Nicola Masciandaro is Professor of English at Brooklyn College (CUNY), and a specialist in medieval literature. His work, which falls between philosophy, mysticism, and criticism, pays special attention to the topics of sorrow, decapitation, and commentary. The founding editor of a rather unique journal called Glossator, on the practice and theory of the commentary, Masciandaro is also the inaugurator of black metal theory, through which he is said to have ‘given the Middle Ages back to metal’ (Karl Steel) by dint of the essentially phenomenological principles of commentarial method.
Masciandaro is currently co-authoring, with myself, a book of black metal theory, Floating Tomb (Mimesis, 2015), as well as, with Alina Popa, Dark Wounds of Light, and his recently published Sufficient Unto The Day: Sermones Contra Solicitudinem (Schism, 2014) provides readers with a foretaste of his much awaited mystical monograph on the Sorrow of Being. Drawing on a now lost but long-known link between worry and thinking, the writings in this volume are bound together by a ‘spontaneous concernless interest’ that ‘demands, in every moment, a form of thought that is free from itself … a thought that goes rigorously where it will without concern.’ Those readers who know of Nicola, and his work, will recognize his entire oeuvre is this absurd effort: like a child, ‘who so adheres to its lack of specialization and totipotency that it refuses any destiny and specific environment so as to solely follow its own indeterminacy and immaturity’ (Giorgio Agamben). In short, the guy is a freak!
(Oh yeah, and he blogs at The Whim)
EC: What’s your most fucked-up fantasy?
NM: My fantasy is the absolute worst because it is terribly real. And it is real because it is the absolute worst. It is like an ontological argument for the existence of total living hell. An argument so irrefutable that it is hell itself. A universe that is the realization of its own worst argument—none other. That than which nothing worse can be conceived. My fantasy is that all this is the worst, which it is. There is nothing that was not and will not be worse. Everything is terribly worse, to the degree of it being impossible to speak of anything ever becoming worse. Infinitely worst is my fantasy, the irreparably endless and overwhelmingly instant worst which cannot possibly be mine. And that is an essential aspect of its worstness: “Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l‘autre; vous êtez foutus” (Deleuze). And worse than that, everything, by virtue of this very worstness, is nothing other than my totally worst fantasy. To be trapped in another’s worst nightmare is my all-too-real fantasy which is all mine because it is not at all. How horrible! Forever enclosed in a torture-prison whose infinitely thick walls are the inescapability of their own non-existence. There is no getting out of here where nothing can get worse. My worst fantasy—reality—is like being burned alive all day long by flames that are nothing but the ever-increasing heat with which they burn, a burning that is nothing but my own more and more charred being, a being that is nothing other than its own being burned, a worse-degree burn that is nothing other than a being which never is in the first place. Not that this even begins to scratch the surface of it. Not that my fantasy requires demonstration or explanation, or is even worth mentioning. The question itself, along with everything else, is clear proof of it. And talking about it only makes it worse.
EC: How, if at all, does this relate to mysticism?
NM: Nothing relates to mysticism. One might as well ask a pearl to leap from the bottom of the ocean into one’s purse. One might as well be decapitated and carry one’s head around for good luck. One might as well demand of reality not to exist. One might as well tell the truth for once.
EC: Assuming it’s not the same, why do you want to eat yourself?
NM: [Nothing is the same.] I want to eat myself because I do not know what else to do, because I must. Autophagy is how I got here and the only way out. It is the one escape where there is none. As if there is anything else to eat! It is all bodies within bodies, each consuming and excreting the other. Everything is food for everything because the infinite circle is always hungry, always swerving through itself into the spiral of self-consumption. Try eating something other than yourself and see how your tummy feels. A life begins with eating its mother and ends with shitting out its own body. The whole phenomenal universe—matter-life-thought in the matrix of space-time—is nothing but an upside down hierarchy of digested food or feces-being extruded from the body of the ultimate eater of an unimaginable eternal feast. Before a feast with nothing to eat but itself, before itself with nothing to do but feast . . . How else does that divine body remain so perfectly, insanely beautiful?
EC: Do you like blood?
NM: I love it! To give some idea, here is a flowing catena of splattered sentences self-written with blood:
In perfect counterpoint to al-Hallaj’s tetragrammatic blood, Caravaggio signs his own name with the blood of John the Baptist.
For I have sewn you into myself with the strong thread / Of your sighs, sealed my eyes to yours with unwept tears, / And let my blood melt with the heat of your heart’s light.
Note how Mohammed’s repetition of come [how] continues the bloody modal rubric of the ninth bolgia cited above (“il modo . . .” 28.21), as if gore is essentially a negative intensity of style.
Morning screams bloody murder of the desert world, / My subcosmic tremor mourning the very world.
Raising the arm to press words towards another (ad-pressare) is a haptic nexus of striking and speaking that indicates war to be the writing of thought’s weight on all bodies, a bloody texting of the general violence of dissatisfied embodiment.
Nothing is inert. Perceval seeing blood drops / In the snow knows the open presencing of world.
As Blanca is the highest mountain in the Sangre de Christo Range, the cover image bathes the white peak in a bloody red which both signals the violence of European conquest and moves the mountain into a more Black Metal atmosphere of medieval alpine malevolence.
Love, inevitable blood-deep intrinsic need, / Is the ongoing engine of evolution.
The crimsonness of alpine distance concerns the temporal depth of geologic being as primal analogical flow of life, the stygian blood of being itself as a stream between irreconcilable worlds.
Ancient stones also bathe daily in their own blood, / Bound by necessity to be what they are not.
Pessimism’s axiom invokes the sigh’s palpable universality, its being a truth we find in our blood.
And sometimes a surface becomes like blood-stained snow / And in my entrancement I conquer every form.
Maybe the fellow would find relief, like a good bloodletting, in the demotion of his desire from the desire to be everything to a desire to be with things.
III. Leakage / Never the same again / Is my blood everywhere / Flowing infinitely free / A deep secret red joy.
Is not this hand’s traditional pollution (miasma), the invisible clinging of the victim’s blood to it, a residue of this twin reduction in the murderer, the stain of a body that is no longer other than a body upon a body that still is, yet a stain that is paradoxically constituted of what it stains, and therefore, the murderer’s own body as a pure sign of his reduction of a self, and the human more generally, to a body, of his metaphysical error and transgression?
Who writes heart-words holding keys to the doors of blood? / Who hears our silent arrival on shores of blood? / You are the only one like yourself, the sole love / Of whomsoever’s heart, with/without stores of blood. / All distant stars will know this love’s perfect tenor / As unforeseen joy releases bright spores of blood. / Happiness is (not) proving simpler than I thought: / A couple diurnal, infernal chores of blood. / See me over the next mountain? asks the led one. / Guide says, return tunneling through hot ores of blood. / Dreamer or doer, killer and victim, each one / Invisibly, eventually bores of blood. / Befriend Nicola before his quick, weird demise, / When a silent sword wins himself, not wars of blood.
In one noetic stroke I ‘mak siccar’ my tanist ascension-succession to the throne of blood, suffer decollation by the sword of Damocles, martyrically live to tell the tale, and wander the burnt plains of being . . . a cephalophore.
The dark heart trapped in my brain starts to weep faster / As cold blood of morning flows at last to its goal.
This becoming signals another order of unity, incommensurable with the action of the story itself: a unity-through-otherness that stands above (like reader to text) the false kind of unity which requires reduction to a common term, the spilling of blood, the unity of common death.
You and I know this, which is why we stay apart together / Far beyond the spheres and why my blood secretly burns / For you in the fire that is melting more than all the stars.
Nietzsche names this love under the double sign of Januarius—at once the two-faced god of beginnings/doorways/gates and the saint whose annually liquefying blood signals the miracle of spiritual renewal—and installs it as a navigational protocol in the form of a new year’s resolution.
More than blood, sweat, and tears flow out of us. / From our three navels sprout a new fourth world / Outside matter-life-thought, above the count of time.
. . . returning to the scene of modern philosophical decision in order to reopen the wound it hastily bound, to let it, like the blood of St. Januarius, heal in bleeding anew.
To inhale the incense of your burning corpse / To drink the hot wine of our blood, to find / Oneself over a last meal of human heart-meat.
The violence of man is pre-exceeded, preemptively struck down by the purer elemental violence of archaic sacred earth, churning with Life beyond death and life, with holy DEATH—“sang en formation d’hyperbole” (Julius Evola) [blood in hyperbolic formation], the swerve of life into infinity . . .
Only a line / Of blood to—mirabile dictu—his severed head.
5.) How, if at all, does this relate to black metal?
All things, without why or how, relate to Black Metal. Because Black Metal has nothing to do with them.