Meditation, Pain and Liberation: Thoughts on a long weekend.


Recently, Matthias and I took part in a long weekend meditation retreat. It was a self organized affair between friends. The nominal leader of the retreat trained in the Zen tradition of Deshimaru and has practiced for over 25 years. We sat for four hours a day in hour-long stints. This was the most intense experience of meditation I have had since I became involved in the non-buddhist project. It was an opportunity to examine the effect on my practice of a year of reading and thinking about contemporary philosophy and non–buddhist thought. Not to mention writing, which I now consider a practice in itself.

Of course many x-buddhists would not consider this a ‘real’ retreat, since it was missing the legitimacy bestowed on such an undertaking by a Guru or his appointed teacher. Lets leave that aside for the present; anyone who has read here will know that we are not worried by such a lack and in fact welcome it. That does not mean, though, that one can get by without the presence of someone with experience. What it does mean is that one can organize such an event outside of x-buddhist practice and produce an experience every bit as useful.

In future posts I hope to explore the relation between meditation and non-buddhist thought, using such weekends as a sort of laboratory experiment. For this post I want to concentrate on one of the consequences of intensive periods of meditation – pain.

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Force of creation; The non-Aesthetic

Phillip Guston

Phillip Guston

The Artist

Popular imagination ascribes a ‘vocational calling’ to the artist, distinguishing him from the run of ordinary mortals, often using terms borrowed from the discourse on religion. This residual of a romantic idea long abandoned by the academy is a mixture of ideas about internal essences, creativity and self-realization, extracted from the human potential movement, new age pseudo-spiritual discourses, or popular psychology. The metaphor of the ‘call’ rising from the depths of the mind accompanies a host of equally overused metaphors alluding to inner journeys, searches for meaning, and creative/spiritual explorations. The artist is named as one who searches within to find inspiration on the basis that somewhere in the ‘depths’ of his mind there are inexhaustible resources of the imagination, unique to him and yet of universal significance; fuel for artistic burning, energy for transforming mundane material into the gold of high art; an alchemy of the imagination — making something, (high art, spiritual realization, wisdom) out of nothing, (that mysterious thing we call the mind) – the artist as shaman endowed with a vital power exercised on behalf of the collective.

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The non-Buddhist Reader

There’s a new development connected with the non-buddhist Project, compliments of our friends at the forum. Here’s John on the thinking behind it:

This will be a place for material related to the non-Buddhist project. At the moment, I’m planning on posting old pieces from the various blogs and articles from thinkers who have inspired them, and it may branch out to interviews, art, and original content. Contributions are welcome

It’s called  Non-x Reader.


The Affective Aspect of Decision

Disruption. X-buddhism’s network of postulation is a power grid pumping buddhistic charism through the lines of venerable transmission [see video title below]. Steadied by its rhetorics of self-display, the network extends to sangha sub-stations and into the affective-cognitive-decisional apparatus of the individual x-buddhist person. Speculative non-buddhist heuristics enable an interruption of the power surge in order to inspect its machinery and analyze its juice. (1)

Following on from the discussion at Der Un-Buddhist and here about What is non-buddhism? this post offers an example of one aspect of the decisional structure in action – namely affect (German version of the text at Der Unbuddhist). Please pay particular attention to the first five minutes of the video below, which is a good example of what exactly the affective aspect of x-buddhist decision looks like in person. The five minute long introduction is the prelude to a propaganda movie which weaves together a string of eulogies for a saint. A person disposed to reach out for spiritual help is seduced here via emotional framing into expectations which will lead her to judge the acts and statements of  the x-buddhist thaumaturge in specific ways. The thaumaturge himself – the Dane Ole Nydahl – does not perform in the film. This is an example of skillfull means, Upaya as x-buddhists call it: emptiness – this empty space – is filled with a fantastic narrative about Nydahl, invoking his god-like nature – which in turn seduces the aspirant into an ever more intense desire to really meet the thaumaturge in person.

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What is non-buddhism?

This post is a short introduction to non-buddhism. It covers the basics for anyone who is not familiar with non-buddhism and is meant to introduce the main points and act as a encouragement to further reading and research. We hope to write further short texts on particular points including decision, minimal transcendence, non-buddhism and meditation, the historical Buddha, ideological interpellation, and the connection between non-buddhism and critique off capitalism. These texts will be available to the newcomer as a separate category accessible from the top bar. You can find a German version of this text on Der Unbuddhist.


Non-Buddhism originates in  the work of Glenn Wallis, an American academic with a PhD in Buddhist studies from Harvard. Disillusioned with the direction American Buddhism was taking – its lack of engagement with contemporary thought, and its political quietism – he founded the  blog Speculative Non-Buddhism, as a platform for a new critique of Buddhist discourse and practice. The blog ran from May 2011 to March 2014. Over that period one hundred posts were published and over 5000 comments made.  A considerable number of essays were also published in non+x, an e-journal (1) that accompanied the blog as a site for longer and more in-dept exploratory texts. Among his collaborators  were Tom Pepper and Matthias Steingass,  both of whom contributed essays and took part in the often heated debates that almost always followed a post. All three co-authored the book Cruel Theory|Sublime Practice,  published in 2013 by EyeCorner Press.

The blog was renowned for its long comment threads, (many of the comments are substantive statements in their own right) and its polemical tone. Although no longer in operative mode, it is still accessible online, and is the single most comprehensive resource for anyone interested in the non-buddhist project.

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Non-Philosophy: Academic Discourse or Radical Heresy?

william-blake-newtonRecently, on the non-buddhist forum, Glenn Wallis asked for suggestions for non-buddhist “first names”, quoting from Laruelle’s definition of the term in Future Christ:

Fundamental terms which symbolize the Real and its modes according to its radical immanence or its identity. They are deprived of their philosophical sense and become, via axiomatized abstraction, the terms – axioms and theorems – of non-philosophy. (Laruelle, 2010, xxvi)

I have been trying for a while to come to terms with the difficulty of Laruelle’s thought. This effort recently intensified after someone made me a present of three tomes on/by Laruelle. So I was primed to respond to Glenn’s call. But I began to doubt my ability to contribute – not because of lack of time or motivation, but because of the nature of non-philosophical thought and the effort it takes to understand and apply it. As he admitted, his own students, all of whom were equipped with MA’s and PhD’s, were not up to the task. The best attitude, no doubt, and one loyal to the spirit of Laruelles thought, is an attitude of experiment and creativity not overawed by the complexity or seeming impenetrability of the texts.

Be that as it may, his call got me thinking about non-philosophical thought and something paradoxical about its means and its ends.

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Humophobia. “Above all, we should cease postponing the act of becoming what in fact and essence we are,” says Henry Miller (Plexus). What we, in fact and essence are, of course, is human. The force of x-buddhist subjugation can be understood as an effort to repress this fact and reverse or even obliterate this “essence.” It does so by offering a pantheon of realized types – from the traditional arahant and bodhisattva to the contemporary mindful practitioner – skilled in the enlightenment arts of wisdom, compassion, kindness, non-judgmental clarity, and a host of other salvific dispositions. X-buddhist typology cynically belies fear of the human of flesh and blood, and thus fashions in its place fantastic constructions of enlightened mutants. The only way the x-buddhist typology can function is both to subsume and to overcome the human. That is, x-buddhism, first determines what the “the uninstructed worldling” is (lustful, deluded, hostile, unskilled, etc.), and then instructs him on how to surpass himself.1

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