In this informal chat Johns continues his thoughts on the threefold of experience (Heidegger) and the constant conflicts of concepts which create productive difference (Hegel’s dialectic). Johns suggests that the contemporary ‘subject’ is determined by societies power to employ it as yet another object of value within its system of arbitrary value. Johns explains that this operation functions on the false notion of reality as tautological (pragmatist) and the subject as tautological (the subject as tool).

In this informal chat Charles Johns, editor of The Neurotic Turn, tries to describe his two philosophical terms ‘neurosis’ and ‘assimilation’. He also tries to explain why he thinks these descriptions become necessarily disclosed and why they are necessarily prevalent in our current epoch (for example the exclusion of the definition of neurosis in the 1980’s within the D.S.M created a repressed symptom, or, the uprise of mass-conformism and iphone narcissism shows a larger more acceptable state of neurosis etc).

Magick is a difficult word. If I use it, it attracts a degree of negativity by Narps assuming I want to wax lyrical about something they perceive nonsensical, if I try to form a new term to shoehorn the topic in in a reasonable way (to bypass the prejudice) then the jargon critique comes in.

So I’m sticking with it and in a sense yes this is a theory about how Magick ‘works’, but as part of a larger project it should be remembered that even though such theory is necessary it does not entail that anything magickal ever actually obtained at all. Such a theory is a plug-in to a phenomenology that says you cannot extirpate the appearance of the magickal and hence inchoately such theories are always buzzing around our Narphood.

This buzzing refers to a kind of flickering that I feel is slowly being honed in on. This flickering is the flickering of the agnostic disjunction: our endless, almost arbitrary, culturally conditioned choices in the face of a variety of phenomena that we do not really know the answer to.

The point is that if magical effects obtain then the ontology that emerges seems to be necessarily something of this kind. Words are able to connect directly to what they designate. Designation itself is only sensible in a magickal universe, if this is not the case then Wittgenstein is correct all the way through (meaning is just use). That is, how can designation actually designate a particular thing if it does not actually connect with it metaphysically. Any weaker version means designation can be tricked by counterfeits. This does not mean to say we cannot be fooled and neither does it simplify the issue (a bewilderingly strange overlaying of pneuminous threads can occur in such situations).

The notion of words connecting to their objects is well known throughout magickal grammar. Knowing things/spirits true names, sympathetic magick, paper remedies (a homeopathic variant) all draw on this notion. In the pneuminous theory this is accounted for by the way the accretions attach together and by the assumption that information can alter the vectors in some way.

Vectors are generally only capable of supporting certain grammatical structures. A clothes peg is not a vector, the vector is prior, the clothes peg accretion (concept) attaches itself to the vector, which is compatible with this attachment. This fulfils the meaning as use requirement -any vector that can take the clothes peg accretion can be a clothes peg. The clothes peg accretion also has a rough shape as image to it.

If though I want to make the clothes peg into a voodoo doll of my enemy (with or without augmenting it) the simplest means to attach the accretion of my enemy to the peg is to call it their name. The intentionality of the naming means the pneuma of the enemy is necessarily attached  to the peg-vector. This connection may be very weak. Magick acknowledges that such pneuminous connections exist harmlessly all the time. The ritual part of the process is exactly the technology that alters the pneuminous threads such that the vector-takes strongly on the enemy accretion. Once the accretion of the enemy is attached to the vector-peg, actions performed upon the vector-peg will affect the enemy as desired (maybe). As even practicioners will acknowledge, magick is no hard science and all results exist at that pataphysical like level of the individual occurrence. The level of connectedness of operation and result will vary from synchronistically staggering, to making a certain sense of the request being enacted, to pretty much nil, to outright backfiring. All of these can be comprehended from a magickal hermeneutic framework with little impinging sense that whole business is a nonsense (though magickal practictioners experience agnostic disjunction just as much as hardline materialists).

The key point about the means of action is its relation to the accretion of pneuma. Some forms of magick are performed by the accreting of one accretion onto a vector which already contains an accretion commonly considered appropriate for it. Of course what is commonly considered appropriate can vary wildly from culture to culture e.g. in animistic belief it is grammatically sound for a vector to hold both stoniness and spiritness -the two may be bound together. So we might rephrase it to say in modern western culture this kind of magickal operation is common. The doctrine of signatures is another example, normal accretions are attached to the vector, plant, herb, but also others e.g. looks like an eye, is blood red etc. These simple pneuminous threads may be just that, idly picked up pneuma that loosely attaches. However with the gaze of the doctrine of signatures these images disclosed from the plant become its messages of healing properties. The accretion of this healing property becomes attached to the plant accretion.

It is interesting to note that this suggests two modes of accretion attachment to the vector. One mode attaches to the vector directly and as such conceals alternative accretions, the other attaches to the accretion (and hence to the vector). In the case of the DoS it is the latter. The plant is still plant, but also plant as healing plant possessing this property (good for blood etc).

The implication being that attaching pneuma to a given vector somehow alters the vector in the direction of the pneuma attached. Nothing has to be said about how this happens, if it were true that would be for physics, all that needs to be acknowledged is that this is how it shows itself. Neither does it say that if I call a stone a cat many times it will turn into a cat, but it does say that the repeated effort to see catness in the stone does actually attach cat-pneuma to the stone. Of course this implication repeats the (sort of) tautology of designation: the vector which allows the possibility of ‘hammer’ then forms the hammer accretion as attached to certain vectors. If the magick effect occurs this means that hammer actually makes vectors with hammer accretions attached to them more hammer like i.e. the natural process of naming has the same mechanism as a magickal one, the difference is simply that no attempt to disnature the vector is involved -because the object is mistaken for the vector.

What are the problems with OOO? Isn’t it the funky philosophical panacea that everyone’s talking about? Well it is, a bit, and in large measure it isn’t (in my opinion). I find it strange to argue as the insights of manifestationism reveal me to be a Narp-agent for other philosophy. A priori OOO isn’t coherent but then neither is any system I might espouse. This sounds like grist to the OOO mill, incoherence=withdrawal. This though is my struggle with it because I think I’m so close to being an OOO ally and yet I’m not (I think). Whether I read Morton or Harman there is always something nagging at me about it. One issue is a linguistic one. I think there is a lot of sloppy writing in OOO that is unnecessary (not rhetorical invocation).

I don’t believe we can just forget the linguistic turn, I think it generated important approaches (most notably from Wittgenstein) that we have  to continue to take seriously. The standard poor phraseology is when the OOO theorist says ‘n experience of the cup is not the cup’. This is a such a simplified jumble of the situation it doesn’t tell us anything. There is a confused conflation of two types of withdrawal embedded in this. One is the Husserlian profiles withdrawal (I cannot see the far side of the cup) and the other is the ‘what else it may be’ withdrawal which is more Heideggerian in flavour, though Wittgenstein extends this more effectively.

The latter problem concerns a missing meta-term (that frankly is up for grabs). This is a linguistic confusion, I cannot say ‘the cup does not show me all of its being’ in the second sense because in its use disclosure it has showed itself as cup. Morton shows this kind of mess up nicely with his breeze block description in Realist Magic. Here he conflates breeze block ‘a use term’ with the x that he wants to talk about. What he believes are the fruitful rewards of OOO reasoning in fact are just a linguistic confusion perfectly exemplified here “An architect makes an exploded view of a cross section of the block. But a cross section of a cinder block is not a cinder block. A finger’s impression of a cinder block is not a cinder block. A butterfly’s touch on a cinder block is not a cinder block.” (Morton p50). In the language game of architecture if I say ‘what are we looking at here?’ and the architect replies ‘a breeze block’ the answer is cogent: it is a breeze block, this is meaning of being in this instance. If I do not know what I am touching, then no, that’s not a breeze block. But if I am perfectly aware and you say ‘what are you running your finger along?’ and I say ‘a breeze block’ then actually it is a breeze block. He says but the sensation isn’t the breeze block but he’s asking too much of language. Consider: ‘I’m feeling a sensation but not the breeze block itself.’ No the butterfly’s touch on a breeze block isn’t a breeze block because now there isn’t any breeze block because that’s a use term from a Narp perspective. Of course I know what he means but it’s badly written. OOO has withdraw to some kind of meta-term to stop talking in this muddle.

What is meant is the x that discloses itself as a cup (or breezeblock) has other possible modes of being. This is true. This whatever it is ‘x’ might be rediscovered in a cupless world and take a new name and useage. I know it seems nit-picking but isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? This is what Heidegger means in a sense and why the critique of Heidegger’s correlationism is difficult (frankly all correlationist critique is up against it still) and wrong. Dasein (Narps) names the cup, it calls it into being, it isn’t a cup without Dasein. When we examine it at a molecular/phenomenal level we must pay attention to the language game. ‘Is that cup made of plastic?’ ‘Yes’. This tells me something about the cup and its breakability. But a pure molecular analysis of it in one sense just reveals plastic, it doesn’t reveal a cup made of plastic, it just reveals plastic. Only the use and language game reveals the cup as cup. The cup is the information not the plastic, or the pottery its made of etc. Unless (and if you agree with this you’re letting the magick bit in btw) the cup lying part broken under the hedge for many years is somehow actually imprinted with some nebulous cupness (the incoherent pneuminous accretion as I would call it) then it makes no sense to call it a cup in its relation to these putative other relations that are happening to the thing. This x is not a cup to the bacteria on it, or the slugs in it, it is the cup itself that has withdrawn. This standard list of endlessly viewing the cup, smashing it up, x-raying as a kind of proof that the cup withdraws is all nonsense. The meaning of the cup is the usage cup, that somehow despite the work of the last century everyone seems to have forgotten. The thingness is being conflated with the spatio-temporal objectness.

As for profile withdrawal, it isn’t a feature of cups as such, it’s a feature of any spatio-temporal object of a grammatically dubious nature. Do I see the other side of the tree? No. What does it matter philosophically? Well it matters if you have criteria to raise an epistemological problem with the umbratic part, if not what grounds do you have to play this game. Do you believe the ontological status of the shadow part may be different to the visible front part? If you do then you are a correlationist (that’s fine, this is also one consequence of magickal thinking) if you don’t: what do mean by it’s withdrawn? You point out that you can’t see it but you’re perfectly happy that it’s exactly the same as it is when you’re not looking at it? This of course is related to the notion that objects translate one another. There is something here. There is something fascinating in pondering various unnameable objects pressing against others. This does of course presuppose the discretion of these things though. The very profile trick the OOO theorist uses to point out withdrawal does in some sense work against them. If one subscribes to recognising the shadowy parts are of an unknown ontological status compared to the visible parts then of course no one knows what’s going on in these depths. The discretion of things itself could be a way in which our perception is working and in this dark umbra maybe there is no differentiation, hence this OOO speculation is nothing but the anthropomorphisation of the objects and not the breakthrough it wants to be.

Bigger than this picture of course is where I started. OOO is manifestation (philosophy of the world). It is a picture presented to us that has a good many Narps attached to it as agents. It continues to accrete informational tentacles across the philosophical globe as it battles promethenianism and the advocates of the great twentieth century philosophical tendencies: phenomenology (I don’t consider OOO as an extension of Heidegger, it’s a misunderstanding of him) and post-structuralism. I place Wittgenstein with an unknowing foot in both these camps. I think OOO is too epistemologically unsound to be a decent theory of objects. It’s a reaction to a certain perception of extreme correlationism, which is really just good philosophical skepticism.