Stephen Ellis

Antipodal Disembodiment, or Mind's Healing in the Body's Taking Place:
Tod Thilleman's New Frequency

The axioms [of science] in use have been derived from a meagre and narrow experience and from a few particulars of most common occurence; and these axioms have been framed, for the most part, so as just to fit them, hence it is no wonder they do not lead to fresh particulars; and if they chance to come up against an instance not previously noticed or known, the axiom is rescued by some frivolous distinction, when the more correct course would be for the axiom itself to be corrected. [Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620]

Bacon thought "hypothetical reasoning" -- anticipation -- responsible for the inertia in scientific investigations (viz. the workings of nature) contemporary to his time. Anticipation refers equally to senses of foresight and, interestingly, prevention. Bacon's intent, in part, in writing Novum Organum was to restore an experiential aspect to speculative investigation in ways that would allow for a continuing perception of "fresh particulars" while keeping the speculative aspect "loose" enough to permit of these. Yet Bacon's method in this does not eliminate the anticipatory aspect; instead, it contracts the anticipatory by conditioning a conformity of present objects in its terms toward the prediction of more, and conditionally similar, particulars, outside of the initial circle of "freshness," as if the monotony of anticipation as regards a present substance could usefully be transferred to a monotony of similitude thought to take place in a future one can never arrive in, yielding only the thwarted eventualism of the Cartesian "proof" system -- the hypothetical being infinite, and therefore, in the foreshortened cogito of the experiential, regressive and at once "plural" and subjunctive in the resultant hyperactivity of choice and zone.

Empiricism is a term much in evidence in Tod Thilleman's recent two-fold collection of writing, THE NEW FREQUENCY & The Music of Annihilation (Ma'arri Press, 1998). It's a weird term, based on empiric, from the Latinate empiricus, from the Greek root empeirikos, meaning experienced, which is also equivalent to empeiros, en- + peira, experiment. [en- is a prefix meaning in.] The empirical is the experiential in process. The experiential in process has the double sense of, first, the experiential being its own process, as in organicism, or the lived life -- expansion restricted by natural law -- and, second, the "process" of life lived viewed as process in the "secondary" process of representation -- expansion restricted by discrimination via method, class mode and identification which runs parallel as image to what nature does. Nature "happens"; man acts. Through that active sense man gives to his "natural" environment the ends of his own causality; this actuality is time-distinct and provisional, while the real -- what the actual has as momentarily itself as a result of working on -- extends very like feeling itself, as wide as "space" and as long as "time." This length and breadth comprises exactly what Bacon is wont to eliminate from his method of increasing knowledge on the basis of inductive process; to infer and conclude from particulars gives them no place not first constrictively over-general, yet the hypothetical which this generality yields remains necessarily a provision for what's thought to be the mind's inability to test the application of its otherwise verisimilar themes as these relate knowledge to both the contingency of "natural" law and the necessarily "other" restrictions of artifice viz. representation, that come together in the inversion of the induction of its antecedent parts -- speculatively divided as these so long have been, most lately to simultaeneously fit the incompletely horizontal left-and-right theories of coherence and/or correspondence as locational devices and means of identification finally thought to be structural (lingusitic) -- in the analogical moment of a novel proportionality.

Thilleman's "new frequency" is ground-breaking, ie., it is an act of representation of an act whose presentation's quantity -- it is hoped -- will not fall (fallow) within the qualities of the presentation's representation of an act-within-an-act's verisimilarity, i.e., the practice here is an exercise through which to reverse that kind of writing through which the poetic idiom leads to an infinite regression that yields a mechanical parade in the way a written call toward revolution immediately becomes more writing than call. Thilleman is wont to restore, if not the literal call, then at least and primarily the critical spirit through which the call may again be heard, usefully as individual rather than toward assimilation through the narrowing funnel of group concensus, whose being is bound by the "elemental" elimination of all animation not linguistic, as in the Cartesian proofs of the existence of God.

The book is divided into two sections; the first -- titled as the book as a whole -- is diagnostic and propositional in character, while the second -- "The Music of Annihilation" -- comprises a recapitulation of the critical stance of the first in a rhetorical "voice" that, while lyrical in tone, does not especially share the character lyric is presumed to possess -- song based in feeling ("the continuous metaphor of a feeling," Irby says in Catalpa) -- since at base the section remains constrained by the intellectual parameters outlined in part one. Taken together, the two interactively form "an epoch" that displaces knowledge from a status formerly comprised of the consistent hierarchical reification of heterogeneous terms, to a mixed condition in which all previously hierarchical terms of qualification are placed in a relation through which they assume far more flexible identifying functions within a formerly "hidden" and now homologous "system."

Within this "system" -- which, it should be noted, is itself also in a state of perpetual change and exchange in a thermodynamic no term has exclusive purchase on, but all are contingent to, as in the perpetuum or rhondo in fact come to form in the over-spilling lines of "The Music of Annihilation" -- previously mortuary terms of philosophic, social, political and aesthetic speculation are shifted into positions that permit of no anticipated meanings not already discrete in a continuum through which their discretion, also is exhausted. The "frequency" of the book's title is -- in contradistinction (and addition) to the dictionary's definition of frequency as "the ratio between the number of actual occurences of an event and the number of possible occurences of it (in the same time)," -- the ratio between a single actual occurance and the total number of equally actual occurences known to one's present consciousness. In the former, we are faced with a proportion based on anticipation; anticipation is a condition of the possible. The possible is an extension of the knowable. The knowable is contingent on the experiential. The experiential is necessarily an aspect of the actual. The actual is conditional to the real; the real goes on forever. Forever is what we anticipate yet also currently possess completely of the moment. The moment is experiential, which hinges on the knowledge possible of the actual. History, etcetera, or that it remains also possible for thinking to at least move its terms of reference around clock, world and/or self in ways that permit of far more than anticipation of mere "system" or progression of "history." It is to that end Thilleman short-circuits thought's circularity as analog to the body's encircling and therefore meaningful enclosure, and posits instead the at-once more fully realized yet provisional sense of the propositional as the initial touch toward knowledge such encircling tends more immediately to bypass or close, the neglected yet elemental phoneme traded in effect for the full sentence made (therefore) of nothing. Thus, the first lines of the book [p. 7],

        Recursive hell of man's          Cyborg the daemon-led          The beastial

                AEon of identification

                We                  One

        Toward becoming but else

        In germ-resistence-coupling-heat. . . . . . . . .

A cyborg is "a hypothetical human being modified for life in a hostile or alien environment by the substitution of artificial organs and other body parts." Daemon is from IE base *da(i)- "to part, divide, tear apart"; also "guardian, inspiring or inner spirit." The beast in beastial comes from IE root *dheu-, whose many meanings include "to make smoke" -- related also to various semantic notions of breath, as in "breathing creature"; also "spirit" as well as "incense"; "to make drowsy" -- "doze" -- "to be stupified" -- and the implications of these latter three as denoting defective perception or wits. Pretty clear what Thilleman's driving at ... recursive implying reification of self in terms of its own past "time" or experience, the cognitive aspect of which is the cyborg, made as it is of time torn apart and recombinantly assembled, as from a beastial energy transferred directly to a beastial image (like those 19th century photographs of the twisted mugs of idiots) -- body becoming, as meaning, nothing but ("We / One") as monadic assimilation of "a becoming" naught but as "germ-resisten[t]" -- germ in this case being the seeds come of the propositional, which here are "burnt" by an attempt to grasp "identity" in direct proportion to one's own anticipation, as "permanence" rather than as temporal and provisional. It's the "permanence" as replacement part for the more flexible sense of provisional identity -- what's being proposed in the propositional -- that makes us all cyborgs of language as retrospective rather than retroactive [p. 13]:

        The aged pretend a wizened vacuity          Static in the memory of a once-vitalic          Now but the pharoahs of crude hoax and bastardization         From the womb of women to the cloned inception of death         Spreading beyond bounds of allottment the beatific unearthed fruition          Procreation of industry

        Banishing morally dense texts          Enslaving population          Forever          The human will dies          Terrorized to the categories

Okay. Active human life is shown here -- in addition to being endangered specie -- as having reached the limits of those elementals it had thought more usefully to delay and thus anticipate. Categories are anticipatory. The anticipation viz. categories being -- strangely -- that they will eventuate into what, in one world picture, would be called an apocalypse, the revelation of which -- "at such times," later, reified now -- is thought to comprise an epoch in which the categorical will dissolve through an eschatology that, because it is based on difference in the form of judgement, can never occur until all categorical differences become sufficiently meaningful or meaningless that they are either assumed or forgotten, ie., the eschatological, based in rigidity of category interconnected through the more active changes the body participates in -- time -- which are yet themselves not entirely bodily, leverages its anticipatory vantage toward "a future', constructed out of that fallibility of the human creature that otherwise, in the secular world of simple grasping, takes place as the active, interconnective and foliate human will.

In "Contributions to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," Marx states, "[t]he criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism," and continues, " . . . [t]he state and [ ] society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world . . . The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is their demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions." In many ways, Thilleman takes off from just this point. His writing reveals a post-modern pre-Platonic phenomenological wise-ass who is in process of realizing his -- or any -- episteme felt mid-torso is just that relatively total zero through which apprehension of "a world" -- producing the dead ringer of what is -- is ulterior to the split or double motive in which empiricism produces the categorical illusion of "order', yet simultaneously may also be the sole tool through which to recognize that the illusory aspect, though driven by pleasure, is at base deadening. While Thilleman has little use for eschatological hopes or antinomian registrations of faith -- despite the somewhat "apocalyptic" tone of much of the writing in The New Frequency -- he also demonstrates little confidence in Marx's sweeping statements viz. giving up conditions of identity that require illusion, ie., he is not a particularly political or socially conscious poet, at least in terms of older forms of "social realism" or activities of mere protest against what already so self-sufficiently, &c., is.

What Thilleman attempts is a sense of critical spirit extended along parameters defined in Blake's dictum re: the purpose of experience, that one cannot know what is sufficient until one first knows what is too much. Thilleman posits critical spirit in the place of experience -- which is present at all times and points at any rate -- and accelerates the linguistic interconnections between the two -- forcing them to "surface" as it were -- the ends of which means would then be less to reveal anything of the order of your more ordinally politicized eschatology, but rather, to make the emptiness inherent in both categorization and its as-yet unidentifiable antithesis as useful, not as prospects for improvement, but to quantify those "possibilities" in the present -- to close apparent vacuum or void, as it were -- so as to short-circuit what such as Bacon seem wont to make predictive and therefore achievable only eventually, and then permanently, rather than instantly, and provisionally, as in a trope. A trope is a figure of speech; also more basically, a turning, to or away from, or as from a lathe, an object. The critical mass in Thilleman's verse is related to differentiating between the empirical and the objective, between a proved and an apprehended object: between categorical and quantitative distinctions, the old paradox about the chicken and the egg, which came first, the game of halves. The categorical driven by eschatological hope; apocalyptic revelation driven by the anticipatorial illusion that the categories are "real" -- Thilleman is wont to annihilate such double-negating tendencies, and in fact, begins "setting up" for exactly that as "The New Frequency" continues -- its phrases become shorter, all sense of completion is dropped in favor of short, more sharply juxtaposed phrases accompanied increasingly by dots (..............) which indicate not only the intensifyingly provisional nature of the diagnostic, but that diagnosis itself, in this case, of a language problem in language finally tends to extend the thinglessness that is being diagnosed, opening the rend even further without making attempt to heal it.

This progressively "deteriorated" form is in preparation for a change -- more actually an inversion (an not incidentally, tonally, also "a healing') -- in which the increasing fragmentation of the book's first part, "The New Frequency" comes through to some "other side" as having been annihilated with the "fresh particulars" evident in the equally refreshed "ground zero" expanding contradistinctly as a positive form of music turned from, in and as annihilation as an overwhelming -- which in fact the difference between parts one and two literally is, as the quotes below -- the first the end of part one and the second the beginning of part two -- make clear:

            The ripple forgets the water....cyborg calling....will and words in lurch          .......

            Beyond which we are          Within sight and tone of her within time and space         Now the heart's deluged by the turning tide of epoch         Toward body of desire in folds of dumb scientific behavior          Toward spark          Funded from above          Making live the germ in reproductive capacities         Supreme weight we have died to unending night         Within the strength of hand and feet and thigh         We have perished          Tidal exhaustive anti-human wave          Dead to the spirit of eternity          Curving throughout          Empricial dynamics of a theme-park..............................................          ................................................................................................................................          ..........................................................................          .....................................                          ........................................

                            ............


       [p. 40]

        The theme portrayed the hard wind of mind          When the occurence of dust amplifies that occasion         Mining done and the harried and lonely town         Looks into itself for connexion's next similitude         Unburdened by the name it singularly chose         Hiodden within time like the particles entrancing rude shape          Whose night belongs in trash with the rest         Emanating vast riches in rumored moments         Sprung from sounds of this hissing storm         Roaring out rashly from a hunk of the world's wood         Thus were we betrayed in the world's woodpath         Music cries from the lighted cinders of our love         Announcing death's musical tribute solitude          Surrounded memory          Of a western rush

        [p. 45]

The latter are a sequence of love poems, very like odes, whose object -- no longer so contingent on the intellectual pointedness of part one which in fact had no object, or took as object the language of its own diagnosis -- is the breadth of the non-categorical world -- "I am alone because I love you / Technical directives lead to hell and away from you / And yet, believe these drives that mask the wind itself / Come closer to the source, closer to the real / Come closer to all knowledge / Terrible and great." Thilleman here seems verging on the restoration of an early 19th century Shelleyean Romantic project whose "infinite longings" might become the factually specific annihilation or overwhelming of categorical status through a fragmenting of and focus in perception removed from the hope for any pre- post- millennial eschatological "whole" and transformed otherwise into a world of proto-Marxian perpetual inversions or constant turnings-out of illusion, illusion being that element of artifice that demands to be disposed to what it perforce also does bring forth.

That's the ground Thilleman breaks in this writing -- that with which we desperately clasp at what we suppose to be our ground, and this sense is repeated consistently throughout "The Music of Annihilation" -- "The enlarging field of tones and pathetic deliberation / Entrance the bird, the rose-bud / And write with gestures of authority / Harnessing the will of man" [p. 52]; "There never was anything within the mind of man / Access to the idea of whole symphonic worlds / Now bristles with the law, with identificants / Whose ears are coiled within their own spanning universities" [p. 53]. In the writing, the natural world is no longer seen as eschatologically driven toward empirical category, and in light of this, its propositional character has the advantage of treating that world -- including the human body -- very lightly and essentially, as with metonym, the exchange of word for word related not to a holism come to from the intending ends of either a theoretical coherence or correspondence, but far more directly related to elemental being itself, in which what is said in language and with language makes its own sense relative to what we are, in and as being, as Thilleman more precisely completes the book, "The mind's vain chatter and storehouse of apprehension / Bows and enters the way given by time and space / Thralled in the dialectical triumph of music / Whose art no one knows / But whose practice within desiring winds of mortality / Begins and begins again against the walls of tissue / The orders of its place."

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