25 September 2016

The Temporality of Ascryption


Alice was just beginning to say 'There's a mistake somewhere—,' when the Queen began screaming, so loud that she had to leave the sentence unfinished. 'Oh, oh, oh!' shouted the Queen, shaking her hand about as if she wanted to shake it off. 'My finger's bleeding! Oh, oh, oh, oh!'
'What is the matter?' Alice said, 'Have you pricked your finger?'
'I haven't pricked it yet,' the Queen said, 'but I soon shall—oh, oh, oh!'

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
 
With all such words it is of the utmost importance that they should never be spoken until the supreme moment, and even then they should burst from the Magician almost despite himself—so great should be his reluctance to utter them. In fact, they should be the utterance of the God in him at the first onset of the divine possession. So uttered, they cannot fail of effect, for they have become the effect. — Aleister Crowley, Liber ABA

With Karno absent, and no way to reach her (what would I have said in any case?), I had no choice but to continue my exploration of her practice unaccompanied. The inverted nature of the enterprise continued to mystify me. One night, uselessly intoxicated and unable to push my earlier success at recreating her method any further, I had scrawled 'ASCRYPTION IS REVERSE ASCRIPTION' on a post-it note in some now unrecognisable fluid and stuck it to the wall above my desk. The evocation of the literary act via the attribution of a name had proven successfultoo successful if the complete occultation of every surface comprising my admittedly cramped living quarters by loose stacks of unevenly daubed, sometimes completely indecipherable, sheets of paper was to be counted as a reliable measurement of efficacy. I felt I had lost control. Ascryption was, indeed, a matter of utter submission to the will of some outside force. As a writer I had been schooled in the importance of control. This was variously denominated in terms of metre, rhythm, tone, cleverly constructed metaphorics, believable characters, narrative consistency ... and yet I was producing these effects without any recourse to my own personal catalogue of literary tricks and turns of phrase, or even what I had once arrogantly considered my 'unique poetic voice'. Some utterly alien enunciator had infiltrated my output. Or better, enunciators, for they were certainly multiple. Adept across an unbelievable span of deranged aesthetic proclivity. Where the hell was this all coming from? 

I reread Karno's essay again and again, searching for a decipherable answer among her numerous appeals to 'the crypt', 'the rift' and, most curious of all, 'the future'. It was while staring at the post-it note, utterly lost, half-conscious from the criminal quantity of bootleg mezcal I had drunk in anticipation of yet another night's futile probing, that it came to me. Unlike ascription, which one has no choice but to understand as a cause-effect relationship, ascryptionthe production of cause from effectencodes, by virtue of this deranged causal logic, time in reverse. A text attributed to a writer; a writer attributed to a text. What was at stake was more than the automated procurement of a poem, but a theory of time. Karno was madder than even I (who wasdemonstrablyprepared to accept a lot) had suspected. And yet it explained so much. The enigmatic subtitle, 'Practices for Writing on Reality' suddenly took on a terrible significance. She meant it literally. What had I gotten myself involved in? Was I evoking something more significant than a roomful of poetry? I took in the chaotic state of my apartment, unsure I recognised the person to whom it had once belonged. The unfinished bottle of mezcal sat in the middle of the floor, staking out Zone 7 in the remnants of the diagram that continued to leer through its pelt of paper refuse. A bloated agave worm, suspended in the few centimetres of liquid that remained at the base of the bottle turned listlessly in response to some imperceptible tremor from far, far below. 

It reminded me of something I'd overheard at the bara verminous word: 'Plutonic'.

13 September 2016

Initiation



'To call up a demon you must learn its name.' — Gibson, Neuromancer 

'There is no return for one that has started on this path.' — Crowley, Liber CCCXXXIII, §23.

'The beginning is the end.' — Heraklitus, Fragments, §70


It is Friday evening in the Deadlines bar, informal lair of a certain slice of Pacific Rim society, driven into loose conspiracy by nothing stronger than a vague sense of exodus from other, more legitimate loci of macrocultural conviviality. Only a few tables boast occupants. Improbable combinations for the most part: professional con artists, arms-dealers, off-the-clock sex workers sheathed in glittering but deadly nano, a few ragged pseudo-intellectuals wired on the newest blackmarket nootropics, stim addicts, at least one well-connected yet morally dubious politician ... and the usual handful of literary dissolutes, momentarily dissolving their special brand of self-directed despair in the bar's unusual cocktail menu, a master-catalogue of neurological sabotage that seems to have been decanted directly from the Book of Lies. The bartender appears to have a cybernetic arm, althoughas with all the latest Shenzen somatechit can be hard to tell. The inorganic provenance of the red glint in its eyes nevertheless remains overtly readable, for ostentatious effect. Screens blink lethargically in various neon hues from the depths of the bar. The lighting is uneven, fluctuating unsettlingly as regions of dense smoke from the archaic analogue cigarettes certain patrons refuse to abandon migrate across the ceiling. The cumulative effect is that of a blinking cursor, calmly awaiting input. 

It's only my second time here. I find the place intensely troubling, yet somehow irresistible. I was handed the address almost entirely by chance after cementing an online exchange with a dyslexic tech dealer who, fatefully, mis-transcribed the sixes in the pick-up address as nines. After realising the mistake, I nonetheless resolved to remain and observe the clientele. Some kind of literary meeting was underway at the time and the participants were reading samples of their work to one another. It seemed opportune, as I considered myself somewhat of a failed poet and was on the point of abandoning my practice for more, let's say, respectable pursuits. So I settled in at the bar, savouring the temporary anonymity afforded by the situation, ordered one of the abominable cocktails on offer and began, as discretely as possible, to listen in. It wasn't long before the discussion converged on something I would come to find peculiarly relevant to my current predicament. The problem of beginnings.

The conversation went roughly like this:

“‘Beginning is the most difficult thing.’” 
“That’s it?”
“Yes, those words, exactly.”
“Double embedded?”
“Surely, yes … That’s all it takes. Then it’s happening.” 

The catalyst for this exchange seemed to be the work of an absent, little known horror-porn writer, referred to by one of the conversants (who appeared to me, despite the seediness of the environment counselling against the propriety of such a conclusion, to be a high-ranking Party member) as 'Mary Karno'. Karno had an unusual practice, something that had been inadvertantly divulged to the latter via an explicit video recording, obtained, without Karno's knowledge, via some kind of Party-sanctioned spook rig. Karno was, obviously, an intense writer, so much so that the simple utterance of her name seemed to usher a strange energy into the room, something I wasn't entirely ready to attribute to the hallincinatory effects of the cocktails I'd been demolishing with increasing diligence. She seemed to hover over the space, electrifying it, as if her very absence functioned as a kind of presence in itself. The suspected Party member continued his disquisition.

"It was all there, on the video. I actually watched her start a new story – two actually – open an immaculate notebook, with a giant question mark, jot down a few scrappy thoughts, cross-legged, meditating or some shit, then cross some kind of threshold – you could see it, as if something had cut through her body, switched her – and then she seriously set to work, patiently, full of – what the fuck do you call it? – intention, rolling back the rug, chalking a huge diagram on the floor, all swirls and numbers and ancient evocations, then building what I can only describe as a voodoo shrine, pasted together out of candles, clippings from poetry books, kitchenware, pictures, drug paraphernalia, bits of dead animals, and electronic trash. She’d get up, wander around the number maze in loops, muttering some cryptic stuff, in a whisper – the audio was too crap to pick it up – then back to the shrine, shifting pieces about, nudging it towards convergence. It was mad as fuck, obviously, but the horrible thing was that I began to pick up on the purpose, I could see it coming together, like a wave out of hyper-space, the necessity of it, I just couldn’t stop watching, seeing it arrive. I mean, holy fuck. And then a jolt went through her, harsh and electric. She snapped out, crossed over to her laptop, and typed in the name.”

By now I had taken out my tablet and begun, as surreptitiously as I could manage, to make notes. A decision, mind you, I would only perceive the utter fateful recklessness of long after it was too late to take any of it back. The key components of Karno's method seemed to be a diagram and the extraction of a name. Beyond this, the act of writing appeared to unfold automatically. From what I could gather, Karno had recorded, cryptically, the details of this process in an essay entitled Ascryptions: Practices for Writing on Reality. The effect of this information was akin to learning of the existence of a newly synthesised drug. I wanted to try it ... and I left the bar that evening full of naive ambition, swearing that I would do anything I could to get hold of Karno's essay and experience the thing myself. 

I will spare you the details, save to say that it took a lot longer to obtain the text than I had initially hoped, and I'm not one who usually has trouble procuring contraband items. The essay opened me up to an experience of ... well, to an experience I had not thought strictly possible. That sounds trite, but let me assure you, it is trueto the utmost extremity of unfathomable ruinand if I could undo the damage it has since wrought, I might just reconsider. Might. For Karno's method works. The question is how long one can continue to survive it and returnintactto write. Maybe that stops mattering after a while.

A beginning is also an initiation. Necessarily decoupled from the tyranny of linear time, that iswhen cybernetically understood'beginning' indexes something like 'an initial kick'. Similarly, an initiation, properly carried out, cannot be undone. Both processes are collapsible into a simple diagram, one that I have come to use more and more in my own experiments: that of a spiral. In the essay, Karno writes, somewhat unintelligibly, of a 'communion with the Outside'. Perhaps, most curiously, her references to 'the Outside' are always couched in positive terms, construing the effective difference (between the writer and that which they struggle to capture, the self and the Other, the identical and the nonidentical, phenomena and noumena, inside and outhowever one wishes to characterise it) in an entirely alien way to the one I had been forced to study as part of an initiation of an altogether more banal kindalways defined in terms of the negative – and pedalled by a certain variety of religious zealot, the ridiculous canon of which had detained me for far too long in my attempt to understand the various dynamics of creative and social processes alike. No, Karno's Outside was truly different ... it was difference in itself. Its positivity blazed like a dark beacon in a world of increasingly insufferable illumination. For her, the modality of this communion was to be understood as one of affirmation. One that folds the outside into the insidesomewhat erotically, it must be saidvia an act of ultimate, emancipatory, submission. (SUBMISSION, I would later learnas my adeptness in certain magical practices grewis embedded numerically in the word ASCRYPTION.) This is, necessarily, an involuted process. One cannot simply covet communion with the Outside and expect that, by desiring it in its difference, it can be easily subsumed. That would be to understand it negatively ... not to mention being far too straightforward and not nearly horrific enough for Karno's tastes. The real mechanism is more akin to apprehending the fact that it has been part of you all alonghidingjust beyond the lip of the fragile equilibrium that constitutes whatever it was you took to be yourself, perpetually poised to tear that superficial construction to pieces. It suffices to disturb the balance just a little to ignite it, or more clearly, grasp that itin factis what ignited 'you' in the first place. The truly horrifying insight being that its emergence, when it does appear, is nothing other than a return. I was beginning to understand why critics called her work 'fundamentally unbalanced'. 

This, however, didn't answer the question of the diagram.