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.

Origins

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.

Theory

In the text Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism (the first formulation of Wallis’s contribution to Cruel Theory|Sublime Practice) Wallis formulates a critique of Buddhism inspired, in part, by the non-philosophy of the contemporary French philosopher François Laruelle. He applies the non philosophical method to Buddhism, inventing the term x-buddhism to define the varied re-iterations of contemporary buddhist theory and practice – a splitting of the one Buddhism into an unending series of modifiers – x-buddhism.

Central to the text is the notion of “decision”, an idea extracted from Laruelle.

“Buddhist cognitive decision consists in positing spatiotemporal vicissitude (samsara) as a conditioned given and contingency (paticcasamuppada) as its conditioning, fact.” (Wallis,  228: emphasis Jennings)

Decision is a process whereby reality is split into a series of  opposing dyads – spatiotemporal vicissitude (samsara)/contingency (paticcasamuppada), form/emptiness, bondage/release etc. – and a prior synthesizing unity. This synthesizing unity is the Dharma, within which spatiotemporal vicissitude (samsara) is immanently given and by which it is transcendentally grounded. This structure of thought involves a circularity whereby we discover the truth of Dharma, spatiotemporal vicissitude, as the actuality of the world by means of the oracularity of the  Dharma – its capacity to speak of the world while being immanent as the world.

Another way of putting this is to say that x-buddhism, by means of decision, appropriates the real to itself; proclaims itself to be the abstract re-presentation of the real in its totality.  For non-buddhism this is  an arbitrary move on the part of x-buddhism, since it cannot justify its transcending move except by means of its transcending move; as if a part could claim jurisdiction over the whole while remaining a-part.

For non-buddhism, x-buddhist thought is given by the real but cannot itself give the real.

“The Real is neither capable of being known or even “thought” but can be described in axioms.   (Laruelle,  125)

The relationship of x-buddhist thought (or any other thought) to the Real is non-reciprocal. Thought is, rather, a part of the real and not an absolute representation of the real. Thought is mute in the very act of thinking, enunciation is mute in the very act of speaking, since thought and enunciation are direct instances of the Real. The knowledge delivered by x-buddhist thought is, therefore, nothing other than usable knowledge and has no status above either the ordinary knowledge of life or scientific knowledge.

Non-buddhism strikes at the heart of x-buddhist specularity – its self-proclaimed capacity to show the Real in its thought. It strikes at the heart of all iterations of buddhism, since the decisional move structures all x-buddhisms (in common with all systematization of thought). Paradoxically,  x-buddhism, in its proclamation of the insubstantial and impermanent nature of all ‘Dharmas’ and its trope of a superior non-conceptual knowing, seems to undermine its own specular authority. X-buddhism, however, draws back from the implications of the force of its own thought and fills the emptiness it has proclaimed with the paraphernalia of its own dispensation – its endless texts, its rituals, its lineages, its meditative methodologies, its discursive uniqueness as the arbitrator of the real. In its full-blown form it calls into being a phantasmagoria of entities – Gods, demons, hero-beings,  buddhas, bodisattvas, arahants, hell beings etc. etc – all of which function to fill the void it has proclaimed to be at the heart of the real.

Affect

In Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism Wallis added to the Laruellian idea of cognitive decision a second aspect: affect. In this light he defines an x-buddhist as someone who has made an emotionally charged decision for the possibility of refuge – for the possibility of escape from spatiotemporal vicissitude by way of the thaumaturgical or wonder-working capacity of the Buddhist dispensation to rescue her from the suffering of ordinary life. This thaumaturgical aura acts by positing the vague notion of a causal essence (1), that mysterious something which sets apart designated persons from the common crowd as having a quality of specialness conditioned on being able to see further, or see deeper, by means of the mastery of x-buddhist meditative techniques. In other words the affective aspect of decision carries a psychological charge in which the promise of deliverance and even exaltation is realized by immersion into a world of wonder-working ‘energies’ and specially endowed persons.

Central to the capacity to enthral is the charisma of the Guru, the living emblem of realization. To affectively decide for Buddhism is to give up one’s capacity for agency – ones capacity to work out the means and meaning of ones own destiny – in favour of subjugation beneath a  power conferred on the ‘teacher’ by way of a thaumaturgical field conditioned on a narrative in which the guru has replicated the trials, victories and trophies of the mythical founder. This power is an effect of the narrative – the creation of an aura – an energetic and aesthetically alluring field of force surrounding the person of the Guru – his Charisma. To enter into the charismatic field surrounding the Guru is to be ‘taken’ by the narrative world of which the Guru is an effect .

To sum up, cognitive and affective decision works to subjugate the person of flesh and blood by means of a circular thought. By means of this thought the person enters into the closed circle of the Buddhist dispensation. From now on, she sees the world through the lens of Buddhist thought, creating a sufficiency that is both the riddle and the solution to the problem of suffering. This sufficiency need not engage with the world, its status as a cure for the illness it has diagnosed is purely a matter of thought, of the alluring vibrato circulating around the narratives of bondage and liberation into which the person has been interpellated (2). 

Repercussions

What, then, are the consequences of this interpellation? One way of answering this is to consider that while the world into which the adept has entered is a form of religious hallucination, it is an hallucinatory process with causal consequences – that is to say it is happening to a person of flesh and blood embedded within a concrete social situation, a world of familial, social and political structures and processes. The x-buddhist system of thought for which she has made an emotional and cognitive decision will, from now on, provide the context in which she views the concrete situation. She has adopted the x-buddhist world view and will now renegotiate the meaning of her experience of the world in the light of the new perspective she has acquired. In deciding for x-buddhism she has, in other words, been willingly interpellated into an ideology.

This situation has social and political repercussions. One of these will be that in so far as the liberation from suffering is now, for her, in process, the solution to the problem of human suffering has been found and need only be made relevant for the social world by way of the extension of the dharmic dispensation to other individuals. In other words the solution to human suffering will from now on involve an intensification (for the individual) of her sense of thaumaturgical refuge and an extension of its reach (towards the suffering other). The Dharma, in other words, inevitably begets the Dharma; and the Dharma becomes not only a personal refuge, but, by extension, the only possible refuge for the innumerable beings who continue to suffer.  One of the consequences of this is that the x-buddhist, as a political subject capable of exercising agency in the political realm, forfeits that agency in favour of a form of political quietism, an acceptance of the existing economic, social and political conditions as naturally given. At most such conditions are the passively construed field of operation within which the compassionate Bodhisattva exercises her vow to “liberate all sentient beings from suffering”, and not the  dynamically structured social space that engenders suffering.

Practice

For one who has seen all of this what of Buddhism and Buddhist practice? For many it will mean abandoning Buddhism for some other equally circular form of thought. Most, though, will soldier on within the fold, trying, for years perhaps, to suppress the inkling that something is rotten within the Buddhist vallation. Eventually though, suppressed dissatisfaction might resurface as a disenchantment that cannot be denied, a growing feeling that the enclosed world of x-buddhist thought is not so much a refuge from suffering as a delusional attempt to barricade the self from a felt threat to its integrity. For the x-buddhist this is a paradoxical situation (considering the teaching on the insubstantiality of the self). If disenchantment intensifies, a crisis will ensue in which one sees the unassailability of the  x-buddhist self as a delusion.

Wallis calls this the onset of “aporetic dissonance” (Wallis, 233), a condition in which disenchantment becomes undeniably present to awareness as ones real condition, beyond all x–buddhist hubris. At that stage a process of questioning might begin in which one puts  x-buddhist postulates to the test. One has entered into a form of non-buddhist practice from within the x-buddhist vallation, in an attempt to find out if one can retrieve anything durable from the  collapsing fortress.

Non Buddhism is the procedure enabling just such a program of questioning and retrieval. Glenn Wallis, in the heuristic attached to the text Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism, sets out a program through which one transforms questioning into a performative practice. Essentially this practice entails  bringing  x-buddhist postulates into proximity with forms of contemporary thought to break the closed circle of x-buddhist sufficiency.

Such a practice neither rejects  x-buddhism or attempts to transform it. What then is the relationship between non-buddhism and x-buddhism? This is a key point and to understand it we must return to Laruelle and examine the meaning of the non in  non-philosophy.

For Laruelle non-philosophy is a way of working on the material of philosophy as an instance of the real. Non-philosophy rejects outright the transcendent specularity of philosophical thought and tries to extract the transcendence from its postulates and make them usable for humans. Non-philosophy is the practice of making redundant the transcendent presumption of philosophy by exposing its arbitrary decisional structure. It does this with a form of work on the material of philosophy and not through a decisional move of its own that would install it in place of philosophy as just another Philosophy.

So too non-buddhism. Non-buddhism is a practice on the material of x-buddhism that renders its decisional structure ineffective and cancels its warrant as the transcendent arbitrator of the real. It does not, however, replicate the x-buddhist decisional move by installing itself in its place. Rather it proclaims all appropriation of the real redundant and makes all specular knowledge into a form of useable  knowledge. Those elements of the x-buddhist discourse that have stood the test can take their place within a spectrum of knowledges each conditioned on the peculiarities of its own realm of investigation. Thus non-buddhism avoids creating just another iteration of x, and presents itself as just another form of usable knowledge.

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Literature

Laruelle, François. Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, Univocal Publishing, Minneapolis, 2013.

Wallis, Glenn. Nascent Speculative Non-BuddhismJournal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies (vol. 12, issue 35), 2013. (First published in  2011 on the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism.)

Wallis, Pepper, Steingass. Cruel Theory | Sublime Practice – Toward a Revaluation of Buddhism, EyeCorner Press, Roskilde, 2013. Glenn Wallis’s contribution Speculative Non-Buddhism: X-buddhist Hallucination and its Decimation is a expansion of the above named text from 2011.

Althusser, Louis. Ideology and  Ideological State Apparatuses, 1970.

non+x, E-Journal.

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Notes

(1) Wallis introduces the concept of “hidden causal essence” in Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism (cf. p. 241; p. 141 in Cruel Theory) as  used by the anthropologist Pascal Boyer  (cf. too Cruel Theory p. 182-188, where Boyer’s evolutionary psychology is treated also).

(2) The concept of “interpellation” was first proposed by Louis Althusser in his text: Ideology and  ideological State Apparatuses, 1970.  Cf. the Wikipedia article about “Interpellation” for a quick reference. The concept was introduced to the non-buddhist discourse by Tom Pepper.

16 thoughts on “What is non-buddhism?

  1. Pingback: News and Updates (June 4–1 new item) « Speculative Non-Buddhism

  2. Because of the reactions to the German version of this text I wonder if it isn’t again far too explicative. I try to change to the explorative modus because I am learning myself this stuff: Laruelle. the Real, axiomatic thinking, democracy-of-strangers, force (of) thought etc. pp. My thought from the very beginning of this project was that exploration is a collective undertaking, it is happening within a group people who are likeminded in the sense that they share a common interest in deconstruction as meditation. Explication in contrast is the one (academic, hailed, exalted, thaumaturgical) human sitting at the center point of passive attention, closely guarded by tacit social conventions.

    Explication also means that I know already something while I am in fact in the process of producing knowledge. Exploration means I am investing my time. I don’t want to give it away to people who are too lazy to do the same. Instead I want to share it with people who are interested in exploration like me.

    So I wonder if the lead-in idea we recently had, this text being the first exemplar, shouldn’t have some very strong explorative colors? For example there is the question (at my blog) if it isn’t possible to put this stuff into some easier language? The person asking this question meant to translate the text into the no-nonsense language of some other better known philosopher – which of course is bullshit because this would happen under the terror reign of exchange which makes everything equal to everything else. But the real question is that of finding other ways of non-representation for Laruelle infused thinking. I say non-representaion because “finding other ways of representing Laruelle inspired thinking” would again already flip back into representational thinking – which is one big thing one has to leave behind now.

    I don’t want to opt for a certain style for the lead-ins, but the question of style of exploration itself could be an (implicit) part of the lead-ins.

    For example I began reading a book by a young German musician, actor and writer. In the opening chapter there are clearly passages about meditation – but the word isn’t mentioned. If it would have been mentioned it would spoil the whole thing at once. And I don’t even know if the author is thinking about meditation in any sense we are used to use it. The point is: shouldn’t we leave, in exploration, once and for all these buzz words? The point is to take the gloves off in making Buddhism incomprehensible for x-buddhists. The latter are in a way stupid and not interested in taking part in this project. We should leave them aside and instead walk our own way. Think of absolute contingency as another example: the truth of chance over law. Thinking today with the wealth of thought which is there at our command goes way beyond Buddhism. Why staying with Buddhism in any way? This has to by something new.

    Apart from this I see some real practical issues with the lead-in idea, if we put in Laruelleian notions without explaining them. In this text we have for example the Real and axiomatic thinking. People who are not already familiar with Laruelleian terminology are at a loss with these notions. We would have to explain everything bit by bit – while it is already explained (at least in English) one can read it if one likes. I would like to propose instead to act, to write, paint, make music etc. as force (of) thought. With all the rest coming with it, unilateral causality, the stranger as effect (of) real etc. – with the risk of making mistakes, sounding stupid, being obscure.

  3. Ok, Robert Gwisdek does mean meditation. He calls it radikales Nichtstun – radical non-doing –, konzentriertes Nichtstun – concentrated non-doing –. And this is already clear from some of his texts with his band Die Tentakel von Delphi. This is a guy who knows what he is talking about – meditation – and who leaves behind the stupid diskurses of mindfulness and equally fucking shit, doing instead something interesting. He is clearly exploring. Let’s not waste our time.

  4. Matthias. Thanks for the Gwisdek tip. Very cool. Someone could tease out what I think are two of his glosses on konzentriertes Nichtsmachen, namely, the kid in the classroom and the electrician in the antechamber. Of course, doing so, would catapult us back into discourse and explication. Unless, that is, you found a way to do it that clones rather than attempts to reproduce his ideas in a different register. I think this is the concern at the very heart of the non-buddhistm/non-philosophy/non-photography, etc., etc., enterprise. The concern being fidelity to the thing and not to its representation. I also think that communication with this concern in sight will always come out as sounding or otherwise appearing strange. Thanks again!

  5. Hello, all: as Glenn Wallis kindly mentioned the John P. Clark talk on radical Buddhism at CUNY recently which myself and Matthias Steingass had alerted him to via SNB, I found this link to Professor Clark’s essay “Buddhism: Radical Critique and Revolutionary Praxis” which I assume is the one delivered. I appreciate Matthias + Patrick Jennings’ efforts above, and I must mull over all this, Clark’s “dialectical maternalism,” along with my ongoing study of anarchism, all in good time. At Clark’s personal site, there’s much material he’s generously uploaded, as ‘eco-communitarian’ anarchist-Situationist scholar-philosopher down in New Orleans, aka ‘Max Cafard.’

  6. Hi Matthias,

    As far as x—buddhists are concerned I think we have already agreed to exit that discussion.(it no longer interests me and you too , I think, except in the context of talking with an x-buddhist who has made the journey from decision to at least the beginnings of some sort of dis-enchantment or questioning)) Although, as I tried to make clear in my post (Non-philosophy: Academic discourse or radical heresy) there is a difference between our discussion with x-buddhists and with the discourse of Buddhism, since non-buddhism is not in any way an anti-buddhism, but a work on Buddhism which necessitates an understanding, appreciation and ongoing study of x-buddhist thought. This is so because of the essential Laruellian component. Non-philosophy is not an anti– philosophy but a work on the material of philosophy, in that sense it is beholden to philosophy for its material and can never replace philosophy. So too non-buddhism, which tries to decimate x-buddhist material and use it ‘in the last instance’ as a means to liberation, to my mind an essentially anarchist project (In relation to authoritarian philosophical capture of the human)

    We have this mass of post decimation Buddhist/Marxist material, a sort of heap rather than a systematization, which we can now sift through exactly in the spirit of someone wandering through the debris of a ruined building. The bits and pieces that have survived the cataclysm are necessarily distorted and perhaps unrecognisable remnants of the former building (literally a heap) Non- buddhism tries to use these bits and pieces in relation to the what Laruelle calls the ‘Lived’ or what Glenn calls the ‘human of flesh and blood’ and not in relation to the their place as elements in the former construction. When you say: Explication in contrast is the one (academic, hailed, exalted, thaumaturgical) human sitting at the center point of passive attention, closely guarded by tacit social conventions. I understand you as saying that the one wandering among the ruins is a new (stranger) subject who explores rather than explicates, necessarily adapting an attitude of experimentation regarding material that can no longer be made to fit together in the old way.
    For Laruelle the work this new stranger subject undertakes is from the point of view of philosophy, a weak force:

    In a similarly modest spirit of acceptance the non-standard approach is content to allow all knowledges equal validity as fictions or partial models of the real that determines them in the last instance. Every Philosophy,its intricate and dense mesh work of decision is combed through by the unilateralizing force of generic thought, tells us something about how the individual fares in the inevitable struggle with he Authorities of the World-a one sided struggle that non-philosophy refuses to make into a confrontation, all the better to issue its ‘ultimatum’ from its position of eternal weakness-from the uni-verse that is the humans true habitat-to the philosophy-world, its doublets and its subjects.

    So too non-buddhism which issues its ultimatum to Buddhism from what appears (to the non-buddhist securely ensconced within the x-buddhist valation) as a situation of weakness, incoherence and strangeness—a subject we have named as the ‘exile’ and what Zen Buddhism ( rejecting the force of its own thought) names the ‘person of no rank’, what Dzogchen names ‘the ordinary beyond meditation and no meditation, etc.
    I reject as more than useless any dialogue with the secured x-buddhist subject, but from a position of unashamed weakness, a position that might be compared to someone who lives off the discarded waste of consumer society and tries as much as possible to inhabit an unofficial or un- documented social space . This is a strategy I try to implement in my daily life( but far too inconsistently I have to add) Such a lifestyle is always open to the accusation of inauthenticity or weakness, since one must necessarily try to adapt the discarded consumerist material to personal use, much in the spirit of a scavenger or social parasite, and try to negotiate an unofficial social space as a sort of personal enclave, in the process rejecting a notion of the social dominated by accepted forms of work (as forms of exchange value rather than use-value) ‘beholden’ to the existing structure
    This again seems to me to be an essentially anarchist project.

    But the real question is that of finding other ways of non-representation for Laruelle infused thinking. I say non-representaion because “finding other ways of representing Laruelle inspired thinking” would again already flip back into representational thinking – which is one big thing one has to leave behind now.

    Forms of non-representational thinking would be for me thinking from the real (as a singular, unique object/person)-a form of thinking always pointing down and back to the real rather up and at some higher structure of thought. As you say its not so much a question of style but rather a question of ‘the question of style of exploration itself could be an (implicit) part of the lead-ins’. What would this mean in practical terms? As far as readability is concerned (for the newcomer) I think this does not in any way lessen the effort involved (in thinking, background reading,etc) Many of Laruelles experimental texts are (for me ) even more difficult —-‘What the One sees in the One’,for example (included at the end of ‘Decision and Heresy’).

    Thinking today with the wealth of thought which is there at our command goes way beyond Buddhism. Why staying with Buddhism in any way? This has to by something new.

    I agree, but not in the sense of abandoning Buddhism but as a sort of expansion of ones awareness to include a far broader intellectual and experiential space in which buddhist notions are punctured by other forms of thought. New I take as what remains in the last instance, as coming from the real or as unilaterally determined by the real.

    Can any of this be ‘simplified’ for the beginner. I think not. Effort is required, and a conscious rejection of a consumerist mentality that expects to be able to consume pre-fabrictated units of philosophical thought served up as a species of popularized ‘junk’ food for the mind. If that sounds elitist so be it —–I reject junk food, end of conversation, because its production involves suffering in the making, consumption, replication and exchange.

    There are points you have made that I hasn’t got to so I will get back. (especially the points on painting, writing, music-making etc which preoccupy me too a lot) Thanks for a thought-provoking comment.

  7. Maybe the form of introduction is stale. It presumes a subject to be explicated rather than a set of tools that can be used to [i]work things out[/i]. Perhaps short pieces that enact non-Buddhism – showing decision at work in Buddhist literature or forums (yet again, but in intro-sized chunks, perhaps) or reproducing the critique but sowing affective decision at work in the reproduction of capitalism. There are definitely other means of approach. Having said that, having 2-3 (or more) traditional introductions is still an excellent idea, I think, if there is the will for it. And if it can still point beyond explication in some way – to the thing itself, as Glenn says.

    Matthias, I am quite intrigued by the “terror reign of exchange which makes everything equal to everything else.” I came across a passage in Claire Colebrook’s book on Deleuze that elaborated for me some of what that might mean:

    It is in capitalism, though, that we take one fixed territory – the unit of capital – and imagine all possible beings or deterritorialisations as measured through capital. We see all life as homogeneous matter, there to be exchanged. Even concepts become ‘information’ to be marketed. Think of the way we ‘sell’ happiness, spirit or selfhood through brand names, therapy industries and advertising slogans. Being untimely, for Deleuze, meant being more than anti-capitalist. It meant disrupting the force that had allowed capitalism to emerge: the tendency to sameness, uniform quantification, the fixing of all becomings through one measure or ‘territory’ (of capital). Capitalism is only possible because we can reduce the complexity and difference of life to a single system of exchange. In capitalism it no longer matters what circulates – whether it is money, goods, information, or even the feel-good messages of feminism, multiculturalism and community – as long as there is constant exchange. For Deleuze this has a positive and negative side. Positively, it displays 11 life’s power of deterritorialisation: a capacity to take any actual thing and translate it into a movement of flow. We can take, for example, the images that once enslaved us – images of religion, law or authority – and see them as images, and we would do so by tearing them out of their origin and context. We can wander through galleries of religious art enjoying the intensity of paintings of hell and damnation, while not believing or being determined by their force. There is a positive capitalist tendency in all life, a deterritorialising tendency to open any system on to exchange and interaction. But deterritorialisation, which relies on an initial territorialisation, is also accompanied by reterritorialisation. Capital arrests its tendency to produce and open flows by quantifying all exchange through the flow of capital. In capitalism everything becomes measured by money or quantity – even the commodity value of art and the information value of concepts.

  8. Hi John
    Re 7#

    Maybe the form of introduction is stale. It presumes a subject to be explicated rather than a set of tools that can be used to work things out.

    You could be right there. As you say, though, the traditional way might have a place too. Really I can’t see how anyone who made an effort could have a problem with the text. But, as Matthias says, we should try to integrate the ethos of experimentation and exploration as in some way a structural element in the text. Your idea of small chunks of text orientated towards showing decision at work might be a good approach .

    ON a general level this idea of pointing to the thing itself is problematic for me. In Kantian terms we could say that a subject cognises a thing- in -itself. This is the bare or minimum transcendental of thought. But as Laruelle insists this philosophical designation for thought as thought is given–without—givenness, or presence—without— presentation. Nothing ever ‘leaves‘ immanence. The philosophical doublet— the given (as real) followed by the real (as thought) is not a capture of the real by thought; it is the philosophical structure of thought which is (in itself) given– without— givenness. Laruelle says we can sensitive ourselves to this given –without— givenness before we designate it as the thing (as a philosophical term in a constitution of terms—that is as the thing always already necessitating the system of terms within which it proclaims its identity.) In the light of this, is there such a thing as a practice of immanence beyond what Laruelle calls philo-fiction? As I said in the comment I made on the forum yesterday, I wonder if Buddhist meditative practices can have a role here? Can practices originally orientated towards a transcendent (the One as transcendent field or primal ground) be re-calibrated as a practice of ‘sensitization’ to the immanent (the One as finite solitude or the given without givenness)? And does such a recalibration constitute the real force of Buddhist thought?

    No doubt I have opened myself to the accusation of incoherence, obscurantism, pseudo philosophizing by posing questions in this way, but as I said earlier I think this is the way non-buddhist (non)discourse will inevitably appear (as strange, difficult, obscure) to x-buddhists. All to the better in my view. On the other hand I could be justifiably accused of not comprehending the full force of non-philosophical thought, but that would imply the necessity of further study and more theorizing, not less.

    Your quote from Claire Colebrook is really good. I have started to read her too.

  9. Thanks everybody for the comments. I don’t wanted to criticize our idea as such. I just wonder who we are addressing? The people I seem to address at the German blog seem to be people who don’t get it. People who are mostly (not all) attuned to a habit of being fed with readymade chunks of information, instead of making an effort. As we said in the intro: the text might invoke “encouragement to further reading and research”. People don’t even get this line. Buddhists are stupid.

    So I think, part of the game is to write as an act of learning. If it comes out good the sparks fly, if not, go try again.

    In this regard the discussion about cloning in the other thread was very interesting and an understanding of cloning might be the crucial point. But there is my big problem, my question: “Why staying with Buddhism in any way?” For a clone I must have a proper understanding of the buddhist notion I am to clone (let’s say for example bhava as John suggested). With this I mean the available understanding of that notion, not the ahistorical fantasy about it. Proper understanding about the specific characteristics of the language used, the cultural contexts etc. – in other words, optimally an approximation of the episteme (Foucault) which might have been ruling (if this would be possible at all). From this an informed cloning could arise. For me that is out of reach. In my case, regarding Longchenpa for example, I even don’t know the original script he wrote in, not to talk about the Tibetan he used etc.

    So for me a specific meditation, let’s call it concentrated doing nothing, comes out very much more from the episteme I am ruled under, than from any approximation of the episteme Longchenpa was ruled under. This might become indeed already a clone. But it might say much more about me and my process of reception than anything about buddhism. That’s the point where I (personally) have to ask, why bother with buddhism anyway any more? In the end it is easier for me to understand Laruelle than Buddhism.

    Apart from that, I think I write a list of topics as a view from the results of our discussions which might shed some light on the project for new-comers. Patrick and I talked about these topics recently and I’ll use our notes about it. From this list will emerge a preliminary view what more lead-ins could be.

    John, your citation is very interesting. Coincidentally I have been at a book presentation and discussion yesterday in Frankfurt/Main: It was about Achim Szepanski’s “Kapitalisierung – Marx’ Non-Ökonomie“. As I understand, Achim comes very much from this Deleuzeian side of view. He tries to reestablish an economic view on capitalism whereas he criticizes a lot of other Marxists of “going cultural” (Zizek for example) instead of analyzing how in fact the economy works via capital. The important point here is “the unit of capital”. It is not so much about commodification as it is about capitalization – “through one measure or ‘territory’ (of capital).” Hereby the main question is how value in the first place arises. This question of the transformation of a commodity into a value is unsolved because there is no point in history where it was ‘invented’ – saying it was invented leads us into the same vicious circle as the one I tried to describe above. To evade this I am forced at some point to axiomate the process (there is a certain meaning in Longchenpa). Szenpanski axiomates at the point where he says: There is capital (and not: there is commodity (and fetishism)). The problem of understanding what capital does (giving value ex nihilo) is further complicated in that it more and is working under an a-semiotic regime which isn’t representational anymore. Capital more and more is working through algorithms (programming languages, derivate generation via mathematics; say: general quantification, what Heidegger named Gestell). From this axiom we can begin to understand in an a-cultural non-cultural way (culture being in itself already a transcendentally over-determined notion and as such ready for exchange) how capital generates a certain superstructure – culture, a certain subject – as a base. This base is as an axiom capital, which is the Real in the Laruelleian sense (in this case) of which we as subject and individuals are unilateral effects – strangers. One other effect of this Real is risk production as an effect of the a-semiotic mathem under which capital is ruled (capital already as thinking along the Real and the mathem as already further unfolding structures from the axiomatization). Any revolutionary move – anything new – and anything potentially threatening already becomes discounted under this rule and thereby any counter move against capitalism is exchanged into a further strengthening of it.

    The point was about the terror reign of exchange. As the citation says exchange has to sides, a positive and a negative. This means in our case, there can be an “untimely” effect if we “deterritorialize” or “clone” (are these exchangeable?). So I think apart from writing as an act of learning, as I said above, the question has to be how to write/clone to be(come) untimely. Maybe this would become effective knowledge in as it would trigger other peoples interest. But the even bigger problem is: how to become more than anti-capitalist? If indeed capital has the function of risk production everything anti-capitalist becomes super food for capitalism.

  10. Matthias,
    Re 9#,

    So for me a specific meditation, let’s call it concentrated doing nothing, comes out very much more from the episteme I am ruled under, than from any approximation of the episteme Longchenpa was ruled under. This might become indeed already a clone. But it might say much more about me and my process of reception than anything about buddhism. That’s the point where I (personally) have to ask, why bother with buddhism anyway any more? In the end it is easier for me to understand Laruelle than Buddhism.

    I think you have encapsulated non-buddhism. The episteme I am ruled under is what Laruelle calls the philosophical -world, the world as structured thought under who’s sign we are born, and under who’s authority we are harassed (made fit preconceived notions of the good subject-sexed, gendered, classed, raced, philosophized into the appropriate pigeon-hole). If one of the cultural/spiritual pigeon-holes is the x-Buddhist subject , then the reduction of such a subject to a determination -in -the last -instance proceeds by way of the decimation of the espisteme that is its actualization. Such a subject is no longer a subject per say but an un-namable, just the human as given-without -givenness. This sounds strange because we presuppose the philosophical doublet -the given as re-presented to thought- instead of as a determination in the last instance, as an axiomatic term or a clone coming from the real and lying alongside it as an instance of the real. In that sense all philosophy is philo-fiction. Or a way of recognizing that the given in the doublet the given and the given to thought has a unilateral relation to thought -it gives thought but cannot be given by thought.

    When Laruelle says that we should sensitize ourselves to this that for me is the decimated remainder of the practice of x-buddhist meditation. I still think , though, that there is an unexplored commonality between this idea of meditation and Buddhist practice as practice of the full-force of Buddhist thought.

  11. Pingback: The affective aspect of decision | The Non-Buddhist

  12. Pingback: Der affektive Aspekt der Entscheidung am Beispiel des x-buddhistischen Heiligen Ole Nydahl « Der Unbuddhist

  13. Glenn, #12

    Someone could tease out what I think are two of his glosses on konzentriertes Nichtsmachen, namely, the kid in the classroom and the electrician in the antechamber.

    I am not exactly sure what you mean. The kid in the classroom is the protagonist in his novel Der Unsichtbare Apfel (The Invisible Apple). The novel is a kind of coming of age novel. As a kid the protagonist Igor breaks into the school house and writes “Vorsicht!” (Watch Out!) on all blackboards. That’s because he somehow doesn’t gets what “the world” is about. He misses the point what he is taught. I would even say somehow he doesn’t get interpellated or, perhaps better, his interpellation works out terribly wrong. Finally he embarks on a very strange journey and there he meets the electrician in the antechamber.

    I am not yet ready with the book. Will report more. Perhaps sometimes it is really a bit like a David Lynch film (Gwisdek makes the comparison): The story is thrilling but a-logic. One tries to ask constantly “what does he wants to say?” but it makes no sense.

  14. Matthias #9, whereas Buddhism looks at the self as the column that holds up the structure of suffering, I think Marxism should take note and look to capital (rather than capitalism) as the backbone of modern suffering. There are so many illusions that get pierced when we focus on use-value rather than exchange-value. I’ve had this thought ever since reading David Harvey’s “17 Contradictions of Capital” where he lays out many of the ways exchange-value is an abstraction that becomes the focus of personal, economic, and political interest, allowing the proliferation of all manner of conflict. It was a sort of scales falling from eyes moment; for so long I’d heard about the dangers of capitalism, but seeing why the separation of use value and exchange value allowed the housing market to explode irrationally or how the accumulation of capital inevitably leads to imbalances of power was crucial.

    Szepanski’s take sounds quite intriguing, and it does sound Deleuzian. If I’m understanding you, he’s talking about how the fiat value of capital becomes divorced from any actual representation of use value (much like Harvey). But then he’s going on to examine how this fiat value becomes the foundation of society. A societal Atman. If we can sufficiently pacify the pangs of poor (like thoughts), then we can allow the abstraction of value, economic health, (atman) to deliver us into the land of plenitude.

    Wunche ich das meine Deutsche besser war.

  15. Matthias and John,
    Re 9# 14#,

    This point about the difference between use and exchange value and between commodification and capital, and between a cultural critique and an economic one are very fascinating questions (and very complex). At the moment I am trying to get my head around one idea inLaruelle’s critique of Marxism that bears on the question raised by Matthias

    This base is as an axiom capital, which is the Real in the Laruelleian sense (in this case) of which we as subject and individuals are unilateral effects – strangers.

    This quote is really to the point because it is here Laruelle makes his attack on the cultural turn in Marxist thought and the abandonment of the radical materialism of Marx’s thought. That is to say that Marx proposed an unashamedly materialist determination between what he called the economic base —as the flesh and blood lived human—literally the lived or living matter of the worker, the material of production, the ‘hard ‘ technological base, as opposed to the superstructure of ideas, beliefs, abstracted notions, cultural artifacts, discourses etc. There is a very good exploration of the implications of this in Andrew Galloway’s essay Laruelle, Anti-Capitalist, in From Decision to Hersey.

    For Laruelle the words’ decision’ and ‘determines’ are not sources of anxiety , as they are for many of the cultural Marxists from Althusser to Raymond Williams and beyond. For Laruelle these words must be taken very literally, even made more extreme , more radical. The infrastructure of the material base is a given without givenness because and only because of its ability to condition and determine– unidirectionally and in the last instance[...] If Marxism has any force at all, it gains such force by virtue of an immanent material base., synthetic to nothing but determinate in all. Not simply labour-power or ‘force of labour’–the French term force (de) travail being so similar to the important Laruellean term force de pensee, force (of) thought-but force of infrastructure.

    Galloway goes on to link Laruelle’s insistence on the irreversibility of the human as the human in the last instance, as the finite individual in its solitude and with Marx’s notion of use value.

    The key to incommesurability is therefore use value, the ‘usefulness’ of something. Use-value is understood in terms of psychical bodies that are qualitatively different and hence, since they share no scale of measurement in common, are absolutely incommensurable with each other. In this way , use -value in Marx reveals a rudimentary theory of immanence, as objects are defined strictly by way of an identity it themselves, never forced to go outside themselves into the form of something else.

    It is this immanence of the object as use-value that determines the possibility of an exchange value under the sign of money-that is to say if we ‘decimate’ the term exchange value, the remainder , after ridding it of its exchange or money form , is use-value. What would a social relation determined by use value look like?

  16. Linking Marxism with historical and material causes is something that David has brought up several times in our discussion of Badiou and is something I’m perhaps beginning to get an appreciation of.

    And it’s very interesting to link use-value with the incommensurable, difference, and immanence. The other side of the Deleuzian coin.

    “What would a social relation determined by use value look like?”

    I wrote the following a few weeks ago:

    “Today, people on the radio were talking about the economic impact of green energy, how expensive it would be, how it would affect the bottom line of x and y industries. It was a conversation about a very abstract thing, something that distracts from the issues of what needs to be done and the resources available to do it. The U.S. has millions unemployed and underemployed people and too many scientists who can’t get the resources they need — not because there is a lack of resources but because there is a lack of capital, an imaginary representation of value that can be hoarded by people with power and doled out as suits their interests. This interest is inevitably the accumulation of more capital, and so they only pursue things that are profitable for them. Hence, green energy is hardly pursued – not because it is not needed or the inability to find resources – but because it isn’t currently profitable for wealthy people.

    And the conversation never turns around and recognizes this; it is instead concerned with the ‘economic impact’ of change.”

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