THE SHAPE OF CHAOS ONE MUST HAVE WITHIN ONESELF
By Hakim Bey
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 purposes of their propaganda).
On the plane of the "Path," rendan conceal their spiritual state (hal) in order to contain it, work on it alchemically, enhance it. This "cleverness" explains much of the secrecy of the Orders, although 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 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. 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 anarchistic 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 & 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 moralism—although 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 type 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 and 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 and 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 and 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.
(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 somewhat 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 formlesssness 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.
INTO-GAL / Melbourne
Published there 03/14/07
on corpus: 23.9.2007