Here I continue my exploration of Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun, and concurrently a much deeper exploration of the Left Hand Path as a whole. So far, in Part 1, I have explored the first main sections of Revolutionary Demonology, comprising its introductory “ritual” (“Every Worm Trampled Is A Star”) as well as the first (“Principles of Revolutionary Demonology”) and second (“Notes On Gothic Insurrection”) chapters. If you have not read Part 1 before reading this article then I suggest you go back and do so first. Here, in Part 2, I will focus solely on the contents of the third chapter of Revolutionary Demonology.
The third chapter is titled “Nigredo”, and it is here also that we cut deeper into the core ethos of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun by way of more elaborate expositions of it. Though, of course, there are somewhat multifaceted. On the one hand, we can see the contours of the philosophy of ontological masochism that Gruppo Di Nun means to get across. On the other hand, there are the makings of a much more active worldview, that arcs in a direction other than this ethos so eloquently summarized by Amy Ireland’s afterword. In any case “Nigredo” consists of five essays, which we will go through in order: “Cultivating Darkness” by Claudio Kulesko, “Mater Dolorosa” by Laura Tripaldi, “Solarisation” by Valerio Mattioli, “The Highest Form of Gnosis” by Enrico Monacelli, and “Catholic Dark” by Claudio Kulesko.
The World Falling Apart (The First Nigredo)
“Cultivating Darkness” begins by establishing our total immersion in darkness, alien yet familiar. To realize this immersion is to realize that our prevailing representation of the world is either simply false or merely limited, and is it collapses, Kulesko asserts, the world shows itself to be a collection of fragments forming a collage. But the other lesson we’re given is that there is always more than one world, and that it is always possible to construct new worlds from the fragments. Yet, once our world shatters, it cannot be reconstructed as it was – like Humpty Dumpty falling from the wall, when his shell shatters no one can piece him back together. Human life is a network of stories, and meaning in this setting is simply an internal coherence between the pasts, presents, and futures of these stories. In moments of existential dread, we think of ourselves as like scale insects: mummifying but alive, and so it must seem as we live in the advanced, technologically accelerated capitalism of the late Anthropocene. History appears to be either advancing or standing still waiting to be set in motion, but in despair we find neither advance nor standstill, and the fragments of our world blindly and incoherently fly around without direction. Thus we fall out of time, and into the subject of depressive realism – thus, a kind of psychological nigredo.
Depressive realism is the name given to the theory that depressed people, far from suffering from a negative bias that hinders their objectivity, actually tend to access a greater dimension of objectivity than non-depressed people might possess. Kulesko seems convinced that this theory is basically correct, and in some ways goes a little bit further: the depressed person not only perceives the world more objectively, this also means they can (in theory) more accurately locate their own personal responsibility in terms of what is and is not within their control. To Kulesko they become like oracles of an uncaring subterranean world. Paging Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the depressive realist subverts the axiom of neoliberalism by saying, “there is no alternative, except for the end of the world”. Yet they also go further, in their despair they might conclude that the world either already ended or had simply never existed. What then also ensues is a kind of disorientation and self-aggravation; depressive realism can change into full blown extinctionism, as, for Kulesko, philosophical pessimism and nihilism tended to change into eliminativism – the idea that truly nothing exists at all.
Is there a way out of this trajectory? I would be inclined to think that the idea that life is a series of fragments can lend itself to a freedom of interpretation, wherein the great thing about life is precisely its fragmentation, or rather the fact that it allows everyone to create their own world, to the extent of their will. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Kulesko tells us that the problem with the development towards eliminativism is that, in the depressive moment, what emerges is not the non-existence of things but rather their inconsistency, or metastability (that is, the utter fragility of the universe). In terms of empiricism this comes down to the fact that the “laws” of nature are not actually “laws” at all, but rather chains of cause and effect or rather still a set of tenuous regularities or rhythms. In this view there is no logical reason why the sun rises and sets when it does except that we continually see it rise and set each day, and from there further that there is no inherent reason why the universe itself will not be annihilated. In view of this, the world as we know hangs precariously above an abyss, and everything is pervaded by nothingness. “Darkness”, here, is an uncanny property: a shapeless, indeterminate atmosphere and field of experimentation, wherein one may either destroy oneself or discover unknown pleasures. It is in this sense meant to be seen as none other than reality in its purest state, from which all worlds and meanings emerge and into which they die. From a certain point of view it is a rather gloomy and depressive world, like the world that was before humans or the world that will exist after humans. Not to entirely take away from that, but I might suggest that other perspectives, such as found in at least some forms of Zen Buddhism, it is simply a realm of intangible content and worlds. I suppose both Kulesko’s darkness and Zen nothingness are to be understood as pure potentiality, but taken with a different attitude. But it is here that I am again drawn to refer to the fact that Ernst Schertel ascribes this to the realm of Satan and Hell, as the starting basis of magical power. I sense a conceptual synchronicity here somewhere at least. In any case, it is perhaps here that any notion of a “way out” becomes apparent.
Humans must either realize the absence of teleological meaning and unity in the universe and gain self-consciousness of the real, or remain forever ignorant as they are consumed by time and matter. To acheive this self-awareness, one must abandon hope without succumbing to despair. That means realizing how the ontological collapse of the world can open up new horizons. Those horizons are contained in the negativity at the heart of things, the apophatic nothingness that runs parallel to our world of things, forms, facts, and narratives. If everything arises from nothing or from chaos, it follows that nothingness is plastic, in that it is possible to extract from it an infinite quantity of worlds and meanings. An infinite diversity of constructions can result from nothing. The only issue is getting stuck within them; if you let yourself be lied to by the worlds and meanings that arise, you will become their slave, or you will find yourself having to go through dark nights of the soul all over again – perhaps, an eternal recurrence of nigredo. Perhaps here we get what can amount to basically nihilist alchemy. One begins in a nigredo, in this case the whole process of seeing the world around you fall apart and realizing its nothingness, and after that first step the nihility changes into the material by which you will, somehow, perform the Great Work, creating a philsopher’s stone. In many ways, though, conatus as a vehicle for the ceaseless development even greater perfections and freedom emerges as the best way to make sense of just why everything might stop being nothing in the first place, and that why really remains a missing piece in Kulesko’s philosophical presentation. To be sure, if we are dealing with philosophical nihilism through and through then one could ask why the question even matters, but one cannot ignore amidst a collapsing world why one has found oneself here to start with. That is surely one of the components of the despair Kulesko discusses, except to the extent that Kulesko’s depressed subject has stopped asking the question. And if there is an answer, there is only one: our life is so that we may arrange ourselves at will, overcoming and transforming that which is in accordance with will and desire.
We now come to a discussion of Giacomo Leopardi, an Italian philsophical pessimist and skeptic, for whom the truth consists principally of a doubt unassailable by human reason. This particular form of skepticism brings thought to the point where knowledge collapses and leaves behind only doubt as the manifestation of the pure unknowability of reality. It is also to be contrasted with more popular (and palatable) forms of skepticism, wherein knowledge is cast aside, suspended, only to be recovered. The point of this skepticism is to discover the abyss. But it is also essentially a hyper-manifestation of the rationalist materialism that developed during the Enlightenment, and which influenced Leopardi’s thought. He believed that rational analysis dissects nature to the extent that it “resolves and undoes” it into something akin to a corpse, and, ostensibly as a result of his research, that every faculty of mind is material and that spirit is a deception of “the heart” by itself. Such a worldview makes for a potential step towards eliminativism: after all, so the logic goes, if only sensory perception is real, then self-consciousness is only a second-level perception. Yet for Leopardi appearance is the only thing that counts, because substance in itself does nothing and makes no impressions. This seems contrasted with the blind brain theory we are then introduced to, which holds that the world, as represented by our minds conceals a “real” world much more multifaceted; in other words, here substance is richer than appearance.
A problem that can stem from this perspective lies still within the scientific nigredo that ensues: this is summed up in Thomas Ligotti’s quotation of Thomas Metzinger, when he says “there are aspects of the scientific world-view which may be damaging to our mental well-being”. This theme of psychic damage brought on by the collapse of the teleological and phenomenal world into darkness is in some ways captured by both Giacomo Leopardi and H. P. Lovecraft, the latter a fan of the former, the latter writing that complete knowledge of the world would traumatize us such that would either “go mad from the revelation” or retreat into a new “dark age”. If consciousness is accepted as an illusion (mind you, this is not an opinion that I hold), along with the inevitable extinction of everything, then, according to Ray Brassier, then the philosophical subject is already dead, and philosophy itself is the organon of extinction.
An interesting point Kulesko goes on to make is that the enterprise of philosophy tends to consist of isolating one component of reality that can then be established as its ultimate principle and the foundation of thought itself. One recalls that ancient quest of Greek philosophers, as far back as the pre-Socratic era, for the one element or substance that could be acknowledged as the prime arche upon which the cosmos is founded. Kulesko’s examples include a metaphysics of becoming produced by the isolation of change or becoming, or a metaphysics of static being by isolating the existence of an object. In any case, for Kulesko there is an abyss between these two possibilities, which contains both, their mixture, their conflict, and their absence, and reality at large resists all efforts to define it by isolating a single principle. Yet, what interests me is that a question emerges: does a metaphysics of becoming not naturally emerge from the condition of abject fragmentation and the change that is implied by the condition of indeterminacy? In fact, that idea can be seen as the whole throughline of Gruppo Di Nun’s metaphysics, in that transformation is the fundamental potential of magical practice and philosophy. Nothingness almost certainly changed into everything that we know, so in this sense absolute power of becoming is one the core properties of Kulesko’s abyss. In that sense, a metaphysics of becoming is not a natural outcome, but also necessary.
But now we return to Kulesko’s central point about the abyss of reality: its ultimate potential. Rather than defeat, the chaos, unknowing, and senselessness of darkness offer a limitless wealth of possibility. In this setting, the practice of philosophy means bracketing out everything we know or think we know about the world in order to unlock new configurations that at the same time exist in the world. Fiction itself, and for Kulesko especially science fiction, emerges as a gateway to the groundlessness of the world, which is it at once the ground of its being. The end of the world, the nightmare of the apocalypse that animates human beings to the point that they endlessly narrate their own demise, is itself its own gate. Total destruction is the limit that thought drifts towards, the darkness that arises from just the thought of that destruction can negate everything, but if the world has fallen apart and the end is already written, then, even for that, we are gifted with an utter freedom of action. We can go wherever we please and build whatever we want, and we may cast off the burdens that modern philosophy has imposed on us. This becomes Kulesko’s version of the primary axiom of Thelema: do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Not only do we and our particularity emerge from chaos but matter itself is this chaos, and at the innermost core of both reality and our own souls is lawlessness and multiplicity. As unreal as it sounds, for Kulesko that’s all there is, and it is everything. For this reason, it is best to cultivate darkness when lost in the night.
When I read the end of that essay, I sensed in Claudio Kulesko the formation of what I recognised as the basic principle of anarcho-nihilism. I don’t think Kulesko identifies himself with that, and in fact I don’t think he commits himself to any particular label, apart from philosophical pessimism – and, as far as I can see of his work, beyond all other labels he is first and foremost a student of philosophical pessimism. Nonetheless, somewhere in Kulesko’s conclusion I could sense the core idea in that in the negation of everything we come free to no longer be arranged and in turn arrange ourselves in any way we wish. It presents the ultimate silver lining to the question of meaning and its absence, and it illuminates the real meaning of the expression that nihilism does entail a position of despair or emptiness, and that meaning for the nihilist is exactly what they create for themselves. Of course, for Kulesko it is all fully ontological in ways that I’m not entirely sure it’s even possible to agree with, whereas for anarcho-nihilism it pertains largely to the political dimension, in that the point is to negate all social and political institutions to create a space of full autonomy for individuals which can then manifest and experiment in all directions. Still, that itself may find extension in the nigredo that Kulesko presents, and in the magma of darkness that lies beneath the lies of the world and its utopias. The chaos embodied by that eight-pointed star expanding in all directions, unleashing the world after the world like, in late Norse mythology, the rebirth of the world after the carnage of the battle of Ragnarok, it’s the fragmentation of the Image of the World. The insurrection is its own cultivation of darkness.
Wounds of the Divine Feminine (The Second Nigredo)
Our second discussion of nigredo, “Mater Dolorosa”, which as the name suggests seems to centre around a discussion of the Virgin Mary, begins with Laura Tripaldi taking us on a recollection of her childhood frolics in a garden in her school, hidden from the eyes of adults, filled with vegetation and small animals – sometimes dead ones that she and her friends would hold funerals for. We are also introduced to the flower Veronica persica, or Persian speedwell, known locally as the “eyes of the Madonna”, a namesake that naturally then pivots focus figure of the Virgin Mary, her heavenly abode evoked by an analogy to her eyes, and to the torment she supposedly feels when you pluck the petals of the speedwell. Amusing, by the way, that this Virgin is called “Mother of God”: we’re told that the Christian God created everything thousands of years if not eons ago and yet also that his mother is a teenage girl who lived 2,000 years ago. A testament to the incoherence of Christianity, or at least especially Roman Catholicism. Then we’re presented with an anecdote about a pregnant female earthworm that the children punctured, seemingly to assist the earthworm’s delivery of its offspring; an act that seemed to almost primordially disgust the young Tripaldi. The particular reproductive economy of invertebrates, profoundly alien to our own, brings us to the subject of Georges Bataille’s assessment of abiogenesis and the relationship between asexual reproduction and death – the original one dying and becoming two – and then we get to a more fundamental pain at the heart of living matter. The ancestral wound of life, for Tripaldi consists of a primordial separation from the primordial condition of indistinction, and in this setting life is Giacomo Leopardi’s garden, which Leopardi insists is nothing but a beautiful hospital. Thus, the second nigredo is the realization of the pain of primeval separation.
It all comes down to the idea that not being born is better than being born. In many ways, this theme communicated in terms of a perceived separation from original matter and the concurrent pain of that separation is a lot closer to what I expected of Gruppo Di Nun based on the opening salvos of Revolutionary Demonology and its core dogma than much of what we have previously discussed so far. It certainly is closer in spirit with the thematic emphasis on the myth of the dismembered Mother Tiamat that they present much more than the subject of Gothic Insurrection or even the latent alchemical theme strewn throughout, and as we’ll see that theme takes us through a much larger response to the doctrine of emanation. This could offer us a rather multifaceted journey.
We are introduced to a man named Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-Australian geologist who, in 1972, went to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and attacked Michaelangelo’s Pieta, striking the face of the Madonna with a hammer while shouting “Christ is risen! I am the Christ!”. At the time of the incident it was assumed that Toth was mentally ill, consequently he was sent to a psychiatric hospital without criminal charges before being deported to Australia. I tend to think that there can be few bolder blasphemies against Christendom than declaring yourself Christ and smashing one of the holy symbols of the Christ myth, not to mention the synchronicity of having done so at the same age as Jesus supposedly was when he died. But for Tripaldi the incident carries a different meaning: for her it displays an uncanny alchemical property associated with depictions of the Virgin Mary – the transfiguration of suffering and disgrace into triumph and splendour.
The cult of the Virgin Mary, and particularly the cult of Our Lady of Sorrows centres around miraculous events that often involve the disfigurement of the various depictions of the Virgin Mother. Across Italy, there are local tales about icons of Mary being attacked or defaced by an unbeliever and then, as if to answer the assailant’s lack of faith, shedding tears of blood. In that exact sense, Laszlo Toth smashing the Pieta is interpreted as actually making it beautiful. But then we get to theme of weeping. Our Lady of Sorrows is always weeping. Her exposed heart illuminates the reason for her weeping: seven daggers, representing the seven sorrows she suffered in the Gospel narrative, pierce for open heart. That number, 7, recurs throughout religious and esoteric symbolism as a number of significance. In Hermeticism, for instance, the number 7 represents the manifestation of divine perfection in matter. In Christianity, 7 means the realisation of God’s kingdom in this world, through the conjunction of the Holy Trinity with the four corners of the earth. In Kabbalah, or rather at least according to Eliphas Levi, 7 represented the totality of the power of magic, backed by the sum of the soul and the four elements. Since the Hermetic tradition the number 7 denoted throughout “traditional” esotericism a mysterious harmonic function of the divine order that can be found everywhere in the universe. But, in the work in the Aleister Crowley, the number 7 referred to the goddess Babalon, as explicitly denoted by the seven-pointed star seal of the A∴A∴ (Astrum Argentum). Babalon, who in Thelema corresponds to the Biblical figure of the Whore of Babylon, is on her own a very complex representation of “divine” femininty, which is nonetheless defined primarily by transgression and wickedness, down to her angelic namesake (“Babalon” in the angelic langauge meaning “wicked”). The Biblical narrative presents the Whore of Babylon as a sinister and voluptuous feminine, opposed to the pious and sorrowful feminine embodied by the woman clothed in sun. Their visions are both accompanied by a demonic beast with seven heads and ten horn, who is both the antagonist of the woman clothed in sun and the ally of the Whore of Babylon. For Tripaldi this recurrence presents an alternate meaning to the number 7 that clashes with both the meaning presented by traditional “Western” esotericism and the symbolism of the seven daggers.
So where is that all going? Tripaldi’s reflection on the number 7 serves as the gateway to a broader discourse of an esoteric “divine feminine” that can be positioned against a divine patriarchal order and the traditional doctrine of its emanation across creation. It also seems to attend the recovery of a theme of pain and restraint that she perceives to be latent in the original Kabbalah and forgotten by the Western esoteric traditions that appropriated it, and, in a larger sense, to recover a dynamism and processuality in Kabbalah from the order imposed by the glyph of the Tree of Life.
In the Zohar, we are told, the descent of the divine into matter, and the ascent of matter into the divine, can occur in non-linear moments of emanation – moments that are marked by complication and interruption. Such moments are called Tzimtzum, or “contractions”, and are an important part of the manifestation of divine light as conceived in Kabbalah. They are also moments of rupture and separation that are in turn associated with “feminine” aspects of the process of emanation, as well as two of sefirah in particular: Binah and Malkuth. Binah and Malkuth seem to be involved in a ceaseless series of ascending and descending transmutations that see them both constantly merge and separate from each other. This process, for Tripaldi, points to the presence of a multitudinous “divine feminine” trapped within the architecture of creation. Rather than that familiar idea of a monotheistic Goddess parallel to a masculine God, Tripaldi proposes a multiplicity of divine femininity, and the liberation of this femininity in the processual forces of Kabbalah. In this sense, the cryptic diagram on the cover of Revolutionary Demonology is in some way illuminated. The Tree of Life is without a head. Kether, as the unity from which the divine order is emanated and the masculine godhead, is cut off, liberating the multiplicity of divine femininity and the form of nine apocalyptic goddesses. It is thus a signifier for a kind of alternative Kabbalah, animated by the spiral of a sinister divine feminine. I can perhaps sense the makings of a particular form of an goddess-centered (and arguably “anti-cosmic”) polytheism revolving around the goddesses that Gruppo Di Nun identifies with this spiral.
The tzimtzum are here defined as processes of separation within divinity that in turn facilitate its manifestation. To repair the separation of Malkuth from the divine light, Binah, the heavenly mother, is divided and her lower sefirot fall into darkness and corruption: a process referred to as tears falling into the Great Sea. This imagery obviously strikes a chord with the Catholic icon of Our Lady of Sorrows as Tripaldi has presented her so far, but for Tripaldi it also recalls the myth of Tiamat and her dismemberment by Marduk (I note here that Tripaldi refers to Tiamat as a “draconic Virgin Mother”, despite not ever being depicted as a “virgin mother” and really only tenuously identified as a dragon). The feminine polarity consists of a distance between two aspects that are identified and yet distant, and their respective symbolisms (the celestial abode for Binah, a red rose for Malkuth) ostensibly point to the two distinct female figures of the Book of Revelation: the woman clothed in sun and the Whore of Babylon. The process of rupturing and separation shatters the sefirot, interrupts the chain of divine emanation, and the empty shells sefirot become filled with impure forces (presumably the qliphoth). Through Gershom Scholem we get a throughline of an original rupture and separation as the causes of a primordial suffering brought on by a necessary separation from God, resulting in all being existing in exile. Three aspects of the Mother are part of this whole disruptive process: The Dragon, The Celestial Virgin, and Babylon The Great. They also represent a hidden generative force latent in the machinery of divine emanation, which replicates itself and will suffocate the order that contains it.
For Tripaldi, any esoteric struggle against the order of patriarchy means understanding the phenomena of disequilibrium that secretly make the divine order possible to start with. On its own, it is very possible to derive from this analysis a much larger analysis on the relationship between order and chaos, and especially the centrality of the latter. On the other hand, we still cannot but return to the question of the implications of the ancestral wound, especially when aligned with Kabbalah. I remember an analogy given to describe Kabbalah, whereby the point was for humanity to return to the garden of Eden. In essence, what that means is to correct the separation of humanity from God, represented in this analogy by the exile of Adam and Eve from Eden. Only here it’s not necessarily about God, and the separation pertains to the dismemberment of Tiamat. What does it entail for life, having arisen from separation? But I suppose for now, the pressing question is, what does the Tree of Life look like without the head?
We continue this inquiry by exploring migraine attacks, and their apparent prophetic character. Tripaldi perceives migraine as a pain that has no wound because it is the wound at the heart of the world. Percolating into every last particle of matter, migraine is said to reveal in everything the spectre of decomposition. A migraine crisis arrives and passes of its own accord and without a trace, and when it leaves all that remains is a feeling of well-being that is nonetheless plagued by a sense of guilt and suspicion. Tripaldi seems to recall an experience of being locked in a hotel room for two days, without eating or drinking, suffering so much that at points her consciousness began to waver, and at one night she experienced a vision of nostalgia for a primitive motherhood. One could say that this vision hints at Tripaldi’s idea of a hidden dimension of the world, accessible only by occult means, or, perhaps, made vaguely accessible by a migraine crisis. This, migraines are a kind of sinister unveiling of a hidden substratum of the world – an arcane world of pain, of the wound lodged in the heart of creation, and of the cry of agony that reverberates through the whole universe. In other words, the occult body of Tiamat. But it’s also here that we come to another, more concerted application of Christian mysticism. This starts with an account, from Oliver Sacks’ Migraine, of a patient suffering from a migraine attack and describing feeling a hole not only in their own memory but in the world itself, and feeling the instability of their own bodies. Tripaldi, through Sacks, links the migraine experience to the idea of suffering as a vehicle for the realisation of spiritual truths, and from there to “female mysticism”. And, by this, we of course mean Christian mysticism. Specifically, for example, we are invited to consider Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Catholic Carmelite nun who, in 1539, suffered a paroxysm in the process of what she called her “conversion”. This paroxysm caused Teresa to lay comatose for days and then remain paralysed for three years, and it also brought her to the brink of death. But, while she suffered all manner of torments from her paralysis, her body overcome with weakness and the feeling of death, she also described her experience as a kind of martyrdom, and asserted that when the body is in rapture it is as though it is in death.
For Tripaldi this all represents a very specific mode of mysticism, centered around an ecstasy that afflicts the soul from the outside like a disease, cannot be summoned intellectually, cannot be “resisted” once it visits upon the individual, and is defined by an intense suffering that, to lesser degrees, remains with the individual after the ecstasy has subsided. This form of mysticism can thus be understood as an ecstatic system, and for Tripaldi the basic idea is to be applied as an introspective, ecstatic, and fundamentally feminine mysticism in which suffering, rather than positioned as a another path to traditional initiatic gnosis, is its own goal as the highest form of gnosis. This is also meant to be contrasted with the application of meditation within “the intiatic traditions” as tending towards a desired state of “absolute concentration”, whereby the practitioner excludes all stimuli and gradually obliterates their individual consciousness in order to elevate it to the level of cosmic or universal consciousness, thus bringing it into coincidence with God. Tripaldi argues that Chaos Magick is an example of this in that Peter Carroll ostensibly marshalls a concept of no-mind that he calls “Gnosis” as a medium for magic to be affected. It’s a strange and arguably somewhat myopic interpretation of Chaos Magick, not least since it positions Chaos Magick as part of “the Right Hand Path”, and its justification is not especially systematic for the scope of Revolutionary Demonology. In fact, about a page and a half and one quote from Peter Carroll’s Liber Null seems to be the full extent of Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of Chaos Magick, which hardly merits the prejudice reserved for Chaos Magick as a whole, let alone their distinct classification of it as part of “Western initiatic traditions”. But, since Chaos Magick is meant as an example of the mysticism of absolute concentration, and the mysticism of Teresa of Avila as a paragon of the ecstatic mysticism of suffering, it also almost seems like Tripaldi means to contrast Chaos Magick with – and there’s no beating around the bush here – Christianity.
This has a number of interesting implications. Obviously Gruppo Di Nun’s system can’t be thought of as Christian in itself, since it centers around a non-Christian mythology while rejecting many of the familiar tenets of Christianity at least in its exoteric sense. But we seem to see here a distinct application of Christian mysticism in conceptual terms: in other words, it accepts Christian ideas about mysticism and ecstasy, God and his son notwithstanding of course, and reapplies them to its own distinct framework. In my view, this still has the effect of lodging Christian mysticism at the centre of the philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun in that it serves as the intellectual basis of its philosophy of cosmological suffering, and that to me is another notch against their critique of Satanism as reproducing Christianity by inverting it. I know I never tire of the opportunity to seize on points like this, but it is interesting that the alternative to “reproducing Christianity” by way of Satanism should be to reproduce Christian mysticism in the name of Tiamat. The thing is, for Teresa of Avila, suffering could constitute a form of prayer to the Christian God, or a trial through which the sufferer would find God and become more spiritually pure through it. Perhaps “that my soul may emerge from the crucible like gold” denotes a hidden alchemical metaphor, with the suffering obviously being a form of nigredo. But the whole point is still opening yourself up to sufferings visited upon you presumably by God so that you can love God more. This form of suffering, in Teresa’s words, pleases God. The very notion of suffering as “the way of truth”, which she expounds, is inherently Christian thought. God gives trials that inflict suffering on those he considers spiritually strong so that the love of God may respond to them, while the saints inflict severe penances on themselves to battle the Devil. God, who is joyless in all instances except for moments of profound suffering, humbles and tests his would-be servants, leaving them with a hunger for suffering.
We invoke the term “suffering cult” a lot to describe Christianity in exoteric terms, but if anything that term is all the more apt for the deeper core of Christian mysticism that a lot of popular exoteric Christianity doesn’t always reflect. It is important remember that here, even though suffering can be positioned as its own goal, that is distinctly for its perceived revelatory practices, and in Christian mysticism, moments and revelations of suffering such as the visions and ecstasies of Teresa of Avila are meant to be understood as proof of God’s presence in and love for creation. Thus, Laura Tripaldi has reproduced Christian love, and even the cult of suffering in its mystical dimensions, in the form of mystical devotion to the primordial wound at the heart of the world, the cuts made into the flesh of Tiamat by Marduk, all while Gruppo Di Nun denounces Satanism as an expression of the Right Hand Path by accusing them of reproducing Christianity by way of inversion. One must wonder if we are to be thought fools for such a pretentious repression response to Satanism to be made so transparent. And ultimately, if we’re talking about a dichotomy between centripetal and centrifugal motion while favoring the centrifrugal, what irony, because what could be a bigger “cult of the Centre” than the God for whom Teresa suffered so abjectly?
Also, it is here that we come to a hole in the broad narrative concerning self-designation as an edifice of the Right Hand Path. After all, for starters Tripaldi says that, in the purview of absolute concentration, your own self-consciousness is obliterated. That part may be consistent with modern understandings of the Right Hand Path, but it is not consistent with the notions of self-deification found in a lot of the modern Left Hand Path. And, are you here fashioning your own selfhood into God or a god, or simply harmonizing it with God? After all, it does not seem that to “be brought into coincidence with God” must mean that the initiate actually becomes or imitates God. In that sense, this “self-deification” is not as it seems, and would call into question the critique made against the modern Left Hand Path.
Our journey through Tripaldi’s mysticism does not end here. We continue on through an exploration of virginity through the Greek and Roman cults of Artemis and Diana – both traditionally considered virgin goddesses. For Tripaldi, the myth of Artemis living alone in the woods in solitude, away from any male suitors, resonates with her own adolescent hope of refuge from patriarchal society in a pure wilderness: a hope seemingly shattered by that same uncontaminated purity consisting of the same obscenity and violence as the body. Virginity for Tripaldi is a pact tied to death because it is a sacrament of war. That is because for Tripaldi it is the promise to never participate in the reproductive order of patriarchal civilization, and embodies a militant recognition of womanhood as the key to both the preservation and destruction of this order. This is presented as a kind of self-sufficiency inherent in womanhood that amounts to an absolute monotheism that holds the entire universe to ransom in its power. A more lofty exaltation of womanhood there almost isn’t, let alone one more at odds with the notion that. More curiously though, I was sure that self-monotheism of some sort was supposed to be what Gruppo Di Nun declared a fascistic folly reserved the initiatic Right Hand Path. I suppose I’m left to conclude that it’s supposed to be bad when Satanists strive for their own apotheosis but not bad at all to consider virgin women their own goddesses, and just leave whatever rationale there is for that contradiction to my own imagination – I doubt its interpretation would be very charitable. But perhaps patience is in order: there is a subject we will examine later that will be relevant to the subject of self-deification.
In any case, virginity is its own mystery for Tripaldi, due to the paradoxical quality she attributes to it: simultaneously a source of the integrity of the social order and a cause of its very negation. The sanctity of virginity, which is obviously also a familiar fetish of traditional/conventional Christian sexual morality, is exemplified in the Vestal Virgins, whose vow of chastity was linked to the preservation of the whole body politic of the Roman state, and in Joan of Arc, whose purity is said to have ensured the destiny of the medieval Kingdom of France. It is here meant to be understood as a sacred condition, relevant to feminine mysteries, and representative of what Tripaldi supposes to be a purity that passes through creation. The goddess Artemis is here understood as fiercely representing just such a purity: those who approach her know that any outrage against her purity would be paid in their flesh and blood. That at least is the myth of Actaeon, the hunter who saw the naked body of Artemis and, as punishment for ogling her, was silenced, then turned into a stag, and then killed by his own oblivious hunting dogs.
As lunar goddesses Artemis and Diana are seen as dual-natured: bright and yet dark, chaste and yet perverse, protector and yet also destroyer, at once luminous and murderous. Of course, it should be noted that just this sense of duality is not at all unique to Artemis or Diana in the context of pre-Christian polytheism, where basically every deity was assumed to be “dual-natured” or multifaceted, and I think there’s a sense that this basic fact is more or less excluded as is a lot of the perspective of paganism for much of the book except for its second chapter. What seems unique about these goddesses, however, is what Pierre Klossowski describes in The Bath of Diana as their “closed” nature, by which is meant their renunciation of the possibility of the possibility of mortal union and their existence “beyond destiny”. That said, I doubt that the interpretation that the wholeness of the universe rests on a single goddess is in any way consistent with polytheism as a religious worldview where a multitude of divine presences pervade a universe that exists between all of them. Nor for that matter does it make sense to assume that Artemis or Diana exist “beyond destiny’ in a religious context where even Zeus answers to the Fates. Again, it seems that here the goddesses of pre-Christian antiquity are invoked so as to represent a larger metaphysical concept of virginity as part of the formation of a divine feminine multiplicity, but without sufficient consideration for the actual context of the ancient polytheism they were a part of. What seems far more operative for Tripaldi is the lunar symbolism of Diana, which certainly does reflect Diana’s dual nature in a more historical sense, and how she connects this back to the subject of Kabbalah.
In classical terms, the moon is both celestial and chthonic, a light in the sky that also represented the powers of the underworld. As a celestial object, the moon’s light is really a reflection of the sun, which makes it seems like a spectral double of the sun. But, we are told, the moon in Kabbalah corresponds to the sefira Malkuth, the “impure” aspect of the divine feminine from before, because it reflects light from God. According to Gershom Scholem, this reflected an exile referred to as “the lessening of the moon”, which in turn was interpreted as the exile of the Shekhinah, the “holy moon”. The moon is also heavily associated with cyclical time, its influence linked to the movemennts of the tides, the reproductive cycles of many marine animals, and at least traditionally the menstrual cycles of women. Tripaldi interprets this cyclicality as a cycle of purification through death, through the cycle of the Flood and the purification of menstruation, and thus the moon as a symbol of virginal purity and death. This makes the moon a distrubing aspect of the divine feminine, an object of maniacal love and sacred terror, containing in itself all the ancient violence directed upon its flesh. But for Tripaldi the moon also has a mask, whose removal is but the hunter’s foolish and blasphemous quest to domesticate the divine feminine. It is presumed that behind the face of the moon lies a lost harmony, but we have no certainty that its true face is any better than the mask we have built for her. Sacrilege and unknowability interplay in an interesting way here. God in Christian terms is not only unknowable but the attempt to comprehend him, let alone imitate him, is a sin. Knowledge is in Christian terms the blasphemy and disobedience that overturns everything, because that’s how it was in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in so doing they began their link to the realm of the gods, and so they were exiled from the garden, punished with the burden of original sin, and plagued further still by the apparition of their redemption in the form of Jesus Christ. If what hides behind the mask is no harmony, then what is it? No doubt a representation of raw entropy, or the death that is at once ineffable life. Might the blasphemy of discovery thus force us to confront the truth that lay beyond? Might the piety to the contrary only promote ignorace?
Still not finished, Tripaldi turns us next to the subject of Paolo Gorini, an Italian scientist whose legacy is commemorated in a square outside the University of Milan. He was also an embalmer, and was known as “the petrifier” for his experiments in mummification and preserving corpses. Gorini also found himself coming up against the Catholic Church for advocating the return of cremation to common practice for disposing of the dead. In the context of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy), Gorini was going against traditional authority in a time of radical political and social change. At this time, positivist rationalism and new natural sciences were an axis of resistance against the obscurantism of traditional religious authority, and secret societies worked towards a new future governed by enlightened ideals, while in northern Italy that very struggle was fought over the bodies of the dead, and its traces are left in the necropolises. Gorini rationalized his interest in the preservation and destruction of human bodies through his horror at their decomposition after burial. He believed that what happened to buried bodies was worse than if they were simply left on the ground, and that burial would be unequivocably left behind as soon as anything less cruel was introduced. To that end, Gorini turned to two practices from two ancient civilizations. On the one hand, the ancient Egyptians petrified and mummified corpses to preserve the body for what was believed to be its resurrection; on the other hand, the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced cremation, burning the bodies of the dead and thereby hastening their decay. Either proposal, Tripaldi notes, amounted to the “mineralisation” of the body: whether petrification or combustion, the dead body is turned into a new form of matter.
In all truth, this is a rather strange interjection. It’s not quite clear how this discourse connects to the rest of Tripaldi’s discussion of the divine feminine in the context of her heterodox interpretation of Kabbalah. There is a discourse present in the treatment of the body as an alchemical matter, and Gorini deriving his ideas about cremation from his research into plutonic liquid, and its ostensible Hermetic significance. Plutonic liquid is the name of a mysterious liquid that Gorini thought created volcanoes and mountain ranges when made solid. Tripaldi opens the suggestion that Gorini was a magician, for which there is scant basis both within this essay and certainly without, but in any case his cause to preserve the human body or at least save it from burial is seen by Tripaldi as a magical quest to stop or reverse time. As if a “Promethean” challenge to the disintegration of matter, or, through the words of Elemire Zolla, a form of alchemy similar to the transmutation of metal into gold. And, in the face of defeat, Gorini chose cremation; for Tripaldi, this meant a last stand against time in which his body “decapitated” time by returning to an original state. But as fascinating as it may be to take this view of cremation and alchemy as a plunge into immolation over surrender to time, I am still unsure of how it pertains to the whole essay. Unless, perhaps the “petrifying gaze of eternity in the eyes of a severed head” is none other than the face behind the mask of the moon that Tripaldi discussed. Is that what we, like the example of Actaeon, are counselled to never reveal to ourselves? Would it destroy us so?
The last relevant section of this essay returns us to the subject of the Virgin Mary, or rather one of her names: Stella Maris, meaning “star of the sea”. This name is meant denote her as watching over sailors or seafarers, thus linking her to the light of the North Star. The name’s origin seems to be a transcription error upon the original Latin name Stilla Maris, meaning “drop of the sea”, as translated by Jerome from the Hebrew name Maryam. Now, what is the meaning of all this? It would seem to establish a connection between the Virgin Mary and the depths of the ocean, which must seem very unusual compared to her conventional association with the heavens. From this we’re then introduced to Thalassa, a book written by the psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi. Ferenczi’s apparent aim was to establish a scientific basis for a psychological link between motherhood and the ocean and the broader view that all life is based on return to the womb. The fact that Thalassa is almost exactly a century old (having been written in 1924) leaves us with the suggestion that we should not take the “science” strictly at face value. Incidentally, though, the name Thalassa, which is the Greek word for “sea”, resonates with the name Thalatte, the Hellenistic name for the Babylonian Tiamat – certainly a meaningful coincidence given the overall centrality of Tiamat throughout Revolutionary Demonology and particularly in Tripaldi’s essays. Anyways, Ferenczi’s thesis is based on a theory he called “thalassal regression”: the idea of a latent drive to return to a long-lost aquatic mode of existence, which he thought continued to operate in genitality. Within this theory, it’s not the ocean that symbolises the womb but rather the womb that reminds us of the ocean, from which our distant mammalian ancestors emerged.
Trauma seems to be the main fixation of Tripaldi’s exploration of Ferenczi’s Lamarckian psychoanalysis. Human beings here are like living fossils that bear in their bodies evidence of eons of geological trauma created by ancient catastrophes visited upon our evolutionary ancestors, like the drying up of the primordial ocean. Birth is presented as a trauma that repeats the trauma of life emerging from the sea, and sexual intercourse is presented as means of regression, fulfilling a desire to return to the ocean. It’s not hard to see how the analogy to the womb comes into play, but it also almost feels like the ocean is like a center-point from which life plunges and to which, even as it crawls to the surface, it remains chained, and thus must at some point plunge back. I assure you, it’s not obvious what’s so centrifugal about this diagram of origination and return. The main insight that Tripaldi derives from Thalassa is in the idea that inhuman, geological, catastrophic forces mold individual subjectivity in the context of a catastrophic cosmogony of separation that positions the human being as the ultimate recepticle of cosmic suffering. Our drive to emerge from the abyss is framed thus as a catastrophic urge for separation, rather than a creative act. The strange thing about this idea, though, is that Tripaldi has spent pages of her illuminating separation and exile as fundamental to the creation of the world in the Kabbalistic context of the manifestation of God’s light. In this setting, you cannot just uncouple separation from creation. Nonetheless, evolution is presented by Tripaldi through Ferenczi not as a rise to the top of some natural order but a continuous propagation of traumas that in turn always motivates the desire for regression. After this, the essay ends with a lamentation of everything plunging into darkness, paging the cry of Angela of Foligno: “my son, my son, do not abandon me, my son!”. Perhaps for Tripaldi this is also Tiamat crying out for her myriad offspring, her own flesh and blood separated from her body, hung on the cross of creation. Now that I think about it, a more Christianized metaphor for the myth of Tiamat there isn’t.
So what emerges from all this? We see a particular interpretation of Kabbalah through the theme of cosmogonic separation and exile that is then taken through the theme of primordial agony and manifests as a metaphysics of a catastrophic divine feminine. This divine feminine is multifaceted: in many ways a reification of the perceived wound of our separation from an original state of non-creation, but also a reflection of the death and entropy that underlies the whole basis of life itself, albeit more so the violence of creation. It is obvious that the multitudinous divine feminine is still supposed to be Tiamat, but perhaps it is also Babalon, the exposed and bleeding heart of the Virgin Mary, the virginal divinity of Artemis and Diana, the petrifying gaze of Medusa, and the ocean itself. It is still curious that eight out of the nine goddesses of the seal of Gruppo Di Nun (namely Ammit, Nammu, Kauket, Hushbishag, Nungal, Sekhmet, Uadjet, and Ishtar), while only Tiamat seems to be discussed anywhere at all. In any case, this is the complex of feminine mystery that Tripaldi proposes alignment with as an occult axis against the patriarchy, and which, in Tripaldi’s occult schema, is the hidden machinery of Kabbalah meant to rise up and take the head from the Tree of Life.
One does wonder, though, to what end? Perhaps it can be connected to Kulesko’s discourse of the shattering of the world which then facilitates endless creation, thus to sever the Tree of Life and shatter the Image of the World would mean to open up the space for endless horizons of new creation. Yet, I doubt this is the throughline we get from Tripaldi. Instead it seems more like this is to fulfill a different kind of death drive, that the divine feminine might resolve the agony of separation by constricting around the whole machinery of Kabbalah and initiating an ecstatic regression towards the ocean of Nun (which, we might be assured, is not an alternative Centre from which we have still fallen). In Tripaldi’s premise, creation is a violence that leaves a wound at the heart of the universe, of matter itself, and, if that pain has any means of resolution, regression to the ocean, which is here the drive towards dissolution, is that resolution. But if life inexorably carved itself out, would it not do so again? If so, then I wonder, what is the point? And, I suppose the question arises that if we had any awareness of the pain of the world and of our own desire for regression, and if dissolution was the love that fulfilled it, then if we really wanted to go back to the ocean we could just die. Yet we choose to live for as long as we can.
Italian Southern Gothic (The Third Nigredo)
Our third discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Solarisation”, written by Valerio Mattioli. It is a rich exploration of the distorting power of the sun, and the alchemical cipher of the black sun, which is to be understood as a symbol of the process of nigredo, as situated in a tour of multiple distinct contours of modern Italian culture (or perhaps counter-culture). From Italian neorealist cinema, to giallo movies, to underground music, this scene is also explored in terms of an occult context of a land bathed in the sun’s light, and in my view provides valuable context for solar mythology relevant to the Left Hand Path. I have already discussed this particular essay in a separate article about the solar myth of Satan, which I propose as a central locus of Satanism that makes Satanism what it is (and, in turn, makes us Satanists what we are), with particular attention paid to Mattioli’s discussion of solarisation in relation to the subject of inversion and blasphemy. As such, I may attempt to minimize anything that risks repeating ground that I already trod last month. But a much broader exploration of the whole of the essay can be taken up in the scope of this article, and within this scope it would be my pleasure to give focus to Mattioli’s psychogeographical exploration of the occult landscape of Italy.
We are first introduced to Minor White, an American photographer known for his Surrealist pieces that employ the effect of solarisation: that is, a process of overexposure that both darkens and inverts the colour of an image. The monochromatic Oregon landscape of White’s “Black Sun”, made in 1955, is almost literally a textbook example of the technique of solarisation. It almost seems to reveal another world, as if hidden within this one, equal and opposite to it. For Mattioli, it’s as if that’s the point: to investigate and peer into a subconscious world parallel to our own. Photography was invented so as to produce images as mirrors of the real world around us, but ironically enough it was ostensibly first used to try and capture spectral presences (like ghosts or ectoplasms), and the camera filter, when activated properly, can invert photographs in ways that overturn the principles of empiral experience. Already, we see that humans by way of technical creativity can invert the world around them, revealing an other world and creating new worlds. What was meant as a tool to rationally document the world brought life to irrational worlds. Thus, through photography we begin to examine our subject of solar myth. The sun illuminates the world around us with its light, which to us should mean more reality accessible to us. But instead, more sunlight has the counterintuitve effect of distortion: solarisation means an exposure that exposes an “incorrect” truth. The solar disk turns black, the sky becomes milky, and all values change places. Thus, more sun does not mean more reality, but instead an inversion of reality. That observation has important implications that I intend to explore (or rather revisit), but suffice it to say for now that solarisation and sunshine appear magical a the fundamental sense: they change the world around them and overturn everything.
The black sun of alchemy, not to be confused with the other so-called “black sun” of neo-Nazism, enters into this in that solarisation is itself likened to nigredo. In alchemy, nigredo denotes the process of putrefaction in which matter is reduced to primordial chaos, the initial stage of the Great Work in which matter can begin to be transfigured into the perfection and immortality represented in the philosopher’s stone. For Mattioli, solarisation represents a kind of mechanical nigredo that explodes the sun’s light so as to translate it into what appears to be its opposite, and thus shatters the confines of the phenomenal world to reveal the invisible, unnameable, and the unknowable locked beneath it. To Mattioli this reveals primordial chaos in the form of an uninhabitable planet, and that it is revealed through a mechanical filter is to him all the more befitting of the inhumanity of the dimension that solarisation reveals, represented by the darkness of the black sun itself. But while it might be revealed through technique, it can only be known by occult means, by recourse to witchcraft and similar practices. Our sun ultimately emerges from that same world. The nigredo of solar myth can be interpreted along the lines of an active inversion, a blasphemy that will be made clear as we explore further. For Mattioli it is perhaps and abdication on the part of the alchemist’s self. But for the Satanist, this nigredo is the Fall re-enacted, a conscious inversion undertaken to reshape the world around you. There’s a sense in which solarisation here is a lot like Walter Benjamin’s concept of profane illumination: a non-contemplative materialist consciousness meant to allow the revolutionary subject to decode the superstructure of bourgeois society, destroy its field of reification and interact in full free consciousness with conditions as they really are. Or the way Henri Lefebvre described the mission of Surrealism as to “decode inner space and illuminate the nature of the transition from this subjective space to the material realm of the body and the outside world, and thence to social life”. Yes, perhaps solarisation actually denotes an active principle of surreality, bending the world so as to reveal it.
An ancient folk belief (or perhaps superstition), illuminated by a quote from Giacomo Leopardi at the start of the essay, hangs in the background of this exploration. In Italy and other Mediterranean lands, people believed that the spirits of the dead would appear at noon and disturb the living. For this reason, Leopardi said, classical authors would warn shepherds against going to places like Pallene or Phlegra, the latter thought to house the bones of giants, at noon. At midday, when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the world of the dead crossed with the world of the living, and the demons of the underworld appeared in the world above. Similar beliefs seem to appear in other cultures. In East European countries, a demon named Lady Midday (known in Poland as Południca) was believed to appear at the hottest time of noon, attack people in the fields, and occasionally ask them questions or challenge them to a dance. The Book of Psalms refers to a “destruction that despoils at midday”, which over time was translated through Jerome as the “daemonium meridianum”, or “Meridian Demon”. In Jewish demonology, a plague demon called Keteb was believed to be most powerful in the midsummer season and during the mid-day, and was also called Keteb Meririm. According to Cornelius Agrippa, Meririm was the name of the “Meridian Devil”, which he believed was the power of the air that worked in the children of disobedience. It’s often thought that these spirits were folk representations of the phenomenon of sunstroke, but the “daemonium meridianum” was also taken as a form of melancholy, depression, or rather a condition known as acedia (meaning basically listlessness or lack of care). Incidentally, acedia is also the Latin word given to the “deadly sin” of sloth. The irony, of course, is that we also use words like “sunny” to refer to the exact opposite conditions: happiness, joy, vibrancy etc., no doubt communicating a sense of life felt from the sun’s presence, which we in turn stereotypically associate with the peoples of the Mediterranean Basin. Or perhaps this all a cipher for a daemonic life, the vivifying light of an inner darkness that is the soul of this world, a soul that can be unlocked through solarisation.
For Mattioli, the sun is an altogether different presence from the optimistic light we perceive culturally. Per Antonin Artaud, it is a messenger of the breath of chaos, and Mattioli believes this communicates a perverse reality intuited by gothic fiction, whose classics were set in Mediterranean lands. For example, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, often considered the very first gothic novel, is set in a guilt-ridden Otranto, located in southern Italy, and Walpole claimed that he based it on what was originally an Italian manuscript, supposedly written in Naples in 1529. Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk casts its decadent story in Spain, Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya is set in Venice, and need we say anything about Ann Radcliffe’s novels? In many ways this tendency reflected a mix of revulsion and fascination for an irrational outside within the Enlightenmentarian English psyche. But to really venture into a world where the sun doesn’t shine, we are to touch on a genre referred to as Italian Southern Gothic.
Italian Southern Gothic is the name given to a very broad cultural exploration of the macabre, the decadent, and the occult as running through the Mezzogiorno (as in, southern Italy). Italian Southern Gothic as we know it begins in 1954, when Alan Lomax, an American ethnomusicologist, visited Italy. Alongside his colleague Diego Carpitella, he travelled across the south to places such as Liguria and Carrara in order to study the sounds and culture of the region. It was also at this time that the modernization of Italy was about to begin in earnest, as Italy’s “economic miracle” was set to transform Italy into a modern industrial nation in its own right alongside its European peers. This of course was to see older, archaic communities obscured beneath the new highways built for the rat race of modern consumer capitalism. But it was just the arcane world beneath that Lomax was to find, and while he still could: a wild, transgressive, immoral world, unlike the quaint image of Italian folk culture. Wild and uncanny sounds portrayed a world of sexual mania, irrationality, demonic fantasy, inexplicable fear, mind-shattering guilt, and archaic religious and ritual practices that go back centuries in time. This all led to the development of a “New Hypothesis” wherein southern Italy was to be understood as a clash between the human body, its surrounding social context, and memory. It also not only disturbed Lomax himself but also apparently horrified some of the Italian cultural intelligentsia, as I’m sure the dark side of life so often does.
Lomax was not alone in searching this arcane world. Ernesto De Martino, an Italian anthropologist, wrote essays and studies that elaborated a geography of sinister tales of decadence and even abuse interspersed with arcane religious rites and magical formulas. De Martino thus, for Mattioli, embodies a solarisation that unravelled a world of meridian demons and blind divinities just as Lomax unravelled the lost world of Mezzogiorno. This solarisation is indeed an unparalleled exercise in profane illumination. Further, I find myself imagining a perverse form of Terrence McKenna’s “Archaic Revival”, one where unlocking the liberationist values of a distant past means unlocking the sinister underbelly of the present. Italian Southern Gothic is in this sense a mechanism of solarisation whose hyperrealist gaze allows us to discover truly archaic contents that animate or lurk beneath the world we live in. It may indeed open up mystical and esoteric praxis that enhances the Left Hand Path in its access to the true ground of being, as if the substance of innate enlightenment (here I am admittedly invoking Bernard Faure’s image of Daikokuten within esoteric Tendai Buddhism).
The theme of hyperreality turns us toward a genre of film that, in its late years, seemed to draw inspiration from the ethnographic work of Alan Lomax and Ernesto De Martino. Enter, Italian Neorealism. The term “neorealism” refers to a gritty and almost documentary form of cinema that emerged in the middle of the 1940s and focused on depicting the realities of life in post-World War II Italy. Directors such as Luigi Di Gianni, Roberto Rossellini, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Vittorio De Sica, Cecilia Mangini, and Federico Fellini all sought to bring to focus a society exhausted by poverty as it struggled in the beginning of life after Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. The point was to portray the real conditions of contemporary Italian society just as they were, right down to its worst aspects, without any artifice, metaphor, symbolism, or dreamlike flourish. For this, neorealism is typically recognised as a form of documentary denunciation rather than an expression of Italian Southern Gothic. But, for Mattioli, this impression is not complete, and merely reflects a more polite repression of a latent arcane world, one befitting the emerging reign of rational modernity.
To illustrate what Mattioli sees as a practical interplay between hyperrealism and demonic solarisation, we are referred to the novel Conversations in Sicily, written by Elio Vittorini in 1941. In the novel, Vittorini apparently lets his documentary narrative of Sicilian life subtly move towards oneiricism. Perhaps the better example might be Carlo Levi’s memoir, Christ Stopped At Eboli, which is a reflection of Levi’s life and travels as a political exile in southern Italy that is apparently nonetheless populated with witches, cemeteries, drunken priests, and invisble brigands, who all form the image of a land where time has stopped and neither reason and history have a place, all inaugurated by a solar eclipse. More than that, however, it is in neorealism we see a perverse magic to solar inversion. The example we are presented with is a short documentary film titled Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (Notes On A News Story), directed by Luchino Visconti in 1951, which focuses on the story of the abduction, rape, and murder of a 12-year old Annarella Bracci in the Primavelle district, which was probably one of the most notorious crimes of the day. The film depicts the sunlit outskirts of Rome in the throes of its worst nightmares, almost morphing before our eyes into a desert where human and non-human garbage is tossed aside, and a road in the final shot connecting the Primavelle flats to a sky that seems like an omen of damnation. The inertia and salvation of the golden city seems like an inferno, and thus, in Mattioli’s words, Hell lies in the celestial vaults. Mattioli treats this as an iconic representation of solar inversion. That very solar inversion also strikes a chord with Satanic inversion: after all, if heaven is hell, is hell not heaven, and is God not thus the ultimate villain of his own cosmic drama? Though, for Mattioli, the relevant aesthetic fulfillment of solar inversion for the old neorealism is in its slow rhythm, its narratives of abject fatigue and social nightmares, lack of colour, and above all the fact that these films were typically filmed on long summer days and shot in the open air, altogether conveying the acid of excessive sunlight.
The transition from black and white films to colour films also meant a transition from neorealism to “post-neorealism”, and the qualities of neorealism passing into two iconic Italian cult movie genres: spaghetti westerns and giallo movies. Spaghetti westerns were Italian movies set in the “American West”, or rather the picture of an American West filled with stylized violence and revolving around the bleak stories of rugged, often silent protagonists. Giallo movies were essentially horror-thriller or murder mystery movies that were also known for their wild eroticism, madness, violent gratuity to the point that they can be called “slashers”, and, often enough, a flair for esotericism, supernatural horror, and even psychedelia. Their bright colours manage to subtly invoke the weight of the Mediterranean sun, but they also still seem to lead back to a kind of meridian nigredo. But from there we come an odd but insightful discussion of a principle of solarisation that is also descriptive of the magical principle of solar myth: the whiteout. Here, Mattioli is talking about what he calls the “Mediterranean whiteout”. This is a phenomenon where, when the sun is its at brightest, its light seems to turn the whole field of vision into a vast white expanse, leading a blindness bound in the liquification of existence. For Mattioli, the cinematic genius of the whiteout is none other than Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose movies seem to activate inverting properties of solarisation and the amplifying the properties of the principle of neorealist cinema: the need to know and modify reality. Mattioli then positions this need as a magical gesture, an expression of Aleister Crowley’s definition of magic as “the Science and Art of causing changes in conformity with the Will”. Thus magic itself expresses the quality of solarisation.
Here, we can briefly revist the solar myth of Aleister Crowley. As Cavan McLaughlin observed in his essay The Dark Side of the Sun, Crowley’s own life was a solar myth supported by his own magical will. He was born as Alexander Edward Crowley, dubbed himself Aleister Crowley as an act of magical self-authorship, and in 1930 he even faked his own death by suicide by spreading false information and producing a fake suicide note, only to then re-emerge alive and well in Berlin. Crowley in a sense distorted the boundary between fiction and realtiy, solarising the world around him and creating a new one. The property of solar myth consists in the interpretation of the need to know and modify the world as the desire to overturn everything, changing it in accordance with will. Neorealism was received as a documentary denunciation, and welcomed with the moral ends of humanism. But in Crowleyan terms, the need to know and modify the world is an amoral desire, from which begins an amoral quest. McLaughlin again illuminates this, in that, if every man and every woman truly is a star, then the magical quest for transcendence or doing what thou wilt has the potential to “make monsters of us all”. But then if life per Schopenhauerian terms life is kind of monstrous, and we are all thus monsters for participating in it, then, in Nietzschean terms, we cannot really cower from it. Thus is the starting point of Crowleyan solar heroism as its own solarisation: every man and woman is a star, meaning that they are Suns, in that they are at the center of their own magical universe, and their light may shine down on the world, transforming it entirely, overturning everything in the process.
Mattioli presents the cinematic career of Pier Paolo Pasolini as a kind of journey of initiatory journey of solarisation. This journey begins with Accattone, where Pasolini seems to turn Rome, the “Eternal City”, into a phantasmagorical sea of light marked by a stark contrast of white and black, whose geometries come to take a surreal and tenebrous quality associated with the city of R’lyeh in H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. The journey ends in Salo, Pasolini’s adaptation of The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, whose reputed unwatchability and brutality would seem to coincide with the similar unwatchability of the noonday sun. Mattioli connects the “death and terror” of Salo to Georges Bataille’s description of Mount Vesuvius as a “filthy parod of the blindingly hot sun”, and then, to a different parody: the anus. For Bataille, volcanoes are like the asshole of a world that eats nothing, and constantly spew out its contents. Mattioli then links that theme to Salo as the sum of the link between the sun and the asshole, both at least figuratively impossible to lay eyes on, then we are brought to the magical property of anal sex. Seemingly an inversion of the function of procreation and the mandate of the sun to illuminate the world, anal sex is here positioned as an instrument of reconciliation with the arcane world parallel to ours, revelaed by the light of a black sun, and in a way that echoes Austin Osman Spare’s concept of “new sexuality”. For Spare, this meant accessing the innermost layers of the psyche through “unnatural” sexual acts in order to trigger the awakening of primordial states of the subconscious mind, which he called “atavistic resurgence”. Kenneth Grant described this as a process by which Spare visted fantastical cities constructed of lines and angles that seemed unlike anything on Earth. Mattioli relates this to the lost city of R’lyeh in Lovecraft’s work and Pasolini’s treatment of the city of Rome in Accattone. It’s fairly interesting that in this essay Chaos Magick (or at least as anticipated by Spare) seems to align with the aims that Mattioli and the Gruppo Di Nun at large present while in the previous essay the entire tradition of Chaos Magick is portrayed as part of the “Western iniatic tradition” on the basis of a single passage from Liber Null.
But, from here, we come to an aspect of Pasolini’s solarisation that I find rich with Satanic significance: the assassination of Pier Paolo Pasolini on the beaches of Ostia. The very name Ostia clues us in on the nature of solar inversion: simply put, it overturns everything. It simultaneously references the holy communion wafer of Catholic liturgy and the hidden blasphemy of the solar disc. The name Ostia relates to the Latin words “hostia”, meaning “victim”, and “hostis”, meaning “adversary”: the former can be seen as Jesus, the divine victim central to Christianity, and the latter as Satan, the Adversary himself. Yet, it also actually comes from the Latin word “ostium”, meaning “mouth”, as in the mouth of a river. A mouth where water and shit exit the metropolis of Rome: the anus of the city. But it is also the Mithraic solar disc trapped inside the Christian host, and thus the secret of blasphemy. Every mockery and desecration of the cross, every carnal gratification for its own sake, kink, queering, disinhibition, insurrection, all sure the same magic as solar inversion, and the monstrous duality of solar mystery, and in turn solar myth. In Satanic terms, this is the creative act of blasphemy, the creative act of “Satan’s Fall”, the primordial insurrection, the a rebours (reversal) that is central to Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s understanding of Satanism. Without surrender or abdication, we penetrate the world with our own solar rays, as we partake in a defiant Satanic nigredo that is disinhibition and solarisation. The Ostia described by Mattioli is perhaps its own psychogeography of blasphemy, its own example of satanic solar inversion, as the place where, as he put it, the hierarchies of the city of Rome are upended.
What Pasolini brought to life in his work was an alternate city of Rome. In ancient Roman myth and tradition this city had a name: Remoria. Remoria was the mythical city that was to be founded by Remus, the twin brother of Romulus. The traditional myth goes that, when Romulus and Remus had finished restoring their grandfather as king of Alba, the two brothers set out to found a city of their own, but they argued bitterly over where the city should be built, and eventually Remus was killed while Romulus established Rome as we know it. Remoria can thus be seen as an image of what Rome could have been. All this also sits beneath a dark sun, or rather a solar eclipse. According to Plutarch, Remus was killed by Romulus during what happened to be a solar eclipse. For Mattioli this invites us to look beyond the sun to another world.
But what does that other world look like? Mattioli says that Romulus, as the founder of Rome, seemed to establish the civilizational archetype of “the West”, with its emphasis on a vertical ideology of hierarchy, order, and discipline, constructed atop a square city of continuous conquest and production what is, with no tolerance for waste. Remoria, in this picture, would seem to be a chaotic and circular city of expenditure and sacrifice of what never was, a spectral twin city born dead, welcoming the waste of the world and reflecting the irrational qualities attributed to Remus. Yet this Remoria exists within Rome itself: the senseless and chaotic suburbs that are connected to Rome by the anal symbol of the Grande Raccordo Anulare, which seems to mimic the circumference of a volcanic crater and form a solar disc on the ground. In this way, it would seem that the other world is always lying beneath the surface of this one, seemingly inseparable from this world. If Mattioli is to be believed, there are urban legends surrounding the Grande Raccordo Anulare that position it as some kind of magic seal, which if we take them for granted would perhaps literally make it an occult ideogram planted in Rome. This, the hidden structure of an arcane world is there, waiting to be unravelled by the solar will of a magician looking to unleash the darkness of the world.
Delving deeper into the Italian underground we start to explore what Mattioli figures as the sound of Remoria. This begins with Italian techno music, focusing on the album Muta, which was released by Leo Anibaldi in 1993. Muta seems to be unique among techno records in that techno as a genre seems to inaugurate a cybernetic age, but Muta does not, apparently sounding a little too much like old giallo soundtracks to have that feel. But then, from Mattioli’s description, Rome at this time was still hardly a cybernetic city; in fact, he claims that Rome was never even a punk city. By the turn of the 1970s and 80s, the most prevalent subculture among the young working class of Rome was goth subculture (which, incidentally, centres around a music genre that spun off from punk), which celebrated the night, the long sunless winters, and tanless flesh. This apparently has nothing to do with the old gothic novels frequently being set in Italy. More fitting the scene seems to be the disc of death celebrated by Coil on their album Scatology. But Leo Anibaldi’s work is also positioned in what Mattioli calls a “dark continuum”, which apparently begins with a band named Goblin.
Goblin was an Italian progressive rock band formed in 1972 by Claudio Simonetti, the same Claudio Simonetti who went on to compose soundtracks for several Italian horror movies. In fact, Goblin made music for numerous films directed by Dario Argento, including Suspiria, Deep Red, and Phenomena to name just a few. But, at the end of the 1970s, Claudio Simonetti became a disco producer and got involved in a number of disco bands. Local DJs around this time played alongside Simonetti before eventually moving on from Italo disco to house, and then new DJs would discover techno and develop a new “Sound of Rome”. Then, as the 1990s progressed and rave parties became the new scene, amidst the electronic decadence of drugs and esotericism emerged a rap group called TruceKlan, which brought Anibaldi’s brand of techno together with Satanism and the legacy of neorealism and giallo movies into their own distinct sound. Although they remained obscure everywhere else, they apparently had a major impact in Rome, and into the 2010s one of TruceKlan’s producers went on to create a trap collective called Dark Polo Gang. Thus is Mattioli’s dark continuum, running from the morbid legacy of giallo movies to a new kind of depressive dark trap music.
That dark continuum seems in itself to be an expression of Italian Southern Gothic, in that we behold a hidden world of decadence beneath the surface of the golden city, locked inside, per Visconti’s description, the inertia and salvation. Hell continues to lie inside the celestial vaults. Celebrations of anal sex and roundabouts around the GRA form a kind of modern Witches’ Sabbath. The myth of the Witches’ Sabbath resonates in the rave parties due to their character as an ecstatic, transgressive, and “illicit” counterculture, but also in a commitment to inverting their surroundings, revealing the symbol of the world turned upside down. Again we see an avenue for Satanism. For Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the myth of the Witches’ Sabbath corresponded to a ritual manifestation of a Satanic-Nietzschean transvaluation of values, an event whose orgies, dances, and sacrifices culminate in a dissolution of reality and/or the sensorium into an endless night in which Satan appears. This inversion sees flesh and its instincts triumph over law and the social order, desire exceeds itself by its fulfillment in communion with Satan, and sin itself, along with holiness, and all good and evil, dissolve into nothingness. Only joy and desire remain: wealth, God, morality, the pursuit of power, all of these are worthless before this raw revolt of flesh, and they melt before Satan’s inner world as revealed by the frenzy of the Witches’ Sabbath. In the case of the Italian underground, their frenzy, their artifical rhythms, synthetic drugs, samples, and autotune all reveal an inhuman, inorganic world, the image of a dead planet. For Italian Southern Gothic at large, in the work of Alan Lomax the frenzy of the songs and screams he recorded were a revelation of a spectral world seemingly populated by the living dead. But these all point to an axis that reveals disinhibition as a solarising act that unravels an arcane world, that is at once the ground of this world. It is as if ecstasy as a means of revelation, and yet that ecstasy is not the suffering of Teresa of Avila. No, for Satanism it is a joy and triumph that destroys all else.
Finally, we revist the legacy of giallo movies through one film in particular that Mattioli deems archetypical for the genre. Directed by Giulio Questi in 1972, Arcana is a film that depicts a widow named Ms. Tarantino and her son living in Milan, having moved there from the south, and practicing spiritualism and magic. Ms. Tarantino makes money by performing seances with the aid of her secret magical knowledge, while her son somehow forces her to teach him said magical arts so that he can use them to cause panic wherever he goes and however he pleases. At the background of the film seems to be an unresolved tension between a fully modern and industrial Milan on the one hand and a still very much occult south on the other hand. Questi apparently performs a cinematic whiteout to depict the south in overexposed but dark images to convey its constant presence in the past. But Milan contains its own darkness. Its underground construction sites almost seem home to ancient chthonic powers and irrationality, while conveying assemblies of men amputated in their work. Even though Arcana is a film that centers occult themes, for Mattioli it is fundamentally a realist movie, in that it also centres an emigration from southern Italy to the north that has been depopulating the south since World War II. Modern, “enlightened” Milan sits ensconsed in the comforts of Capital, while sinking its bowels into an underworld of construction sites and curses. That underworld is a negative of Milan itself, a kind of negative that every city contains witin itself, a double that pushes for the inversion of the city we know, and it which is thus a force of solarisation. From there Milan upends itself from within, as in the Covid-19 pandemic, for Mattioli, unravels the truth of the disk of death: that there is no consumption without waste, no nourishment without excrement, and that there is always an asshole somewhere. But another inversion took place: Milan, which previously saw continous emigration from the south, was abandoned by those some southerners seeking refuge in their motherlands, and became one big ghost town. Within Italy, that flight was portrayed as a betrayal by southerners of the city that welcomed them, but for Mattioli it was just the city consuming and then execrating a mass of labour, and thus having suceeded in its mission as the machinery of Capital.
From this final psychogeographic revelation we turn our heads to the sky once more, to see the Medierreanean sun burn and evaporate everything one last time, and behold Lucifer shining in the sky. The Canicola that conludes Mattoli’s essay tells us of a Sun that, from 150,000,000 kilometres above our planet’s surface, evaporates all shadows, and melts all knowledge, desertifies the earth, and whose fire is the very fire of hell itself. Mattioli in this sense portrays light and darkness as ultimately the same; hell lies and the celestial vaults, but hell is heaven and heaven is hell. Too much light actually means too much darkness rather than more illumination, and for this reason Lucifer, the light-bringer, is in truth a master of shadows. The connection between Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star himself, and the sun almost seems like an echo of Charles Leland’s Lucifer (or Lucifero), who was cast in Aradia as a sun god, similar to the Greek and Roman god Apollo. In any case the sun stands as the source of life, death, and the life of death, and the principle of delusions, abnormalities, and all abysses of the human psyche. Mattioli’s sun almost seems to take on the principles of the God of Christian negative theology, who is “dark” in the sense that God is “dark” precisely because he exists as a superabundance of light, which would naturally blind human consciousness. But, on the other hand, this sun might just as well be the “Father of Lies”, the Devil, on the same terms. Either way, it is the light of the sun overturning everything in a surreal field of vision, that surreality being nothing but creation, and new creation. By this understanding God would be one more magician, and Satan in this schema would just happen to reject God’s particular design.
Without reprising the entirety of my previous article on solarisation, we can summarize the primary takeaway. The exploration of Italian Southern Gothic (which I believe I would like to continue on its own in a future article) is a valuable illustration of a particular kind of gnostic katabasis and magical gesture, whereby one “descends” into hidden structures or membranes of the world so as to become fully aware of the world in a way that is only possible through its darkness. Yet it is solar inversion in particular that poses a problem for Gruppo Di Nun’s critique of Satanism, at least in the sense that I, within my previous article alone, am able to elaborate ways in which the discourse of solarisation aligns with and even enhances some conception of Satanism. Granted, much hinges on a matter of perspective. If, after all, what primarily matters is some sense of “abdication” to the other world, then Satanism at large would still not align with that. But if what counts is the illustration of blasphemy as a magical act, by which the will may make change occur through solar inversion, then it is actually somewhat easily to develop a Satanic understanding of what Mattioli means to convey. Satan is insurrection, Satan is the sun at the heart of the world, the primordial engine of overturning everything: The Adversary.
Masochism As Gnosis (The Fourth Nigredo)
Our fourth discussion of nigredo is revolves around the essay “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, written by Enrico Monacelli. This essay is Enrico Monacelli’s elaboration of masochism not only as a principle of inverted wisdom but the absolute fundamental principle of the overall philosophy put forward by Gruppo Di Nun as a whole. I believe it is here that again move closer and closer to the core of Gruppo Di Nun’s answer to life. “Solarisation”, in Gruppo Di Nun’s schema, would serve as the revelation of a world whose tongue invites its visitors to become vessels of its transmission. “Mater Dolorosa” in a certain sense prepares the centrality of masochism by positioning suffering as its own goal and the mechanism of revelation. Yet “Solarisation” and “Cultivating Darkness” present alchemical avenues that, as I have shown, can still lead to an alternative to masochistic mysticism. “The Highest Form of Gnosis”, in this sense, is different, in that its philosophical pessimism lacks these avenues of subversion, and hinges entirely on ontological masochism. What is also central to Monacelli’s essay and the masochistic ontology he presents is a dialogue around the fearful encounter of Julius Evola, one of the foremost philosophers of traditionalism and 20th century fascism, and Carlo Michelstaedter, arguably one of the most formidable philosophical pessimists of the 20th century. This dialogue serves as a way to dissect Evola’s system of esoteric fascism as a response to Michelstaedter’s philosopher, so as to contrast it with Monacelli’s philosophy of masochism, with the aim of presenting this masochism as the diametric opposite of esoteric fascism and the ultimate means of breaking the spiral of fascism. Such a discourse cuts right into Gruppo Di Nun’s particular strategy of inversion, reflected in the namesake being a subversion of Julius Evola’s Gruppo Di Ur, and therefore allows us to cut deeper into its conceits.
We can, to start with, skip the first seven pages of Monacelli’s essay insofar as they largely recapitulate the psychogeographical exploration carried out by Valerio Mattioli in the previous essay. Instead, I think it is more pertinent to move straight on to his discussion of masochism. And even there, it is difficult to see if anything valuable could be said of Mattioli’s conceptual denunciations of “healthy sex”, “the abandonment of fetish”, and “the BDSM romantic comedy we find ourselves trapped in”. Monacelli appears to think that modern sexuality consists only of a one bivalent form of sexual deviancy consisting of the servant-master dialectic. I would posit that this is only his own unfamiliarity. He quotes Gilles Deleuze to support this idea and apparently Deleuze thought the very term “sadomasochism” was a construction of psychoanalysis meant to convince us that there is only one form of sexual deviancy. Well, notwithstanding that I might consider some aspect of Monacelli’s writing here to constitute psychoanalysis in itself, and to some extent the core philosophy of Gruppo Di Nun as a kind of psychoanalytical application, if Deleuze says this then I would maintain that Deleuze is also wrong. Everyone even vaguely familiar with fetishes or pornography knows what kind of fetishes exist which exceed this familiar field, and it is almost safe to assume that no one actually believes that there is just one form of sexual deviance. What exactly is the “servant-master” dialectic of the fecalphiliac, for instance? The assumption of bivalence in regards to fetish or kink is in many ways inherently flawed, and one would think that that a system billing itself as queer occultism should be innately familiar with that. I don’t find it entirely productive to dwell on this subject too long. In the end, Monacelli’s discussion of feitsh is a protracted appeal to taste, and perhaps it’s safe to assume Monacelli just isn’t into BDSM. But what he believes to be a comedy is its own ritual, a ritual that some of us enjoy and live by. In Kulesko’s terms, as long as we’re all just making our own meaning from the black magma of the cosmos, what does it matter what “comedy” by which people fornicate with each other? Kink and taste are what they are, so what matters is the philosophical substance Monacelli intends to propose.
That being said, I suppose we can comment on Monacelli’s discussion of sadism. Monacelli interprets sadism as an annihilating desire to be God’s right hand man, and echoes Deleuze’s opinion that the apogee of sadism is, rather than Marquis De Sade, none other than the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. This perhaps comes solely down to the perception of Spinoza’s philosophy as mechanistic, and sadism as a mechanistic desire. Not really much to work with in this sense, though Deleuze claims this is all to do with sadism supposedly impersonalizing violence with the support of an idea of pure reason. This almost feels like the way Vladimir Lenin and his successors define imperialism into something distinct from imperialism. Deleuze’s “sadism” could as well describe all conventional violence or political violence, which typically de-personalize or even deny violence, justifying it by turning it into reason, whereas sadism simply isn’t sadism without the derivation of pleasure. Indeed, even the most extreme and systematic forms of fascism are justified not by sadistic pleasure but by depersonalization as the hand of fascistic reason. But Monacelli in any case derives from this the idea of sadism as “separative wisdom”, meaning that it divides and lacerates the unity of the world, but for Monacelli it also cuts against and dissolves the self. His description of sadism sort of strikes a chord with Stirner’s concept of devourment, but that’s what makes it all the stranger that he should read it as “self-dissolution”. It seems obvious that, since the masochistic death drive is, in Gruppo Di Nun’s analysis, the centre of all cosmic life, all behaviour must be mapped onto self-dissolution or the desire to surrender. I will say that one can take up a form of self-dissolution as dissolving into apotheosis in the sense that Kulesko’s Dracula, and in turn Hellsing‘s Alucard, embody, it also seems like it’s also, ironically enough, just what Kulesko was counselling us against: to isolate a single desire or aspect of being as the fundamental principle of the universe. That may just be the inherent self-made contradiction for Gruppo Di Nun’s core ethos.
With that, we can move on to the “perverse mysticism” of masochism. Whereas sadism is “separative wisdom”, masochism could be understood as “regressive wisdom”. Masochism, for Monacelli, means to recall our point of origin and enjoy descent and immersion in the terror of infinite night. But already, from the starting point of the masochist as the faithful receiver of the massacre of the cosmos, back through Monacelli’s definition of sadism, it almost seems that, despite the denunciation of the servant-master dialectic in BDSM, Monacelli positions us as part of the one servant-master dialectic that he can accept. If sadism is the amplified wisdom of separation that lacerates the body and the cosmos, and the universe itself is a Landian machine of laceration, then it feels amusing to think that we might be asked to accept a God that separates and to reject any separative wisdom that might be our own. It almost comes back to the idea that God can distort, create, and destroy but we humans cannot. Our place is not to imitate God, only to be constantly solarised, confused, perverted, and destroyed by God. The opposite perspective is the path of Satan, of Lucifer, or Sophia.
It’s worth briefly focusing on what Deleuze tells us about Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Galician Tales. In the beginning of the book, a wanderer condemns Nature as evil, and Nature responds to the wanderer that she does not hate humans, even when she deals death, but is simply cold, severe, and maternal. Deleuze proposes this as a steppe that buries sensuality and sadism and also transmutes desire and cruelty. From another perspective, though, the coldness of Nature is an idea shared by De Sade. For De Sade, Nature is a whole matrix of generation whose basic process depends on destruction and recombination. Death and destruction are the basis of Nature’s ability to create, things die so that Nature can bring new things into being, and matter is continually re-arranged by Nature as it dies. It makes no difference to Nature if a human being were to reincarnate as a centipede. This idea appears frequently in De Sade’s work, often as a device for characters to justify the tortures they inflict. But in this sense, both the sadistic worldview of De Sade and the masochistic worldview of Masoch as an almost cruelly impersonal and necessarily destructive basis for life. The difference is that De Sade’s sadist views themselves as following in Nature’s example, deriving solely from Nature’s power and “law” while perhaps imitating its destructive creativity in their exercise of imagination, per Geoffrey Gorer’s description modifying the external world for the pleasure of doing so, while Masoch’s masochist seems to surrender to this Nature, and this Nature, rather than furnishing the desires of the individual, seems to subsume and change them. Monacelli seems to embrace Masoch’s idea on the basis that it sketches a descent into what he sees as the “geo-traumatic core of sexuality”. It seems here that we have returned to Laura Tripaldi’s ideas about the wound of creation, and by extension to Ferenczi’s psychoanalytical theories.
Perhaps enlighteningly, we see Monacelli’s discussion of masochism venture into Christianity. In fact, he seems to regard masochism as the basis and fulfilment of Christian mysticism and theology. It seems to me like this says something about the nature of Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic outlook. Monacelli here invokes the example of Henry Suso, a German Dominican friar who our author considers to be among the most misunderstood pioneers of mysticism. Suso apparently tortured himself and built instruments of torture for the purpose of understanding the self-torture of God, thus, in this exact sense, almost “imitating” Jesus Christ. Suso’s dialogue with “Eternal Wisdom” seems to show God revealing transcendence as a humiliating immanence that empties desire and everything else. In this exact sense, mysticism for Monacelli means going down into what he takes to be Love, a kind of primordial trauma at the basis of sexuality. Thus, Monacelli’s masochism is a sexuality that abolishes humanity and turns the mystic into a voice for an omniscient, ineffable, unmanifest, and unnameable God, which is thus Monacelli’s representation of the Outside.
It is here that we revisit the problem and contradiction of Gruppo Di Nun’s rejection of Satanism. Gruppo Di Nun interprets the entirety of modern Satanism as a reinterpretation of the “principles of the Right Hand Path”, accuses Satanism of being structurally identical to the religions that it opposes, and asserts that Satanism reproduces Christianity by way of inverting it. But, just like in the case of Laura Tripaldi, we see Enrico Monacelli quite literally reproduce Christianity, quite literally basing his philosophy of masochism on Christian mysticism, literally identifying Gruppo Di Nun’s Outside with the Christian God. Admittedly a most fascinating, if misguided subversion: here, if Satanism is somehow “the Right Hand Path”, then per their terms the “Left Hand Path” at least looks an awful lot like Christianity. In fact one might reckon the notion of cosmic love at the centre of things as a reflection of Christianity. There is certainly a notion of disintegrating love that both Monacelli and Tripaldi trace directly to Christian mysticism. Is it on the back of this substance that Gruppo Di Nun rejects Satanism? In this sense their rejection of Satanism emerges as all the more hypocritical, incoherent, and actually quite farcical. Yet it also seems to echo the old divide of philosophical pessimism: that of Schopenhauer versus Nietzsche. In this sense one cannot help but sense the fulfilment of masochism in Christian mysticism as the consummation of the Nietzschean critique of Christianity, the full circle of the denial of life often typified as the Schopenhauerian response to life.
But from here we move on to the subject of a “terrible Italian affliction”, by which Monacelli means the suicidal gnosis of Carlo Michelstaedter, the illumination of what Monacelli observes as the anti-social pleasure and revelation of suicidal descent. Michelstaedter’s thesis, Persuasion and Rhetoric, is regarded by Gruppo Di Nun as a precursor of the philosophy of entropic cosmic love that they outline at the start of Revolutionary Demonology, which would make it rather central to their core project. Michelstaedter outlined what was, in his view, a radically indifferent universe that consists of a primordial hyperentropic hunger of a will whose end is annihilation. After writing Persuasion and Rhetoric, Michelstaedter committed suicide: an act that some people believe to be the practical culmination of his philosophy. It seems that none other than Julius Evola also almost committed suicide after reading Persuasion and Rhetoric. Apparently it was only by reading a fragment of the Majjhima Nikaya, one of the five Nikaya texts within the canon of Theravada Buddhism, did Evola become persuaded to not kill himself. And then, against annihilating cosmos of Michelstaedter, Evola proposed a fascist metaphysics that he called “Magical Idealism”. Monacelli contrasts this with Michelstaedter’s answer to life, which Monacelli supposes to be an openness to “inorganic desire”, even if means total surrender to the laws of cosmic massacre. Such illustrates the core dichotomy of Gruppo Di Nun’s worldview: the split is between the “Right Hand Path”, defined by idealistic self-fortification of a consciousness trained to rule the world, and the “Left Hand Path”, defined as a mysticism that strives to unveil the true and hideous nature of the world in order to surrender to it. That last part is more operative than anything. Other iterations of the Left Hand Path also share with Gruppo Di Nun the aim of destroying the veil of reality so as to unleash its true nature, in all its darkness, and break down the barriers to your own agency and self-awareness, and, yes, derive power from it. I suppose I could be describing what Monacelli calls “sadistic” worldview. Such a worldview can, as I have hopefully shown thus far (especially in the previous article), draw a perverse sense of strength from many aspects Gruppo Di Nun’s entropic philosophy. But in the overall Gruppo Di Nun’s response is not the “sadistic” response, and is in fact the “masochistic” response, one that ironically actually hues closer to what is traditionally understand as the “Right Hand Path”. Again, the example of Marxism-Leninism and its definition of imperialism versus any other practical definition of the term springs to mind for a suitable analogy to what I see.
The duality of Michelstaedter’s pessimism and Julius Evloa’s esoteric fascist response to it seems to get more attention in Amy Ireland’s afterword at the end of the book, so I think we can brief turn to it. To hear Ireland tell it, Michelstaedter proposed a universe in which it was impossible for individuals to access things like eternity which might bring themselves into coincidence with themselves, thereby attaining what Michelstaedter called “persuasion”, because that would mean an absence of lack that is impossible to attain. For Michelstaedter, only death allows being to experience itself fully, but death also extinguishes being: thus, the entirety of human existence is a tortuous paradox. Evola’s response involved the reinterpretation of Michelstaedter’s philosophy into an extreme theory of the self-sufficiency of being, in which persuasion and direct access to the absolute were both attainable for specific individuals (“spiritually strong” and “Aryan” men) through a certain form of occult training that he devised. Evola’s dichotomy was between “spontaneity” and “domination”, which he coded in terms of gender and sexual and racial determinism, which seems ironic for his rhetoric of “freedom” and “the absolute individual” until you remember that Evola defined “freedom” as “domination” – that is to say, the domination of an elite clique of “Aryan” men. There can be few more abject forms of false hope than this. But is that not coloured by a broader idea that you must first accept yourself as part of an order of the universe, in that it is only within this order that, for select individuals who have the “correct” place (biological, racial, sexual, gendered etc.) within it, allows them to secure their ordained place as rulers of the world. True, Evola’s philosophy at every turn aims for the fascistic transcendence of – or perhaps rather escape from – matter, but if we take seriously the idea of “self-deification” as a function of a Hermetic order, that order is already surely latent even in the material world. Evola may had denied the existence of God, but his throughline, taken through Gruppo Di Nun’s understanding, gives us the picture that people can only “overcome matter” because “God” or some stand-in for him allows it, as the secret ruler of everything. Thus, in practice, the dichotomy between the acceptance and control of reality is a false one within the purview of esoteric fascism, whose adherents are all too happy to insist on their image of objective truth being accepted as reality, often by force. And in the end, it seems like a fundamentally mediocre alternative to the contradiction presented by Michelstaedter, or rather to the masochistic acceptance presented by Monacelli.
But, as much as there is to talk about the matter of Evola, we are not finished with Monacelli’s exploration of masochism. Returning to the essay at hand, we now get something of a curveball. Because in Monacelli’s words, “we need to impale God himself”. Having just established God as the Outside for which the masochist is a kind fo ecstatic, suffering transmitter into the world, this seems puzzling. But we are introduced to Andrea Emo, a reclusive Italian philosopher apparently known for a uniquely pessimistic take on the Hegelian dialectic. Emo’s God is the unstoppable abolition of everything, a hidden war latent within time that ceaselessly and meaninglessly destroys everything that is, and which will eventually destroy itself. Emo’s maxim was that God consists in his own annihilation. Now this would be the point where Monacelli at least appears to extend his masochism beyond Christianity. Before getting ahead of ourselves we can look at Emo’s adherence to what was called “actualism”, which was incidentally also the same form of Hegelianism advocated by Giovanni Gentile. Actualism can be summarized as a philosophy that interprets the Hegelian dialectic as centering a perpetual action that always moves away from its inner potential towards its outer consumption. For Giovanni Gentile, this meant that everything is like a fire, in that everything exists because it burns and exists to be combust. For Andrea Emo, though, everything is already being consumed, and everything in the universe is its own massacre, every chain of being sheds blood until the whole universe is nothing but blackness. For Gentile, the dialectical act is the foundation and constitution of everything. For Emo, it actually demostrates that there is no foundation or constitution to anything, and that everything is progressing in a straight line towards the “final attractor”. In this philosophy, the crucifixion of Jesus is itself God crucifying himself just to show humanity the way to its self-consumption. And of course, for Emo, the only legitimate knowledge consists of masochistic regression, of a “return to the Heart of Darkness”, abandoning everything and going back before creation: salvation consists, in a word, in memory.
The metaphor of Heraclitus is interesting to play with. Monacelli describes Emo’s actualism as the expression of an all-consuming war. For both Emo and Monacelli it would almost seem to be a one-sided battle if that’s the case, to the point that it seems to be misleading. It’s not a war if it’s a massacre. The metaphor of war is ultimately obscured and subsumed into the metaphor of the massacre. But the Heraclitean metaphor could as well be turned towards the dialectic as the conatus described by Bronze Age Collapse in “Lifting the Absolute”. In the all-consuming war, everything is burned, cut, recombined, remade in the alchemical conatus of struggle. But more important is the metaphor of crucifixion, because it is here that we realize that even God’s “impalement” in this scheme can be seen as a consummation of Christianity in almost theothanatological terms. At base, Christianity asserts that there is one God, and that he incarnated himself as a man who would suffer and die in agony (only to be resurrected) so that humans could access the “salvation” offered by God through his “love”. Here, the message is our self-consumption and that we are all pacing in a straight line towards the final attraction of dissolution, and God allows himself to suffer before us so that we can see it. It is ultimately in many ways a reproduction of Christian philosophy, with the possible difference being that God himself dies at the end of the dialectic, as the final sacrifice of his own ceaseless violence. One can can think of it as a kind of Hegelian Christian theothanatology, except that God isn’t dead…not yet. Christianity is in this sense maintained, albeit “accelerated”.
Lastly, Monacelli introduces us to one more major influence on Gruppo Di Nun’s masochistic philosophy: an Italian novelist named Guido Morselli. Particularly important among Morselli’s novels is Dissipatio H. G. (“The Vanishing”), which is about a man who, after attempting and failing to end his own life in a cave, discovers that he somehow survived the extinction of the human species, and now finds himself in a world without human beings. It is not irrelevant to note that, in 1973, Morselli himself committed suicide, apparently motivated by his book being rejected by Italian publishers. Through Morselli, Monacelli outlines Gruppo Di Nun’s masochism as centered around a vision of the world without humans as the emptying out of everything human. Dissipatio H. G. is taken as presenting a world which, in the absence of humans, an oddly serene and certainly inhuman emptiness. Morselli, in presenting this extinction, apparently relishes in the demise of his own species. Through his protagonist he seems to seize every opportunity to deride humanity and mock all human hopes and dreams. Thus, Monacelli portrays Morselli as the saint of omnicidal visions, misanthropic joy, and extinction. The masochism that Monacelli advocates hinges on the desire to capture that feeling, a particular kind of ecstasy and emptiness that they associate with extinction, but without actually passing through the gates of suicide. The gnosis that Monacelli attributes to Morselli is established as a guiding inspiration for Gruppo Di Nun, alongisde a religious love for the laws of thermodynamics, and so the point for them is the pleasure of living without your humanity and infinite reflection on dissolution. That is what going beyond the human means in the context of this philosophy, and thus it colours their perception of the demonic.
It would seem here that masochistic mysticism, based on Christianity, cultimates in the desire to see the extinction of humanity, yet inevitably even the gnosis of suicide must be felt in the absence of actual suicide. Such a masochism would turn life back against itself, a thought that makes little sense without reflecting on the morality of humanity at the height of civilizational modernity, and its current crash course. The Christian-Schopenhauerian spiral is complete, reaching its natural conclusion, and it calls for the denial of everything else. The totality and exclusivity of masochism is the consummation of the Gospel, which seems to ingeniously wear the flesh of the demonic as its disguise, like a reversal of the trope of the sheep in wolf’s clothing. True, the visions that Monacelli’s masochism offers would never be offered by much of Christianity, though really that’s just much of exoteric Christianity, but even the hellish nightmares seem to be the relevations of a reinterpretation of a Christian God in a reinterpretation of Christian mysticism. Perhaps Monacelli means for this to be the extinction that we are to consider in Mandy, which is curious because it’s just not what one gets from the Unmensch of Stirner’s egoism: as if the Unique would possibly abolish itself just to be one with the God that it had just destroyed in the pyres of the black flame. But there of course remains the question of Satanism and inversion, because as it still stands we are looking at extinctionism as the consummation of Christianity, which is thus posed as an alternative to the Right Hand Path. Entirely distinct from Hermeticism it may be, but a break from Christianity it most decidely is not.
But there is one last question, one that may offer some fascinating horizons, but for which I have no answer. It is in fact the question that Monacelli asks towards the end of his essay: can the homicidal dream have a different purpose? It is of course wedded to the question of how to mystically experience human extinction without giving up your own life, but I find that it has other ramifications as well, and perhaps even a faint possibility of Satanic perversion even here. My suspicion is that it goes back to Monacelli’s definition of sadism as “separative wisdom”, almost certainly for the philosophy of kink and fetish, or at least certain parts thereof. Perhaps one may even see in this a gnosis of Cain, as much as a Gnosis of Sophia, Satan, Lucifer, Odin, a broad Gnosis that, no doubt is distinct from that of Tiamat, the Mother Goddess of Sorrows, or for that matter the Christian God. Ironically enough, perhaps a passage from the Bible is a fitting enough closure for this section, if only that it might be a spark for the future. For the Book of John said of Satan, “he was a murderer from the beginning”. But in the Bible you almost never see Satan kill anyone, certainly not in “the beginning”. So who did Satan kill in the beginning?
Via Negativa (The Fifth Nigredo)
Our fifth and last discussion of nigredo consists of the essay “Catholic Dark”, written by Claudi Kulesko. This essay appears to be a discussion of asceticism and apophatic mysticism and theology in the context of xenophilia and Gruppo Di Nun’s discussion of the “great attractor”. Here, again, we seem to cross through the context of Christian mysticism as conditioning the overall core of Gruppo Di Nun’s philosophy, but in a way that serves to communicate a sense of “lightness” that perhaps presents fairly interesting implications about nothingness, or rather darkness, and some will to darkness, though one still has to content with the Christianity.
Kulesko begins with a digression, a story about a woman in medieval Flanders named Christina: known to Catholics as Saint Christina the Astonishing. When she was just 21 years old, Christina had apparently “died” after suffering a seizure, But then, as her funeral rites were being observed, she suddenly opened her eyes and then rose up to the beams supporting the roof of the local church, or so her legend goes. In any case, she went on to live a long life before dying of old age in 1224. But her “resurrection” is what interests Kulesko. Christina “dies”, then in her resurrection she tells everyone the story of her journey from Hell, through Purgatory, and to Heaven, meeting God himself and being allowed to return to her life in order atone for the sins of the souls stuck in Purgatory. But Kulesko sees something morbid in it as well. He asks, what if Christina was just a rotting body infested with demons, or one of the living dead? Kulesko says that she apparently started to seem more disgusted with humans, and increasingly inhuman herself. She spends hours on end in solitude, climbing everywhere, supposedly she even soared in the air, and when her parents chained her up to keep her home, she somehow broke those chains. On top of all that she supposedly couldn’t burn, drown, or be hurt in any way. Locals started calling her “wild”, “savage”, or “crazy”, and subsequently abused her, forcing her to flee to a city where criminals take pity on her and show her kindness.
Where exactly is this all going? Perhaps it is that the life of Christina – or perhaps, the life she lived after her life – portrays the anti-gravity of a great attractor. Kulesko figures her body as being inhabited by an “alien” presence, that presence being the Outside. For Kulesko she is nothing but an appendage of this power, a link to a paradise that Kulesko interprets as absolute night (where for Christina herself it was otherwise probably just the Christian Heaven, harps and all), for whom the world of the living and of humans is a Hell. I can sense a faint Gnostic throughline here in that the longing for death seems inseparable from the longing to return to God as the divine origin of everything, and the separation felt in the physical world populated by humans feels like a curse. That is how it must be for Christina, since she longed constantly for the return to death, and on the day of her second death she apparently yelled at a nun “Why are you disturbing me, why are you forcing me to come back?”. But then what are we looking at from this standpoint: God as the great attractor?
Next we turn to the example of Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic who lived in Syria during the 5th century. In his youth, Simeon was apparently so intense in his asceticism, and his uncompromising practice of austerities caught on so rapidly, that he was expelled from a local monastery who thought his practices were excessive and dangerous to their followers. Then he decided to go and take up a space for himself to continue his austerities, and a few years later he decided to climb up a pillar and install a platform at the top, sitting four meters above the ground, where he could only be accessed by the public through a nearby ladder. Over the years, he ascended to ever taller pillars, placing himself ever higher and ever farther away from the masses who pestered him so. By the time he died, Simeon sat as high as 15 meters above the ground. Kulesko suggests that in this activity Simeon broke with all the trends of ancient Christianity – the Church Fathers, the Christian Cynics, and even the Desert Fathers – while producing a completely new discipline. In the process, Simeon seemingly makes use of the tools of this world in order to progressively abandon it, discarding the tools themselves as he goes and makes his ascent. The pillar itself can almost be seen as akin to a leader to heaven, whereby the ascetic moves closer and closer to God, and further away from the desires of the world. For Kulesko this then connects to the very structure of the cathedral itself, in that its spires are the remnants of an ascetic ideology of progressive elevation.
We arrive at gravity, and it’s opposition to the lightness of the mystic. We should note that, from the standpoint of Christian asceticism, “gravity” would mean the weight of the world and its temptations, perhaps arguably even matter itself from a certain point of view, while “lightness” is the condition of having emptied oneself for God. In any case, Kulesko directs us to the example of Joseph of Cupertino, an Italian Franciscan friar and saint known for supposedly having levitated above the ground. Kulesko interprets the story of Joseph of Cupertino as an illustration of the horizon of “gravity”, whose only favourable end is death. Until death, light spirits must keep their feet on the ground. This is compared to a scenario where a hot air balloon, in this instance capable of rising indefinitely, and its crew, increasingly and understandably anxious as the air thins and becomes less visible, refuses to continue the journey. The verticality of the cathedral seems to be its own symbolic institution, which then gave way to horizontality and in turn to monasticism and hermitude, with their perceived autonomy and silence.
Where is this all going, besides perhaps to the surface of the moon? The answer, it seems, is solitude. The worldly and vertical church strives to destroy or recuperate the horizontal, which thus causes the anchorites or stylites of the age to flee to whatever precipice they can find for themselves, that they might rise above the monastery and the cathedral. In so doing, they might claim a path towards a sort of original place and from there an unlimited altitude. To paraphrase a passage of one Arthur Schopenhauer’s manuscripts, one who takes the high mountain road must leave everything behind in making their path through the snow, cling themselves to the rocks with as much strength as they can muster, and then in so doing they might see the whole world beneath them, without being disturbed by anything. Thus the stylite severs themselves from all humanity and all worldly stimuli in order for the soul to reach the ultimate altitudes of an inner highness.
I believe that there are familiar themes that converge on this point. For one thing, the theme of the abandonment of humanity is obviously striking, and also conveys itself as if directly continued from Enrico Monacelli’s “The Highest Form of Gnosis”. There seems to me to be some sort of connection to the theme of self-emptying that Monacelli talks about, including the empyting of humanity, and in this case it’s reflected in ascetic severance. On the other hand, it also seems to play out as another application of what Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”: that process of bracketing out everything, so as to unlock new configurations, or, in this case, the highest altitude of the soul. I almost think that the stylite striving toward the supreme altitude is meant to echo Bronze Age Collapse’s concept of “tendency towards the absolute”. Of course, it’s worth noting that the asceticism we are talking about is still Christian asceticism and Christian mysticism, not the pagan physical culture of the Hellenes. But, perhaps there is an inescapable familiarity to it, as though supreme altitude is comparable to the absolute being tended towards. Perhaps even the lightness of the ascetic may be the closest that the Chrisitan gets to the deathlessness of the gods that they despise as demons. But it comes from a bracketing out that is at once the denial of the world around them and their own desires, whereas the alchemical conatus of steel and flesh always happens within it, and the mountain path is that of a soul struggling towards God, whereas our conatus pushes towards the overcoming of God.
In any case, we turn from the mountain path to the mountain itself. The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca, a.k.a. Petrarch, wrote in his (possibly fictitious) Ascent of Monte Ventoux about his shame for the selfish passion of climbing, and his reckoning with the real eschatological status of mountain-climbing. In this setting, the mountain itself is a continuation of the body of the Church, as the precipice which, just like a cathedral spire, elevates itself towards heaven. In some pre-Christian religious traditions, it was more like the mountain was its own deity in an animistic sense, though in traditions such as Greek and Canaanite polytheism there were mountains (namely Olympus and Sapon respectively) that can be seen as elevated precipices towards the divine realm. But what Kulesko focuses on is the oppressive weight of gravity in places such as Aokigahara, the infamous “Suicide Forest” located at the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji in Japan, where if you go down through the lower valley you will find a force at the centre of earth that seems to confine spirit, to the point that not even in the suicides can the soul rise to the sky. That weight seems to be a gravitational attractor, but it also seems like something meant to be escaped. Or at least, there is this tendency towards escape, one that makes the ascetic fundamentally vertical and anti-terrestrial, fundamentally alien. Their desire for constant vertical surpassing meant to be understood here as based on a desire for lightness, which is thus to be understood as a negative will, in the sense that the soul must sever and bracket everything keeping it attached to the earth. Yet again. it’s hard to escape the presence of a throughline more or less aligned with conventional Gnosticism (which, to be fair, historically consisted of heterodox sects of Christian mysticism), for whom the entire material cosmos was literally a prison from which the soul must escape in order to be reunited with God. But from there we turn our attention towards a different, “alien” attractor.
Between 1578 and 1579, the Spanish Catholic mystic Juan de Yepes Alvarez (a.k.a. John of the Cross) wrote a treatise called Ascent of Mount Carmel, which outlined what he believed to be a progression towards the summits of “the Highness” and the “luminous darkness” that awaits. In this system, perfection leads upward in a narrow path, requiring that every “burden” associated with “lower thing” must be denied. Indeed, God in the Carmelite scheme seems to demand nothing less than “spiritual death” in all things. God, being completely incomprehensible and inaccessible as per the tradition of negative/apophatic theology, needs the will to centre its activity precisely on the incomprohensible and inaccessible rather than what it can sense. Within this purview of negative theology, one extinguishes every divine attribute, and in this case brackets the principle of the intellectual soul. It also seems to amount to an individual and cosmic process of unlearning, in which one frees oneself not only from a lifetime of social conditioning but also from billions of years of gravitation in matter. Here, I suppose, is where we are able to see Christian negation ultimately turning against Christianity, as part of the dominant complex of social conditioning that must be negated. The ultimate point of this negation is to manifest the most volatile concept of all: nothingness. That is how Christian mystical theology understands God. From another perspective, though, it is larger than God. In any case, for Kulesko, nothingness is all that remains when everything has been negated, and there is nothing lighter than nothingness. Even so, however, the Christian notion of mystical ascension being discussed doesn’t end in nothingness, even though we have just established that the apophatic God is nothingness.
The emptying that both Monacelli and Kulesko talk about, and what is referred to in Christian mysticism and theology as “kenosis”, is the culmination of a process whereby God becomes more alien as he loses all the attrbites afforded by humans while the human loses everything that makes them human, and both become more intangible and abstract in the process of negation. There is something that connects them, and it is lightness. Because lightness doesn’t want for anything, except nothingness and the annihilation of all distinction between God and his creation. In Christian terms, this means the surrender of everything to the love of dissolution through which God loses his creatures and all creatures lose God, the abjuration of free will, wisdom, and all faculty to rapture and endless ascent. Here I think, I get the feeling I remember being told that the idea that the Christian God opposed free will was some mere paranoia, the prejudice of some Reddit-brained “edgy new atheist” in modern internet parlance. Yet that appears to be exactly what is spelled out, not merely in the exoteric form of Christianity that the masses are supposed to just consume, but in the core of Christian mysticism itself. Right at the core of Christianity is a belief system built around one God whose one desire, more than anything, is for humanity, and all life, to surrender itself completely to him – and, perhaps, to be destroyed by him. And the Christian, at the most core sense, strives to be raised up by God, even if they take up Meister Eckart’s maxim “Therefore let us to pray to God that we may be free of God”, to never return to the earth and forever be united and identical with God. To return, in this setting, would “weigh down the soul”.
Return and non-return possess their own significance for Kulesko. Desire itself, by way of etymology, in his interpretation signifies a kind of cosmic nostalgia. The “mysticism of return” seems to involve bracketing out the world, knowledge, individual consciousness, but always with the prospect of removing those brackets to regain them. The mystic is sated by having been changed irrevocably even in their return, their heart made full with even a small taste of the stars. The “mysticism of non-return”, by contrast, offers no satisfaction, no confirmation, only an endless continuity of rapture and ascent. If the mystic is a channel through which the boundless night signals into the world, then perhaps we might interpret “return” as the ability to fill yourself with the night, retain part of it in yourself, and by this bring it into the world, while “non-return” would be to simply disappear into the night forever. But “non-return” entails more. “Non-return”, for Kulesko, entails a process of the soul being completely stripped of the body and the casuality of nature, guided away from the world by an alien attractor. The “non-returning” mystic seems again like a Gnostic pneuma, a piece of God’s spirit longing to return to God, longing to break from the weight of the hylic realm that was set in motion by Sophia’s transgression. Though it is perhaps here that we may arrive at the sense all of this is simply setting up the logic for a very specific kind of attraction.
Our final exploration dwells on the subject of xenophilia: that is, the attraction to or love of the foreign, or in this case the “alien”. The xenos at the centre of Kulesko’s concept of xenophilia does not denote something merely foreign, but rather something “wholly other”. The supreme xenos in this sense is silence, that is to say the deafening silence and extrahuman indifference of the universe. Here perhaps we may note that, no matter how apophatic, Christianity still predicates itself on the belief that God loves us, so perhaps we are looking at something quite different: after all, how exactly can God love us while also being indifferent to humanity, and how can the Christian God be so radically indifferent without invalidating the core premise of Christian salvific love? In this sense cosmic xenophilia would appear fundamentally one-sided: the universe cannot possibly love us, but we can love the universe, more than it will ever love us. One wonders, what is the point?
In any case, Kulesko takes cosmic silence to be at the root of Christina the Astonishing’s nostalgia and for the universe to be but a tomb, and part of the fabric of Rudolf Otto’s concept of the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinans, the latter of which is the magnetism of cosmic silence. The “mysticism of non-return”, with its dizzying ascent, fills the mystic with xenophilia. But there is still the locus of the body, in that xenophilia is to begin in the flesh. There’s also a locus in all the distinct forms of the natural world, all manifestations of a kind of “positive nothingness”. In all things, the divine exists as an “imprint”, which is to say an innate faculty of ascension of anti-gravity. I think this may be another strange double: from the standpoint of Christian mysticism, this is the innate love of God thereby tending towards God, but from an alternative, creatively Pagan standpoint drawn from Bronze Age Collapse, it is not God’s love but instead the primordial tension towards the absolute. These two avenues, from what we have shown, bear out different conclusions. But in either case, the imprint is to be seen as a faculty of emancipation, which appears to be connected to the quality of nothingness. Vanity, that lightness of things, reveals infinite horizons at the height of the eternal. If there is no limit to form, there is no limit to matter, and, in the words of Jean Buridan, different worlds can be created by divine power.
From there we arrive at quite the curveball, wherein the apophatic quality of the divine is a nihility by which one accesses none other than apotheosis itself! At the highest altitude, which approaches eternity, flesh changes and becomes mineral, energetic, or atmospheric, objects made of unknown materials and possessing inscrutable characteristics and functions come into existence, and the organism becomes all the more alien and disharmonious, more deformed and inaccessible. That, for Kulesko, is the very image of God, in that it repudiates all worldly attributes on behalf of the darkness of the unknown, at which point one attains “maximum propulsion”. The soul has become godlike, having either surpassed or abandoned everything. For Kulesko this means entering the heart of the divine, which means merging oneself with the xenos, the Outside, the wholly Other. This in turn means entering into a place without beginning or end, here or now, one or many, before or after. It is anti-gravity triumphant, and it is eternity. It is also interpreted in terms of xenophilia, that sense of oneness being its apogee and consummation. But, this xenophilia is both unconditional and unsatisfiable, and so it has no goals and no foundation, leads nowhere, and progresses only as a ceaseless plummet to silence.
With the conclusion of “Catholic Dark” I at this point think it is worth very carefully considering the role of Christianity in all this as seemingly multiple contours from the rest of Revolutionary Demonology converge. On the one hand, much of this essay is focused on an explication of Christian mysticism and theology in relation to asceticism, and there’s throughline that feels similar to the essays “Mater Dolorosa” and “The Hightest Form of Gnosis” in that appears to employ Christianity or aspects of Christianity as part of its own distinct framework, which of course undermines Gruppo Di Nun’s broader rejection of Satanism. On the other hand, the culmination of Kulesko’s discussion of nothingness in apophatic theology appears to lead into places more or less consistent with Kulesko’s broad body of work within Revolutionary Demonology but which are unfamiliar to Christianity, such as in the horizons of the apotheosis of the soul. I would also say that the basic model of progressive elevation, forgetting that it is a model drawn from Christian asceticism, strikes me as one of the clearest illustrations of an actually centrifugal motion. That may sound strange in view of the example of Christina’s nostalgia, but one is not “returning to the void”, in fact the point is to go up to eternity and not return at all. Instead, from the starting point of the earth, one ascends the mountain path to move further and further away from the earth, from any notion of the centre, towards the endless horizon of transfiguration and, to go against Christian terms, apotheosis. And as much as self-deification is meant to be opposed by Gruppo Di Nun, apotheosis of some sort is what we’re looking at. Of course, we absolutely cannot ignore that everything being discussed about Christian asceticism comes from the Christian standpoint that the world is fundamentally plagued by evil, latent with the taint of Adam and Eve’s original transgression, and it is for this reason that the ascetic strives to “lighten himself”, climb pillars, or in any way detach themselves from the world.
Yet, for everything I have said about this discussion of Christian theology and mysticism, perhaps there is another way to look at it. The horizon of nihility is consistent with the darkness that Kulesko talked about in “Cultivating Darkness”. So what if we were to take the presentation of Christian negative theology as containing a different potentiality: what if, instead of simply reproducing Christianity, we are seeing the inner diagram of Christianity’s undoing? What if we see God writing his own demise? And what if, that entire horizon is to be seen in the infinite power of nihility, hidden beneath the name of God? Or, yet again paging Bronze Age Collapse, the absolute to which humans and perhaps even gods strive for and in which they unlock their own apotheosis.
I think that the theme of the atmospheric body is a clue here. Remember that Bronze Age Collapse also described the form of the absolute, and thereby his notion of “supreme fitness”, in terms of force or atmosphere. Remember that Kulesko described Dracula’s barbarian heritage in terms of his becoming-mist, his death as his dissolving into the atmospheric world, and his bloodlust as the desire to dissolve into this kind of atmospheric becoming. For Bronze Age Collapse, to exist is to insist, since life is a conatus, and therefore one insists and struggles to transform and enrich flesh and spirit up to apotheosis. For the Christian ascetic, to exist is to insist mostly on cutting away from the flesh and the world for the sole sake of approaching God. But there is still the throughline of atmospheric apotheosis that is, in many ways. I sense a point at which the horizon that becomes available is not surrender in the fashion of Christian or Christian-esque cosmic love, but instead the stealing of fire from heaven. Of course, perhaps that’s not quite “non-return” as Kulesko put it. But the diagram of Christianity’s undoing that is locked within nothingness. To hear Claudio Kulesko tell it, Christian apophatic mysticism positions God as essentially nothingness, and on this basis divine power appears to be absolutely capable of generating any possibility. But then there is God, being the only egoist who constantly depends on herds of duped egoists to support him, and then there is the egoist themselves. Then there is the idea that both Claudio Kulesko and Enrico Monacelli present, by way of Miroslav Griško and Andrea Emo, that God seems to always be in some kind of eliminativistic war against the universe he is supposed to have created. Monacelli puts it as an all-consuming war, but there is no such thing as a one-sided war. Thus, there is nothingness against nothingness. Our ability to pervert the horizon we are given lies in the ability to oppose negation against negation: for every manifestation of Einzige to participate in the war of all against all, against God.
Part 1: https://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2023/03/13/revolutionary-demonology-a-critique-part-1-perverting-the-cosmic-death-drive/
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