Peter Sotos

A Case Study in Lust and the Unconditioned

By Michael Lujan

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Meet Peter Sotos: frustrated, unrepentant, painfully lucid, would-be child-rapist and murderer, and just all-around renaissance sadist who explores his thoroughly socially-unsanctioned lusts via the medium of the written word - solely out of, in his own words: "limited options."

On examining my reactions to reading Sotos' work, I'm reminded of something a friend said to me years ago when reading the first issue of a zine I was putting out then, which was, for myself at that time, as thorough as possible a "re-evaluation of values," a re-examination and exploration of my most basic assumptions theretofore, by and large which I had come to feel had been bequeathed to me rather than having been arrived at through my own efforts and insights. He told me the contents of my silly little journal made him realize he was a "moral person." One must never forget that value depends on contrast every bit as much as on principle. Likewise, I find Sotos' writings to be remarkably unconditioned by the ethics and mores obtaining not just in our society but, I can well imagine, any situation conditioned by the necessities of human group dynamics; his sole consideration is the satisfaction of his varied sadistic lusts. Therefore my own position, as someone yet struggling against conditioning extending into the realm of ethics and morality, is thrown into a pleasingly stark relief, and this thing I call "me" is thereby assisted in the process of self-knowledge, keeping in mind that a goodly portion of that which I call my "self" is kept hidden, as the eye to the eyeball, except by the most assiduous and focused effort and with as clean a mirror as possible.

Sotos's own writings and interviews would frankly be of little interest on their own merits did they not evince a similar struggle, and in a sufficiently articulate and transparent manner; that is, he is not simply one giving into his varied compulsions and committing them to task on paper, but one trying to come to terms with their genesis and reaching into the very subterranean depths of desire and volition itself: "I desperately want to make sense of what I do and see those acts and drives as less impulses or compulsions and more as conscious decisions." That his decisions are nevertheless seemingly compelled by the considerations of personal gratification don't lessen their importance for me, as they become an expression of unconditioned gratification, a lust as pure in its expression as it is generally disgusting thereby. His desire to see what he does and writes about as being possessed of volition over compulsion simply means he would prefer to consciously identify with and direct these experiences and the stratum of self they evoke (more on that below) rather than be at their mercy. It's a conscious effort to influence the locus of identification, to identify with desire itself. And the possibility of seeing into naked, pure, unconditioned desire is an attractive possibility. One eventually comes to admit the possibility of a differentiation of multiple wills, so to speak, as one can reasonably assign "a will of its own" to lust and desire; so again, the locus of identification - as in any hierarchy, no two terms can occupy the same place, so with which "will" does one identify?

In a real sense, reading Sotos is like peering into the appetitive, aquisitive aspect of the heart of life itself. According to the earliest teachings of Buddhism concerning the basis of existence (Pali - paticca samuppada: "dependent origination" or "conditioned genesis"):

[this] factor ... is connected with forces and influences... corresponding to one of those processes of "combustion" that constitute samsara... These influences and this will can be considered comprehensively as a form of entity sui generis, which we may call "samsaric entity" or entity of craving [emphasis mine]. It is a "life" that does not exhaust itself within the limits of the individual but which is thought of, rather, as the "life" of this life and which is associated with the notions of "daemon," "double" and "genius," of ka, fravashi, and fylgya, etc., which occur in other traditions... it is thought that it has a pre- and internatal existence; nourished by "desire" and carried by the impulses fed by other lives, it seeks to manifest itself in a new existence. [Evola, The Doctrine of Awakening, Inner Traditions edition, p. 63]

Sotos's writings evoke something similarly impersonal in their quest to explore and sate the author's seemingly inexhaustible lusts; although he very much would like to see his tastes as very personal and tied to specific events, situations, and individuals, nevertheless - mapped across repeated incidents and over the varied but very lucid tastes of one individual - one can gradually begin to make out the contours of something far more protean and even proto-human trying to express itself. I don't think the descent to this level can be helped the more one strips the otherwise deep-rooted conditioning of the social context from the individual, and when the conscious, explicit and dominant will is that of lust.

Additionally I find it useful to put into a real-world, immediate and viscerally-apprehendable context, the force and power of this "daemon," the "will" of pure and unconditioned lust at the root of life itself, both for purposes of illustration and for acquaintance with what undergirds my own self, and also as a means of orientation with regard to the limits of manifestation (the more extreme the reference points, the more absolute the orientation). At this level there is no affection, no romance, and no restraint; nothing conditioning and getting in the way of gratification and consumption (and it's a good reminder that the former necessarily presupposes the latter). As such, numerous specific bonds of human affection are questioned and the mantle of their assumed irreducibility and power is shorn; and while I think, based on my own experience, that there's a great deal more to these bonds - such as romantic love and the reciprocal love of one's children, for instance - than he admits, nevertheless, given the prevalence of such phenomena as rape, incest, and pedophilia in a purportedly civilized society, it is in fact helpful to question their presumed power over the individual, his or her society, and the mutually conditioning relationship between the two. It's sage advice he unwittingly offers when he says "I don't want to have a wife and kid and these values where I can't deal with the way society has become." The natural response for anyone for whom these bonds still hold an attraction and personal meaning (such as myself) is the assumption of a greater degree of responsibility in their manifestation and direction, and the thereby-necessary recognition of the greater role of a lucid will therein.

As a final but not unworthy consideration I come to question, refine and confirm my own sense of the prurient and my own tastes and lusts by reading material which has, as its sole reason for existence, the satisfaction of prurient interests, extreme though they may be. In fact their extreme nature once again only serves as a greater potential to cast my own tastes into starker relief, and to question and isolate the role and function of ethics and morality, as well as social standards: in their genesis, in their expression, and in their satisfaction. The imperatives demanded by a "lust" for the unconditioned - a nostalgia for the Absolute - will accept nothing less.

December 28, 2003; revised January 10, 2004