Some thoughts on total annihilation
Published in 'Cheer Up! It's not the end of the world...' (Edinburgh Printnakers, 2012)
‘It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton.’
The 2012 prophecy is often assumed to signify the end of the world. It probably isn’t. Even if it is an apocalypse, then there have already been a whole bunch of apocalypses. An apocalypse, or an eschaton, is just a change of state, the inauguration of a new order of being.
Was I born? That was an apocalypse. If I stop thinking, the world ends.
Even if nothing happens on 21st December 2012, it is certain that the world is still going to end sometime. One day, the sun will explode. And then, further down the line, the universe will disintegrate, apparently.
Scientific materialists can only conclude that this is the end of everything. So it’s total annihilation folks. Nobody turns up for the party at the end of the world.
‘With the disappearance of earth, thought will have stopped – leaving that disappearance absolutely unthought of’
Unless we have colonised some distant planet, or worked out a way of enabling thought to go on without a body. But we haven’t worked this out yet. Furthermore, we’d still have to deal with the end of the universe:
‘But this is only to postpone the day of reckoning, because sooner or later both life and mind will have to reckon with the disintegration of the ultimate horizon, when, roughly one trillion, trillion, trillion years from now, the accelerating expansion of the universe will have disintegrated the fabric of matter itself, terminating the possibility of embodiment. Every star in the universe will have burnt out, plunging the cosmos into a state of absolute darkness and leaving behind nothing but spent husks of collapsed matter [...] Atoms themselves will cease to exist. Only the implacable gravitational expansion will continue, driven by the currently inexplicable force called ‘dark energy’, which will keep pushing the extinguished universe deeper and deeper into an eternal and unfathomable blackness.’
The death of matter follows the death of mind like his suicidal widow, into the sweet oblivion of nothing.
‘The nothing – what else can it be for science but an outrage and a phantasm? If science is right, then only one thing is sure: science wishes to know nothing of the nothing [...] The nothing is the complete negation of the totality of beings’
Thoughts on extinction, on the end of thoughts, and eventually nothing, inevitably conclude with the notion that everything might as well be dead already. Or maybe death isn’t the word. The explosion has already happened, rendering all our quests posthumous. In my beginning is my end.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
No, not even a whimper. Like the tree falling in the forest that nobody hears, it does not make a noise.
‘after the sun’s death there won’t be a thought to know that its death took place.’
In essence, the final event collapses in on itself; an ontological black hole:
‘Extinction has a transcendental efficacy precisely insofar as it tokens an annihilation which is neither a possibility towards which actual existence could orient itself, nor a given datum from which future existence could proceed. It retroactively disables projection, just as it pre-emptively abolishes retention. In this regard, extinction unfolds in an ‘anterior posteriority’ which usurps the ‘future anteriority’ of human existence’.
This great ceasing-to-be with nobody around to witness the ceasing. No knower to know. Narcissus without his mirror.
‘You shall not taste of death, for there is no death for you. You cannot experience your own death. Are you born? Life and death cannot be separated. You have no chance whatsoever of knowing for yourself where one begins and the other ends. You can experience the death of another, but not your own. The only death is physical death; there is no psychological death.’
With no consciousness there to be conscious of it, the universe effectively ceases to be. Does mind, then, precede matter?
‘Nothing is more foreign to our way of thinking than the earth in the middle of the silent universe [...] In reality, we can never imagine things without consciousness except arbitrarily, since we and imagine imply consciousness, our consciousness, adhering indelibly to their presence.’
Thinking too much about our extinction is like thinking too much about eternity. The mind cannot embrace its own demise any more than its infinite extension.
‘Extinction portends a physical annihilation which negates the difference between mind and world [...] Extinction turns thinking inside out.’
Is this because we cannot conceive of thoughts without things? Perhaps you thought that things and thought were forever bedded together, committed to each other in loving monogamy. Yet it appears that their uncanny conjunction is a mere fumbling one-night stand.
‘The sun, our earth and your thought will have been no more than a spasmodic state of energy, an instant of established order, a smile on the surface of matter in a remote corner of the cosmos. You, the unbelievers, you’re really believers: you believe much too much in that smile, in the complicity of things and thought, in the purposefulness of all things!’
Most of the apocalypses with which we are familiar are not so much about extinction as about a change of world. We cannot conceive of any being nor consciousness that does not append itself to a ‘world’ as such.
‘A being is thinkable only in as much as it belongs to a world.’
This grand snuffing-out leaves nothing. No residue. Nothing beyond or outside to experience the greatest non-event ever, erasing all the meanings, the dreams, the emotions, the memories; negating all the histories, the religions and philosophies. Why, was there ever anything at all?
Can this even be an end, with no beginning to be inaugurated? Ouroboros uncoils and slithers away.
There is nothing. Everything you cared about is gone, including the caring itself. There really never was a world. There really never was a life. We are not. This is beyond and before death. This is the point of ultimate disaster.
‘Human death is included in the life of human mind. Solar death implies an irreparably exclusive disjunction between death and thought: if there’s death, then there’s no thought. Negation without remainder. No self to make sense of it. Pure event. Disaster. All the events and diasters we’re familiar with and try to think of will end up as no more than pale simulacra.’
The end of thought ridicules science and logic, it is irrational and incomprehensible, its denizens are unnameable and its colours never seen. A new totality.
‘Extinction is real yet not empirical, since it is not of the order of experience. It is transcendental yet not ideal, since it coincides with the external objectification of thought unfolding at a specific historical juncture when both the resources of intelligibility and the lexicon of ideality are being renegotiated.’
Cheer up... It is the end of the world
Consciousness, however, need not be. Perhaps it is an aberration, a mistake, a great cosmic blunder. Buddhists agree that existence is suffering. We cannot deny that every child brought into the world is going to suffer. Suffering and death are forced upon us by birth. It may be that the apocalypse is brought on by us denizens of the earth long before the sun has an opportunity to explode, or before any planet or meteor crashes into us. Perhaps it would be better that we did it our way while we can. As Mong-Tse said, “A man must destroy himself before others can destroy him.” It may be the same for our earth.
An alternative way to immanentize the eschaton would be to actively remove ourselves from the planet. Let’s face it, the termination of humanity would at the very least be advantageous to the rest of the world. The ultimate mass-martyrdom.
‘Nature proceeds by blunders; that is its way. It is also ours. So if we have blundered by regarding consciousness as a blunder, why make a fuss over it? Our self-removal from this planet would still be a magnificent move, a feat so luminous it would bedim the sun. What do we have to lose? No evil would attend our departure from this world, and the many evils we have known would go extinct along with us..’
Contrary to the materialist view, the idealist’s view is that reality, however, or reality as we can know it, may be fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Mind precedes and supercedes matter.
This universe will never end, for forever will consciousness roar on. The nightmare of being, that there is no death. No amount of suicides will annul this suffering.
The vast dynamos of mind whirring away forever, birthing and killing new cosmoses like there’s no tomorrow.
This world, this special plan, conceived in a fevered dream by you, or by some deranged god.
‘When everyone you have ever loved is finally gone
When everything you have ever wanted is finally done with
When all of your nightmares are for a time obscured
as by a shining brainless beacon
or a blinding eclipse of the many terrible shapes of this world
When you are calm and joyful
and finally entirely alone
Then, in a great new darkness,
You will finally execute your special plan.’
 Robert Anton Wilson The Illuminatus Trilogy (1975) (Robinson, 1998) p7
 Jean-François Lyotard Can Thought go on Without a Body? in The Inhuman (1988) (Polity, 1991) p9
 Ray Brassier Nihil Unbound (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) p228
 Martin Heidegger What is Metaphysics? (1929) in Basic Writings (Routledge, 1993) p96-98
 TS Eliot The Hollow Men (1925)
 Lyotard op cit p9
 Brassier op cit p230
 UG Krishnamurti The Mystique of Enlightenment (Sentient, 2002) p50
 Georges Bataille Theory of Religion (1973) (Zone Books, 1989) p20
 Brassier op cit p229
 Lyotard op cit p10-11
 Alain Badiou The Transcendental in Theoretical Writings (2004) (Continuum, 2006) p198
 Lyotard op cit p11
 Brassier op cit p238
 Thomas Ligotti The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (Hippocampus Press, 2010) p52
 Thomas Ligotti I Have a Special Plan for This World on Current 93's I Have a Special Plan for This World (Durtro, 2000)