Non Buddhist Mysticism: Performing Irreducible and Primitive Presence
(Part 6. To read additional sections, go to the ToC and scroll down to “Non-Buddhist Mysticism“)
The remainder of this section presents thirty-some specific features of non buddhist mystical practice. The reader may assemble them in whatever way to create a formal practice regimen or an informal experimental exercise. In each case, the element is not merely presented, but recovered from the forgetfullness that has been induced by the Authorities. In addition to the recovery of the elements per se, non buddhist mysticism follows Laruelle in “elucidating three problems forgotten” by World-Buddhism and World-Mysticism: that of “the One,” or the irreducible and primitive in-human; that of the buddha- or stranger-subject, which is no longer the subject of buddhism or mysticism, indeed, of religion or philosophy; and that of “the World” as the particular mixture that has produced our shared Hell. Things could be different. But they’re not.
What could possibly have a more “irreducible and primitive presence” than our very breath? What could be more impervious to the pious proclamations of the spiritualist Authorities than breathing? It is, after all, in the first instance, the brute physical process of facilitating the flow of air in and out of the lungs to enable a gas exchange between the internal and external environments. The main function of this process is the expulsion of carbon dioxide and the uptake of oxygen. Yet, the complex networks of postulation that World-Buddhism and World-Mysticism implant within “the breath” render this most foundational of first things yet another conspiritor in a curative fantasy. Where does the breath end and anapanasati—awareness of/via the inhalation and exhalation leading to the end of defilements (kilesha) and to final release (nirvana)—begin? Where does the breath end and the cosmically pervasive “vital energy”—qi/chi, prana, rlung—begin? Where does the breath end and the divine soul—spiritus, anima, pneuma, ruach, psyche—begin? Where does atmen—German: to breathe—end, and atman—Sanskrit: the universal Self, the essence of the human being, distinct from ego, mind, and physicality, the realization of which catalyzes personal release from the cosmic cycle of birth and death and initiates union with the godhead—begin? It’s clear: the one ends and the other begins at that point where the “Theorem On Nontransferable Phenomenon” is violated:
Nothing can, except through illusion or delusion, substitute itself for the breath. And the breath cannot, except through illusion or delusion, be substituted for anapana, qi, spiritus, pneuma, etc., for vital energy, cosmic life force, pristine consciousness, etc. The breath is an inalienable phenomenon. There is no reversibility between the naked breath, which is next to nothing, and the flamboyant “breath” postulates of the Authorities, which are more than Everything.
How might we wrest the breath free from the Authorities’ obsessions with health, healing, longevity, insight, cosmic salvation, ad infinitum? This is not a question about distinguishing superstitious folk remedies from wise science. Although science, too, is, of course, next to nothing—for, in its investigations it positions itself maximally close to the thing-itself—we reject the principle of sufficient science. The “dangerous heretic” Simone Weil speaks of the “autosuggestion” that is indistinguishable from the shear trickery that attends “efforts of muscular will.” She has in mind a practice like “Pascal’s method.” Can we not be forgiven for thinking of the crammed instructions of our spiritualist breath-practice manuals in this way? To such tedious effort Weil contrasts the “negative effort” of attention. Although it is—or because it is—negative, attention is “the greatest of all efforts perhaps.” We will claim the barest of Weil’s practice of attention as our own. Why not take as our performance posture that suggested by two additional elements, discussed later: silence and stillness? So, we want to bring attention to the breath: “Above all our thought should be empty, waiting, not seeking anything, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object [the breath] that is to penetrate it.”
“So it comes about that, paradoxical as it may seem, a Latin prose or a geometry problem, even though they are done wrong, may be of great service one day, provided we devote the right kind of [negative] effort to them. Should the occasion arise, they can one day make us better able to give someone in affliction exactly the help required to save him, at the supreme moment of his need.”
May you become a mystical conspirator, allowing your attention-breath to permeate Hell.
elucidating three problems forgotten. Laruelle, Mystique non-philosophique, 35: “Future mysticism elucidates three problems forgotten by philosophical mysticism, also known as ‘mystic-world.’ That of the One, the cause of all mystical posture, which is no longer the Good but the vision-in-One or the Man-in-person, of which God is the symptom. That of the properly mystical subject, who is no longer the religious or philosophical creature but the ‘Son of Man-in-Man’ or the ‘Future Christ.’ Finally, that of the World, which is no longer theology or even metaphysics but the World of their mixture as mixture: Hell.”
World-Buddhism and World-Mysticism will designate these traditions as they function in current discourse and practice; namely, as systems compromised by capitalist and neoliberal values. So, for instance, Tero Nauha speaks of “The capital form of thought”—buddhism under capitalism, mysticism under capitalism—a form which “is economic, sufficient, and productive” of a particular Authoritarian World. (See, Tero Nauha, “Speculation on Artistic Research and Performance in The Context of Immanent Capitalism,” Ruukku Journal, website, https://tinyurl.com/bksk6fdj). We can add to those features a few tell-tale signs of neoliberal subjectivity, such as vulnerability, resilience, adaptivity, self-help, and compelled positivity. (See, David Chandler and Julian Reid, The Neoliberal Subject: Resilience, Adaptation and Vulnerability (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.)
Theorem of non-transferable phenomenon. This is my transmutilation of Laruelle’s Theorem 0: or the Transcendental Theorem, On Nontransferable Identity:“ Nothing can, except through illusion, substitute itself for man and for his identity. And man cannot, except through illusion, substitute himself for philosophy, for the Other, etc. Man is an inalienable reality. There is no reversibility between man and philosophy.” François Laruelle, “Théorèmes de la Bonne Nouvelle,” in La Décision philosophique, 1 (May 1987): 83-85. This was translated as “Theorems of the Good News” by Alexander R. Galloway, who made available to me a copy of this difficult to obtain text.
dangerous heretic. From the New York Times book review of Simone Weils’, Gravity and Grace, trans. Emma Crawford and Mario von der Ruhr (London: Routledge, 1999 ), front matter blurb.
autosuggestion. Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London: Harper Perennial, 2009), 195; Pascal’s method, 70; greatest of all efforts, 111; So it comes about that, 115.