temporary autonomous imaginative zone.

by waxbanks

Quick thought on Hakim Bey, Robert Anton Wilson, and hip phrases with ‘ontology’ in them.

Bey’s approach to all belief-systems, including anarchism, is to seek to channel their vital energy — their ‘life-forces, daring, intransigence, anger, heedlessness’ — while discarding their spooks, or fixed categories. This leads to an approach in which he loots or appropriates from different theories and traditions, without endorsing their foundational assumptions. Bey terms this ‘cultural bricolage’, or as ‘thieving’, or ‘hunting and gathering’, in an informational world. He takes, for instance, passion from revolutionary socialism, grace and ease from monarchism, self-overcoming or higher awareness from mysticism.

This description immediately brings to mind the other Wilson’s (RAW’s) ‘guerrilla ontology,’ that writing/reading-practice of taking what you need from an ontological frame but coming away immediately with (1) whatever contents are good to/for/with you, and eventually with (2) a deep active sense of the provisionality and transience of even ‘foundational’ concepts and states. The purpose of ‘guerrilla ontology’ isn’t to convince you of any particular idea, but to alter your relationship to convincing, i.e. to freedom.

Lately I’ve been mulling over this analogy:

place : space :: polity : population

A ‘polity’ isn’t a group of people, it’s a collectively imagined and centrally organized process they enter. A multi-user shared hallucination, as we used to say. By analogy, I’ve lately been using ‘place’ to mean something like ‘situation,’ mixing that latter term’s situationist and jazz-improvisatory senses: both circumstance and its conception, a moment bound more or less tightly to a space (as to a time). I’m trying to account for, among other things, the way ‘sacred spaces’ lose their power when the ritual-memory that impregnates them with meaning is lost — it makes sense to me to think of them as ‘sacred places,’ which combine what psychedelic culture calls set and setting, i.e. mental and physical circumstances. A space is sacred while and how you’re in it.

Now, because I’m intellectually irresponsible and into New Age synthambient music, I’ve also (thus) been thinking about ‘guerrilla ontology’ — RAW’s textual practice of serially springing textual traps to engender a radically skeptical reading-posture — as the establishment and dissolution of what we might, borrowing Bey’s terminology, call temporary autonomous imaginative zones: cognitive playspaces to be taken in (by), explored, and drifted from or been kicked out of, Eden-style. Inner landscapes, leaning heavily on the psycho- part of psychogeography. Here I’m turning over the idea of a ‘textual situation,’ a fictional proposition be picked up like Yorick’s skull, looked at, laughed over, thought through, and then cast back into the grave…

Which is partly to say I got introduced to reader-response theory at a tender age and it’s still latent at the base of my spinal cord, like herpes.

OK but now put on your Generalization Hat if you haven’t already: mindstates are temporary autonomous zones. They come and go — minds come and go, ‘mind’ is to the content of thought as place is to space — and in each passing (subjective) moment you’re able to live out certain forms of freedom but only temporarily, transiently, limited by the provisions of set and setting. The fictional proposition constrains imaginative response and/but affords, offers, an opportunity to realize a form of imaginative freedom outside otherwise-existing category.

Of course, this describes not just Bey’s subject but his own intellectual practice: the encounter with an idea, or indeed with a megatextual tradition, generates tools (affordances) for imaginative free play, which are taken up and put down according to a private associative logic which we sometimes call (creative) vision. The ‘foundational assumptions’ of an intellectual/wisdom tradition include its own originating set/setting, which are unrecoverable but in any case remain peripheral to the meaning we make with it — the reader’s vision isn’t itself the text but it dominates the textual encounter (well beyond whether it’s a ‘good time’). What Bey describes in quasi-mystical terms as ‘ontological anarchy’ is the realization of true autonomy, ecstatic and tragic and drawing meaning from its unsustainability:

The logic of Passion leads to the conclusion that all “states” are impossible, all “orders” illusory, except those of desire… [B]etween the lonely awakening of the individual, and the synergetic anamnesis of the insurrectionary collectivity, there stretches out a whole spectrum of social forms with some potential for our “project.” Some last no longer than a chance meeting between two kindred spirits who might enlarge each other by their brief and mysterious encounter; others are like holidays, still others like pirate utopias. None seems to last very long — but so what?

RAW’s ‘guerrilla ontology’ exhorts an analogous nomadic reading practice, and HB’s pirate-sociality shares with RAW’s pirate-textuality a model of playful mind passing through thought-structures the way the situationist passes through the city-structure in the dérive, engaging with one ambience and then an adjacent/overlapping other.

The process is harmolodic.