Archive for November, 2010

Non-Paper on Reich and Burroughs

November 30, 2010

Scholars always have more ideas than completed works. Well, procrastinating scholars, at least. That’s what a blog is for…So, here’s an abstract for a “non-paper”; a paper I might have given, but now likely never will give. Or write.

The Reichian Influence on Burroughsian Metaphysics: Vitalism, Orgone and the Beats

The radical psychiatrist and natural scientist Wilhelm Reich was arguably the foremost vitalist of the mid-20th century. Partly influenced by thinkers like Bergson and Dreisch, but actually under the tutelage of Freud, Reich developed a theory of “orgone” or “life energy” in the 1940s that caused quite a stir. His research and practices, particularly those associated with his use of the so-called “orgone accumulator”, came under heavy scrutiny and eventual censor by the FDA and other US government agencies. Reich died tragically in a federal penitentiary in 1957.

And yet, his influence, particularly on some of the major figures of the early counter-culture – beats and those connected to the beats – was profound. Notable authors interested in Reich and his “orgone box” include Kerouac, Ginsberg, Norman Mailer and J.D. Salinger. But foremost among Reich’s converts was William Burroughs, the grand old beat himself. One can argue the Burroughsian metaphysics was spawned from some of Reich’s theories, or dark permutations thereof. Reich discovered how orgone could become a dark energy in his ORANUR (Orgone Against Nuclear Radiation) and DOR (Deadly Orgone Radiation) experiments in the early 1950s, and in strikingly similar ways, Burroughs wrote with deep conviction, understanding and feeling of a notion of corrupted nature. This article aims to explore both the general influence of Reich on the beats and the counter-culture, and his more specific and intimate influence on Burroughs. Both of them will be seen to have been “dark vitalists”, what I imagine as a vein of neo-Gnostic sensibility that ran through the cultural landscape of Cold War America.

Keywords: Vitalism, William Burroughs, Wilhelm Reich, the beats, counter culture, orgone, life energy, ORANUR, philosophy and literature, Gnosticism.

Declaration on the Notion of “The Future”

November 26, 2010

A non-communique from The International Necronautical Society, a group with whom I vehemently deny any association, and in so doing enter into complicity with. This is what happens when you read Hegel while high. Protean and masterful. By way of the Believer.

And also found on 3Quarks Daily.

Not much to say, except that this “statement” captures much of the raison d’etre of this blog. A blog fast approaching 500 discrete bundles of data/non-data pitched out into the aether, making me think all will soon culminate in a dormancy, or wakeful sleep, perchance to dream…Or maybe a new cycle…Or…Something else…

Inflatable Space Station

November 24, 2010

Title kind of says it all, but here’s a link to the story at the CBC. Interesting idea, using inflatable kevlar fabric to create spaces in, well, space…

Lachine

November 19, 2010

Postcard from the last ride of the season; a familiar Quebecois quaint.

Aarhus University Professors Unearth Tycho Brahe’s Tomb!

November 16, 2010

Could be a line out of one of the best horror stories ever written, but it’s just some good solid science. Or something of the sort. You be the judge!

By way of Boing Boing, of all places? Though the biography that they link to is a cribbed version of Arthur Koestler. Still, you gotta love the eccentric approach to the history of science

The Perfect Crime…Solved

November 15, 2010

“The perfect crime is that of an unconditional realization of the world by the actualization of all data, the transformation of all our acts and all events into pure information: in short, the final solution, the resolution of the world ahead of time by the cloning of reality and the extermination of the real by its double.

This is precisely the theme of Arthur C. Clarke‘s short story ‘The Nine Billion Names of God‘. A community of Tibetan monks have for centuries devoted themselves to transcribing these nine billion names of God, and once they have accomplished this the purpose of the world will be achieved, and it will come to an end. The task is a tiresome one and the weary monks call in technicians from IBM, whose computers do the job in a few months. In a sense, the history of the world is completed in real time by the workings of virtual technology. Unfortunately, this also means the disappearance of the world in real time. For suddenly, the promise of the end is fulfilled and, as they walk back down into the valley, the technicians, who did not really believe in the prophecy, are aghast to see the stars going out one by one.”

Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2008 [1996]), 27.

The Novel

November 13, 2010

“The novel, which is a work of art, exists, not buy its resemblances to life, which are forced and material…but by its immeasurable difference from life…”

Robert Louis Stevenson quoted in Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime, trans. Christ Turner (London: Verso, 2008 [1996]), 95.

Life and Action

November 9, 2010

“The most trivial and at the same time the most important note in human life is that man has no choice but has to be always doing something to keep himself in existence. Life is given to us; we do not give it to ourselves, rather we find ourselves in it, suddenly and without knowing how. But the life which is given us is not given us ready made; we must make it for ourselves, each one his own. Life is a task. And the weightiest aspect of these tasks in which life consists is not the necessity of performing them but, in a sense, the opposite: I mean that we find ourselves always under the compulsion to do something but never, strictly speaking, under compulsion to do something in particular, that there is not imposed on us this or that task as there is imposed on the star its course or on the stone its gravitation. Each individual before doing anything must decide for himself and at his own risk what he is going to do. But this decision is impossible unless one possesses certain convictions concerning the nature of things around one, the nature of other men, of oneself. Only in light of such convictions can one prefer one act to another, can one, in short, live.”

José Ortega y Gasset, Towards a Philosophy of History (New York: Norton, 1941) in August Pi Suñer, Classics in Biology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955), 319-20.


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