The Morsbergers are driving me home over the ghost swamps of the Eastern Shore. Lord, the land is dark, lit only by strong stars and gas station marquees. Richie claims that, earlier in the century, alcohol companies were forbidden to use the occult in their slogans and insignias. Numerology could not, by law, appear on bottles of spirits or beer.
Meaning lies more in the interpretation than the generation of our marks, noises, and gestures. Important daily lessons can be drawn from this.
Brian plays a noise compilation of 13-second tracks called “Triskaidekaphobia.” We’re traveling, I remark, on route 13. Moments later, after noticing this unremarkable coincidence, a milemarker enters the headlight, reading “132″ …Thirteen times two is my paranoiac numerological gloss.
Semiologically, in the mechanics of meaning, the source or origin predetermines less for these signs and portents than we might think. Given the poesis of the interpretative mind, random numbers can be made to mean, depending on how we work them.
I look at the gas station marquees— Sienna has called them, in substance, Totempoles of Capital. Displaying the latest and greatest prices for regular unleaded and Coke-Zero. Raw numbers. Letters of the alphabet, strung together, can hardly avoid signifying or connoting. But strings of numbers are supposed to denote only magnitude. Seems unfair, but with an over-reaching, paranoiac surplus of meaning, numbers bleed into letters. They begin to mean things in their coupling and re-appearance. Paranoia leads us into excess, but not necessarily into falsehood…
All things under Heaven can be made into signs and charged symbols, be made to speak. Numbers included. All signs can then sink deeper, and become metaphor, concept, and category— become our weighted shapes and capital vocabulary. I glance at the passing marquee of a Swift Shop— a literal sign— and realize that in the physiology of deep-meaningfulness, something becomes a sign when it seems to speak to you. Moons, rooms, and books whisper to you, engage you dialogically. The It switches into Thou. They speak to you, in varying degrees of directness and clarity, and betray the deep connection between the dialogical and semiological.
The paranoiac intelligence may even feel that something is a sign without really knowing the significance. Take it one step further, however, and a burning bush— in a moment of totalizing meaningfulness— will have some fairly precise instructions. Paranoia is, like I said, an excess— an excess of both semiological import and perceived intentionality in the world. And intention not just in the Husserlian sense: innocent, everyday objects seem to whisper, signify, and carry agendas. The inanimate is not only filled by animistic Lebensgefühle, but by a mischievous awareness. But it is only an exaggerated state of day-to-day meaningfulness and semiology. Heightened and over-productive.
In our deep, personal, twilight vocabularies, we can build our conceptual foundations with any set of signs or heavy stones, and by manipulation, create nearly any kind of sense. The sign does not need— and cannot have— a natural role as a sign. If meaning comes from the interpretation rather than the generation of signs, than Freud can begin with his mythic vocabulary of Oedipal triangles, thanatos, id and superego, castration, repression— and, by manipulation, arrive at any sense through dialectic and the modulation of these weighted shapes and capital vocabulary. All methodologies share this dynamic with everyday language: we begin with less-meaningful signifiers and then build meaning by their manipulation. Marx has his. Evolutionary biology, its own. And what else is mathematics?
Likewise, practitioners of the Occult could begin with signs normally locked up in denotation and mathematics, like the stars and strings of numbers spread over the Eastern Shore, and weave new sense by finer and finer grades of approximation, by dialectic and by questions posing as assertions. When numbers re-appear, they act as markers and mementos, ways of gridding off our thoughts in order to ask loaded questions.
So if and when I dismiss the Occult, it’s nothing empirical, cosmological, or hermeneutical. I just got a distaste for the stuff, aesthetically and dispositionally… New Age or Mall-Goth color-schemes… Predetermination of personality… An ever-beyond supernaturalism… Still: it can be made to speak.
Words on the Eastern shore, I noticed, have less significance than words found in the rest of the empire: Ammocac, Exmore, Jacobia, Assateague… It’s like fake English out here. I guess significance then had to find a home elsewhere, in the natural resources like strong stars and errant numbers.
Astrology and psychoanalysis both push a fundamental myth-system of the human personality, yet, you’ll notice, they both provide ample wiggle-room for the proper manipulation of signs… As they should… The Sun sign is modulated by the Moon Sign, then by Ascendant, until these signs finally embody the necessary sense. Until the signs align, triangulate, and click together as sense. Turn the page to Freud interpreting, say, the myth of Prometheus: Prometheus, holding a reed of fire in hand, which in our dreams may invert, become its opposite, become water, become fluid, become a phallus… Interpretation wanders dialectically, one charged symbol or sign modulating another until sense is made… Interpretation waits for that a-ha moment of recognition— the Aha-Erlebnis in Wertheimer’s German— a resemblance collaged from any given material, when loose intuition is suddenly framed by representation.
Deleuze has won me over in his scrutiny of thinking, his account of a fully uncentered thinking. What do we do while thinking? The best thoughts are not performed or deduced by a subject, even as we experience thinking. Great thoughts seize us, don’t they? In an alignment of meanings or proper manipulation of signs. We invite our thoughts. We offer them coffee, set the mood, create space for their entry, beseech them. Then, by whatever force or energetics, they manifest and reward us.
In Anti-Oedipus we read:
This is what Klossowski has admirably demonstrated in his commentary of Nietzsche: the presence of the Stimmung as a material emotion, constitutive of the most lofty thought and the most acute perception…”
“The subject spreads itself out along the entire circumference of the circle, the center of which has been abandoned by the ego. At the center is the desiring-machine, the celibate-machine of the Eternal Return. A residual subject of the machine, Nietzsche-as-subject garners a euphoric reward (Voluptas) from everything this machine turns out”
We summon Muses in order to get this Voluptas, right, this honey-like secretion that drops in with a new thought, an apt configuration of signs. As the Persian image of the syncretist Sufi-bee, we buzz and alight from flower to flower, only in the end to spin our finest honey. But, man, what causes that spill-over into insight, that Voluptas? I was sitting in the mezzanine of a 24-hour grocery store, late last week, when “Here Comes Santa Claus” came over the loud-speaker. Suddenly, all elements around me— Santa Claus, the fruit aisle below me, distant memories— all coalesced and I could see clearly how hypermeaningfulness, that Stimmung, could come from any set of signs whatsoever. Hypermeaningfulness is something akin to a mood, a Stimmung. We typically stick to marks, noises, and gestures, but anything can do: rocks, colors, numbers, concepts, fruit aisles, Christmas jingles. The wild, spinning, interpretive mind works and works, through the night, maybe not as much for the thought itself even, as for that ticklish dilation, that exhaltant brainrush: the Sublime. There’s no denying: philosophy is a drug.