Front: Beginning

Boyan Manchev's Blog

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?

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

Pan: pandemic

‘Goat-horned ones of all peoples, unite!’

The name pandemic derives from the name of god Pan.

Pan means all: Πάν = παντός. Leastwise, according to folk etymology of the name of the god already evidenced in the Homeric hymn dedicated to him:

πάντες δ᾽ ἄρα θυμὸν ἔτερφθεν

ἀθάνατοι, περίαλλα δ᾽ ὁ Βάκχειος Διόνυσος:

Πᾶνα δέ μιν καλέεσκον, ὅτι φρένα πᾶσιν ἔτερψε.

(Then all the immortals were glad in heart and Bacchic Dionysus in especial; and they called the boy Pan because he delighted all their hearts.

Transl. by Hugh G. Evelyn-White)

(It is worth asking ourselves on the meaning of folk etymology, provided that the whole cultural history, from the time of Pan up to now, will reflect on Pan through the allegorical perspective as precisely the god of all there is. The double meaning in the name of Pan has been a fact before etymology established its claim to a hegemonic dominion over the legitimacy of meaning. But etymology uncovers the traces of the title in its archaic origin as follows: Πάν derives from Παων, which in turn refers to the name of a mighty Indo-European pastoral deity).

The pandemic, this freeze, this seeming freezing up of time in the vertical of the event, took me by surprise precisely at the time of my obsession with Pan. 

I was preparing to announce the return of the Great god Pan – in my latest book and in spellbound activity during the first days of springtime. 

Pan is here, invisible, yet ubiquitous, like what is unforeseeable, like what is the most obscure trace of hereness. He is nature itself.

Pan has returned.

Nature is once again forth-coming.

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

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 indifferece either to Fractal Theory, or to Choas Theory, or to the Weather Witches.

*

If beyond or rather before causality there is nothing else but a complex conglomerate of forces, whose crystallizing 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 metamodality: 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)

Panic or the nature that comes

Panic is suspension. But suspension is not a mystical rupture, it is not a vertical axis of time, an apocalypse. Suspension is a turnover. It is the turnover of what is forthcoming. Panic is the very forthcoming of nature.

Panic is an affect of what is forthcoming, of what is to come. The striking effect of panic consists in the fact that the sense of time is conceived from the outside. Time is conceived from the outside. Conceiving itself from the outside, time is conceived as time. The sense of time discovers its origin, it realises its origin in its own eye, its own sense, its own hearing. Panic is silence. When the hearing of time ceases to resound, time itself fades to silence. When the movement of the sense of time comes to a halt, time itself freezes. Panic is the paralysis of the sense that made sense of itself.

All of a sudden, we sense there is time and time stops.

But why this sensation? We sense time all of a sudden? Why does the sense of time sense itself? Why does time rush on, while coming to a stop? (Calm before the storm? The storm of time.)

Why is this called panic?

The god Pan, the presence in the very beginning, the presence of the beginning, does not designate some archaic state of presence, an all-encompassing, everywhere dominant, unfathomable and obscure substance. The presence-in-the-beginning is a presence in the turn itself, in the turnover, in the abrupt collision with one’s self, in the infinitely narrow and boundless space outside the skin, before the skin, at the very boundary of the skin.

Boundary of the here-present: so up-to-there-present to the surface, the pores and the outside of the skin, on the up-to-here side of it, beyond ourselves and before ourselves, that we have ceased to sense the mystification, by means of which we have turned it into something supersensual and supernatural. 

We have ceased to sense it, yet it senses us. It makes sense of us. It conceives us, is us: exists us.

Panic is the touch of the here-present. The up-to-there-present or the up-to-here-present. Everything freezes. Everything is at once in motion and in calm. Do you sense the movement of the microscopic bodies within us, the bacteria, the microbes, the blood vessels, the growth of cells, the zygote? Do you sense? No void. The infinite solitude of reason is inhabited with presences. 

Panic reveals what is always already present, the immanence itself we have ceased to know. 

The suspension of panic is a sudden revelation of what has always been present, of the forgotten inhabitants, of the archaic hereness of nature. Yet, the archaic is not some primitive substance, a primitive and rudimentary source. The archaic is proximity to the ἀρχή, to the beginning, and the beginning is always a division, a differing, a technique of the unimaginable. Apeiron, the boundless one, is rotating vortex, δίνη. The beginning is a surge of time. Panic is the unity of the frozen ordinary and mechanical course of time and the forthcoming surge of the time of the beginning – the Aeon [αἰών], the here-present as forthcoming.

The god Pan inhabits time.

The god Pan is on the brink of time.

The god Pan is at the very boundary of time.

Pan is the boundary itself.

Pan is son of Hermes, god of the boundary. Pan is also son of Dionysus, god of difference and equivalence, of the Multiple within the One and the One within the Multiple. Through the god Pan flows the god-Messenger, the god-Mediator, but also the god-Rupture, the god who is torn apart by the titans and who alone inaugurates the sacrificial tearing apart of the presence, the god who lives the tragic impossibility of the One.

Through Pan also flows Eros. He, the Goat-Hoofed One who inflames women, who inflames men, who inflames all sexes of all beings, is god of desire, but also god of pleasure. He is not a melancholic god of ruined desire, he is the ithyphallic god who knows no bounds. This is why he bends time and times knows itself.

Pan, the Goat-Hoofed One, is god of beings that inhabit him. His voice, his sense of smell, his hearing, his sense of instinct rules over the Forest.

The Perils of Philosophy

What is philosophy?

In order to face such an infinite question, we need courage; or, even more so, a philosophical hubris. Let us evoke two companions who were amongst the first and most audacious of philosophers: Anaximander and Heraclitus.

What shall we say along with the mysterious philosopher of fire, the drifter who made possible the question of philosophy? How shall we nowadays follow his elder Ionian fellow who traversed the apeiron of Pontus and made possible the question about the world even before the future king-drifter Heraclitus came to be born and set his course out of Ephesus?

In order to face this perilous question – in times when we can no longer approach this wondrous nakedness of concepts that was available to Heraclitus, this Pygmalion, sculpting the conceptual fiery matter – we shall organize our discourse in fragments, last remnants of elemental intensity.  

Philosophy aflame: the power of τέχνη

Philosophy is not just formulation of concepts: it is creation of conceptual forms. Thinking is a raw power, a fire swept away by the world’s hurricane. Yet, a fire capable of setting the world aflame.

Philosophy is a technique of fire. It is Hephaestus, not Prometheus, who was the very first philosopher. 

What is raw fire, the fire prior to the sacrifice? Is Hephaestus the raw philosopher of matter, shaping it with force and flames? No: he is the one who invented the technique of fire, the rhythm of technique itself – his hammer cuts across the measure of fire, the pulsating flames – way before the Prometheus of Hesiod of Aeschylus. It is Hephaestus, not Prometheus, who was the very first philosopher.  Heraclitus – an offspring of Hephaestus.

(I would but stop repeating: is it not in fact extremely wondrous that the first particular Aristotelian example of philosophy’s original affect, θαυμάζειν [wonderment, amazement, fascination], was none other than the wonderment at a technical creation, an automaton, similar to those invented by Hephaestus and described by Homer as automotive tripods.)

Therefore: there is no philosophy without τέχνη. As Heraclitus acquired the knowledge of Hephaestus, fire is τέχνη, ontological technique. Ontological technique means the following: the world emerges only via the modes of its becoming. Therefore, philosophy will emerge as a technique of a trans-modal ontological operation.

Philosophy is the force of technique.

Philosophy is an experiment of reflecting and sustaining thinking as potentiality of the force. Philosophy is thinking, which sustains the potentiality of thinking.

If philosophy is the effort of shaping thinking, it is because philosophy is thinking that persists – it is the form of persistence of thinking, of its per-sistence. 

Philosophy is thinking, which sustains the potentiality of thinking without reducing it to impotence. Potentiality grows only by means of the act; energy is the obscure reservoir that maintains it, the dark matter of potentiality.

Philosophy commences to name the experiment of sustaining thinking as thinking: the perseverance of the force, which pro-jects a world by means of its persistence.

Persistence precedes existence just like resistance precedes trans-sistance (of power).

Persistence is the τέχνη of existence.

Philosophy is not the world upside-down, but the multitude of possible worlds, the experiment of sustaining possible worlds in the optimal intensity of the possible, in a state of pre-actuality.  The modality of worlds: worlds at the threshold. Philosophy is an action, which not (only) operates within the world – it brings the world to the threshold. Philosophy establishes the potentiality of a possible world. The world of philosophy: potentiality plus one; actuality minus one.

The resisting persistence of thinking is a will to world.

Philosophy: persistence

Therefore: there is no philosophy without risk. Distinctly evidenced by his legendary biography, the philosopher of πόλεμος – Heraclitus – ran the risk of lapsing into στάσις, the philosopher of flaming intensity fell prey to stagnating liquids.

‘Finally, he became a hater of his kind and wandered on the mountains, and there he continued to live, making his diet of grass and herbs. However, when this gave him dropsy, he made his way back to the city and put this riddle to the physicians, whether they were competent to create a drought after heavy rain. They could make nothing of this, whereupon he buried himself in a cowshed, expecting that the noxious damp humour would be drawn out of him by the warmth of the manure. But, as even this was of no avail, he died at the age of sixty.

Hermippus, too, says that he asked the doctors whether anyone could by emptying the intestines draw off the moisture; and when they said it was impossible, he put himself in the sun and bade his servants plaster him over with cow-dung. Being thus stretched and prone, he died the next day and was buried in the market-place. Neanthes of Cyzicus states that, being unable to tear off the dung, he remained as he was and, being unrecognisable when so transformed, he was devoured by dogs.’

Horrific story. The inventor of philosophy, the one who ran the risk of leaving the polis, of becoming something more than ὑψίπολις, was overcome by the worst, monstrous death: he died not as ζῷον πoλιτικόν, but as ἄπολις, as monster. But he himself chose to be δεινός, a sort of beastly-technical creature, a monster of his own technique, long before Aristotle tempered the monstrosity of the human being by furnishing it with political fur.

Yes, Diogenes Laertius did attempt to reduce philosophy to stupidity, or at least to indicate the proximity between the two, their common origins, for which he was to be found not too far from stupidity himself. Yet, no, Heraclitus’ decision was not stupid. Or rather, his decision was not driven by a logic whereby risking was to be reduced to stupidity: he renounced the established rules, affirming an alterlogical order; an order of ‘savage’ thinking, which philosophy is yet to attempt taming.

His gesture was neither stupid, nor sacrificial. It is the persistency of decision, that is to say the persistency of an awareness that decision always presents a risk. Decision is a continuation of the concept, the persistence of the body as extension of the body, as disorganisation of the body – as ever increasing complexity. Yes, the death of Heraclitus was monstrous, yet his life was worthy.  Even his death proved to be a technique of transformation – an experiment, a risky test of truth. Such is the risk of thinking. And this is the way the world flames in the concept.   

Therefore, persistence.

Panic Attack

Panic is a moment, an affect, a condition. Panic is at once objective and subjective condition. Panic establishes an order of continuity where the difference between inside and outside is obliterated. The horror – the obliteration of the boundary between inside and outside. The affect of the Boundary reveals the boundary and thus the boundary is obliterated. The boundary is possessed by a force. The rupture of time becomes a rupture of the ‘inner sense’, a rupture of ‘subjectivity’. The paralysis of reflection, of ‘one’s self’, reveals ‘one’s self’ as a lapsing into the infinite moment of selfness. The self becomes Legion.

When I was young I went alone

into the dead of night;

my hair was thick

and touched the ground.

Night was everywhere

and oh it was lonely,

wanting friends

and wanting a self.

I set my hair on fire,

threw the bits in a ring around me;

I burned my fields and trees

and things felt better.

Arson in Khlebnikov Acres!

Burning ego flickered in the dark.

Now I depart

with flaming hair,

not as I, but WE —

(Velimir Khlebnikov, 1921/2, translated by Paul Schmidt)

Fire

How can one hide from that which never sets?

Heraclitus of Ephesus

The method of the philosophical phantastic is complicity, that is to say conspiracy:

Not the creation of conceptual personnages, but the evocation of daemonic conspirators. Apeiron the Pirate. Apeiron the Co-Pirate.

Anaximander and Heraclitus – the co-pirate adventurers.

Pirates are daemonic conspirators, they know future means Hell, Inferno, a mass of magma where form and matter mingle in a monstrous alchemical alambic, over whose philosophical furnace looms, with face charred and sweltering, the daemonic divine blacksmith, Hephaestus/Vulcan. The inferno of the future is not before them, it is not forth-coming, it is inside, into the depths, down there; this is why the pirate-philosophers must descend like drills, like vertical spasms or like meteors, swooping upon the exploding planet, setting the whole thing ablaze. The blaze of the world. Everything is aflame. 

 

Everything is aflame: the world of flame

Ignis mutat res.

Πάντα ῥεῖ: everything is flux.

Πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει (Plato, Cratylus, 402a). That which is flux, which gives impetus to the flux of the world, is intensity and force: fire.

Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book V: ‘The same world of all things, neither any of the gods, nor any one of men, made. But there was, and is, and will be ever-living fire, kindled according to measure, and quenched according to measure.’

Everything is flux, therefore everything is aflame.

The worldly fire, the fire that drives the world, is not the divine fire, traversing and dissipating the darkness, the light of infinite and untouchable transcendence. Neither is it the fire of hell, the fire of divine justice and atonement. Likewise, the co-pirate element of the apeiron is not an element of the world, but dynamics that alters every basic element before it turns into substance; the element of altering dynamics. Fire is the principle of movement, the movement within the world: the world’s impulse, its rhythm, its force. Movement is immanent to the substance of the world: it is the world’s one and only substance.

The world is aflame: the world is but fire.

 

Philosophy: pyromania

Yes, the philiosopher must roam along boundaries: the one who swerves off the beaten track and away from the tamed sea-waves, the one who in the end diverts the course of the world, this diversion is the only possible trajectory of the world that cannot persist without taking the risk of diverting itself, of going beyond itself, of setting itself aflame, of transforming itself, of being the volcano of its own surging, and therefore its own hell, a forge, therefore its own future.   

‘How can one hide from that which never sets?’

The world is aflame: the world is but fire.

Everything is aflame.

 

Everything is aflame: horizons

Heraclitus, our contemporary. The far-sighted one who responds best to the obscure exigency of our times. In this world, ‘our world’, the world of the totalizing flux, the possibility of immanence of fire becomes a dire issue: how do we preserve the purity of its movement? By what means fire, which persists in constant flux and surges out of itself – the blazing tissue of the world, its constantly running shuttle – differs from the generalizing liquefaction, which could eventually submerge the world, even set it aflame? The crucial issue in this perhaps irreversible situation of transformation seems like the following: how do we persist within the totalizing flux, how do we resist the absorption of every possibility for transformation – of the transformative ability of life itself – without destroying the possibility for the emergence of the event (of justice, of freedom)? How do we maintain the polemic dynamics without letting it freeze under the impact of the tipifying statics of the generalized liquefaction (or liquidation)?

Let us not affirm the constancy of forms in the process of transformation, let us instead affirm the metamorphosis of subjects in opposition to the quasi-substantial fluidity of of the new totalizing powers, let us rediscover and mobilize anew the transfomrative force of the praxis, not in order to reenact the exigency of transforming the world, but with a view to transforming its transformation. 

* * *

Burn down all the bridges and set off to a new world? Set off to this world exactly. Pirates, acting at the very end of the world – at the very fore, bound to divert its course. There is no world without movement, there is no movement without a multiplicity of complex movements, without a disorganized organizing, which forces the movement along its course: there is no world without shock. 

The world is aflame, everything is aflame.

Everything is aflame here, where the sun weighs down like a sky of stones. Where the fire befalls us all.

Come forth, blazing storm, take us all into your eye, into the very heart of your element, within the vortex of your sway.

We, followers of Heraclitus, we – Homo Heraclitus – persist.

 

The Nature that Comes, or the Return of Pan

Lecture and Seminar Series, May-June 2020

Studium Generale, Universität der Künste Berlin


(Addendum April 2020:

The ‘pre-pandemic’ planning of my seminar included as its last topic the figurative analysis of an enigmatic Renaissance painting, a painting that only persists as a ghostly presence today: Luca Signorelli’s fascinating The School of Pan (c. 1490), which was lost in a fire in Berlin precisely 75 years ago, in May 1945.

Strangely, under the conditions that our lecture series will take place, this proposal acquires a highly symbolic value. Beyond the ancient folk-etymological equation of Pan’s name [Πάν] with the Greek word for ‘all’ [πᾶς, παντός] – a root we meet in many common words, such as pandemic, this work has a deeper connection to what we experience today. Pan, the Great God of Nature – nature itself, impels us to reflect on our present condition beyond its ordinary measure. We have to imagine new concepts of nature in order to face nature anew: not only as the universal object of thought, but also as subject of ‘our’ thought: not as what we think, not even as what makes us think, but also as what is thinking us.

We need to reopen the School of Pan).

Our starting questions: Is there freedom in nature? Is freedom the origin of nature? Or is it its future?

The experimental task of the lecture and seminar series is to test the hypothesis that the philosophy of nature, in order to catch up with the frenetic rhythm of science and nature itself, requires a turn towards the fantastic. In order to face up to the future of nature, philosophy must venture on a fantastic journey and become a philosophy of the fantastic, and even more: a philosophical fantastic. The oblivion of art is as much pernicious to the philosophy of nature, as the lack of sensibility to nature is fatal to the philosophy of art.

The four sections of the lecture and seminar series will correspond to its four conceptual phases.

In the first phase, I will make an overview of the concept of nature, from its origins in Greek philosophy until Modern times, laying special emphasis on the Aristotelean notion of poiesis (creation, material production, fabrication), through which I will establish the connection to the philosophy of art. I will focus on several Renaissance ideas of the poietic nature in Cusanus, Ficino, Bruno, but also in Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, showing that Renaissance ideas of art are deeply rooted in this concept.

The second phase will be dealing with the emergence of the modern scientific notion of nature and the gradual marginalisation of the concept of poiesis, being replaced by the new ideas of universal natural laws from Bacon, Boyle and Newton to Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. I will tackle the internal ambiguity of the modern scientific paradigm, revealing within it the persistence of quasi-magic and poetic ideas (from the alchemical writings of Newton to the Helmontian or even Kabbalistic origin of the Leibnizian concept of the monad).    

In the third block, I will focus on David Hume’s and Immanuel Kant’s crucial contribution to the philosophical universalisation of the idea of nature, as well as on the antinomic instrumentalisation of their respective positions in the contemporary debate on nature. While major trends of contemporary philosophy and anthropology proudly assume an anti-Kantian turn, I embrace a ‘super-Kantian’ position. We need to move beyond the critical Kantian opposition between nature and freedom, and imagine freedom as immanence of nature itself. If we must persist alongside Kant beyond Kant, we must then persist alongside the fundamental question of critical philosophy, the question of philosophy itself: the question of freedom.

The planned fourth section, dealing with Luca Signorelli’s School of Pan (the painting’s title is uncertain), will provide common horizon and experimental frame for the lecture series, as well as focal point for their conclusion.