bey articles

hakim bey: articles on hakim bey from ceasefire magazine (2017-19 – andy robinson) 121 pgs via kindle version from anarchist library.. []

intro’d while reading anarchy after leftism

Peter Lamborn Wilson (October 20, 1945 – May 22, 2022) was an American anarchist author and poet, primarily known for his concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, short-lived spaces which elude formal structures of control. During the 1970s, Wilson lived in the Middle East, where he explored mysticism and translated Persian texts. Starting from the 1980s he wrote (under the pen name of Hakim Bey) numerous political writings, illustrating his theory of “ontological anarchy”. His style of anarchism has drawn criticism for its emphasis on individualism and mysticism, as did some of his writings where he defended pederasty.

Andy McLaverty-Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. He is the co-author (with Athina Karatzogianni) of Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (Routledge, 2009). He has recently published a series of books on Homi Bhabha. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.




1 – intro


Discussing mystical poetry in Scandal, Bey/Wilson argues that insight starts with a moment of pure intuition of the unity of being. This happens at the level of the heart or spirit. It quickly begins to form into archetypal images, which the poet then arranges into organised form.

need to get back to original/ongoing itch-in-the-soul.. let go of org forms


The poet seeks to draw the listener towards the altered state of consciousness the poet wishes to invoke. ..He offers readers a playful, poetic style of politics in which nothing is fixed in place and everything is open to re-use. Indeed, he seems to offer his work to readers in this way – as a collection of items from which readers can borrow or steal at will. His writing style sometimes imitates William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique. Hence, something goes missing when I summarise his ideas in prosaic form – unlike some theorists, there is no substitute for reading the original.

As readers will have noticed, my own preferred writing style is direct and literal. I sometimes criticise academic writers for unnecessarily complex, poetic presentation which interferes with communication. In Bey’s case, however, his style complements the substance of his work. In Scandal, writing as Wilson, he suggests that representational language is too easy, and says too little of importance. It activates one area of consciousness to the exclusion of others – intellect rather than intuition. Only poetry and story can speak to consciousness as a whole. Art is the language of rebirth or transformation. It is associated with open-mindedness. On the other hand, prose writing is associated with closed systems of thought. Once an idea or image acquires representational or prose forms, it tends to fixate on categories. It creates polemics, dualisms and definitions. It stops expanding percpetions. Dogmatic systems are composed of ideas, not images. If Bey/Wilson is right, then the difficulty with some poststructuralists is not their use of poetic style as such. It’s the fact that the style is image-light, and seeks to frustrate readers rather than open their minds.


For instance, Leonard Williams sees Bey’s work as exemplary of a shift in anarchism from a focus on the state to a political culture of alternative living and aesthetic practice. This practice claims to be a triumph of life over dogma. He suggests that Bey’s theory avoids political and educational purpose. Instead it draws on artistic expressivism, emphasising themes of art, imagination, immediacy and experience. Bey’s approach to all belief-systems, including anarchism, is to seek to channel their vital energy – their ‘life-forces, daring, intransigence, anger, heedlessness‘ – while discarding their spooks, or fixed categories. This leads to an approach in which he loots or appropriates from different theories and traditions, without endorsing their foundational assumptions. Bey terms this ‘cultural bricolage‘, or as ‘thieving‘, or ‘hunting and gathering’, in an informational world. He takes, for instance, passion from revolutionary socialism, grace and ease from monarchism, self-overcoming or higher awareness from mysticism.


A non-standard type of self or subject is at the heart of this process. In order to perform acts of bricolage, there must be some kind of selecting self. But this is not necessarily an ego associated with a spook. The self is the Stirnerian Unique One, irreducible to categories. In Bey’s work, the Unique One is associated with the higher Self of mystical and spiritual traditions. Yet Bey also suggests that the Unique One paradoxically requires the Other, as a witness or key to holism. In his approach, the ideal is that the process of bricolage is driven by desire. Bey’s work is deliberately inspirational. He seeks to cause hearers or readers to reach for happiness, to purge barriers to freedom, and to open themselves to difference.


notes to readers: Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson is a controversial figure due to his apparent support for child sexual abuse. While there is some disagreement over what exactly he believes, it is clear that at the very least, he has provided apologia for child sexual abuse. I believe he takes this position seriously, and is not just engaged in playful provocation as some supporters claim. In my view, his position is inconsistent with his wider positions on sexual consent and abuse, and on children’s liberation. I believe Wilson/Bey is wrong on this question. However, most of the theorists covered in this column take at least one position which is oppressive or problematic (Aristotle supported slavery, Bakunin was anti-Semitic, Aquinas was homophobic, Althusser killed his wife…). If I required purity on all issues of oppression from all the theorists I write on, and effectively ‘no-platformed’ any theorist who might be complicit in one or more oppressions, I would have to exclude the overwhelming majority of historical thinkers. I have therefore generally refrained from omitting thinkers from the series based on single oppressive position, if I feel their theory is otherwise useful. I also believe that the inner structure of a theorist’s thought – the “problematic” or “theoretical machine” which drives the generation of ideas – is separable from the historical personage who formulates the thought. I believe the rest of Bey’s theory can be used, without entailing endorsement of sexual abuse. Bey’s position, and the problems with it, will be examined in detail in part 15, where I also explain in more detail my disagreements with some of Bey’s critics and defenders, and my rejection of a ‘no-platform’ position towards his work.


2 – chaos never died

Chaos, Bey tells us, is ‘continuous creation’. He also repeatedly states that ‘Chaos never died‘. Chaos has survived the supposed foundation of order. It is a basic ontological reality we should embrace and celebrate.

instigating utopia everyday

Chaos is something prior to thought and social construction. Bey conceives Chaos as a creative potential underlying all reality. It means that living things can generate their own spontaneous orders..t It also undercuts the legitimacy of all hegemonic and hierarchical systems. Bey suggests that something comes into thought which consciousness attempts to structure. The structure appears to be the foundational level, but it isn’t. This analysis rules out representation, but not thought as such. Indeed, thought and images are both important. Letters or hieroglyphs are both thoughts and images. Bey celebrates a type of in-betweenness which deals with both thought and images.

carhart-harris entropy law.. graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. et al

Chaos is primary over order. In fact, order is an illusion. We are always in chaos, but sometimes we fall for the lie that order exists. This lie leads to alienation..t The world is real, but consciousness is also real since it has real effects. In one passage, Bey suggests that the self cannot produce things, nor be produced. Everything simply is what it is, spontaneously. In ‘The Information War’, Bey argues that information is chaos, knowledge is spontaneous ordering from chaos, and freedom is surfing the wave of that spontaneity. He counterposes this view to the gnostic dualism of those who use information (or spirit) to deny the body. Instead he seeks a ‘great complex confusion’ of body and spirit.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


The zone of altered consciousness is also the zone of hybridity, the zone where the boundaries provided by interpretive categories break down.. Psychological liberation consists in actualising, or bringing into being, spaces where freedom actually exists. This is not something unimaginably other. Bey suggests that many of us have attended parties which have become a brief ‘republic of gratified desires’. The qualitative force of even such a brief moment is sometimes greater than the power of the state. It provides meaning, and attracts desire and intensity. Similar claims are made elsewhere in post-left anarchy. For instance, Feral Faun suggests that we all knew this kind of intensity in childhood..t

not yet scrambled ness

The only viable government is that of attraction or love among chaotic forces. Only desire creates values. Values arise from the turbulent, chaotic process of forming relations. Such values are based on abundance, not scarcity, and are the opposite of the dominant morality. Bey describes ‘peak experiences‘ as value-formative on an individual level. They transform everyday life and allow values to be changed or ‘revalued’. Creative powers arise from desire and imagination, and allow people to create values. Catastrophe has negative connotations today, but it originally meant a sudden change, and such a change is sometimes desirable.


(In a sense, if everything is chaos, oneness, or becoming, then nothing of a categorisable type is real in any case). What matters is the role of these figures, and belief in them, in producing altered consciousness and intensity.

marsh label law et al


For Bey, techniques and technologies are associated with ‘action at a distance’. Technology is a kind of magic. 


Bey suggests that the basic principle after the system is destroyed would be freedom from coercion of individuals or groups by others.. The ‘revolutionary desire‘ of freely acting people would then arrive at the appropriate level of technology.. t

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening.. ie: tech as it could be

mufleh humanity law et al


Later, however, in Riverpeople, Bey/Wilson has come round to the view that people were ‘meant to live’ like indigenous hunter-gatherers or gardeners. This is the high stage of human development – not today’s ‘Civilisation’. Hunter-gatherers may know hunger, but not scarcity. He calls for a return to gathering, hunting, or swidden (slash-and-burn) cultivation, and the renunciation of literacy.

jensen civilization law.. garden-enough ness

In Shower of Stars, Bey argues that hunter-gatherers have a way of thought based on the generosity of the material bodily principle, similar to peasant carnivals. He also argues that wilderness can be recovered. Even if it has disappeared today, it can be restored or summoned back. We need to forget (but not forgive) the system, and become radically other to it, remembering our ‘prophetic selves’ and bodies.

imagine if we


3 – bey: chaos, altered consciousness, and peak experiences

A TAZ is a case of life ‘spending itself in living‘, rather than simply surviving. It can entail risking the abyss. This position involves a particular kind of affective politics. Bey clearly sees boredom or lack of meaning as the major problem in contemporary life.

Awareness of chaos is intensified by altered states of consciousness and intense experiences, including those arising from psychedelic drugs, shamanism, meditation, and aestheticised living. Such practices are ways of sucking everything present into the Other World, the spiritual or chaotic world. They are attempts to reconnect with ‘original intimacy‘, prior to cognition..t Without such ‘higher states of consciousness‘, anarchism dries up in resentment and misery. Hence the need for an anarchism both mystical and practical. Bey lists a wide range of possible sources of such intense, unmediated perception, including inspiration, danger, architecture, drink and sexuality. 

getting back to not yet scrambled ness.. to carhart-harris entropy law et al.. proprioception


This idleness, ‘natural to childhood, must be strenuously defended’. Bey effectively calls for us to avoid being broken-in by capitalism, to remain in or return to a childhood orientation to play and immediacy. 

1 yr to be 5 ness..

Bey suggests that language does not have to be representational. The structure of language may turn out to be chaotic, or complex and dynamic. Grammar might be a strange attractor, rather than a structuring law. Language is a bridge (of translation or metaphor) and not a structure of resemblance. Language should be ‘angelic‘ – similar to the figure of the angel as messenger or intermediary. It should carry magic between self and other. Instead it is infected with a virus of sameness and alienation. This virus is the source of the master-signifier in language..t

language as control/enclosure

need: let go enough for idiosyncratic jargon ness..

In many ways, Bey’s work can be understood as a theory of alienation. Alienation (whether social, psychological or ecological) separates us from awareness of, and life in, ontological chaos. For instance, belief in order leads to normativities of good and evil, body-shame, and so on. The family is criticised for encouraging miserliness with love. Christianity, even in its liberationist variants, is condemned. The point is to seize back presence from the absence created by abstraction. Life belongs neither to past nor future, but to the present. Idealised pasts and futures are rejected as barriers to presence. Time can become authentic and chaotic by being released from planned grids..t

let’s do this first


Everything becomes equally meaningless. Negative consciousness is a predictable effect of the present system. But for Bey it is a kind of ‘spook-sickness’ caused by alienation. It serves the status quo, because it keeps people afraid, and reliant on leaders for salvation. This makes attacks on leaders seem stupid..t It creates a binary between pointless action and sensible passivity. This argument is similar to my own work on theories of constitutive lack.


Bey, following Bob Black, favours the abolition of work. . Bey thinks that relations among autonomous beings might find ways of working themselves out. 

abolition of work.. undisturbed ecosystem ness


4 – bey: alienation and state

Bey’s work is thoroughly anti-capitalist. Critics sometimes miss this fact because of Bey’s unusual terminology. He rarely talks about ‘capitalism’. Nevertheless, his theory is clearly directed at a more-or-less unitary adversary, identifiable as capitalism or modern society. Bey seeks to challenge the whole system, rather than be distracted by any particular issue. He does not see power as localised, diffuse, or irrelevant. In this column and elsewhere, I’ve generally paraphrased Bey using the words ‘system’ and ‘Spectacle’. In fact, Bey tends not to talk about the system in such general terms. He assumes it in the background of his theory. When he names it at all, he uses terms like ‘consensus reality’, ‘scarcity’, and ‘images’. Sometimes, Bey uses the Hegelian term ‘Totality‘ to refer to what he considers the false consensus expressed on behalf of society. He also sometimes uses the term Spectacle, derived from Situationism. Other times, Bey refers to the Planetary Work Machine (from P.M.’s Bolo’Bolo), or to Empire (from Hardt and Negri. While these terms don’t necessarily connote a dominant system for some readers, they are used in a way which clearly refers to a systemic structure. In a related discussion, Sellars suggests that Bey’s view of the system is basically Debord’s.

michael hardt antonio negri et al

Bey’s theory of capitalism draws heavily on the Situationist idea of the Spectacle. This approach sees capitalism as a type of life mediated by images. Bey similarly sees the system as a regime in which images dominate life. If someone is within ‘consensus thought’, they accept the dominant beliefs of the current system. For example, they only recognise the existence of things that are represented, not those that are present. Representing something (within the Spectacle) makes it ‘semiotically richer but existentially impoverished’. This process gives something a more symbolic meaning, but a less emotional or lived meaning. A represented thing becomes a potential commodity. This, in turn, destroys the existential meaning of objects, especially those which produce altered consciousness. Take an example such as dance music. As part of a rave, it is hard to represent. At the same time, it generates intense energy, such as ecstatic experiences and collective bonding. Now suppose the same music is recorded, sold, and classified. It gains symbolic meaning. It becomes easier to name, categorise and compare with other things. But it loses some of its emotional meaning. It is no longer part of the context of intense practice.

representation as red flag et al


Capitalism is emptiness – what Bey in a poem terms a ‘lukewarm necromantic vacuum of dephlogisticated corpse breath’. It is figured archetypally as death, rather than life or joy. For instance, the dead were the first to get privatised space and to invest in futures.


The structure of social life, which really makes everyone miserable, goes unnoticed.. People can be subordinated and captured through their own appearance – for example, through self-branding.

wilde not-us law et al

Recuperation through representation is identified by Bey as the main problem facing dissent. The system captures and redirects everything simply by representing it, and changing its context.. The global crisis does not in fact result from scarcity, but from the ideology of scarcity. The world doesn’t run out of resources. Rather, it runs out of imagination, or creative energy..t Today there is too little, too thinly spread.

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

However, illusions can kill. Only desire creates values. Civilisation is based on the denial of desire. In other words, it is a kind of upside-down value which values its own denial. Knowledge has also been alienated today. It is replaced by a simulation – the same ‘data’, but in a dead form. It is alienating because it fails to interact with the body, or with imagination. The illusions created by finance capital have become consensus reality, but remain illusions. Bey seeks to recover the call of a submerged reality accessible only rarely – the reality of intensity.

The persistence of this system offers a kind of de-intensified, meaningless experience. We’re at the end of history, götterdämmerung, and yet it’s also ‘goddam dull’. In one poem in Black Fez Manifesto, he suggests that we hide in ‘squatted character armor’ which is not our own, like hermit crabs. In another poem (this time in Ec(o)logues), Wilson discusses his native New Jersey. Modern agriculture is associated with death. It is opposed by ‘secret ludic economies’ connected with meadows, woods and wild spaces. Today, the system tries to force people into mediation. Today, unmediated pleasures are nearly always illegal. Even simple enjoyments like outdoor barbecues often violate bylaws. Pleasure becomes too stressful and people retreat into the world of television.

wilde not-us law by law


It (media) sells an illusion that each of us has expressed her/himself by buying a lifestyle or appearing within representation. The system still had ‘glitches’ in the 1960s because the media failed to convince. War appeared as Hell, not glorious; the counterculture appeared exciting, not evil. This led to cognitive dissonance, or a gap between experience and representation. When the system is able to produce experiences in line with its discourses, it eliminates virtually all cognitive dissonance. The 1960s movement saw and exploited the glitch, but fell into the trap of seeking to seize the media, and thus becoming images and commodities themselves. In any case, these tactics are no longer viable. However, in ‘Utopian Blues‘, Bey argues that the ‘con’ of alienated civilisation is wearing thin to the point of transparency. Capitalism is threatened by a ‘mass arousal from the media-trance of inattention’.

this book as bey via mediation/translation/interp/rep.. et al.. oi


This elite then focused on war instead of food production.. t

Bey suggests that any map (or language) will fit any territory (or experience), given enough violence. Capitalism seeks to fit the whole world into a single conceptual language..t This contrasts with the hermeticist and indigenous views of multiplicity, in which many worldviews contain part of the truth of a world based on difference. The hegemony of a single image of the world obstructs the circulation of images and undermines the expression of difference. Instead, the same discourse is endlessly recycled or reproduced.

language as control/enclosure et al.. need to let go and try ie: idiosyncratic jargon ness

Anything which provides unmediated experience is a threat to the Spectacle..t and at risk of being banned.


Bey argues that dissident media is impossible without censorship. American-style free speech absorbs or co-opts dissent as images, thus rendering it ineffectual. Today, reform is impossible, because partial victories are always absorbed as commodity relations. For example, Bey suggests that legalisation would absorb drugs as a ‘new means of control’. It could be used, for instance, to control drug research more effectively, as the underground would disappear. The 10% of the world economy which is ‘grey’ or quasi-criminal is a new frontier for capital to recuperate. This article shows clearly Bey’s emphasis on recuperation as a greater danger than repression

part\ial ness is killing us.. for (blank)’s sake

There is also a clever control strategy in which the system threatens something very extreme, and when it falls short, people are relieved and find it tolerable..t The surveillance state creates a danger of ‘information totality’ in which the map finally covers the whole territory. Such a regime would amount to unchallenged terror and the triumph of order and death. Our hopes in such a system are computer glitches and venal human controllers.

hari rat park law.. hari present in society law.. et al


Bey suggests that anarchism is actually a mutation of monarchy, in which each person becomes sovereign in a creative sphere.


5 – bey: capitalism. the state & the spectacle

Bey also analyses capital as a machine for the production of scarcity and the destruction of intensity. Capitalism seeks, not to satisfy desire, but to exacerbate longing through utopian traces. This idea – which Bey attributes to Benjamin – plays on the idea that commodities are advertised in terms of future promises. The commodity will provide enjoyment or validity or reality, or validate one’s experiences. Capital needs the promise of such future benefits to sell products. Yet it also needs to avoid actually delivering on these promises. If it delivered, then there would be no need to buy further products.

Hence, capitalism constantly reproduces scarcity to stimulate demand. This renders art threatening to capitalism. Art, or creativity, is based on the gesture of reciprocity, or presence. Everyone is an artist, in the sense of co-creation through lived experience, play, and meaning. But capitalism intervenes to mediate between people..t It interrupts reciprocity and introduces scarcity and separation. Capitalism is vampiric. It relies on consuming others’ creativity. It liberates itself by enslaving desire. Much of what the system offers has no real use – it is ‘snake oil‘ – but it works because it has a placebo effect.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


Today, capital seeks to detach images from experienced life entirely. In tourism, even the real world is experienced as an image. Tourists are seduced by the utopian trace of difference, but bear the virus of sameness into living spaces. Bey likens this process to the indigenous idea of soul loss.


Bey’s reaction to 9/11 in ‘Crisis of Meaning‘ is based on the idea that meaning is already in crisis. This is not changed by ‘5000 murders’. Yet others thought something had changed. For instance, articles after 9/11 were arguing that advertising now seemed shameful. Wasn’t it already shameful, since death and tragedy happen every day?

Bey argues against the view that any trauma or tragedy is so great that art or poetry are no longer possible. They have already survived the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the Gulag, in spite of predictions to the contrary. Bey predicts – probably rightly – that 9/11 would quickly be sublimated into the collective unconscious, after an orgy of fear, hate, and destruction of freedoms.

In a later interview, Bey suggests that globalism has emerged stronger than ever, because it now has the enemy it had been looking for since the Soviet collapse. America is able to sustain globalism and hegemony together. People were hypnotised by the media for two or three weeks after 9/11. This produced a ‘neurotic, obsessive, trance-like consciousness’. I would suggest that this kind of hypnosis is commonly repeated when tragedies or atrocities occur. It has become an important mechanism of stabilisation.


For Bey, civilisation is a ‘trance-like state‘ which produces a ‘bad consciousness’, somewhat like a bad drug trip.

Bey considers many forms of transformation to be alchemical. The system uses a lot of ‘evil alchemy’, a category which includes nuclear weapons, commodification, and acts such as 9/11. Both drug addiction and the war on drugs are ‘shamanism gone bad’.

Bey argues that the media’s extension across the social field also creates problems for power. The media has paradoxically approached a limit of ‘image-enclosure’ (by analogy with the Enclosures of land). This leads to a ‘crisis of the stasis of the image, and of the complete disappearance of communicativeness’.

In other words, because all images are captured by the media, images lose the ability to communicate. Everything the media says refers to itself, and lacks an external connection to an outside. This idea is derived from Baudrillard, and points to transformative strategies focused on horizontal communication and intimate media. Soviet communism failed because it failed to embrace the Spectacle. Capital adapted, and so will disintegrate instead of imploding.


In Abecedarium, Wilson argues that writing is a form of alienation, which brings with it the state. It enables communication and therefore action at a distance. This tends to destroy earlier, direct forms of community.

lit & num as colonialism

Symbolism through images arises in non-state societies. However, writing based on abstract letters is inherently statist. States seem to require writing, along with irrigation and metallurgy, to exist. Writing is a kind of magic, or ‘action-at-a-distance’, which entraps people for the state.


6 – bey: taz

Bey deliberately avoids defining the concept of TAZ, which he sees as self-explanatory when experienced in action. However, it is not a meaningless concept, but one with imaginal resonances. If someone has experienced a TAZ, they will be able to tell a TAZ from a non-TAZ. Once the phrase is lodged in someone’s mind, Bey predicts they will begin to see TAZs everywhere. Roughly speaking, a TAZ is a deliberately short-lived (or else precarious) spatial zone in which peak experiences and altered consciousness are realised, in a context of ‘autonomy’ or the absence of hierarchy. A TAZ is necessarily immediate and present, rather than an ideal which fuels sacrifice for the future.

A TAZ is open because it is not ‘ordered’. Even if it is planned, it is the spontaneous ‘happening’ which defines it. TAZ is festive, and fighting ‘for the right to party’ is not a parody when enjoyment is usually mediated. It is a kind of endlessly replicating, temporary revolution.

revolution.. carhart-harris entropy law et al


This means that TAZs can invisibly occupy the zones of substance neglected by the system. The TAZ is thus a ‘tactic of disappearance’. It is thus rather different from the confrontation typical of revolutionary politics. However, disappearance cannot simply entail ‘never coming back’. It must be possible to conceive of everyday life in a liberated zone. A TAZ provides the peak experience of insurrection without the risk of martyrdom.

A well-formed TAZ is clandestine, invisible, not represented in the media or the Spectacle, and undefinable in the system’s terms. It is therefore able to avoid being recuperated or repressed by a system which cannot see it.

naming the colour ness et al

Aesthetics is important in realising an effective TAZ. Economically, a TAZ might be based on what Bey calls the ‘surplus of social overproduction’ or ‘pirate economics‘. This involves extracting part of the surplus left over from consumerism and capitalism. Bey suggests that the question of land is a recurring problem for anarchy. The central question is how to separate space from control, so as to create liberated spaces.


He denies that he invented the TAZ. Instead, he insists he merely gave a name to ways of maximising some conception of freedom that come naturally to those who resist.

The association of TAZ with the Internet and cyberculture has been one of the major lines of promotion of Bey’s work. For example, André Lemos termed Minitel, the French proto-Internet system, a TAZ because it is self-organising and rhizomatic. However, Bey was always hesitant about virtual applications of the TAZ idea. He argued that the counter-net, or network of dissident information, needs to be expanded. The zines and BBS’s of the 1990s are said to insufficiently provide goods and services for everyday life. In a new preface from 2003, Bey argues that the discussion of the Internet is the least contemporarily relevant part of TAZ. He criticises a counterculture which now mistakes ‘a few thousand “hits”‘ for political action, and which neglects physical presence.


There is an ambiguity in the Internet, because it is designed in a structure similar to indigenous warfare (i.e. diffuse power) to avoid destruction. It is ‘designed to be out of control‘. However, this does not render it safe or free. Those who control the means of communication have power over those who communicate. The Internet is not really in heaven, because it can be controlled from outside. As a result, it is a false transcendence of the culture-nature dichotomy

begs.. gershenfeld something else law et al


This strategic perspective declines after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with neoliberalism claiming to be the only possible world. As a result, recurring and permanent TAZs become conceivable. In ‘Periodic Autonomous Zone‘, Bey discusses festivals and carnival as varieties of recurring TAZ. They create a liminal (inbetween) zone between culture and nature. This sometimes reflects ecological and economic cycles. For instance, summertime gathering seems like play compared to spring/autumn farming. In this piece, Bey also argues for the re-emergence of camps, as sites for autonomous zones. Such ‘neo-camps’ will need to be disguised from the state, and provide a month or two of temporary freedom. This is better than no autonomous zones at all, giving a taste of autonomy.

refugee camps et al


In works written after TAZ, Bey has increasingly focused on small-scale, immediate, often clandestine groups, with the terms ‘tong’ and ‘bee’ often recurring. In ‘The Criminal Bee‘, Bey argues that TAZ and related structures rely on illegality, even when they break no laws. They break the framework of consensus reality. He advocates ‘bees’, or small-scale, task-focused groups, as the ‘only viable immediate means of realizing passional series in real-time, everyday life’. They are based on evasion and nomadism, rather than confrontation and seizing power.

In Immediatism, Bey claims to refocus from disappearance to reappearance, and, hence, organisation. Capitalism now recuperates artistic intensity almost instantly. The tong is again proposed as an organisational form. Bey defines a tong as a secret mutual benefit group for marginal or illegal purposes. Today’s tongs may be virtually secret simply by means of avoiding mass-media attention. Avoiding the media is crucial for maintaining the power of an activity. A tong may also be selective in whom it admits, and in how much information it shares. Bey denies that this is elitist, because the group does not restrict itself so as to coalesce power.

Overcoming isolation is itself a central goal of a modern tong. Such groups also operate to mutually enhance members’ lives. They would evolve into nuclei of ‘self-chosen allies’ seeking to seize back more and more space and time for play, eventually expanding into a network and a movement, and finally a new society..t However, its networking needs to be slow and corporeal.

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..

Bey later tries to systematise the different groups he discusses. They are different levels of expression of his project of ‘immediatism’. In ‘The Occult Assault on Institutions‘, he lists a series of increasingly broad groups which he portrays as levels of immediatist organisation:

  1. The gathering – any spontaneous action, such as a revolt, party, rave, or Be-in;
  2. The potlatch, or exchange party;
  3. The Bee, such as quilting bees – a group of friends meeting to work together on a project, or united by a common passion;
  4. The Tong or secret society, or its above-ground equivalent, the club;
  5. The TAZ, which can arise from any or all of the previous levels. A TAZ lasts between one night and a couple of years, but while it lasts, it fills the horizon of attention of its participants, becoming a whole society;
  6. The uprising or insurrection, in which the TAZ seeks to become the whole world.


Of these, the Tong is the highest that can be predetermined. The others cannot be ‘organised’ – at most one can maximise conditions for them to happen. In another passage, Bey argues that the social model implied by ontological anarchism is the band or gang. Whereas families result from scarcity, bands express abundance. This echoes anthropological studies of bands.

All of the group-types listed above have a similar purpose and function. ..The cohesion of the group stems from passion, which for Bey is the only viable integrative force.

itch-in-the-soul ness as energy we need

Immediatist groups are not based on ‘group-think’ or a common moral code. They are not meant to counter individuality. Instead, they are meant to enhance individuals by providing a ‘matrix of friendship‘, and combating loneliness and alienation. This type of group is both the most natural possible for humans, and the worst abomination for capital.

imagine if we ness.. using self-talk as data

Forming such groups is itself an act of resistance. Capitalism only allows a limited range of groups, based on production, reproduction or consumption. Simply coming together outside of these categories is already a victory – indeed, it has ‘achieved virtually everything Immediatism yearns for’. This defiance of alienation and boredom will generate play and art almost automatically.

Forming such a group is a struggle, because time and work pressures militate against it. One must overcome the feeling of being ‘too busy’ for Immediatist projects – this is the whole point, to defeat the structure of capitalism which prevents conviviality. Another problem Bey identifies is the temptation to sell the art created through such projects. The temptation is strong, because it allows one to avoid work. However, it risks mediation, and hence being seen, and hence repression of the secret group.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


7 – bey: pessimism of autonomy


Anarchism is the only movement capable of being taken seriously, in a post-ideological age. In Millennium, Bey also argues for the creation of spaces for artists outside the commodified world of art. These spaces would reaffirm creativity in everyday life..t

let’s do this first: free art\ists

another art world et al

Autonomy as such is now criminalised. Bey discusses the cases of MOVE and the Waco siege, and argues that both groups were attacked by the state because they wanted to be autonomous. The fact that people just want to ‘be weird – by themselves‘, or be a group on their own terms, outrages consensus reality..t Sociologically, millions of people from many backgrounds are dissatisfied. But they tend to be invisible, because they don’t vote or work in the formal sector. The middle-class is shrinking, which creates dangers of fascism and populism.

crazywise (doc) et al..

discrimination as equity et al.. public consensus always oppresses someone(s)


If one finds oneself in a zone of depletion, or No Go Zone, one’s prospects for autonomy increase with the withdrawal of power into the virtual. Such zones are unlikely to be able to assert political autonomy. However, there are possibilities for freedom in everyday life. Today, such zones are already vacuums of control, but mostly suffer ‘negative chaos’. To become emancipatory sites, they need to be filled with ‘positive chaos’. Such possibilities depend on an appropriate model of the economy and the social. Bey suggests this might operate as a kind of borderless bricolage, a ‘melange of whatever works’. Technology is likely to be low-tech and ad-hoc, but ‘more human than green’. It should be constructed to resist hierarchy through each person’s will to power. Failure may be the last refuge from the ‘Capitalist heaven‘ of simulation. One can at least be a beautiful spirit doomed to fail, rather than an ugly one.

gershenfeld something else law et al


Whatever slips past panoptical surveillance, perhaps because it seems futile, becomes the basis for this zone. In this poem, Bey appeals to the ‘paradoxical productivity of all that refuses to be computed, that which “doesn’t count”‘. Rebels disguise themselves as outcasts to slip through the cracks in the Empire.. t In another poem, ‘Herm’, he incites us to live like ‘Them’, the tri-racial isolates, as ‘rebels against progress’, as if with ‘bad genes’.

batra hide in public law et al

I would speculate that the state has found ways of seeing TAZs, firstly by defining anything it cannot predict as a threat, and secondly by focusing its gaze more closely on each micro-element of space and life.

graeber unpredictability/surprise law.. aka: alive humans as a threat

Another possible issue with TAZ is the apparent necessity of an adversary, so as to keep it temporary. ..Is a permanent TAZ even thinkable?


If capitalism claims to be a unitary world, yet excludes zones which cannot be commodified, then failure and autonomy go together. Knight suggests that Bey speaks as if his generation were the last one with a chance at revolution, as well as at overseas adventures.

It is true that Bey is sometimes strategically pessimistic. He is not confident that we can reach emancipation from the strategic options available today. However, he has a clear transformative perspective in which the ultimate goal is a society integrated by passion, operating as something like a permanent TAZ. Enlightenment is not an absent goal which never comes. Enlightenment means altered consciousness, which is a lived alternative.

integrated by itch-in-8b-souls.. everyday.. ie: imagine if we ness


Bey does not simply try to make the world a bit better. He has an antagonistic orientation to a dominant system, conceived as a ‘totality’ or Spectacle. Far from becoming more pessimistic with time, Bey becomes more revolutionary after the collapse of ‘communism’. He feels a need for uncompromising opposition to a system which accepts only full capitulation. On this question, I believe Bey is right, and Williams is wrong. The Gramscian strategy of fighting in the ‘trenches and fieldworks‘ of a complex society is increasingly ineffective in a ‘joined-up‘, high-speed, low-tolerance form of capitalism. The system’s demand for total capitulation makes it impossible to make the world a bit better – especially from a standpoint inside it. Today, even the most reformist demands seem to require a near-revolution to succeed. Those who give up on revolution, and use their included position to seek small reforms, will have to settle for less and less.

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync.. for (blank)’s sake

Despite all the changes since 1991, TAZs still exist. The ZAD in France is an archetypal TAZ. There are also shades of the TAZ in Tahrir Square, Gezi Park and Occupy, though they are oriented to visibility rather than invisibility. Social movement-controlled spaces in autonomous communities in Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa and so on are arguably a variety of TAZ. Authors such as Graeber argue that autonomous zones continue to exist invisibly in areas such as rural Madagascar. The most effective TAZ’s, almost by definition, will be invisible to us, too. Yet the regulation of everyday life, and the extension of surveillance and repression to post-TAZ spaces, are rendering it harder to alternate TAZ with ordinary life. This, in turn, creates a need for something more permanent. Arguably, the possibility of TAZ relies on the semi-permanence of everyday practices of resistance, such as squatting, countercultural events, festival circuits and so on. If the everyday is too regulated, it becomes harder to carve a TAZ from the everyday.


However, such critiques do not seriously problematise Bey’s argument. Bey is not saying that we should do without existential attachments or meanings. He is saying that meanings are rooted in desire, which is accentuated in altered states of consciousness. The tenuous construction of personal meanings may be the last structuring force possible in a world of information overload. .t In any case, intensity can be experienced as euphoric rather than overwhelming, given certain conditions. Much of Bey’s theory seems designed to produce these conditions. Bey also observes that information excess can lead to darkness rather than enlightenment – a ‘lite age‘ in Bey’s terms. The problem is that the excess is itself mediated and de-intensified.

again.. ie: itch-in-8b-souls.. 1st thing everyday.. self-talk as data.. so we can org around legit needs


8 – bey: strategies of resistance

There is a danger that fighting the state helps sustain it as an effective illusion.

david on creative refusal et al.. as perpetuation of same song ness.. rather than a nother way


If mediation is the main enemy, the system’s main means of control, then effective resistance takes the form of disappearance, disengagement, immediacy (instead of mediation) and presence (instead of representation). Refusal to be mediated, or to engage with the Spectacle, creates spaces which are outside the system. While Bey also argues periodically for sabotage, reappropriation, and tactical use of the media, refusal seems to be the privileged tactic. His tactics are similar to the tactics of détournement used by Situationists. In an interview, Bey suggests that a strategy irrecuperable by the system has to involve altered consciousness. Altered consciousness or peak experience is irrecuperable because it cannot be represented, or reduced to mediated forms.

Strategically, Bey opposes a head-on collision with the state for two reasons. Firstly, he thinks it is futile. Secondly, he thinks the state is ‘terminal‘, or dying of its own accord. The system is violently spasming in its death throes. In this context, there is no point confronting a power-system which has lost all meaning and is just a simulation. The best tactic is to avoid this spectacular violence which cannot reach the substance of social life, instead disappearing.

In line with this perspective, Bey proposes a range of different tactics, the goal of which is to free desire from a state of capture or bondage to the system. Everyday life is the main field for insurrectionary self-empowerment against the system. Bey suggests that everyone knows what is going on and what to do, provided s/he can break free of ‘false consciousness‘,.t the Spectacle, interpretation, or scarcity. 

begs for means to undo our hierarchical listening


The aim is to get outside mediation by creating different ways of being.. t


a nother way

Bey’s main point here is that one should break the rules, instead of trying to reform them


In some works, Bey redefines the Islamic concept of jihad in terms of the struggle against alienation. The greater jihad is the struggle against the separated self and the suffocation of the true self. The lesser jihad is the struggle against the Spectacle. In ‘Jihad Revisited‘, Bey suggests that he was hoping for a kind of ‘Islamic Zapatismo’ when he wrote Millennium, possibly derived from neo-Sufism. This jihad he imagined has not come to pass and it is ‘probably too late’.

khan filling the gaps law


In the 1990s, Bey theorised disappearance as desirable, to avoid recuperation. Disappearance is a way to save something from dying of mediation. Capitalism has created a kind of closure in which a single image of the world dominates.

The point is to imagine ourselves, rather than to allow ourselves to be imagined through words or images. Things which are unrepresented and unseen – deliberately or fortuitously – tend to maintain their lived meaning. This in turn creates optimal conditions for the emergence of the ‘marvelous’ in lived experiences (or of altered consciousness).

naming the colour ness et al

In Immediatism, Bey proposes to practice art in secret, so as to avoid ‘contamination’ by mediation. All spectators should also be performers. Artistic products should be shared with participants only, and never sold. Techniques involving physical presence are preferred. This practice is framed as a response to alienation and to the ‘death of art’ due to mediation.

batra hide in public law

Art should be created from inspiration, as a free gift, which may or may not be reciprocated. Today, instead, it is produced for money. Art is meant to provide a kind of ‘healing laugh‘, which is serious, but not sober. It is to be a boast, not an excuse. Bey suggests that art which is not produced through alienation is today classified in terms such as ‘insane’ and ‘neo-primitive’. It appeals because of its imaginal presence.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem


For instance, media employees might be sent powerful imagery or magic art-objects which are said to carry a curse. The curse is that it will cause them to realise their true desires. The aim of such a tactic is to infiltrate the images into their dreams and desires, to make their jobs seem boring and destructive.


9 – using images and media

Secrecy and invisibility are useful for this purpose. The art of the unseen, or clandestinity, can be used to avoid absorption in the Spectacle. Art is play. It requires secrecy and silence, and uneven rather than smooth time..t Things which are real but unseen have imaginative, erotic, or spiritual power. The very existence of unseen things challenges the regime of images, the Spectacle. By becoming invisible, we can become re-enchanted, and avoid being visible to the system. In a panoptical world, we must seek to explore the last tiny corner of the room which the eye cannot see. Geographically, this seemingly tiny corner might comprise large regions – such as Chiapas. In such zones, the right to be different is posited increasingly forcefully.

batra hide in public law.. another art world et al.. gershenfeld something else law as hiding ness

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

Wilson also proposes that, to break the hypnotic trance exercised by media, especially on the unconscious, one sometimes needs to ‘just stop’. By taking a pause from media and reassessing it, one can limit the effects of the trance, as when Wilson himself avoided media after 9/11 to resist this effect. He likens this practice to Sufi ‘halting’, which is a meditative practice used to distance from and reassess fixed assumptions and habits.

Bey also suggests that tactical or ‘guerrilla’ media can be used to subvert dominant images and create glimmers of the unseen. Intimate media (such as zines) can also remain outside the totality of representation. Tactical media is messy or organic, as opposed to the sterility of strategic media. The tactical problem is to avoid, or stay ahead, of representation and capture. Wilson aims for ‘relative invulnerability’ to representation through mobility and invisibility. The problem here is that most tactical media continues to represent. The appropriate response is to make uncertainty or messiness a ‘principle’, to refuse to be ‘cleaned up’..t Ad hoc tactics tend to coalesce into a strategy of spontaneous ordering. New technologies have a magical aura. For instance, the Internet raised almost messianic expectations. It was a factor for liberation because it was out of control.

like idiosyncratic jargon ness


10 – poetic terrorism and art sabotage

In other words, poetic terrorism does to a myth or symbol what literal terrorism does to people or spaces.

Bey conceives this as a new, nonviolent way of fighting by bringing life. Artists conspire to spread generosity, life, and disappearance from the alienated world… ie: breaking into houses to leave gifts instead of stealing..


11 – sexuality & sexual repression


12 – drugs and entheogenesis

Drugs are a threat to capitalism because they provide the enjoyment capitalism only pretends to provide. They are the ‘perfect commodity’ in that they provide what adverts only claim that products provide, and thus undermine alienation and mediation. This is why they are criminalised, because they destroy the lack which otherwise sustains consumption..t

hari present in society law et al.. maté addiction law et al.. crazywise (doc) et al


13 – other forms of disalienation

In a critique of Surrealism, Bey argues that the liberation of desire turns into the commodification of desire, unless it escapes the matrix of the work-system..t

escapes/sans any form of supposed to’s of school/work.. any form of m\a\p

As we have seen, *Bey sees alienation partly in terms of the destruction of horizontal connections. Restoration of such connections is thus a powerful form of resistance..t In Immediatism, Bey argues that conviviality – **coming together face-to-face for reasons other than work, consumption or reproduction – is itself a victory against alienation. Isolation and absorption in media are among the major forces which oppress people today. Conviviality is thus a major purpose of the groups Bey proposes, perhaps even the main goal. The system forces us to keep ‘making a living’, but the real point is to make a life..t

*tech as it could be

**imagine if we ness


In architecture, Bey recognises a nostalgia and desire for cities which have designed themselves on the basis of conviviality, with narrow alleys, covered ways and so on. The arhcitecture of a convivial world would likely be grotesque, in the sense of being cave-like, akin to mystical grottos. Ritualised language can also challenge alienation. Language is a mask – a way of giving something a ritual or symbolic meaning. Such ritualisation is a way of destroying the suffocating paralysis of the alienated system.

walk\able and talk able..

Childhood has a special place as a site of resistance to alienation..In another piece, Bey describes childhood as a site of permanent insurrection, suggested by messiness, collections, intense enjoyment, band/gang formations, and running away. After the collapse of civilisation, it is children who restore awareness of the cosmic. Anti-work or Zerowork actions, including attacks on education and the ‘serfdom of children’, are also very important.

not yet scrambled.. 1 yr to be 5 et al

Rootless cosmopolitanism can express itself in the use of travel as a means to altered consciousness. In ‘The Caravan of Summer’, Wilson criticises tourism and argues for an alternative mode of travel based on Sufism. Sites of pilgrimage primarily provide ‘baraka’ or ‘mana’ (spiritual power, charisma). Pilgrimage is reciprocal rather than alienating. In contrast, tourists seek and consume difference, and use it up. Wandering dervishes gave baraka in return for hospitality, whereas tourists tend to break reciprocity and hospitality. In addition to Sufi ‘aimless wandering’, Wilson gives the example of the Trobriand Islanders, who travelled to give useless but aesthetically powerful gifts among the islands. Dervish wandering may be ineffective or impossible today, but its ‘conceptual matrix’ is still possible.

air b&b house sharing et al.. leaving gifts.. leaving better than found.. et al


A range of other practices also lead to altered consciousness. For instance, Tantric Hinduism restores the lost ‘Soma-function’ (roughly, altered consciousness) through transcendence of caste, use of banned substances such as wine, kundalini yoga, hemp, and extra-marital sex. Quilts can be psychedelic. They are connected to potlatch and gift economy. Cyberspace is almost psychedelic, producing a visionary inner space..Trepanning may produce permanent altered consciousness. Many things can be alchemical – for instance, cooking. Food can also offer intensities, if treated as nourishment rather than consumption. People are encouraged to develop a personal mythscape as a way of summoning vivid, intense images.

if only we used it for that.. (mufleh humanity law, carhart-harris entropy law, et al)..

ie: imagine if we ness


14 – tactics and strategies: discussion


This said, there is also a tendency for today’s drop-out communities (squatters, ravers, etc) to eschew visibility and to seek to remain below the radar of the media and police. .Many have no official address, no registration with the benefit or medical systems, and hence are largely invisible outside local networks unless they are arrested. David Graeber makes similar claims about the largely stateless people he studied in Madagascar – they simply minimise contact with the state. He suggests that, the more successful such ‘anarchic’ spaces are, ‘the less likely we are to hear about them’. This suggests that something similar to Bey’s idea of invisibility might be a common strategy among marginalised groups.

on kings et al


15 – indigenous anti hierarchical mechanisms: gift econ, clastrean struggle, and shamanism


The hunter-gatherer world is the closest humans have come to social harmony – not because people are/were naturally good, but because mechanisms exist to successfully ward off hierarchy. Farming societies, such as those of the Neolithic, also involve complex, intense (even ‘erotic’) relations with nature – not conquest, but intimacy. Such societies still have egalitarian technologies and are far preferable to states, even if they are not ‘proper anarchism’.

need: tech as it could be.. for non hierarchical listening

In another piece, Wilson suggests that he was earlier influenced by early critiques which saw farming as a ‘fall from grace’ in relation to hunter-gathering. However, he has reconsidered this view on the basis of botanical history. He now suspects that farming began with seeds growing spontaneously at human campsites. People started to cultivate certain favourite plants – mainly luxuries, not necessities. The earliest were barley (for beer), grapes (for wine) and marijuana. Without the creation of the state, people could have transitioned straight from horticulture to utopia.

Indigenous groups are based on a particular kind of small-group universe. A tribe or village is sometimes a self-contained cosmos. It is not true that this structure prevents individuality. Rather, there can be space for every kind of marginal person within such a complete universe. The exclusionary dynamics of villages and particularisms stem from constant attack or vampirism by the centre, in a situation where the village is not a cosmos. For instance, capital cities often suck money, energy, and creative people from villages.

brown belonging lawthe opposite of belonging.. is fitting in.. true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.. it requires you to be who you are.. and that’s vulnerable.. –Brené Brown


In tribal anarchy, nobody accumulates power, and everyone is considered noble. Each self has ‘honour’, which signifies an autonomous self whose freedom is the object of the entire system.

none of us are free ness

A second mechanism is the gift economy. Following Mauss, Bey argues that the gift is a balancing structure. It atones for the violence of the hunt and creates symbolic unity and renewal within the social group. It differs from modern exchange in focusing on reciprocity, instead of accumulation or the profit motive.

reciprocity/gift\ness.. still cancer

The third mechanism, shamanism, will be discussed in more detail below. Here, the importance of the relationship between shamanism and altered consciousness should be emphasised. While shamanism as an immanent spiritual practice is eliminated after the rise of the state, it leaves a ‘shamanic trace’. Aesthetics tends to reduce and mediate, but not to eliminate, the shamanic trace. The trace easily revives or re-appears at times of crisis in the dominant system. The crisis of the state is a time of opportunity for the Clastrean machine. The carnivalesque, in the Bakhtinian sense, is shamanic in that it entails altered consciousness. Wilderness and wildness often symbolise the shamanic space in the worldviews of farming and settled peoples. The Robin Hood myth is an example. European nobles also preserved aspects of nomadic shamanism, such as hunting and heraldry.

black wildness law et al.. not yet scrambled

Shamanism in a broad sense is a non-specialised practice of immanent religion. It does not represent spirits, but makes them present, through means such as psychedelic drug use and spirit possession. Sometimes it is practiced by the whole group. Bey associates shamanism with direct experience of altered consciousness, or of a second, spiritual or timeless world.

Bey suggests that elements of the three indigenous mechanisms persist in popular culture in medieval and modern societies. The myths and customs of indigenous groups resist the re-emergence of hierarchy and bullying. The pursuit of intensity and conviviality are part of this structure. Such myths and customs provide a ‘million year triumph of human spirit’ over fear, force, separation and hierarchy. Bey suggests that we don’t lose the ‘rights and customs’ of indigenous bands. Remnants of these practices preserve remnants of autonomy and pleasure. These fragments are not lost, but severely reduced in scope, and relegated to hidden corners. For instance, gift economy persists in the loose structures of shadow and informal economies.

almaas holes law et al.. (but not gift econ)

Resisting capitalism today requires us to recover a relation with such rights and customs, so as to restore pleasure and autonomy against separation and hierarchy. Bey analogises the situation to a house in ruins – the underlying pillars (indigenous war, gift economy, shamanism) can still be discerned. He believes that shamanism has particular importance in fighting capitalism. Shamanism often manifests itself as a hidden power beneath the power of the oppressed, even when it is extremely muted. It appears as a rising-up of direct experience and immediacy.

revolution of everyday life ness


16 – religion and shamanism


Bey suggests that there is an underground, hermetic tradition which preserves the old values in the forms of heresies. Movements such as the Free Spirit movement recover the trace of shamanism. Bey claims that shamanism has subverted colonial power – first turning hostility into romanticism, and then generating dependence on ‘native’ power. The field of the carnivalesque carries this trace. The permeable body of carnivalesque is both the fully realised self and the the desired body. Festival is the inner structure of autonomy..t Bey refers to Clastres’ discussion of shamanic movements seeking an earthly utopia by downing tools and adopting nomadism. He suggests that many indigenous groups are not archaic remnants, but deliberate drop-outs from statist history. While this is usually read as evidence against the likes of Clastres and Sahlins, Bey suggests it actually shows that people can succeed in overthrowing the supposedly ‘higher’ social forms of hierarchy and separation. Bey celebrates free religions – ‘half-serious, half-fun cults’ like his own Moorish Orthodox Church. He opposes authoritarian religions with normative moralities.

carhart-harris entropy law et al.. freeman structure law (?) et al

Discussing the Mound-Builders of North America, Bey suggests that the mounds are not at all mysterious. Their purpose is to enchant the landscape. They show the viewer something about the art of harmony and guardianship of nature. The shamanic trace is also clear in the Zapatista revolt. Bey suggests that shamanism reappears in religions which reject it. For example, in Islam, it appears in forms such as sufism, the Shi’ite hidden Imam or Mahdi, and the eschatological Shi’ite socialism of Ali Shariati. Popular religions – European witchcraft, Iranian traditions linked to Zoroastrianism – often preserve the shamanic trace. Some come to see themselves as devil-worshippers, as their enemies portray them. If all things are one, and are manifestations of God, then even the devil must be an aspect of God. The devil is necessary because light cannot exist without darkness. Whereas he appears to the alienated as an evil force destroying joy, to the esoteric he appears as a bearer of light and truth, as the multiplicity which is key to oneness.

The shamanic trace is carried in Europe by the ‘hermetic left’. In contrast with the right’s moral dualisms, the hermetic left celebrates the ‘ancient rights and customs’ of freedom, justice, equality, and bodily pleasure. Wilson/Bey reportedly sees his own Moorish Orthodox Church as the latest phase in a centuries-old psychological and spiritual war. This war pits Native Americans, African-Americans, poor whites, and drop-outs against Anglican, Puritan and imperialist hierarchies. Other new religions such as Discordianism and Chaos might also figure on the progressive side of this conflict, although co-opted varieties of the New Age and cyber-gnosticism do not. Wilson/Bey’s side has much existential appeal – for instance, Puritans kidnapped by Native Americans sometimes refused to be ‘rescued’. However, the repressive side has largely won out.

Organised religion is formed through the hierarchical degeneration of mystical traditions. This requires misreading the founding, mystical texts and experiences. Initial psychological doctrines such as the rebirth of the self (as disalienated) are given literal meanings, or freedom is reserved for those who are fully realised. For Wilson, transformation occurs as an ‘immediate psychological reality’, not in the afterlife or the far future. In mystical terms, ‘death’ stands for dissolution of the alienated ego, and ‘paradise’ refers to metaphysical realisation. ‘Hell’ stands for present alienation and misery, not a future punishment. All religions seek salvation, which is basically disalienation. They differ on the way to achieve it. However, organised religions deal in abstractions instead of actual disalienation. Those who have tasted disalienation have little time for abstract religious disputes..t

thurman interconnectedness lawwhen you understand interconnectedness it makes you more afraid of hating than of dying – Robert Thurman 


The basis of alienated religion is the claim of authorities to a monopoly on initiation. Without authority, there is taken to be no opening to the spiritual.. People are left waiting for signs of a coming messiah, rather than looking for the divine spark within themselves.. Organised religion prioritises ‘God the creator’ over ‘God the inner reality‘, or the mystical experience. 

kingdom w/in ness

The recognition that one is already part of the unitary spiritual substance does not leave everything unchanged. Rather, it leads to an unlearning or loss of fear, so that one can be led by one’s natural senses, like a child. This leads to disalienation. 

sans any form of m\a\p et al.. no train


17 – art and shamanism

Art needs to be removed from the commodity economy and placed in a gift economy. In a gift economy, festival is a focal point of social life, a kind of government (or a replacement for the master-signifier). Today, events such as raves, Be-Ins and gatherings recover an aspect of gift-economy. Hence, they are seen as dangerous sites of disorder from a commodified perspective. Bey proposes that each artwork should be a ‘seduction machine’ designed to awaken ‘true desires’, anger at repression, or a belief that realisation is possible. Such artworks would have to convey an ‘insane generosity’ or abundance, an almost painful excess of emotional or lived meaning.

rather.. it will emerge on its own in an oikos econ

oikos (the economy our souls crave).. ‘i should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.’ – gaston bachelard, the poetics of space

Bey argues that artists do not choose alienation. They seek to add to the ‘image-hoard’ of their tribe or band. They are forced into alienation because modern society separates work and play


In Riverpeople, Wilson expresses a similar sentiment poetically: ‘you risk insanity in order to bring back.. healing word from the Ninth Sky.. nobody wants them because they’re not for sale’

Play makes the audience impossible..t


inspectors of inspectors.. gershenfeld something else law .. et al

In the past, there was a time-lag between the emergence of artistic movements and their recuperation by the Spectacle. Today, this lag barely exists. Most art, including avant-garde and popular art, is instantly commodified. In this context, art which avoids mediation has a function of ‘insurrectionist propaganda’. Bey is not calling for Realist or crudely political art. Rather, art propagandises by acting as an invitation to altered consciousness. Artists should encourage readers to perceive an ‘outside’ to capitalism, and to pursue peak experiences. They should promote a ‘desire to desire’, and an aesthetic ‘taste’ and way of life contrary to commodification.

let’s do this first: free art/ists

Wilson endorses Shelley’s idea of the artist/poet as unacknowledged legislator, or provider of an ethic of living. Propagandistic art should produce powerful emotions which rip aside the veils of everyday life, such as inattention, boredom and self-betraying egotism. In Millennium, however, Bey differentiates the US and European situation. In Europe, there are still remnants of the public intellectual, whereas in the US, masses of creative people are invisible. The TAZ plays a special role in affirming for creative people that they exist.


18 – bey’s histories

Bey/Wilson’s histories are nearly always histories of small-scale or short-lived non-state (or quasi-state) communities neglected by mainstream history.

gillis on small scale et al


19 – historical method


20 – imaginative participation and appropriation


Bey also endorses ‘anti-translation’, in which ‘don’t tread on me’ becomes ‘don’t translate me’. Translation as representation should be avoided. Instead, one should seek a ‘direct making-present’. Such a process requires abandoning one’s ‘self’ or ego so as to go inside the other culture to the maximum extent possible. Avoiding appropriation requires tact and sometimes silence. But it does not require a refusal to communicate.

interesting as this book as translation

Wilson does not claim to have produced an adequate anti-translation, though he has practiced Islam in various forms. Instead, he seeks to revalorise the ‘romantic’ image of Islam. He claims that this image survives the problem of translation because it already exists in both Islamic and western culture. I would add that the problem of translation tends to disappear when the original text already points towards the untranslatable or unknowable


lit & num as colonialism.. need more means to idiosyncratic jargon ness.. to non hierarchical listening ness


Replacing trunks with rhizomes – not with new trunks – is the best way to fight domination.


21 – ploughing the clouds: psychedelic experiences in classic lit


Modern societies see this disalienated state as a feature of other societies. Indeed, European colonisation seemed to acquire or ‘conquer’ more and more intoxicants (chocolate, coffee, tobacco, opium, and so on), as if constantly seeking soma However, the theme of the receipt of soma from the Other is not simply an effect of colonialism. It is structurally necessary, because of soma’s radical otherness. On an imaginal level, soma is both ‘wild’ – symbolising wilderness, nature, and disorder – and yet also the origin of speech and consciousness.


22 – pirate utopias


Daniel Defoe’s account of Libertatia (or Libertalia) provides the clearest picture of a progressive pirate utopia. It is debated whether it is factual or fictional. Libertatia reputedly recognised a right to necessities of life, primordial freedom, anti-racism, and a socialist economy with common ownership. Other pirate utopias emerged in the Caribbean and on Madagascar. Caribbean enclaves such as Hispaniola drew a mixture of drop-outs and escaped slaves. Wilson emphasises the democratic structure of pirate ships and their lack of command hierarchies; disputes were resolved by voting or duelling. On shore, radical democracy seemed to give way to anarchy.

graeber ness.. museum of care ness


23 – alamut and qiyamat

In Alamut, the Qiyamat, or day of judgement, was believed to have already come. Alamut claimed to be a ‘hidden garden’ freed of state, religious power, law, and so on. What this means for Bey is that time has become completely immanent. We are no longer waiting for revolution. We are already in angelic time, but do not realise it. The Millennium, or the moment of radical transformation, is always now, the present, the awakening of each soul to its own divinity.

but has to be all of us for the dance to dance.. this is why we keep saying it’s here.. but haven’t yet realized it.. we’ve not yet let go enough to let it be all of us

humanity needs a leap.. to get back/to simultaneous spontaneity .. simultaneous fittingness.. everyone in sync..


Orthodoxy maintains that unenlightened selves need the religious law. Wilson responds that we are already free, whether we recognise it or not. Realisation is not a ‘becoming’, a process of becoming something else, but a ‘being’, something we already have.

already on each heart.. so.. no train.. no prep .. no people telling other people what to do.. not any form of m\a\p.. needed.. all red flags

Although Alamut was destroyed by the Mongols, and cannot be reproduced in today’s conditions, Wilson suggests that Alamut’s Qiyamat remains alive as a state of consciousness in which we are already in paradise. Even if the hidden garden cannot be accessed in the outer world, the interiorisation of the Qiyamat story offers an inner sense of personal freedom that the state cannot touch. It provides a kind of ‘moment’ outside history which can be accessed existentially. Following Corbin, he suggests that the Qiyamat (or moment of disalienation) is always alive in the imaginal plane, and each of us can participate in it there. This moment of unveiling is sometimes expressed in terms of visits from guardian angels and messianic figures.

this is why we can leap.. if we just org around something we all already crave/have/grok


24 – sufi journeying

According to Wilson, there is a call within Sufism to flight, journey, or migration which is also associated with the death of ego and of an existing ‘world’. Travelling dervishes are sometimes full-time guests, offering baraka in return for hospitality. Sufi wanderers seek to open up an altered, spiritualised gaze on particular sites, travelling in the material and imaginal worlds at the same time. There might be space among such travellers for people who would be labelled as insane today, who might be regarded and cared for as helpless saints.

ccrazywise (doc) ness

Such journeying may provide an option for the modern world. The spiritual pursuit of imaginal points is always possible. However, the related kind of physical journeying is difficult today. The loss of wide and wild lands, of terra incognita (unknown lands not on the maps), interferes with such travel. Wilson suggests that it can be recovered in an experience of ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’. Life can never be accurately mapped because it is qualitative. As a result, one can still vanish in fractal complexities missed by linear maps. This is the modern equivalent to Sufi wandering: to disappear into hidden dimensions the media and quantification cannot penetrate. The Situationist dérive or drift is an example of this. Ultimately, this might expand into a culture of ‘urban nomads’ and ‘techno-gypsies’ who finally become modern Sufi wanderers and restore imaginal travel.

vagus wandering law et al


25 – cumantsa and fiume (as ies of taz)


26 – other autonomous zones

Bey celebrates the fact that some of these groups sought ‘Indian’ status, and suggests that they were denied it mainly to avoid setting a precedent of recognising dropouts. Many of these groups were targeted by eugenicists in the early twentieth century. Other historical precursors include American settlers who assimilated into Native American bands. People abducted from puritan settler communities often actively resisted being rescued, preferring Native American life.

Utopianism also has a place as a precursor of TAZ. Bey also writes favourably of early intentional communities such as Fourier’s phalansteries. When the map was ‘closed’ and intentional communities on the frontier became impossible, they were largely replaced by urban communes like the Paris Commune. Some revolutionaries adopted a kind of nomadism between different zones of revolt.

paris commune et al


27 – islamic ‘heresies’

Heresy produces a certain kind of scandal, in which a religious veil is removed.

Heresies are usually needed for cultural transfer. ..Heresies are like lucky or deliberate mistranslations. ..heresy as cultural transfer. I would add that heterodoxy and heresy may also be needed in secular radicalisms. For instance, Marxism spread mainly in heterodox forms.

Islam was able to spread so widely because of its democratic element, or openness to interpretation by each believer, with the community as final authority.

Wilson thus reads Sufi radicalism as similar to his own commitment to unmediated intensity. An emphasis on individual realization removes the mediating role of religious authorities and leads to the rejection of hierarchy.

any form of people telling other people what to do


Echoing Bergson, Bey suggests that the mystical position identifies ‘God’s point of view’ with a holistic world where everything is one. This is contrasted with the hierarchical structure perceived by creatures. In this hierarchical structure, some things are seen as more important, central or powerful than others. For mystics, anything which can illuminate the oneness of being is a ‘grace of God’. Anything can be either a poison or support, in relation to disalienated perception.

need: non hierarchical listening

Some of the scholars Wilson discusses proposed otherwise prohibited means to reach altered consciousness. The image of wine was sometimes used to connote intensity, for instance in the poetry of Fakhroddin Iraqi. Although prohibited by religious law, many people in Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan use marijuana for religious purposes. The basis for this seems to be that people in ‘ordinary’ consciousness lack the attentiveness and willpower to see the Real or truth. Prayer and perfume can also act as gateways. Wilson was told by a Sufi leader that Love is more important than specific doctrines. He suggests that, for mystics, love is the binding power of being, or the substance of which being is composed.

According to Wilson, some mystics accepted the idea of romantic love or physical attraction as a divine state, since the other is a part of or stands for God. Hence, there is Sufi love poetry from authors such as Ibn Arabi, comparing a woman, girl, or boy with God. Through total concentration on the beauty of the beloved, the mystic escapes ego and self, and remembers the beauty of her/his spiritual nature. Some, such as Kermani, saw self-realisation occurring more perfectly in love than in religious practices.

Wilson uses the term ‘imaginal yoga’ for the intense contemplation of an object or form until it is transformed by the imagination into a metaphysical focus. One example is the ‘Witness Game’, a practice in which one contemplates an attractive person without acting on sexual urges. The state of unrequited attraction provides a pathway to spiritual experience. Bey sees this as a means of transmuting erotic, bodily energy into spiritual consciousness. It is a special case of the broader process by which Islam transmutes nature into spirit, rather than destroying nature as modernity does.

Often, the oneness of being experienced by mystics is expressed in terms which crystallise back into literal systems of dogma.

language as control/enclosure et al


28 – dreams and writing in sufism and taoism

Dreams are a site of knowledge because they exist in the liminal (in-between) zone. The dream is a ‘privileged locus’ of the identity of everything, the oneness of being. Wilson suggests there are particular ways to intentionally create the conditions for these kinds of dreams. 

oi.. if legit liminal.. no pt of knowledge.. no privilege.. et al.. all that would be irrelevant


This allows people to participate directly in the descent of revelation, instead of relying on a pre-written, authoritative text. It reflects a view that beings respond to each other through categories, or archetypes.

on each heart.. kingdom is within you ness

Such writing is ludic, and related to *’aimless wandering’. . Writing is often a means to transmit such visions. The words revealed in dreams are important in allowing them to be revealed or shared socially, and **to benefit others. Books may contain keys pointing to particular psychological states for sensitive readers. The text ‘spills over’ in an excess of meaning, pointing to something beyond it. This excess is not fixed, but is also not empty. Such words ‘play’, rather than segmenting and categorising. Language comes to reflect or reproduce the abundance of nature.. However, writing and even speaking carry a danger of alienating or ossifying the ‘living word’ into something ‘dead’. The way to resist this is to keep the book an open process, ***constantly renewed or reinterpreted into new existential contexts. Language can be a means of control, but it can also be possessed by imaginal content.

not *aimless wandering if ***responding et al.. any form of m\a\p.. not **beneficial..


29 – angels


30 – history of ideas

In Fourier’s model, the key organising principles are luxury and harmony. Harmony in Fourier’s sense entails finding ways for differences to coexist. The desire to be ‘carefree’ is to be unfettered. The passion inspired by Fourier’s poetry is a pale foreshadowing of that promised in his utopian world, in which passion is the driving force. Production could only be liberated when people did the tasks they were attracted to. Society would only reach its potential when all desires are free. In effect, says Wilson, Fourier invests hope in the magic power of Eros. Wilson views Fourier as ambiguously despising present bodies but deifying the body in general. He suggests that reading Fourier is like discovering a lost ancient cult.

am thinking this is legit.. but we don’t believe it because we’ve not yet let go enough to see what legit free people are like (see below vinay gupta.. any form of m\a\p.. et al).. so we just keep perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord

Fourier saw erotic attraction as the basic force of existence. Gravity, for instance, is a special kind of attraction. Everything is alive and sexually active. This is the basis for Wilson/Bey’s view of attraction as the basis of order. Fourier believed that everything is related, in terms of belonging to a category. Everything is attracted erotically to other things in its category. The problems of modernity have arisen because civilisation has knocked the Earth out of its place in the system of categories and passions. Fourier’s utopian politics is an attempt to restore cosmic balance by arranging everything in line with its passions.

imagine if we ness.. but will only work sans any form of m\a\p.. and if it’s all of us


In Aimless Wandering, Bey analyses the Taoism of Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi). He reads Zhuangzi as anti-metaphysical. Zhuangzi’s major text does not offer transcendental realisation, but a path to self-realisation. Human misery stems from falling out of sync with the Tao. Zhuangzi’s response is to seek to reverse this separation and return to the flow, to spontaneity. To achieve this, one must reject all deities and metaphysics. This approach is opposed to the Confucian social structure, and oriented to aimless wandering.

restore/uncover/detox/whatever missing pieces.. getting us back/to not yet scrambled ness..


31 – moorish science temple

Wilson attributes the group’s downfall to its growing visibility. 

need: gershenfeld something else law


32 – pastorialism and green hermeticism

Wilson also sometimes sees the pastoral tradition as a variety of autonomy and intensity. In the essay Grange Appeal, Wilson argues that the Grange was once a progressive part of the Populist movement, and a hotbed of rural radicalism. (It still exists, as a series of social clubs, a co-op, and campaigning organisation for rural interests). The Grange ‘formula’ had four elements: economic cooperation, social militancy without electoral involvement, plenty of outings and social activities, and an Eleusinian ritual. The organisation officially disavowed politics, but its ideology had obvious political implications. It was initially anarchistic, in avoiding organised politics and religion. It campaigned on issues of its day which reappear today – for instance, against patent-holding monopolies. ..In relation to co-ops, Wilson suggests they succeed when given the chance – but they are often ruined by corporations with more capital.

plenty of outings.. never enough.. (ie: assisted living.. school.. et al)

His recent, ecologically-inflected work draws on similar themes. In Riverpeople, Wilson presents a history and speculative mythology of the Esopus River, near his home in New York. He claims he fell in ‘green love’ with the river. Green love is his recent term for intense connections to ecological sites which become the source of altered consciousness. The area is today owned by the Rockefellers, but regularly attracts beatniks and neo-survivalists engaged in rambling and camping. Wilson discusses the area’s indigenous population, the Esopus ‘Indians’, and their dispossession and genocide by the Dutch. The damming of the river is treated as a terrible violence in which villages become ghost towns and the Water Supply Police act as an ‘invading occupying force’.


Wilson’s recent theory of Green Hermeticism articulates similar themes. He argues that science can be reconnected with Hermeticism or romanticism to re-enchant nature. Over the longue durée, science serves capital and the state by making war and money. Another science might have been, and might still be, possible or conceivable. But it might have to rely on ideas which now seem falsified or absurd. Famous scientists such as Newton, Franklin, and Bacon were closet hermeticists. However, they seem to have succumbed to conventional power and contributed to a process of dimming our awareness of reality. Such a dimming is part of the ‘dead-matter’ worldview of capitalism, the state and the Enlightenment.

science ness and intellect ness.. our default to maintain order/control et al

carhart-harris entropy law et al


33 – bey, children, & sexuality

The biggest controversy around Bey’s work is not his ontology or his theory of autonomy, but his association with what he terms ‘boy-love’. In other words, he thinks it is possible and desirable for adults to have ‘consensual’ sex with children. In defence of this view, Bey has written a number of pieces for NAMBLA (a paedophile or ‘boy-love’ advocate group) and the gay magazine Gayme which allegedly promote sexual abuse of children. These pieces are not widely available, and seem to mainly consist of poetry. According to Knight, one poem includes a rant against a mother who discouraged Bey’s interest in her son. Knight describes these works as ‘a child molester’s liberation theology… for an audience of potential offenders’. There’s also an obscure novel, Crowstone, which includes fictional depictions of a world where man-boy sex is normal. Then there’s a piece on the ‘Witness Game’ in historical Sufism, and a (loose) translation of related works by Abu Nuwas.

Learning of this position in support of ‘boy-love’ has shocked many of Bey’s readers, myself included. Indeed, some still seek to deny it. I’ve come across a variety of readings from scholars and others interested in Bey: he doesn’t mean it literally, but as Sufi-style allegory; he’s doing it to provoke and shock; he’s simply raising questions about child sexuality; or he’s mainly talking about sexually active youths. (The fact that children and adolescents have a sexuality of sorts is now widely recognised, independently of issues around paedophilia). For instance, Sellers reads Bey’s position as a Foucaldian attempt to stimulate discussion about adolescent sexuality. He accuses critics of ‘institutionalized homophobia’, and of taking Bey’s playful writings too literally. References in Bey/Wilson’s works can often be read in this way. However, I feel that Bey’s poetry and literature, his NAMBLA affiliation, and his exchanges with Knight defeat such readings.

Unsurprisingly, Bey/Wilson’s position has produced strong negative reactions. There are people who refuse to promote Bey’s work or use his concepts on the grounds that they consider him a ‘paedophile’ or an ‘apologist for child abuse’. For example, his entry has been deleted on ZineWiki for this reason. An opponent by the name of Robert Helms has written a series of articles condemning Bey/Wilson on these grounds. Helms goes so far as to portray Bey’s theory of autonomy as simply a way of creating lawless spaces in which children will be vulnerable to abuse. Another critic, the eco-authoritarian Vinay Gupta, uses the child-abuse issue as a hook to argue against autonomy in general. He suggests that only people with nefarious desires want the abolition of the state. In fact, Helms, Gupta, and Knight all read Bey’s position on abuse broadly in this way – as exposing the problems with his opposition to moral order. This is roughly a re-hash of the Hobbesian argument that abuse and ‘crime’ would flourish in an anarchist society. I shall come to this broader issue later.

perhaps why vinay gupta (and all the others) seem to have no interest in discussing life sans any form of m\a\p.. we have no idea what legit free people are like .. so we just keep perpetuating myth of tragedy and lord


The problem underlying this distortion is the propensity to rationalise as consensual a type of action which actually objectifies the other – in effect, the disguising of reactive desire as active desire. This position is thus contradictory with his broader position of supporting active desire against reactive desire. Or possibly, he imagines there is a non-abusive outlet for his desire, which is not based on the ‘misery of others’ (in effect as well as intent), when in fact there is not. He might not intend to abuse anyone, but he desires things which require such abuse, or else are unactualisable.

imagine if we ness of a nother way vs hari present in society law of sea world

In practice, abuse is closely tied-up with objectification. Abuse generally involves objectifying a child, using them to produce adult pleasure, usually without concern for the effect on the child. Survivors report feeling ‘used or hurt’, feeling a violation of trust, and suffering loss of self-respect. According to Judith Herman, sexual abuse usually happens in a wider context of control, or even ‘pervasive terror, in which ordinary caretaking relationships have been profoundly disrupted’. This usually occurs in a climate of totalitarian control enforced by isolation from horizontal relationships, capricious and violent enforcement of petty rules, and absence of trust. Social isolation is enforced to preserve control and secrecy.

structural violence.. steiner care to oppression law et al


Bey would probably respond that bad experiences result from authoritarianism he opposes, or from social responses such as shame, guilt and sexual puritanism. Experiences might be quite different if adult-child relations were not as power-laden as they are. Future cross-cultural research might change current conclusions. But shame, social responses, and the adult’s social power do not seem to account for all the negative accounts. In any case, shame is better explained on a trauma model than a social model, because abuse survivors are not socially classified as committing a shameful or deviant act. Given this evidence, Wilson/Bey’s rejection of dominating and non-consensual forms of sex should logically cover those forms of child-abuse he supports. The scenarios Bey fantasises about are probably impossible in practice.

so long as we stay in sea world..

but not if we (all of us) get out.. hari rat park law et al

On a more general, theoretical level, Bey’s problematic position on ‘boy-love’ is sometimes taken to discredit autonomy in general. Bey can here be grouped with Deleuze and Guattari, Nietzsche, Reich, Stirner, Situationism, post-left anarchy, and arguably anarchism more broadly, as part of a politics of desire. This type of position is often dismissed by opponents in a too-easy way which goes something like this: the author rejects authority and morality, therefore everything is justified and anything goes, therefore they must condone all kinds of abuse, murder, rape, and so on. It is basically a re-hash of the Hobbesian argument against anarchism, spontaneous order and autonomy, on the basis that freedom leads to chaos and violence. According to this ideology, people who follow their desires will harm each other. This claim leads to ideologies of security, order and protection. And for someone trying to make this argument, the fact that a famous anarchist advocates child-abuse is useful confirmation! This kind of argument arises in all the main critics who focus on Bey’s ideas on child sexuality – Knight, Helms and Gupta. It also appears, for example, in certain critiques of Deleuze, such as Eve Bischoff’s argument that the ‘Hanover werewolf’ is an instance of Deleuzian desire.

myth of tragedy and lord et al


This overlaps with a second issue, of ‘safeguarding’ or ‘safe spaces’. Does the type of anarchy propounded by people like Bey – and to which I’m also extremely sympathetic – entail a lack of protection for vulnerable people? This is the usual argument against children’s liberation, and is also advanced by various identity-based critics of post-left anarchy, including some feminists. TAZ and anarchy imply the removal of the formal protections which are meant to prevent all kinds of violence and abuse. It is (or it creates) an ‘unsafe space’ for people who need to avoid particular kinds of abuse or harassment. This critique has in recent years fuelled a move in radical politics away from autonomous organising and towards quasi-bureaucratic models of organisation with formalised protection procedures.

why people won’t let go enough to see what legit free people are like.. so.. we have not yet seen.. we have no idea

Both of these positions rest on a Hobbesian view of anarchy. The misunderstanding underpinning this type of critique is the idea that people either act in destructive and abusive ways or submit to outer norms and morals. The politics-of-desire position, however, is that people can follow their passions and pursue intensity, without becoming predatory on one another. Accountability to outer norms, authorities and moralities is rejected. However, there is a kind of immanent ethics which emerges for each person from an experience of balance and becoming. (This is similar in some ways to the treatment of “badness” as imbalance in ancient and indigenous philosophies). As we have seen, Bey does not believe in living without ethics. He believes in a type of virtue ethics in which conviviality, mutual attraction, and intensity are valued.

but only if it’s all of us.. and only if we get out of sea world first

Theorists of desire usually argues that truly living – intensely, passionately, playfully, without limits – is more important than simple survival. For this reason, they are not open to criticism based on risk or harm. If people sometimes live shorter lives because they (or others) pursue their pleasures intensely, this does not mean the situation is worse than in an authoritarian society. However, there is little reason to believe that an egalitarian, free, passion-driven social world would be worse than today’s dystopian nightmare. The restraint of passions entails institutional systems which themselves cause immense harm, for example war, police brutality and economic exploitation.

Bey’s support for ‘boy-love’ is not based on a conscious endorsement of harming others on the grounds of desire. (If he took such a position, then he would also support overt rape, torture, and murder). It is based on a denial that ‘boy-love’ entails harm. This is an empirical dispute, and I believe Bey is wrong on this point, but it does not at all undermine the politics of desire. In other words, if the view that adult-child sex is oppressive/abusive to children is right, then such acts are also inconsistent with Bey’s wider theory.


In response to the question, ‘is it wrong to act on one’s desires when it harms others?’, the mainstream has a simplistic answer: it’s always wrong, because morality is abstract and is not connected to desire. However, this answer is wrong, because morality can have no basis other than desire, and because moral regimes have themselves produced much sadism and suffering. The politics of desire answers that it is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but for different reasons. It is wrong when it is based on reactive or negative desires, rather than the free flow of becoming. ..Usually, however, destructive effects are signs that desire has been distorted through alienation – much the same way as in neuroses, addictions, and self-abnegations. Crucially, this is not a normative condemnation but an awareness of the social deviant as the site of a blockage in the wider flow of becoming.

Most post-left anarchists also support children’s liberation, and hence oppose laws targeting children, and what Bey terms the serfhood of children in contemporary society. One tenet of children’s liberation is opposition to age-discriminatory laws, such as compulsory schooling, prohibitions on leaving one’s parents, and bans on drinking and smoking. Discrimination against children makes little sense from a theoretical point of view favouring desire, intensity, pleasure, and immanent becoming (rather than a framework favouring a Cartesian rational subject).

ssupposed to’s of school/work.. bs jobs from birth .. maté parenting law.. et al

Bey gives the impression of being strongly in favour of children’s liberation. For instance, he co-edited an anthology, Wild Children, which promotes children’s voices. It does not contain any paedophile advocacy material, but rather, children’s creative works, and critiques of school. While Helms sees this as a matter of suspicion, to me it suggests that Bey is committed to children’s liberation, independently of his views on sexuality. Children are portrayed in Bey’s work as beings of wildness, play, imagination, and pure delight. Indeed, Bey’s work frequently speaks to the archetype of childhood or the inner child. However, he seems to mix up childhood and sexuality, which are both sites of insurrection and intensity.

Hobbesian critics assume that outer accountability makes the world a safer place. However, there is little evidence for this view. Both states and stateless social groups can be peaceful or conflictual. But modern states and capitalism are immensely destructive, in forms such as industrialised warfare, genocide and ecocide. The illusion that “order” provides safety and welfare is really an illusion of in-groups, who are sometimes made safer and richer through the subordination or out-groups. .t Bey’s theory of social triage, and the risk that any of us could be labelled a ‘contaminant’, is closer to the reality of securitised neoliberalism than the Hobbesian illusion.

carhart-harris entropy law.. gershenfeld something else law.. et al.. need to let go of any form of m\a\p


Authoritarians are also not on very solid ground believing they have a better response to abuse. Law has been proven to be a clumsy, ineffective response – as it is to most social problems. The protectors are often the abusers. State institutions meant to protect children often reproduce abuse. Age-of-consent laws sometimes criminalise young people, ignore differences in the consent capacity of people in an age-group, and fail to protect anyone over the specified age. Stateless societies rarely use laws for social control at all. Informal, diffuse normative systems might be more sensitive than laws to the actual nature of a relationship and its impact on a young person.

Capitalism does not oppose children’s liberation to protect children from abuse. It opposes children’s liberation so as to continue to coerce children into being indoctrinated as capitalist subjects through the school system and authoritarian families. The idea of ‘protection’ is grounded on a misperception of the biggest violent force in contemporary society – the modern state – as a benign guardian to be trusted with the interests of the vulnerable. Look at the miserable faces in any academy playground, look at the use of police in schools, read how children’s homes are becoming a conveyor belt to jail, how play is criminalised along with other everyday acts, family courts forcing mothers to turn children over to abusers, and repeated accusations of sexual abuse at children’s homes, and the lie of the state as protector from abuse becomes abundantly clear. Indeed, the state and capitalism have an interest in working-class children being traumatised, to prepare them for domination by bosses and to break their will to resist. Indeed, the kinds of tyrannical adult relations which Herman portrays as the usual context for child abuse are paradoxically encouraged by the same authoritarians who oppose child abuse so aggressively.


steiner care to oppression law.. graeber violence in care law.. et al

need: gershenfeld something else law et al


34 – trauma and peak experience

Bey, and politics of desire in general, seeks intensity, peak experience and affirmation of being. The experience of trauma is a barrier to such experiences. Trauma can cause ‘anhedonia’ or an inability to feel pleasure; it can make the world feel empty and meaningless. If a free world led to an epidemic of trauma, then the appeal of the politics of desire would be undermined. However, there are various accounts which suggest that stateless societies lead to childhoods which are both freer and happier than in modern societies. Far from these societies being hotbeds of abuse, it is unknown in some societies for children even to be left crying. Punishments are minimal or nonexistent. Comparing such accounts with problems in postcolonial indigenous societies – such as Eduardo Duran’s work with Native American communities – shows that physical and sexual abuse are effects of colonisation. Groups who are colonised, dispossessed and alienated suffer big increases in violence, including sexual abuse. Some still remember an experience familiar to readers of Bey, such as Haida Thowhegwelth: ‘My principal cause is freedom. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to be free. Free from harassment by police, free from harassment by fisheries… People talk about this country being a free country. They have no idea of freedom. If you ever had the taste of freedom that I have known, you would never give it up, you’d fight for it like I do’.

black science of people/whales law.. black wildness law..

need: gershenfeld something else law.. carhart-harris entropy law.. et al

There are various ways in which freedom reduces trauma. Firstly, it is harder to establish coercive control (the usual root of abuse) in a world without authoritarian institutions. Secondly, the type of self-actualising, immanent selves encouraged by the politics of desire are less likely than enclosed, modern subjects to abuse each other. (However, there is a danger that people adopting fusion-based, spontaneous positions similar to Bey’s will be easy targets for abusers). Thirdly, people who are less frustrated and angry, less neurotic, and more fulfilled are less likely to be abusive.

hari rat park law

The danger of trauma is downplayed in Bey’s work. In practice, aimless wandering usually entails risk-taking, and trauma can block the possibility of having peak experiences. Activists who have suffered trauma suggest that it makes these kinds of experiences impossible. Bey is right that a certain kind of consciousness or relationship to chaos might help to make trauma seem overcomable, but there is a problem of constructing this orientation in embodied as well as intellectual ways. Indeed, Bey writes of a ‘healing laugh’ which arises from an intoxicated yet serious type of art or play. The paradox is that, while peak experiences are arguably the answer to trauma, the state of being traumatised tends to block people from accessing peak experiences, or even feeling them to be possible. I sometimes feel that Bey is naive in his treatment of trauma, ignoring the difficulty of constructing experiences/relations of abundance and contingency. But this might be because of a lack of sufficient peak experiences, rather than because it’s really naïve.

not difficult.. ie: imagine if we..

maté trauma law et al


35 – structural oppression and autonomy

There is another residual problem. Autonomous zones negate formal structural power, but what about informal power based on patterns of dominant and subordinate identity? The gamble of theories like Bey’s is that people can be invited to leave their structural oppression and ‘conditioning’ at the door, and live by desire and self-determination instead of existing categories. Bey considers dominant subjectivities to be effects of a media trance. Break the trance, and people will re-emerge as distinct, desiring subjects. Some theorists would be pessimistic about this possibility, because they take structural oppressions to be extremely deep-rooted or even inescapable. Although I feel this critique is overplayed, there are also possibilities that people will bring habits and patterns into autonomous zones. For example, someone who is used to deferring to others might continue to do so, even when there is no structural authority. People might continue to prefer to do tasks they are competent at, when their competency is affected by class or gender.

today have means to break trance (because needs to be all of us at once.. otherwise off sync ness keeps messing with us)

I don’t feel this is a reason for rejecting autonomous spaces as oppressive or informally hierarchical, and regressing to authoritarian power-structures. In a horizontal space, it doesn’t matter much if some people are louder or more active than others, provided power-relations remain fluid. The reduction of every disagreement or instance of discomfort to macrosocial structures outside the autonomous context is a barrier to effectively constructing horizontal relations. The political style which condemns others for “taking up too much space” or deviating from etiquette codes is an imposition of outer power onto autonomous spaces. It fails to treat people as immanent singularities or as part of the field of becoming. However, the issue of how to construct autonomously-desiring subjects – and resist formations of alienation and reactive desire – is a real issue for autonomous therapy and pedagogy. The goal should not be to produce ‘responsible’, cautious people who identify with their positionalities and follow etiquette codes. Instead, the goal should be the emergence of unique subjects who are not reducible to their positionalities. Creating horizontalism and intensity combats social exclusion. There is evidence that conditions of conflict and scarcity lead to closed, intolerant communities, whereas conditions of abundance lead to open communities. An approach like Bey’s thus contributes to creating the conditions for acceptance of difference more effectively than scarcity-reproducing identity positions.

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening.. to combat ie: maté trump law et al.. for brown belonging law ness

Bey’s approach may not be perfect in preventing oppression, but it is more likely to be successful in the medium term than the alternative, austere approach. Emotions of joy and euphoria, a social connection derived from experienced intensity rather than normativity, a culture marked by hybridity and nomadism, and awareness of the interconnected and holistic nature of being, all point towards the development of authentically open relations to others. This transformation is one of the most effective means of preventing oppression and abuse – far more effective than bureaucratic ‘safe spaces’ policies or risk-management approaches, which reproduce hierarchical power.

aka: gershenfeld something else law

Overall, Bey’s mistake in rationalising one form of abusive power does not render his general theory any less useful in combatting abusive power in general. Authoritarian power leads to abuse by those in power. A TAZ is less oriented to the goal of protection than a modern state with its rhetoric of risk-management. The idea of burning up life in the process of living is counterposed to the idea of risk-minimisation. But still, a TAZ may often be a safer place for difference than a micro-managed institution. Micro-management generates its own forms of danger by cutting off the life-force itself. The ethos Bey promotes in his work – intensity, peak experiences, bricolage, altered consciousness, living for enjoyment, conviviality, immanent ethics – affirms the life-force and counteracts trauma with experiences of intensity.


36 – leftist critiques

Bey’s work has also come in for sharp criticism from left-anarchist writers, including Murray Bookchin, John Armitage, Richard Barbrook, Sean Sheehan and others. These critiques generally have the tone of hatchet-jobs or dismissals, often hinging on marginal aspects of Bey’s work (such as the idea of anarcho-monarchism, or a single remark about abortion). Critics argue that Bey is unconcerned about capitalism, despite his extensive theory of alienation, which they generally ignore. They typically fail to appreciate the type of experience to which Bey points, or its subversive potential (which they reduce to hedonism). This is partly a result of Bey’s style, which is more suggestive than direct. Without an intuitive connection to the ideas of TAZ and peak experience, Bey’s work seems nonsensical. Critics often fill in the resultant void with tendentious interpretations of particular passages. These are condemned as heretical relative to their own political ideology.

quiet enough

For example, Bookchin’s ‘social anarchism’ (before he renounced anarchism completely) included strong elements of social control, structure, responsibility, and collectivism. He labels opponents like Bey as denying the necessary preconditions for social life. He also lumps them together in the rather meaningless category of ‘lifestyle anarchism’. This strange conceptual amalgam of deep ecology, eco-anarchism, politics of desire, post-left anarchy, and anarcho-capitalism is unified in its alleged ‘individualism’ and refusal of socialist collectivism. Besides this purely negative unity it otherwise consists of various distinct positions unified in a bogeyman adversary.

As we have seen, Bey is not strictly individualist. He has a distinct theory of conviviality, or social life based in passion, which is compatible with his emphasis on intensity and personal becoming. He would thus disagree with Bookchin that authoritarianism is ‘necessary for social life’. However, he opposes social integration through self-denial and normativity. This is a real bone of contention with some left-anarchists.

brown belonging law

Bookchin believes that countercultural eruptions die down without social effects. They provide ‘kicks’ rather than ‘temporary commitment’, and do not even change those who take part, let alone the wider society. Yet there are many cases of social transformation due to counterculture – for example, the collapse of lifelong monogamy and the recognition of ‘youth’ as a social category. I know many people who have been changed permanently by participation in drop-out movements. The very awareness of a possible outside is one of the most lasting changes. As Williams puts it, a TAZ allows us to ‘sample the autonomous life’. There are also many cases of recruits to left-wing groups who do not become lifelong revolutionaries, and of organised campaigns which are unsuccessful.

graeber’s possible worlds.. graeber make it diff law.. et al

Sean Sheehan accuses Bey of a ‘mere politics of style’, without political substance. In particular, he alleges that Bey lacks a class perspective. To me, it’s pretty clear from earlier discussions that Bey’s theory has plenty of substance. There are good strategic reasons for the approaches he adopts, which follow logically from his analysis of capitalism. He doesn’t emphasise class exploitation because he sees mediation, alienation and recuperation as the main problems. Another critic, Gavin Grindon, argues that Bey succumbs to the Spectacle by imagining the world of the autonomous image to be the real world. This misunderstands Bey’s point that the system functions mainly through the power of the image

Benjamin Franks advances elements of a similar critique. He argues that nomadic strategies might only be available to economically independent, privileged actors. He also argues that strategies of exodus lead to a sense of being ‘special’ or even ‘sanctified’ relative to the masses. This is combined with a concern that Bey proposes avoiding direct confrontation with the state. I feel these concerns are misplaced for several reasons. Firstly, ‘dropping-out’ is by no means limited to privileged groups, but occurs worldwide, from shanty-town alternative economies to the New Traveller movement (who were mostly working-class), from American freight-train riders to indigenous movements like the Zapatistas. Secondly, the sense of being ‘special’ is certainly preferable to the sense of being submerged in a dominant, oppressive culture. When leftists urge post-leftists to refrain from exodus so as to avoid separating from the masses, they reveal the extent to which they have internalised oppression as politically desirable. In any case, any critic, however traditionally leftist, who wants to avoid accepting reactionary ‘common sense’ will necessarily have to adopt a critical distance from the majority’s ‘false consciousness’, however they choose to spin it.

actually no one can legit drop out unless we all do.. which makes it easy to criticize all the part\ial ness

In addition, I’d argue that Bey is right when he says that traditional leftist demonstrations, pickets and publishing activities ‘don’t add up to a vital, daring conspiracy of self-liberation’ today. More is needed, especially in everyday life. Bey is producing original theories of power and resistance today, paying close attention to the current context and the latest theories about it. This brings him closer to the strategic issues of activism today than those groups which trust in historical models. Many of today’s cutting-edge movements, from Tahrir Square and Occupy to the ZAD, the Greek revolt and Anonymous, look more like TAZ’s or tongs than they do like Marxist models of revolution.

imagine if we

This seems to entail a misunderstanding of Bey’s position. Armitage presumably believes that Bey does not refer to capitalism because Bey rarely uses the word capitalism (or other Marxist-rooted terminology). However, if we include references to the Spectacle, the totality, mediation, civilisation, the planetary work-machine, and other such system-concepts as instances of capitalism by other names, Armitage’s argument collapses. In fact, Bey has a strong analysis of contemporary capitalism, focused on the power of the media, the virtualisation of money, and the recuperation of alternatives. There is nothing inherently liberal in separating the state, society and desire. In fact, a separation of state and society seems as necessary to the Marxist idea of dual power as to Bey’s theory.

As for desire, Bey’s (and Deleuze’s, Nietzsche’s, Debord’s…) refusal of the Althusserian structuralist view that desire is simply an effect of subjectification by the existing system is not necessarily any less revolutionary than the structuralist alternative. If desires are effects of the existing system, then any possibility of revolution is faint. Why would people seek to overthrow a system which determines what they seek? The answer typically hinges on internal contradictions, or the subject as a ‘void’ in the structure – conceptions which are unhelpful for formulating radical practices. In practice, such theories tend to restore power to a revolutionary vanguard (which can identify the real contradictions) or restrict people to reformist tactics on the ‘margins’ of existing structures. In any case, the idea that desire is never ‘outside’ capitalism, but simply an effect of it, is false – and calling it ‘liberal’ a million times will not make it true. I engage with this issue more thoroughly – in relation to Spivak’s critique of Deleuze – elsewhere.

The argument that Bey reduces capital and the state to images is a more solid criticism. Bey emphasises tactics of invisibility, withdrawal and media subversion. He tends to reject head-on conflict. This is due to a view of the system as dangerous mainly in terms of recuperation through images. However, there are also solid empirical reasons for Bey’s belief that capitalism now takes this form.

It is also true that Bey focuses on individual and small-group resistance. But this makes complete sense in terms of avoiding recuperation. Small-group resistance is not necessarily ineffective relative to large-scale resistance, as is shown in James Scott’s example of cumulative peasant resistances which defeated particular policies. Similarly, leftist critics assume that class is the only politically effective identification. This claim, at the very least, needs testing empirically.

ie: curiosity over decision making et al.. itch-in-the-soul ness.. from short findings restate

On a slightly different note, Luther Blissett, a pen-name for a post-Situationist culture-jamming collective associated with Stewart Home, published a hoax volume of translated ‘Hakim Bey’ articles to expose the naivete of Bey’s Italian readership. The volume included everything from Zerzan’s critique of Bey to barely-altered Stalinist material. The hoax apparently worked. The collective take this as evidence for the insubstantiality of Bey’s project, which they deem a mixture of ‘Hippie bullshit’, ‘oriental trinkets’, poststructuralism and ‘cybercrap’. Without the integrating force of an intuitive grasp of the experience of altered consciousness, this is doubtless how Bey’s work appears. However, the success of the hoax suggests that some of Bey’s readers are similarly unaware of the gist of his work.


37 – other critiques

There has also been a dispute between Bey and the anarcho-primitivist theorist John Zerzan. Zerzan’s main criticism is that Bey is too technophile. Zerzan believes that technology is at the root of alienation; Bey does not. In his critique of Bey, Zerzan repeats many of the leftist criticisms that Bey’s work is insubstantial, fashionable, and ‘postmodernist’ (taken to entail a refusal of decisive political positions, and a resultant liberal politics). In addition, Bey and Zerzan have real disagreements on the role of art. For Zerzan, art, and even shamanism, are forms of alienation. For Bey, art engages with a primordial problem of the human condition, and has a specific role in disalienated societies.

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness/undisturbed ecosystem

While there are real disagreements here, I believe Zerzan is wrong to claim that Bey does not reject the contemporary system as a ‘totality’. Rather, the disagreements are at the level of which aspects of the world are utterly implicated in the totality, and which can be reclaimed as tools. Bey also claims that some Latin American critics are uneasy with the ‘adventurousness’ of TAZ. The context of this criticism is unclear, but Bey’s approach is clearly more playful and joy-oriented than neo-Marxist tendencies common in Latin American autonomous movements.

There is also a psychological critique of approaches such as Bey’s which rests on the prevalence of feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. Bey is typical of a generation of theorists (from the 1960s to the 1990s) whose main adversary was the boredom, emptiness and conformist habit of modern life. This was in turn an effect of the fact that they were struggling against the Fordist, Keynesian form of ‘organised capitalism’. Today, it has been argued that anxiety is a more pressing problem holding back transformative politics. Anxiety, trauma and burnout seem to contribute to the ineffectiveness of tactics inherited from the struggle against Fordism.

This makes it harder and harder to create TAZ’s, in a society marked both by the intensified ‘management’ of social life, the pre-emption of possible spaces of autonomy, and the generalisation of anxiety. Bey’s strategies focus on providing excitement and peak experience, but people are already overstimulated. The lack of a sense of safety, and the focus on boredom rather than anxiety, limit the effectiveness of such processes. However, it is also possible that altered consciousness provides a standpoint from which anxiety and demoralisation are undermined. It often feels like no change is possible. But this is an effect of media trance-consciousness, of neoliberalism. Altered consciousness might offset the feeling.

carhart-harris entropy law.. gershenfeld something else law.. a nother way

If, as Bey argues, the universe is chaos, founded on nothing solid or representable, this can easily be experienced as terrifying or anxiety-inducing, rather than exhilarating. Many of Lovecraft’s depictions of monstrous experiences sound similar to Bey’s affirmative proclamations. Take for instance the following passage from The Call of Cthulhu: “That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom”. This almost sounds like a passage from Bey – but for Lovecraft it is portrayed with a sense of terror! Could this be an effect of different ways of dealing with the flow of becoming?

myth of tragedy and lord et al

In some respects, this difference between Bey and Lovecraft models the difference between the revolutionary exodus of the 1960s-70s and the neoliberal precarity which recuperated it. Undercut by capitalism, the experience of flow and self-transformation became a source of anxiety rather than euphoria. Many poststructuralist writers who once celebrated post-Fordist contingency – such as Stuart Hall and Arjun Appadurai – later came to recognise that it had generated anxiety, fundamentalisms and insecurity, rather than the open-ended, self-defined identities they sought. Bey differs from these scholars in refusing to identify contingency with neoliberal capitalism or the ‘postmodern condition’, but there is a similar issue with the effect of chaos. Another thing that Bey does, that poststructuralists generally do not, is to suggest concrete practices to overcome alienation.

ie: imagine if we

Bey’s work is similar to other traditions of re-enchantment and magic, such as the Wiccan tradition, as exemplified by Starhawk. He shares with these authors an emphasis on desire and becoming, an immanentist critique of dominant religions, openness to the ‘imaginal realm’, and a personalised view of spiritual practices. While this tradition is also useful for radical politics, I would argue that Bey’s approach is more uncompromisingly radical, shedding boundaries, ‘ordinary’ concerns (such as work), and fixed identities. In contrast, authors like Starhawk are careful to tread a middle path between ordinary and altered consciousness, carefully encouraging restraint and protection from a complete loss of self. This is arguably the difference between a revolutionary use of magic, which seeks to overturn the ordinary, and a supplementary use, which seeks to survive within and subtly alter the ordinary.

huge.. have to let go of part\ial ness.. for (blank)’s sake

Often, self-transformation becomes a substitute for revolution, and a pretext for capitulation. Bey does not replace outer revolution with inner change, but connects the two. He is also unusual in theorising capitalism, the state, and social hierarchy as forms of dark magic. This makes it hard to combine his theory with conformist goals or practices, and requires an anti-systemic position. As a result of this element, his theory is very much oppositional to, rather than supplementary of, the mainstream. Furthermore, he is inclined to embrace risky emotions (such as anger) and practices (such as drug use), rather than maintaining a zone of conformity compatible with social inclusion.

as if already free ness as part\ial ness as cancerous

In conclusion, I find Bey’s work to be a powerful critical approach in engaging with issues of struggle against mediation and alienation. He sees chaos as ontologically primary, social praxis as a kind of ‘magic’, and capitalism and the state as effects of ‘dark magic’. The dominant system is mainly a matter of alienation, by means of mediation, and it can be combated by immediacy, autonomy, intensity, and altered consciousness. This transformed perspective can be achieved by a variety of means, and extended outwards into zones of autonomy which might ultimately cover the whole world. This is an inspiring and very contemporary view of resistance which resonates well with emerging forms of autonomous social movement. While the strategic conditions for realising autonomy are constantly shifting, it is important to keep pursuing a disalienated world, and the perspective of disalienation as altered consciousness, peak experience, and immediacy is at least as convincing as the more standard Marxian view.

Andy McLaverty-Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK. He is the co-author (with Athina Karatzogianni) of Power, Resistance and Conflict in the Contemporary World: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies (Routledge, 2009). He has recently published a series of books on Homi Bhabha. His ‘In Theory’ column appears every other Friday.



few notes from bey interview – Hakim Bey / Mordecai Watts Telephone Interview – (1995) – 9 pages – []

MW: One of the points in T.A.Z. and on the album is that imagination has been co-opted by the media, almost as if people no longer have imaginations of their own… imagination is now something people are fed, as opposed to what they used to excrete by nature. You mentioned virtual reality in passing, referring to it as the latest form of entertainment the least amount of imagination to date

Bey: It just seems to become more and more apparent to me… I have to admit I felt a certain intense interest, perhaps even amounting to a potential enthusiasm, when this tech was first being discussed. I’d read Gibson like the rest of us, and I certainly understood his dystopian point, but nevertheless , when Tim Leary and people like that began to get enthusiastic, I had to investigate on that level. I haven’t seen much evidence that what Uncle Tim thought was going to happen is really happening. Once again, any technology could be democratic if it were distributed, you know what I mean? It’s a simple Marxist thing about means of production. There’s nothing inherently authoritarian–at least at first glance–to any technology, although one could argue about how technology then shapes the society that has already shaped the technology in a kind of feedback loop that can move towards greater and greater authoritarianism/lack of autonomy. And in fact, I think that something like that is what’s happening with communications technology. The potential for what, back in the ’50s and ’60s, people were calling electronic democracy, is obviously still there as a potential structure, and you can see certain elements of it in the Net, but when you’re talking about the high tech involved in virtual reality you’re really talking about something that is not accessible to most people. And I think it probably never will be. There’s never going to be any cheap VR kit that’s going to allow a dock worker in Manila to get on some kind of cyberspace Internet, much less a dock worker in Atlanta–or me, for example. So to talk about electronic democracy when you’re still dealing within a capitalist framework that deliberately prices things along class lines, you know, we’re going to have an information highway but it’s going to be policed by the likes of the Democrats and the Republicans. It’s not going to be any more of an electronic democracy than America is now a legislative democracy.

berners-lee everyone law.. none of us are free.. et al

bey: Also, on the subject of the recuperation of the imagination, I would say that my thinking has gotten more gloomy over the past few years in relation to VR and VR type technology. I think that even the Internet–although I’ve had some enjoyable moments myself in connection with the Internet, and I certainly don’t want to put it down in and of itself–it’s a fascinating phenomenon–and it does show some features of what an autonomous, non-hierarchical Web could be like in cyberspace–but it’s also under assault from power, as we all know. And eventually, power will win, because power has the power. It actually owns the kilowatts, not to mention the big battalions, as Stalin said in relation to the Pope. So I’m a little gloomy about the future of the Internet if Carter–not Carter, I keep calling that asshole Carter–Clinton and his assholes are really serious about the information highway and about the policing of the information highway, I think you’ll see that even the smiley-faced liberal Democrats will act in no wise different from cyber-fascists. In fact, they are one and the same thing. So there’s still room for contestation, room for struggle, whatever you want to call that, and the Internet is an interesting area of contestation, but 90 per cent of what goes out over the Internet–correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t play on the Internet myself–my impression is that 90 per cent of what goes out over it is completely unrelated to any kind of freedom interests or autonomy proposals or projects, or struggles for genuine non-hierarchical, non-authoritarian group dynamic. Most of it is just chit-chat–banal chit-chat that could just as easily be carried out over an old fashioned party line phone. You’re probably not old enough to remember those, when there would be five or six people on a phone line, there’d have to be signals so you’d pick up when it was for you, and so forth… I don’t see that there’s been any kind of great advance there over my dear old Aunt Janice who used to pick up the phone and listen to other people’s conversations when she wasn’t supposed to. If that’s autonomy then we’ve had it.

Bey: At the minimum, there will be a statement from me that, as also representing the publisher of the book, Autonomedia, that the text is anti-copyright and can be copied and distributed at will. We’re still working on the legal thing with the people who own Island/Axiom. I’m hoping that we can get the whole thing out with some kind of very obvious invitation to copy freely. Bill [Laswell] and everybody I’ve been working with with Bill is entirely in agreement with this, but on the other hand it’s not worth their jobs. So they’re not putting their jobs on the line over this, but they’re trying their best to get rid of all the usual copyright bullshit. Even from a marketing point of view, in my mind that kind of stuff is largely irrelevant. People copy anyway. What we found out–oddly enough, this is something I didn’t expect–but I think putting an anti-copyright on the book actually made the book sell better. When people got hold of an outtake from the book, and then saw there was an anti-copyright, they said, ‘Oh, I can copy this,’ so they went out and bought a copy of the book and then copied it. That way, three and four more people maybe got to read bits and pieces of the book, or the whole book, but it also sold one more copy of the book. I explained all this to Laswell and his crew, and they saw the logic of it, and I think it very is much the logic of the Net at work. Intellectual property, as a legal problem, might just evaporate if the net really behaved in this truly non-hierarchic fashion that we were talking about earlier. And as long as there is a net or a counter-net that does behave that way, it can raise its own money.

if we don’t let go of money.. any form of m\a\p.. will never be non hierarchic

MW: Do you have any thoughts on how one could best realize the Internet as a T.A.Z.?

Bey: I’m led to believe, through conversations with people who are much more techie and active than I am, that cypher–unbreakable code–is the key. So the cypher-punks are the people to keep an eye on at this moment. And they also tend to be the ones who are most active around freedom of speech issues and so forth, whether legal or extra-legal. If Clipper were to prove impossible due to an ever-receding technological horizon of impenetrability, then this would–God knows what they would do, I suppose they would have to try to physically break down the technology in the households, and the actual people who were key and central to such a system. There certainly would be a declaration of war of some kind or another, I should think. I think there’s one now. I think Clipper was a declaration of war on the Net. Now that the egg is on their face, because within ten minutes some hacker figured out how to beat the Clipper, is sort of an indication of–oh, let’s call it an area of chaos. Within areas of chaos, either horrible destruction and disease and death occur, or, if you’re flowing the right way, and if all hearts are beating in unison to a certain degree, then that area of chaos can become the T.A.Z. Now I’ve said over and over again, that there’s no such thing as a T.A.Z. that’s only on the Net, and I maintain that that’s true. In order to have autonomy, you have to have physicality. Autonomy is not something that can only exist in the imagination or in the world of images. I think that it involves the entirety, the whole axial being, and that is rooted in the earth and concerns physicality, materiality, the body, mortality, if you like, as contrasted to the spurious immortality of cyberspace. But I still maintain that, at least in theory, the net could be an adjunct to the T.A.Z., could be a tool or a weapon, even, if you want to look at it that way, for the construction of the T.A.Z.

W: Regarding power and VR: David Blair has pointed out that VR technology actually emerged from military flight simulation technology.

Bey: Absolutely. Everything’s always emerging from military technology. I just found out the other day… you know what Taylorism means? [It’s] the rationalization of factory production by rationalizing the workforce with time clocks, what have you… the guy who invented it, Taylor, figured it all out while he was working in an arsenal for the army, around the post-civil War era. Do you know the work of Manuel Delanda [sp]?

[MW sheepishly confesses his ignorance.]

BeyWar In The Age of the Intelligent Machines. This is a major thesis that Manuel is working on, and I think a very, very important one, that we have to question all technology if we’re questioning the militarization of consciousness, because all technology is suspect from that point of view. It’s not all guilty, maybe, but it’s all suspect.