Chaos, Nietzsche and the Dervishes
by Hakim Bey

CHAOS NEVER DIED.  Primordial uncarved block, sole worshipful monster, inert & spontaneous, more ultraviolet than any mythology (like the shadows before Babylon), the original undifferentiated oneness-of-being still radiates serene as the black pennants of Assassins, random & perpetually intoxicated.

Chaos comes before all principles of order & entropy, it’s neither a god nor a maggot, its idiotic desires encompass & define every possible choreography, all meaningless aethers & phlogistons: its masks are crystallizations of its own facelessness, like clouds.

Everything in nature is perfectly real including consciousness, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.  Not only have the chains of the Law been broken, they never existed; demons never guarded the stars, the Empire never got started, Eros never grew a beard.

No, listen, what happened was this: they lied to you, sold you ideas of good & evil, gave you distrust of your body & shame for your prophethood of chaos, invented words of disgust for your molecular love, mesmerized you with inattention, bored you with civilization & all its usurious emotions.

There is no becoming, no revolution, no struggle, no path; already you’re the monarch of your own skin – your inviolable freedom waits to be completed only by the love of other monarchs: a politics of dream, urgent as the blueness of sky.

To shed all the illusory rights & hesitations of history demands the economy of some legendary Stone Age – shamans not priests, bards not lords, hunters not police, gatherers of paleolithic laziness, gentle as blood, going naked for a sign or painted as birds, poised on the wave of explicit presence, the clockless nowever.

Agents of chaos cast burning glances at anything or anyone capable of bearing witness to their condition, their fever of lux et voluptas.  I am awake only in what I love & desire to the point of terror – everything else is just shrouded furniture, quotidian anaesthesia, shit-for-brains, sub-reptilian ennui of totalitarian regimes, banal censorship & useless pain.

Avatars of chaos act as spies, saboteurs, criminals of amour fou, neither selfless nor selfish, accessible as children, mannered as barbarians, chafed with obsessions, unemployed, sensually deranged, wolfangels, mirrors for contemplation, eyes like flowers, pirates of all signs & meanings.

Here we are crawling the cracks between walls of church state school & factory, all the paranoid monoliths.  Cut off from the tribe by feral nostalgia we tunnel after lost words, imaginary bombs.

The last possible deed is that which defines perception itself, an invisible golden cord that connects us: illegal dancing in the courthouse corridors.  If I were to kiss you here they’d call it an act of terrorism – so let’s take our pistols to bed & wake up the city at midnight like drunken bandits celebrating with a fusillade, the message of the taste of chaos.



RENDAN, “THE CLEVER ONES.” The sufis use a technical term rend (adj. rendi, pl. rendan) to designate one “clever enough to drink wine in secret without getting caught”: the dervish version of “Permissible Dissimulation” (taqiyya, whereby Shiites are permitted to lie about their true affiliation to avoid persecution as well as advance the purpose of their propaganda).

On the plane of the “Path”, the rend conceals his spiritual state (hal) in order to contain it, work on it alchemically, enhance it.  This “cleverness” explains much of the secrecy of the Orders, altho it remains true that many dervishes do literally break the rules of Islam (shariah), offend tradition (sunnah), and flout the customs of their society – all of which gives them reason for real secrecy.

Ignoring the case of the “criminal” who uses sufism as a mask – or rather not sufism per se but dervish-ism, almost a synonym in Persia for laid-back manners & by extension a social laxness, a style of genial and poor but elegant amorality – the above definition can still be considered in a literal as well as metaphorical sense.  That is: some sufis do break the Law while still allowing that the Law exists & will continue to exist; & they do so from spiritual motives, as an exercise of will (himmah).

Nietzsche says somewhere that the free spirit will not agitate for the rules to be dropped or even reformed, since it is only by breaking the rules that he realizes his will to power.  One must prove (to oneself if no one else) an ability to overcome the rules of the herd, to make one’s own law & yet not fall prey to the rancor & resentment of inferior souls which define law & custom in ANY society.  One needs, in effect, an individual equivalent of war in order to achieve the becoming of the free spirit – one needs an inert stupidity against which to measure one’s own movement & intelligence.

Anarchists sometimes posit an ideal society without law.  The few anarchist experiments which succeeded briefly (the Makhnovists, Catalan) failed to survive the conditions of war which permitted their existence in the first place – so we have no way of knowing empirically if such an experiment could outlive the onset of peace.

Some anarchists, however, like our late friend the Italian Stirnerite “Brand”, took part in all sorts of uprisings and revolutions, even communist and socialist ones, because they found in the moment of insurrection itself the kind of freedom they sought.  Thus while utopianism has so far always failed, the individualist or existentialist anarchists have succeeded inasmuch as they have attained (however briefly) the realization of their will to power in war.

Nietzsche’s animadversions against “anarchists” are always aimed at the egalitarian-communist narodnik martyr types, whose idealism he saw as yet one more survival of post-Xtian moralismaltho he sometimes praises them for at least having the courage to revolt against majoritarian authority.  He never mentions Stirner, but I believe he would have classified the Individualist rebel with the higher types of “criminals”, who represented for him (as for Dostoyevsky) humans far superior to the herd, even if tragically flawed by their obsessiveness and perhaps hidden motivations of revenge.

The Nietzschean overman, if he existed, would have to share to some degree in this “criminality” even if he had overcome all obsessions and compulsions, if only because his law could never agree with the law of the masses, of state & society.  His need for “war” (whether literal or metaphorical) might even persuade him to take part in revolt, whether it assumed the form of insurrection or only of a proud bohemianism.

For him a “society without law” might have value only so long as it could measure its own freedom against the subjection of others, against their jealousy & hatred.  The lawless & short-lived “pirate utopias” of Madagascar & the Caribbean, D’Annunzio’s Republic of Fiume, the Ukraine or Barcelona – these would attract him because they promised the turmoil of becoming & even “failure” rather than the bucolic somnolence of a “perfected” (& hence dead) anarchist society.

In the absence of such opportunities, this free spirit would disdain wasting time on agitation for reform, on protest, on visionary dreaming, on all kinds of “revolutionary martyrdom” – in short, on most contemporary anarchist activity.  To be rendi, to drink wine in secret & not get caught, to accept the rules in order to break them & thus attain the spiritual lift or energy-rush of danger & adventure, the private epiphany of overcoming all interior police while tricking all outward authority – this might be a goal worthy of such a spirit , & this might be his definition of crime.

 (Incidentally, I think this reading helps explain N’s insistence on the MASK, on the secretive nature of the proto-overman, which disturbs even intelligent but somewhat liberal commentators like Kaufman.  Artists, for all that N loves them, are criticized for telling secrets.  Perhaps he failed to consider that – paraphrasing A. Ginsberg – this is our way of becoming “great”; and also that – paraphrasing Yeats – even the truest secret becomes yet another mask.)

As for the anarchist movement today: would we like just once to stand on ground where laws are abolished & the last priest is strung up with the guts of the last bureaucrat?  Yeah sure.  But we’re not holding our breath.  There are certain causes (to quote the Neech again) that one fails to quite abandon, if only because of the sheer insipidity of all their enemies.  Oscar Wilde might have said that one cannot be a gentleman without being something of an anarchist – a necessary paradox, like N’s “radical aristocratism”.

This is not just a matter of spiritual dandyism, but also of existential commitment to an underlying spontaneity, to a philosophical “tao”.  For all its waste of energy, in its very formlessness, anarchism alone of all the ISMs approaches that one type of form which alone can interest us today, that strange attractor, the shape of chaos – which (one last quote) one must have within oneself, if one is to give birth to a dancing star.



CONSTELATIONS BY WHICH TO steer the barque of the soul. 

“If the moslem understood Islam he would become an idol-worshipper.” – Mahmud Shabestari

Eleggua, ugly opener of doors with a hook in his head & cowrie shells for eyes, black santeria cigar & glass of rum – same as Ganesh, elephant-head fat boy of Beginnings who rides a mouse.

The organ which senses the numinous atrophies with the senses.  Those who cannot feel baraka cannot know the caress of the world.

Hermes Poimandres taught the animation of eidolons, the magic in-dwelling of icons by spirits – but those who cannot perform this rite on themselves & on the whole palpable fabric of material being will inherit only blues, rubbish, decay.

The pagan body becomes a Court of Angels who all perceive this place – this very grove – as paradise (“If there is a paradise, surely it is here!” – inscription on a Mughal garden gate).

But ontological anarchism is too paleolithic for eschatology – things are real, sorcery works, bush-spirits one with the Imagination, death an unpleasant vagueness – the plot of Ovid’s Metamorphoses – an epic of mutability.  The personal mythscape.

Paganism has not yet invented laws – only virtues.  No priestcraft, no theology or metaphysics or morality – but a universal shamanism in which no one attains real humanity without a vision.

Food money sex sleep sun sand & sinsemilla – love truth peace freedom & justice.  Beauty.  Dionysus the drunk boy on a panther – rank adolescent sweat – Pan goatman slogs through the solid earth up to his waist as if it were the sea, his skin crusted with moss & lichen – Eros multiplies himself into a dozen pastoral naked Iowa farm boys with muddy feet & pond-scum on their thighs.

Raven, the potlatch trickster, sometimes a boy, old woman, bird who stole the Moon, pine needles floating on a pond, Heckle/Jeckle totempole-head, chorus-line of crows with silver eyes dancing on the woodpile – same as Semar the hunchback albino hermaphrodite shadow-puppet patron of the Javanese revolution.

Yemaya, bluestar sea-goddess & patroness of queers – same as Tara, bluegrey aspect of Kali, necklace of skulls, dancing on Shiva’s stiff lingam, licking monsoon clouds with her yardlong tongue – same as Loro Kidul, jasper-green Javanese sea-goddess who bestows the power of invulnerability on sultans by tantrik intercourse in magic towers & caves.

From one point of view ontological anarchism is extremely bare, stripped of all qualities & possessions, poor as CHAOS itself – but from another point of view it pullulates with baroqueness like the Fucking-Temples of Kathmandu or an alchemical emblem book – it sprawls on its divan eating loukoum & entertaining heretical notions, one hand inside its baggy trousers.

The hulls of its pirate ships are lacquered black, the lateen sails are red, black banners with the device of a winged hourglass.

A South China Sea of the mind, off a jungle-flat coast of palms, rotten gold temples to unknown bestiary gods, island after island, the breeze like wet yellow silk on naked skin, navigating by pantheistic stars, hierophany on hierophany, light upon light against the luminous & chaotic dark.



To speak too much & not be heard – that’s sickening enough.  But to acquire listeners – that could be worse.  Listeners think that to listen suffices – as if their true desire were to hear with someone else’s ears, see thru someone else’s eyes, feel with someone else’s skin…

The text (or the broadcast) which will change reality: -- Rimbaud dreamed of that & then gave up in disgust.  But he entertained too subtle an idea about magic.  The crude truth is perhaps that texts can only change reality when they inspire readers to see & act, rather than merely see.  Scripture once did this – but Scripture has become an idol.  To see thru its eyes would be to possess (in the Voodoo sense) a statue – or a corpse.

Seeing, & the literature of seeing, is too easy.  Enlightenment is easy.  “It’s easy to be a sufi”, a Persian shaykh once told me.  What’s difficult is to be human.  Political enlightenment is even easier than spiritual enlightenment – neither one changes the world or even the self.  Sufism & Situationism – or shamanism & anarchy – the theories I’ve played with – are just that: theories, visions, ways of seeing.  Significantly, the practice of Sufism consists in the repetition of words (dhikr).  This action itself is a text, & nothing but a text.  And the “praxis” of anarcho-situationism amounts to the same: a text, a slogan on a wall.  A moment of enlightenment.  Well it’s not totally valueless – but afterwards what will be different?

We might like to purge our radio of anything which lacks at least the chance of precipitating that difference.  Just as there exist books which have inspired earthshaking crimes we would like to broadcast texts which cause hearers to seize (or at least make a grab for) the happiness God denies us.  Exhortations to hijack reality.  But even more we would like to purge our lives of everything which obstructs or delays us from setting out – not to sell guns & slaves in Abyssinia – not to be either robbers or cops – not to escape the world or to rule it – but to open ourselves to difference.

I share with the most reactionary moralists the presumption that art can really affect reality in this way, & I despise the liberals who say all art should be permitted because – after all – it’s only art.  Thus I’ve taken to the practice of those categories of writing & radio most hated by conservatives – pornography & agitprop – in the hope of stirring up trouble for my readers/hearers & myself.  But I accuse myself of ineffectualism, even futility.  Not enough has changed.  Perhaps nothing has changed.

Enlightenment is all we have, & even that we’ve had to rip from the grasp of corrupt gurus & bumbling suicidal intellectuals.  As for our art – what have we accomplished, other than to spill our blood for the ghostworld of fashionable ideas & images?

Writing has taken us to the very edge beyond which writing may be impossible.  Any texts which could survive the plunge over this edge – into whatever abyss or Abyssinia lies beyond – would have to be virtually self-created, like the miraculous hidden-treasure Dakini-scrolls of Tibet or the tadpole-script spirit-texts of Taoism -- & absolutely incandescent, like the last screamed messages of a witch or heretic burning at the stake (to paraphrase Artaud). 

I can sense these texts trembling just beyond the veil.

What if the mood should strike us to renounce both the mere objectivity of art & the mere subjectivity of theory? to risk the abyss?  What if no one followed?  So much the better, perhaps – we might find our equals amongst the Hyperboreans.  What if we went mad?  Well – that’s the risk.  What if we were bored?  Ah…

Already some time ago we placed all our bets on the irruption of the marvelous into everyday life – won a few, then lost heavily.  Sufism was indeed much much easier.  Pawn everything then, down to the last miserable scrawl? double our stakes? cheat?

It’s as if there were angels in the next room beyond thick walls – arguing? fucking?  One can’t make out a single word.

Can we retrain ourselves at this late date to become Finders of hidden treasure?  And by what technique, seeing that it is precisely technique which has betrayed us?  Derangement of the senses, insurrection, piety, poetry?  Knowing how is a cheap mountebank’s trick.  But knowing what might be like divine self-knowledge – it might create ex nihilo.

Finally, however, it will become necessary to leave this city which hovers immobile on the edge of a sterile twilight, like Hamelin after all the children were lured away.  Perhaps other cities exist, occupying the same space & time, but…different.  And perhaps there exist jungles where mere enlightenment is outshadowed by the black light of jaguars.  I have no idea -- & I’m terrified.