LABOR AS THE ABSOLUTE

I’m sitting in a Whole Foods on Thanksgiving Day contemplating the materialist notion that the primary fact in the world is a massive collective effort at sustaining and refashioning human civilization.   According to this view, a mass misrecogition of this fact is necessary for sustaining it in its current capitalist mode.   People’s conscious aims, identities and political allegiances are typically symptomatic, disconnected from the true reality of their existence, which is a cooperative constant recreation of the conditions of life, which is inherently impossible to directly know or experience: The Great Labor.

 

Capitalism supposedly distorts true labor, converting it into abstract labor (which, though it is an illusion and an abstraction, has power over us if we believe in it).  Value is defined by labor time, the time it takes for completely unskilled labor to produce all the parts of a product.   This erasure of skill as such, skill, which, as Aristotle knew, is the essence of being human, is a fundamental alienation, a crime against human nature.

    In the Grundrisse Marx makes a few stammering efforts to speculate on how value would be defined in the post-capitalist era, as an alternative to tethering it to abstract labor time.    What would be valued, somehow, would be the development of an individual’s talents in such a way that she or he contributes to the enrichment of knowledge and culture.    The chief contradiction in capitalism is supposedly this:   Value is defined by labor time, but there is always a tendency towards mechanization, decreasing labor time and thus making everything less valuable.   The long term trajectory is that workers are payed less and less, and have more and more free time (and needs are taken care of more and more cheaply and efficiently).  The laborers’ alienation - consciousness that capitalism is undesirable, being forced to think about its conditions etc - is paired with a new-found sense of the right to work and enjoy for its own sake, which is only possible under capitalism.   Eventually they seize the means of production.   This was Marx’s prediction, but he did not foresee the rise of consumer culture which Adam Curtis describes so well in his documentaries.    

 

The new era of capitalism wards off the crisis of its fundamental contradiction in this way:   focus groups and data mining serve to create a psychometric profile for every consumer/laborer on the grid, so that new products can be tailored not just to their needs but to their unconscious fantasies,  exacerbating a fundamental sense of lack and providing goods tailor made to fill the lack in the same stroke.   A new market rooted in fantasy is created, allowing production to continue to expand (it must at all costs continue to expand, because, since exchange value is abstract and cannot be used directly, it only has value if it creates *more* value).  On the one hand this stalls the development of revolutionary class consciousness (which is ‘bad’) but on the other hand to a certain degree it really does provide an avenue for individuals to develop their unique talents.  The phenomenon of the ‘prosumer’ is easy to ridicule, but it is hard to deny that more and more tools are being developed that help to provide creative fulfillment and general education on a much wider scale than ever before.   (This is especially obvious in the case of music and video).   

 

The key is to define a way that activity along these lines can be authentically valuable rather than continuing to exacerbate a sense of lack that drives submission to the work juggernaut.   In my view this requires two tendencies:  toward genuinely interdisciplinary work and towards genuinely religious states of consciousness.   I see a lot of cloud rappers, art world sycophants and intellectual incels around me who are clearly enslaved by false consciousness despite to some degree developing their talents autonomously because they fail to understand one another and have failed to develop their talents in a well-rounded way,  because they are desperate to please the imaginary Other that rules their particular domain and might some day give them money (fans, collectors, tenure).   By the same token I see most people unable to make contact with the joy of God’s love and thus incapable of genuine charity, kindness and service, because they don’t believe they have the “time” to devote to a genuine spiritual practice.   This plays out as constant romantic drama, false beliefs that if they attained a certain achievement that it would give them some ultimate satisfaction which in reality it will not, or drug abuse.   In short, people do not generally grasp the intensity of their own power, they fail to truly value themselves and others.   The values that will govern the new civilization beyond capitalism will be variants of self-esteem and mutual respect:  SOVEREIGNTY, HIERARCHY, EMANCIPATION, INDIVIDUATION.  



BIRTH

Biological childbirth is an instance of a wider birth-logic that takes place on different planes.   Human sexuality can orient itself towards different types of object, and will cause birth to take place on the plane to which its attention is devoted.   Every artist knows the experience of cultural childbirth, with its pangs and sense of discharging an entity with a life of its own etc.   Ark Work is devoted to yet a higher birth than the artistic type: the birth of the successor to civilization as such.   However, there is no guarantee that the mysterious birth-logic is really possible on this level.   But it is possible to conceive of and is a desirable goal.  The process can only be an experimental one. 



OUTSIDE AND INSIDE HISTORY

The Great Labor is a childbirth and a drama.   There is a strong case to be made that everything in the world is completely determined, effectively eternal.  This is the external view of evolution.  But we know just as well that we are able to take part in a process, we are able to live inside, rather than outside, of evolution.  On the inside, there is a dramatic structure - acts, scenes, stages and motives.  We are astonished, make decisions, take responsibility for consequences.   It all seems to be leading towards something, a final symbol that will be a capstone for the whole process, that will make sense of everything that has happened.  The placeholder for this symbol is the vision of Ololon giving birth to the Meek King.   



GREATER SHIA

The major scission in Islam is between the Sunni, those who believe Mohammad received a definitive final revelation, and the Shia, who believe that there will be further revelations.   While this manifests primarily as a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and is obviously adulterated by historical traumas and social antagonisms, the purely theological aspect is too often ignored.

One has no choice but to side with the Shia on the theological grounds: Mohammad did not receive a final revelation, there have been and will be more prophets.   However Shiism within the bounds of Islam is not radical enough.  It seems that a major criterion for recognizing a true prophet in the contemporary world is a lack of strong affiliation with any of the seven major world religions. 

A list of candidates: Simone Weil, Cornell West, Joseph Beuys, Gilles Deleuze, Helen Schulman, William Blake, Ken Wilber, Maharishi, Olivier Messiaen, Valentin Tomberg, Franz Rosenzweig, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alice Coltrane, Napoleon Hill, Ken Wilber, Karl Marx, George Maciunas, Ann Lee, Jacob Boehme

What criteria exactly can be used to articulate a lineage of Greater Shia?   Is it possible to articulate a set of these?  It would be ideal for them to be strong enough that some apparent candidates ultimately must be left out - mere religious zealots, on one end, who merely reinforce the false hegemony of a bigoted value system with their enthusiasm, and mere 'geniuses' on the other end, who legislate a new transcendental horizon but do so in a way that is impoverishing to love, or reason, or the object of ultimate concern.  



FICHTE

According to Fichte, these are the key aspects of Spirit:  it involves interest and pleasure that is not practical (it is aesthetic and disinterested), it ruptures a transcendental horizon, it is the union of subject and object in that it is generated by an object (an alterity) in the subject, on one end, and, on the other, its transmission creates a subject in that it opens up a new capacity for freedom in someone, which is to say a new awareness of that capacity in that person.   The Great Labor involves all of these.  



STRICTLY SPEAKING

Ark Work goes back to the Pythagorean injunction to escape fate.  But in a stricter sense we have to consider it to be a cluster of practices that continue the abrahamic religious tradition beyond Christianity and Islam under modernity.   These practices are united in that they are neither secular nor religious in the traditional sense, but they are also not merely 'spiritual' or 'occult'.   The problem with modern occultism is that it regresses to pre-Christian modes of spirituality (Heathen or pagan charisma) rather than transcending + including the truth that Christianity gave to the world.  The trouble with secularism is that it is trapped inside the cage of hyperborean reason and does not tap into true freedom or yield truly felt experience of the absolute.  The True Vine continues to bear new fruit.



THOUGHT AND LIFE

The great labor is the gradual struggle to give birth to The Meek King or S.H.E.I.M (Sovereign Hierarchico-Emancipatory Individuation Municipality), and it is undertaken by Kel Valhaal and Reign Array who work together and against one another in dynamic tension.  Reign Array's tool is a four-bladed dialectical sword named Renihilation whose blades are named Ascesis, Catharsis, Fervor and Majesty.  Kel Valhaal's tool is a differential hammer with three heads whose names are Adaptation, Apocalypse, Enterprise.   



PYTHGORAS AND EMERSON

These two could be posited as representing the major turning points of Ark Work.  Pythagoras represents an originary subtraction whereby thought and music fold back on life, Emerson represents the subtraction of religion from its concrete forms and the idea of the future.



THOUGHT AND DRAMA

Ultimately thought is coextensive with Renihilation and drama is coextensive with Aesthethics.  Thought is governed by ascesis (to which it is referred by music), catharsis, fervor and majesty (which refers it to drama).   Drama is governed by endeavor (to which it is referred by thought), apocalypse and adaptation (which refers it to music).  Music is referred to by drama through general tremolo, and refers to thought through the burst beat.   This is the logic of Perichoresis  



WHAT IS TRANSCENDENTAL QABALA

Generally speaking we understand Qabala to be an ever-evolving theoretical, practical, religious and artistic tradition.  Its aim is to awaken free consciousness and to redeem or save humanity against all odds, so to speak - or to free it from the tragic forces of nature by basically experimental means.  

Historically, there are four different traditions of Qabala - they can be called Hermetic Qabalah, Jewish Kabbalah, Industrial Kabala and Philosophical Cabala.  

Jewish Kabbalah is posited by Gershom Scholem as having originated in medieval Spain with texts like the Zohar and the writings of Isaac Luria.   From the perspective of secularized history, this is the "original" Kabbalah.  Derived from Jewish scripture and neoplatonic mysticism, available only to Rabbis over the age of 40, it is a system of meditation techniques, symbols and a metaphysical picture of the godhead.  Perhaps this is the purest and most intensely lived form of Kabbalah - in the sense that its adherents are more disciplined and knowledgeable than those of any other tradition.  However it is inescapably parochial - this version is only available to male Jews over the age of 40.  This parochial aspect is its major flaw - along with, perhaps, a certain dogmatism.  

The tradition of Jewish Kabbalah, however, sees itself (against the view of secular scholarship) as far more ancient - as originating in ancient Egypt, as a primordial wisdom as old as humanity itself.   Many of the purportedly ancient texts of the Kabbalah (like the Zohar and the Sefer Yezirah) have been shown to be forgeries.  Nevertheless, we can't know for sure that there isn't some kind of ancient tradition that pre-existed the writings that were first set down in medieval Spain.   This tradition would be older even than exoteric Judaism itself - we associate it with ancient Egypt and Hermes Trismegistus.   A major virtue of this tradition is that, to the extent that it exists, it pre-exists not just modern science but also ancient philosophy (i.e. it is older than Plato).  It has a certain heritage that commands deep respect.  Its flaw of course is that it is basically imaginary.  Its contours must be filled in.  

This task has been executed by Industrial Kabala, perhaps most easily associated with figures like Madame Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, and Ken Wilber.  Industrial Qabala is an attempt to synthesize Hermetic Qabalah with Chinese and Indian esoteric traditions, and lives in the context of modern capitalism, as a sort of counterforce to total administration and scientific rationality.   It is connected to underground music and fine art in various ways.   Its major virtue is that it is synthetic/syncretic and genuinely magical and empowering (in the sense of operating on mysterious forces), and its major flaw is that it is not adequately rational - thus potentially victim to both dogma/ideology and to dissipation.   

Finally, Philosophical Cabala is a tradition of speculative thought that sincerely engages the dominant tradition of philosophy from Plato to Kant, and, following Hegel and Emerson, seeks to conceive of a speculative human freedom within the bounds of rationality - working with rather than against science, incorporating materials from contemporary mathematics, economics and psychology.  Post-structuralism, speculative realism, accelerationism and American pragmatism all participate in this tradition in different ways.  Its major virtue is that it is allied with objective scientific truth and refuses dogma of all kinds (unlike Industrial Kabala), and its flaw is that it is incapable of gaining real power in the world - it lives mostly in the university.  

Transcendental Qabala - which I am working to develop - is simply a synthesis of these four forms, aiming to make use of their virtues while avoiding their flaws.  Thus we can delineate some of its aspects.

1.  With Jewish Kabbalah, Transcendental Qabala situates itself in a particular historical tradition.  Specifically it identifies contemporary secular multiculturalism as a radicalization of American protestantism (thus identifying itself with the Unitarian Transcendentalist movement of the 19th century), affirms this fact, and seeks to radicalize it further.  Transcendental Qabala is the child of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, though it rejects most of the exoteric dogmas of each of these.   It recognizes that the principles of equality and freedom that it seeks to foster are historically situated, not eternal absolutes.  It also seeks to extract or purify fundamental concepts and practices underlying the terms faith, hope, love, and chastity.  It nevertheless aims to be universal - even more universal than Christianity.  Also, unlike current secular multiculturalism, it is apocalyptic:  it seeks to fundamentally transform human nature.  

2. With Hermetic Qabalah, Transcendental Qabala looks back to the most ancient wisdom available in the historical record - the Vedas, the Daodejing, the Bible, refusing to grant authority to any human achievement since then, whether religious, philosophical, prophetic or scientific.  In other words - unlike contemporary secularism, it does not write off ancient ascetic wisdom.  This perhaps the most difficult aspect to explain in words. 

3. Like Industrial Kabala, it interfaces with contemporary developments in art and music, as an alternative way of life, but it refuses the excesses and irreverence of this tradition.  More specifically, it refuses to simply be an alternative.  It isn't sustaining a free space temporarily or acting as a respite - it aims to transform the world in its image.  

4. Like Philosophical Cabala, it engages with psychoanalysis, mathematical physics and economics, incorporating a critique of ideology and affirming rigorous rationalism.   But unlike the philosophy tradition, It is transmitted across a wider culture (by virtue of its extractions from these other aspects of Kabbalah - it engages with art, music and religious traditions). 



THREADS

Religion, dialectical materialism,  science, psychoanalysis, fine art, underground culture.   The Ark Work exists at the point of intersection between these traditions.   That doesn't make it eclectic -  it is a corrosive divine negativity, a gospel of mourning, transfiguration and sex  



THE DIFFERENCE

The difference between participating in the Great Labor or not is minimal, almost imperceptible.  The criterion for knowing it is not certain.  But it is truly either happening or not, all the same.  In a way, we always know  



THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

The Ark Work is posited as having begun in 1776.   Or should we say, the "second wave" of the Ark Work, during which its major identifiable characteristics were developed, even if other elements are as old as ancient Egypt, began at this time. 

 

Incredulity towards all seemingly-natural absolutes is one key characteristic.   Religious dogmas, ethical norms, prevailing cultural trends, phenomenological horizons - these are all absorbed and discarded, refused in the name of a blinding universal negativity: Renihilation.

 

Ark Work as the work of Renihilation disrupts, short-circuits, adulterates.   Ark Work as an Endeavor continues along its path, guided by a star it itself has constituted. 

 

Ark Work works in the name of love and as love, not just abstractly as emancipation but also locally and intrapsychically.    



PHILOLAUS

 

"All beings are necessarily limited or unlimited, or limited and unlimited simultaneously, but they could not be unlimited only."

 

 



HISTORY

Recorded human history spans about 3000 or 4000 years.  The question of whether something has been unfolding all this time - it remains open.    I would venture to say that most people today do not believe that human history is teleological - certainly most people in the secularized world do not.   Then there are of course people who subscribe to a religious eschatology of one kind or another - whether with an ultimate apocalyptic outcome or a cycle of ages that repeats itself.   

The main point to make  - and to continue to make - is that there are no rational grounds for having one set of beliefs about the logic of human history over another.   As passionate as some people's attachments to their core convictions - whether they are convictions that every moment, even the most tragic calamities, are part of a divine plan, or whether they are faith that science will one day prove that only "chance", whatever that is, governs the development of the world - we simply do not know.  

It is possible, though, to decide that there must be something unfolding - this is the decision that underlies the ark work.   One way of following through with that decision is to project a history authorizing the present - from the earliest civilizations of India, China and Mesopotamia to the present.   The desperation and sadness of social media, the art world, advanced capitalism takes on a different character when it is contextualized in a greater history.    The key, I think, is to grasp how alive the past is.  Not just the 19th century, which I've talked a lot about, but, just as much, the 4th and 5th centuries BC, the worlds of Pythagoras, the Buddha, Lao-Tzu.  



THE CANON

It is not so much a matter of identifying a history, though, as much as it is of generating one.  The orphan's guide to ancestor worship.  There are names:  Xenakis, Scelsi, Empedocles, Gauss, Bizzy Bone, Underground Resistance, Francis Bacon, Plotinus.   These names can mean whatever we want them to.  What I mean to say is that there is an implicit utopianism implicit in every impactful statement - whether it is a work of art, a political gesture, or a scientific discovery.   Beyond the narcissism of the genius, the usefulness to humans of the result: there is a utopianism.  And there is a global legacy to be sustained, remembered, punctured, celebrated, vandalized, revised.  This is by no means a matter of multiculturalism.  The bizarre polarity of the christian/scientific liberating destruction has to be privileged over and above other cultural productions, because it carries with it such a strange urgency.   But its context will be progressively globalized.  Certainly, for example, when it comes to the history of philosophy.  It is no longer possible to start with the pre-socratics.  Philosophy begins with the Vedas, no matter how you want to define it.   Medieval philosophy and mathematics was perhaps at its most profound in the world of Islam - that kind of thing.  But the important thing is the yearning, the thirst, the implicit utopianism, and the power to create a narrative that is able to account for and provide a consolation for the gap between the absolute and itself. 



CREATING A HISTORY

Any real activity has to create a history for itself, which is also to make a connection to already-existing histories, but in a way that alters them.  We have to conceive of The Ark Work as something that has been under way for a long time.   There are figures we can point to:  Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Blake, Joseph Beuys, Simone Weil, Genesis P-Orridge, Nietzsche.  Each of these figures contributed in some way to a future-oriented vision of the world that crosses the line between art and religion.  We also have to consider the project of enlightenment and disenchantment that has gone along with the rise of science