Black Metal Science: A Note on the Nigredo of Negarestani

I had an epiphany last night.

I began this year with a long — and sort of shit — series of posts that I built out of an email conversation I had with Reza Negarestani. With his long-anticipated book Intelligence & Spirit finally out, and having been working on his career-spanning collection Abducting the Outside with Robin, I wanted to understand how his old work (which I felt familiar with, as an emphatic DeleuzoBataillean) was connected to his new work (which broadly went over my head in its references to the likes of Carnap and Sellars). So, I wanted to ask where he was now at and hear how he saw his own trajectory.

In hindsight, I don’t think I was very successful in transposing what felt was a genuinely productive conversation into blog form.

However, last night, whilst reading Edia Collone’s essay, “The Missing Subject of Accelerationism: Heavy Metal’s Wyrd Realism”, in the book Floating Tomb: Black Metal Theory, I found a side to Reza’s thought that I hadn’t previously considered and I think, in the process, I found the link between his rationalism and his gothicism, laid out right in front of my nose.

Collone writes:

Negarestani, the current exemplar of that dry rational/technological Prometheanism promoted by the Reader, betrays an intimate link between black metal theory and accelerationism, whose ‘missing subject’, it would seem, is nothing more, or less, than what I would like to term, heavy metal’s wyrd realism, its ‘art of making reality, of knowing reality, and knowing how to make reality’ through its ‘aesthetics of inevitability’…

The link between old and new Reza is here, I think, in this knowing and making of reality — and, specifically, knowing and making it wyrd. In a way, we might consider the phrase “wyrd realism”, as far as Reza’s work is concerned, to have a shifting emphasis. We might tentatively frame Cyclonopedia as a theory-fictional attempt to make the wyrd real, by grounding Lovecraftian horror in philosophy. Intelligence & Spirit, on the other hand, could be seen as an attempt to make the real wyrd, in precisely the mode that science wyrds the world in our “understanding” of it on a daily basis.

What I mean by this is the wyrdness of, for instance, the first image taken of a black hole, which I wrote about the other day. The sense in which science has to bend over backwards and expend an enormous about of energy and resources just to make its discoveries visible to us.

I feel like an awareness of this is a consistent presence throughout Reza’s thought — that is, the ways in which science — but also politics, art and philosophy — all wrestle with their increasing (rather than diminishing) insufficiency with regards to giving anthropocentric form to their discoveries. The question becomes: How are we, at the level of the social, of the spirit, able to comprehend that which is, by its nature, not-for-us, especially when it is rendered somewhat (but — in the case of the black hole — barely) legible? Furthermore, what are the implications of our scientific (or other) frontiers being moved so much further outwards from what we can, cognitively and sensorially, process and be aware of?

These are questions that have always been central to philosophies of mind but I found it interesting to see the seeds of an old Batailleanism still embedded with Reza’s prose. For example, I think this is a key passage related to this from Intelligence & Spirit:

While the history of intelligence begins from death as a condition of enablement, it extends by way of a view from nowhere and nowhen through which completed totalities are removed and replaced by that which is possible yet distant, and that which seems impossible yet is attainable. […]

The only true nihilism is one that is advanced as an enabling condition for the autonomy of impersonal reason […] True nihilism is the beginning of reason, not its end. It is not something that can be libidinally yearned for or intellectually invested in: not only because it is neither a belief nor a desire — since the identification of nihilism as a belief or desire leads to pure aporia — but rather because nihilism can only be affirmed as that which renders our temporal beliefs and desires obsolete once it is maturely seen as the labour of truth through which the fleeting appearances of totalities — of states of affairs, beliefs, desires, and values — are destroyed. This is truth as the atemporal reality of mind, spirit as time.

Here we find the black metal theory of Reza’s philosophy of mind. Here we find the horror, the nigredo, of a truly philosophical science.

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