Monday, December 17, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 8: Dramatization and Mysticism

Part 7

In Inner Experience, Bataille describes inner experience as being like mysticism, but without any particular confession. Confession implies knowledge, and it must cling to this knowledge in a limiting way. Because Bataille is striving for a moment of non-knowledge, an unrepeatable experience, knowledge only limits horizons.

Knowledge seems, in fact, to have no temporal or cause and effect relationship with inner experience at all. Bataille says that, in terms of knowledge, inner experience “reveals nothing and cannot found nor sets out from it.” Knowledge, beliefs and propositions are unconnected to the experience of non-knowledge. Inner experience is only the unknown, not a variation on the known.

This prohibition on the value of knowledge seems to bring into question the value of both faith and fidelity. Faith seems to be especially susceptible here; is it not synonymous with the idea of the “particular confession” Bataille has already derided? This would be a hasty conclusion; faith does not so much concern encyclopedic knowledge about an object as it does the place of the object within a particular symbolic position. Neither is fidelity concerned with a body of knowledge; it is a relationship to one’s own desire. Both faith and fidelity are defined by their relationships to object a, not the body of knowledge that arises around this.

It is dramatization in which faith and fidelity can be seen as analogous. Bataille offers the opportunity for such a suggestion when he says “one reaches the states of ecstasy or of rapture only be dramatizing existence in general.” This is the mechanism that pushes one forward: the surge of libidinal energy that pushes to useless expenditure and excess begins with dramatization. Dramatization rallies energies around a particular object; it “necessarily has a key, in the form of an uncontested (deciding) element, of a value such that without it there can exist no drama, but indifference.” What other object could this key be than object a? Dramatization is a surge of desire, encourage and provoked by an external object. If one is dominated by indifference or a neurotic continual questioning, inner experience will forever remain beyond one’s life.

Dramatization and the either/or pair of faith and fidelity do not map perfectly onto each other, however. Faith, in particular, will suffer at the hands of Bataille. Drama needs a key, certainly, but this key must “exist in us.” Desire is always desire for the desire of the other; sublimation and fantasy are always a relationship with this other. The dramatization of faith is always external. This is where Bataille finds the limit of traditional religion; the focus on finding one’s desire outside of one’s self is limits even while it pushes forward.

Dramatization is also the will to not be satisfied with discourse; it adds itself to discourse and goes beyond what is stated. The will to move beyond what is stated is a major incompatibility with faith. Because faith involves sublimation - which sets an object into a particular position in the symbolic and therefore in a particular linguistic position - faith is necessarily tied to discourse. The libidinal investment of faith finds part of its limit at the edge of the symbolic position of God, as both object a and barred Other. Faith is the dramatization with only a sickly (if partially effective) will to move beyond what is stated.

Fidelity, however, is capable of willing to move beyond what is stated in the traversal of fantasy. The spirit of wo es war, soll ich werden is that of becoming one’s own cause. A constitutive element of this is the recognition that one says more than one means. The slips and bursts are the elements of the real that appear in language. Language exists because of a lack; the simply surface meaning lacks the recognition of the excess of meaning. What is said is not all there is.

It is that recognition of such a lack and the implied relationship of the unconscious that helps eliminate the cause and effect problem surrounding the limit experience. This problem is that of the principle “of inner experience: to emerge through project from the realm of project.” Projects are the praxis of calculative reason, and have the temporal nature of always putting off life until “later.” Reason and project, Bataille says, are essential; “without the support of reason we don’t reach dark ‘dark incandescence.’” It is this shift from project to non-project, knowledge to non-knowledge that is the fundamental problem. How can one lead to the other? How can knowledge condition non-knowledge? Is there a temporal cause and effect relationship?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 7: Antigone and Dramatization

Part 6

Recap of Part 6: Both faith and fidelity push one into the future, and without either, one dies.

To clarify this, I will briefly discuss Antigone in the spirit of Lacan’s seventh seminar. What better image of the obsessional neurotic is there than Antigone’s sister Ismene? When Antigone announces her plan to bury Polynieces against Creon’s orders, Ismene equivocates. Consider Ismene’s response to Antigone:

Oh no! Think carefully, my sister.
[. . . .]
And we must obey this order, even if it hurts us more.
As for me, I will say to those beneath the earth
This prayer: “Forgive me, I am held back by force.”
And I’ll obey the men in charge. My mind
Will never aim too high, too far.”

Ismene does not even say no. She has nothing to act upon, nothing that she can affirm or negate. All she is capable of doing is calculating out a series of goods and harms. She says “think carefully,” which is in this context is only an attempt to defer action. Ismene denies her ability to act and to choose on the basis of being “held back by force.” She also denies the value of any high aim that requires a view to the future.

Contrast Ismene with Antigone, who in Lacan’s reading, is an agent of fidelity. She maintains her desire in the face of the Other of the city in the form of Creon. Antigone is able to make choices that will lead to her own death because she is so invested in one particular object: her brother. Her actions led to excess and death; she participated in the accursed share. Ismene can even be contrasted with Creon. Creon was clearly invested in the city; not only to the maintenance of the city’s current status, but also to the city’s future well being. Because Creon had faith in the value of the city, he was able to make choices that also led to death and excess. Both Antigone and Creon, because of their respective fidelity and faith, were able to make choices and invest in a path that led to excess. Ismene, on the other hand, languished in a life of calculation, deferral and regret. Both faith and fidelity push one towards the future and towards excess. Without either of these things, one lives in a grey world of things to be calculated, stored and shifted around. No quantity of pleasure, security or material goods will ever admit the slightest glimmer of the splendorous excess that awaits one in sacred time.

Here we have the necessity of re-reading Bataille. Bataille has two problems. The first is that much of the problem concerning transgression. Bataille implicitly acknowledges a difficulty here when he disavowed the sexual revolution. Transgression is only possible if rules exist; the sexual revolution indicates the possibility that any one system of rules is capable of dissolving. When one recognizes that rules can dissolve, the next step is to begin understanding all laws and morality as purely self-imposed. How is transgression against such self imposition possible?

The second problem is Bataille’s lack of interest in knowledge, of the common time, the average everydayness of life. Daily life to Bataille is merely a period of cold calculation; projects and reason dominate common time. The question becomes, if daily life is so drab, where are the flowing energies that produce the accursed share? How can life that exists only in a series of calculations of things ever have but the most superficial contact with non-knowledge and the general economy?

What a re-reading offers is the fact that the solutions to these problems are already in Bataille’s work; they are simply covered over and neglected. The solution comes from the linking of a driven, directed secular time to the non-discursive, sacred time. This can be accomplished by using the preceding Lacanian concepts to flesh out and supplement Bataille’s own “dramatization.” What I hope to do is magnify the role that dramatization plays in inner experience, emphasizing its necessity more than Bataille himself does. Along this path, the limitations of faith will become clear.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 6: The Death of God and Fidelity

Part 5

Recap of Part 5: In faith, the promise of the future works upon the present.

What does one do with the death of God, then? God is dead, and as Lacan would said, the Other is barred. Yet, as Jean-Luc Marion shows, any insistence on the non-existence of God must offer a conceptual and therefore limited definition of the God it wishes to dismiss. Such a limited view of God can only ever be an idol, and so any atheism is only worth as much as its concept of God. A true, rigorous atheism, then, does not like in rejecting the existence of a being called God, whatever ontic or ontological characteristics one wishes to ascribe to this God. The existence and ontological status of God is not the primary issue; the issue is God’s status as the Autre, the Other that fulfills desire. Atheism is nothing other than the rejection of such a status. In other words, atheism is the rejection of faith in God. It is the rejection of God as sublime object and of the fantasies that establish the supposed relationship to God. The atheist simply does not have faith in God, “God” or the crossed God.

If faith corresponds to fantasy, than atheism corresponds to the traversal of fantasy and the refusal of God as the signifier of object a. Rejecting God as the object of desire allows the opportunity for a new relationship to one’s desire; to own one’s desire as if it were not a part of the other. Instead of encountering my desire and unconscious as an other, I can claim it and take responsibility for it. Where it was, there I will come into being.

The imperatives of faith are well known; the subject must act in the name of the desire of the other. The atheist faces a no less stringent imperative. In the final chapter of The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan outlines a conception of ethics revolving around the concept of not giving ground on one’s desire. A direction relationship to desire - in which one says “I” where the other’s desire used to be - is one that sets the subject in a place of radical responsibility. Desire, because it must be fulfilled, cannot but demand action. The difference between faith and atheist desire is that an atheist act’s in the name of their own desire, while the faithful subject acts for God’s desire. The atheist holds a fidelity to their own desire, hence another term for the atheist is the subject of fidelity. The subject of fidelity necessarily acts towards a point that lies in the future; endlessly deferred, perhaps, but the action is necessary none the less.

Both the subjects of faith and fidelity are active in pursuit of a goal that is continuously deferred into the future. Both are active within an economy of libidinal flows in contradistinction to those without faith or fidelity. It is possible to live without either faith or fidelity, without any pursued desire at all. Lacan would term such a figure the obsessional neurotic, the person that is only ever capable of questioning and hedging. The obsessional neurotic is only capable of questioning; this cripples action and makes a movement to a future goal impossible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 5: Faith and Time

Part 4

Recap of Part 4: The faithful relationship to God is the fantasy that takes God as the ultimate object of desire.

Two elements of the above will bear on what follows. The first is obvious: faith as sublation requires a God that is an object. God is an object that is raised into the dignity of the Thing. However else this God is predicated, it must carry the status of a definite object. In a sense, God must be held to occupy both the position of object a and Autre. God is both a person and a structural position; faith offers the ultimate fantasy scenario of the satisfaction of desire through God as the sublime object.

The second element is that of deferral into the future. Ritual actions are carried out in order to secure God’s desire - a securing that is always deferred into the future. This deferral is how religion “respects” or “avoids” the void, the empty space. Religion avoids the fact that desire is always deferred by promising a future time in which desire will be fulfilled. This promise of eternal life is well known; heaven is nothing but a place in which one will perpetually enjoy the jouissance of the Other.

The present, however, is not neglected. The present is a time of looking to the future fulfillment, to the undoing of the fall, to the undoing of castration. The present is a time of anticipation, but not of inaction; the repetition, the striving for God’s desire, all demand a heavy load upon the faithful. One cannot make a libidinal investment in God without taking on both duties and joy. The present is a time of work, of watchfulness, of engaged repetition of acts that will usher in the future possibility of enjoyment. The present also enjoys the effects of the sublime. To those with faith that makes one object sublime, all other objects reflect the faint glow of the divine. In a capital driven, mechanistic world, only the elevation of one particular object offers the rest the ability to have value.

Faith can also be seen as an imaginary relationship - in other words, a fantasy. Faith is the construction of a fantasy in which God’s desire is aroused and offered. The praxis of faith such as rituals or charitable works of whatever content are the scenarios in which God’s desire is aroused and in which the subject is promised the enjoyment of God.

Both sublimation and fantasy offer promises for the future. The satisfaction of desire is promised, if only after death. Sublimation takes God’s satisfaction as its object and fantasy creates scenarios in which God’s desire is aroused. Faith is therefore oriented to a future time, an orientation that creates significances for the present. The fantasy scenarios must be acted out.

It is that “must” that needs to be considered more carefully. The promises of full satisfaction are conditional - the fantasy always involves the need for some sort of submission. Faith demands actions and commitments even from the most ardent Lutheran. For instance, rejection of the value of works by Luther was nonetheless accompanied by an absolute insistence on a particular social structure as exemplified by his reaction to the peasant revolts in northern Germany. As good Christians, the peasants were expected to cede some of their freedom to the princes in the name of a future satisfaction.

The fact that the promise of the future asserts demands upon the present is a necessary aspect of faith. Faith involves works in the present devoted to a future faith. Faith is a relationship to an object cause.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 4: Faith as Libidinal Investment

Part 3

Recap of Part 3: Religion is the attempt to sublimate lack through respect, as opposed to art or science which deal with lack in their own way.

This description of religious sublimation is adequate so far as it goes, but it needs to be expanded in two ways.

Alenka Zupančič describes the two basic ways in which Lacan speaks of sublimation. The first kind of sublimation is the sublimation that operates on the level of the drive; it allows the drive to find a satisfaction in an object that is different from its aim. For example, the oral drive’s aim is food, but the pleasure of the mouth can be found in another object. The second kind of sublimation works on the level of desire. This sublimation appropriates a particular object and elevates it to the level of the Thing, that which will close the gap in the subject and satisfy desire. This kind of sublimation finds an object and attempts to use it to fill the gap in the subject. It is this second form of sublimation that religious experience relies upon. The object of sublated desire is God. God becomes a figure of libidinal investment, the entity whose own desire is seen as having the ability to satisfy the subject’s own desire.

The second necessary expansion upon Lacan’s 1960 view of religious sublimation is to be found in the eleventh seminar, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Here, Lacan describes part of the artist’s work as attempts to “arouse the desire of God.” Religious rituals, then, can be seen as attempts to earn the desire of the other. They are actions that are repeated, following upon one another in a linear, temporal series. Each one is an attempt to move forward along the chain of signifiers towards the master signifier, God, who will suture the gap in the subject and satisfy desire. These rituals stage jouissance - in other words, this is a fantasmic arrangement. A narrative and a structure is developed, with specific circumstances to be achieved; a relationship to desire is staged through repetition and metonymic movement along the signifying chain.

To tie the foregoing thoughts together: religion is a structure that is built around the empty space of the subject and the attempt to satisfy the desire this emptiness causes. One particular object - God - is taken as the object capable of filling this desire.

This description of sublimation is intended to replace the concept of faith as epistemological supplement. Faith is a libidinal investment in God as the object that will satisfy desire; it involves a metonymic movement into the future, the repetition of actions that will arouse God’s desire. Faith continuously moves forward in the belief that access to God’s jouissance is possible. This is a picture of the religious life in secular time, or as Bataille might have it, under “common conditions.” God operates in the position of the Autre, the subject supposed to know and that satisfies desire. The faithful relationship to God, then, is the ultimate fantasy. The movement of desire carries the subject into the future, into the repetition of acts designed to gain access to God’s jouissance. It is this God that one may dance before; under what other conditions can explosive joy be felt except in the presence of the (however fantasmic) jouissance of the Autre?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 3: The Empty Space

Part 2

Recap of Part 2: Faith is always something that stands in excess of knowledge.

In both the Biblical text and Augustine’s confessions, there is always an element of excess that moves beyond mere knowledge. One does not merely hold beliefs about an object; one makes a libidinal investment in this object. Put another way, the object (God, here) is raised to the dignity of the thing. It is in the seventh year of his seminar, entitled The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, that Jacques Lacan makes some very useful remarks regarding religion and sublimation, remarks that I will then bring to bear on aspects of Bataille’s thought. In this preliminary discussion, I am not trying to draw too many parallels between the thought of Lacan and Bataille; their views of the subject are irreducibly different.

In psychoanalytic thought, the subject lacks. The subject cannot but lack; this the cost of the entry into the symbolic. Because of this lack, the subject must continuously search for an object that will fill this lack. Particular objects are taken to be the thing that will fill this space; This empty space is the cause of desire, desire being the desire for the other’s desire. One believes that the other’s desire will be the Thing that fills this void. The metonymy of desire is a constant movement from object to object, always pushing forward. Each object is discovered to have some internal failing, an inadequacy that generates a dialectical movement to another object. It is this metonymic movement to close this empty space that drives human action.

In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan describes three particular ways of dealing with this empty space, this Thing that cannot be whisked away. All three methods are modes of sublimation. He speaks of art, science, and religion. Art builds itself around the Thing, around the empty space. The Thing becomes a source of creativity; the Thing is dressed up but always reappears. Science is an attempt to “foreclose” or deny this empty space; any excess or break in reality is denied in favour of a full description of the chain of conditions. Religion, on the other hand, is an attempt to respect the emptiness. The emptiness is acknowledged and a structure is built up around it. The emptiness becomes the mystery that sustains the religion; perhaps elevated from being a structural element of the subject to an element of ontology as such.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Conservatives Are Right

As in correct.

So, the world is ruled by a combination of Empires and Corporations. As the world is, it is basically a Capitalist's wet dream. Why? Why do conservatives always win, aside from the initial stages of various communist revolutions?*

I've seen two examples recently that lead to me believe that conservatives are very often simply smarter than lefties.

First, 2 weeks ago I was invited by a friend to a UWO group called 'Theology on Tap." It was a short lecture held in the grad club. The speaker was talking about Neo-Con godfather Milton Friedman, leftie populist Naomi Klein, and Jesus.

He first discussed Friedman. Friedman was the ideological go-to guy for various U.S. administrations in the 20th century. Buddy buddy with Reagan and Thatcher. What he taught the cons boils down to this: "Only during a crisis can the impossible become the inevitable."

So, various crises around the world were used to shuffle in free market reforms, to crush trade unions, etc. Often violently and painfully -- see Chile and Pinochet, or Thatcher and northern England.

Naomi Klein calls this the "shock doctrine." She sees it as unforgivable manipulation, a brutal violence used against the people. Klein's solution for the world is a return to Keynesian economics, which in a nutshell means government spending in lean times, and financial reticence in times of plenty. This is meant to stave off the worst excesses of capitalism. The return to Keynesian economics, to Klein, is entirely possible and desirable.

For the Jesus bit, the speaker presented his own economics -- a return to the jubilee economics of the Old Testament, in which debts are forgiven at particular intervals. He claimed that while he was sympathetic to Klein and found Friedman reprehensible, Klein's liberal humanism was too "thin," or too insubstantial to really found any sort of serious politics. So a serious dose of Jesus is required to fix these problems.

Now, my response. I agree that Klein's ideas are entirely too thin. I saw it coming a mile off when the speaker finally said that Klein insists she is not a revolutionary. Well duh, obviously. here's the thing: any politics that is not too thin must accept that Friedman is right.

Serious change, the kind that sees the impossible become inevitable, only happens during a crisis. How often is a crisis part of a religious conversion story? What was the crucifixion but a crisis that made the twin impossibilities of the resurrection and founding of the church inevitable? And as for the speaker's jubilee economics, surely he'd be the first to admit the idea is totally impossible. But could it be made inevitable?

Klein's rejection of the impossible is exactly why leftist humanism so often ends up being so anemic, so whiny, so utterly fucking retarded. Lefties need to start thinking in terms of the impossible, just like cons.

The second anecdote is taken from here. In 2004, the New York Times Magazine quoted a conversation between the article writer and an anonymous, highly ranked member of the Bush admin:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

And that's kind of it, isn't it? The cons win on a strategic level because they act and change reality, while lefties can only claim tactical victories (ie, civil rights) because they insist on spending all their time coming up with good, correct propositions about reality. The conservatives learned Marx's maxim about changing the world, not studying it; the lefties didn't.

A leftist politics that is going to be able to compete with conservatives needs to be able to embrace the crisis, and the impossible, and it needs to be able to work upon the public imagination, the fantasies that bind us together. Conservatives have done this really well, and it's time to start learning from them.

*I'm fully aware that conservatives have plenty to complain about - gay marriage, etc. But the world is basically a place in which conservatives can be basically happy about the status quo, and all problems are merely hiccups that can be ironed out with enough prayer, guns or free enterprise. Unlike lefties, who think the status quo itself is rotten.

The Inverted World

2 posts down, you'll see that the internets have declared my blog to be all but unreadable. This is fine. Still, I've decided to express an opinion on jargon.

The continental tradition has built up a reputation for impossible jargon and vulgar relativism. They're the postmodernists, and if you write something like they do, your blog's reading level will be College (Postgrad). Incomprehensible and completely impractical, it seems. Nothing about it accords with common sense. Another pretty common accusation is that the jargon is used just so that the author can fool the readers into thinking the author is smarter than he really is.

There are a few things here. First, the tyranny of common sense. The insistence that philosophical jargon is bizarre and counter-intuitive amounts to the insistence that all thinking be common thinking. In any other area, however, the common is the mediocre. Pennies are common. Michael Crichton novels are common. On the other side, the excellent is the uncommon. Common sense is always mediocre, while uncommon sense at least as the opportunity to become excellent, or path-breaking, or truly creative.

The second thing is the insistence that thinking be practical. That we must study reality in order to know how to interact with it in the best way - morality, knowledge, politics, etc. However, this subordinates all thinking to a factory-like process. Thought becomes a product that enters the market place, and is consumed like a bottle of coke. The problem is that the commodification or instrumentalization of any human effort - like thinking - immediately forces thinking to become a popular product. Any sort of individuality is stripped away from it. To insist that thinking be practical is to miss the basic nature of thinking, which, at its best, actually lies prior to the theory/praxis distinction. It's not a product, it's a way of being in the world. In the jargon, its an ethos, a particular way of "dwelling."

So thinking should neither be common nor "practical." I think this is partly why Hegel called philosophy "the inverted world" - everything appears upside down. And this, to me, is the great merit of the entire project - to be able to turn one's world on its head.

To turn one's world on its head, to create concepts or find distinctions, to think in an uncommon way, one needs tools adequate for the job. The tools are the words, and sometimes the words are difficult. It is entirely worth the effort, though. It's a strangely exhilarating experience to reflect on the temporal structure of the moment of decision, but such reflection can only take place when one has a particular vocabulary and is willing to leave behind common sense.

One should always be able to step back into the "real world," of course, and discuss matters with friends and family that have no particular interest in the jargon. At this point, if one wishes to avoid the inane repetition of common sense, all one can do is fall back on the ethos one has developed through thinking. It's a bit like having a new common sense, a new default way of looking at things. This can be expressed without the jargon, and hopefully some communication can take place.

Excessive Religion, Part 2: Faith

Part 1

Recap of Part 1: How do the sacred and the secular interpenetrate one another?

In order to develop a concept of how the sacred can be expressed in our lives, it is necessary to outline one vital aspect of religious experience that is only minimally dealt with or accounted for by Lacan and Bataille.

There is a very common notion of “faith” that has given rise to endless nonsensical chatter about religion. The definition of faith as some kind of epistemological concept needs to be set aside. Faith is all too often seen as a supplement to knowledge; the claim that a particular proposition is believed because of “faith” immediately creates the age-old faith versus reason conflict.

I would argue that this concept of faith is wholly inadequate for explaining religious life. Even the faithful that speak of faith as a supplement to knowledge are unable to account for certain aspects of religious experience. The first aspect of religious experience that faith as epistemology cannot account for is the inability of belief in particular propositions to alter behavior. Sundered from any more fundamental role in the faithful subject’s life, the belief in any number of religious propositions will not produce anything that resembles devotion (or excess).

It cannot be denied that faith involves knowledge, but must be made clear is the excess involved. There is always something more to faith, something that carries it beyond mere knowledge. In terms of the Christian religion, faith as epistemological supplement is explicitly rejected in the Bible and implicitly by thinkers such as St. Augustine. Two particular Biblical texts offer support for rejection this version of faith. The first is Matthew 7:21-23:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

This text is a clear image of people being judged and rejected by Christ not because they did not accept certain beliefs about Christ. They claimed to believe in Christ, and they even claim to have acted upon these beliefs. Christ does not dispute this point; he never says that their beliefs were false or that their actions did not take place. The charge that Christ levels against them is that he did not know them. There was something lacking about the religious stance of these people. If faith is only a supplement for knowledge, or even merely some kind of Archimedean point for knowledge, this story would be rendered absurd.

St. Augustine’s Confessions contains an implicit rejection of this propositional faith. It is his famous prayer, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” This is another point that would be rendered absurd if faith was reducible to knowledge (or a source of it). This prayer can be rephrased as “I believe that chastity and continence are demanded of me, but I will defer any attempt to fulfill these demands. Augustine could not pray this prayer without already believing in God; but he could also not pray this prayer if he had made what might be termed a libidinal investment in God. God remains one object among many to Augustine at this point, without any particular quality that demands Augustine’s attention. It is only later that he truly “converts,” and ceases to defer a true commitment to God and the Christian way of life. His previous acceptance of truths about God are shown to be meaningless.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Excessive Religion, Intro: Sacred/Secular Time

It requires only the most passing knowledge of human life to know that religion is one of the most powerful and vital forces we experience. All too often, religion is dismissed as a speculative cosmology or fundamentalist ideology. Against these dismissals, one should insist that elements of the sacred are deeply ingrained in human life as such; the only question is how to articulate these elements.

Georges Bataille describes religion as a search for a lost intimacy. Achieving this intimacy involves intense personal experience in which the concerns of daily life are left behind. What this amounts to is a description of long periods of common time, otherwise known as secular time, punctuated by extraordinary flashes of immanence and intimacy that can be described as a sacred time. Reason and knowledge give way to an ecstatic non-knowledge. A question left open here is the relationship between sacred and secular time. If they operate as opposites, how can one be expressed in the other? How can there be any sort of cause and effect relationship between the two? I would argue that a certain common ground must be found between the sacred and the secular, a ground that exists prior to any particular dogma or practice.

It is Jacques Lacan that offers an opportunity to see how the sacred and the secular are expressed in one another. The psychoanalytic notion of desire and its metonymic movement through time provides an adequate explanation for both the intensity of religious experience that Bataille describes an for how reason can produce non-reason. The concept of desire also offers hints as to how the sacred can be expressed in our own lives. It also offers an alternate view of the subject’s relation to the general economy of Bataille. What I hope to find here is an experience that one may move towards in the future and experience, but that dissolves in the past, again leaving over the need for the metonymic movement of desire.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


cash advance

That's right, bitches.