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An anarchist and bon vivant: Why Hakim Bey, ideologist of Chaos and Eros is the craziest philosopher of our time

An anarchist and bon vivant: Why Hakim Bey, ideologist of Chaos and Eros is the craziest philosopher of our time 1

Hakim Bey was obsessed with cyberpunk, called himself a Sufi, anarchist, Taoist, assassin, sorcerer, and promoted a return to the Paleolithic. You know, the cyber-paleolithic, with digital shamans and nomads. And most importantly, all his madness becomes more and more consistent with each page. 

At the same time, he writes so richly, vividly and figuratively that there is no feeling of morbid delirium. In short, he could have rather be called a visionary poet.

A little schizobiography: who is Hakim Bey

His original name was Peter Lamborn Wilson, he was born in 1945 and died in 2022. He studied at Columbia University, and then life threw him into the thick of adventure. Peter traveled to the Middle East, traveling through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. 

There he hung out with Islamic Sufi mystics, Indian worshipers of the goddess of death Kali, studied tantra, meditation, erotic literature, dancing and, as you understand, consumed not only culinary delights. Already at this stage, Wilson positively parted with the cuckoo, consciously and voluntarily.

During the Islamic Revolution in Iran, he had to flee to the United States. And there the 80s just began, a time when hippies, psychedelics, computers, anarchists, New Ageists and neo-pagans collided in one cauldron. The environment is wild, but even by Hakim Bey’s standards it was a bit boring. By the way, his pseudonym can be translated as “wise man” – simply, but without an ounce of modesty.

In the States, Peter-Hakim created the most dangerous cult, the Association of Ontological Anarchists. The following is known about him: “He gathers underground, in black turbans and shiny vestments, crosses his legs on Shirazi carpets, sipping bitter coffee and smoking long chibouks and sibseys.”

You wouldn’t have guessed it, but the “Association of Ontological Anarchists” almost crushed the foundations of capitalist society, almost plunging the world into chaos and the Paleolithic. It turned out that it includes only one person – Hakim Bey, and he doesn’t even particularly like to leave the house. Let’s take a look at his ideas.

Paleolithic anarchism

The most outrageous thing that endlessly amuses about Hakim Bey’s philosophy is the way he turned, let’s say, conservative discourse. Bey, with his passion for paradox, reproached conservatives for being monstrously unconservative. He accused them of being neoliberal suckers. 

Religion, laws, monarchs, all these nations of ours (and even agriculture!) – all these are newfangled inventions. By the standards of history, they were created yesterday, and tomorrow they will be forgotten.

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Hakim himself proposed returning to real traditional values, that is, to the Paleolithic with its free love, disregard for work, constant festivals and the absence of a clear hierarchy. According to Bey, ultraconservatism is a rave party, a spontaneous orgy, or a community of professional lazy bon vivants.

“To shake off all the illusory rights and fluctuations of history, the economy of the legendary Stone Age is required: not priests, but shamans, not lords, but bards, not policemen, but hunters, gatherers of paleontological laziness.”

Chaos as the only good force

But Hakim Bey is not just an anarchist, he is an ontological anarchist. In other words, his thoughts have a strong metaphysical basis. He, among other things, is also a Taoist, that is, he sees the basis of everything in Tao – the primeval chaos from which (through degradation) all things come. The Tao is neither good nor evil nor neutral. It’s spontaneous. This is its strength.

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“Chaos never dies. An eternal unhewn block, a lonely monster-idol, motionless and unpredictable, more impenetrable than any mythology (like the shadows that preceded Babylon), the primordial undifferentiated unity of being still flickers serenely, like the banners of assassins, dispersed and always besotted.”…


In second place is the idea that the Universe wants to play, and it is not at all going to ask us for our consent. Those who refuse to play, look at the world through the eyes of the dead and deprive themselves of humanity, turn into shaitans, skufs, living corpses of jiangshi – call it what you want.

What solution does Bey see? He would not be himself if he had not offered something wonderful: witchcraft. However, he also perceives it in a peculiar way: “To a bore, even wine seems tasteless; an adept of ontological anarchism is able to get drunk from the mere sight of water.” And also “Witchcraft violates the laws that seek to enslave this stream – priests, kings, hierophants, mystics, scientists and shopkeepers of all sorts are the enemies of the sorcerer, for he threatens their farcical power.”

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ)

Bey’s main social idea is Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ). He understood perfectly well that it was impossible to come to Paleolithic anarchism through old obsolete revolutions (which only created new hierarchies). 

His path is to create these very TAZs, that is, spaces where the settings of the outside world are temporarily turned off. This could be a festival, an orgy, an online community, a squat of like-minded people, or even just your meeting with friends, if you are sufficiently crazy enough.

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Bey has a good metaphor: he believes that the monolith of the current repressive civilization is not solid, it has cracks and cavities where entire communities can hide and develop. However, in later additions he admitted that he greatly overestimated the size and frequency of these caves. For example, the Internet, once a borderless TAZ, has become an almost complete monolith of surveillance.

Pirate utopias and assassins

Among other things, Hakim Bey is passionate in his works about the aesthetics of pirate communes and assassins. Yes, that same one from Assassin’s Creed. More precisely, it’s the other way around: it was Bey, together with William Burroughs, who discovered the phenomenon of assassins for Western society, they managed to captivate even Kurt Cobain (Burroughs recorded an audio story about the Old Man of the Mountain with him). And then it started, and we now have the Assassin’s Creed game series from Ubisoft.

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To be completely precise, William and Hakim rediscovered the Eastern mystic killers following the “Hashish Club” (aka “The Assassins Club”), which included Baudelaire, Dumas the Father and Théophile Gautier. So the myth that Bey brought to us in the 21st century has not only Sufi motives, but also a clear flair of decadence of the 19th century. 

In general, all this is unlikely to have anything to do with real assassins. However, this was the most striking and sophisticated image created by Hakim:

“Pomegranate, fig, persimmon, erotic melancholy of cypress trees, pale membranes of Shiraz roses, thickets of Meccan aloe and benzoin, hard blades of Ottoman tulips, carpets spread like artificial gardens on real lawns – a pavilion decorated with a mosaic of calligrams – willow, a stream with a waterfall – a fountain with geometric crystals at the bottom – metaphysical gossip about odalisques…”.

With pirates everything is simpler and rougher, no special frills. In them, Bey sees the charm of freedom-loving outcasts, whom he would hardly want to meet in person, but he clearly has a lot to learn from them. Of course, first of all, with regard to the network (by the way, it is believed that the term “network” in relation to the Internet was also coined by Bey).

“Sea robbers and corsairs of the 18th century created an information network that covered the globe: this network, although primitive and devoted mainly to trades of a rather dirty nature, nevertheless functioned in an exemplary manner.”

Some favorite quotes about hedonism

Now let’s get back to where we started – bon vivant. Bey was a true guru when it came to the art of enjoying life. Everything else he writes in such a way that you don’t understand whether it’s for real or a joke, because even existence itself was just a game for him. But what he’s deadly serious about is hedonism. Here he is strict, like Aristotle.

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“Nail bronze plaques in places (public and private) where you had a revelation, where you had your best sexual encounter, etc. Walk naked on principle. Go on strike at school or at work under the pretext that it does not satisfy your need for laziness and spiritual beauty.”

“Imagine Nietzsche with good digestion. Before us are not insipid epicureans, but corpulent sybarites. Marked with the stamp of spiritual hedonism, having embarked on the Path of pleasure, having mastered the art of a virtuous life.”

“On the one hand, ontological anarchism is primitive to the point of impossibility, devoid of any qualities and categories, simple as CHAOS itself, but on the other hand, it stuns with its baroqueness, like the temples of E*li in Kathmandu or an alchemical treatise – lounging on the sofa, eating turkish – Delight, uttering heretical phrases, with his hand in his wide trousers.”


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