poetix (old content)

oh build your ship of death

Generic Misanthropy (I)

Is a consistent and thorough-going hatred of all humanity possible? Indifference towards humanity is not difficult to imagine: pretty much all of the universe is full of it pretty much all of the time. But hatred of humanity as such, of “the human precisely as human”, is much more difficult to carry off.

Hatred is “a human emotion”; this means both that it is a general propensity of human beings and that it manifests itself distinctly in specific human individuals or collectivities, and is thus inexorably situated and partial. That is the first problem: the affect of hatred must always be borne by some human being. It cannot therefore be consistently both a) contempt for that which is inferior to oneself, and b) universal in scope, since a human being, included in its own hatred of all things human, cannot be inferior to itself.

The misanthropist must choose between two paths. The first is to make an exception for some special class of human being, and to include oneself in the exception. A few human beings are strong, pure, decent and worthy of survival. Even though the very essence of humanity is accursed, it is possible to live an aesthetically pleasing life. The conditions of such a life will include isolation from the “great masses” of humanity (concentrated as they are in the cities), emotional coldness and repression, and devotion to an external rule that will give coherence and meaning to one’s actions. Thus, mutatis mutandis, Lovecraft’s approbation for “Puritan inhibitions” as “attempts to make of life a work of art - to fashion a pattern of beauty in the hog-wallow that is animal existence”, and the post-apocalyptic rural paganism dreamed of by Varg Vikernes.

The first path alternates with the second, according to which all of humanity remains accursed but is hated from the standpoint of the inhuman - in the first instance, of the dead. “Pure Depressive Black Funeral Doom Metal” exponent Nortt describes his music thus:

The elegies of Nortt tell about death and darkness viewed from the dying and from the dead. They reveal a bitter hate towards life and its divine maker. It is pure misanthropy and blasphemy - not self-pity! The darkened soil is praised as the godforsaken heaven - a heaven in hell. In order to unchain oneself from the despair of life, follow the path of death! At a funereal pace and with a sombre, chanting voice, Nortt summons the forces in the night.

“Pure misanthropy…not self-pity”: in order to be pure, misanthropy must be purified of any attachment to the human self that would fall within its remit. A world of the dead that despises and rejects that of the living: such is the allegiance of the misanthropist without reserve. Xasthur’s Telepathic with the Deceased engages the same conceit: “Haters of life are telepathic with the deceased. / Fragments of failure, some said it was art, for it only bears a meaning when all life is torn apart”. Tele-antipathy, the “spooky action at a distance” of “the dying and…the dead”: it is unsurprising that a recurring theme in Xasthur’s lyrics and song titles is that of projection. Total misanthropy forces a split in the human self, a self-projection into the realm of the inhuman - or is it a projection from that realm into the human world?

Mirrors for Xasthur have a double significance, both as portals to the land of the dead and as multipliers of appearances holding the living captive: they establish a geometry of reflections which is both the prison of reality and the transcendental “screen” beyond which lies a universe of discord and unthinkable chaos. Is the horror which looks back at you from the mirror a projection from the malevolent beyond, or the simple truth of your all-too-human existence? The answer must be “both”: the image captured by the mirror is both veridical reflection and projection from/into the land of the dead, detached from any possible referent in the world of the living.

What has this second misanthropy of pure inhumanity and existential horror to do with the first misanthropy, that of the racial-purist elite detaching itself from the degraded and “animal” life of the mass of humanity and forcing an aesthetically good existence by sheer effort of revulsion? For the two surely coincide, and even reinforce each other, in both Lovecraft’s fiction and the sepulchral world of black metal. The answer has to do with the generic, and will be examined in the next post…