The Haunting of Man: on the possibility of a panecastic anthropos

Originally published on Through Europe, February 2014


The question of the anthropos lingers on, it remains as the ghostly apparition of that which was never thought, it continues, resting beneath a thin shadowy surface concealing its phantasmagorical form, it hovers beyond the vision of those who would fain it realised. The questions and answers linger on, nestled deep in hauntologies of Man.

Proud exclamations continue to echo in our ears, sending forth disembodied promises of objects lost amidst the ever-rising heights of nebulous abstraction.

“Here is the human.

Here is the human.

Here is the perfect human.

We will see the perfect human functioning.

We will see the perfect human functioning.”[i]

Answers come before the questions as the echoes of that which is yet to be asked. The general precedes the particular as the preconfigured subsumption of the latter under its own irrelevance. The normative predicates the normal and in turn, so too the other. The mind that longs for the anthropos has already made it in its own image in order that it too may be made of this image. Only when all the images are made, when the particular has been erased, when the answers have been set in spite of the impossibility of questions, does the inquiry begin.

“How does such a number function?

What kind of thing is it?

We will be looking into that.

We will investigate that”[ii]

Function and quantification, objectivity and utility – the principles of measurement and delimitation bring about deathly apparitions of that which is assigned to life. Severed from connectivity, the mind refuses to acknowledge anything other than solids, stable and static solids. Encased in an abstract time devoid of duration and framed in an impoverished geometric space, such a number functions according to the predicates assigned by answers that preceded the questions. This kind of thing belongs to a principle of functional reality, one moulded only in the shape of solids, a reality dominated by the most vulgar of the “men of action”[iii], a utilitarian reality in which all must have its place, all must operate, all must provide use, and all must adhere to the real.

The movement and continuity of life becomes segregated as the lines of powerful stratifications split apart the consistency that would see the conjunction of two bodies “no longer as two organisms, but as two activities.”[iv]  The shared connectivity of matter and bodies, and the movements of vitality, become lost amidst an insistence towards the cleanly segmented, a stubborn demand for taxonomia and mathesis. With such an object and number comes the beginnings of a peculiar death, a surrendering of life to phantoms, that would grant the comfort of automation and protection from war, we become “at ease only in the discontinuous, in the immobile, in the dead.”[v] Bodies become the locus of hauntings of life, and the haunting of the anthropos is that which determines the terrifying and uncanny limits of what that body forced to become organism is, what life must be and do.

“Now we will see how the perfect human looks and what it can do.

This is how an ear looks; and here is a pair of knees, and here a foot.

Look the perfect human moving in a room.

The perfect human can move in a room.”[vi]

The question of what a body can do, of what the life that animates can achieve, is asked, but the terms have been set by a spectral essence which has yet to be thought. The question of what a body can do is posed in terms of what an organism can do, what this particular organism can do, what this number can do, what this thing can do. Organism and body are confused.  The function, organism, thing and number already limit what a body can do. The anthropos renders the question answerable, but in the terms of the longings for a positive anthropology, in terms of the substantive attributes of the organism. But positive anthropology has always been concerned with ghosts, an anthropology of phantoms – “phantoms of ideas to which there cling phantoms of problems.”[vii] The question of life, of vitality, and of experience, is lost under the gaze of an intellect moulded only in the shape of static solidity, an intellect manifesting an “inability to comprehend life.[viii] Life, for this intellect, for this positive anthropology, can be no more than an ever fleeting spectre, the appearance of that which has not been thought, the emergence of a past that cannot find a present.

“The room is boundless and radiant with light.

It is an empty room.

Here are no boundaries.

Here is nothing.”

In a domain of vulgar abstractions masked under the guise of limitless illumination the shade of the anthropos emerges. Having been cut from the continuity of matter and vitality by an intelligence always focused outward and always upon solids, the same intelligence to be used as the definitive positive attribute constructing this ghost in the image of its own phantom, the anthropos dwells in a temporality without duration and a spatiality without milieu. This is a ghost of the most terrify nature, there are none of the conversational and intensive qualities of the phantoms that follow Proust throughout his wanderings in lost time; this spectre is terrifying and deintensifying, life trembles in its shadow, in the shade of that which is elevated above vitality, a monstrous Gottmensch, the holy spirit of humanism. And this Gottmensch haunts life as the perfections of geometric space haunt matter, always declaring it insufficient, always rendering it inferior and subservient.

“Alone among the animals, man was call anthropos precisely because he examines what he sees”[ix]

But what does this anthropos claim to signify? What can it claim to signify whilst dwelling within such an abstract homogenous space-time? It claims to be the essential structure of the form of life that examines and reflects upon matter and existence through intelligence, but an intelligence fixed within the realm of solids, of the static. Thus, the anthropos cannot confront the continuity and movement of life through this intelligence; it is doomed to an existence permeated by its own phantoms, doomed to consciousness that, falling subservient to intelligence, can only think matter and never life, that can only bring forth phantasms of vitality encased in abstract times devoid of duration, dwelling in impoverished spatialities.

Such an anthropos insists upon the primacy of intelligence, and further, on particular forms and manifestations of intelligence. It is an intelligence that is directed outwards, upon matter, upon the world of things, a world in which life is forever haunted by the monstrous apparitions of that which it is told to be. It is an intelligence, which can never grasp the continuity of life, the connectivity of vitality. The anthropos that is raised above life, that forms life in the mould of solids, enters a realm to which our sovereignty becomes servile, it enters a domain in which death is done away with, in which half-life of servant and master prevails, in which fearful subjects are haunted by the apparitions of their ghostly king; “the king cannot die, death is nothing to him, it is that which his presence denies, that which his presence annihilates even in death, that which his death itself annihilates.”[x] Even if the figure of Man is to be erased by the tide, the ghost of the anthropos shall linger.

So how to reclaim life from such spectral abstractions? How to experience beyond this graveyard of spectres? How to dethrone this phantasm-king? It is a question of living, not of (human) being(s), it is a question of vitality, not attributes and faculties, it is a question of experience, not intelligence, a question of ethics, not morals, and a question of fluidity and transience, not staticity and essence. Indeed, it is not a question, but a feeling, an action, an attitude. Undoubtedly ghosts cannot die, but one’s fear in them can wane. They could perhaps even be exorcised, or at least kept at bay. The shaman who protects from evil has already gone further than the Enlightened scientist who defines its attributes or psychopathology. The former has aims at and achieves their protection, evoking and confronting the inescapable presence of spirits, the latter surrounds and clouds themselves with yet more ghosts of which they remain oblivious, to which they become fearful subjects.

If the intelligence that deals in discontinuous solids is held superior to the intuition that may focus upon the connectivity and continuity of life only the haunting of torturous abstractions will prosper. We will never be able to grasp the spectres before it is too late. This is not a call back to a golden age of intuition and instinct, before the fall; this is absolutely not a romanicisation of an untainted form of life, of the spectre of the noble savage, to the protanthropos of Gnostic systems – intuition, which is to say instinct reflecting upon itself, does not precede intelligence; it is not a prior stage on a single linear evolution. Intuition is of a different order to intelligence[xi]. It alone can bring into focus the connectivity and fluidity of life. It is that which engages with the aesthetic domain, it is that which opens engagement of the derma, it is that which feels and experiences, it is the passion and emotion that becomes labelled irrational, the same irrational from which the rational is delimited, it is that which causes intelligence to reel in horror at the connectivity of deus, sive natura. Intuition constructs no positive, solid and static attributes, as does intelligence, it is borne away on the current of flows and, by action and experience, conjoins intelligence, life and instinct through the passages of becoming and practice.


The masking of intuition by intelligence, the hiding of practice by theory, the encasement of desire in rationality, have been fundamental building blocks of Enlightened thought, and the anthropos. To open the conversation between intuition and intelligence is one of the first steps that a radically negative anthropologist might take. Man, culture, society – none of these categories, these longed for positive universals, can serve as logos for an anthropology that seeks to exorcise its most traumatising of ghosts. The end of the illusion of modernity, which undoubtedly lingers on, reveals the inapplicability of static, generalised categories, the stable footholds of the Enlightenment’s wistful dreams, the memories of a past that has never existed in a present. We have never been modern – this much is clear, so too have we never been the anthropos of intelligence.


To open the paths of communication between intuition and intelligence, between fluidity and staticity, means to acknowledge the absolute impossibility of theories or categories that are not made, that are not process, that are not crafts. It means to accept the irrational base of rationality and to flatten the hierarchy that would see all practice and experience subsumed and impoverished under the divine humanist trinity of the philosopher king, genius artist and master scientist. It means the emergence of a panecastic anthropos, that which is not concerned with intelligence, positivity, attributes and solids, but is concerned with vitality, and the connectivity of life – in short, that which is not anthropos.  It is this contradiction, this uncertainty, between the spectral sovereignty of the Lord of Man and the equality of practice, life and experience that creates the circular movement that may keep our fear of ghosts at bay and allow their voices to engage with our own beyond ventriloquistic possession.


The panecastic does not elevate their craft and practice beyond themselves, their creations are always creations and none has superiority beyond another. The hand that makes is not subservient to the intelligence that thinks. The fluidity of process is not masked by the staticity of solids. Creation, the continual emergence of the new, the eternal upspringing of difference born of duration, does not reduce flow to output nor practice to instrument. Theory’s position as practice remains unmasked. The refrains of the panecastic remain haunted, but they do not entice fear. Their planes of equality render conversations with ghosts a pleasure, an opportunity to open the planes of memory beyond intelligence, and to decompose and exorcise those specters that have rendered us servile.


The panecastic knows that in the creation of knowledge the world is transformed. Knowledge cannot appear without affect, affect cannot occur without interaction, interaction cannot occur without connection, and connection continues ad infinitum in the dizziness of mirrors focused upon one another forever moving just enough to ensure the reflection is never static, in the proliferation of spectral presences whose singularity is retained by the first and last time of repetition. The motif of political economy – ‘no longer interpret the world but change it’ – is remade. Interpretation implies change. Interpret the world and change it. But the panecastic knows of the equality between interpretation and action, and that their separation renders intuition paralysed at the hand of the positively defined intelligence.


This separation has been born of a parallel distinction between doing and knowing, between the epistemological, metaphysical and ontological. It has emerged from an understanding of existence and our becoming in the world that would subordinate action to knowledge, which would separate the immaterial and rational from the corporeal and emotional. That would constitute the anthropos as that which uses intelligence to reflect, that would create of intelligence the somnabulance of half-life. This separation, even today, after it has been extensively challenged, continues to characterise the poverty of intellectualism. It is in the masking of action by theory that the intellectual becomes expert; it is the retardation of the ignorant that is the predicate of the expert. What we call theory, critical, anthropological, philosophical or otherwise, has always been a practice, it has always been technical. Theory is made; it is crafted of our durations as extensions of deus, sive natura, to hide this creation of theory under the mask of metaphysical epistemologies is to constitute a hierarchy between knowing and doing. The academy continues to be impoverished and haunted by a refusal to face the synonymy of action and knowledge.


It is in such a way that embodied technique has become subordinate to cognitive thought, that the mind, subservient to a spectral anthropos, has ruled over the body, that reason has impoverished desire, that the labour that creates has suffered at the hands of the intellect that interprets, that discourse has been raised above gesture, that the sovereignty of the learned over the ignorance of the worker has been maintained, that language has risen above ontology, and that hauntologies masking the role of action in theory have proliferated. Theory is not the meta-language to which only the intellectuals have access, it is a voice engaged in a wider conversation, a craft, a technique – it must speak in a wider conversation, not only within its own discourses. Theory is a refrain, and a refrain that can become hardened like any other, that can become obsessive, introspective, delusionally grandiose, depressed, paranoid, fearful and suicidal. Theory belongs to ghosts, to the apparitions of thoughts that remain unthinkable, to the emergence of memories that have yet to be remembered – these ghosts will always be with us, but their haunting need not terrify.


And it is here that we may find an insight of a radically negative anthropology of a contradictory panecastic anthropos, an anthropology that enforces acknowledgement of the equality of action and knowledge – in the creation of futures and forms of life through an active participation in existence, not in supposedly distanced observation, but its ability to break off our excessive refrains through the probing of potential lines of flight, through conversations between intelligence, intuition and apparitions. Throughout the duration of our becomings we create in collaboration with and through the concrete durations of the emergent extensions of deus, sive natura; critical reflection, as a practice, as an action, is always transformative ontologically and hauntologically – it is when it’s role as action is masked that this transformation becomes reinforcement, when it continues to prop up hierarchical structures, when it hardens our already petrified refrains, when the emergence of spectres becomes fearful and dominating.


Such radically negative anthropology is always involved in the continual decomposition and composition of worlds and forms of life; it always simultaneously presents spectral forms of utopia and heterotopia that may converse. It is in its engagement with the world, with those who inhabit the world, with the ghosts that permeate the world, that we are capable of both reflecting upon forms of life, durations and becomings whilst opening spaces to imagine and shape futures. It is always a process, and is always collaborative; as such, it is always felt, it is always experienced, it always traverses both intuition and intellect – thus knowledge as action, knowledge that does not mask itself under a guise of metaphysical expertise and superiority, must always be felt. “Truth is felt and not spoken.”[xii] It is as much a matter of phantoms as it is facts. It is as much a matter of passion as it is of reason. You must feel to know. And it is in this feeling, this experiential and integral emotional element, that fabricated poetries, as a process of collaborative imagination, and radically negative anthropology, as a critical reflection and panecastic conversation, can capture, consider, decompose, create and envisage.


To grant such anthropology the status of theory as separate to practice, of a language that can explain away action, shall undoubtedly lead to the impoverishment of those assigned to the world practice, to the world of functional utility and the inferiority of gesture and embodied technique; it shall lead to the infantilisation of all those who would require the metaphysics of the explicator. Further, it shall reconstitute and reinforce the very normative spectre that continues to haunt and entice fear: the anthropos of solids and intelligence, the anthropos of normativity, the anthropos that was never thought and yet insists upon presence, that was never experienced and yet is remembered. “Man makes himself fear. He makes himself into the fear that he inspires.”[xiii]  Our horror and fear of ourselves is not of ourselves, but of the ghost of ourselves, the image that was moulded in the shape of this ghost.


We know by feeling and doing, not simply by thinking, speaking and writing, we know through conversation between intellect and intuition, between emotion and intelligence. Language is already technical. It is the image of the anthropologist as an expert of people, as moulder of the phantasm of anthropos, as an explicator, that means it becomes subservient to conservative politics, to the politics of Progress and development. The image of the ethnographer and anthropologist as metaphysical navigator, joining the dots that others are incapable of, has always been false. The expert is integrally a figure of power, a constitution of hierarchy, a creator of the ignorant, an exemplar of modernist imperial colonialism, a locus through which our sovereignty may be handed over to haunting abstractions.


If radically negative anthropology must be accompanied by some form of positive anthropology it is only in so far as it allows us to imagine futures, that it allows us to reclaim vitality from the somnambulance of half-life. Decomposition must go hand in hand with composition, but our compositions must not be allowed to escape us, they must remain contingent and transient cartographies. The positive cannot simply be placed in opposition to the negative as deterritorialization cannot be placed in opposition to reterritorialization. Decomposition cannot be practiced without composition. Both positivity and negativity must compliment one another, the latter in the bifurcation of excessively hardened refrains and densely knotted discursive entanglements, and the former in the exploration of lines of flight and the constitution of new weapons. We were warned not to dismantle the organism to the point of death, we were told to keep just enough of the organism to allow it to rebuild itself as the sun rises upon each day, even if this fragment is only maintained to turn once more upon itself; a radically negative anthropology must remain “swinging between the surfaces that stratify it and the plane that sets it free.”[xiv]  And likewise, before the lessons of the organless body, we were warned not to run from history, to use it for life, only to the extent that it serves life, and not to allow the chain by which we are tied to our ghosts to pull us back to the shades of our past, or condemn us to a somnambulant future. [xv]


To balance the positive and negative in such a way means to express and experience a panecastic anthropos, that is forms of life that do not enter into the hierarchy of intelligence, but are always in conversation with intuition; forms of life where feeling, is equal to speaking, where the theoretical is already the technical, where the proliferation of and engagement with spectres is relished, not feared; forms of life that continually keep moving, continually dismantling and assembling, that are always process and are always a question of how, not what, but a how devoid of the predicates of the spectral anthropos of intelligence and the organisation of the organism. We speak not of nature, not of a natural condition nor of a universal, but of the possibility for forms of life, for new imaginings and paths of escape that must always be felt, made, unmade and experienced. Such would be the art of a panecastic anthropos, an art of living which recognises both the heterogeneity and univocity life, an art of living which makes room for possibility, an art of living which is an art, but an art that is not the reserve of the learned intelligentsia or the refined mind, an art that pronounces the equality of existence, emotion, discourse, knowledge and action.



[i] Leth, Jorgen (1967) The Perfect Human, Laterna Film

[ii] Leth, Jorgen Op. Cit.

[iii] Dostoevsky, Foyodor (2010) Notes from the Underground, Planet Pdf, p. 25

[iv] Bergson, Henri (1998) Creative Evolution, New York: Dover Publications, p. 174

[v] Bergson, Henri Op. Cit. p. 165

[vi] Leth, Jorgen Op. Cit.

[vii] Bergson, Henri Op. Cit. p. 178

[viii] Bergson, Henr Op. Cit. p. 165

[ix] Plato (n.d.) Cratylus, 399c

[x] Bataille, Georges (1993) The Accursed Share: Volumes II & III, New York: Zone Books p. 223

[xi] see Bergson, Henri Op. Cit. ch. II

[xii] Rancieré, Jacques (1991) The Ignorant Schoolmaster: five lessons in intellectual emancipation, California: Stanford University Press, p. 136

[xiii] Derrida, Jacques (1994) Specters of Marx, London: Routledge, p. 176

[xiv] Deleuze, Gilles & Guatari, Felix (2004) A Thousand Plateaus, London: Continuum, p. 178

[xv] see Nietzsche, Friedrich (1980) On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, Cambridge: Hackett Publish Company

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