Sunday, April 08, 2007

ToR 6: Morality, Mediation, Untrammeled Divine Violence

Part 5

In the world of spirits, the good elements were opposed to the bad elements; both groups were distant from the profane. But when the world becomes a rational, calculated place, and consciousness reflects upon this, the divine immanence that threatens the order becomes dangerous; the sacred becomes a fearful thing. Spirits, the remnants of the animated world, become mediators between the profane world and the fearful sacred world.

Another major change is at hand. Reflective thought articulates moral rules; like the law, these are obligatory relations. Whatever source is used, these moral rules are grounded in reason - reason dedicated to the duration of the profane world. Because these rules are dedicated to duration, they are necessarily opposed to the disruptive effects of expenditure or sacrifice. Because of the priority given to the real order, the divine is finally installed as protector of the real; in giving the divine “power” over the real, the divine is actually subordinated to the real’s interest. All the divine does is ratify the status quo.

The world of the spirits, now, is no longer simply the remnants of the animated world; the world of the spirits is the intelligible world, the world of the idea. The world of things becomes subordinated to the intelligible world, and so it becomes all the more divine. God becomes utterly transcendent.

Bataille argues against the possibility of intimacy with the transcendence; this would be a given intimacy, and to be “given” is to be subordinated to an end; it is already to be a thing whose intimacy is separated from it. Pure transcendence is, from the perspective of the sensuous world, total destruction, a destruction that is too complete (destroys the possibility of intimacy) and too impotent (in that given intimacy is not possible.)

Archaic violence - that is, violence pre-existed the rational military order - would have had a different problem - the destruction of the thing was totally impersonal.

In the transcendent’s movement of negation, it is no less opposed to violence than it is to the thing the violence destroys. This movement both lifts and preserves the order of things; it lifts the order by negating it’s effects of reason and morality, but condemns this lifting the very moment the real order is affected.

The real order condemns violence that may affect the order, so sacrifice’s subordination to utility becomes permanent. The anguished state of free violence then only ever has a negative place. Because sacrificial violence is roundly condemned in the dualistic world of good and evil, the search for intimacy is increasingly crippled - it goes to sleep.

And now for the chapter with the best subject headings ever.

The development of good and evil when the divine became the ratifier of the real was an awakening, but this awakening was followed by the sleep of the search for intimacy. In the dualistic world, there is no legitimate place for violence except in the rational exclusion of the sensuous world. The divine good excludes violence, and is so only available for intimacy to the degree that it has the old, repudiated violence lingering in it. To the extent that this violence is accepted, God is not good; the extent it is rejected, God is not open to intimacy.

There is an indirect route to violence and the resultant intimacy - a mediation, between the real and the sacred. Bataille offers two examples, one of which he says has always existed. An evil force kills my friend; I enter a state of openness, a mournful revelation of death, and I condemn the cruel act. In this state, I’m in accord with good. After evil has killed my friend, violence is required to restore the order of things; the problem is that it was the crime that opened up the world of intimacy to me. To the extent that the avenging violence is not an immediate extension of the criminal act, the intimacy is closed off. “For,” as Bataille says, “only vengeance that is commanded by passion and a taste for untrammeled violence is divine.”

The second form of mediation is violence coming to God from the outside. The violence must be directed towards the divinity itself, not towards my friend. The problem with this is that the sacrificed - God or my friend - can only be a mediator insofar as they renounce themselves, meaning if they didn’t die voluntarily - otherwise the violence has not come from the outside. The idea of a God sacrificing itself has several paradoxes first. First, what is sacrificed is what serves. If God was sacrificed, than God serves and is not sovereign. Another problem is that the sacrifice of the divinity involves violence that the divinity would condemn.

The morality of the real order is what governs any attempted return of the intimate order; all such attempts are ultimately subordinated to the need for duration and utility. Even Christian salvation is a utilitarian matter.

This mediation approach - the approach involving work - reduces divinity and the desire for divinity to a thing. It places both in the realm of utility.


Joel Evan said...

I keep meaning to ask you - are these posts your thesis? Or just thoughts?

Mike said...

Whoa, comments. I just stopped looking, you know? *martyrs self*

This series "ToR" is just a presentation I gave on the book Theory of Religion by Georges Bataille in class a few monthes back. Summarized the whole book into ten pages... and it's just easy blogging material. I won't do this again, though. Another book, I mean.

Jamie A. Grant said...

Well, I still read all of the comments, at least. Thanks for answering Joel's question.

Jamie A. Grant said...

By the way, Blogger has some helpful settings for the comments. It can e-mail you whenever somebody posts a new comment on your blog, and then you don't have to check it yourself.

Unsane said...

Good! I enjoyed reading this.