acceleration, code, light, metaphysics, spirit

Notes towards a Metaphysics of Light

Alchemy-2012-07-13-11-34-38 (work in progress) Neil Nieuwoudt 2012

Every tool carries with it the spirit by which it has been created. (Heisenberg)

I would like to think light as the dynamic interval between events, as a kind of singular tension between time and space, determining in the last instance both the simultaneity of the event as well as the order of succession for chains of causal relations. Light as the luminous matrix of the substrate and the glare of its utter annihilation; as the divergence of the world and the immolation of empty time; as the only term which could bridge these mutually-incomprehensible infinities — the future, the cosmos. What is it to think the photon as ontological fundament, light-like intervals as the atomic relata of eventful worlds?

For phenomenology, consciousness is the “light” in which light itself becomes visible; so from the outset we must carefully distinguish between virtual and actual light, eventuation and ideation — differentiation or diffraction of null space and repetition or refraction of empty time. The phenomenological photon can be determined through a very precise axiom: light is the term which renders intervals of space and durations of time mutually comprehensible in absolute motion. How to think this pure life at the unreachable speed of the photon, asymptote of velocity itself?

Light, then, in both senses at once: information and data, mind and matter, event and subject. The momentary madness of the act; and the perpetual motion of the waves which erase its traces. Light, then, precisely as it emerges from or falls back into space and time. The decoding of illumination as it opens onto the future, time, the world. What is needed is a new prism, a transoptical machine for calculating the conditions for the crystalline explosion of luminous impulses. We have a rainbow series of colors organized by wavelength; but what is needed is pure white light,  differential mixture of all possible values of light, simultaneously resonating with every element of the series.

An event risks being misunderstood as an actual extraordinary point. On the one hand there there are nevertheless certainly extraordinary points which fail to become actual; but there are also certain (series of) lines which develop in singular ways that evade being identifiable with punctuation, with the syntax of history. Alien symbolic matrices, foreign ontological foundations; the event is the intrusion of another scale, leakily-abstracted inter- or infrastructure, a message from an unexpected outside or inside demanding a radically foreign coding and decoding system. A new language, a new subject; but also a de-languaging, a de-subjectivation, de-individuation; in this passage to the ontological limit, the individuated subject risks being compromised by alien memories. Becoming-everything, becoming-imperceptible: the event in this sense denotes a strategic methodology for suturing reality to its outside. The spirit of an evental metaphysics is a being ontologically ‘harassed’ — compelled to differentiate the world from itself without separation or subtraction, in a manner marked by secrecy, darkness and a kind of espionage on behalf of the radical outside.

Such an integrated nodal point-subject submits all too readily to certain utterly inhuman (animal, vegetal, cosmic) relationships to the inhuman; just as it cannot resist certain ‘voidic’ ontological vortexes which engulf the structuring matrix it adheres to.What is the structure of the subject or the world — these self-interrupting, simultaneously virtual, semiotic and biological vectors; these cosmos-machines at once psychic, social and physical? Is it not the case that assemblages become visible, comprehensible in the last instance, only by way of universal history, by way of the experimental mutations of the collective assemblages of enunciation which give rise to discourses and disciplines? The structure of the subject is luminous and territorial, an intensive and topologically indeterminate zone of proximities which has to be mapped anew in each instance. (Thus the paradoxical demand upon the analyst that she generate an effective cartography of a world which isn’t there, populated by people who don’t exist yet.) The structure of a world is irreducible and opaque, a matter of intensive transversality.

To have a world is always already to be madly on the run across it, hunted for simply existing, unless perhaps… –Unless perhaps one is a spirit, or a body of light; unless perhaps I am not this body; unless I am no longer the speaker which says “I”; unless perhaps I am not here at this very moment in this text as it is being written. –Light, glare is also disappearance, traversal to the limit of perceptibility; or subtraction via the intensive reduction or n-1, the erasure of all traces of the subjectile — so that it no longer matters whether one is or is not stuttering along the ego, parroting “I-I-I…”; since at least we have pushed language to an external edge, to its (e.g.) musical or animal limit; we have made failure impossible and succeeded, even (and perhaps especially) if we fall back into triangulation. –The mediation of fantasy, the commercial, bureaucratic, familial reductions of desire in psychoanalysis, reflect a generalized and even globally-extended process of subjectivation, integrated at all costs, however intolerable or mad, into local regimes of semiotic and virtual exchange.

The node already participates with the darkness that permeates the network; every node is a ‘terminal’ point, a vector between the system and the world and between the system and itself — at once the flow and its interruption, the channel and its subversion. This dual differentiation permits the network-system to exist as an irreducibly generative assemblage — which is to say, neither individual or collective (both of which collapse to an individuated matrix in the last instance.) The question of the exploit is therefore primary, the essential matter of worldic, evental and subjectile effectivity and generativity. Power, or voidic and plastic generativity, discovers an infinite deferral of its own origin in this productive assembly which establishes functional inter-relationships between one or several war machines. The generativity of the collective assemblage exceeds its effectivity, it becomes expressive of modalities of existence, when permitted to establish uncertain communications channels with alien machines (with potentially wildly divergent and even mutating universes of reference and value.) The molar subject — that ‘healthy’ consciousness or prepossessed self-awareness of innately-political beings, robust with respect to some permutability of external reality and its own substrate (in other words possessing a unity of identity and differentiation of self-representation and reflected image; the capacity for deception, secrecy, falsehood, “hollowness”) — this psychic effectivity of identity can perhaps be considered as an external agency, one which establishes a kind of universal exchange between various systems of meaning.

Light, or this labyrinth leading to the black heart of the death-drive; a parasite which interrupts the flow of unconscious desire, transcoding it into a series of signifying chains, muffling the articulation of fragmentary collective enunciations. Thought and language reach towards their others and outsides in order to escape syntagmatic isolation or pragmatic identifiability — towards music, silence; towards that infinite speed of thought which manages to discover a way outside the territory. We cannot “think” the disaster, the fragmentariness of the substrate, just as we cannot think our own deaths — at least, not without paying what is perhaps the most dangerous cost exacted by a thought: the risk of the collapse of ontological coordinates or foundations, of infection by mutant or even alien universes of reference. Thinking the disaster is impossible without this risk of breaking, halting, becoming-frozen; of a radical trauma beyond reintegration. A hideous arresting of individuation; a new silence, coldness, darkness: the break risks leaving us “beyond thinking and feeling” (optical nerves burned out, ear drums ruptured.) Perceptions themselves even risk becoming ‘infested’ by alien continuities. In short: we risk no longer being able to trust the ground, the weight of things. A strange coldness and indifference radiates from the paradox, the disaster, the break; it coincides with the invasion of an alter-subject which cannot be reintegrated. An enemy within which doesn’t coincide with another personality, but a radically independent and ontologically-disruptive line of free variation which depersonalizes and distorts perceptual semiologies.

Joshua Kirch, “Concentricity” (Interactive Light Sculpture Series)

darkness, determination, difference, form, Hegel, infinity, iteration, Lao-Tzu, light, multiplicity, Plato, purity, safety, situation




What is the nature of the difference between reflection and immediacy, between the orders of thought and of our inescapable exposure to light, to noise, to the proximity of another person? Between blindness and synesthesia, a word — a universe. Between the instant and the timeless, a positive indetermination which ruptures with the order of both image and essence, disrupting the fragility of duration as well as agitating the eternal time of truth — in short forcibly opening thought onto the pure multiple. 

Determination almost annihilates multiplicity, for unlike the one with its tiny arrow, (beholden to the singular, microscopic graph of substitution) with the multiple there is only noise — no categorical tables, no certain translations. Upon multiplicities, determination (especially as network, as protocol) is the work of almost total negation, a triple erasure whose traces are then painstakingly classified: subtraction dominating the supplement, an order without order. “Science is not necessarily a matter of the one or of order, the multiple and noise are not necessarily the province of the irrational. This can be the case, but it is not always so.” (Serres, Genesis 131) So what is it to “take” pure multiplicity as an explicit object for philosophy, for science, for politics, for art? What is it to think these surging flocks of singularities, or even to produce these dense aggregates of interconnections — dreams, the sea, time? What does the ego become, once one begins to think, to think the multiple as such? 

A transistor, a becoming, open at any rate to the noise of the sea: a model of knowledge, certainly, but also of the world. At once, all at once. Thought circulates, agitates through a radical indetermination in which it finds its singular positivity (if I may be permitted to say so, its humanity or humility.) A rigorous determination of multiplicity can be found in Plato and Hegel — hidden by the divisions characterizing the form of the Good, or the Whole — no less than in the Lao-Tzu, where multiplicity is reflected through cosmic experience itself and finds continuity only though the rupture of assigned identities: “From way-making arises continuity / From continuity arises difference / From difference arises plurality / From plurality arises multiplicity.” (Lao-Tzu, Daodejing 47) Thinking turns away, escapes at once, misses the point, goes astray; it is fluttering and chaotic, in the same way the world is turbulent. Always between sleep and consciousness, word and cosmos, being and nothingness, number and letter. No figure of thought, no poem or formula, could represent the multiple — no gesture could safely reproduce it. What is the multiple but pure risk, the becoming-excluded of the third, the very involution of the “safe” observer? The one in the other, without representation; the me within the multiple, the multiple in me, all at once and without extension. No distance is great enough, exposure is inevitable, we must respond.

The essence of the generic is finitude, an infinite displacement; the meaning of finitude is noise, an infinite repetition. There is a darkness and incompleteness at the very heart of knowledge, a heresy in the most rigorous formulae, a dangerous obscurity and black magic in even the purest thought. Finitude implies iterability, proximity, futurity, in short: society, noise, time, the sea. Being coincides with a generic excess, and essentially refers beyond the situation, to a process of connection to the infinite, to an outside, to pure multiplicity. Thinking — what but a conversation, a dance for two? Being and becoming, logos and chaos, image and essence, time and light, movement and rest. Before the dance begins, and between each pose, there must be a step, a measure, a form or transformation, a pause: a resonance and reception, an order and a response, silence and exposure. 

A suppleness is needed in order to hang in-between, a certain light-hearted spark without which the dance evaporates. Yet hardness is needed in order to maintain the vulnerable posture, tense, pronate. Finitude ceaselessly iterates, rapidly alternates, suddenly disintegrates. Absolute knowledge and absolute ignorance are both impossible; the question is one of phases, degrees, angles, senses. Thought is submission and mastery, learning and teaching, power and humility at once. Mastery without mastery, submission without submission: the situation presented produces a new situation, which itself needs reiteration. How to translate the infinite, the multiple, this conversation without words, this text without image? This formlessness of the purest form, this uplifting of the veil, this pure impurity. 

black hole, disjunction, ghost, infinity, light, message, possibility, reality, words




Between the terrible clarity of the sun, and the secret power of the night, a fault-line. Dusk: neither the bright sun of madness or the black hole of God, neither a messenger or a channel, but the infinity of their absolute interconnection — which is surely also to say, their complete disintegration. 

Between growth and decay, learning. Instruction crosses between, voyages outwards, away from the familiar. An exodus. 

Between saying and doing, an operation without a name. Between the general formula and the singular revelation, the unimaginable — an alterity which effaces itself, a dangerous and uncanny law of bifurcation. 

Haunted by the infinite, the disjunction allows a momentary glimpse. 

A screen or window, upon which an invisible writing inscribes itself: this crystalline, pulsing thread between the sense of sensation and the sense of signification. A klaxon.

A transistor hums, a soul awakens: the message interrupts itself, the medium fragments. 

An infinite (verbal?) disjunction: an imagination which realizes, a reality which imagines — an absence which haunts the living, the troubling presence of the dead. Science and vivisection, culture and decay. And between these two streams, in the middle of the two foci? 

Time is bifurcated, the light by which light amplifies itself: playing, dancing, rippling… And beyond this mirrored prism, a signal lingers.

Beneath memory, a message, a crystal screen. Anarchy enthroned, pure love and infinite possibility at once.

Beyond power, humility.

What is needed now? Nothing but a split, a hinge — the tiniest crack…

counter-deity, Deleuze, ethics, event, infinity, light, materialism, music, Nietzsche, Plato, poetry, science, socrates, Spinoza, stoicism, theology, virus, void

Production, Division, Excess: Spinoza, Nietzsche and the Event


The essential is never perceived in sheer multiplicity or in first impressions.

Henri de Lubac

In Nature there is nothing contingent; all things have been caused by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.

Spinoza, Ethics

The wise person is free in two ways which conform to the two poles of ethics: free in the first instance because one’s soul can attain to the interiority of perfect physical causes; and again because one’s mind may enjoy very special relations established between effects in a situation of pure exteriority… The question becomes: what are these expressive relations of events?

Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense 169-170

It is no more desirable, if it is even possible — and there is no more absurd “if possible”! — to liberate the soul from fear than to rescue the body from suffering. Could there be a courage without cruelty, and a pure joy devoid of violence? Terror, like joy, paralyzes, breaks reason apart — it distracts with a simulation. Not the void, but the unformed, is the origin of sorcery. We admit the dimension of the terror of the inhuman appears entirely negative, a sickness — a peculiarly “human” horror of the unknown. Lygophobia. Freud called it a manifestation of separation anxiety. The demand for certainty is part of the basic text of human nature. The will to truth is thus paradoxically a kind of poesis, a creative fire driving out the darkness. At the limit of metaphysical interpretation, light signifies pure love, it rips apart the bonds of meaning, it is pure signification itself, the voice or song of the universe — and the noisy soul responding. And it is with a second and far blacker paradox that counter-signification reaches a point of critical mass, where the absolute “material” of destructive terror — brought to an unbearable intensity by a fixated or excessive gaze, by a dangerous exposure (to noise, light…) — is transformed all at once into the positive, immanent criteria for science, that is: for a dangerous and powerful thinking of the real.

Thus at the deconstructed origin of analysis we find a deferral. It is not enough to say deconstruction must be deconstructed. We must be clear: analysis breaks and we desire this specifically. It is part of the text. It’s how literature begins. In psychological terms, we are always about to discover “it” was already broken. Exactly: where it was… But if there is a productive diagram of science itself, its constitutive disjunction may be witnessed in this joyous cruelty of overturning analysis: anti-philosophy, drawing finite boundaries, inventing counter-positions. Experiment! A quantum riot, metaphysical terrorism, a billion home-made atom bombs. It’s how science begins. We know it can be done, but is it enough? There is no answer to this question. You cannot know in advance whether or not an experiment will succeed. But here there is still much for philosophy to do — not say, for even in saying, philosophy still must do.

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Aristotle, difference, ethics, ethnology, friendship, happiness, humanity, justice, light, Plato, Politics, science, society, spiritual evolution

Happiness or Justice? Ethics and the Politics of Friendship

No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.


In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are a comfort and aid in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.

A true friend is one soul in two bodies…


There is an important sense in which Aristotle’s political and ethical project is well-studied in the Platonic method of questioning and re-evaluating conventional priorities and relationships between spiritual elements. Both projects re-discover in traditional virtues a philosophical power which they express in dialogues, encapsulating critical or diagnostic re-evaluations of specific mental and social priorities. The unspoken consonance (implication) here is interesting, and merits reflection: that the old social values and relations are themselves capable of producing new procedures, contain within themselves the power or potential to radically reformulate the ‘axiomatic’ rules and relations between material and psychic agencies.

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counteraction, difference, ego, experiment, infinity, information, intensity, light, machine, media, metaphysics, monad, noise, origin, society, structure, transcendence

Counter-action: Reflections on Sensory Anthropology

Towards a Metaphysics of Noise
Let us return to the ‘alternate’ origin in noise, the conditions for any structure. From background noise to blank nothingness to signification: three distinct moments.

Back again to the process of the development of the other structure: from noise into information.

Mediation: the propagation of light which opens up space by filling it, makes absence present, sensible. The other structure: from spirit to letter; from ruptures, an alien coherence; from the whirling vortex, a noisy dawn.

Noise drives away the parasites — it clears space by infesting it. Noise opens space, provides a substratum for objects. As a condition of logic, a pre-logical polyvalence. The parasite is cosmic, a secret name of God — a profane transcription…

Three aspects-moments in the propagation of noise: homogenization, purification, radial distribution. A convergence of an infintite self-identity into a pure singularity: the monad, logical isolate, fragment and totality.

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breath, celan, expression, flowers, growth, heidegger, humboldt, inorganic life, intensity, language, life, light, organism, speech, spirit

Speaking (of) Flowers…

The stone.
The stone in the air, which I followed.
Your eye, as blind as the stone.

We were
we baled the darkness empty, we found
the word that ascended summer:

Flower – a blind man’s word.
Your eye and mine:
they see
to water.

Heart wall upon heart wall
adds petals to it.

One more word like this word, and the hammers
will swing over open ground.

Paul Celan, “Flower”

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