Das Unheimliche is (the) Real

This is an old post from 2011 when I was studying Lacanian psychoanalysis as part of my exploration of the 7FW and my Acéphalic Mysticism.  The concept of the Real is something which I still value. Lacan knew Bataille of course and Lacan admired Bataille’s philosophy/mysticism. What Lacan defined as the Real can be translated into the Sacred, the Numinous and it shows how ancient Gnostic and Alchemical teachings do surface in ‘new’ philosophical teachings (which frequently deny the eternal value of the Sacred).    

All our political and religious regimes (regardless of the cultural background) are based on the relentless pursuit of man’s well-being, and these systems have enslaved both its leaders and its followers. Communism defines happiness in terms of financial and material equality: the equality of the employer and employees; the equality of the industrial and developing countries. Capitalism, in contrast to the former, favours the entrepeneurs and neglects the interests of the workers,but it ensures material happiness. Both systems are universal as they both have the welfare and the future of the human animal in mind. Popular ecologism / environmentalism is the hottest ideology at the moment, and its prophets believe in material sustainability and the possiblity for the human animal to live on this planet in such a way that the ecological balance is not overthrown. And then we still have the major  religious regimes, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. No matter how different these political and religious regimes are, they all have in common that they function as a screen on which their followers project their particular view on how the reality should be.

The French psychoanalyst  Jacques Lacan calls this the Symbolic Order; this is the order of laws and ethics and it necessarily structures our society for we need our language, our discourse to communicate with the others. We do  not control our discourse; we are controlled by it. As the Belgian philosopher Marc De Kesel puts it: we are a subjectum; we are carriers, form a bearing surface so to speak for the various signifiers, words that float around. In order to communicate and actually bring deliver a meaningful message we follow certain rules. Only poets have the liberty to violate and transgress these laws. Now, the Symbolic Order consists of various layers for signifiers can be intrepreted differently. And this is exactly what the various ideologies do, and somehow every ideologist assumes he speaks the truth.

Behind the screens of these ideologies lies, what Lacan calls, the Real. Those who think that the Real resembles the Platonian world of Forms, will be seriously disappointed. The Real is nothing like a a realm where the ideal forms exist, but the Real is the realm of that which cannot be represented, that which exists outside the text (Derrida), outside the Symbolic Order or that which ex-sists tout court. Our Symbolic Order may be necessary for our survival as a species: this order is and will never be complete. As soon as the child learns to speak, to communicate through language, it enters the Symbolic Order. Yet this Order lacks ‘something’, which cannot be expressed through language, and this can be found, be encountered in the Real.

The Lacanian concept of the Real is incredibly complicated for it can be approached in several ways (1), but the notion the Real that matters to us, is what Freud calls ‘das Unheimliche’. The Real is “(…) the Horrible Thing: the Medusa’s Head; the alien from the movie; the abyss; a monster.” (Zizek & Daly 2004: 68) And it is exactly the function of ideology “to regulate a certain distance with an encounter with the horrific Real.” (Zizek & Daly 2004: 70) In regard to encountering the Real, ideology appears to involve both sustenance and avoidance. In other words, ideology protects the human animal from an underlying order. “Not another reality (2), but something that would smash our Symbolic Order. And, according to the French philosopher Alain Badiou, we may ‘encounter’ the Real when it breaks through the screens that constitute the Symbolic Order.

(1) The well-known Slovenian philosopher and Lacanian Slavoj Zizek distinguishes three Reals (Zizek 2004: 68).

(2) This is exactly what turns ‘The Matrix’ trilogy into a pseudo-philosophical neoplatonian fairy tale that creates the illusion that its fans, the herd, can actually think for themselves. The fact is that the matrix itself constitutes the reality and not a screen created by an independent technological entity. Neo is not mankind’s redeemer, but he is a virtual false prophet. The Matrix is an outstanding illustration of mankind’s history: the human flock waiting for its shepherd to lead it to a better world.



 Pharmakon – Contact

I am currently listening to ‘Contact’ by Pharmakon, Margaret Chardiet’s project . As stated on her bandcamp the artist wanted to focus on the question what it means to be human. Through our Acéphalic Mysticism we have asked this question over and over again, and although we may differ from Margarat Chardiet’s point of view, man being a mere animal, we agree on our mutual recognition of our finitude, our mortality. With Bataille and Heidegger we recognize our being-towards-death and the fact that we are thrown into this life. We are nothing special nor do we have special powers, and it is a grand mistake to regard ourselves as the very center of Life, of the Cosmic for we are only vessels of causal and acausal forces. Our mortality binds us to Eorthe and unites us, undiscriminately, with Nature, with the forests, the streams, the plants, the animals, the Cosmic…. Our Vessel of flesh will one day lie rotting in a coffin. Hubris has made us believe that we are the very apex of creation, but as a Acéphalic mystic I find Humility and Silence existential values which define our Dasein. 

But what matters though, and this is what Pharmakon aims at: there are moments when we can actually “come outside and transcend our bodies” (Pharmakon). These are moments of transgression, of going beyond the wall of flesh: “When we pick up on transmissions between the private rooms inside our heads and the flesh of our vessels, when thought escapes its isolation and is seen, heard and understood. When our mind uses the body in order to transcend and escape it!” (Pharmakon)

Bataille emphasized the power of Eroticism as well as: “the human spirit is prey to the most astounding impulses. Man goes constantly in fear of himself. His erotic urges terrify him.” And this is actually what is happening when you listen closely to Pharmakon’s industrial and experimental music, as it is most comforting because of its organic character and at the same times it is terrifying, most destructive, most alienating as if your body is becoming possessed by some acausal force that you cannot control. Your body is being turned in to a helpless object, a transmission instrument so to speak. Pharmakon’s music is  therefore the embodiment of Nietzsche’s relentless Will to Power.

Chardiet’s hysterical screams and her discomforting electronic sounds seem to dissect your body as a razor blade. Hystery has been looked down upon by male-oriented psychology but hysterics are one of the most liberating forces that are capable to disrupt the status quo.  Like the erotic mystics such as Bataille and Mishima Chardiet  senses the special relationship between beauty and terror, between eroticism and death. It is about the Joy before Death, the ultimate Joy of the Senses. In Bataille’s Literature and Evil we find the essay on Blake. As Bataille explains: “[Blake’s words] describe man’s compliance with his own laceration, his compliance with death and the instinct which propels him towards it. They go beyond purely poetic words. They are an exact reflection of a definite return to the totality of human destiny.” As mystical creatures we are ultimately drawn to a wordless universe of pleasure and pain, creation and destruction, over and over again. Nietzsche’s endless return. As Blake expresses this most beautifully:

“Without contraries, there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is heaven, Evil is Hell… God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies. Energy is the only life, and it is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or Outward circumference of Energy. Energy is the Eternal Delight.”

True Evil goes beyond reason, beyond petty morals as we enter the World into which we are thrown, and which is not ours. Humanism has tried to turn man into a god and therefore has tried to bound and cripple the Will to Power, the Energy of which Blake spoke. The Energy is nothing else but the Acausal forces that cannot be contained or tamed. Pharmakon’s music expresses the Eternal Delight for there is no structure, no reasoning behind it. As Art it is an active springing from Energy. As the artist expresses this herself

 “We are each nothing but a single, short-lived cell in a vast organism which itself will one day die. If we accept that the only true claim sentience gives us is our tiny sliver of time, it opens us to revel in it, to make CONTACT. The moments of connection/communion/CONTACT, when the veil is for a brief but glorious moment lifted, and we are free. Empathy! EMPATHY, NOW! “

As part of the Sinister Tradition our Acepahlic Mysticism emphasizes this lifting of the veil as well. It is all about making CONTACT with those acausal forces that embody our human world. Both Heidegger and Bataille, albeit from different points of view, reacted against reason, positivism, a world dominated by science and technology turning everything into a calculable and profitable project. The poetry, the screams, the industrial sounds escape from our body as Vessel and express our Will to communicate, to destroy the walls that separate us from the Sacred. Through the ages the Sacred has been stripped away from us, and has been turned into something sweet, nice, understandable and ultimately beyond ourselves, for example the Christian god and the tales of Jesus. There is no empathy to be found there, just suffering and shame.

Eroticism, Nature, the Cosmic actually take us back to our Gnostic origins for deep within ourselves we can find this connexion, this glorious moment of lifting the veil. God is there but he is Legion, Dark, most potent, and Headless. Dig deep inside yourself, release that Energy through Sex, Poetry, Ritual, Ecstatic rites & Sacrifice. You have no choice. 333!

Von Sanngetall, 128 yf

Sources of inspiration:

  • Contact by Pharmakon
  • Literature and Evil (Georges Bataille)
  • Deadly Dialectics (Roy Starrs)