Simulacradelic: A Retrospective
Simulacradelic lacks a noun form, as opposed to "psychedelic," whose noun forms, "psychedelics" and "psychedelia," refer to concrete forms that promise or 'trigger' an experience. These forms can be enumerated and claim to have reproducible effects. One expects a psychedelic experience from a given activity. One chooses. One mediates. One acts. And history provides all the methods. The 'experience' is produced, simulated (hence copied). The 'experience' supposedly reveals the psyche, or some hidden knowledge of the psyche, inasmuch as the psyche is a causa sui, an assertive, productive power, a utopia safe from the seductions of material conditions, a psyche that, to exist, must project itself onto reality and inevitably become panpsychism. Psychedelic experiences accompany arts of narcosis, the main forms of which are music, religion, drugs and the computer (its apogee, the Internet, notwithstanding).
If the psyche can be revealed, it must be something, a resting point, a medium that is its own message. As an object (of an activity: meditation), the psyche can supposedly be possessed, authorized (marked) and used. Or, in the case of psychedelia (a formerly, and presently redundant, revolutionary movement that passed from music to religion to drugs to the computer), the psyche can be repossessed from the material conditions that expropriate it.
Let's agree that the psyche is an object, that is, has become a reality, has been naggingly made so. And perhaps the best outcome of its universalization is its collapse into specular virtuality, pure sign, one that functions all the more smoothly the more 'autonomy' dissolves into free-thinking, voluntary servitude. Become object, the psyche no longer has any privileged status. It is mere object among objects, and its proximity to and contiguity with other objects reduces its sacral character to nothing—to a temporary, vintage phenomenon the only value that remains of which is its exchange value, its value as sign in pure circulation. Thus, the 'psychedelic experience' has always been, and remains against all its efforts, a consumer experience, a letting-go only in order to gain something (yet another transactional relation between self and world). Nevertheless, extermination is a vital consequence of a systematization, the blowback being that the thing exterminated becomes a terminal to which one can link up at any moment and extract information from without any contradiction in terms. A simulacradelic experience is a jocular coming to terms of such a collapse that follows the hyperinflation of an idea-become-reality and all the consequences that follow.
While the meditation always confesses some knowledge, some point or foothold upon which to grasp, where one has one's doubt and one's certainty too, revolutionizing (or streamlining) thought into consciousness--the easiest solution--the simulacradelic reinvolutionizes (further complicates) any prior assumptions about knowledge. Plato meditated via praxis and concluded (or became certain) that what separated him from the polis was that, unlike its participants, he knew that he knew nothing. Descartes meditated via contemplation and concluded via the action of thinking that he was conscious of his existence. Hegel meditated via history and concluded that consciousness (free will) was the end of the process of history (of nature and of society). The simulacradelic reflects nothing, has no meditation and, if anything, is but an unintended consequence of the freedom of late capitalism, the overwhelming nihilism of which converts (according to a single criterion) all incompatible values to pure signs (exchange values) that float without ever contradicting each other. All active values become passive values, or mere speech. The simulacradelic experience is a blowback of the profusion of objects, the contiguity of disparate elements in hyper-proximity to one another, an irruption of thought into an otherwise hyper-inflated order of consciousness (the hegemony of which is crystallized in information).
If the simulacradelic experience destroys consciousness and certainty and provokes thought and doubt, consider what Jean Baudrillard says about thought:
“For me, thinking is radical in so far as it does not claim to prove itself, to verify itself in some reality or other. This does not mean that it denies the existence of the reality, that it is indifferent to its impact…Thought must play a catastrophic role…in a world that wants absolutely to cleanse everything, to exterminate death and negativity. But it must…remain humanist, concerned for the human…”
We can understand the relation between consciousness and thought, and their respective relations to the world, the latter active and the former passive, with appeal to Paul Ricœur's distinction between two forms of hermeneutics, made in his Freud and Philosophy. Freud's position, according to Ricœur, is that interpretation is not limited to writing but "with any set of signs that may be taken as text to decipher, hence a dream or a neurotic symptom, as well as a ritual, myth, work of art or a belief." (26) The double meaning of this or that symbol either functions as "dissimulation or revelation," denial of an absence of meaning or simulation of a presence of meaning. (ibid.) These two ends of hermeneutics correspond to two hermeneutical styles: on the one hand, hermeneutics as "the manifestation and restoration of a meaning addressed...in the manner of a message," and on the other, hermeneutics as a demystification and reduction of illusion. (ibid.) The latter is motivated by an appreciation of the scope of suffering, willingness to suspect and willingness to listen. (ibid.)
The first, positive, productive and conservative (accumulative) style aims at the restoration of a faith in meaning that has undergone criticism--a postcritical faith that seeks, through interpretation, a "second naivety." (28) Phenomenology is the instrument of this style of philosophy. (ibid.) As a positive science, phenomenology merely reflects what exists; it is a bare experience, an experience of the constructed artificiality of cultural meaning that merely undergoes and thus posits the artificial as the natural. This faith in a revelation through the word is care or concern for the object (the referent or intention) and the expectation that the object will reveal knowledge of itself. (28) Such a relation to the object implies a confidence in language: "the belief that language...is not so much spoken by men as spoken to men," that language exists over above humanity.
The second, negative, seductive and destructive (excresive) style "begins by doubting whether there is such an object and whether this object could be the place of the transformation of intentionality into...manifestation." (30) This "school of suspicion" is comprised, according to Ricœur at the time of his writing, by Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. These three figures share a common disdain for the phenomenology of the sacred. (32) All three decided within their respective careers to interpret all of consciousness as "false" consciousness. (33) With them, it becomes doubtful that, in consciousness, meaning and consciousness of meaning coincide. They aim at an active process of thought, or "mediate science of meaning," that struggles to undermine the passive, immediate consciousness of meaning. (34) Thus, suspicion of the illusions of consciousness aims to extend the exercise of thought in order that the thinker become freer and a little more joyful (35). This exercise provides the thinker an active ascesis, or a necessary distance from, and vital indifference to, the illusory, dogmatic and invasive system of objects--everyday life vivisected by institutions, ideologies, models, signals, simulations, and the phenomenon Baudrillard calls hyperreality.
To reiterate, the simulacradelic experience is the irruption of skepticism into a systematized (and thus dogmatic about itself) everyday life subjected to and controlled by the repetition of models and hemmed in by objects more plentiful than the life that inhabits, produces and consumes them. If, according to Henri Lefebvre, "the functional and the institutional are not situated only in the higher spheres of the everyday...[but] enter into it," and we can apply this logic to Baudrillard's concepts of simulation and hyperreality that, in this case, would be lived aspects of everyday life, then these elements themselves contain the elements of their own negation (although perhaps not their destruction). By destroying meaning and replacing criticism with fascination and passion with indifference, these phenomena may turn consciousness into suspicion, into thought. Interest in the simulacradelic experience (to become experienced in the simulacrum) takes interest in the relation between skepticism and the everyday. It raises the question, can everyday experience of illusion itself become a schooling in suspicion? That is, instead of the purely psychological, phenomenological or even semiological, the theory of the simulacradelic experience aims to analyze the relation of the accident or the lapse (chance) to a particular (historical) style of life that is traditionally understood as Pyrrhonian skepticism, a style that acts within the norms, models and institutions (the morality) of the day while maintaining an indifference and negative (experimental and scientific) distance from them, and thus not positing them as beliefs on which an identity is founded.
Inevitably, the psychedelic is an inner experience that awakens critical thought whose ideas have, as their referent, reality. The simulacradelic is the experience of the world of simulation and technology that destroys thought and returns it to its own universe: that of singularity, enigma and illusoriness.
Baudrillard, Jean (2003). Passwords. Trans. Chris Turner. Brooklyn: Verso Books.
Lefebvre, Henri (2000). Metaphilosophy. Ed. Stuart Elden. Trans. David Fernbach. Brooklyn: Verso Books.
Ricœur, Paul (1970). Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. Trans. Denis Savage. New Haven: Yale University Press.