Primer, Pt. 13: On Extinction

Suicide is a topic I’ve mentioned on many occasions, something somewhat closely linked to my own experiences. I was fourteen when I first began having suicidal thoughts, coupled with light self-harm for a very short period; it was a rather stereotypical case — I even wore black skinny jeans and rode a skateboard then, too… good grief. Looking back is difficult due to my poor memory, and around that time I was still overcoming a period of abuse (which I might explore at another point) afterwhich I seem to’ve forgotten most of my early adolescence, perhaps as a psychological coping mechanism. Nevertheless, I recall a feeling of total loneliness at the time, and a wanting to push others away — including my mother in particular. I was spending a lot of time by myself just thinking about the world, and there was this strong disconnect from anything external, anything outwards; that which was outside of my being was pushed aside. A couple of years later when I was about sixteen years-old, thinking along those sorts of lines as I did in those younger moments, I described to my mother feeling as a consciousness, an awareness, which merely happens to have a body, something which wasn’t representative of the true me; something alien and not quite right. My contemplations frequently led me to such conclusions, being discomforted by that which was beyond my mind, no matter what it was. There was this drive towards just the consciousness and no form, just the spark and no tangible evidence for its existence beyond its own self-knowledge extrinsic to that which is without. There was never a “death drive” in my thoughts of suicide, but rather a sense of release and freedom in however perhaps ghastly a form. I approached the topic, even at fourteen or so, with relative calm and a lack of melancholy on the most part, curious as to what was actually going on in my mind and what I wanted paramountly. What am I? What do I want? Why am I lonely? Why do I seemingly want to be lonely? These were questions I thought on obsessively. Unfortunately it was only until much later that I could actually begin to find answers beyond “I’m just different.” or “I’m not like everyone else.”

As for self-harm: stupidity for attention’s sake. I remember forming the cuts as a ladder on my left forearm — leaving scars faint enough to’ve faded by now — with a half-smile, not even sure why I was doing what I was doing. It took school-sponsored counselling and my grandfather getting involved for me to stop, but there still was a general air of confusion — though that might’ve just been my perspective. It could’ve been a subconscious cry for “help,” as the cliché goes — for fatherly guidance as I often speculate — which seems to have been true, because thereafter as I entered fifteen, sixteen, I grew into my skin, so to speak, and life began to take a more tangible form instead of a mish-mash of events and moving with the wind (though it’s likely that’s just how I perceive things as broken as my memory is). An interest in music was a big part of my forming around then, which surely gave me some direction; projects to focus myself with. This is a recurring theme, a lack of purpose and direction, just ambling about in the dark undisciplined and suspicious of anything extraneous.

Not only have atheism and materialism contributed to banishing the terrors of the soul facing death, but the tragedy of death itself has often been trivialised by the collective catastrophic events of recent times, and in turn diminishes the importance of human life, parallel to the growing insignificance and irrelevance that have marked the individual in the modern mechanised world of the masses. In addition, during the indiscriminate carpet bombings of the recent war [World War Two], many could arrive at an attitude in which the death of any person, even a relative, became a natural and habitual event, having no more impact than the destruction of something merely material and external. Meanwhile, the idea of the uncertainty of life also enters into the order of habitual events, along with the prospect that tomorrow one could cease to exist. ~ Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger, pg. 219

When the fourteen year-old Adam was thinking about killing himself, it was when there was nothing to pre-occupy him. Or, are we making a mistake? Do we mean to say “distract” when we say “pre-occupy”? Yes and no. Thoughts of suicide still persist to this day, I must admit, though they take a different shape rather drastically; but they of course arise when I’m left to think (and my mind is seldom idle). Life’s activities can dull or feed the soul, it depends upon the activity. It isn’t that thoughts of suicide are repressed by all mundane activity, but that the spotlight of awareness moves from the former to the latter — the thoughts are still there, but the focus of attention shifts. And the focus can be upon healthy things such as writing transmutative articles, reading philosophy and taking countryside walks, or unhealthy things such as repetitive videogames, dull pornography and social media. The mind does not repress or squeeze down upon anything, it merely shuffles its spotlight around onto this or that thing — and if something is out of the spotlight for long enough it is forgotten until manual override which brings a memory, knowledge, back into the light.

Suicidal thoughts were never firstly justified by a horror or existential dread, rather what I’d guess was a faint rending of the veil — something allowed so soon due to my own introspectiveness and honesty; sensitivity and overanalysis came into the fray also. Existential dread later, however, did emerge in reaction to “the world” and myself at a more physical level. At sixteen or so I began to feel strongly apart from my peers and contemporary Western society at large for tangible sociopolitical reasons, and this fostered thoughts of escapism on the more vulgar plain. Knowing that I cannot just retreat into a library, subsisting entirely upon the essence of existence, the question becomes one of functioning in the world as it is; something which to this day I cannot compromise on. We then enter the contemporary state of my person, though, and that’s all rather forming so we can’t observe too much yet. But nevertheless, the question of killing oneself, ridding the world of oneself, became more practical and firmly realised on the world of quantitative things. Questions of familial bonds, friendships, compromising with social obligations and so on come into the fore — to me the existence of such dimensions of the question represent the urge fading. As one claws to find justifications and “what if”s, the ice cube melts between one’s fingers.

I’ve raised this topic to friends over the past couple of years, and recently, one in particular said something interesting. He told me that he wanted me to kill myself — but it’s the fashion of this word “myself” which is key. For what are we actually doing when we destroy our mortal selves? For most it’s merely an extinguishing of consciousness qua consciousness; the “me” is no more because I cannot sense it. But this speaks of the shallowness of your ordinary person and the dimension with which they’re dealing with. We each have a higher and lower self. We mere mortals, trapped between the Earth and the Heavens, are cut in two in the form of cycle; yes and no are known to us. Metaphysically-speaking, man is holding two chains, him being this bridge between life and death, Being and Becoming. He is the instrument through which harmony is found in this flawed world; by coming to know God he mantles the image of Christ; that man who was God and vice versa. Man is dualism manifest. When most people think of an “end” in the sense of suicide, they are thinking upon the lower lines of ego and triviality; for them this is all they are. For the common man is only matter, only emotion, only ego. This is why in ancient Rome the common man was said to be “without ancestors” — without gods, without destiny or an afterlife. He only holds onto the chain of Becoming, of Earthliness; and to him, like a fish in water, it is his world, ignorant of the air above. For him to kill himself is merely to fall back into the material continuum from whence he came.

For the differentiated man, however, he holds fast to the chain of Being, of Heaven. For him to kill himself is only a half-measure, for his “self” as in ego, emotion, merely constitutes part of his existence. All differentiated men kill themselves; in doing so they cleanse themselves of the bourgeois, the material, the temporal. In prayer and meditation we kill ourselves; we forsake our mortal chains and open ourselves to God’s Love, leaving the husk of our mortality aside as we ascend vertically. To murder one’s fleshly presence ex toto is not to ascend vertically, but rather to submit to the cycle of mortality and surrender ourselves to Becoming and its limitless universality. The soul never blooms, it blackens. Heroic suicide, exampli gratia Japanese harakiri (seppuku), is another matter. Such acts are honourable answers to failure. Had a samurai, for example, fled battle — a religious experience to Traditional man — his life’s purpose had been forsaken. However, via opening his belly and/or beheading thereafter (e.g. the fate of Yukio Mishima) he would’ve redeemed himself in the act. Heroic suicide, then, has a vertical character, as opposed to most contemporary suicide which is horizontal in character. The former liberates man from lowliness and his mortality, the latter submits to it.

…it is unnecessary to add what is equally valid for all those who are driven to cut their life short due to emotional and impassioned motives, because this would be equivalent to recognising one’s own passivity and impotence toward the irrational part of one’s soul. The same is even true for cases in which social motives intervene. Both the ideal Stoic type and the differentiated man do not permit these motives to intimately touch them, as if their dignity were injured by what binds them to social life. They would never be driven to put an end to their own existence for these motives, which are included by the Stoics in the category of “that which does not depend on me.” The only exception we can consider is the case of a disgrace not before others whose judgement and contempt we cannot bear, but before oneself, because of one’s own downfall. … It is not a matter of retreating because one does not feel strong enough before such ordeals and circumstances; rather, it is a matter of the sovereign right — that one always keeps in reserve — to either accept these ordeals or not, and even to draw the line when one no longer sees a meaning in them, and after having sufficiently demonstrated to oneself the capacity to face them. Impassibility is taken for granted, and the right to “exit” is justifiable as one of the possibilities to be considered, in principle, only for the sake of decreeing that our circumstances have our assent, that we are really active in them, and that we are not just making a virtue of necessity. This Stoic point of view is intelligible and, what is more, unassailable. ~ Ride the Tiger, pg. 222-223

What Evola describes here is nothing a sizeable portion of contemporary men will encounter. There might be a few who will properly approach the fact of their own overcoming of life via death, but the crux of such a matter is in the fact of overcoming — an overcoming which merely happens to take the form of a ritualistic suicide. The act in and of itself is superseded by its direction for the noble suicide, whilst, for the mass-man, his murdering of himself lies simply in the act of inhibiting consciousness. The nature of two-dimensional modern man is thus exposed even in his own end — an end which perpetuates nothing but shallowness and weakness he so embodied in life.

Back to myself, however; I mentioned still having thoughts of suicide periodically, which is something worth exploring. It appears as a temptation, an urge, something irrational and subpersonal. It is difficult to pin-down exactly as to what the motivation or cause is for such thinking. My aforementioned friend believes it to be the friction between my higher and lower halves, and I’m inclined to agree. As difficult as it can be to navigate such things, my own better nature has gotten the best of me and kept me still enough to resist the temptation. Instead, I watch it arise, and then as it looms over me for a response, I remain indifferent though watchful. It eventually grows tired and shrinks back down, and I walk away unscathed. Perhaps it is my being sceptical of myself which allows this dance to play-out; man is flawed, thus I am flawed. Thus who am I to act? Without overcomplicating matters, it is safe to say that this is the right choice to make — and indeed this is a choice: I choose to end not my life, hence my very being sat here typing these words to you. And you, reader, have made the choice to live. Suicide is only an appropriate action in the most rare of circumstances, and Evola has this to say right at the very end of Ride the Tiger to bring the subject to a close:

One will see, therefore, that dwelling on this problem of death and the right over life, as the last problem of all we have examined, is of the greatest advantage regarding the attitude and behaviours of the differentiated and unbroken man in an epoch of dissolution.

Elevating oneself above that which can be understood in the light of human reason alone; reaching a high interior level and an invulnerability otherwise hard to attain: these are perhaps among the possibilities that, through adequate reactions, are offered in the cases in which the night journey allows almost nothing to be perceived of the landscape that one traverses, and in which the theory of Geworfenheit, of being absurdly “flung” into the world and time, seems to be true, especially in a climate in which physical existence itself must present a growing insecurity. If one can allow one’s mind to dwell on a bold hypothesis — which could also be an act of faith in a higher sense — once the idea of Geworfenheit is rejected, once it is conceived that living here and now in this world has a sense, because it is always the effect of a choice and a will, one might even believe that one’s own realisation of the possibilities I have indicated … is the ultimate rationale and significance of a choice made by a “being” that wanted to measure itself against a difficult challenge: that of living in a world contrary to that consistent with its nature, that is, contrary to the world of Tradition.

Though a candle burning in broad day might appear dim, in the darkest night it can illuminate the world.

Part 12 > Part 14


3 thoughts on “Primer, Pt. 13: On Extinction

  1. I thought the second half especially was eloquently put . I remember the first time I had read Ride the Tiger and reaching the point at the end where there was this meditation on whether or not we chose , through our own will , to plunge ourselves into this challenge of modernity and I recalled sensing a great resonance with that .

  2. Those who consider suicide often occupy one of two extremes. They are either so lacking in intelligence that they fail to find purpose once base drives have been cut out from underneath them, these men are adrift without a guidance system, or they are so suffused with intelligence that they see through hollow structures that everyone else sees as full, nothing quite satisfies their very human needs. There are a great many out there who just cannot be fooled, and in the Modern World, a fool’s paradise of sorts, these men find misery is a gnawing companion until they can learn to Ride the Tiger, to transcend the age itself. The Modern World is a construct, inorganic in its vital aspects, but one cannot have a foot in this constructed reality as well as another one of higher significance. He must in effect become dead to Modernity, to cease satisfying its whims and wishes, for which he will receive no real compensation. In essence this also enables one to shrug off the fear of death.

    If you die before you die, then you will not die when you die.

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