Cthonic Nightmare

Posted by | Chris | 23.12.10 | 4 Comments

Over the last few days I've been reading Cyclonopedia. It's an incredibly strange journey through the wormholes, oil pipelines and sandstorms of the Middle East. Philosophically there's all kinds of things going on inside; Islamic and Arabic history, contemporary conflict and geopolitics, archaeology, mythology, Lovecraft, a lot of Deleuzean and - more infuriating and strange even than D&G - (pseudo?)numerology.

The central premise of the book "the Middle East is a sentient entity - it's alive!" is incredibly interesting. The ways in which oil, sand and solar economy have shaped not only Middle Eastern history and politics but global events is considered not as a function of any human sphere of interest but of an anonymous material drive goading civilisations to new creations and corruptions.

My favourite chapter of the book so far talks of Ahkt, the fallen black sun god of oil, and the Blob, the sentient drive of oil to propagate it's slimy lubricant particles. War is not the creation of war machines but vice versa and in the colonial wars of aggression of the technocapitalist nations oil is the aim, the medium and the burning remainder. Tanks fuelled by petroleum and greased by oil role across deserts and oil-based napalm clings to and disfigures landscapes.

As much fun as it is to read I just don't know what to make of the whole thing. The fictional accounts of archaeologist Hamid Parsani and American Colonel West seem redundant, since everyone seems to write in the same mode of Deleuzean auto-induced trance. Whole chapters (if not the book in its entirety) seem wilfully obscure, and I've often wondered how much attention I should pay; is this difficult paragraph an important intervention to a difficult problem, or is he making this shit up? The styling of the book as an edited series of incoherent notes is continued when you try to start researching online. This comment just about sums up the experience: "I haven’t found any other reference to this technique… Did Reza make this up?"

Presumably this blurring of the boundaries between reality, theory and fiction is precisely what Negarestani wanted. Blurring these boundaries further I had horrible nightmares last night and my girlfriend is angry at me for shouting and fighting in my sleep.


4 Responses to “Cthonic Nightmare”

  1. peter
    24/12/10 03:42

    a very apt summary i reckon mate. as you can see from my notes i didnt get very far - i think i should of just tried to read it like a novel.

    what did you make of the trisons? of the first few sections i read, i found them the most compelling philosophically. if i remember rightly it renders teleological, or ends directed, movements as aimed at 0 and nothingness within a system; wheras becoming was posited as movement towards 9 and repetition of a cycle. Reza then goes on to entwine the two different movements this creates a third movement (hence the trison is inaccurately representted as a series of triangles) - a pictorially and numerised version of the third man argument. the whole of this creates a topological phase-space which is created by and describes the movements of entities.

    But, If 1-10(zero) = being and 1-9 = becoming, then what is their interaction? is it nothingness? this then becomes a variant Hegel's dialectical relationship of being, becoming and the nothing.

    anyway, would love to hear more about what you think about the book

  2. Chris
    24/12/10 07:18

    I love that you've brought Hegel into this. In the back of my mind for a lot of the book I've been thinking about idealism.

    I would have associated Negarestani with Brassier, Meillassoux and Nihilist Scientistism. But I have serious questions about how materialist or nihilist any of these thinkers really are. Since I haven't finished Nihil Unbound yet I can't say, but I'm interested to know how this kind of philosophy is different from eleminativism. If there is any similarity how could you take "theory fiction" seriously? Meillassoux's unreason might provide some purchase for this kind of extravegance, but it's ultimately a chaotic and pointless zero-sum game.

    Regarding the Trison, I agree that it's interesting. I particularly enjoyed the three-way deception between the sun (hierachy of the solar economy = 10), Gog-Magog (corruption of the suns perfection = 9) and the desert of God (0). You've been much more systematic in the way that you've understood it. The relation of being/becoming/nothing puts an importantly metaphysical spin on the Trison, but I have serious doubts about its efficacy. 0 to 9 is still a decimal number system, just one that never reiterates itself. Does this mean that it's limited? By what? What would be the effect of other number bases? Would a nonary system reinstate the false perfection of the sun's heirachy? You're also quite right to question the relation of the three axis of the Trison.

    There's a symposium on Cyclonopedia happening in New York next March: http://cyclonopediasymposium.blogspot.com/
    I hope that some papers or even audio recordings come out of it.

  3. Anonymous
    30/3/11 06:33

    Hi there. Got this book two days ago, it wasn't easy to find it here in germany. I am a little bit confused and feel lucky to find someone discussing it. What do you think after finishing it?
    By now I heard only cryptic descriptions of it.
    I did google some words like parsani and Axe of Akht, I the only sites I found must be made from Negarestani himself. Once I found myself on the same "removed-site" of hyperstitious, Kristen Alvanson did in the intro. Weird.
    By now I don't know how to connect the two dimensions of it. The one ist the natural - the oil as a Lupe of the terrestrial narration - and the other the cultural, the mechanism of monotheism (like it, especially the desert-monopolist-thing), warmachine and polytics. But where's the link between it? Maybe philosophy itself, RN naturalizes the cultural (make war, monotheism, capitalism, terrorism grounding in oil) and otherwise he culturalises the natural (grisping the earth in the term of a narration).

    So, don't know it by now, just read 40 pages.

  4. Chris
    4/4/11 07:06

    It's incredibly interesting to see Negarestani's used as a basis for new intellectual and artistic endeavours. I've not had time to listen to much of it yet, but talks from the Cyclonopedia symposium are avialable online now: http://cyclonopediasymposium.blogspot.com/
    I also just saw today this conference: http://speculativeheresy.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/enterthefray.pdf

    None of this makes Cyclonopedia any easier for the uninitiated. My recent reading of Nick Land has shed a lot of light on Negerastani's ideas (particular what he draws from Land and where he expands upon his work). I reckon a good understanding of Deleuze and Guattari would probably help too, something I'd love to read when I have the time.

Leave a Reply