Reading List on Mystical Currents within Anarchism

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from Pleroma, edited by Ausonia Calabrese:

  • The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism, by Keiji Nishitani

In particular, the chapter headed as Nihilism as Egoism: Max Stirner, as well as the one titled Ownness and Property-All and Nothing. Keiji Nishitani was a student of Heidegger and a member of the Kyoto School, a group of philosophers at the University of Kyoto who radically reinterpreted the relationship between East and West. Nishitani wrote at great lengths on nihilism -- in particular, the capacity of nihilism to negate, and thus overcome, itself. His reading of Stirner is unique (pun intended) and essential.

  • Silence, by John Zerzan

Say what you will of Zerzan -- his writing is enjoyable at a purely aesthetic level. His essay entitled Silence is a more surface-level exploration of the concept, but interesting and important nonetheless. I definitely recommend it over Silence and Beyond by Tiqqun, which is practically unreadable.

  • Green Nihilism or Cosmic Pessimism, by Alejandro de Acosta

It took great self-control to not fill this entire literature review with works by de Acosta. To post-left and anti-civilization anarchists, this essay is probably the most accessible, discussing black metal and Desert in the same breaths, discussing the "climatological mysticism" of Eugene Thacker and the black universe of François Laruelle.

  • Immediatism, by Hakim Bey

I am at a loss at how I should introduce Hakim Bey. Certainly, if anyone is a "mystic-anarchist," it is him. A polarizing and controversial character -- an ardent defender of, say, Greek love -- his Immediatism is indispensable, especially for its discussion of secret societies and mysticism more broadly.

  • The Nihilist Abyss, by Federico Buono

Federico Buono is an Italian insurgent and ecstatic. The Nihilist Abyss is a quasi-psychological exploration of "nihilist delirium," the total negation of personality. Buono is the closest to a mystic poet that anarchism has -- "The sign does not affirm anything because it is nothingness that eradicates itself in a nihilist delirium, and the destructive chaos destabilizes the belonging and nullifies the nothingness." Mystic deconstruction of the self peeks through when it is least expected.

  • Gravity and Grace, by Simone Weil

Simone Weil was a bonafide anarchist-mystic, in a literal sense, as well as a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. She at once wrote on the abolition of all political parties and on her ecstatic visions which she experienced since her youth. A decidedly...odd character, she is a fertile ground for innovative readings, and her seemingly-strained history with Judaism (her heritage so to speak) has been discussed at length for its supposed relationship to her work, even being accused of anti-semitism by none other than Susan Sontag.

Academic and supplementary works

  • Derrida and Negative Theology, edited by Harold Coward and Toby Foshay

Derrida is of interest to anarchists at least in a roundabout sense. Saul Newman has discussed Derrida's "deconstruction of authority" at length, while John Zerzan has taken an opposite stance, writing that Derrida interprets silence as a nihilist enemy of thought (Zerzan's piece is discussed above.) Ironically Derrida is consistently derided as a nihilist enemy of thought himself among analytic and rationalist philosophers. Whether or not Derrida lives up to these charges, he is essential to the modern study of apophatic theology, and of no little importance to the anarchist tradition.

  • The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement, by Laura Swan

The Beguines were an idiosyncratic movement of lay monastics, firmly outside of church authority, who provided women with an avenue for economic and social independence in a deeply patriarchal society. Frequently the target of attacks by church leaders, for centuries they quietly lived at beguinages, and produced some of the most lovely mystical writing of the medieval era. Marguerite Porete, burned at the stake as a heretic in 1310, was one of these Beguines, producing an erotic "autotheist" work entitled the Mirror of Simple Souls, which has survived to us this day. Laura Swan, a feminist scholar and nun, has provided a comprehensive history and analysis of this movement, though it leaves a bit wanting. It is certainly not an anarchist book, though parallels can definitely be drawn.

  • Creation and Anarchy: The Work of Art and the Religion of Capitalism, by Giorgio Agamben

Giorgio Agamben is perhaps the most important contemporary interpreter of Foucault, as well as a political theologian and, in some ways, theorist of anarchy (though perhaps not an anarchist himself.) I found it necessary to include Agamben -- he is the major critic of apophatic theology, arguing that it was originally used to ground the church's hierarchy in a transcendent, ineffable ground. Indeed, it was Denys the Areopagite who coined both apophatic theology and the very word hierarchy! Central to this analysis is the symbol of the "empty throne." I will not counter these arguments here, but bring them to the forefront to provide much-needed balance to this list."