HYPERMODERNITY (1): Poetising – Literalising (Michael Kamins’ Preface)

HYPERMODERNITY AND THE END OF THE WORLD by John David Ebert and Brian Culkin, with a preface by Michael Aaron Kamins.

In his Preface Michael Kamins has some very interesting things to say about alchemy as the language most appropriate to the unconscious of the hypermodern technological era. This insight has been shared by other thinkers, such as Deleuze and Guattari, in their adoption of a poetic language centred on intensities, energies, operations, becomings, unformed matters, transformations, etc. Baudrillard too, Lacan, Lyotard, Laruelle and Virilio use fragments of alchemical language and imagery – unawares, it would seem.

The modern conscious reappropriation of alchemy owes much to Carl Jung’s massive amount of work on the subject, deciphering its language, symbols, and texts as referring to the processes of the unconscious. He realised that alchemy provided the best language to describe his own process of psychotic breakdown and creative renewal, and that of many others.

One of Jung’s more creative disciples, James Hillman, has made alchemical language and imagery even more comprehensible and available for the contemporary epoch (cf. his book ALCHEMICAL PSYCHOLOGY).

Jung was very clear that alchemy is not just in the texts but is ongoing in our individual and collective psyches, and that dream imagery and artistic productions (painting, literature, we can add cinema) are the privileged workshop and observatory of the psychic production.

However, even though Deleuze and Guattari’s language and vision of the world are through and through alchemical, their appropriation of alchemical operations is selective and unavowed, and so unassumed.

Michael Kamins is influenced by Deleuze and Guattari, but he has also read Jung and Hillman, and so is equipped to draw explicitly on the full range of alchemical language and of its psychic meaning.

Kamins’ imagistic diagnosis of the digital age reveals alchemy as the dream behind the technology. He describes the internet as a literalisation of the alchemical caelum, a state after the sublimation of the philosophers’ stone. In this state, one is aware of the noetic dream in the phenomena one encounters.

For Kamins, hypermodernity involves the « collapse of the Imaginary into the Real », and thus the literalisation of ancient, more poetic themes. « Gnosis » becomes smartification, Gnostic « scintillae » become sparks and pixels, « astral traveling » becomes surfing on the internet, the alchemical « caelum » becomes the digital « cloud ».

The Imaginary collapsed into the real means that it is no longer only a means of escape, but a principle of « semiotic excess ». In the space of a couple of decades we have moved from cyber to hyper, from the dualism of virtual and real space, to inclusive hyperspace.

This inclusive hyperspace is not a recurrence of the hybrid space and objects of the pre-modern era. According to Michael Kamins hypermodern space is not so much « hybrid » as integral, and in this integral space objects are « deworlded ». The hypermodern object is

modulable monetizable denuded of mass via digitalization so it can flow smothly with lightspeed circulatings

This new epoch is a highly ambiguous phenomenon. Michael Kamins indicates that « the Imaginary collapsed into the Real » can describe either « the radical actualization of the Imagination » or the Imagination’s literalisation and imprisonment in the neuro-digital markets of capitalism’s cynical immanentising and appropriation of the virtual eschaton, of all the eschatons.

This ambiguity sums up the alchemical paradox of Hypermodernity: both medecine and poison, the hypermodern is a pharmakon. The hypermodern results from the dissolution and evaporation of the modern, and it is the work of a vast movement of poets, thinkers, dreamers, and visionaries to ensure that this nihilism of « evaporation » becomes a new form of sublimation.

The eschaton has been immanentised, it remains to re-poetise it.

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