These notes are a product of conversation with Emanuel Magno.

We are painting in simple broad brush strokes here, yet even these can reveal some interesting thoughts and possible structures. To recap briefly we are investigating how certain modes of interacting with the world can be conceived as responses to the the nothingness. We would say the nothingness can be a cognitive discovery (there may be always a trace of this). When this occurs reason philosophy is a void response. Furthermore philosophy here is characterised precisely by its untestable nature and desire to ground its subject matter (knowledge, how to live, the being of Being). This is not a derogatory comment only a descriptive one. Philosophical concepts a priori cannot be defeated by any opposing philosophical concept. Science may shore up the edges of philosophy but sceptical possibilities can persist in the face of overwhelming evidence (and philosophy is duty bound to take them seriously -even though sometimes it would not like to). Hence this shoring up is more a case of rendering unpalatable rather than removing from the philosophical realm. Philosophy tries to ground what it cannot ground using thought, this is its nature.

We also identified sorcery as described in the works of Castaneda as a void response. The accusations of fiction levelled at the works are irrelevant here, all that is relevant is the system and the system describes a way of living that absolutely accepts the void and urges action as if there was no void -yet all the while knows it is there. Sorcery then is a magickal response of action to the void and chaos magick is a very similar (though not identical) one. Chaos magick is more forgiving of regular human nature than sorcery.

Compassion/love was also noted as a void response i.e. in the face of the nothingness the only tenable action is to show compassion to the world and all the beings in it.

It can be argued of course that these are all philosophies insofar they attempt to ground existence by an ungroundable principle. However the difference is that sorcery and compassion responses supply action to be lived and hence they transcend the philosophical realm of thought.

As previously noted there is no claim that philosophy never leads to altered lives, only that the majority of the time the biggest change philosophy makes to someone’s life is that they become interested in philosophy.

We must also consider the source of what looks like a philosophy. This kind of notion turns on the ontological status of revelation. If revelation comes from within a discrete self and represents nothing more than the subconscious mulling over of a problem, the answer to which is fed back to the questioner by some means that appears to not be the questioner, then we might consider it little more unconscious cognition. However if revelation comes from an external power (God/Spirit) then the philosophy in question has not be grounded in cognition of any kind and hence is not philosophy in the above sense of thinking hard about problems.

Of course one cannot actually tell the difference between these two phenomena, the problem is as we say, agnostic disjunctive. In this sense then the phenomenology of external revelation is only what is important and such systems as they arise are not -in our brush strokes- to be considered philosophy in the sense of trying to conceptually/logically disentangle problems.

External revelation though often results in the void-cocoons (or a-voidances). These are systems that shield humans from the void by giving rules for living that are transcendent to humanity. They often supply a teleology. This is a very important part of an a-voidance. Shamanic systems, polytheisms and monotheisms are all largely a-voidances. Shamanic systems do so by direct contact with spirit. Spirit in turn will reveal a creation myth to the shaman. The non-reflectivity of shamanic based communities means that spirit may be naively trusted in its claims. Contact with spirit is perfectly real (though ontologically questionable as the above agnostic disjunction shows) it is just that, as is often said, the spirits cannot be trusted.

Alternative again to any kind of spirituality, cognition or compassion is a certain physical response of fullness to the world -like a hedonism. This may not be born necessarily out of direct cognition of life as a problem, but rather is the result of a certain effusive spirit. When such a person asks themselves whether or not their pleasure in life is reasonable, they simply find that there is no reason why it is not reasonable; life becomes justified on these terms. Equally such a consideration may be never made. The effusiveness of the physicality of life covers the yawning void.

Does this consideration mean we may paint the aesthetic temperament (the poetic, the musical, the artistic) also as void response? Such responses are not cognitive reactions and hence they probably should considered a further part of the picture.

Previously we considered sorcery as a kind of response to the void. We also consider that maybe the previously phraseology of void-parasite may be awry. This is the case because the void must always be mediated and hence it is not the void that is the parasite but the void-mediation-system. In the examples of Buddhism of sorcery we may broadly say that compassion and awe respectively mediate the impact of the void upon the human-vector.

We can consider other activities also as responses to the void. Not least of these is philosophy. Philosophers all brush with the void to a greater or lesser extent. This encounter is (for example) the dizzying vertigo one gets when encountering Descartes radical doubt for the first time. This sensation is often (but not always) easily repressed and the activity looks like one more mode of study. But of course what characterises philosophy is that really none of its questions receives an actual answer. It has this character because there are no regular knowledge criteria for the kinds of questions involved. This is because it responds to an encounter with nothing. Ultimate questions have no answers, only speculations: What should we do? Maybe this… What is the nature of all things? Maybe this…

Philosophy proceeds by creating and counter-posing logical speculation against logical speculation. Sometimes more regular-world criteria emerge from other disciplines (science, logic) that facilitate the partial withdrawal of some aspects of it. However otherwise what happens is largely a proliferation of systems reacting to a total unknowable.

In this way philosophy is indeed a void response, only unlike the awe and perceptual manipulation of sorcery and the compassion of Buddhism, it focusses on arguing about what is the case and what we can know. It is what it thinks it is: a love of reason (to interpret wisdom in the way in which philosophy has evolved it).

Such talk cannot help but put us in mind of the work of Laruelle and our own notions of manifestationism and agnostic disjunction. Laruelle puts forward a similar notion of war between differing ontologies, none of which can triumph, as all are reliant in the last instance on the One. The One in this sense can be likened to the void. It is the font of all concepts and yet contains none in itself. What we note also is that the conception we have of philosophy as an encounter with the void presents the void as a transcendental condition for philosophy and stronger than this philosophy is a transcendental consequence of the void. The human as human cannot help but develop these questions because the void is real and hence cannot help becoming locked in their labyrinthine argumentative structures.

Two additional observations come to mind. The first concerns prescriptive religion (largely monotheisms). These are interesting insofar as they do not so much represent a void interface as a-voidance. That is, they deny at least the moral void whilst preserving the ontological void -only God can understand being properly. The response that humans should have to the world though is not up for grabs, rather it is dictated by the deity in a book/system of rules.

The void is a more rational response to existence whereas the dictator God seems less so. However in a sense either of these notions is equally plausible such that they form a kind of meta-manifestationism (meta-non-philosophy). That is, it seems that the void/prescriptive God opposition operates at a different level to which e.g. idealism/realism does.

This fascinating consideration aside there is another way in which the prescriptive God works with the void. If we consider pneuminous accretive theory (which is a void entailing theory) to be correct, then any monotheistic deity can be seen as a vast pneuminous accretion that by its own conceptual power (definition) entails its supreme nature. As such, this supremacy is to its followers (and even to some extent to non-followers) actually supreme and its laws ‘real’.

In this case such a deity does not so much as make a void mediation system as a void-protection system. The monotheistic accretive entity cocoons the void and prevents the humans from coming into contact with it, offering up instead a deity complete with life and death explanation, teleology and morals to determine how existence should be lived. It is of course the removal of such a cocoon that Nietzsche called the death of God.

Secondly, and this in part builds on the possibility of a two tier philosophy dissection. It seems interesting (if maybe not at this stage plausible) to potentially align the void interfaces with the Jungian quaternity.

Such a lining up would tentatively be as follows:

Thinking Philosophy -mediated through reason

Feeling Compassion -mediated through good deeds

Intuition Sorcery -mediated through awe, astonishing events

Sensation Pseudo-Hedonism -mediated through physical work and sensory pleasure.

What I want to consider here is the term ‘power’ as used by Castaneda and consider how this fits with various other types of experience. To qualify my use of treating Castaneda with this level of seriousness I would point out that I do not naively take the contents of the books to depict actual events, though neither do I deny that they might. What I do find important in the books is the way in which (to me at least) concepts like power make a massive amount of sense. This feeling though, as we shall see, serves as a ambiguous kind of evidence for the general thesis.

Power in Castaneda is both an impersonal and personal force. Basically it is what is responsible for any incredible things occurring. Persons wanting to cultivate occult ability need to acquire ‘personal power’. The chief manner in which this is achieved is through ‘impeccable’ living. This simply means doing ones best at everything and not wasting time on endless thinking about what to do, thought is functional so that it leads to action and it should lead to action (not more thought). The notion is that by tidying up ones life one stops leaking ‘power’ and becomes able to retain it. The distinction between the personal and impersonal is something of a false one. Incredible things that occur are ‘for’ specific people insofar as they brought them about themselves. Jungian synchronicities could be seen as examples of such phenomena though events in the books are far more extreme. Power can present itself as something that might seem incredibly impersonal, yet the possibility of viewing the event at all turned on whether one had enough ‘personal’ power to do so.

Another key feature of power is the ability of more powerful individuals to lend power to others. Don Juan frequently tells Carlos that some of the things he is able to witness are only because of his (DJ’s) power and not Carlos’. Some entities that Carlos sees in the hills and Carlos’ initial dreaming success are both ascribed to Don Juan’s power and not Carlos’. It is this feature of power that has captured my attention.

This notion of acquiring power from others seems related to a common experience people have when reading texts, or even reading about texts. Certain texts to certain individuals can feel so persuasive that they feel overwhelmed by them. In the case of philosophy this may result in becoming ‘a Heideggerian’ ‘a Deleuzian’ ‘a Wittgensteinian’ etc. This kind of acolytehood no matter how temporary can be seen through the above lens in two ways: i) as the power of the author to bring you under their fold ii) as the power of the individual to comprehend the text. The second interpretation features in a similar manner in CC’s work. There are instances of certain explanations that are literally impossible to understand without a certain level of ‘personal power’.

I tentatively want to argue for a heuristic division of ways in which texts strike us. This split I would label as rational and intuitive (for want of a better word). Furthermore this division is not intended as always occurring in an absolute manner, all instances will no doubt be blurred. Neither should we think that the rational understanding of a text is denigrated. This is the attempt to understand the arguments presented and follow the authors steps through to their conclusion. I am not saying that this results in truth; lurking underneath this tendency are still affective factors -as suggested here.

What I am suggesting though is that it is when an intuitive tendency takes over, that one is more open to the double motion of being-controlled and suddenly-grasping. Being-controlled is as such,, only insofar the author has exerted power through the text. Being-controlled is the sense that the work is so powerful that one must push this agenda and adhere to it. This is what elsewhere referred to as being-an-agent, that is even if it is not for a particular thinker, one might be an agent for e.g. idealism. As someone ‘persuaded’ of this truth, one works for idealism, to further its status in the world etc. Suddenly-grasping can be separated from being-controlled insofar as it does not entail that one agrees with what one has suddenly grasped. Whilst I could also concede that suddenly-grasping does not entail that one has suddenly-grasped correctly, in the sense of power that we mean here, in a way it does. Suddenly-grasping as an act of power is an actual comprehension brought about fluidly from the text in a very natural unfolding as opposed to hard cognitive work.

Let’s be clear, this is an occult thesis offering a parallel interpretation to more normal ways in which we think we understand things (we read something, we take in the information and weigh up). Power is not understood to have an agenda, the actions of power are completely mysterious. Why was a given person suddenly able to understand the text? Simply because they had enough power to receive that information. End of story. We can render power in this sense, slightly more cogent by thinking that unconscious forces in operation are motivated towards certain ends and as such will reveal text that suits their ends.

Being-controlled can be thought of in a similar way, though it can also be comprehended as being literally taken over by an alien conceptual body. The thoughts that we have that agree with, (indeed argue for) this stance seem like our own but really we are simply being partially controlled through lines connected to the relevant theory accretion/psychic structure. Whilst, at first this suggests a sense in which there was a ‘me’ that is now partially controlled in its theoretical doings by an external accretion. A more sensible way of looking at it would be that there was either no or very little ‘me’ and in fact all the thoughts present in this region were just the external plugins of all manner of different kinds of accretions. The ‘me’ could be better understood as the system of filtering rather than the ideas themselves, as it is the system of filtering that actually is local whereas all the ideas are essentially out there and in this case very literally ‘out there’.

Another instance of this kind of usage of ‘power’ is a therapeutic one. We can conceive of a therapist as someone who lends some power to their patient. This is a specific kind of action in a sense. It is not the kind of action that normal healthcare uses as the modern western system externalises power into the action of the medicine and not the healer and psychologically increasingly the the technique and not the therapist.

A psychological type therapy though is the best kind of relevant example as the aim is very similar to the Don Juan/CC relation, that is, one seeks to alter the way of perceiving things of the other. In the therapeutic setting, if we allow for an occult concept like power to have force, then the action is literally one of lending some power to the patient. Now the being-controlled notion takes on a different edge. Here being-controlled would be a deliberate allowing oneself to be-controlled. The therapist plugs the forces for which they are an agent directly into the patient. ‘Power’ here is ability to do so, to lend your ‘stable’ mind to the patient and attempt to nuture autonomy of the stability-implant so that the connection can be eventually mostly severed. This would also suggest that power is the power to control ones own filtering system and other people’s filtering systems.

Lest this sound too reasonable statement, the extreme version of ‘filtering system’ here would be the alteration of seemingly solid reality. The line between what looks like simply perceptual alteration and actual ontological change would also be totally blurred.

The meaning of the ambiguous force of Castaneda’s own works as evidence for the thesis is probably fairly clear now. The ambiguity is of course our old friend the agnostic disjunction -is power ontologically real or purely psychological? On the strong (occult) interpretation CC’s works themselves are capable as a power source capable of altering the filtering system of readers. This is certainly a common enough effect of reading the books just as being infected by the 23 phenomenon is with RAW/Burroughs’ work. Power in this way operates in a certain circularity. Its comprehension requires sufficient power itself. This is almost the strangest heart of agnostic disjunctive territory for only by allowing power to be power could it show itself in this wise. A constant refusal to do so will reveal it only in its psychological dimension which will view its occult counterpart as total bunk. This does not even say the psychological reading is wrong, it is consistent within itself.

It is not called an agnostic disjunction for no reason.

Agents work for ontologies, agents being humans in this case. The big question is why do agents work for particular ontologies? From the perspective of the agent it is because this is the correct ontology. However owing to the fact that there are many agents for the various ontologies and also agents for new ontologies (whether or not the agents produce the ontologies is a problem we will touch on later), we must presume that argument between agents fail to result in any resolution in which one agent has ‘defeated’ the other. In other words ‘truth’ is not the deciding factor other than from the perspective of the agent -who believes they are right. This is related to the thesis that all concepts are incoherent in some manner or other. Argumentation between any two given agents exploits the incoherence present to each others mutual advantage.

So if choosing the correct ontology is not what is actually going on with agents then what is? We feel the answer to this must be at the level of some kind of affect. Indeed other options seem limited when truth is removed. One can appeal to straightforward determinism but this doesn’t really help as since one can never tell if we are determined or not, we lapse back into one of the warring ontologies themselves -becoming an agent for determinism. The same problem ensues for any philosophical speculative solution.

If however we dwell at the level of a kind of bracketed affect then we do not comment on the metaphysical determination of the whole situation but rather look to the only other determination available (without drawing in other invisible possibilities like people are fated to be certain kinds of people). By bracketed affect we mean that the level of human preference exists but is not attached to any ontology. This is seems fair enough since the affective register of humans is a priori present in any given ontology to a greater or lesser extent. What we propose here though is that it is the affective register that is largely determines the ontology one might be an agent for.

This does not mean that argumentation/logic plays no role in determining agenthood. This however generally occurs more at an student-philosophical stage in which factors like: the persuasiveness of certain arguments, favoured lecturers, prose styles, favoured historical periods and capacity for formalisms work together to determine what philosophy will be preferred and hence that the student will become an agent for. It will be noted that the factors themselves are already in many cases (potentially all) preference tendencies. Asking where these tendencies came from results only in asking where we come. Answering this question results self-ontology which similarly schisms into the multiple agnostic disjunctive series and of course choice from this series itself will be similarly decided by preference.

This leaves us trying to speak of a kind of ontologically neutral term, like persons having a ‘disposition’, whilst at the same time refusing to speculate on how such a disposition came about -this is the bracketing. A disposition then would be the general affective tendencies of that person which in turn tries to express their conscious and unconscious likes and dislikes. This in turn does invoke an immediate sense of yet another order of controlling entities -affective ones.

The previous structure that was considered had at one end the pre-ontological and at the other end the multiplicity of ontologies (manifestations) all in competition with each other. This affective addition presents a third element which so far is to added only to the manifestationist end (though already possibilities of applying it to both ends seem reasonable). This has been done in order to supply some kind of ground as to why different agents work for different ontologies (given that the truth of the ontologies is so indeterminable as to render agreement impossible -which is in turn grounded in the incoherence of any given concept). The affective register and disposition concept supplies the control mechanism necessary to render differing agenthood cogent without lapsing into any specific ontology.

As an after thought we note that the only self-ontology question that escapes the bracketing off of self-ontologies is whether or not the subject is i) a discrete unit of autonomy or ii) whether it is more appropriate to think of it as a node with conceptual powers flowing in and basically controlling it by their flows. This is an important point because on this turns the actual sense of whether the language of agent is truly appropriate. If i) is true then it makes more sense to think of concepts as working for us than vice versa. Preference/affect is still an issue but in this instance pertains to the subject’s control of the ontologies, rather than the reverse. ii) is more the schema generally talked about above, in which a pre-existing conceptual-ontological realm controls the nodes, which in turn create new variations of ontology. A ‘disposition’ is an interesting possibility insofar as it does not suggest control (though does not outright rule it out) but it does suggest a susceptibility to only certain conceptual powers.

The structure that we attempted articulate seems to have some relation to the work of Laruelle, though in fairness this is more coincidence than inspiration. The early description of ‘manifestationism’ always struck us as similar to his work. However ‘manifestationism’ never pretended to be anything other than a meta-philosophy and was never developed beyond a certain point owing to a paradox type problem. This being that philosophers became agents of the ontologies, or at least this was the preferred tack. However in making this the case one had to align the meta-theory with a particular ontological bias -something definite has to be asserted about the nature of the subject/agent, in this case, that the ontology is essentially of a higher order than the agent that works for it (the philosopher). The problem then is that manifestationism cannot ground itself without lapsing into a particular manifestation. We find there is still something attractive about the notion of philosophers as agents of ontologies and may well pursue this line of thought again.

Current considerations of Laruelle and Castaneda have somewhat reinvigorated this idea, or at least complemented it. For Laruelle, what I have called the manifestations are the philosophies that arise out of the one but are determined by it in the last instance, meaning the impenetrable one calls the shots on them but the converse is not true. Manifestationism had no transcendental one. The endlessly proliferating philosophies were caused by the agnostic disjunctive incoherence between them all. They did not require a transcendental extra, rather they formed a closed system which was basically kept going by scepticism about each other.

Castaneda’s (or Don Juan’s) insistence on mystery, emphasis on the occurrence of seemingly impossible things and resistance to any kind of theorising suggests something similar to the region that we wish to disclose. In making such a move though we stray even closer to Laruelle, for now we have a region closed off to theory from which all theory springs, which is of course very similar to the Laruellian one. The structure here though whilst similar is also different, for here we seek to feed paranormality back into the system without discussing it in any ontological sense, whilst the Laruellian project is more interested in showing the contingent nature of philosophical practice as a practice though arguably still retains the same hidden presupposition of materiality that most of the standard philosophical canon does.

An attempt at the level of ‘what is before’ has two potential strands to it. One is more akin to a Laruellian one insofar as it exists in a pseudo phenomenological space and operates as a transcendental to all possible philosophies. The other would involve reflections akin to those found in Lewis-Williams ‘The Mind in the Cave’. In this book cave paintings are theorised as being the nailing down of hypnagogic like imagery that may have appeared spontaneously to early humans spending time in cave recesses where darkness was absolute. Notions such as this point out a whole realm of experiences which the western theoretical mind will dismiss as not ‘real’ owing to this word’s near synonymity with the solid and continuous. This is not to be dismissive of such reasoning, of course this kind of thought has very good reason for thinking (to the point of assuming) this. The physical world does indeed appear to be solid and continuous. From this perspective of the before then, it is what we call now call the illusions, possibly also the marvellous sights (rainbows, light reflected through water onto rocks, glowing mists etc), powerful displays (thunderstorms, winds e.g.), hallucinations of any sense (for the sake of argument these would include the paranormalities: ghosts etc) and serendipities. If we strip these of our understanding of them then we can allow ourselves a glimpse of the prior. These experiences would all form a continuum with the solid and continuous.

Another example of thinking similar to this is found in Jaynes book on the origin of consciousness. The argument there is that the internal dialogue was previously experienced as an auditory hallucinogenic command voice. This bicameral mind, as he calls it mind was slowly superseded by modern consciousness which integrated the internal voice into its own understanding by the process of learning metaphorical language. We do not say (unlike with optical illusions e.g.) we now have excellent theories about nature of the internal dialogue, our best notions still turn on the theories of Vygotsky, however Jaynes argument is a related claim to our own insofar as it draws attention to possible ways in which phenomena which just ‘are’ were previously taken to be very different in a very fundamental way.

Of all of these what we come back to again and again are the issues surrounding the serendipities or synchronicities and how to conceive these in this more fundamental way. These are taken to be of maximal importance because these are the phenomena the most represent the possibility of reality at large altering itself in relation to the perceiving being. Even the most sceptical of us can experience a certain jolt when we are struck by a synchronicity (or coincidence if you prefer). If we quickly annul it with our agnostic disjunctive choice then we proceed with passive interest at the curiosity but not with the sense that something exceptional has happened. There is good reason for this of course. The alternatives don’t look appealing to many, there is either a kind of predetermined harmony, psychic awareness or reality altering itself around us to choose from.

In the prior there is no such theorising, there is no choice of ontologies. This state shows all these possibilities in a unified way. What we believe we have here is a world inhabited by powers that would be later classified as spirits but here are so continuous with it as to be unremarkable. The synchronicities themselves would be also nothing but normality, an expression possibly of the powers’ state towards the experiencing beings. And it is here we run into difficulties in this heuristic. Statements like the above seem to drag us dangerously close to a primordial theorising of spirits being linked to fortune. The emphasis we feel has to be on the ineffable fluctuating sense of reality that seems possible here, that makes possible the more ridiculed possibilities of psychic awareness or reality altering. The primordial experience that makes these now largely discarded possibilities has them in its living unity. This means there is a kind of push pull action embedded in it between the appearance of the solid continuity and the fluctuating reality of interplay between extended awareness, powers and actual alteration.