The following text is a copy of an essay written by John Frusciante, published on his blog on January 16, 2013. The blog has since been removed. I do not own the rights to this document but wish only to share it with others.
The phrase The Will To Death refers to the underlying, predominantly unintentional, organization in works by artists who love and are devoted to the creative force, but hate what they see of the life force and its ways. It is a set of abstract principles which may be applied in the creative act. In artistic symbolism, one comes close to death, and not only does he not die, but he lives more fully for having had the experience. It may be conceived as a set of musical/mathematical formulae which the musician utilizes without knowing it.
The creative force is produced of the life force, but our judgement of the life force is based on our perception of its effects, its surface, everything that happens in the external world we know. The closest we come to seeing the essence of the life force is in our perception of the creative force. In works of art, the creative force provides addition and multiplication. The creative force is assisted by human intelligence through our devotion to division and negation, and so, symbolically, from the standpoint of human intelligence, the act of creativity is a striving towards death. The reason creative action can be a fulfilling life enriching thing, is because our creative thinking is negation only on the thoughts surface, the thoughts essence being identical with the wishes of the essence of the life force.
So in The Will To Death one strives towards death, but is indirectly supported by the life force, and so the artists will is always aiming at something it never reaches, for the creative force upholds the aspects of the life force which the human is blind to. And so due to feelings and inner visions, the mental divisions and subtractions an artist must be fluent in carry him down a path that is only subtractive in his relationship to his tools, while the creative force carries the additive substance of the life force which is ultimately perceived.
Subtraction and negation are always a matter of degrees, beyond which is the positive unknown, the essence of the life force. The primary perceptive apparatus of the artist is appropriately blind to the positives behind negation, yet he senses them, and he is often inwardly shown them. But just like people and their attachment to image and appearance, he cannot grasp the positive unseen and unknown, so he clings to his negations, subconsciously knowing they are attached to the life force, but consciously only knowing the life force by the world and its ways, that being his only working image of it. Were it not for the seemingly inexplicable meaning inherent in his work, he would not strive down a path of negation and division. It is the subconscious knowledge that this is actually an upward path which fuels him to continue to strive towards a greater comprehension of the negatives which to most people appear to symbolize the feared unknown, pointless to dissect. In other words, the artist strives toward death, because to him it feels like life. And when he presents his work to others, it looks like life to them, while it is actually negation and death which are beneath the surface. And, of course, beyond the surface of that, as I’ve just explained, is the life force, once again.
If an artist is applying The Will To Death, he has the following three positions in balance. He is in between, occupied with negation and separation. In front is the expression of life, visible and audible to him and to others, and behind is the creative force, visible and audible only to him. Behind which is the life force, which he can not see anymore than his spectators can see his mental negations, or the personification of the creative force which is perhaps known to him.
Three conditions need to be in balance for the artist to apply The Will To Death:
1) Trust in and devotion to the part of the creative act he can not control. He must possess a conception of the difference between the creative force and himself, to a great degree in order to be controlled by it. This means a kind of letting go of the very parts of himself that share something in common with the creative force, namely, the desire to maintain a solid forward motion. This motion comes if one trusts the creative force. None of us can cause it any more than we can cause the forward motion of time. To take part in it is all that is in our power, and to do so is a great privilege. If ones love for art is great enough, their appreciation for their chance to participate in the creative act great enough, then to trust in the energy which guides them comes naturally, If the artist has an internal personification of this aspect of the force, then it is this that he loves and trusts, but he still must love and trust when there is no image, but only a feeling and a non-specific, non-defined, sensible, talking force of energy. And this trust in what amounts to his own feelings, must be greater than his trust in the things people generally trust, such as general consensus, popularly accepted points of view, commonly adhered to limitations or restrictions, and present day conventions.
2) The ability to mentally lose himself in a fascination with negations and divisions. Essential to the creative process are contradictions, taking things apart, carving away at things, and disconnecting this from that. Most important is contradiction of the force that guides him, his love for this force being so great that the contradiction can not help but lead to a new agreement. He must be going in one direction, and then switch to a new direction, without losing his way. If condition 1 is in place he need not fear going astray. The artists role is to always look for new ways to go, despite that he is not the one driving.
3) Third is his creation of the appearance of conditions 1 and 2 as being a singular motion, not a multitude of contrary directions. This implies that conditions 1 and 2 are so balanced that there is a perfection of form in every countermovement contained within. Every counteraction soon finds its coordinate. Every ending feels like a new beginning. Every repetition feels like a continued flow. Every negation appears as positivity and every loss appears as a gain. There can be no difference between feeling and appearance to the artist, they must be one in the same. It is this point that is stressed by the undercurrent of the life force. The life force is far away, pertaining to arts essence, and it is also near, pertaining to the perception of the sum of all the things that comprise a works appearance. These are the sides. The artist sees three parts, what the creative force brings and perpetuates, what the artist himself twists, turns and counteracts, and the sum the artist perceives. And it is there that the artists involvement in their work must end, if The Will To Death is to be applied. Otherwise the artist is compromising condition number one, and to whatever degree he does so, the balance required for the application of The Will To Death is thrown off. The artist stands in the middle of two sides. What is beyond these is of no concern to him. He will never directly perceive the life force, and doesn’t want to. And he can’t hear with other peoples ears, or see with their eyes, and he sacrifices the benefit of his own senses to whatever degree he attempts to do so. The creative force is driving the artist in a car. The artist who attempts to take over the wheel will find The Will To Death unavailable to him, as he has made himself unavailable to it. Humans being located at a single point in the moment is the reason we hear and see as we do, and it is this which makes art and its perception possible in the first place. Our limited scope of vision is a gift, allowing us to see left from right, up from down, positive from negative and so on. Because each of us possesses a singular perspective, we can trust what we see and feel. We can contradict ourselves and be right both times.
So to summarize, one must allow themselves to be controlled by, yet counter, that which controls them, in such a way that the momentum and basic design provided by the controller remains, while the will and individuality of the artist persists. The creative force is half the essence of the life force and half a correlative of the artist and all his essential negativities. In The Will To Death, the creative act is a friendly argument between the creative force and the artist. This is the same as two close friends arguing about boxing. Just as both friends have a certain knowledge in common which provides the basis for the argument, the artists ability to navigate through negations and divisions aligns him with the creative force and its additions and multiplications, to the point that the argument is actually an affirmation of that which connects them.
The life force is primarily concerned with the effects of communicative energy, and the creative force is primarily concerned with the increase of the quality of art, and they have a perpetual friendly argument along these lines, and the lives and work of entertainers and artists, and the various combinations of the two, are the subjects. On the surface, it would seem that the life force always wins the argument with the creative force, and the creative force always wins the argument with artists. But while the life force created the creative force, the creative force in turn created the human perception of the life force. And the creative force creates artists, but humans mere existence creates a space for the creative force to live within. This means the apparent loser is always also the winner, as life force, creative force, artist and audience are all essentially one thing, just as a boxing argument results in the affirmation that each friend is his own man while the sport itself connects their differences. This was all set in motion so the true wishes of the life force would be vivified, of necessity, by negative units of itself, which gradually results in the hidden intentions of the life force becoming visible. The creative forces purpose involves the life forces higher aspects emerging victorious over its lower aspects, and the artists purpose involves the creative forces higher aspects emerging victorious over its lower aspects. What we see of the life force and its ways may often appear detestable, but the creative force we love represents the hidden parts of the life force, which we have been given the power to cultivate. This has been put in our hands in order to bring a flower out of the dirt.
All images by E. Wendt