Note from the Editors: Since this was the reading-script of her keynote for the Toxic/Cities conference, professor Biswas Mellamphy suggested that we not diguise that fact and therefore simply publish the script ‘as is’ (i.e. with the experimental/improvisational format). We have preserved the formatting of the manuscript as much as possible and added reference materials in consultation with the professor.
गविष्टि (gáviṣṭi), the ‘desire for more bulls,’
is the ancient Sanskrit word for battle.
In Hindu mythology, the entire cycle of human evolution
is figured in the form of a bull—symbolizing virtue—
each leg of which stands on one of the sectors
representing The Four Ages of the world.
In the first age—corresponding to
the Greek age of gold and called
the Krita Yuga or Age of Innocence—
virtue is firmly established on earth: the bull
stands squarely on four legs.
In the Treda Yuga, or second age
—corresponding to the age of silver—
it is weakened and stands only on three legs.
During the Dwapara Yuga, or third age
—which is the age of bronze—
it is reduced to two legs.
Finally, in the age of iron, our own age,
the cyclical bull of human virtue reaches
the utmost degree of feebleness and senility:
it is scarcely able to stand,balancing only on one leg.
It is the fourth and last age, the Kali Yuga:
the age of misery, misfortune and decrepitude
The A.I. (or ‘Age of Iron’) has no other seal than that of death.
Its hieroglyph is the skeleton bearing the empty hourglass (symbol of time run out) and the scythe
(reproduced in the figure 7:
the number of transformation,
of destruction, and of annihilation).
The Gospel of this fatal age
is the one written under the inspiration of Saint Matthew.
Matthaeus—the Greek Matthaios—comes from
em>Mathéma & Mathématos,which means Science.
It is The Gospel According to Science: the last of all
but for us the first, because it teaches us that
(save for a small number of élite)
we must all perish.
Fulcanelli, Le Mystère des Cathédrales.
This passage from Fulcanelli refers to the Hindu theory
of temporal cycles and of human evolution (or devolution)
from the ancient Mahabharata: an epic in which all of creation
is divisible into four great epochs or yugas,
each having its own definition and characteristics.
Like the ancient Greek theory of time,
the Hindu cycle presents a unified spiritual state that
materializes and undergoes a gradual process of decay,
degenerating into a phase of total entropy and destruction
which nonetheless initiates cosmic renewal.
The cycle is represented in the sacred figure of
‘the bull of virtue’, whose deterioration symbolizes
‘the life-cycle’ of cosmic [re]generation and corruption.
In the first yuga, the cosmos is wholly unified
and has not yet undergone division and differentiation;
—‘embodiment’ at this stage does not require ‘physicality’,
and may assume other more subtle forms.
In mythological terms, the ‘beings’ of this epoch
are said to have been ‘pure souls’ abiding in unalloyed ‘purity’
and uncompromised ‘truth’—beings who could easily
travel back and forth between various ‘states’
or ‘phases’ of manifestation.
They were, as such, not ‘human’
but ‘super-human’, having ‘divine’ characteristics
and living for hundreds-of-thousands of years.
In the second yuga, souls develop ‘intelligence-bodies,’
gaining insight into the nature of cosmos.
But they also become subject to
chronological time, aging, and sickness,
and also to egoism, selfishness, suffering, and delusion.
As a consequence, in this era virtue and wisdom are undermined.
In the third yuga, souls acquire ‘mental capacities’
and become further susceptible to ego-centric desires;
in this era, then, virtue and wisdom are further undermined.
According to the Mahabharata (the early parts of which
may even date back to before the first millennium BCE),
the world is today—in our present age, our current era—
in the final phase of destruction: the kaliyuga or age of Kali.
In this age, the subtle, divine, and astral planes are
completely overshadowed by physical and gross materialities.
‘Embodiment’ has lost its ability to access the more subtle
(less grossly material) dimensions; beings are motivated by sense-gratification, physical desires, and material possession.
This is the age of the greatest toxicity,
in which virtue is nary to be found
and in which virulence abounds
and is the very medium through which
material things are transformed and transmuted.
This age falls under the ominous sign of Kali—
she who lives on the cremation-ground:
goddess of thugs and thieves,
one of the most maligned of all
the deities of the Hindu pantheon,
whose presence announces the reign of toxicity
in all established forms of rule and order.
“The flash of lurid light reveals on every side
a thousand thousand shades of death
begrimed and black,
scattering plagues and sorrows, dancing with joy,…
for terror is thy name, Kali, and death is in thy breath,
and every shaking step destroys a world forever”
— Vivekananda, Hymn to Kali
(Kinsley 147-148; Mellamphy 132).
Kali “is dark as a great cloud. . . .
She has fearful teeth, sunken eyes,
and is smiling. . . .
She wears a necklace of snakes
and corpses as ornaments”
(Kinsley, The Sword 81).
Kali is chaotic, heteronomous, and polymorphous:
she transforms, splits, or multiplies herself
and “tears into her enemies with awful glee. . . .
She is the distillation of the furious, raw, savage
power and lust of the frenzied warrior—and
as such she is truly a terrible being
(feared by her enemies, to be sure,
but a threat to the overall stability of
the world itself)” (Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses 144).
Like the chthonic Erinyes of the ancient Greeks,
Kali’s power is infernal and virulent.
Kali enters into the Hindu pantheon in the context of war;
she is born of war and wrath, epitomizing the fearful,
vicious aspects of death and destruction.
She is cruel, ferocious, and horrible to look at.
“She delights in slaughter, and her weird howl and
uncanny laughter terrify her enemies” (Kinsley, The Sword, 147-148).
As she emerges, “the stars are blotted out”
one finds that “clouds are covering clouds”
(147-148): her coming heralds a “darkness,
vibrant, sonant,” and in her “roaring
whirling wind are the souls of a million lunatics
just loosed from the prison-house, wrenching trees
by the roots, sweeping all from the path” (147-148).
Kali’s venom breaks all conventions, all limitations,
burning them away in the cremation fires—
“the cremation-ground [being] the place
where the five elements—the pancha mahabhuta—
are dissolved” (Kinsley, Tantric Visions 88).
Kali both dwells in the obscene place of
phenomenal dissolution and is herself
a force of this primordial chaos.
As this primordial cosmic force of dissolution,
she is the harbinger of the end of time. Because of this,
she is known as the Mistress of Time and called
the Mad Mother by her disciples—a mother
who is freed from all worldly attachment
(especially to her children).
While bloodthirsty and destructive,
Kali is also considered the chaotic Guardian
of the Cosmos, her destructive and uncontrollable powers
being the necessary precondition for renewal and regeneration.
Kali’s presence portends the emergence of War
as the presiding paradigm and Terror (ghora) as
the primordial affect that powers its circuits:
not War and Terror as instruments of Human Power,
but Humans as Fuel and Fodder for the transmutation of
the Overhuman. In Kali’s fury, fatality and fertility collude,
conspiring to commit ontological sabotage.
“By subverting, mocking, or rejecting
conventional norms and opening onto the realm of
the forbidden (the realm of ‘forbidden things’), ‘kaligraphy’
—the inscription/incarnation of Kali, goddess of destruction—
stretches one’s consciousness beyond the conventional
and socially sanctioned, thereby liberating it from
the inherited, imposed,and probably inhibiting
categories of ‘proper’ & ‘improper,’
the ‘good’ & ‘bad,’ the ‘polluted’ & ‘pure’;”
In the kaliyuga, virality replaces vitality
in the chthonic effluvium of decaying feedback-loops
teeming with the unlife,
the inhuman, and
out of which emerges natality and mortality,
those viral vectors of human-all-too-human networks.
Every agency is poisonous: every so-called ‘subject’ and ‘object’
has contracted (and is contaminated by) kaligraphic toxicity,
behaving as ‘contaminants’ themselves: viral mechanisms
navigating battle-spaces of contagion.
The yuga of Kali reveals that our age—the time-period of
‘Human Supremacy’ and of ‘Human Supremacists’—
is also paradoxically the epoch of utmost human frailty,
corruption, degradation and degeneration.
Fulcanelli reminds us that the Age of Science,
representing the culmination of the techno-mediated power
of the human species (one which we now call the ‘anthropocene’),
is a fatal age: a tragic fate as well as a time of
general worsening and growing decrepitude, misery,
instability, and ultimately unwieldy complexity
(with attendant anthropological perplexity).
The highest achievements
are propped up by
the feeblest and
The edifices of knowledge,
despite their proclamations to the contrary,
are scarcely able to stand—balancing only on one leg.
Philosophy, now in league with Science,
can lead to no other destiny than that portended by
the hieroglyphs of toxicity, some of which Fulcanelli mentions:
the skeleton bearing the empty hourglass, symbol
not of temporality or the temporalization of flux
but of time run out, extinguished in flames;
buried in ashland or sand; and
the scythe, reproduced in the figure seven,
which is the number of transformation, of destruction,
and of annihilation. Neither Science nor Philosophy
—nor its antitheses ‘the Market’ or ‘Politics’—
can get humans out of this situation.
(Sorry, but colonizing Mars is not going to solve our problems;
… it’s just going to fuck up Mars.)
Although Fulcanelli suggests that “all but a few élite”
will perish, there is no reason to think that any will be human.
Rather, in the era of Kali, the age of A.I. (the Age of Iron and ferro-magnetic circuits plus A.I. as in Artificial Intelligence), ‘the élite’ will be likely be members of the machinic phylum,
marking the vanishing-point of “the human” as we have
known it, and the emergence—or turn, or return—
of ‘the overhuman matrix’ that has been its
(and been in its) background.
“The Greeks were never able to conceive of a human commonwealth except in the concrete form of a city”
(“Utopia, the City, & the Machine” lines 736-740).
The legacy of ancient Greece has trained us
to think of the polis or ‘city-state’ as the principle of
civic association, the governing metaphor of political and ethical life, as well as a model for planning urban spaces—
for example with specific areas of the city designated for
private household functions and religious functions
(the oikos) and other designated for
public assembly, either for political or for
entertainment purposes. Lewis Mumford reminds us that
the Greeks were never able to conceive of a human common-wealth
except in the concrete form of a city. As a model for
defining and determining relations of power, again,
it is the polis that provides the criteria for membership
and the rules for association and conduct. Only members of
the polis could access (and activate) the privileges of
citizenship, which included a right to vote on political matters
and take on official administrative and judicial positions.
The polis becomes a metaphor not only for delimiting
the legitimate relations of exchange between citizens
—that is, between elements inside the polis
and internal to the political system of the city-state—
but also for delimiting the relations of the inside to the outside,
and providing rules for the incorporation of externalities,
often strange and even toxic ones,into the polis.
The city-state in this way became the mechanism for
transforming a potentially toxic externality into
an object of sovereign political power.
In fact, this becomes the primal scene of
Athenian politics and replayed over and over again
in all the early Athenian tragedies in which one element
(or character) identified as primary, subjugates and incorporates
(literally digests and metabolizes) an Other who is
initially encountered as a poison.
The sovereign power of the polis
lies in its ability to turn a strange externality
—something alien and primordially heterogeneous—
into a difference that can be dualized and disciplined:
that is structured dialectically as the antagonistic and agonistic
(i.e. alienating and potentially transformative) relations
between two forces, or identities, or parties
(such as order and chaos, master and slave, self and other,
male and female, masculine and feminine, patriarchal
and matriarchal, light and dark, inside and outside,
etc., to name just a few of the dualities that
have been in play for centuries).
Thus dialectics—the contestation between opponents
or opposing elements, the legacy of the ancient Greeks—
becomes an intellectual mechanism for conceptualizing power as the product of a fundamentally asymmetric dynamic
of domination and subjugation. The dynamics of contestation—of the contest, agon—becomes
the schema for understanding how Sovereign Power
identifies, metabolizes, and politically disciplines ‘toxins’
(here synonymous with that which is ‘foreign’, ‘alien,’
or ‘other’). So—for example—Zeus swallows
his first wife, the Oceanid Metis, thereby
initiating the entire dramatis personæ
of the Olympian Pantheon.
Metis’s incorporation and domestication by Zeus
is the mythic source for the subsequent usurpation
of the old chthonic gods by the new Olympian order;
Athena, Hermes, Apollo are all said to have
inherited ‘ruse or cunning intelligence’
(the Greek word being ‘mètis’)
from Zeus’s incorporation of Metis’s powers;
and the chthonic Erinyes are also thereafter
subjugated and coopted by the goddess Athena
—in the name of her father Zeus Pater—and renamed
the ‘Eumenides’ or ‘kindly ones.’
In the structure of dialectics,
the power of the City is meant to identify,
negate, and thus transform the deleterious effects
of foreign toxins into so-called ‘salutary’ and ‘productive’
forces. Undigested, Metis is poisonous, ominous,
unstable, wreaking havoc; but once digested,
not only is she subdued, but her uncontrollable
tendencies are “politicized” and “civilized.”
Plato’s theory of writing [/inscription] as pharmakon
—both poison and cure—in the Phaedrus follows a similar
dialectical logic: writing [/inscription] is a technical act
that seems to have a curative effect on human memory
(it helps humans remember what they might otherwise forget);
but writing [/inscription] is also poisonous insofar as it is
something that humans will rely on more and more
to remember, thereby eroding the human capacity
to remember without technical implements,
through the pursuit of Reason alone.
Undigested, the poison of writing as techne
threatens to overwhelm the logos. Therefore,
writing must be disciplined by logos—specifically by way of
dialectical philosophy which Plato reminds us is grounded
not in writing but in phone, or voice. Speech, for Plato,
is thus ontologically prior to writing.
In his retelling of the tale of Thoth & Thamus,
Socrates tells Phædrus that the written word, like painting,
is but the image and representation of something
far more fundamental:“an intelligent writing
which is graven in the soul of the learner,
which can defend itself, and knows when to speak
and when to be silent.” Were it not animated by truth,
writing would only be dumb characters which have not a word
to say for themselves, never adequately expressing the truth.
Writing, therefore, must imitate an oral form of truth.
Here again, the Sovereign Power of dialectics
digests and transforms the toxic effect of writing
into the salutary power of a dualistic metaphysics
in which the written word is justified only as
a means for dialectically remembering
the voice of truth.
Anchored in dialectical truth, the polis is the therapeutic scene
in which potentially poisonous toxins are recognized, resisted,
and rehabilitated; Otherness is disciplined, civilized, and
transformed by Sovereign Power.
Just as Zeus metabolizes and detoxifies Metis,
thus eventually leading to the birth of
Athena from out of Zeus’s head,
Athena will later detoxify and defang the chthonic Furies,
legitimating them as part of the Olympian pantheon.
At the end of Aeschylus’s tragedy, Athena proclaims
“There is no mother anywhere who gave me birth,
and, but for marriage, I am always for the male
with all my heart, and strongly on my father’s
side. So, in a case where the wife has killed
her husband, lord of the house, her death
shall not mean most to me” (lines 736-740).
The city is thus not only the crucible of sovereign authority,
but also of patriarchal dominion: neutralizing Metis,
Zeus secures the stable order of his divine rule;
neutralizing his daughter Iphigenia through sacrifice,
Agamemnon asserts his sovereign authority; neutralizing
the Furies and their ancient right to revenge, Athena
founds the human community that bears her name.
In each case, a feminine virulence is subverted
and purified in a foundational act of decision
designed to establish and consolidate
patriarchal—that is political—authority.
Although Otherness is encountered as
unfamiliar, unknown, and alien,
the curative dynamics of philosophical agonism
are meant to subject and subjugate the volatile condition
of lawlessness to the iron law of true dialectical reasoning.
This agonistic dynamics sets the scene for the incorporation
of an obscene, barbaric, and uncanny toxicity, the assimilation
of which establishes the legitimate and civilizing scenes
and circuits of human communication and exchange.
What was once a curative force is perhaps no longer
(if it ever really was at all). Can the civilizing force
of rational science and political agonism
subdue the cyclonic fury of Kali?
Can the polis digest the venomous virulence
of the kaliyuga? It’s not simply that “the highest values
become devaluated”—a tune whistled by that old Pied Piper
Nietzsche back in his day. This is not simply a problem of ideology
that can be fixed by applying the salvos of an
alternative logic (right instead of left, neo-conservative
instead of neo-liberal, etc.) Optimism and pessimism;
utopias and dystopias; health and sickness;
poisons and remedies—these opposites
are no longer distinguishable in the cyclonic turbulences
of the kaliyuga, the fourth and last epoch, the dark age
of Kali. Every path is forking, every architecture
is aporetic, and every medium is
an environment subject to contagion
and conflagration. By design, Kali’s forlorn ideology
leads humans down paths of temporary distraction
and even momentary ecstasy; but always
ultimately towards further worsening,
senility and dissolution.
The networked condition that is
currently manifesting itself on a planetary scale
is becoming more and more furious (‘pack-animal’-like)
—that is, pre-or-post-historic, nonhuman/inhuman,
heterogeneous & multiple—consequently
less & less straightforwardly anthropocentric,
humanistically hermeneutic and descriptively dialectical.
Instead of transforming poisons to politically bind a system,
how can virulence be unleashed to unbind a system?
“Ios…derives from the substance
which has lost its corporeality
through the action of
Collection des Anciens Alchimistes Grecs (128).
Another model of toxicity must be presented—
not a political model that proceeds
by way of the action of agon
(of reconciliation through dialectical opposition),
but a viral model that proceeds by way of
“the action of the dragon,”
the active power of poisonous diffusion,
symbolized by the cosmic & chaotic dragon eating its own tail
and exhaling fire from its nostrils—creating the fiery circuit
of the classical (nevermind electro-current) alchemical
ouroborous: the ouroboric drakontos—the heraldic
hieroglyph of transmutation itself, represented as
the transformation of iron or lead into gold.
Originally, the dragon is depicted as serpentine,
since the blood of a serpent-dragon was said to have
acidic and corrosive qualities. In European cartography,
the dragon was used as a spatial symbol denoting dangerous
or unexplored territories—hic sunt dracones:
“here be dragons!”
In alchemy (proto-chemistry), dragon-blood was
the symbol for the active property in all red,
oxy-sulphuric metals, and so it is related to
the alchemical phase known as ios:
‘the reddening’, which holds the key
—it is said—to the secrets of alchemical transformation.
The Latin word virus derives from the Sanskrit root
visham (‘poison’) by way of the Greek ios.
According to Berthelot’s Collection des
Anciens Alchimistes Grecs (1888), the action of ios
or poison describes viral transformation, or the
active property (and transformative power)
of poison—which, for example, occurs in
the oxidation of metals or when the volatile principle of
mercury is harnessed and transformed. Quoting Berthelot:
“Ios…derives from the substance which has lost its
corporeality through the action of the dragon.”
The “action of the dragon” is to unbind and
to propagate through the operation of unbinding.
The action of the agon is not the same as the action of
the dragon: the agon or contest neutralizes virulence
by territorializing and binding the polis (and poli-
tical identity) to Sovereign Power.
The agon establishes the curative dynamics
of friend and enemy, of war as an extension of
policy: war as a restricted economy in the service of
the polis (or what the military theorist Clausewitz calls
“real war” ). The action of the dragon, by contrast,
activates virulence; the dragon terrorizes the agon,
it de-territorializes and unbinds the curative forces of the polis
by unleashing venomous agents that cannot be contained or
neutralized.The dragon establishes war as predation,
as a poisonous ecology unleashing toxic forces
that cannot be contained; it is “absolute war”
or war as unrestricted, uncontained, and unbinding force.
In the political model, in which the function of war
is territorialisation—that is, in which war is contained,
conducted, and cultivated by the polis and its political agents—
war is dialectically represented as a duel, a struggle
between opponents involving the calculated use of force
to willfully compel an opponent and incorporate or assimilate
its power; so, for example, ancient practices of warfare
commonly involved enslaving opponents and incorporating
their labour-power into the economic structure
of the polis. In the modern theory of warfare,
war derives its legitimacy from its subservience to
political reason, which is concretely embodied in the
sovereignty of state power, and is expressed in the state’s
power to use force and suspend laws in states of emergency.
War is a tool of policy and must always be in service of
advancing a state’s political aims; hence military logic
must always be subservient to political rationale.
Because war always involves the use of brutalizing force,
coercive power is justified and gains legitimacy only when
used by states within a system governed by international
norms of law and reason. War, as such, follows
the dialectical logic of the pharmakon:
the destructive effects of war, when agonistically purified
and enlightened by the sovereign authority of the polis,
are transformed by the political curatives of Truth,
Right, and Justice. Standing upon the foundation
of Reason, war thus becomes politically instru-
mental and a morally justifiable act of state.
The viral model of war, by contrast,
deterritorializes the strict dialectical duality
of friend and enemy (who is friend, who is enemy?),
unleashing a propulsive polemos (the ancient Greek word
for ‘war:’) a ‘fog of war’ that is dispersed through contagious
distribution, and which unleashes a virulence that turns all
ecologies into predatory environments,
obfuscating and unbinding relations within.
Everything, everyone becomes an agent of this
polemical virulence, not to be encountered as subjects
and objects,not to be contained, conducted, and cultivated,
but instead encountered as poisonous actants to be unleashed
and transmuted. This is the model of war as cosmic pestilence,
war as chthonic fury, war as the glyph of Kali inscribed in dragon-blood.
Enter the Dragon.
In contradistinction to the DeleuzoGuattarian model of
the war-machine, in which war can be “thermo-dynamically
(or dialectically) grasped” as a product of war-machines
(Mellamphy and Mellamphy 203), the 2008 theory-fiction
Cyclonopedia offers the model of War-as-Machine, in which
War is independent of war-machines and in which war indeed
hunts war-machines. In hunting war-machines, however, War
does not simply kill indiscriminately and once-and-for-all.
The Un–life of War “does not wipe-out or terminate”
but rather operates with/in the prey’s economy of survival,
sustaining itself by keeping the host-organism in an ongoing
state of decay. This is an itinerant, often imperceptible, highly
portable and particularly potent viral mode of war which
sustains itself on the degenerative processes of its milieu,
thus ensuring its propagation through an economy of
positive disintegration. The expansive, unlimited
affect–space of War-as-Machine arises from and
builds upon not Truth and its symbolic interpretations,
but on truthiness, illusion, hyberbole, differentiation,
falsification, divergence, mass hysteria, terminal
catabolism and the diffusion of a larval,
crypto-fractal kind of ‘terror’.
War-as-Machine is a model in which the ‘agents’ that make up
‘war-machines’ are themselves hunted down, broken down,
and consumed by War, only to be resurrected and
“brought back to life on the other side of the battlefield
in the form of a Cimmerian haze, the ‘Fog of War’” (Mellamphy and Mellamphy 205).
Drained and purified of their very ipseity
(their stable self-identity) only to return as hyper-camouflaged
radicalized ‘hunting particles’ animated only by the Un-life of
War, these ‘weapons of terror’ are not ‘grand transgressions’
or deployments of ‘visible and declared violence;’ they are
the invention of a new kind of war-machine
that sustains itself in and upon so-called ‘peace,’
or more precisely upon the ‘the militarization of peace.’
These viral agents, these weapons, are larval operatives:
under cover of peaceful and peace-time activity
they open themselves up to virulence.
In the 21st century, the virulent fog of war
contaminates environments with a larval terror
that everywhere propagates the force of unbinding:
politics, economics, culture, society, all of the curatives of
human ingenuity have lost their power to bind;
rather, power’s main effect today is to obfuscate,
corrode, contaminate, unbind and thus
potentially alter, modulate, recombine,
and perhaps even transmute.
The virulence of this larval terror
unleashes the immuno-political responses
that attack the State’s own body-politic within the logistics
of peace-time, by fomenting paranoia, pitting citizen against
citizen, and unbinding the State’s civil institutions
and institutionalized values, rendering them fragile,
porous, and open to further insurrection.
Within the alchemical logic of larval terror,
no visible or transgressive act of war or of terrorism
is required for the body-politic to begin cannibalizing itself:
especially when greased by the lube of petro-chemical
narratives, the bio-politics of the State become subject
to the autophagic process of decay
unleashed by virulence.
“[T]he State’s border is reinvented as a field of vortices
unloading occultural heterogeneities into the State
and resulting in corrosion, dissemination of
internal insurgencies, inflammation of regions,
boundaries and organization, the rise of parasitical
modes of politics and economy, and finally the implosion
of the State” (Negarestani 80-81).
In contemporary terms, this is a good way to understand
the rise of the European New Right and the American
Alt-Right with their focus on “metapolitical” strategies
that seek to transform the broader landscape of culture
outside of established political channels.
Even in cases where these movements have
taken hold of the levers of government (as in the U.S.
at present), the aim of political strategy is to unbind
the body politic. In this scenario, the system is rigged;
all ideologies and beliefs can be used as bait for the
active propagation of unbinding across various environments.
Many Alt-Rightists, like Jack Donovan (a proponent of
male tribalism and author of The Way of Men),
argue that America is on the way to becoming a
“failed state” but that this is in fact a desirable thing
because “in a failed state, we go back to Wild West rules,
and America becomes a place for men again—
a land full of promise and possibility
that rewards daring and ingenuity,
a place where men can restart the world” (Lyons).
The aim is to unleash the virality of War; to capture the system
in order to exploit its weaknesses, to use the system
against itself in order to unbind it and return it
to a state of nature which—as Thomas Hobbes reminds us—
is bellum omnium contra omnes: a total war of all against all.
Today, the aim of warfare is not territorialisation
—that is, to gain political hegemony over physical territory—
but increasingly to unleash and exploit deterriorializations and
systemic insurgencies. A chief weapon of viral warfare
is viral media, as the Alt-Rightists that helped bring
Donald Trump to power through viral tactics such as
trolling and doxing—as well as by the diffuse power of
memes—have recently made clear. The logic of contemporary
network culture is clearly viral and can be understood as
a mode of action that follows the specific logic of
contagion and repetition: “viral patterns of movement
characterize the turbulent spaces of networks as a very
primary logic” (Parikka 291). Memes—a dominant viral form
in contemporary network cultures—may be “contagious
consumer objects” (as Parikka warns),
but they should also be thought as poisonous actants
with subversive agendas and voracious appetites
for the galvanizing effects of decomposition.
“What spreads is said to occur in a space of
collective contamination in which individual persons
who become part of a crowd tend toward thinking in the same
mental images (real and imagined). Like this, the reasoned
individual is seemingly overpowered by a neurotic
mental state of unity unique to the crowd,
which renders subjectivity vulnerable to further symbolic
contagious encounters and entrainments”
(Sampson 61; emphasis added).
This is the pestilent power of the California Ideology,
the reigning creed of Silicon Valley, that grows and flourishes
in the age of virality, which is also the age of democratic ruin;
it is the age of the exploitation of the weaknesses of the
democratic body-politic by way of democratic rhetoric;
it is the age that makes way—as Plato already noted
in books 8 and 9 of The Republic—for the tyrant
and for tyranny, for fascism…which becomes
the logical outcome of democratic failure.
For Walter Benjamin, fascism obscures
and distracts energies that would otherwise
be used by the demos, the many poor, to revolt against
the capitalist system. Instead, fascist virulence both
aestheticizes and anaestheticizes the demos:
“the masses have a right to changed
property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression
while keeping these relations unchanged. The logical outcome
of fascism is the aestheticization of political life”.
Thus “behind every fascism, there lies
a failed revolution” (Benjamin).
The very parasitical logic of the virus is to unbind the polis—
but not by killing it immediately, indiscriminately, and/or
once-and-for-all—not by wiping it out; rather (instead)
by slowly exploiting its weaknesses,
harnessing and transmuting its powers,
by operating with/in the prey’s economy of survival,
sustaining itself (once again) by keeping host-organisms
in an ongoing state of decay.
So we see that today, at present, right now,
riding high on the tide of Californian (a.k.a. “Silicon”)
ideology (which we can also call “Kali’s forlorn ideology:”
the Silicon System of the so-called Kali Yuga),
in this time-period ruled by Human Supremacists
in which technicity has rapidly outpaced the human itself,
the concept of the Anthropocene is but a harbinger
of what could be called the Electrocene:
the era of electro-technical connections
and transmutations that unleash and
the polis and its demos,
and arguably, the ‘human’ itself.
—HERE THERE BE DRAGONS in all of their cyber-fury;
here be the FURIES come back with a vengeance.
1. This particular quotation is taken from the appendix to the third augmented edition, specifically from the final paragraph of the only extant fragment from Fulcanelli’s unfinished-and-otherwise-unpublished Finis Gloriæ Mundi—i.e. ‘La Croix cyclique d’Hendaye’ (Paris: Éditions Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1964 pp. 218-219). For more on this, see the Works Cited entry for ‘La cathédrale considérée comme Course de Côte’ (Academia.Edu/34226569). The English translation used in the present paper is based on the one undertaken by Mary Sworder for Neville Spearman Limited, London, 1971.
2. “War moves on its goal with varying speeds; but it always lasts long enough for influence to be exerted on the goal and for its own course to be changed in one way or another––long enough, in other words, to remain subject to the action of a superior intelligence. If we keep in mind that war springs from some political purpose, it is natural that the prime cause of its existence will remain the supreme consideration in conducting it. That, however, does not imply that the political aim is a tyrant. It must adapt itself to its chosen means, a process which can radically change it; yet the political aim remains the first consideration. Policy, then, will permeate all military operations, and, in so far as their violent nature will admit, it will have a continuous influence on them” (Clausewitz 28).
Nandita Biswas Mellamphy
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Berthelot, Marcellin. Collection des Anciens Alchimistes Grecs, Tome 2. Georges Steinheil, 1888. Translated by Hereward Tilton, Alchemy Academy Archive, 16 July 2005,
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Mellamphy, Dan, and Nandita Biswas Mellamphy. “Phileas Fogg, or the Cyclonic Passepartout: On the Alchemical Elements of War.” Leper Creativity: Proceedings of the Cyclonopedia Symposium.
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