Reading Jeremy Reed’s Poetry by R J Dent

READING JEREMY REED’S POETRY

 

It’s taken me many years to find them.

Now that I have, there is a charge –

discrete amounts written on purple

labels, the strings of which are tied

in bows to fleets of hovering clouds.

 

Eyes follow the lines, the mind follows

the eyes and then overtakes. Images

become a short series of juxtaposed film

rushes, shown daily in a large, deserted

open-air theatre. When people arrive,

 

they are each comprised of perfectly-

joined silver/gold symmetrical halves –

their bodies of fire and their faces

of facetted ice. They have a cat’s amber

eyes and an intrinsic fluid inner grace.





R J Dent is the author of a poetry collection, Moonstone Silhouettes, a novel, Myth, and a short story collection, Gothiques and Fatastiques. He is also renowned translator of European literature, including the Poems & Fragments of Alcaeus (2012), and Georges Bataille’s The Dead Man (2020).


R J Dent's website

Interview with Dan Lowe by Tom Bland

 INTERVIEW WITH DAN LOWE


I met Dan online when I posted a quote from Wilhelm Reich. Reich was one of the most important thinkers on the relation between the body and mind in Sigmund Freud’s circle before being kicked out for the controversy of his views. Dan has trained in integrative psychotherapy, with a strong Reichian component, and below is the interview I conducted with him around Reich, therapy, and magick.


Dan Lowe


Tell me a bit about yourself?



I'm 48, I've been working in education for the last 12 years. Two kids, live in a small flat in London with my partner. Tried to implement some Reichian ideas with my daughter - breastfeeding, bedsharing and constant carrying. At the very beginnings of launching my own private psychotherapy practice.


Wilhelm Reich


How did you first hear of Wilhelm Reich?



Basically, I first heard of Reich through I think reading Robert Anton Wilson. He mentioned The Mass Psychology of Fascism, as well as some of his therapy experiences. The mention of Mass Psychology intrigued me because I'd always been interested in politics, but it never seemed ... enough somehow? Always had a tendency towards the managerial or the superficial solution. Reich's connection of politics to mass emotional life seemed so on point. I later was able to write my University dissertation on Reich, when I had a class that studied Mass Psychology amongst other texts. Through this, I met Peter Jones as I was casting around for people to interview, who is a mine of information on all things Reichian (or "orgonomic" as it should be- you can tell if someone is really into Reich if they use this word). 



Who is Wilhelm Reich to you?



He’s someone I think who said something really fundamental about life. You might not get really get this on first look at his writings (it;s easy to get distracted by the fascinating biographical details – and his legal troubles meant he never got to do that end of life retrospective summing up) but Reich is concerned with the basic simple processes of life as he saw them. He says that life is basically characterised by movement, specifically pulsation, and  in the human realm, there’s lots of social forces at work that stifle this. And once you get this you can see it playing out in all sorts of fields. Not just in therapy, but in biological processes, in childbirth, childrearing, in education, even mapping out into areas such as metrology and physics. A Reichican methodology is always looking for free movment in all of these situations (he actually referred to this characteristic of looking for the energetic movement in any given situation as a common functioning principle, and developed his own method of scientific enquiry based on this).  Most people tend to intuitively get his ideas about armoring straight away – they understand that their emotional lives are a bit constrained in some way, and we can feel there’s a connection between our emotion and our physicality, and I think that’s an example of how he speaks to life’s fundamentals.


One of my big influences in thinking about Reich has been my friend Peter Jones. Peter worked as a midwife, and used Reich’s concepts in and around birth and the early days of life. This again is such a vivid, human concern and that’s part of what Riech speaks directly to.



What happens in an orgone therapy session?



In an orgone therapy session - well, the kind of classical model, described by Reich, the therapist would try to raise the patient's energy level, mostly via breathing. The idea is that the increased in energy would stress the patient's armouring i.e. points where they're blocked and bring them to the therapist's attention.  Therapist Nick Totton described this process as the riot police coming out when the citizens become unruly! You can think of it as the "armoured" structure clamping back down and trying to hold on.  An easy way to relate to this might be to think of how conscious you become of your own tensions when stressed. The therapist would take note and work on this with a combination of physical and verbal therapeutic work. I don't think in practice a therapy session has to look like this at all but it's a useful guide. I used to work with my therapist 20-30m of talking and then a bodywork session where (perhaps) some of themes discussed earlier would be enacted physically. I tended to have familiar points of blockage (my stomach for one) which we had to work with again and again. 



What does Reich mean by body armour and how is it released?



By "body armour" (or muscular armour) Reich means tensions in the body that are held out of awareness. Might be a stiff jaw, a tense, overloud voice, a tight stomach or other tensions that are less easily noticeable. These are the physical corollary to "character armour" which are taken to be "points of tension" or hangups in a person's character. Orgone therapy works on both with the goal of the restoration of the organism's free pulsation. Muscular armour can be seen as localised contractions that prevent this from happening. This is expressed in the diagram on the front of all of Reich's books. One arrow, the body's energy, splitting into psyche and soma. It's released via a combination of physical work - relaxation, massage, movement, enactment - and mental - the direction of attention, characterological work. 


Wilhelm Reich and his Orgone Energy Accumulator 


Does images/memory arise when body armour is released?



Yes, though it's not guaranteed. I've seen it happen and had it happen myself (though with me only on an emotional level - the emotion arose, but not a related memory).



What made you choose this therapy over another?



I was always interested in Reich, like I said, starting with my awareness of his fusion of psychoanalysis and politics. So it was just a fruiting of that interest which has been long term. An old mentor suggested I try some of the "self help" end of Reichian exercises, which I did, but that only took me so far. Then pretty much luck I think, finding someone talented who understood his work and lived in the same city as me.



Was Israel Regardie right to advocate that therapy needs to happen before a person begins magickal work?



I think that’s pretty solid advice. As far as I can judge, that position arose from seeing Crowley first hand and up close, and seeing both how capable he was, alongside being hugely damaged. Any process that might mitigate the effects of the latter while increasing positive benefits of the former seems very worthwhile to me.


Israel Regardie

 


Magick has been dominated by Crowley’s definition with minor variations, but I want ro escape definitions in this conversation, and ask, how do you understand magick on an experiential level?



Well first thing I’d say is that if we’re talking about Reich and psychoanalysis, that those disciplines would be quite hostile to the idea of magic. And I think maybe magicians and occultists could learn quite a lot from that. What fantasies – in the psychoanalytical sense – are bound up with one’s practice? What does it mean, to take on the identify of “a magician”? What does that enable? What does it conceal? All worthwhile questions I think.


I’d add that magic is I think a floating signifier that means so many different things to so many different people.  On one level I think it’s about keeping a romantic vision alive in a materialist society.  And a lot of  it is just social theatre, in groupery, or straight up delusion and bullshit. But if you’re lucky, you might chance on a set of practices that has the potential to trigger some level of change or that allow you to build personal meaning in a way that’s new for you.  


I’m a big fan of Spare’s The Book of Pleasure – there’s a great quote in that where he’s slagging off the ceremonial magicians “They have no magic to intensify the normal, the joy of a child or a happy person”. I think they’re pretty good goals.


Austin Osman Spare



How do you understand the relation between magick and therapy? Are they the same thing?



Um, well one thing I’d say is that some of the internal process might be similar but their social positioning is very different. Therapy has to appear respectable and ethical (actually, it has to *be* ethical), people are making their livings from it, have to justify themselves to professional bodies etc etc. Magical practitioners don’t have to deal with all this, they can stay disreputable if you like.


I think one of the biggest differences is  actually the relational aspect. Lots of magical texts encourage solo practice (a spin off of marketing books I guess) and it’s easy when doing magic to isolate yourself ‘cos the prevailing culture has nothing to say about it. And that’s obviously quite a dangerous place to be. Therapy obviously has a built in relationality, from the off. You can’t do it on your own, and the role of therapist is to challenge blind spots, to ground you, to provide that warmth, contact and comfort that only another persona can bring. That’s why I think Eastern traditions have the idea of the guru – to encourage a social, relational aspect around these processes of change.


The body has been lost in much contemporary therapeutic and magickal discourse. Reich proposed that memories and traumas are trapped in the body causing restrictions and tensions which need to be released. How do you work with this?


Well, I'm kinda constrained at the moment because of where I practice (mostly in a voluntary setting) I can’t ethically practice orgone therapy – this isn’t what the organization I work for is about, nor is it what the clients are expecting. So I offer an integrative approach that draws on person-centred counselling but with an emphasis on the body. I’ve had good results using Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing (which rests of drawing attention to the body and allowing sensations and imagery to emerge). But I think the key thing is to establish a strong therapeutic relationship – the therapeutic alliance it’s often referred to as. Every client is different but if you’ve got that container where you can establish they’re liked and valued, I think you can do good work.


That same holds true when I work with clients in a more “Reichian” way  – everyone is different, every armouring pattern is different, but I’d still try and establish a strong relationship. And then I’d work gently with the client to see what emerges. I would work actively with the breath more and with the eyes – the starting point of “classical” Reichian work is with what Reich calls the ocular segment. There’s a lot of similarities between Reichian work in this segment and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming) which is very therapeutically “in vogue” at the moment - only Reich discovered the same processes nearly 100 years ago!



Wilhelm Reich’s therapy has often been a part of the psychedelic discourse. With the increasing legalisation of psychedelics in the USA [and hopefully the UK will follow], do you think this will change therapy and bring us back to Reich’s vision?



I haven’t seen much discourse that connects the two – would welcome some links or references? Reich died in 1957 so a while before a drugs culture and the ideas of drugs as tools for self-exploration took hold. So he has nothing to say about them, as far as I’m aware.


I think that the potentiality of psychedelics in therapy, and MDMA therapies are both really exciting. I’m supportive of both, particularly because of the efforts the researchers involved are taking to manage set and setting and establish a research base. Potentially great work though it’ll run into the social armoring that Reich describes – the emotional plague” - at some point as it moves towards the mainstream. I imagine the research is surviving at the moment because it’s quite marginal.


On a personal level, I'm not that interested in drugs. I think they can amp up my nervous system and I think you need to be relaxed to tune into the subtle processes at work in bodywork. Psychedelics are very strong medicine and getting into Reichian therapy showed me that there’s so much in the body that you can tap into just with attention and breath.  You don’t always need the nuclear warhead, much as might be useful sometimes.



Do you work with dreams?



Absolutely. I've always had a meaningful dream life and my time in therapy was no exception. A recurring symbol was a dog which I took as the animal part of my self. I've rarely worked with them with clients though flor some reason - don't quite know why this should be. Probably because I tend to work more person-centred than psychoanalytically.



What projects are you working on next?



I'm currently mostly working on freeing myself from my current job so I can practice full time, which has been tough under current conditions! There’s a couple of Reichian-related writing projects ongoing. I’m also very interested in the Alexander Technique and am studying that – there's some almost direct lines of connection with Reich’s work as well as many points of difference. I did an “integrative” MA – where you look at how to “integrate” the different philosophical positions underlying therapies (if you can – if you can’t, at least you’re aware of it!) . I’m kinda applying the same process to Reich and FM Alexander’s work.



Is there anything you’d like to add?



One thing – if one is tempted to read Reich. And that’s that  central to understanding Reich is to take his statements on orgone energy as absolutely real and valid, even if this is just seems like a thought experiment at first. This is where a lot of people fall down with Reich, they see it as the point he becomes delusional. But it’s fundamental to his work.



Interview with David Roden by Tom Bland

INTERVIEW WITH DAVID RODEN


I first encountered David's work in Edia Connole and Gary J Shipley’s edited volumed Serial Killing: A Philosophical Anthology published by Schism Press. They are also the publisher of David's new novella, Snuff Memories, an experimental labyrinth of sexuality, body horror, mutation, posthumanism, and the weirdness of becoming something other than human or what is "conceived" to be human.







Your new book, Snuff Memories, is about to come out. How did this work come about?



Snuff Memories has its immediate genesis in a prose piece ‘In the Country of the Broken’, published in Gary Shipley’s journal, gobbet back in 2017. But I guess it goes deeper than that for me. I’ve always had a sense that our habits of sense-making are feeble compared with the geologic pull and drift of things. My father had a golden childhood in Czechoslovakia before the Second World War – brutally erased after the Nazi invasion: his immediate family exterminated after he came to the UK on the last Kindertransport. He was perpetually grappling with this ineffable loss that nothing could ameliorate, that just kept returning like tape loop. This, to me, is the only absolute and I respond to it with tactics of abstraction and sublimated desire. An impossible identification, as I suggest in SM.

 

In an article or interview – I forget which one - the philosopher Nick Land entertains the Marxist heresy that modernity is not about the emancipation of people, but of things – intelligent machines, inhuman systems proliferating over the Earth. For me – maybe for him, idk - there is a profound ambivalence towards this incalculable violence, a desire to be shattered and overwhelmed by it. Skynet wins because we secretly want the future to extirpate us. Modernity has exhausted us even as it continues to ramify. Perhaps the gleaming chromium skull of Things-to-Come will save us from ourselves in the end.

 

From tape loop to time loop…

 

My Posthuman Life: philosophy at the edge of the human was an attempt to articulate this moral impasse with the rigor and consequence of analytic philosophy – But that book couldn’t convey the libidinal underside of the posthuman condition – our collective desire, it seems, for a scorched Earth. So, I followed it up with writing on serial killers, shards of poetry, a sci-fi-horror-philosophy montage for the 9th Berlin Biennale, some (as yet unpublished) erotica, all appended to a philosophical output that ‘unbound’ my earlier work on ‘speculative posthumanism’ setting it on epistemic auto-destruct.

 

‘Broken’ belongs to this disparate series, but somehow felt naggingly incomplete, like disparate samples grabbed from a larger work. I had the insane idea that I wanted to work in a larger format. Snuff Memories is what grew from that seed.



Click on photo to enlarge - Snuff Memories

 


The work focuses on death and you very much utilise the idea of death as an open ended enquiry into its own nature. How do you understand death?

 


Let’s see - there’s death as an empirical fact, the end of organic life, meaning, consciousness, metabolism, sense etc. A corpse laid out on a hospital bed, shit-stained, bloody, freshly cleaned for viewing, a ruptured body shattered by violence, rotting in filth on a road or battlefield ...

 

There are the ways we conceive, mythologize, and even eroticize death – all of which seem to invite failure and conceptual collapse. For Heidegger in Being and Time, my death closes off my possibilities, shows that these are always individualized, never interchangeable with others. Thus, in understanding my-being-towards-death I understand how to grasp my most singular possibilities for being. For Hegel, again, death is a negotiable limit that must be overcome as human consciousness attains its independence and (as in Marx) becomes the progressive agent of history.

 

Then, for Bataille and Derrida death exceeds both the individual (pace Heidegger) and the social meaning accorded to it in Hegel’s work. In Bataille, the erotic “is” death because it exceeds the organism’s security systems – the erotic body-without-organs is always on the lip of the volcano. In Derrida, writing (and thereby literature) is death because it is always open to non-meaning and drift, zombie loops of abstraction which exceed any context of meaning or action.

 

In an elaboration of this modern, anti-humanist discourse on death, Ray Brassier has argued that the long run effects of physical reality, entropy, and the decay of matter, means that death is no longer proper or unique to the human. Everything dies in the same way. The sun dies as you and I die. Cosmic death exceeds and blanks the horizon of human finitude explored by Heidegger – it is a death we can neither encounter nor identify.

 

This is also very close to what I have argued is the ‘Posthuman Thought of death’; although, with the posthuman, importantly, there is still a residual connection to the body on which subjectivity, life and ethics depend, a ‘biomorphic’ body exposed to ramifying forces of production which can no longer be subjected to collective human control.

 

So, it is in the thought of the posthuman that the cosmic and the erotic collide. This the zone where the narrative of Snuff Memories plays out. ‘Snuff’ is, of course, a genre of pornography that eroticizes death. But that object is systematically elusive, as we have seen. It is necessary to pass through this loss and collapse, since modernity is the production and dissemination of death and we cannot, I think, relinquish it. But this task is also impossible since this very open endedness deprives desire of its specificity.

 

Snuff Memories concerns this impossible non-project; the attempt to identify with and even politicize the inscrutable mechanisms of cosmic death. This identification takes at least two forms. First, the bodily eroticization of death. It is just a given that death, extinction, and pain are what its characters ultimately crave. Neither they nor I give explanation or apology for this. Its narrator, a Wellsian Time Pilot, addresses its prime political mover, the Cabalist saying “Like you, I would die but cannot. Not in a way that might satisfy you”.

 

But can she really die with more finality or conviction? Later he says of her “You told us the sun will strangle itself with or without our help – But, no matter, let’s help.”

 

Why catalyse the death of the sun, or the death of God(s), for that matter? I do not think I can answer the questions that the novella sets out, but that they confront us I have little doubt.

 


Who is JG Ballard to you?



I once told the SF writer Scott Bakker that I was an infant Ballardian. By this I meant not that I read Ballard from an early age – although I did – but that something about Ballard’s writing seemed more familiar, more apt to my lived experience than the capacious psychologies and dense social meshes of mainstream literature. Maybe it is something about being born in the suburbs, having that sense of artificial landscapes under open skies, of an intimate modernity in which the dreams of the late 20th Century could flourish. I sensed the future in the enthusiastic modernity of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds. I rode to the Staines Sewage works (one of the topoi of Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition) regularly when I lived in Surrey. But more specifically, Ballard is the writer who best captures how our consciousness has been altered by the drug of technological modernity and the reciprocating mechanisms of advanced global capitalism, the way violence and dreams of strange cataclysms are being sold to keep a system which clearly has no purpose outside itself, in operation.  

 


Georges Bataille voiced the idea of nonprocreational sex outside of the lifegiving sanctimony of marriage as being death driven, and that to invert and “escape” Catholicism we must fully embrace sex as death. Is this something you agree with or do you have another kind of perspective?

 


What is it to fully embrace sex as death? Can we? There are many fetishists into death as a fantasy and soi disant autassassinophiliacs who avow that they want to die out of some erotic need (some do die in pursuit of their fetish, of course!). But even here death as an erotic aim is, as I hinted earlier, intrinsically problematic. If we assume that erotic desire aims at a subjective condition, the desire to end subjectivity is a self-vitiating one. A necro fetishist may imagine being a corpse, but a feeling corpse is no corpse. Whatever this ‘death’ is, it is not death. However, I don’t think Bataille saw death as a sexual aim but – along the lines sketched above – as a generative process, at once destructive and cumulative, of loss and sumptuary excess.

 

Somewhat tangentially this reminds me of a recent debate prompted by queer theorist Lee Edelman. He claims that figuring the future in the child – for example, when Starmer portrays Labour as the ‘the party of the family’ – is an inherently heteronormative an exclusionary move that should be resisted by embracing the death drive and rejecting ‘reproductive futurity’. Conversely, this brings home how central reproduction, and the family is to the very idea of progressive politics as we’ve understood it. Even the Marxist/accelerationist idea that our politics should cultivate and extend collective rationality, to dominate domination itself – as Brassier nicely puts it – presupposes that a substrate of intelligence (not necessarily a biologically human one) is reproduced into an indeterminate future. So Bataille’s injunction is very radical indeed. I’m not sure if it is a question of agreeing with it, so much as generatively counterposing its virulence to the procreative infinitude of Reason – exploring its consequences and affects. In a way, Snuff Memories can be assimilated to this project. It is a book that takes the many sides of death.

 



Are we becoming posthuman or is this a way of avoiding the reality of being human?



The theory of Speculative Posthumanism I develop in Posthuman Life argues that becoming posthuman is a rupture, a disconnection from the human (the disconnection thesis) rather than the assumption of a particular identity or nature. But what is disconnection here? In PHL I argue that this would be a kind of technological autonomy with respect to human society and institutions. But lately I’ve asked whether this can be performed in discrete or little ways, micro-disconnections, if you will. The ethical impasse here is that this posthuman can only be thought through its production. To think the posthuman, we must produce it. So, it is like the death drive, fundamentally headless and ramifying. By the same token, if this is right, then becoming posthuman is a real event, it isn’t an avoidance of reality so much as the engineering of a new one.

 


At the current moment - of course things change so quickly - how do you see the production of the posthuman reality?



There are distinct conceptions of ‘posthuman reality’ that it’s important to keep them apart for analytical purposes. For example, the philosophy of Critical Posthumanism argues that all reality is posthuman (or nonhuman) because the very idea of the human as an autonomous, self-transparent subject is myth whose efficacy is fading. Speculative Posthumanism has overlaps with Critical Posthumanism here, but it is more concerned with the possibility of a rupture or disconnection from the human generated within human technological societies. As I said, I conceive that as a kind of autonomy but I’m careful to argue that there are many conceivable ways in which this could arise: e.g., generally intelligent AI, synthetic life etc, space colonization. The last of these constitutes an interesting test case because the world’s richest individuals – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – are committed to either planetary or space colonization, as in the recent proposal to use the raw materials of the asteroid Ceres to create a system of linked colonies with artificial gravity. I lack the expertise to comment on the ultimate feasibility of these projects, but the prospect that humans would adapt to a non-terrestrial environment, altering and augmenting bodies and social systems over hundreds or thousands of years, might well qualify as a disconnection in my sense. If so, space colonization amounts to an existential choice - not to terraform but to xenoform. What interests me currently is precisely mapping the ‘xenophilic’ desire behind this incalculable decision to become our own aliens.  

 


Three fav books…

 


Crash, J G Ballard

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

Nova, Samuel R. Delaney

 


As the transgressive books of philosophy such as Bataille explode in podcasts and social media platforms, do you welcome this or feel it waters down the true value of these ideas?

 


No. There are some excellent podcasts run by people who are seriously engaged and knowledgeable about this stuff – most of them much better read than me! - such as Wyrd Signal and Theory Talk.

 


What are you working on next?



I’m slowly developing an anthology of dark erotic and erotic horror stories, provisionally entitled Zero D. Mostly these will be written in a more conventional way than Snuff Memories. Apart from a couple of academic papers in process, I’ve been planning a follow up to Posthuman Life for a while too, but it’s been delayed, in part because I wanted to work on fiction and theory-fic, but also because the philosophical terrain it needs to compass is so intimidatingly vast. I’d also like to write a not-quite-sequel to Snuff Memories with the feel of an abstract space opera unfolding on multiple ‘worlds’ – working title is The Bubble War. You heard it here first!




Anything else you would like to add?



Just to thank you for being such a brilliant and enthusiastic interlocutor Tom. I’ve loved answering these questions, and they’ve materially helped me think through the concepts we’ve discussed.