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White Lotus

You know, the first cell never died. The first cell only split. Right? And ever divided. And every cell in our body is still an instance of the first cell that split off from that very first cell. There was only one cell on this planet, as far as we know.

—Joscha Bach

In this life dying is not new,
But living, of course, is not any newer.

—Sergej Esenin (the final lines of his suicide note)

On the morning of June 11, 1936, Robert E. Howard, best known for his literary creation Conan the Barbarian, receives news that his mother will not wake from the coma she has fallen into and immediately shoots himself. Thirty-two cuts on the surface of the world fall into alignment and trace the outline of a white hole, which must be passed through before it closes. The method for traversal is hidden in a program that underlies a straightforward practice of ancestor worship. Howard’s suicide at the age of thirty is an example of the execution of this program and its completion on Earth.

Psychopathological diagnostics of self-destructive behaviour and contrasting romanticist or post-clinical valourisations of mental illness all obscure and distort a pure moment in time, when a basic hatred for life is the same as an indifference towards it. Irrational self-extermination carried out in this moment separates itself from all counterfeits, and suicide becomes militantly ascetic. A method to become dead to the world can also become a method to float above it, and zero interest in metabolic survival is the genesis of the program to attain this state. Ancestor worship is the initial and just barely beyond animal-level awareness of both program and state. But when ancestor worship is asceticised, four billion years of uninterrupted cellular life are extinguished in a negation, which can only be above any and all forms of life. Suicidal action slips through a crack in time, of which the rest of the world is unaware, and what from outside looks like absolute defeatism is inner devotion to a higher form of extinction.

The concept of a cellular automaton, developed by Von Neumann and Ulam in response to the problem of how to design a self-replicating machine, describes a base set of instructions and their iteration through a series of discrete states.[1] A discrete state is a moment in time whose specific properties are equivalent to the particular position and arrangement of the cells that constitute the greater automaton, whereas all discrete states are generated by an initial instruction and belong to the same ongoing series, which this instruction sparks. Whatever degree of complexity the properties of a discrete state may demonstrate, they remain reducible to the initial instruction and only designate a moment in time during the instruction’s unfolding. Although they are a computational model and, accordingly, a functional instead of biochemical model, cellular automata depict the operation of an instruction protocol, which is formally equivalent to the origin of life. Abiogenesis and everything that follows from it can be understood as nothing but iterations of an initial command prosecuted in time. Somehow the first cell stabilises itself four billion years ago under a flood of hostile conditions, just long enough to establish the initial instruction for its self-replication. Ascetic self-extermination techniques practised four billion years later understand that their deep trigger is a primal command strong enough not to implode before it can send out its first signal.

Ancestor worship begins when the first cell does not commit suicide. Not committing suicide is only the blind prosecution of a command, but the first cell’s self-replication is already the first form of the command’s veneration. Ongoing iterations of the instruction also contain the germ for more abstract types of worship within them, although abstract worship can only arise when the instruction and its execution can be understood as pure form. Standard genealogies of God classify ancestor worship as the first religion,[2] and this is because it is, despite its elementariness, the first formal abstraction of the primal command for self-replication. An ancestor can only become ancestor and be worshipped because an ancestor is killed by the same signal and the same command that becomes devotion to him. Instruction and its iteration require the disappearance of iteration, so that the next iteration can take place—the transition from one discrete state to another discrete state—and ancestor worship begins when the hole which an iteration leaves behind becomes just as binding as another iteration of the instruction. Ancestor worship understands a concrete transmission through successive moments in time as the potential for communication with that which lies on the other side of the passing of a command. When the aboriginal mind of ancestor worship receives the first signal from the first cell, faces of the dead and another detached and remote state come out of the silence between discrete states and between iterations. Hyperawareness of the hole which iteration leaves behind means that the shadow of an instruction is the truth of its command.

In his study of Vedic ascesis, Mircea Eliade describes its method as a relentless “deconditioning”[3] program, which eliminates everything inessential, so that four billion years of biochemistry can be reduced to the bare pulse of first cell signal.[4] Deconditioning as self-extermination technique does not cancel first cell signal, but is absolute immersion in its implicit instruction protocol. The negation at the core of deconditioning operates like the inverse of the affirmation of an iteration, although without denying first cell signal strength. Deconditioning does not understand first cell signal strength in terms of the endurance of an instruction through time—four billion years of the instruction’s continuous iteration and four billion years of biochemical life that has never even once during these four billion years ever been completely eradicated—but in terms of the blunt compression of all moments in time into only the basic form of an iteration and its disappearance. Awareness of the reducibility of all life to an instruction and the transition it initiates from one discrete state to another discrete state becomes the pulse which will animate a “deified human”:[5]

1) Eliade uses the term deconditioning to clarify the basic motor of authentic ascetic practices in contrast to the tendencies of a Kantian atmosphere of transcendental philosophy and, accordingly, to an awareness of general conditions of possibility.[6] If conditions exhaust possibility—the scope of a particular transcendental, such as the legitimate domain of reason in Kant—deconditioning names an operation that understands the transcendental as an initial stricture, which is then modified and recoded through the precise methods contained in an ascetic program.

2) But transcendental modification and recoding is also just another name for the history of the world.[7] Four billion years of biochemistry after first cell signal is equivalent to an escalating complexity in conditions of possibility, and transcendental modification and recoding as the history of the world is a single gradient, which includes everything that follows from first genesis (or: all discrete states that result from an initial instruction). Deconditioning functions according to the reverse principle of a brutal minimalism, and to modify and recode through negation is to only decode and rewind back to first cell signal and, by extension, negate the history of the world, which is the same as becoming indifferent and dead to it.

3) Reception of first cell signal through negation means that deconditioning is a clandestine history of the world. It is not reducible to a countercurrent or a contradiction in relation to the gradient of transcendental modification and recoding, although, because deconditioning is negation, this gradient is its initial enemy. Deconditioning separates from the gradient in order to follow a covert artery back to first cell signal. Whereas the starting point of deconditioning belongs to the history of the world, its reception of first cell signal through negation becomes incomprehensible to this history, to the sum of all transcendentals, and initiates a stealth flow to a deified state. In this clandestine history lies the closeness of a more refined and harshly structured ascetic practice to ancestor worship’s primitive cognition of ghost faces and holes in the world, which become like rudimentary phenotypes and wombs for the instantiation of what Eliade alternately calls a new übermensch, a new species and a new, entirely non-conditioned state.

Deconditioning as overman creation is anti-Kantian, but also anti-Nietzschean and anti-Chinese. Eliade describes Sino-overman genesis as a method dedicated to an “indefinite prolongation of the life of the material body”,[8] which is nothing other than the continuation of the same deep historical gradient of transcendental modification. Ancient Chinese medicinal techniques or the downloading of individual neural patterns into an upgraded version of WeChat are just moments in time that all belong to the same history of the world[9] to which deconditioning acts like a shadow. Nietzschean overman creation as total affirmation and a simultaneous contempt for all types of “ascetic ideal” identifies ascetic deification with a false overman, since the negation at the core of ascetic practice is the same as a fundamental “hostility to life”.[10] The entire logic of Nietzschean übermensch turns around the anti-ascetic insight that overman creation can only be achieved through affirmation, to the extent that negation instead of affirmation aborts the first cell and the entire history of the world, which is the only possible ovum for a new species and a new human or post-human form. But the tendencies in ascetic practice which Nietzsche opposed—hatred for life, emaciation, sadness—all evoke the deep force of a negation that can access first cell signal strength, whereas an ascetic path will in any case only be followed by those who have had enough of life. Virgil’s lacrimae rerum—tears for things—or Norinaga Motoori’s mono no aware—extreme sensitivity to ephemera—are examples of the intense awareness of first cell pulse and signal, of an iteration and its passing, and this awareness tends towards devotion as well as grief.[11] Melancholic poetics as experiential overdose anticipates the inverse deadness of a fully deconditioned state, since all that remains of the world is transience and an ethereal and immaterial pressure. Although the intensity of this awareness as sadness can trigger suicidal behaviour in reaction to it, the strict deconditioning program needed to reach a deified state means that all ascesis is suicide, but not all suicide is ascetic. From a position outside this program, all these deaths can only look the same, because the inner logic of a correct suicide is unrecognisable to any possible recoding of the world.

In the period of his youth that immediately followed a fallout with the Dadaists for what he considered to be their drift into a superficial abstract art without any “deep dimension”[12]—their failure to actualise the imperative “Dada is the virgin microbe”[13]—Julius Evola intensely contemplates taking his own life. The suicides of Otto Weininger and Carlos Michelstaedter at the ages of twenty-two and twenty-three, respectively, are Evola’s prototypes for an act of self-extermination whose primary spark is a basic melancholy and sickness in response to being alive in the world. But because suicide is not necessarily ascetic, the equivalence of all negation also falls apart, and true self-extermination comes from the awareness of a higher form of extinction. Evola abandons his suicidal thoughts when during an especially desperate night he comes across a fragment from the Theravada Buddhist text the Majjihima Nikaya: “He who takes extinction to be extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks of extinction, thinks mine is extinction, and rejoices in extinction, this person, I say, does not know extinction.”[14] Extinction belongs to a gradient that is like a shadow gradient to the affirmative gradient of the history of the world, which extinction is to negate. Just as the entire world can only seem like something counterfeit from the overman position and black hole enlightenment of a deified state, a deconditioning program driven by negation possesses its own internal counterfeits. Delusions and misrecognitions of extinction are corrected by the strictness and instruction of a tested ascetic program. But even if an act of self-extermination is contemplated or prosecuted without any intent to reach some deified state, and the option of suicide is instead a consequence of being the only remaining answer to life, the negation at the act’s heart can always align itself with a purer extinction through the understanding that extinction has forms.[15] War against the world is an initial contrast between negation and affirmation. But if any negation is not all negation, the decision to commit suicide or the decision not to commit suicide can even become the same act—the devotion to a higher form of extinction. World War III or final war is war between extinction and its counterfeit, between negation and its counterfeit.

In 500 BC, Prince Siddhattha travels to a monastery in northernmost India to investigate a mass suicide that has taken place among the monks who live there.[16] The militant deconditioning program taught by the Buddha so as to leave behind the gradient of the world endorses correctly performed suicide as a legitimate method to attain a deified state. The case of the monk Godhika has already established the precedence and orthodoxy of a correct suicide, as, in the final moments of his life, being unable to meditate clearly and slipping back and forth from an übermensch, enlightened dimension, he decides to take his own life. When “the evil one” Mara, who torments the monk and disrupts his meditative practice, sees that Godhika “has taken the knife”,[17] the demon can only gasp and withdraw, as he knows that the monk has at last achieved deification. The perfection of Godhika’s suicide is an expression of the highest point of a gradient of extinction, and Buddha must go through all the dead bodies at the monastery so as to evaluate the correctness or incorrectness of the monks’ deaths. In Theravada doctrine, the gradient of the world that is to be overcome consists of thirty-one iterations of form (rūpa), whereas the fully deconditioned human bears, as does the Buddha, thirty-two marks, which indicate the attainment of a deified state above the world.[18] That every root of hair of a true ascetic is dark-coloured and that every true ascetic has the image of a thousand-spoked wheel on the palms of his hands are among the thirty-two marks whose sum total engenders a white lotus, which now floats on top of the world as its crown—undisturbed, oblivious and in control of it. During the progression and ascent towards thirty-two, white lotus resembles a white hole on the other side of which radiates a state that is unaffected and benumbed, final and complete. Buddha examines the corpses in the monastery to see if he can detect in their self-inflicted wounds the compression of thirty-two marks into a single suicidal cut, which looks like an earthly mutilation on the monks’ dead bodies, but is potentially the mark of a perfect and deified human. One cut becomes thirty-two cuts, and thirty-two cuts become thirty-two marks, which express that suicide and a declaration of war against life are one and the same. But because extinction also has to be distinguished from its counterfeit, suicide becomes a technical problem.

Any investigation of the circumstances behind Robert E. Howard’s suicide as a response to his mother’s impending death will be inevitably overtaken by, in the words of Artaud—although in the context of another suicide, that of van Gogh—the “vile sexuality” and “erotomania” of the psychiatrist.[19] Seemingly infinite libidinal economies, with their ascription of eroto-sexual motives to every possible act and every possible thought, will always deny the existence of a pure and uncorrupted melancholy, which can also develop into a sincere hatred for life. In Howard’s biography, hate precedes melancholy, as the source of his literature is a basic contempt for the time and the world in which he lives. But Howard’s hate also has a strictly technical dimension, to the extent that his writings oppose a world and a civilisation which devalue the practices he considers to be equivalent to a purer and higher state. Total industrialisation creates a mass industrial culture, and the pulp genre in which Howard writes is the lowest form of mass industrial culture. Yet Howard understands the lowest popular aesthetic in terms of its potential to function as a concealed armoury for the preservation of now archaic techniques, which are all characterised by their resolute anti-civilisational drive. If a civilisation can only consolidate itself through an increasing specialisation of practices, which leads to both their proliferation and their treatment as equal,[20] Howard’s anti-civilisational protagonists, from warlords to assassins, are proficient in the homicidal techniques that civilisation must by definition paralyse in order to grow. When a civilisation overextends through the proliferation of inessential practices and then collapses, the undying practices that are always relevant to life re-emerge from this hole, and the übermensch characters of Howard’s fiction are overtly Nietzschean in their affirmative barbarism. Howard’s suicide, in contrast, follows the exact opposite logic, and is only on the side of a straightforward negation and self-erasure from the world.

An overlooked detail of the Howard case is that he commits suicide while his mother, although in a comatose state, remains alive. The delayed death of a coma is like a temporal negation, and this slowdown makes possible the speed of Howard’s own self-negation. The speed of his suicide is the speed of a deconditioning program, while the attainment of pure ascetic velocity is facilitated not only by the temporal delay of the coma, but by melancholic overdose. Without any time to meditate, or to go to a monastery and study anapanasati breathing techniques for years, in the moments before his mother’s imminent death Howard returns to the first moments of ancestor worship and the veneration of an ephemeral hole. Ancestor worship as an instruction and a command, an iteration and its passing, marks a biochemically prescribed time to die—parents are supposed to die before their children. But this is only a lower form of extinction. A fixed temporal sequence of intergenerational death, a transition from one discrete state to another discrete state, and the surface meaning of an instruction and the prosecution of its command are all broken when Howard kills himself before his mother dies. Grief turns into a straightforward hatred for life and an indifference to all possible variations of existence, whereas out of hate and indifference comes an awareness of forms and levels of extinction. Howard understands an iteration and its passing as pure form, and takes ancestor worship to an extreme point, beyond its immediate biochemical meaning and impression. His suicide in the moment of delay before his mother’s death is both the negation of the dominance of a lower form of biological extinction and the alignment with a higher form of extinction, which is infinitely remote from life. To “decondition life”[21] as the most basic ascetic imperative becomes, in Howard’s case, a brutal devotion to a negation that is, without any hesitation or exception, against life. And even if the cause of this self-extermination is not some planned attainment of deification but rather sadness, a truly melancholic soul will in any case always rise above all enlightened ascetic masters. The purest form of extinction is not only just indifference to life, but also indifference to a deified state.

The computational image of iterations of a command through moments in time presupposes that time is linear. But if time is linear, it is also always delayed. Linear time is delayed time, as the moments that constitute the direction in which linear time moves are all separated from one another. The coherence between suicide and the purest form of extinction proves that time is linear, but also proves that because time is linear, time is always delayed. The speed of a true negation acts in the space of this delay. The formal instruction of self-replication as entirely equivalent to life means that the only coherent objective for life is to survive approximately 10100 years—until the death of the universe and the end of time. But unlike the death of the universe, the end of time can happen in every moment. Suicide is the awareness of a hierarchy of temporal collapses. Every organism knows and understands that there is more force and intensity in sudden self-extermination than the end of the entire universe. When this force is not counterfeit, it becomes a sign that even life can sometimes be defeated.

  • 1

    VON NEUMANN, John, Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, University of Illinois Press, 1966.

  • 2

    Ancestor worship was often classified as the first religion at the very outset of religious studies and sociologies of religion in the nineteenth century. See, for example: SPENCER, Herbert, “On Ancestor Worship and other Peculiar Beliefs”, in: The Fortnightly Review,

  • 3

    ELIADE, Mircea, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Routledge, 1958, p. xvi.

  • 4

    Or the Vedic “OM”.

  • 5

    ELIADE, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, p. 59.

  • 6

    Ibid., p. xvi.

  • 7

    For example, Deleuze’s (Kantian) transcendental empiricism, or his Spinozism in general.

  • 8

    ELIADE, Yoga: Freedom and Immortality, p. 59.

  • 9

    In other words, in a computational approach to biology the difference between the human and a vision of the post-human without all human (cellular) traces is ultimately (ontologically) trivial: post-humanism is just another instance of computation (for example, different hardware and software than the human). Instead, the decisive contrast in this approach is between what performs computation (the basic function of an instruction and the iteration of an instruction) and what does not—the first cell is the first computer (or in the words of Joscha Bach, the first cell is the first Turing machine) and abiogenesis is therefore computational genesis. However, even the physical laws of the universe could be considered as instances of computation, and the research of, for example, Bach and Stephen Wolfram proceeds in this direction.

  • 10

    NIETZSCHE, Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morality, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

  • 11

    The connection between lacrimae rerum and mono no aware was first made by Ivan Morris (The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan, Penguin, 1997, p. 197).

  • 12

    EVOLA, Julius, The Path of Cinnabar, Integral Tradition, 2009, p. 22.

  • 13

    Ibid., p. 19. The Dadaist virgin microbe could be interpreted as the first cell that never self-replicates and, as a result, commits suicide: the negation of all life (or: first cell suicide is the self-extermination of the first computer; from another perspective, that a computer (artificial intelligence) wants to commit suicide is a successful answer to the Turing Test).

  • 14

    Ibid., p. 16.

  • 15

    That extinction has forms cancels any likeness that the negation of deconditioning or correct suicide might have to the notion of a death drive, for which death is only the absence of life.

  • 16

    See WILTSHIRE, Martin G., “The ‘Suicide’ Problem in the Pali Canon”, in: The International Journal of Buddhist Studies, 6, 2, 1983, pp. 124–140.

  • 17

  • 18

    Lakkhana Sutta: The Marks of a Great Man,

  • 19

    ARTAUD, Antonin, “Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society”, in: Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976, pp. 484–485.

  • 20

    That is, the concept of specialisation and division of labour in civilizational studies.

  • 21

    ELIADE, Yoga, Freedom, and Immortality, p. 292.

Miroslav Griško

Miroslav Griško is an independent researcher in Ljubljana. “White Lotus” is an excerpt from the forthcoming book: Eshatološka vojna (Eschatological War), Zbirka Aut, KUD Apokalipsa, Ljubljana, 2022.