T. A. Z.

The Temporary Autonomous Zone,
Ontological Anarchy,
Poetic Terrorism

Hakim Bey


CONTENTS (cont.)


Appendix A. Chaos Linguistics

NOT YET A SCIENCE but a proposition: That certain problems in linguistics might be solved by viewing language as a complex dynamical system or "Chaos field."

Of all the responses to Saussure's linguistics, two have special interest here: the first, "antilinguistics," can be traced--in the modern period--from Rimbaud's departure for Abyssinia; to Nietzsche's "I fear that while we still have grammar we have not yet killed God"; to dada; to Korzybski's "the Map is not the Territory"; to Burroughs' cut-ups and "breakthrough in the Gray Room"; to Zerzan's attack on language itself as representation and mediation.

The second, Chomskyan Linguistics, with its belief in "universal grammar" and its tree diagrams, represents (I believe) an attempt to "save" language by discovering "hidden invariables," much in the same way certain scientists are trying to "save" physics from the "irrationality" of quantum mechanics. Although as an anarchist Chomsky might have been expected to side with the nihilists, in fact his beautiful theory has more in common with platonism or sufism than with anarchism. Traditional metaphysics describes language as pure light shining through the colored glass of the archetypes; Chomsky speaks of "innate" grammars. Words are leaves, branches are sentences, mother tongues are limbs, language families are trunks, and the roots are in "heaven"...or the DNA. I call this "hermetalinguistics"--hermetic and metaphysical. Nihilism (or "HeavyMetalinguistics" in honor of Burroughs) seems to me to have brought language to a dead end and threatened to render it "impossible" (a great feat, but a depressing one)- -while Chomsky holds out the promise and hope of a last- minute revelation, which I find equally difficult to accept. I too would like to "save" language, but without recourse to any "Spooks," or supposed rules about God, dice, and the Universe.

Returning to Saussure, and his posthumously published notes on anagrams in Latin poetry, we find certain hints of a process which somehow escapes the sign/signifier dynamic. Saussure was confronted with the suggestion of some sort of "meta"-linguistics which happens within language rather than being imposed as a categorical imperative from "outside." As soon as language begins to play, as in the acrostic poems he examined, it seems to resonate with self- amplifying complexity. Saussure tried to quantify the anagrams but his figures kept running away from him (as if perhaps nonlinear equations were involved). Also, he began to find the anagrams everywhere, even in Latin prose. He began to wonder if he were hallucinating--or if anagrams were a natural unconscious process of parole. He abandoned the project.

I wonder: if enough of this sort of data were crunched through a computer, would we begin to be able to model language in terms of complex dynamical systems? Grammars then would not be "innate," but would emerge from chaos as spontaneously evolving "higher orders," in Prigogine's sense of "creative evolution." Grammars could be thought of as "Strange Attractors," like the hidden pattern which "caused" the anagrams--patterns which are "real" but have "existence" only in terms of the sub-patterns they manifest. If meaning is elusive, perhaps it is because consciousness itself, and therefore language, is fractal.

I find this theory more satisfyingly anarchistic than either anti-linguistics or Chomskyanism. It suggests that language can overcome representation and mediation, not because it is innate, but because it is chaos. It would suggest that all dadaistic experimentation (Feyerabend described his school of scientific epistemology as "anarchist dada") in sound poetry, gesture, cut-up, beast languages, etc.--all this was aimed neither at discovering nor destroying meaning, but at creating it. Nihilism points out gloomily that language "arbitrarily" creates meaning. Chaos Linguistics happily agrees, but adds that language can overcome language, that language can create freedom out of semantic tyranny's confusion and decay.

Appendix B. Applied Hedonics

THE BONNOT GANG WERE vegetarians and drank only water. They came to a bad (tho' picturesque) end. Vegetables and water, in themselves excellent things--pure zen really--shouldn't be consumed as martyrdom but as an epiphany. Self-denial as radical praxis, the Leveller impulse, tastes of millenarian gloom--and this current on the Left shares an historical wellspring with the neo-puritan fundamentalism and moralic reaction of our decade. The New Ascesis, whether practiced by anorexic health-cranks, thin-lipped police sociologists, downtown straight-edge nihilists, cornpone fascist baptists, socialist torpedoes, drug-free Republicans...in every case the motive force is the same: resentment.

In the face of contemporary pecksniffian anaesthesia we'll erect a whole gallery of forebears, heros who carried on the struggle against bad consciousness but still knew how to party, a genial gene pool, a rare and difficult category to define, great minds not just for Truth but for the truth of pleasure, serious but not sober, whose sunny disposition makes them not sluggish but sharp, brilliant but not tormented. Imagine a Nietzsche with good digestion. Not the tepid Epicureans nor the bloated Sybarites. Sort of a spiritual hedonism, an actual Path of Pleasure, vision of a good life which is both noble and possible, rooted in a sense of the magnificent over-abundance of reality.

Shaykh Abu Sa'id of Khorassan
Charles Fourier
Abu Nuwas
Aga Khan III
R. Vaneigem
Oscar Wilde
Omar Khayyam
Sir Richard Burton
Emma Goldman
add your own favorites

Appendix C. Extra Quotes

As for us, He has appointed the job of permanent unemployment.
If he wanted us to work, after all,
He would not have created this wine.
With a skinfull of this, Sir,
would you rush out to commit economics?

--Jalaloddin Rumi, Diwan-e Shams

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A flask of Wine, A Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears--
Tomorrow?--Why, Tomorrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.
Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits--and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

--Omar FitzGerald

History, materialism, monism, positivism, and all the "isms" of this world are old and rusty tools which I don't need or mind anymore. My principle is life, my end is death. I wish to live my life intensely for to embrace my life tragically.

You are waiting for the revolution? My own began a long time ago! When you will be ready (God, what an endless wait!) I won't mind going along with you for awhile. But when you'll stop, I shall continue on my insane and triumphal way toward the great and sublime conquest of the nothing! Any society that you build will have its limits. And outside the limits of any society the unruly and heroic tramps will wander, with their wild & virgin thoughts--they who cannot live without planning ever new and dreadful outbursts of rebellion!

I shall be among them!

And after me, as before me, there will be those saying to their fellows: "So turn to yourselves rather than to your Gods or to your idols. Find what hides in yourselves; bring it to light; show yourselves!"

Because every person; who, searching his own inwardness, extracts what was mysteriously hidden therein; is a shadow eclipsing any form of society which can exist under the sun! All societies tremble when the scornful aristocracy of the tramps, the inaccessibles, the uniques, the rulers over the ideal, and the conquerors of the nothing resolutely advances.

So, come on iconoclasts, forward!

"Already the foreboding sky grows dark and silent!"

--Renzo Novatore Arcola, January, 1920


Captain Bellamy

Daniel Defoe, writing under the pen name Captain Charles Johnson, wrote what became the first standard historical text on pirates, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. According to Patrick Pringle's Jolly Roger, pirate recruitment was most effective among the unemployed, escaped bondsmen, and transported criminals. The high seas made for an instantaneous levelling of class inequalities. Defoe relates that a pirate named Captain Bellamy made this speech to the captain of a merchant vessel he had taken as a prize. The captain of the merchant vessel had just declined an invitation to join the pirates.

I am sorry they won't let you have your sloop again, for I scorn to do any one a mischief, when it is not to my advantage; damn the sloop, we must sink her, and she might be of use to you. Though you are a sneaking puppy, and so are all those who will submit to be governed by laws which rich men have made for their own security; for the cowardly whelps have not the courage otherwise to defend what they get by knavery; but damn ye altogether: damn them for a pack of crafty rascals, and you, who serve them, for a parcel of hen-hearted numbskulls. They vilify us, the scoundrels do, when there is only this difference, they rob the poor under the cover of law, forsooth, and we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage. Had you not better make then one of us, than sneak after these villains for employment?

When the captain replied that his conscience would not let him break the laws of God and man, the pirate Bellamy continued:

You are a devilish conscience rascal, I am a free prince, and I have as much authority to make war on the whole world, as he who has a hundred sail of ships at sea, and an army of 100,000 men in the field; and this my conscience tells me: but there is no arguing with such snivelling puppies, who allow superiors to kick them about deck at pleasure.


The highest type of human society in the existing social order is found in the parlor. In the elegant and refined reunions of the aristocratic classes there is none of the impertinent interference of legislation. The Individuality of each is fully admitted. Intercourse, therefore, is perfectly free. Conversation is continuous, brilliant, and varied. Groups are formed according to attraction. They are continuously broken up, and re-formed through the operation of the same subtile and all-pervading influence. Mutual deference pervades all classes, and the most perfect harmony, ever yet attained, in complex human relations, prevails under precisely those circumstances which Legislators and Statesmen dread as the conditions of inevitable anarchy and confusion. If there are laws of etiquette at all, they are mere suggestions of principles admitted into and judged of for himself or herself, by each individual mind.

Is it conceivable that in all the future progress of humanity, with all the innumerable elements of development which the present age is unfolding, society generally, and in all its relations, will not attain as high a grade of perfection as certain portions of society, in certain special relations, have already attained?

Suppose the intercourse of the parlor to be regulated by specific legislation. Let the time which each gentleman shall be allowed to speak to each lady be fixed by law; the position in which they should sit or stand be precisely regulated; the subjects which they shall be allowed to speak of, and the tone of voice and accompanying gestures with which each may be treated, carefully defined, all under pretext of preventing disorder and encroachment upon each other's privileges and rights, then can any thing be conceived better calculated or more certain to convert social intercourse into intolerable slavery and hopeless confusion?

--S. Pearl Andrews The Science of Society


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