Non Buddhist Mysticism

Non Buddhist Mysticism
Glenn Wallis

Two Tuesdays, August 17 & 24, 6-9 PM EST. (See time zone converter if you’re in a different location to make sure you get the time right.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jamesturrell.firstlight.jpeg
Image: James Turrell, from the exhibit First Light. Turrell: “I am dealing with no object. I am dealing with no image, because I want to avoid associative, symbolic thought…I am dealing with no focus or particular place to look. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at?” The object of First Light is perception itself. No doubt, this is why Turrell’s work so captures the attention of François Laruelle, who has written about the artist.

Trash Theory Tumbler #2*

[As a Trash Theory Tumbler (see below), this two-session seminar requires no prior knowledge of the issues addressed. It is not a seminar on philosophy or religion or any other academic “discipline.” It is a gathering of a few interested people for the purpose of reading, thinking, and talking about the topic. It will be guided by the spirit of the “ignorant schoolmaster,” where the facilitator facilitates rather than explicates. So, the only requirement is your willingness to engage the material, the ideas, and one another. ]

What happens when we mix “mysticism” together with “Buddhism“?

I think the result would be fairly predictable. In short, we would become ensnared in a schema whereby we are seduced into pursuing some transcendental Object, some super-essential yet absent Other, some eternally curative hyper-Real. (Think: God; Buddha nature; enlightenment; the divine ladder; the eightfold path; mystical union; ascension; pure awareness; womb of the Buddha, etc.).

Requiring, as it does, an apparatus of mediation—between the Absolute X and the world, between the teacher and the student, between the Wise One and the ignoramus—such a formation inescapably entails the subjection of the seeker. For this reason, I reject this orientation out of hand.

So, we have to refine the question: What happens when we infuse “future mysticism” with “non-buddhism“?

“Future mysticism” is François Laruelle’s term for his novel usage of mystical materials conceived as a materialist spirituality. It is grounded not in a transcendental Other, but in “the radical base of the Real,” in, that is, the irreversibly immanent in-human. Unlike its transcendental counterparts, future mysticism is thus “born in the spirit of heresy rather than sanctity.” As Eleni Lorandou writes,

Future mysticism springs from the effort to join the human with itself rather than with God…The human is emptied of its identity, becomes a Christ-subject who comes to fight for the World.

Similarly, the raw material of non-buddhism is “Buddhism” shorn of its transcendental representations. The result is a profound radicalization of Buddhist material. It is radicalized in the two senses of being reduced to its immanent roots and of, thereby, being robustly oriented toward interventions into the World. The practitioner becomes a Buddha-subject, one whose wakefulness (√buddh) renders them “fit for the clash with Hell.”

A particularly salutary feature of both orthodox mysticism and traditional Buddhism is that they place a bodily-mental practice at the center. In this Trash Theory Tumbler, we will give thought—and a lot of practice!—to the creation of a non buddhist mystical contemplation. We will do so by borrowing, and rendering in-human, the following selective elements from the two traditions.

Elements of Mystical Prayer:

  • Silence
  • Stillness
  • Gelassenheit (non-willfulness, releasement, letting-be)
  • Emptying
  • Recollection
  • Loving attention
  • Poverty
  • Unknowing
  • Mystery
  • Darkness
  • Apophaticism (devoid of internal images and language)
  • Receptivity
  • Whylessness

Elements of Buddhist Meditation:

  • Disenchantment 
  • Presence-anamnesis
  • Vanishing
  • Social-symbolic identity
  • Nihility
  • Radical contingency
  • World
  • Surface-All 
  • Gnosis
  • Unbinding-extinction 
  • Calming-concentration
  • Compassion

(Pali: nibbida, sati, anicca, anattā, suññatā, papañca, paticcasamuppāda, loka, sabba, paññā, nibbāna/nirvāṇa, samathasamādhi, karuṇā)


Facilitator: Glenn Wallis holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including Cruel Theory/Sublime Practice and Basic Teachings of the Buddha as well as numerous articles, chapters, and essays on various aspects of Buddhism and Western Buddhism in contemporary society. His more recent work, A Critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real, employs the “non-philosophical” approach of François Laruelle. Wallis has taught at Brown University, Bowdoin College, and was tenured at the University of Georgia. He is the founder of the blog Speculative Non-Buddhism and Incite Seminars. His most recent book is An Anarchist’s Manifesto .

Seminar Cost:

  • $60 – Member Ticket for Incite Seminars Patreon Supporters at any level
  • $90 – Non-Member (True Cost) Ticket
  • $180 – Generous Supporter Ticket
  • $30 – Student/Contingent Scholar/Activist Ticket
  • Solidarity pay-what-you-can tickets are also available for those who cannot afford any of the above tiers. Please email us.


Please register by buying a ticket at our Eventbrite page. We are committed to making all our offerings accessible to those who are eager to learn, regardless of financial means. If you have any questions or concerns, please email

*The concept of “trash theory” is borrowed from Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl. Tiqqun writes:

“So as not to give a false impression, the jumble of fragments that follows does not in any way constitute a theory.  These are materials accumulated by chance encounter…The choice to expose these elements in all their incompleteness, in their contingent original state, in their ordinary excess, knowing that if polished, hollowed out, and given a good trim they might together constitute an altogether presentable doctrine, we have chosen—just this  once—trash theory. The cardinal ruse of theoreticians resides, generally, in the presentation of the  result of their deliberations such that the process of deliberation is no longer apparent. We figure that, faced with fragmentation of attention, this ruse no longer works. We have chosen a different one. In these scattered fragments, spirits attracted to moral comfort or vice in need of condemning will find only roads leading nowhere. It is less a question of converting you than of mapping out the dark corners of the fractalized frontline of the matter. And it is a question of furnishing arms for a struggle, step-by-step, blow-by-blow, wherever you may find yourself.”

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