25 September 2016

The Temporality of Ascryption

< Part One: 'Initiation'
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'.

Reverting, spontaneously, to the resources offered by my native tongue, I'd initially understood it as 'plutôt-nique', a punning neologism that would passably be rendered in English as some complex of 'otherwise-ness', 'too-soon-ness' and 'imminence'. This skewed line of thought was evidently owed to my long-time obsession with the writing of Antonin Artaud, who had exploited the same contingency of language in his 'Ci-gît' ('Here lies': a mortuary inscription) where he formulates the following causal ruin:

mais plutôt / trop tard que plus tôt / ce qui veut dire / plus tôt / que trop tôt / ce qui veut dire que le plus tard ne peut revenir que si plus tôt a mangé trop tôt / ce qui veut dire que dans le temps / le plus tard / est ce qui précède / et le trop tôt / et le plus tôt / et que si précipité soit plus tôt / le trop tard / qui ne dis pas mot / est toujours là / qui point par point / désemboîte / tous les plus tôt  
but rather / too late than sooner / which is to say / better sooner / than too soon / which is to say that the later cannot return unless sooner has devoured too soon / which is to say that for time / the later / precedes / both the too soon / and the sooner / and that however accelerated the sooner / the too late / which says nothing / is always there / and bit by bit / it unboxes / all the sooners

The death of time in the mouth of sonic drift. Whether I had been lead closer toor further away fromthe intended meaning of the term by the dissimulation of sense in sound, was unclear. But it gave me something to hold onto and, let's state it plainly, lured me even further into the abyss, for it occurred to me that the names I had been extracting from the diagram on the floor followed a similar, disjunctive, logic. They were sounds before they meant anything. Pure sensory stimulus. Enough to distract my conscious mind while the entities to whom these names belonged took over. Evidently, some unnatural synthesis was occurring between the sounds, the diagram on the floor and the numbers it had began to bear of its own accord, scrawled in under the guidance of the things I had been summoning. Perhaps the numbers too were important. With the diagram incrementally clarifying itself during each visitation, I started to perceive that the names which bore numerical significance with regard to the ever-complexifying contours on the floor produced the most successful poems. The thing was, I never had any idea what I was going to say before I said it. In most cases I'd simply babble whatever came into my headnonsense, generallyover and over again until I hit a sort of threshold and some unfathomable string of phonemes sputtered forth in a voice that I understood as mine, and yetsimultaneouslyanother's. What happened in that moment was always hard to describe. Something flipped. The binding sense of recognition came from the other side, and the thing I had identified as alien, was somehow myself. By means of some ghastly, 'plutonic' inversion, the word I had deployed to summon the imminent poem's demon shifted from its imputed role as cause to that of effect ... as if the demon had emerged a split-second too soonplus tôtand caused 'me', against conscious apprehension, to speak the word that would summon it. In this way, my utterance was its effect, and itthe demonthe cause of the utterance. This was, of course, completely senseless if one stubbornly insisted on continuing to approach the process linearly. It was far more complex than that. Karno encouraged her readers to think of it as having occurred the other way around, writing (with legible delight) that her demonic names 'arrived from the future', or even more ominously, from beyond the edge of time itself. I wasn't convinced I needed to take it quite this far. In fact, I was afraid that acknowledging it would somehow render the whole thing more real. For what it came down to was a loss of personal agency. I was giving up authorial arbitration, and if I hadn't already consigned my writerly aspirations to the status of adolescent fantasy independently of the whole Deadlines episode, I would not have yielded so easily. 

It was the diagram that eventually swayed me. Each time I evoked a poem the thing grew more complex. It had begun as a simple triangle, the kind one uses for evoking (and apparently, containing) demons, but it soon obtained strange outgrowths: my beloved spirals reappeared, one to the north and one to the south, then the triangle doubled itself, the second iteration slotting over, but slightly offset to, the original. Next, an array of convoluted tendrils escaped from the primary diplo-triadic circuit to connect the exogenous vortices, weaving strange routes between the inner and outer zones. By the time the numbers appeared I was in its thrall. I gave myself to it fully (or was taken by it, plutôt niqué ... what does it matter?). As I chanted the barbarous names enciphered in its numbers, innumerable phantom tongues rose up from the depths to intone the poem's words with me and Ithe obedient automatonmechanically wrote them down. 

These episodes continued, night after night. The piles of ink-spattered paper towered higher, gathering in increasingly obscene arrangements traitorous to every geometrical law known to humankind, swallowing the few pieces of modest furniture that had come with the room, creeping along the walls, filling the shower recess and the sink, until, finally, they reached the ceiling and extinguished what was left of the pallid eastern light that had once made its daily pilgrimage through the city's infamously polluted air to strike the high casement window for a brief hour every morning. I forewent going out except to acquire more mezcal, until I could no longer locate the door to the external corridor. Cardinal orientation was by now a vague memory. In fact, memory itself seemed to be no more than a fading hallucination. 'ASCRYPTION is SUBMISSION' I muttered to myself, 'ASCRYPTION is SUBMISSION' ... before jettisoning the copula altogether and simply letting the two terms oscillate until they formed a kind of motor. It was by virtue of this vibratory mechanism that another door appeared. The spatial organisation glimpsed through its black aperture recapitulated that of the paper ziggurats that had been progressively infiltrating my lodgings. Did they want me to go through it? By now it hardly looked different from the space I currently occupied and could notnor wished toescape from by any conventional route. Above the door a garish LED sign repeatedly flashed the word 'Victis' in mean purple neon, followed, after an unbearably long interval, by 'Vae'. I reassembled the phrase retrochronically. Where had I read that recently? The last vestiges of memory rallied themselves in a final, baleful déjà-vu, then winked out altogether.  

Affirming becoming means affirming being which is not your own. I was becoming a great poet. And although some thing inevitably was, the poet wasn't looking back. I waded through the detritus on the floor to recuperate as many empty bottles of mezcal as I could find, compelled by some spontaneous notion to extract the grotesque, distended larvae that haddeprived of their conservative mediumbeen quietly rotting in their depths. I felt I needed to take something with me, a material souvenir to replace the memory I had lost. In this way, a ridiculous tourist gimmick became my talisman. I dropped a handful of the sodden things into my pocket and, steeled by their reassuring, earthly tangibility, took one last ecstatic breath and stepped across the threshold.  


  1. Looking into a mirror. Our bodies make no sense, because humans invented them. Performing a BDSM session with a friend. Punishing each other to escape the torments of the adversaries, before the great escape (revealing). Walking together near the water. Here are the rules that apply to no one. Wind in the trees. “I miss you”. “Hurry home to me”. “So go”. “I want to”.

    Cat like, ritualistically preparing a potion. She cries. Three vessels say, “Open me”.

    Walking amongst the forest. Looking at the bodies decaying on the ground. “Are they being healed? Do I know these bodies? I can’t remember”. She tickles their and her decaying holes.

    1. An accidental glance in the water reveals the absence of your own reflection. Instead: the night sky above, with its spray of senseless stars.

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