heart of alchemy and astrology, while giving impetus to the development of natural sciences. The magical power of nature: uncanny figures, unimaginable forces, inhuman desires.

 

MAGIA NATURALIS, Phase I: EXHIBITION, REFLEXIVE ENVIRONEMENT

Magia Naturalis

by Boyan Manchev and Vesselina Sarieva, with Bignia Wehrli, Marta Djourina, L

Magia Naturalis, a meeting ground of complicities, coincidences and clashes, explores nature as force by way of fantastic philosophical acts and unexpected transformations of artistic media. It operates not so much with objects, acts or relations, as with a scope of intensities where ephemeral constellations and stark powerful lines flash forth. In this respect, the exhibition raises the question of cooperation: the agents, the subjects, the forces. The forces that animate concepts and (art)works.

Magia Naturalis will therefore open up an experimental space of reflection where simulated possibilities of the unimaginable (forthcoming) nature and the unimaginable (forthcoming) art will be investigated. It is not a question about nature conceived as an ungraspable origin duly furnished as a museum herbarium – it is about nature as an ever forthcoming unimaginable force, as an art of what is yet to come.

Natural magic: an experimental possibility for creative intervention into the space-time coordinates of a singular system of relations, which sustains it on the level of a delicate, yet intensive meta-stability.

So, magic is to be here conceived as the unimaginable power of forthcoming nature which can be grasped either through some sort of fantastic science, or through the creative potentiality of matter itself – the artistic poiesis. At this point, the future of nature and the future of art will be conceived as one and the same thing.

Nature is a space of sprouting forces: it is forthcoming by necessity. The reflexive space where the problematics of Magia Naturalis will operate in the experimental-fantastic mode of this philosophical laboratory will also provide a scope for the activity of these unpredictable forces.   

 

(To be continued)

The Knot of Time, Meteora

Every beam of space is tightened into a knot of time, every fiber – into a stitch. A spider-orifice, this hole in the belly whence time passes through. We are the dis-paired, the paired children of time, our cobweb is the insect-star dissemination, our vice is the section of the event. There, under the meteor shower, is the section of the event. There, under the meteor shower, we unfold the feathery fan of the comet. 

*

Thus, weather manifests as existential alter-temporality: it is the weather of potentiality as opposed to the time of actuality.

The weather of our potentiality.

Hence, we are obsessed with meteorology: our shared obsession is a symptom of our co-partiality, or even our complicity with the weather of fluids, with the unpredictable and potent weather of meteors. We are accomplices of the fluids and the meteors.

We are meteors.

The weather of meteors is ripe with (unconditional) contingency, with (fatal) exigency, with energy and with beauty.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), p. 172-173.

The other time

Let us presuppose the existence of two species of times, which are in any case separated by language (at least in some languages, while in others they coincide significantly): tempo and tempo, temps and temps, време and време, das Wetter and die Zeit, weather and time.

The first one, time, is vectoral and linear, while weather twists, folds and tangles. The one seems immaterial, empty, an all-encompassing ether of existants and of existence itself; the other is a material force that passes through bodies, takes over them, bends them, intertwines them, spins, unfolds, swells up beneath the earth, traverses the stratosphere, develops plans, spreads into fronts, displaces them, whirls them about, precipitates them into a spiral of acceleration, cuts sections. The weather of the whirlwind and the storm, of tranquilisation and sedimentation, of intensification and extension, of expansion.    

The weather of the pine-tree, of the yew, the weather of the iceberg and the fjord, of constellations and comets, the weather of the gaseous substance. The weather of the body.

The weather that sediments and spins the fabrics of us.

We are fabric. What lives is fabric. Matter is fabric. Weather is fabric. The starry fabric. The spindle of the Milky Way.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), p. 167-168.

The time of the subject

The point, at which time touches upon the storm: this is the space of the subject, of its surge-metamorphosis-persistence. The point, at which time touches upon time.

Time is the time of the subject. The subject emerges only in the hiatus of Cronos. The subject is not a cronid. The subject is a chaoid – or an erotoid. Heterochrony that designates the cosmic rhythm of Heraclitues is its temporality. A subject means the following: pro-leaf-eration of time, transformation of the time mechаnic into a complex organic that exceeds itself, a thermodynamic arrow that expresses the irreversible elasticity of chaos.

The subject is a super-machine that produces complex time. The subject is the technique, with which complex time arrives into the world. The cloud, the galaxies, the gases – the subject is all of these. A/the subject knows them as a subject. The forces reinforce themselves even when they annihilate one another. The thinking reed cannot obliterate the thought of fire. 

The subject is a dynamic system. A meteoro-logical system. The logic of the subject is the logic of meteors.

Not a thinking reed bent by the wind, but: a thinking wind, a thinking storm, the thinking hair of sand, thinking sedimеntations and stratifications of the earth, of minerals, of forms, of chromosomes, of the reed’s luxuriance and of this bundle of reeds, here at the lake shore; a force that thinks. Thinking climate. Thus, the cloud, the storm, the rain, the sun-blaze flow along our bloodstream, spurring our fibres into a vortex. We spurt climate and whirls, we are nothing but vortices and (thermo)dynamic processes, ourselves. We fume. We measure and slash time. We grow.

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 236-237.

Weather Witches

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, 1508

Hans Baldung Grien, Witches, 1508

*

The Weather Witches, they smoke through us, they smoke like the axis of time. See them wrap their black manes in the sky, ride the fire-breathing cats, see them orb the matter of the night, the flesh of the cloud, see these heavy etheric bodies, these irresistible, irreversible, unbelievable substances. 

*

They rule over the storm, the volcano, the clouds. They are the mute law of the atom, they break the nucleus as an accelerator, a nuclear paraphernal. Every moment in their tube is a constellation of time, breaking galaxies. The goat’s egg, the cat’s black milk, the witch’s baby, behold, the cream of the black galaxies crosses it. The witches’ feast smokes like a volcano, mandrake smoke, and the dusk licks it with a hungry tongue, and the mice ring like beads on the flasks of alchemical malice.

*

Baldung Grien’s witches visit us night and day, early in the morning, often unexpectedly but always rhythmically. They are miracles that breathe flesh and smoke, soaked with dew willow branches and rusty autumn leaves. My witches, indifferent witches, evil beauties, trunks of gloomy joy, turn here in the corner of time, bend more and more the space here, tighten it. No, don’t be sensible, don’t be submissive to the magician’s art. Just like you, I am a restless soul, just like you, radiant flesh and darkness, nothing to do with man.

Excerpts from Boyan Manchev, Weather Witches, 31 October 2014

Weather Front

The Weather Front. Front and War

The American mathematician Elias Loomis, who described the famous geomagnetic storm of the late summer of 1859 when there occurred an exceedingly brilliant display of the Northern Lights, first formulated the hypothesis of the existence of weather fronts as early as 1841. But it was not until 1919, after the First World War, that the Norwegian meteorological school adopted this term and concept, while the US National Weather Service began to mark fronts on weather maps only after the Second World War. It is hardly a coincidence that the history of the concept “front” unfolded directly in parallel to the two world wars. The concept “front” presupposes, in the first place, a planetary, global scale of thought; on the other hand, it is inevitably associated with a clash, conflict, furious onslaught of air masses; but also with a complex strategy, codes subject to deductions, experimental hypotheses, and forecasts.

The mapping of weather fronts repeats, or at least is inspired by, that of military fronts, borrowing its techniques of representation. The militarized imaginary of the front: dynamic forces, polemos, agon, clash. Battle scenes. In this way, the front is at once a loaded but also a symptomatic concept. The military concept of front itself, associated with a frontal surface, with a dynamic curve representing the disposition and dynamic of forces, is in this sense adequate for our thesis on the ontological polemos. Another use of the concept of front, referring to a political movement, can also be understood in the same perspective: Fatherland Front, National Front, Left Front. Obviously, the political concept of front likewise presupposes not just organization based on substantial representation of a particular political identity, of a particular group: “party”, but organization of (dynamic) forces. In the front burns the polemical Heraclitian fire.

The cloud: a celestial battle scene, clash, agon, revolution. The war of the clouds, the revolution of the storm.

 

The Erotic Front

The front: not just a battle situation but also an erogenous surface. Ares and Eros.

The front: an ontological erogenous surface. An erogenous surface of the event.

The element that envelops, that is a front, not a resisting body but the very resistance of the sensual pleasure that overwhelms, exposes, an ultra-erotic front of the total – and minimal – “incorporeal” – caress.

The cloud as an incorporeal body-front.

The cloud is at once potentiality and actuality – that is why the cloud is inhabited by forms: it is the very metamorphicity of the form that carries a storm, that is, transition of the dynamic form into an attacking actuality.

Front – Attack. The attacking actuality as an alter-actualization of the front.

 

Representation of Force, Force of Representation

Thus, weather fronts are traditionally understood as dynamic formations, divisions of air masses which envelop the planet and to which we owe the phenomenon of “weather”, its dynamic morphology and persistent change. Today meteorologists know well that the front is much more a representation of forces than an objective structure. Fronts are the result of the movements of the atmosphere, of its vertical dynamics. They are an effect of the vortical motion of fluids – the apeironic vortex rediscovered by modern thermodynamics. Fronts are the trace of the polemical contrasts that are cut into the vortex; that is why they are a representation of forces.

νέ The front is, on the one hand, a representation/ visualization of forces, and on the other, their effect. On the one hand, it is a concept of dynamic, and on the other, a dynamic of the concept.

Of course, the front is a representation, but it is also necessary to construct the immanent consistency of the conceptual front. The very question – the question about the front in this case – is an immanent consistency of the front of the concept, of the front that is dynamically figured/unfurled in this operation: a conceptual nebula.

 

The Cloudy Edge

The cloudy edge is fringed with gold, with topaz, with silver thread; no, it isn’t a landscape by Claude Lorrain or Jacob van Ruisdael. And yet it is there.

Does the cloud have an edge? What is a cloudy edge? How could these swirling balls, these wispy whorls, these eerie whirls, these feathery curls be an edge? Isn’t the edge a limit/boundary?

No, the edge is a place where spaces, times and modes meet.

The edge is a knot that does not bind but frees, it is not a monolithic immanent technique entangling an encountered body, it is a crossing of the external surface like a body of encounter: dimensions, modes.

 

The Front-Edge. On Celestial Distortions

θ The front is an edge at which actuality and potentiality come into contact.

Here, however, we are not speaking of contact on a two-dimensional surface, nor even of a section of planes or intersection of surfaces, but of the relation of the two sides of a complex surface. A Möbius strip, a Möbius front.

Thus, the alter-concept of the front is in opposition to the dichotomic view of potentiality as a substantial resource and of form-energy governed by entelecheia, which “sublates” potentiality.

θ The edge is the topological expression of effectiveness – the mode of alter-actualization. What we call effectiveness is an alternative process of actualization that does not reduce but expands potentiality.

At the edge, potentiality transforms itself, increasing its power and, in this way, expanding the horizon of the actual.

θ Effectiveness: an alternative process of actualization that does not reduce but expands potentiality.

 

The Event-Cloud

θ The event is the sudden expansion of the horizon of the actual: the transformation of the expansion from a quantitative into a qualitative mode. A qualitative expansion of the horizon of the actual.

θ Horizon of the event; a meteor (that crosses it); an evental cloud/a cloud of the event.

The cloud: a nebula of the event.

The front: an erogenous surface of the event.

θ The effectiveness of time is an event-potentiality, an edge of actuality.

θ We shall call front the site of effectiveness.

θ Front, persistence of change.

 

Ontology of the Front

The front is a sedimentation of forms which, being past, possess both potentiality and actuality. They are deposited in time as sediments, as mat- ter of forms which is itself formed, folded into reliefs – forms. But sedimented time is not exhausted time; it is sedimented insofar as its potentiality is the potential of a returning or re-actualizing actuality; a possibility which is not guaranteed a priori, but which is active in the retrojection of the very moment of actualization, a possibility whose vector always propels and intensifies its own potentiality. Thus, the sedimentation of forms is also an active front that draws the celestial and terrestrial relief of the present, the saturated, neither empty nor full space of the transparent air.

θ The cloud: anachronism/hetero-simultaneity of form. Its complex temporality.

 

The Sedimentation of the Cloud

 

At this moment, after the afternoon pump of sleep, the sudden awakening in the other space-time, the banal after the extraordinary, but also vice versa, Città looks like a lair of clouds, like a landscape of cloudy forms, like compression of time. The hill of the ancient town on which clouds recline, over which they watch or pass or linger, as if the hill itself, overgrown with buildings, proliferation, extension, historical sedimentation of life, mineralization of collective human time, has become a landscape, plane, relief of the subject of the cloud, its shadow, support, accomplice; as if fast connections and slow time are on the same wavelengths, are the same. The clouds think the hill or imagine it; they certainly dream it, they certainly make it stand. The clouds stand as a form of thought on the hill, reasonable chaos, disastrous beauty, our stellar affect.

 

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev Clouds. Philosophy of the Free Body. Translated from the Bulgarian by Katerina Popova, Sofia: Metheor, 2019 (2017), Chapter III: “Meteorologies. Lightning, Storm, Front”, p. 118-127.

The Burning of God Pan

May, 1945 – May, 2020

On this day, May ***, 75 years ago, the Great God Pan was burnt to death.

On this day, May ***, 1945, at the very end of World War II, a few days after the fall of Berlin and on the eve of Nazi Germany’s surrender, during an unexplained fire in Flakturm Friedrichshain, a concrete air-defense tower built in 1941 by the national-socialists in the Berlin park Friedrichshain, part of the Berlin Art Gallery collection (then the Kaiser Friedrich Museum) was destroyed. In order to be safeguarded by hostilities, a big number of works of art were hidden inside the allegedly indestructible tower. Amongst them, alongside Donatello’s, Michelangelo’s, Tintoretto’s, Caravaggio’s, Van Dyck’s, and Rubens’ works, was to be found one of the most enigmatic artworks of modern times – the painting that was provisionally described as ‘The School of Pan’ by Luca Signorelli.

Signorelli’s lost painting was a vast canvas sized 194 / 257 cm., an exceptionally impressive format for the end of the Quattrocento. This painting was one of the largest ones of the age. It was produced in the end of the 15th century, around 1490, by order of none other than Lorenzo the Magnificent himself, and was probably one of his most esteemed works in his collection. 

Signorelli’s ‘Pan’ includes six central figures divided into two compositional groupings. At the center of the painting is the young god Pan: a handsome, long-haired and beardless youngster, his head tilted in reflection, who seemingly has nothing to do with the archaic zoomorphic Arcadian deity, except for his goat’s legs. The god is nude, covered with a mantle embroidered with stars; he is sitting on a rocky throne, his legs frontally spread, surrounded by his suite. He is hornless, yet crowned with a two-horn crescent moon. Pan is in the company of two personages – an elderly man speaking to him with his head tilted in his direction, and a young man playing the flute, while the foreground is occupied by three strange figures: a standing nude woman, a lying young man and another elderly man leaning on a staff with his eyes forward. The god is listening to the elderly man who is leaning in his direction. Pan is also holding a staff or a scepter, his other hand resting on his thigh. What is the theme of the painting? Is it an allegory? An allegory of what? We cannot know for sure. The later descriptive titles of the painting were obviously founded upon different hypotheses. Neither of them, however, is verifiable, even less so are the allegorical interpretations to be discussed later on. The prevailing descriptions that follow up the painting’s titles include: The Education of Pan or The School of Pan, and The Court of Pan.

After the era of the Medici, there was no evidence of the painting for nearly two centuries until it reappeared in the Palazzo Pitti in the end of the 17th century. In 1869, the painting was discovered in the attic of the Palazzo Corsi by the artist and restorer Angelo Tricca; meanwhile, the nude bodies were found to be covered with ‘flabs’. Tricca restored them to their original appearance, thus scandalising the painting’s owner, Cardinal Corsi, whence ensued its sale. After numerous mishaps, including the Victorian censorship in the London National Gallery, the painting became possession of Wilhelm von Bode in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in 1873. Thus the painting reached to Berlin. 

The Fire

The information on the painting and its disappearance available today is unclear, complicated and fragmentary. Surprisingly, the legal successors of the Berlin Kaiser Friedrich Museum (the Bode Museum) do not provide detailed information on the lost works of art. The most comprehensive and systematic information so far is provided by the Magdeburg-based German Center for the Search for Lost Works of Art (Deutschen Zentrum Kulturgutverluste), which also maintains the Lost Art Database. On the basis of the data collected by the organisation and the partial evidence of that period published in the press (for example, a review by Christopher Norris), I will here lay out all known details around the destruction of Signorelli’s ‘Pan’.

The Allied bombings on the night of December 20, 1940 struck the neighborhood around Museuminsel, the Museum Island situated in the heart of Berlin. Due to the concerns of the museum staff, an unprecedented decision was made to transfer the works of art to two of the three so-called Flaktürme (air-defense towers) in Berlin. They were believed at the time to be indestructible under any circumstances. Most of the Flaktürmе built in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg still exist to this day: they can be seen in the Humboltdhain Park in Berlin, in the central areas of Vienna and Hamburg. The relocation of the artworks to Friedrichshain began in September 1941. For this purpose, along with other collections of the State Museums, the entire first floor of the building, and later the premises on the second and third floors, were used. The relocation was essentially completed by September 1942, and some large-format paintings from the museum dungeons were transferred a while later. Amongst them was probably Signorelli’s ‘Pan’, although accurate data cannot be found. On account of the advancement of the Soviet troops on the Eastern Front, after consulting the responsible ministries the museum administration decided to relocate the artworks outside Berlin and to the ‘Kaiseroda’ salt mine in Thuringia, but only a month later the decision was overturned due to security reasons. According to ‘Lost Artworks’, there were 434 paintings left in the Friedrichshain tower, mostly large-format ones, as their size did not allow their transportation in mine carts. After the fall of Berlin on May 2, 1945, the bunker was handed over to the Red Army. On May 4 and 5, the security guard of the museum was again allowed access to the air-defense tower. Regardless of the measures taken to protect it, on May 6 a fire burst out in the storage room, engulfing the entire first floor, most likely along with a large number of paintings. After the fire, the control over the the tower was seemingly terminated. Free-roaming civilians were observed. A week later, between May 14 and 18, 1945, again under unclear circumstances, a second fire burst out, which completely destroyed the interior of the tower. Both towers were detonated in 1946 by the Red Army, but were not completely destroyed; they were later covered with soil and transformed into grassed and wooded hills in the Friedrichsain Park. It was not certain which of the two fires destroyed Signorelli’s ‘Pan’, as the causes of both remained unclear. This is how the most unusual and astounding representation of the god who personifies nature disappeared amidst the flames inside a monstrous concrete structure at the end of the most monstrous war on earth ever inhabited by god Pan.

Today, the painting has been made known only by the few preserved black and white photographs (the most important of which is the professional black and white reproduction in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum album), as well as by one of the few color photographs of the collection, yet in a smaller format and far lesser quality.

*

The unexplained circumstances around the disaster could undoubtedly nourish any sort of fantastic assumptions and inspire the imagination of a new Dan Brown. This trite conspiratorial fantasy, however, can hardly be compared to the fantastic fate of one of the most astonishing and enigmatic artworks of modern times.

This autonomous thread of the blog is dedicated to Signorelli’s enigmatic painting and its mysterious fate, as well as to its enigmatic disappearance.  The texts that follow deal neither with art criticism, nor with history research – they comprise a laboratory of the philosophical fantastic. Its specific purpose is the new volume of the series ‘Philosophical Fantastic’, which is to be entitled ‘The Return of Pan’.

To commemorate the anniversary of the burning of Signorelli’s Pan, we shall here devote ourselves to the return of the Great God Pan.

6 May 2020

Meteorology and metacausality

Meteorology is not only the model science, which deals with the development of the post-classical theory of thermodynamic systems – it also proposes a conceptual matrix that makes possible to understand a constellation of dynamic phenomena, whose descriptive and analytical nature is replaced by an immanent experimental and expressive tendency related to the practical task of anticipation, as well as to the poietic task of inventing conceptual figures that imagine and re-imagine the relationship between human subject(s) and trans-biological agents.

Meteorology is the truest descendant of both alchemy, the science dealing with the transformations of the elements and their immanent figures that manifest the pro-conceptual potentiality of cosmological processes, and magic, which modulates the course of time, i.e. anticipates the future by means of material and structural transformative interventions.

Hence,

The philosophical fantastic shows no indifference either to Fractal Theory, or to Chaos Theory, or to the Weather Witches.

*

If beyond or rather before causality there is nothing else but a complex conglomerate of forces, whose crystallising structure is traversed by the fibres of the event, then in this case the transformative perspective would be based solely on the process of reconfiguring the complexity, which would orient the aim otherwise than the causal order not from cause to effect, but from situation to situation

It is precisely this transformative reconfiguring that we call decision.

(Т:) There is no meta-consciousness that decides for metacausality. The very fact of metacausality resides within the order of decision. Metacausality corresponds to meta-modality: a counter-finalist goal. Metacausality is the manifestation of a complex chaoid situation matched to a specific agent. The metacausal situation is therefore based on the meta-stable balance of various aims, and as a consequence presents itself as a multi-dimensional dynamic object, as a chaoid crystal.  In other words, the figure of the metacausal situation is the cloud.

The cloud, as we all know, belongs to a multi-dimensional order, it is an object of manifold dynamics and temporality. It voyages on from the future.

How is it possible for the potentiality of the past to return as the energy of the future?

Excerpt from Boyan Manchev, The New Athanor. Prolegomena to Philosophical Fantastic (Sofia: Metheor, 2019/2020), Book V: Chaos Unbound, p. 217-219.

Pan ho megas tethneke

The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers.

It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, “When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.” On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he heard them: “Great Pan is dead.”

Plutarch, “On the Obsolescence of Oracles”, Moralia (419 B-E)

The story is told by Plutarch in volume V (or VI, according to the French edition) of Moralia (Ἠθικά). At the time after the birth of Christ, of whose existence Plutarch did not have the most remote idea, the famous philosopher and historian, who was also one of the last priests of the Oracle of Delphi, recounted this story, which would be allotted a glorious allegorical destiny not elsewhere but in Chapter 17 of one of three works devoted to the ancient oracles: “On the Obsolescence of Oracles” (“De defectu oraculorum”), an obsolescence that Plutarch no doubt experienced personally and fatally. “De defectu oraculorum” was in fact devoted to the demons, δαίμονες (or as they are likewise obscurely called “demigods”, probably in order to be distinguished from the Christian (mis)use of the Greek term: for what does “demigod” even mean? Either you are a god or you are not!). The book gives ample evidence for the presence of demons in the human world, and especially of their affinity to philosophers: Empedocles, Democritus, Socrates, Plato, Xenocrates and Chrysippus.

The story recounted in Chapter 17 aims at giving an example of “how these beings perish”, that is δαίμονες. It is no accident that many have read Plutarch’s story as an allegory of the end of the ancient world. (Notwithstanding that the last and perhaps most spectacular glimmering of this world was yet to take place: the fantastic simulation of its sacred archaicness, the mystification of its magical presences in the guise of overly aestheticised decadent theories – the bizarre apocalyptic reflections of its decline, of its outburst and extinction into the ocean of the unknown sun. Or, if for a moment we release ourselves from the ubiquitous snare of allegory, which derives from that declining, yet never really declined world, a dead-alive world, what was forthcoming was the heyday of the so called Hellenic philosophical and mystical-esoteric teachings – Neoplatonism and Orphism admixed with the Eastern mystical doctrines of Gnosticism etc. Monstrous hybrids that coerce culture into exceeding even the most daring of its imaginings of nature with its fiendish beings led by the Goat-Hoofed God who inflamed women, men and beasts, the Great God Pan.)

The story of the Goat-Hoofed God Pan is the story of his demise. His demise is his aesthetisation. His bacchanal low-status kitsch has nothing to do with the savage archaic demon of the Arcadian mount Lykaion.

Pan is an archaic deity from Arcadia. But ancient Arcadia is barely related to the idealisation of Hellenic poets and philologists, the inventors of the idyl who transformed Arcadia into a mise-en-scène of ideal life in nature’s bosom – the ideal natural life understood as culture. Nature as culture: life in nature’s bosom is a life dominated by the muses of the erotic musical ritual and the codes of aesthetics. The transformation of Pan into a σειληνός, a companion of Dionysus, into a satyr and feast-companion of Trimalchio, represents his immunisation as a representative of savage nature within the zoo of imperial culture.

The God Pan departs, so as to make way for the new emerging god who came to be born in this very same age. But why the god Pan is exactly the one who departs? Why does Pan’s death come as a precondition for the cult to a new resurrecting god?

Because the new cult rejects precisely what Pan embodies – nature.

What is nature?

Nature is known to philosophers, friends and acquaintances of demons, the demons from Plutarch’s stories in his “On the Obsolescence of Oracles”.

But the Goat-Hoofed one persisted. None other than he would be the one to serve as a set of iconographic models that those barbaric painters after the fall of the empire, oblivious of Eastern mystical doctrines, resorted to when they needed to portray the ultimate foe of man. The foe, “The Evil One”, wears the insignia of the Great God of Nature. He was a zoomorphic and, naturally, an ithyphallic god. The Goat-Hoofed and Goat-Horned one, as this was the way he was born, made his nurse flee in terror, according to the Homeric hymn in praise of Pan.

Goat-Hoofed one, you, Inspirer of frenzied women. The same god who inflamed women, men and beasts will return in the form of the second other, Dia-bolo, of Otherness. He will be the one to be long chased by women at midnight, along with Diana, along with Aradia.

The ithyphallic god Pan returns.

The archaic deity of Nature.

Hew returns as the Devil, as a lord of fallen nature, of its infernal material archaicness, the archaicness of the underworld. 

He will return as the God of Nature ten centuries after the decline of the ancient world – in a mysterious 15th century painting by one of the first great artists of modern times, and in a forgotten text by one of the first great philosophers of modern times.

Today marks the return of this god.

Today this god returns once again.

Today this god must return.

Necessity – the return of Pan.

Magnus Pan mortuus non est.

The Great God Pan returns.

Stone

Two streams shoot out of the stone, the stream of life and the stream of death. Shadow and light shine from the stone, bow and bow, cannon and cannon. The name of the bow is life, but its deed is death. The name of the bow is stone, one of its deeds is life, the other is death. In the rhythm of igniting and going out the cannons alternate, compete, abolish. The stone is the restlessness of origins.

*

The stone draws trajectory in the sky, meteor, cutting through the dusk, sword, slitting the dark meat in two. The stone is a guiding star, it turns the milk of the way.

​The stone doesn’t have meat, nor bone. The stone doesn’t have seemingness, nor lie. It stays. It persists. We milk the stone. We suckle stone’s milk. The Stone runs in our veins and arteries, the stone lies in our bones, the stone condenses in our temples, lowers our heads towards the rocks, the stone carries us.

*

The name of the arch is stone. Inert mass. Lapidarium Iceberg Stone in Milky Way’s trunk the Deathlike spiral of Minotaur, of the spiral labyrinth of evolution, in whose bottom the stone irradiates.

*

The Stone is free of world. The freedom stone shattered the glass of Man.

​*

​Stone in the forehead, in the point between the horns. Stone – the first technique. Stone, antrhopogenous substrate. The stone that gave the human a hand, and the hand – a human. The stone that gave the instrument aim, and to the hand – malice. The stone – catalyst of what is human. It sucked the human on the surface of the beast, of the forheadless primate. The stone gave forehead to the primate, by fixating it between the horns, walked his brain through the rocky waterless wasteland of the planet, calmed its loneliness, the despair of the beginning. With the stone everything started. With the stone it will end.

Free stone, aim well, our forehead is so small, almost unnoticeable. There, from the distance of the Milky Way, through your porous eyes, you do not see even a needle in haystack, even a fly in the veins of the marble. Free stone, aim well.

 
Fragments from Stone (2012). Stone if part of the corpus of Metheor’s play Frankenstein, or the New Pandora (2012); the text was also included in the Manifesto for Inhuman Thater (2012), and the lecture Die neue Pandora, oder begehren und Disorganisation, Volksbühne, Berlin, January 2013.
 

The Free Stone

Frankenstein is creature of summer, creature of the furiosity of life.

The Sahara of the Human, that is you Frankenstein, not his devastation but his hugeness his furiosity. The inhuman of human is neither coming before nor after him, it is beyond him – in every organ, every cell.

Free stone, where are your masons, your Hesperus, where is the rose of your knights?

The human is in captivity. Captive of the world. The human is captive of world. The human is world in captivity. The human is captive world. The world of the human is captivity. Human world captivity. Humanworldcaptivity. Captivityworldhuman.

Free stone, where are your masons, where is your Hesperus, where is the rose of your knights.

The stone of freedom.

The stone of freedom shattered the glass of the Human.

How inhumanly shook us the wind of the tower, the stone tower. 

The wind is inside my head, perfectly inside.

 

*

Angels-cyborgs, you, unknown techniques, reassemble my atoms, thicken the electricities, give me last chance to justify the invention of humanity, the inventing of humanity, let me save you. I will walk on beaten tracks, will listen to your wisdom, but will have the strength of electronic bull to seed in Hercules’s veins, to traverse the peripeteia and the tunnels of evolution, to cook you fresh food after blast, to wash your wounds and lick your dried up genitalia, to dry and inflate you, my inimitable rubber toys. Give me your hands, aunties, give me your hand, stupid brats, uncle will take a picture of you, uncle will copy you, uncle will perforate you in folder, uncle knows everything about you, that’s why uncle loves you. My little fishes.

 

Fragments from Frankenstein, or the New Pandora (2011)

ROAD TRIP TO HELL: intro

1. A voice

Road Trip to Hell tells a story about the after story, where the world wastes away, implodes, although the excess of desire seeks to reverse its course. A lone driver is delirious behind the wheel, searching for a way out, fantasizing the infernal ghetto of the world, an out of this world possibility of a world that turns out to be the world itself, its mask being its skeleton, a world of impossibility of a world, where time has stopped and solely the momentum of a delusional movement compels further and further down the one whose madness is the only thing to match its course.

Hell is about obsession. Actually, what takes place on the road to Hell is the gradual surfacing, through organ cavities, through skin pores, of a new unknown body, an unknown creature. Obsession. Not an external force, coming from beyond. An internal one, an obscure double, programmed to emerge on the surface, to materialize under certain conditions. Hell is the realization of these conditions. Hell is a definite hypothesis of existence.

Hell is flexion of the body. Modality of a life form.

Flexion. I flex myself into you, you surge within me. I feel a heart push out a heart, an artery rip up an artery, a lung press against a lung, here, inside the throat, veins and sinews mingle, the airflow stops, the tinnitus turns into a scream inside the pulpy bodies of cells, of the pineal gland, a head nests inside the head, growing fast, cracks it open, crackles, comes out the new head, smeared in brains, blood and mucus, a parasitic organ, a freak, a cephalovermin, a doppelganger, an evil stand-in, a terrorist, busting the head from inside out.

 

Fragment from the play Road Trip to Hell (2011 / 2017)

Doubles

Necks sprout as wheat-ears in the field, while their heads roll about them, the ear is still filled with dirt and the eye – with weeds and ants. The horseman of the ghostly harvest is far and his organs multiply as reptiles, as cells dividing, as seeds self-germinating. The horror is the seed of the ghost. The ghost is the body of the double. The double is the very dark substance, the grey matter of dusk, of the limit, of Erebus and Nyx, of the obscure and the untraversed, of the frail flesh of the flood of this world.

Where the air is not enough, our nightmares are dispassionate. Where the heat is not enough, our dreams are half-and-half. Where the transition between dream and life is unsteady, the heads proliferate. Now, at dawn, we will never again suck from the tits of darkness.

You, who know nothing of nature, will never suck its black milk, its dark, cruel milk, its last milk, its unfulfilled destiny.

We are immortal enough to never again run into the arrogance of life. We are dead enough to leap across any grave. We are proud enough to overcome all vanity of desire.

We are the doubles.

 

Fragment from Pandora’s Daughters (Vierte Welt, 2016)

Panic

In the middle of the sultry summer day, at the seemingly dullest of noontide moments, when time follows its usual course as if nothing could ever break it, when danger is out of mind, then all of a sudden its course somehow comes to a standstill: time stops running. The moment freezes: as if the wings of butterflies freeze fluttering around the blooming spring flowers, as if the buzzing of bees stills to a freeze, the air stops quivering, everything is at once in motion and in calm. Time has stopped. What is this?

What is this? What is this sensation? What is this paralysis of the commonplace? What is this extraordinary force, which petrifies time so that it comes out of its joints and remains paralyzed? What is it that breaks the course of springtime?

The Greeks invented a name for this freezing moment followed by a sensation of an impending danger and paralyzing horror. Impending doom. It is called panic. The word ‘panic’ designates the approaching of the god Pan.

* * *

Panic is the approaching of Pan. The god Pan is haunting, invisible, yet ubiquitous.

It is in the wings of the fluttering butterfly, in the twigs of the willow, swaying over the stream, in the unsteadily frozen outlines of the summer haze – over the stream, in the undergrowth, in this sun-scorched forest opening, right there in the clearing, surrounded by towering dark firs, piercing through the incandescent sky. There, in the bushes, there, everywhere, all around. Here.

Pan: there is here.

Here: Panic! 

CAPITAL PANIC

There is a capitalist panic, there is also a philosophical panic. 

There is the apocalyptic spectacle of the “Event”; there is also its critical or philosophical use value. I will designate it as philosophical panic. The worse the diagnosis, the more actual it is. The catastrophic diagnosis is necessary for the performative value of critical discourse: the catastrophe must last in order critical discourse to last itself. This performative use of critical thinking requires it being installed in the position of self-exegetical agent of the present – literally in an apocalyptic position (from the Greek ἀπό-καλύπτω, ‘to reveal’); but what it reveals is only its own instance. Phenomenology of panic disorder: panic establishes a continuous order, where the difference between inside and outside is erased. The interruption of time becomes a paralysis of the reflexive capacity, that is to say of the capacity to produce distance, difference, the capacity of flexion of a self; it installs the sensation of a panobjectivity, a panactuality; of an actually infinite, unsurpassable limit. Panic diagnosis erases the differences, the complex singularities of the situation as well as of its complex temporality, its heterochrony. Panic disorder has its origin in a pathology of time, in a time path-ontology; in particular, in the suspension of the power of the temporal vector in the vertical axis of the Actual, extrapolated as an unsurpassable horizon. Thus the discursive Apocalypse offers itself as an unsurpassable horizon of the Real. At the same time, the hypertrophy of the actual reveals its abyss as an unsurpassable, therefore ontological condition. Pandemic quarantine appears today – or yesterday, already – as a symptom of the quarantine of existence in the present. An ontological confinement.

*

It is in this horizon, the horizon of ontological confinement, where philosophical panic and capitalist panic become structurally indistinguishable. Panic diagnosis is isomorphic to what it denounces: it performs massive homogenization and simplification, always tending towards an apocalyptic horizon, the unsurpassable horizon of the present. Thus, we have heard recently fellow philosophers speaking of an invention of panic, that is of the invention of a panic moment aimed at a biopolitical mass control through state of exception, the paradigm of the modern state. There is no doubt, we have witnessed the enactment of technologies of collective psychological control, the experiments with a collective inhibition. However, to generalise this diagnostic, homogenising it with all forms of exclusion, exception  or biopolitical control, not to mention the complex history and structure of these forms, ultimately results in the paralysis of any possibility of counter-action; in two words, in a state of panic.

What is indisputable is that the “lightning of the event” triggers a collective effervescence, an excitement of thought in the face of the unexpected, even if it would be the worst. It’s the inflammatory power of the event. Panic is almost magically transformed into its opposite, into viral social production. Indeed, the networks were in flames! If the media jargon – and especially that of social networks – has long been extolling the viral metaphor, we must not fail to recognize the emergence of the pandemic symptom. The truth of networks is the viral spread. 

A leftist thinker recently wrote, and rightly so, that the time of the virus goes against the time of capitalism. We can add to this diagnosis that the time of pandemic suspension itself endangers capitalist time, threatening to hamper or even halt the frantic acceleration of capital. However, we can further identify an isomorphism, which draws the tension between these two temporal orders, in particular: the isomorphism between the structure of viral spread stricto sensu – the spread of COVID-19 and the viral spread of capital flows, of material and immaterial goods, exercised by the capitalism vaguely called neoliberal, and which I tend to call speculative or performance capitalism. It is this acceleration that is, so to speak, the regulatory horizon of capitalism today. The fantasy of an immediate effect, of an immediate production of value, is the telos.

In short, the obscure object of desire of actual capitalism is to be a virus.

*

Yet, a virus of lethal power and exponential speed has arrived. A virus: a form of life that is both “primitive” and uncannily “hypermodern”, that reflects the capitalist structures of expansion, using them as its vehicle. COVID-19 would never have been so “efficient” without its capacity of hacking the global techno-economic networks: its microscopic intelligence has enabled it to act on a marcotechnological scale, a planetary scale. This is why the first effect of the virus was so spectacular, and so catastrophic too: the fluid Leviathan of today has been petrified before the image of its Double; his outburst of panic is caused by terror before his own abyss. His panic attack is the panic attack in front of himself.

Leviathan-ca1400.jpg
‘Picture-Book’ of the life of St John and Apocalypse, Origin: Netherlands, S. or Germany, circa 1400, British Library

The virus has chased ghosts from its crypt, and now they wander unbridled in the dumbfounded space of the globe, they invest what would no longer bring them any profit. Thus, at midday, at the most banal moment of the day, the undead Leviathan found itself surrounded by its own lethal power, for which its circle of synthetic salt – the witchcraft of its speculative economy – no longer has any sense. The financial Leviathan fell in his own trap in Pan’s forest: he got entangled in the jungle to which he himself has tried to reduce the world. Having saturated all vacant space, having blocked all the exits, he fell into his own trap: the false substance trying to seize the whole world – forms of existence in their totality, the totality of “nature” – to consume it. This lethal, irrational desire had to face its own limit, in the image of its Other.

The suspension symptomatically revealed the irrational, if not counter-rational, principle of the hegemonic political and economic structures – on the one hand, the rigidity of the obsolete apparatus of the “Monopolist of legitimate violence”, the State, the structural inadequacy of its immune system to the contemporary forms of biopolitical regulation (the hegemonic biocapitalism of speculative networks, having commodified the forms of life formerly governed by the State) and respectively, the progressive but total submission of old governmental principle to the new “fluid” hegemony, made possible by the deliberate acts of the new type of political “elites”, the neoliberal populists; and on the other hand – the need for unlimited, continuous and all-encompassing expansion as a necessary condition for the survival of the perverse, viral capitalism. Thus, the inability to cope with the new form of viral spread stricto sensu ended up mining the fundamental principle of performative circulation: the principle of permanence, the requirement not to stop under any condition. Even if it was only a few moments – one or two months at most so far – they will nevertheless mark a historic break, a caesura, by demonstrating not only the possibility of an interruption, of a suspension of the “normal course of affairs”, but also the deep pathology of the said normality. After this interruption, whose uncanny exponential speed and “microscopic” origin were unimaginable before, only exalted adicts would remain in state of terror and awe in front of the Capital Leviathan.

Under the vertical light penetrating the abyss of this caesura, in the thunderbolt of the event, the shadows of the crypt dissipate: the false stability of the financial system, of the circulation of credits depending on the viral madness of consumption, also becomes sharper than ever before; the new poverty of the public structures of the so-called “developed states” is also becoming dramatically visible – not only the reduction of funds, the dismantling of sectors that are no longer deemed profitable, such as public health, resulting in savage privatization, but also the ineffectiveness and inadequacy of its structures, and the structural pathology of the distribution of goods in general. What we live today is a crash test on a planetary scale (I evoke Frédéric Neyrat’s strong image), by which the hegemonic technoeconomic powers experiment with disaster management, with massive restriction procedures, by examining the thresholds of tolerance and resistance of the “population”, thus revealing the deep structures of power which would not hesitate to seize the direct governance of the lives of “its subjects”, which are preparing this seizure for a long time indeed.

The COVID-19 pandemic thus reveals as clearly as possible the pandemic of today’s capitalism, of its structural pathology. And the process of “normalization” cannot but confirm the diagnosis. The viral exception is over, long live ordinary pathology!

*

A lethal power has tried to saturate the world, to absorb all forms of existence, the whole potentiality of life, to consume it, to seize the all: it has tried to take the place of Pan.

The false Pan has now got in trouble. He is in suspension.

The Great Pan is back: Pan mortuus non est.

 

April – May 2020