Cyclonopedia and the Outside

In Negarestani/Parsani’s own words, Cyclonopedia is about:

(1) the degeneration of the whole in the absence of complete erasure or destruction (referred to as poromechanics and (()hole complex); (2) petrological reason and the geo-politics of petropolitical undercurrents (referred to as Tellurian lube); (3) the enigma of openness on all levels of economics, politics, religion, life, communication, etc.

Running through all these nodes or points as a thread is a concern with the Outside, something “delineated by its functional exterior of activity”. I think it is clear that for Negarestani the Outside is not a simple exterior to structure. Everywhere it is associated with decay, impurity, pollution, infection. It is everywhere always already there, an interior in the sense of the Lovecraftian Old Ones, prior to and encased within every phenomenon of structure.

The Outside is always interior, that is encased within and inseparable from whatever structure exists. Yet it is also something that must be summoned. This conceptualisation runs through wherever Outside is discussed — whether as radical openness in relation to affordance or in the way solidus attracts the void (“Every action of solidity in the direction of becoming more solid is equal to augmenting its interactions with the void”). Outside is summoned by ‘cracking open’ that which is locked down. It is precisely by becoming more paranoiac that the Outside as radical other can get in and ‘feed’.

Throughout the text, the Outside is associated with hunger, feeding. War feeds on the warmachines that thrive within it. The Z crowd develop survival to its maximum so that when life (the Outside is also conceptualised as life — more on this later) feeds it can have a ‘good meal’. On the axis stretching from the burning core of the earth to the sun, Tellurian insurgency is the plot whereby the core seeks to reach immanence with the sun (The desert of God/xerodrome). Both are considered Outsiders to terra, but one takes on the role of the Insider (the core). “In Tellurian Insurgency, everything — whether stratified or not — assists the earth in hatching its xeno-chemical Insider.” The core is fed, enriched, by the activity on the earth’s surface (magnetospheric radiation, oily narratives, terrestrial capitalism). Eventually it should feed to the point where it can join the sun.

This is a good point to reach the question — what is the Outside? It has so many associates, so many functions, so many relationships and powers. In typical pomo (or hymo) fashion it is likely nonlocalisable, so really I can only summarise Negarestani’s characterisation, fashioning a vague and vagabond outline, shimmering in the desert. As mentioned above, the Outside, in the glossary, is “delineated by its functional exterior of activity”. Philosophically speaking, can we connect it to concepts such as the Real? To whatever remains beyond an umwelt? But it has to perhaps be taken on a Deleuzo-Guattarian understanding, in that the Real is already the domain of desire, of desiring machines and partial objects, of things. This is why it presents a ‘functional exterior of activity’. The Outside is teeming, full of bizarre functions and connections, flows, loops, spirals that structurally or subjectively make no sense, but no doubt operate on a logic of their own.

This is why the Outside as radical openness is different to the Outside as economical openness. In one, the Outside is afforded — structure or the subject allowing in only what parts of the Outside it can handle without going mad. This model is somewhat reminiscent of Gramscian hegemony, in that the structure (although it need not be the ‘dominant’ structure) lets in other elements precisely in order to maintain its identity and its functioning, to alleviate threats.

Contrast this with the Outside as radical, rather than economic openness. Such an Outside is entirely exterior to the organism or structure. It has nothing in common, is actively hostile, destructive. Because of this, the organism can never be open to it, because being open implies a level of recognition, an affordance. (I can afford to be open to you without losing myself).

How then is it possible to access this radical Outside? It must be summoned, unintuitively through total paranoiac introversion. Doing so constitutes the Outside as Outside, as completely exterior. By constituting oneself as a sealed identity, one creates a good meal. The longer you survive closed off, the more attractive you become to the Outside, which one day will hunt you down and open you. This is the difference between economic and radical Outside; the former is something you are open to, the latter opens you up as a butcher a carcass.

Hence why the Outside feeds and why the Outside is associated with life. The Deleuzo-Guattarian plane of consistency is not a void, it is not dissociated. Schizostrategies operate in the realm of incomplete burning; that is structure decayed but only in the sense of an approach to the limit, never death itself. It makes do with corpses, putrefaction; not erasure. Hence, the longer something survives, the bigger meal it leaves to worms and to xeno originating operations of desire. It is almost a question of causality. The larger the store of energy an organism acquires in its lifetime, the larger the rest of life wants to get at this energy, wants to take it for itself or disseminate it into the world.

Paradoxically, it is by ignoring openness, being as closed as possible, as indifferent to the Outside as possible, that one can most effectively participate with it. To access the Outside one must strategically seal every route to it that begins from interiority. I characterise it as a negative Zen. Instead of being open to the world, you try to control everything, lock down and seal yourself in.

Cyclonopedia is not precisely an ethical book. It describes the unique metaphysics of the middle east, or more precisely the role the middle east plays as an Outsider to the rest of global politics — the ways it diffuses war machines, undertakes decay and survival, summons naphtanese cults into the midst of the solar economy.

But I can’t help reading it as a book of ethics. Would you ever want to purposively seek the outside, adapt your body in order to maintain lines of control and summon Hell? One answer is that you would not. The Aryans sought survival for its own sake, for the maintenance of purity, control. This is the way many organisms work. This is why fascism remains always a constant threat. Negarestani is saying that such an approach will always, however, attract the Outside, in the form of the Z crowd: an agency that will abuse your control, help you ramp it up even higher only in order to have it busted wide open at a later date. But I don’t think Negarestani is writing in a form of warning to identitarian control agents. The manuscript is a spellbook, a ritual. It is no doubt designed to help one summon demons, rather than avoid accidentally reading aloud the forbidden hex.

This opens up the second question of why you might want to assume the position of the Z crowd. One could easily imagine using this as a strategy for countermining your enemy. Help them survive, help them grow more self sufficient solely in order to make them a more tasty bait for the Outside, for desecration. But in doing so you might end up strategically implicating yourself, making yourself a bait as well. And the Z crowd. They practiced survival as a summoning ritual long before they parasitically adopted the Aryans as carrier. Doesn’t this mean the teeming void presents its own attraction? Isn’t it that this is where power is located or diffused to? Bodily modification, reconstruction, decay — why not? Lose yourself in the crowd simply because it feels good to lose yourself. Give in to the thirst for annihilation. We return to the notion of Zen, perversely, again. The notion of amassing power to a single location is undoubtedly a fascist one, an identitarian one. I, the king, will be powerful. I, the state. I, the killer. The temptation of the Outside is precisely the unlimited power it represents, but in accessing it one loses the very impetus that drove one to access it. This is precisely the problem; how to maintain identity in the face of the Outside, or even more importantly how to let go of your identity.

incoherent pomo french philosophy notes interspersed with fiction