Monday, October 15, 2007


As previously announced, we now post a few of the thought efforts, individual positionings and discussion contributions to the ongoing discussion about religion in the surrealist group in Stockholm. They are only to a minor extent put in a logical order, and definitely not a chronological one, which would not make sense anyway since many of them have been revised.

Other subjects will remain waiting until next posting, as it seems we have been able to return to monthly updates.

Atheism as the metaphysics of experience

The purely logical distinction between absolute and relative is not present in our experiences. That is why any notions of sacred and profane must be seen as conventional constructs, whatever ones particular experiences may indicate. Neither can these concepts, relative and absolute, according to traditional metaphysics, be completely separated from each other, as christian theology have stressed for so long, namely by subjugating mans influence to a higher all-powerful god, relativizing the realness of our experience, aggrandicizing a speculation. This means that the relative is present in the absolute (for example: the relative manifests as endless variation, "endlessness" obviously being an absolute trait, not a relative) and that the absolute can be found in the relative (for example: since the relative is a part of the absolute, or the whole, the one, this part-whole relationship logically connects the absolute to the relative).

So much for logic and metaphysical distinctions. Do we need them to understand atheism? And how do they relate to the immediacy of concrete experience? We can surely see and experience the world in its endless variation, as a heraclitean flow, in its inherent relativity. The relative is today associated with individual choice, freedom, tolerance, while the absolute has become associated with the opposite traits; perfect control, discriminative authority, qualitative optimums, binding necessity.

Contemporary atheism seems to a large extent to be upheld by moral relativism and scientific rationalism. These attitudes, whether combined to form a liberal standpoint of humanist common sense or not, can be effectively aggressive in addressing religious forms in society and thought. Or can they? In its reactive moralism and in its linguistically hygienic praxis respectively these attitudes could be more ineffectual than is generally recognized by the evangelical atheists in question, both in expressing logically the profaneness of fully experienced living and in the core of any honest atheist intentions; to challenge religious thinking, not just religious forms. For example; instead of developing a discourse where God is no longer necessary, as intended, the impulse of scientific rationality in this century have left this idea somewhat outside of its scope, where the God-notion then is continually being re-interpreted as, instead of a unifying principle as in former times, a complementary entity. The idea of this positive enlightenment has taken on the rhetorical structure of a suppressed correlative, maintaining a verbal distinction between religion and science that is only partially an accurate reflection of history. In europe scientific rationalism and christian religiosity were never mutually excluding forces, but co-evolved and depended on each other for ideological support, especially during the birth and growth of an extractive economy in the 17th century, where a radical desacralization of the world was a crucible aim for both parties involved, thus they would at that time rather combat natural philosophy and magic, the institutionalization of alchemy, the egalitarian fringes of protestantism and folkish animism in general than each other. This seems to me to be the background for the suppressing outlook on on faith and beliefs as "superstitions" defining religion rather than as the simple psychological facts they are, relative in essence and phenomenologically universal, useful or not, even worthy of a science (as they are in the psychology of religion, and in the indian devotional science of bhakti). There is nothing wrong with scientific rationalism in itself, it just seems to be an insufficient basis for an active atheism, as natural science is an insufficient basis for evaluating religion. Surrealism tend to anchor exceptional states such as temporary confusion and mad love in lived reality, in the heraclitean flow of vaguenesses, dialectic play and preliminary discoveries. If an issue at all, doctrines is a secondary one. One could hardly defend the irreligiosity of surrealism by adhering to a scientistic dualism of nature and psyche. The spiritual element exists only within the individual psyche, but with the open experimentation of surrealist ingenuity, for example by elaborating the notion of sacredness in direct opposition to monotheistic modes of sacralization, towards enrichening experience rather than directing it (which is what religion does) there begins an experiment to interconnect the spiritual with the material world, and this would have little to do with a world-view of beliefs built on scientific rationalism, where matters are either subjective or objective. Neither would it suffice with the discriminative sensibilities of individual hedonism. (Is not in fact hedonistic atheism an unwittingly christian attitude, where the inherited dualism between creator and creation is maintained on several levels, particularly in merely emphasizing the separation of creator and creature?)

Since we still very much live in a christian society, the very logic of its metaphysical language continues to structure the dialectic of experience, now in the artificial paradise of a consumerist environment. God is no longer Absolute, the necessities we fetter ourselves by are. Ignorance does not save us from absolutes. If we do not notice this in daily living, it is the more visible in periods of crisis, when the stable network of habits and meanings that once sustained us become replaced with a state of affairs more in accordance with the godless theory of a purposeless, neutral, meaningless universe. God never was more than this guarantee for harmony.

So the modern claim: "There are no absolute values!" has a dual answer. No, they are constructed. Yes, they are constructed. Or: Are absolutes quasi-absolutes, were they always?

With Hegel the christian god, an unattainable absensce, incarnated as world spirit while the holy ghost became an active agent in history, which meant that the incomprehensible absolute of the pre-romantics legitimately could be found in the timely world. And it has been searched there ever since, further and further down. "Je cherche l'Or du Temps ..."

This world we live in is all there is, it may not have meaning, as reason tends to demand of it, but as man is not perfectly loyal to reason anyway, we tend to evaluate through other faculties than reason and abstraction, and according to other principles than moral opposite-pairs from another time, another language. Reality is felt as something like a transparent manifestation of sensuality. The void sometimes glimpsed beyond it could be something best not to pay attention to, or it could be a blinding layer of further sensuality, too bright for our present senses, it could be a reflective screen for unconscious desires and fears, as common sense will have it, or it could be something entirely different, or maybe all of these, who knows. It is hardly relevant to have consistent viewpoint. Our inner sense of beauty and meaning never give us certainty, but increased intensities of experience that do not convert us to new values, only deepens our knowledge about and gives concretion to values we already know about, like authenticity, goodness, right, truth. And while our sense of competative ego is taught as a required absolute in today´s society, that make social personality so much of an hindrance in attaining hitherto unknown cognitive situations, personality can reassemble itself from unforeseen directions, as unforeseen unities in the poetry of evaluating sensual rearrangements.

Metaphysics was/is the science of origins. When we were told by religion that god created the world we were merely fed with mythology taken literally, then dressed up as metaphysics. Man´s moral honesty, not science, nor sophistry, eventually did away with the concept of god in this lingustic mess, where mythology could not be discussed as mythology and metaphysics suffered badly under theology until the two now often seem inseparable. Science of today have some cosmological hypotheses that still need to be verified, but replacing a mythological origin with an attitude of common sense is not the issue here. Like the objective world, mans cognitive reality, his experience was never willfully created once and for all at some given point, it is continually being created here and now by ourselves. This reality in its endless or "endless" unfolding is the only spiritual dimension, the only eternity, the sole unimaginable ideal an atheist acknowledges.

Is there a healthy way to utilize beliefs? If so, we will have to recognize that beliefs are not meant to be realistically representing experiences and that they are not always voluntary. So although they are expressed by individuals theyt are not necessarily individual matters. There are many types of beliefs, but let´s stress the psychological aspect and just distinguish passive from active beliefs here. If we only percieve dead nature around us, "dead" as in in some fundamental and important way less living than ourselves, there are plenty of others to act out our beliefs for us if the issue seems irrelevant to us (and they will speak of natural resources rather than dead nature). Those beliefs would be passive, even unconscious. If we on the other hand would value the world as sacred, it is not hard find ways to act this belief out. Beliefs could be born out of necessity and strategical choice rather than as "being true to experiences" (obviously a limited field anyway). Beliefs are motivating, so this could make a difference.

/Niklas Nenzén

The question of god (as if it was a question)

Anyone can choose to name their demons, inner voices, characters of personal mythology, moral instances, unusual experiences, chance oracles, intersubjectivities and personfied abstracts (and the concepts in a philosophical system, for those equipped with such) whatever they want, and those insisting on the name “god” (or “elvis” etc) then only gives a proof of poor imagination. Outside a social or a sociomythological context these designations remain largely arbitrary, and private religiosity is however you look upon it little else than a personal neurosis.

I fail to understand what religion may be other than a type of social metaphysics, and a common ritual practice manifesting it, and a frame of interpretation with which it delimits a larger or smaller part of the realm of the “spiritual” in either sense. Neutrally, objectively, even more or less behavioristically, with a potential of having widely differing moral and political sense in different connections. (that is, if we are not going into the ideological question, where religion, via self-comforting interpretations of eventual serious experiences whatsoever within such a spiritual sphere, then also becomes a banalising brand-name for everything looking beyond, and as such an imprisoning of the unknown). And in all of this we are here and now only lambs in the quasireligion of spectacular late capitalism, and the positionings of individuals are mere phrasemaking.

Those who really join extreme sects in the present situation (christianity, islam, what else? new age? should we count marxism? surrealism perhaps?) hardly actually moves out of this fundamental position shared by all of us, but rather sumperimpose a new, largely purely mythological identity on top of it, as in role playing (both in the sense of old universal spontaneous role playing and the newer organised variety!) – it is simultaneously true and not true – it is purely spectacular pseudo-alternatives on the market and at the same time genuine resistance pockets – in different proportions, in different aspects, with different potentials.

The relationship to mythology, to the unknown, to each other, to matter, and to the whole of the spiritual sphere, can of course then be more or less intense, more or less creative, either repetitive or inventive, etc etc, and it can be argued that this possible intensity would be the core of religion. But why? Those things are so hopelessly mixed up with imagination, poetry, regression, love and different types of madness that it hardly allows getting talked about, at least not without deciding to be extremely careful with terminology and logic, or else without suspending the metaphysical judgment and focusing on the processes, both of which are highly untypical of the religious perspective.

Of course, epistemologically speaking, faith is nothing else than to what extent someone defends a system of prejudices instead of daring to abstain safe conviction and remaining curious about something new, and this is of course a sliding scale which doesn’t coincide with the circumscription of the religions: stupid everyday atheists are in this respect often among the most faithful, and religious mystics often among the least so (by all means, even within surrealism we see a width between thickheaded selfdefense and excited novelty-hunger).



Later the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk, then the ritual required the two young men to laugh.
After a sacrificial feast, they stripped themselves naked and put on a "loin skin" from the skins of the slain goats.
Holding strips of the hides, they ran around the walls of the old Palatine community, hitting or snapping at all of those they came close to, especially women; an action which was believed to bring fertility, even to barren women, and a safe delivery in childbirth.

what about atheism

(...) But while the question of god is entirely uninteresting, it is still an important task to summon, deduce, create or revive a particular surrealist atheism. Mechanistic-rationalist atheism, and especially the academic-leftist uninspired-didactic defense of it, is more or less entirely uncapable of arousing enthusiasm and seems to have very little to do with the ambitions of surrealism. I don’t think surrealist atheism has very much to do with reviving Sade, Hume, Holbach or de la Mettrie. A totally different lineage of thinkers would be more likely as the principal sources of inspiration here, those heretics, pantheists and romanticists whose hunger for the marvellous, for love, for blossoming mythologies and for poetry couldn’t leave them satisfied with any organised religion. (I don’t know: are the classic attempts to replace god with something richer and more real, like those of Robespierre, Feuerbach and Haeckel, actually as much poor rhetorics as contemporary humanist atheism or not?)

I don’t want to take any definitive position at this point in the discussion on the validity the alleged universal need for sacredness, but I can unequivocally state that the connection where I am most inclined myself to use a more or less religious terminology is regarding nonconformism, which seems to me the most relevant and concrete expression of sacredness amongst us. To see all these systematic campaigns for deterioration, for imprisoning and mutilating people, bodily, spiritually, socially, replacing own thinking with fettering religious, political and common sense banalities, replacing curiosity and experimentation with ethical and political dogma, to identify them AS THAT EVIL WHICH THEY INCARNATE, and therefore see that they demand an open radical denunciation; this is taking on a responsibility which can be sacred because it brings to its edge what it means to be a human, in relation both to one’s own thinking and to other people, and it can be sacred because it could possibly be that (you never know) which makes a certain situation turn, hinders one person from getting stuck, plants doubts, makes other people do something else than they used to, etc, and this lack of certainty is fundamental in dissolving the surrendering notion of a total distinction (lack of link) between individual acting and history, and therefore might be able to make individual action that which might concretely make something new possible, and not just any something new but specifically that something new which negates that evil reacted against and which more or less unexpectedly promotes those wishes that the current situation either breeds or lets through intact. This is totally independent of whether such actions are imagined as primarily individual or primarily collective, perhaps it’s easiest to imagine a simple interplay between them, but I would like to emphasise that resistance movements in many situations are privileged candidates for being carriers of that historical refusal and holy wraith, and this is also one of the reasons to romanticise the workers movement of the previous century turn, which sort of just opened its eyes and straightened its back in a maelstrom of evil where this with a few simple truths came to oppose a whole world order.

And in those many concrete connections where religion has a role of concrete evil, atheism can still be that equally concrete holy refusal. Outside these connections it seems to lack this immediate overwhelming relevance, but probably these aspects can be cultivated and it could retain that type of dignity, admirable clarity and authority based on consistence, crime register and teasing promises, which makes it a beacon, and a negation in a truly dialectical sense.


Surrealism and the holy crap

Surrealism is a revolutionary poetical movement that strives for the liberation of mankind in all its aspects. This is not a simple task, and we see that the surrealist movement often suffers from weaknesses in making this understood. As we know, this has been a constant problem throughout its history, especially as regards its relations to art and "culture".

Here, we'd like to focus on the problems of unclarity regarding the supernatural and its ideological companion, supernaturalism, and also about some related surrealist hookups which seem to be lacking an honest and critical approach.

It is (more or less!) known that surrealism is actively and explicitly against religion.

Other beliefs of dubious character also occur though, e.g. that surrealism, inspired by the psychoanalytic ideas, sees as its mission to liberate the unconscious from the repression of the superego; that surrealism accepts and likes everything that defies rational thinking, including not only dream and chance but also, for this reason, spiritism, esoterism, chaos, the "wild", "primitive" peoples, everything non-Western, sadism, perversions, crime, serial killers ... all this in opposition, of course, to the prevailing capitalist order, but also in opposition to rationalism itself.

We are sorry to say that the reasons for these miscomprehensions are not only misunderstandings from art scholars or journalists, they are often caused by texts written by surrrealists themselves. In the worst cases, these surrealists appear to be little more than art-producing new-age apologists. In better cases, they are inspired writers that somehow have a difficulty of explaining the limits and circumstances of the surrealist appreciations of dreams or of primitive peoples, for example. Maybe they are actually confused, or maybe lazy. (We're not in the business here of judging who is a surrealist or not - but regardless of the label they might put on themselves, they hold attitudes that we find important to confront and that we think surrealism doesn't benefit from. In some cases we think it's obvious they misunderstand basic concepts of surrealism, in others it might be necessary to modify or clarify the surrealist standpoint. We don't mention names because it's better for those concerned to recognize themselves instead of feeling that they need to defend themselves. If someone should be mentioned, why not Breton himself? Isn't it obvious how exaggerated his trust in Freud was, or that he had an uncritical belief in the abilities of (certain?) clairvoyants, mediums and even astrologists?)

In many surrealist texts, the uncritical repetition of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts is embarrasing (or to say the least outdated). Freud's ideas can at most be taken as an inspiring and fascinating attempt to make a theory about the mind, but not as indisputable truths or undoubtable scientific discoveries about it. It must be admitted that they consist of non-scientific specualtion and partly also of falsifying evidence. Freud's writings have in many ways also been contradicted by later research and discoveries. This might therefore not have been possible to know at the time and the surrealists were also apparently lacking in knowledge about scientific methods and the necessary rigour demanded of scientific investigation. The psychoanalytic "case studies" are of no more scientific value than the many observations of UFO landings and their accompanying "conclusions". The tendency to regard the Freudian concepts as holy and unquestionable, whatever they are, does no good to surrealism.

Alchemy and other occult, esoteric or mystic currents, dead or alive, are other subjects that need to be approached more critically. If they historically could be described as "precursors" to science as well as to surrealism (even though many of them still prevail or have been reintroduced), it must also be clarified in what way they have been doomed to be abandoned: their supernaturalistic (often religious) world-view made (and makes) it impossible for them to significantly advance human knowledge and understanding of the world. (The development of science and critical thinking does this, though.) What remains, at best, is a poetical practice misunderstanding itself as anything else. Their beauty and fascination, then, is also tragic.

To hail alchemy as a watchword, like so many surrealists do, is obscurantistic. Alchemy had certain interesting elements, while others are examples of superstitions and the primitiveness of thinking that we should fight today as ever.

The double tool of surrealism: dialectics (or, why not say "critical thinking?") and analogy can only be useful if they are kept apart but also taken to the extreme. Superstition and supernaturalism are failure to do so.

Esoterics and psychoanalysis have been getting an exagerrated attention from some surrealists also just because they to a large extent are symbol-makers. The mere listing of these conventional symbols in accounts of dreams or "objective chance" experiences are not of specificly surrrealist value. Symbols have no truth value and surrealism is not a symbolism. Symbols, just as anything else, can of course be of poetical value if they appear in a personal mythology relating to actualities in the individual desires. But symbols, looked up in a book in order to write a more juicy text to impress the reader, are just anthropological anecdotes, and to base observations on those is a false drama. There is a literature based on the concept of objective chance, that sometimes seem shallow and fake in the sense that they don't really tell about the poetical value for the individual, they list a number of encounters such as every person has now and then. Chance encounters are valuable to people not because they reveal telepathy or other psychic powers, fate or signs of a higher truth (they don't!), but simply because they consist of coincidences that involve elements who talk to the memories or desires of the persons involved or create a certain kind of beauty or adventure. It's no mysticism. It's a heightening of the sensibility in everyday life.

Among the exaggerated hailings are the ones of "primitive peoples" or anything not belonging to the western civilization. This seems sometimes to have a tendency of a blind embrace, disregarding everything that wouldn't fit into the picture. According to this attitude, primitive peoples have a closer non-exploitative relation to nature, they have a poetic relation to the universe, their art is integrated in all of their lives etc; but it's never mentioned that they might have superstitions, they never have a limited understanding of the world, they don't repress women or children and are never violent. A criticism of western civilization doesn't need this one-sidedness. Maybe it is a misdirected solidarity that comes from the fact that primitive and non-western peoples certainly are repressed groups. That surrealism is against workers' chauvinism is clear and obvious since the 30's confrontations with stalinist "workers' culture", but it's time to abolish also "primitive" or "non-western" chauvinism. Neither they, nor us, benefit from it.

We're not new agers or exotists. We have to be more clear about our relation to magical thinking as a world view. As with alchemy, we have to distinguish things. Magical thinking, stripped of its supernaturalism, is no longer magical thinking. It is poetic sensibility.

Magical thinking has to be replaced by personal mythology and poetical thinking. Magical thinking creates superstitions, conserves lack of understanding and blunts critical thought. It enforces gullibility and authoritarianism. Next step is religion and capitalism. Magical thinking did not die with the development of civilization, it's at the base of capitalist ideology and teams up with its "rationalism". (Isn't it enough to look at commodity fetishism and advertisement?)

Some surrealist writing shows a more or less plain opposition to science in general and might scorn its strict rational methods. This is absurd. What is the point of attacking the scientific method? Surrealism has never been an irrationalism, absurdism, anti-intellectualism or denying rationality. (If it ever had tendencies to it, they should be abandoned!)

Science and the scientific method are among the greatest achievements of the human mind, and are enormously valuable to the understanding of the world and, at least potentially, a great vehicle against human misery; material, social, intellectual as well as spiritual. This doesn't mean that science would be the only source of knowledge or of inspiration, but it can certainly be one of the sources, alongside other expressions of the spirit that are more likely to be mentioned by surrealists; love, desire, creativity, play and curiosity: activities outside of, but not necessarily in opposition to, science.

The scientific method is nothing more than an extension of critical thinking. That scientists are often bought and sold and used for commercial and repressive purposes - much in the same way as artists - is an altogether different affair. Science might be done mainly by experts, but is in its philosophical base egalitarian. (Science should be made by all!) Science's theories about the world can in principle be tested by anyone, provided he or she does it in controlled circumstances and with relevant methods. Anyone that have claims about some part of reality will fail to convince scientifically if the claim can not be confirmed through repeated experiment or (in relevant cases) randomized, double-blind observation. Scientific rigour, thus, is above personal interest and a moral question.

The scientific world is not lacking in self-consciousness about its scope and limitations. We want to draw special attention to the international movement of so-called Skeptics in this matter. Robert T. Carroll, author of the Skeptic's Dictionary ( calls skepticism a "virtue" rather than a philosophical system. The different groups and individuals related to this movement fight frauds and pseudoscience and debunk supernatural claims, in an ongoing fight to protect the mind from charlatans, spiritists, healers, fakirs, astrologers, psychics and other liars, robbers and swines, and defend the status of the scientific method. Many sceptics also fight religious superstitions and their preachers' absurd claims about reality.

There must be no doubt that surrealism whole-heartedly supports these struggles, although with (at least theoretically) a wider and complementary understanding. This is not only a fight for the defence of science. Those "healers" (protected by the freedom of religion, i.e. the freedom to fool and be fooled), can destroy people's lives giving them false hopes, false treatments, false beliefs, false understanding of reality and obediance to false authorities besides giving them stupidifying entertainment and wasting their time. In this way it's also a fight for the defense of the freedom, power and understanding of the human spirit.

Surrealism should be in a special position to properly embrace the whole scope of the reasons to fight supernaturalism: the scientific, political, ideological, moral and poetical reasons. We don't need any mystical, esoteric or psychoanalytical concepts to explain that the human mind by itself (interacting, of course, with the "outer world") is capable of its deductions, productions and inspirations, that the poetic sensibility is not divine or supernatural, but purely human.

Surrealism should be able to appreciate the discoveries and the achievements of the rational and intellectual minds, at the same time demand the same liberty for the imagination and see them as one and the same quest. Surrealism should see the repressions of free inquiry (scientific investigation, research and knowledge), of the freedom of expression and the freedom of imagination as one and the same. The liberation from capitalist and state repression, commercialism, work ethic and careerism is the same as the liberation from priests, superstitions, healers and psychics.

If surrealism will have any significance today, it is still in the struggle for the liberation and expansion of the totality of the human potentials; fighting all the repressions of the mind: from stifling symbolism and stupidifying supernaturalism to repressive ideology and downright ignorance; for the expansion of rational thinking as well as of inspired thinking.


Surrealism and the holy 'nuff

While the text Surrealism and the Holy Crap addresses important issues concerning an uncritical appraisal of esoteric, mystic and symbolistic traditions, it tends to display that same amount of one-sidedness that it intends to critize. Rationalism and science are not in themselves something good, something that advances our struggles. Another problem is that what is needed is not to launch another battle in the field of ideas. Rationalism versus supernaturalism, skepticism versus hoaxism, etc. What is needed is an investigation into the material conditions that give rises to such ideas, their geneaology and relation to existing power structures. Our critique should not be aimed at the ideas as such, but their material base, the suppressing environment that surrounds them, the specific practices which sustain them. How interesting is it to be against an idea? Who cares about ideas anyway? Doesn't the very idea of being able to fight an idea necessarily involve a commitment to a bürgerlicher Öffentlichkeit, to a tradition no more than 200 years old and seriously integrated with capitalist ideology?

Let’s discuss the specifics.

Two quotes from the text:

"Science and the scientific method are among the greatest achievements of the human mind."

"That scientists are often bought and sold and used for commercial and repressive purposes - much in the same way as artists - is an altogether different affair."

The scientific method is a great achievements when it comes to understanding the mechanisms of nature, yes, but while some might argue that it is a great achievement of the human mind (what does that mean?), it's main achievement is as a tool for developing the productive forces of capitalism. And these productive forces are not neutral; the capitalist mode of production has an internal drive to maximize the productive forces in order to subdue more of mankind under the toil of labour. There is no such thing as a neutral discovery, a neutral science, a neutral machine: the capitalist relations of production imbues science with its specific logic. Thus, while science definitively has increased material wealth in society, it has at the same time been instrumental in intensifying labour, repression and global domination of capital. Let me stress this one more time: there is no such thing as a 'pure science', there are specific practices, by specific institutions in specific historical circumstances. Science is one such practices, and while it's method might be very sound, it's employment is not. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with this or that scientist being bought up and used for commercial and repressive purposes. On the contrary, science itself is an internal affair under capitalism, and the individual scientist is completely irrelevant in the broad picture. What is needed is not a naive and uncritical praise of science, but a vision, outline and practice of what the science of the future, i.e. communist science, might look like: how is its method employed, how will it be related to other practices of knowledge, what is its epistemology and most important, what will its relation to rest of society look like?

The same naiveness shows itself in the one-sided praise of rationalism. I'm not sure what rationalism is exactly - perhaps a specific mode of thought related to logical investigations of causality, perhaps a practice in society related to the construction of a public sphere where debates and critical analysis could be conducted, perhaps a philosophical tradition which places emphasis on the ability of the human mind to grasp the totality of nature without empirical investigation - but I'm quite convinced that rational thinking is not bestowed upon us by the grace of our own mind to critical analyse our surroundings and concoct how society best should be constructed. Rational thinking is - just like science - employed through the practices of the capitalist machinery as a means to repress, subjugate and intensifiy the exploitation of mankind. This is of course the dialectic of enlightment, the darkness that springs forth from the back-alleys of rational thinking, where fordist production, colonial enslavement, concentration camps, IBM, the modern HSB-kitchen and such all are based on the same mode of thought.

In the text, one gets the sense that there is a confusion about causality. How can one state that fighting priests is the same as fighting capitalism? While the priest serves ideological purposes, capitalism is not an ideology. Committing oneself to ideological battles is a dead end. If one could gladly choose ones enemies from the realm of ideas, I for one would pick a more interesting and worthwhile opponent than supernaturalism. And if teaming up with other ideological fighters was important, The Skeptics homepage would not be my first alliance (aren’t they just scientific Sverker Olofssons?). When it comes to ideology, the first and foremost task of surrealism is to not become ideological.

Let us not forget who is the real enemy. While local schamans and charlatans might hoax people into bying their useless medicine and miracle potions, it is the major medical companies who on a daily basis exclude a major portion of mankind from vital medical supplies. It it is the major medical companies who put a large portion of the citizens under the spell of pharmaceutics which deterriorates our senses and holds us in a state of chemical conformism. It is the major medical companies who are the chemical landlords of modern capitalism and dominating agents in the sphere of biopolitics. Oh, and it's the major medical companies who use science and the scientific method as their chief productive force.

Therefore: while rational thinking and the scientific method are important practices in the formation of a surrealist mode of thought, they should not be uncritically appraised outside of their historical context. What we seek is the surrational (what the hell is that?), the transgression of the boundaries between rationality and irrationality, and the deployment of specific techniques of attaining knowledge of our surroundings that are neither exclusive nor instrumentalizable. What we don’t need is boring, common sensical, debating this-or-that, one-sided rationality. We are not Noam Chomsky.


Yes it's not about ideas

Jonas’s reply to the “holy crap” was heartwarming. I do not feel that I necessarily share the hardboiled materialism he defends, but the major point, that it is not ideas which are the enemy, felt immensely fresh, and it can be defended without any commitments to metaphysical articles of faith. Mistaking ideas for enemies, and in general opionions as at all very relevant on the interpersonal level, provides the basis for much misery; the categorisation of people based on rhetorical choices of opinions does not only grotesquely overvalue pure personality market strategies, but also stands in the way for a large part of the spectrum of human interaction and regularly leads even to socially meaningless violence (if there is such a thing, perhaps I mean socially misdirected violence?)

On one hand, it is present in the unbearably liberal-panting Öffentlichkeit concept (as Jonas points out), where we are all good citizens if we don’t touch each other physically but only verbally abuse each other, since that somehow is supposed to be the ideas rather than the human beings standing against each other, testing their robustness and supposedly thereby truth value by way of their rhetorical power, which also is the rationale behind these unbearable popular education campaigns from above, including these moral campaigns where journalists, politicians and intellectuals borrow the whole verbal arsenal of political activism, the aggressive-pragmatic and simplifying-militaristic rhetorics, applying it outside the political sphere making it conceal rather than crudely reveal the social contradictions, in this supposedly wellmannered and highly civilised sphere of public polemics, while reifying all these bad ideas in a systematically mystifying way-

And on the other hand, it is also present in counterpart within the little private sphere to this public power exertion; in the secondary-school-like, pub-brawl-like, tv-debate-like mode of discussing through raising arguments against each other; as if it was logical stringency that determined peoples concepts and as if people were happy to retreat facing better arguments, as if it was meaningful or fun to “battle” with opinions, as if it was important to object when not agreeing to something said and refrain from objecting when agreeing, as if a person had more affinity with and more personal interest in those who have chosen more similar statements to defend than others-

Against this bizarre faith in ideas, I want to emphasize three points repeatedly made by different members in the group:
1) that ideas are figures of thought, simply more or less fruitful in how they are able to create more or less advantageous atmospheres and continuing thoughts and fantasies (NN),
2) that dialogue is primarily about finding unique ways of communicating rather than about the explicit statements made (CA)
3) that ideas can be dynamical (not the least in the shape of objections, questionings, wondering about obvious things or things taken for granted) to the extent that they open up for unusual ways of thinking, unusual courses of events, dynamical obstructions, fruitful collapses, unusual experiences and curiosity-breeding bad faith (SS).

From these three perspectives, which largely coincides with what Jonas says but with a micro perspective to complete his very macro, it does not matter whether the ideas are correct or not, it simply does not have the ultimate importance for the choice between them or the confrontation between them, it does not have the ultimate importance for their social, historical, poetical function.

The battle over ideas feels very much like a highstrung 18th century-liberal doll house world. I believe what we are doing rather concerns the battle over sensibility, the battle over everyday life, and the battle over history. Or perhaps something else?