Recurrent Revolutionary Subjectivity

I saw this discussion on a Reddit group called Sorcery of the Spectacle. I like the writing by u/Seigio that kicks off the conversation. It’s also a rarity among online discussions about the non-buddhism project in that it is intelligent and informed. Who doesn’t appreciate criticism that is informed, intelligent, and well-written!?

I would make just one small correction. Narcissistic Young Thinker says that this blog is “pretty much dead now, Wallis and Pepper having moved on to other things.” I can’t speak for Tom Pepper, but I am keeping the blog alive with the hope that it eventually generates buddhofictions. I have seen impressionistic flashes of this currently non-existent genre here and there, including in the piece below. Chapter Seven of A Critique of Western Buddhism is my own effort at this genre. What is a buddhofiction? Well, to begin, you have to understand that, as Narcissistic Young Thinker says, “To be a sorcerer of the spectacle is to fashion your own.”

Recurrent Revolutionary Subjectivity: An Introduction to Speculative Non-Buddhism

Narcissistic young thinker seeking special powers here, presenting a short introduction on the blog that got me into critical theory: Speculative Non-Buddhism. I encourage you to trawl through the blog yourself, especially if you share my fondness for acerbic thinkers spewing venom in long drawn out comment threads with horrible navigation. Certainly it’d acquaint you better with the thought, which I am undoubtedly about to butcher in my inexperience. If combing through blogs isn’t your thing, Glenn Wallis, the blog’s creator, recently published a summary of the project in his book “A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real”. You can find it on libgen, or pm me for a copy.

The goal of the Speculative Non-Buddhism (SNB) project is two-fold. At the surface level, it seeks the teardown of banal, ruling-class Buddhist thought – what Zizek describes as the religion of neoliberalism. Deeper, SNB seeks to apply Laruelle’s non-philosophy to Buddhist materials (hence the non-buddhism), smashing Buddhist thought and critical theory in a particle accelerator and seeing what happens. There’s both a reverence and a childlike glee in the destruction of Buddhist materials, breaking the clock to see what makes it tick, then re-purposing it into an IED.

The Buddha is a plastic virus. WHO spreads it.

Most of us have heard the standard critiques against Buddhism as practiced in the West. How it’s another form of capitalist palliative, a tool to increase productivity by allowing workers to manage systemic stress. As a way for the individual to cope with – read, reinforce – the experience of the atomized subject of neoliberal design. The twin Critical and Buddhist perspectives of SNB see the commodification of Buddhism with a kind of horror. Western Buddhism is a castrated and subservient lap dog fellating capitalists on 10-day retreats, barking obediently on the stage of the World Economic Forum.

I love my life. I’ve read so many self-help books, and bhikkhu Carl says I’m close to enlightenment! Just a few more 10-day retreats to go! My routine really works for me. Every day I mindfully wake up, mindfully meditate, mindfully take my SSRIs, mindfully eat breakfast, mindfully sit in traffic, mindfully generate profit, then mindfully go home and mindfully eat out my wife.

SNB is not, however, advocating for some return to a pure, original Buddhism which has never existed. To SNB, all flavors of Buddhism have core functions that render them the same, a cross they bear. Schools of Buddhism – Zen, Thai Forest, tantric, app-based, etc. – are referred to as x-buddhism. The fundamental lack that renders these schools the same is what Wallis recognizes as the inability to think outside of themselves, the formulation of Buddhist thought as always converging on itself, a tendency referred to as the principle of sufficient Buddhism. The core cause of this inability, Wallis argues, is the refusal of Buddhism to think the consequences of its own thought. The Sangha as a barricade against the Real.

You’re thinking too much.

Thought is a chain, a loop of attachment that generates suffering.

Just be mindful, focus on your breath. There you go.



Bring mindfulness in. Push those nasty, stress-inducing thoughts out.

Your suffering is always under your control.

You choose to be unhappy.

I can help you choose to be happy.

Just download my app.

What does this inability look like? Buddhism claims itself empirical. You receive the teachings, meditate on them, and come to a realization. Then this realization is confessed to the teacher, who puts on a Hazmat suits and feeds it into the doctrinal machine. Your belief comes out the other end, always affirming the original teaching. What can be put into this machine that does not spit out more of the same? Every issue is a matter of not having enough mindfulness, of being too attached. Every scientific revelation is already revealed. The virus knows everything worth knowing, the Dharma is complete. What is doesn’t know it can repurpose to fit its ends. Every diagnosis is dukkha, every prescription SSRIs.

This is not to say that Buddhist thought has no value; the goal of SNB is to crack open this self-referential loop to get to the sweet, revolutionary interior. Wallis identifies Buddhist first-names for the Real, or real qualities of existence that Buddhism identifies but must repress. Dependent origination, no-self, emptiness. Buddhism presented as a way to think nihilism. What does it mean for a religion which focuses so much effort around the creation of a certain kind of subject, with long lists of what is right and what is wrong, to contain within itself the truth that there is no real self, that reality is fundamentally empty of any meaning we drape over it? Can these beliefs be repurposed to fight the reification of ideology, to create a smooth surface?

A fundamental part of SNB is the enigmatic and vitriolic Tom Pepper. His writings are scarce now, his blog shutdown and his book difficult to find. He haunts the comments section of SNB past, a junkyard guard dog defending the ruins from stupidity.

In Pepper’s view, the goal of Buddhism is to understand the internal process of subjectification, to raise awareness of coming-into ideology, and to reach nibbana, a state he characterizes by the ability to consciously construct your own ideology and subjectivity. To Pepper, ideology is inescapable, a necessary condition for any form of human experience. Rebirth and karma are not the rebirth and karma of the individual but the recreation and rebirth of the subject, which must always be collective. The figure of the Bodhisattva is one who delays enlightenment, a recurring revolutionary subjectivity that fashions itself.

Pepper’s characterization of nibbana is what really intrigues me, as a young power-seeking narcissist, and which links this flavor of thought to SotS in my mind. Is not the goal of sorcery to create your own meaning – the philosophers stone as the true will. To see the spectacle is to see the process of subject building. To be a sorcerer of the spectacle is to fashion your own.

This is my first post here so I apologize if it’s a little sloppy, especially the formatting. I’m still working my way through Debord so the last paragraph is probably an inaccurate characterization of the spectacle. I definitely encourage you guys to check out the blog, especially the older posts. It’s pretty much dead now, Wallis and Pepper having moved on to other things, but it’s a worthwhile archaeological site for excavating ideas.

Read the comments here.

2 responses to “Recurrent Revolutionary Subjectivity”

  1. Narcissistic Young Elaine Avatar
    Narcissistic Young Elaine

    Thanks for posting this here, Glenn. I can’t believe something I wrote made it onto this blog, I’m honestly fan-girling a little! Like I mentioned, this blog was so formative to my thought as a teenager, and is probably the main reason I study philosophy today. Just to understand those ideas introduced here which had so captivated me.

    Your comments on buddhofiction really resonate. I still have yet to get to Laruelle, but the concept reminds me of the Ccru’s theory-fiction of the 90’s which I’m a little hooked on: the equivalent of a Big Mac at the Feast of Knowledge. Chopping up ideas, simmering to bring out the flavor, then serving on a paper plate. Smashing systems of thought in a particle accelerator. Treating concepts without reverence, the necrophilia of the author, the birth of Aphrodite.

    I’m not sure how well-formed this thought is, but I see this process as an application in “magical thinking,” contrast “scientific thinking.” Rather than a process of thought as pursuing some absolute, empirical Truth with perfect causal knowledge, it’s thought as generative, as explicitly illogical yet still intelligent, where truth is created and interpreted rather than revealed, discovered, and eternal. Thought that links to itself and experience as if by magic, acausal coincidence connecting meaningful fiction and the meaningless real. The magician’s power was always belief (read, ayahuasca.) The prophecy is not true, it makes itself true.

    Ahhhh, sorry for the drivel, haha. Too much Nick Land these past few weeks.

    I hope it’s not strange but this blog was so impactful to me that you’re a sort of hero of mine. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all the work you’ve put into this project. You’ve made a difference in at least one life.

  2. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Hi, Narcissistic Young Elaine! Narcissistic Old Glenn here. Your writing and ideas even here, in the comment, are the opposite of drivel. Or maybe not. Maybe we should formally announce that the buddhofictional text bespeaks a quite particular strain of drivel. Like the dadaists, let us own nonsense, as non-sense. I like the German phrase for “talking drivel:” Blödsinn daherreden. In that, I hear discursive bloodsense. May it be official: buddhofiction bespeaks bloodsense! Your writing gurgles bloodsense. Your ideas are bashful spirit-beasts from a faint future. I am imagining–magically thinking!–a three-headed monster: you, Failed Buddhist, and Max Finkel. As a singular in-human, please consider writing an essay for the blog.

    Anyway, you have inspired me to revive an old, long-ago-deleted page, and apparently undead idea about what, in retrospect, was an early magical thought about buddhofiction. Some excerpts:

    Word Blood

    In the near future, I will be creating a new e-journal. The aim of the e-journal is to foster and disseminate creative writing that uses “Buddhism” and x-buddhism as its materials…

    Idea. When people hear the term “creative writing,” they typically think of poems and short stories and novels. That’s not what I mean. I mean word blood. I mean injecting vitalizing language into anemic buddhistic discourse. The main concern of the e-journal is to explore the subject in fresh terms. And that can be done—indeed, is often best done—without (necessarily) following the conventions of “good” writing. Unlike its well-behaved brethren—academic books and journals and informed blogs—the e-journal will host writing that is not afraid to hiss and spit.

    Creative writing—word blood—plunges deeply into the well of human being.  Bile of enmity rouses it no less than ecstasy of love.  It says, along with Terence (the second-century Roman playwright): “I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.” Another goal of the e-journal: broaden the spectrum of permissible emotion in buddhistic discourse…

    Remember, there are no rules. Forget about “genre.” Length is immaterial. A paragraph can be as rich as a book.  Better yet, how about a fragment? Something broken? Or a stammer? Make up a critiku (critical haiku) or critiverse. Rewrite a sutta/sutra/tantra. Make one up. Be shamelessly autobiographical. Have the Buddha do stand-up. Let loose the howl of an unshackled x-buddhist/non-buddhist/unbuddhist/anti-buddhist. Unbind, goddamit.

    Oh, better yet! Err. Be a fucking fool. Make a spectacle of yourself. Dance. Sing. Gurgle. Yowl. Vomit.

    Wondering about topics? Imagine the Great Feast of Knowledge. Escort Buddhism there, if you like. Sit down and allow tradition to converse with whomever you fancy—poetry, culinary arts, philosophy, biology; schizoanalysis, anarchism, punk, death. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re lost in the conversation. Write it up in whatever form you see fit. It really doesn’t matter, as long as it lives, breathes, shits—and bleeds.

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