The World is a Catastrophe
Moloch, Moloch everywhere. Ginsberg, you prophet in the wilderness.
Ginsberg, who would also say,
This is the one and the only
it is the absolute world.
There is no other world.
The circle is complete.
I am living in Eternity.
The ways of this world
are the ways of Heaven. New York, Mid-1949
We can make an effort to dismiss theology but theology will not dismiss us. It is an unconscious code to see patterns, to make these patterns into types and symbols that are protological and eschatological, and grant it a more or less symbolically truthful representation – a representation that is vulnerable, but in its vulnerability makes a space for shalom (peace) among the contingency, cruelty and ambiguity of being.
And theology does not die when people suddenly become atheistic or when they subscribe to some kind of “secular” politics, like Marxist-socialism. For the former, there is often still the matter of enjoyment in the form of the Luciferian as rebellion, and this ties the atheist to God negatively, where they persist with God (God exists for them because they must constantly go on and on continually denying him). For the latter, theology just jumps the rail onto a ‘material theory of experience,’ and persistently works to construct a totality – aiming at a guarantee of a whole vis-a-vis an empirically fragmented world – but is never capable in actuality (or perhaps deliberately so) of ever sufficiently delineating (even in its own materialist terms) the precise nature of the mediation through which one would be able to elevate oneself to the ascribed role of a universal “subject of history.” For the atheist who is theological, their negative relation can be at least absolved when they no longer make God a matter of their concern. For the utopian, no actual redemption or reconciliation ever takes place because assuming power the emancipatory is deferred like the infinite point in a perspective painting, where any redemption remains unachievable on account of its violence attempting to impose forced reconciliation. (“erpresste Versohnung”).
Theology really is a primary horizon. It frames how we experience inasmuch as it indicates the necessity of confronting the question of the representation of truth. I am exploring theology because I want to get at an ethics of theological truth – of an aesthetic truth that is irreducibly wedded to intentionality. I am interested in how the mystery of theological truth can inform my senses to an infinite beauty – a beautific infinity in always-already in difference. If theology does not unfold a divinity of Eternity then it one is not applying it properly. It is a question of responsibility and of drawing lines in the sand. What is necessary is an aesthetics of redemption, and thus also an aesthetics of emacipatory being.
It really is, as Saint Paul said, a ‘battle between principalities.’ An aesthetics of redemption, or of a fundamental peace ontology, is the armor we wear to deflect what may masquerade itself as an aesthetics of life but what culminates ultimately in exterminism.
That is the result of the intoxication of Dionysian wine: it is not life-affirming, life-enhancing, but follows through its will to power the nihilism of the ontotheological god it tries to deny or kill off, aping the latter’s pulse of exterminism.
In Christianity the divinity of God embodies itself in a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus of Nazareth is also God, because God is universally immanent and the Incarnation is indigtinguishable from the fountainhead of actuality itself, and is one and the same. This God is relational. Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ bears in his own person the weight of the world’s sin, and he dies and is resurrected to redeem sin. As the site where the human and God fuse, Christ is the I AM of the I AM THAT I AM. The name Jesus, a transliteration of an original יְהוֹשֻׁעַYehoshuʿa(God is salvation)contains the Name of Names within itself, and within itself defers its content to the fountainhead of actuality itself: ‘I AM THAT I AM is salvation.’ This can be read directly also in the artifact of its theology as that intersection between the horizontal and vertical posts of the cross, where the suffering of embodied being and the love of an infinite God coincide.
This is a mythos that is communicating that which is symbolically truthful.
What is sin? A lot of people reject Christianity immediately when reading or hearing that word – it shuts them off. Why does it shut them off? Is it because they are all too familiar with a kind of fire and brimstone Americanism, or else a Puritanism, and they equate this Americanism of Christianity as Christianity? A lot of this rejection is credible given the heresies propagated through the varying splinter groups calling themselves “Christians.” But why does the word shut people off? If part of it is due to the heretic concepts surrounding “sin” that are propagated as “Christian,” then perhaps the other part of it is due to a sense of self-righteousness? Is it not a self-righteousness that attempts to conceal its own lack, its own sense of failure at reconciliation? Sin ought to be understood as a loss of being and not as a legalistic transgression. It seems that framing sin as a legalistic transgression is already a kind of Catholic deviation, which further deviates into a kind of Protestant despising of life. Both are essentially heresies according to a fundamental theophony (a manifestation of Divine splendor in the nature of the concrete).
The notion of “sin” as a legalistic transgression is common in the West, and it has soiled the sacral for many people, floating around as they are now in a sea of regressive behavior – ‘steeped in sin’, to steal a phrase from televangelists. Really though, people are steeped in a loss of being. Really, the postmodern simulacrum is this loss of being, an exteriorization of the senses through technology that is confused as a liberation, but which is also simultaneously an extermination machine piling up dead labor.
If sin – as loss of being – takes on a new meaning then it is really because it has found its origin: to ‘miss the mark’ of our aim at the ideal. So the first lesson of the mythos is about a loss of attentiveness to being, which is a loss of the embodiment of being-in-difference. It therefore remains a grave matter, because the ideal is embodied love even in the face of suffering.
Christianity has been muzzled in the West and everywhere there is a revival of pagan violence. Or else, truly, the world has always been a matter of divisions and fragmentation which militate against the possibility of a legitimate subject coming into its own? Perhaps the heathens have always and will always roam around the monastery mortar?
So what is this paganism? What is its mythos? This question means trying to apprehend its fundamental ontology.
First, what paganism is not. It is not the mercurial paganism of popular culture, though perhaps it remains the pop culture paganism’s condition of possibility. This kind of “paganism” is a revival of signs that are given exchange value, as a “paganism” that is a reified choice in the social production (a lifestyle in the marketplace). If it attempts to connect itself to what paganism truly is, then it really does so only as a farce. No, the matter of paganism is a matter at the low end of the pool, the deeper current: that is an aesthetic choice which is also an ontological one.
The fundamental ontology of the postmodern revival of paganism resides in its opting for an eruption of the shock of difference over any notion of a (supposedly “static”) identity, presence or being, an equation of this shock of difference as a play of forces or of a play of violence against violence, and – perhaps, at least in a certain vein of the tradition – a celebration of violence in the name of difference.
Conversely, the ideal in which we aim is to be a member of a Divine Body – Christ’s Body – as a collection of embodied bodies that participates in the embodiment of the First Icon’s infinite love (the Son’s infinite compassion). Christian mystery is set against the mystery of the gods of antiquity. And what does this provide us? It provides us the understanding that each of us will be called upon to suffer out of love. It also provides another crucial understanding: not only is Christ the site where the love of God and the human being meet, but the mysteries of the Body and the fellowship of the Bread and Wine – Eucharist – opens up to the notion that each and every member of being (each human being, and all sentient being) is an icon (an imago of God).
This wine of Christ is a wine in stark contrast in vintage and in taste from the wine of the Dionysian.
When we are asked to find the icon, we need not but grab the person standing to the right or the left and exclaim “here is the icon.” We may turn to the others and say, “here is the icon” – here is the other that is the Beautific embodied in particularity.
This is owed to Jewish conscience, but is transformed uniquely by the Christian exegesis. It is that each particularity has inherent dignity as a creature ‘made in the image of God.’ Dignity exists within each person and so does prior to any description or attribution of the human being. This dignity pours out of the same fountainhead that is also the condition of possibility for intentionality (if Reason is not striving for God, then it is not Reason at all). However, there remains a gap or an unrepresented portion within the intentionality that remains also its source – the kind of potentia that does not yet form itself into a representation. In this sense, Christology does not commit the sin of philosophy: the attempt to grasp the non-conceptual through conceptual means. Christianity is unique inasmuch as its God is a God in difference, which is to say, not subject to a totality of the real that would be identical or subsumed by thought. Of course, Scholasticism did take a route down the road towards a Supreme Being, or a God as mere sufficient causation, but to make a long story short, the main lesson remains the essential mystery of the non-conceptual. That vanishing point is the imago of Eternity itself that embodying itself in creation God calls “good.” It is a sacred source precisely because it cannot be reduced to a streamlined representation, a fully attributed identity. It is the mystery within each embodied being that remains portion of the Mystery of mysteries. It is what provides us with the sense that each unique particularity, each assembly or crystallization of particular identity, is not antagonistic or fragmentary but a gift of being. Hence, this mythos is about the universal but about the universal as it is achieved through particularity, and crucially, as a universal that can only be achieved through its being-in-difference.
And I could say that the more expansive the mosaic of love of being-in-difference the better for creation, i.e. for an actual reconciliation of the subject-object.
So the neopagan Nietzsche saw how dangerous Christianity was to an aesthetic taste that prefers “instinctual” appropriation. It is a metaphysical choice for him. Difference is for Nietzsche a matter of sheer chaos, a formlessness that is also a violence that is only ever curbed by a competing violence of the imposition of form. His unconditional nature is force, as he tries to pivot against an unconditional (transcendental) morality: a proclamation of force as absolute, of appropriation of form upon form in an eruption of drunken, Dionysian frenzy.
There are priests and there are laity. With the postmoderns, the former become the locusts descending across the landscape as they nihilate all the orders of meaning and appearance, while the latter are Nietzscheans without knowing it. Such is the landscape today populated by the Last Men and also those enchanting themselves with the Ubermensch of technocratic fascism.
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us! [Howl II]
Ethics, which concerns right or wrong conduct, diminishes when there is no more consensus as to basic questions of what is right and what is wrong, and all of this occurs in direct proportion to the maximization of nihilistic freedom, which remains the fake news “ethics” of liberalism. To the degree that more and more facets are “liberated” under a will to power that, owing to its metaphysics that poses itself as anti-metaphysics, apes the nihilism of the ontotheological god it attempts to kill off, there is also observed an amplification of ever-more constraints: a deeper repression staging itself under the sign of an an “affirmation” or enhancement of life. The end game ought logically pose itself as the Death of God in proportion to the maximization of nihilistic “freedom,” and this stems from the postmodern pagan revival that not only looses the ability of choosing well (the only actual definition of true freedom) in favor of aimless appropriation, but also because its ontology sums up an apologetic of State violence, there is at the breakdown of ethics also a proportional increase of totalitarian control. This is not a coincidence.
Nietzsche called Christianity a “Jewish subversion.” Why did he call it that? Is it perhaps because he recognized in Christianity the radicalism of an aesthetic truth? A wager of the truth of truths that is also immediately an aesthetics that makes a determinate break with the Classical world? To be sure, it is subversive to his narrative of an absolutism of force.
Consider the subversion to the pagan world. First, God is transcendent and simultaneously regards creation in its beauty, meaning the distance between God and creation is analogous to divine life, and this God who is already differentiated differentiates again in the continuum of creation (of the catastrophe of being-in-difference), and doing so yet again in the distance between that which is not God but that which persists in expressing God’s beauty. In other words, the only chora is God’s willingness to pour out of God.
Our concerns for the dispossessed, the marginalized, the abject, those who are suffering is grounded not in a static, unmovable Supreme Being, but in a God of covenant that is rotational within Himself and immediately relational with the intentionality in nature.
When Nietzsche talks about metaphysics he is talking about mastering the real by force. In this sense, he is referring more to Metaphysics by Aristotle than he is to the God of King David. For the Hellenism knowledge is possession, whereas for the Jews wisdom is feminine, receiving, non-possessive. So Nietzsche follows Hellenism with a metaphysics as possession: it becomes an attempt at an unarguable principle that tries to still the rushing waters of existence, or to quiet the tulmult of difference. Metaphysics is understood as a war – a violence against violence – where beings find difference as unbearable, as a strife set against strife, and seek after an unmoving Being, or a foundation to build a form or an order. Apollo wants to curb the cannibalism of Dionysus, however, both play the game of gate keepers of the mythos so that even the supposed anti-metaphysical ramblings remain enclosed structures, propagating dualities of order versus chaos ad infinitum.
“And historically, the rejection of metaphysical order expresses itself, at most, as a desire to bear the unbearable, to endure ontological strife rather than submit to “totalizing” tyranny, but leaves the most essential metaphysical premises intact. What, for instance, could be more pathetically confined than Deleuze’s attempt to defeat Platonism through a simple reversal of the priory of eidos and simulacrum, forma and materia? (One is reminded of Feuerbach’s reversal of metaphysical theology, which merely results in an equally metaphysical anthropology.) Just as a lapsed Catholic is recognizable from living his entire life as one long, indefinitely sustained gesture of apostasy, the postmodern philosopher is still a philosopher, still a dialectician, still within the city walls of totality; that he longs for the nomad’s perilous exile from the polis does little to alter this fact, as this merely confirms the topology of being as either polis of exile.” [Hart, Beauty of the Infinite, p126]
What is the covenantal God really about? It is about reconciliation and restoration, which is also that of the realization of creation as theophony. However faint its actuality in the real, however whimpering the smoldering of its truth upon the ruins of catastrophe, there persists this notion that love remains and proves itself by suffering even unto death. Hence, the radical shalom of Christian ontology is that it is love that remains eternal returning, and which does not move upon itself (knowing no forward motion) but instead moves out into ever-novel relations of particularity which God gives graciously and gratuitously through the interval of the gift.
It really does come down to an aesthetic scandal. Christianity really is a great offense to the gods of antiquity, and marks for these gods a death knell – a complete break. It offends the aristocrat in the self-prescribed antichrist Nietzsche. This offense is triggered in the first explosion of postmodernism, which was a rediscovery of pagan ontology and aesthetics. Conversely, Christology remains more subversive, more scandalous than Dionysian enclosure,
“A God who goes about in the dust of exodus for love of a race intransigent in its particularity; who apparels himself in common human nature, in the form of a servant; who brings good news to those who suffer and victory to those who are as nothing; who dies like a slave and outcast without resistance; who penetrates to the very depths of hell in pursuit of those he loves; and who persists even after death not as a hero lifted up to Olympian glories, but in the company of peasants, breaking bread with them and offering them the solace of his wounds.” [ibid 126]
So I remain possessed by the gravity of a moral choice.
What is it going to be? The gods up there on Olympus, or on Madison Avenue and Hollywood, or the gods of powerful, and of what is powerful as what is good, or the God that keeps the company of peasants? Nietzsche was wrong because it is in the former that decadence is really assured, whereas in the latter Truth of embodied particularity presents itself in full force.
In the Gospel of John there is a detailed dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. In John 18:37, we read Jesus describing his mission, “I came into the world…to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” Pilate then turns to Jesus and gives his famous reply, “Quid est veritas?” (What is truth?).
So, quid est veritas? What is truth?
“Nietzschean postmodernism’s “affirmation” might just as well be the oblivion of the One of Plotinus, turn unrelatedly inward (Enneads 6.8.17), or of Aristotle’s Prime Mover; Dionysus cannot be concerned – in the midst of being’s extravagant play – with lost sheep. The God of the Bible, however, turns to face creation from the first, in making it, and then in calling it good; he gives creation at a distance, and continues to regard it, continues to await its response, its repetition of the gift, and in this way opens the distance of critique, judgement and redemption. Because being’s differences are affirmed in their particularity, because God elects just these differences, and delights in them, and desires them for himself, he does not merely consign difference to fate, to the irretrievable flow of time, but also acts to liberate what he makes from sin and death: this is his infinite “it is good.” [ibid 272]
I am trying to explore the violence ontology of postmodernism and simultaneously aim instead at an ontology of beautific peace. I feel this appropriate to my disposition, since I also think that to be an artist is to be responsible. That is the first rule. So, enough with the trash of the artworld – it is the spectacle of irresponsibility. Responsibility means first and foremost digging down to what one really stands for and understanding why they stand for it. And so, I remain some sort of Christian humanist because I have come to the understanding that without that there is no project of emancipation. Every other emancipatory project, say for example of the secular order that elevates the absolute power of the State as the arbiter of a totality, is a deviation – and, inasmuch as it takes as its point of departure a nihilism of modern “freedom”, it will inevitably result in violence because it makes violence its first principle. The only true fidelity to the empirically existing is fidelity to the particular that is a tangible trace of an immanent God that is capable through an immanent love to transcend the historical continuum of suffering and oppression, thereby yielding affinities with redeemed life. All reconciliation remains a dead horse if it is not directly informed by such a humanist mythos – a humanism that all at once sees in each particular being the beauty of the Incarnational, however vulnerable love’s tangible guarantee among the continuum of sheer contingency.
So, we may know that reality of the object may be deficient, but in this mythos it does not allow a unity between subject and object ‘apocryphized’ under identiarian formal logic: rather, it confronts the unreason of the world with the reason embodied in the idea of theological truth, since it is precisely because of the nonidentity between the two dimensions that there is a point of departure for the will to emancipation. In doing so, reason by allowing the nonconceptual does not collapse in upon itself but finds its primary anchor: a speculative sense that its contemplation draws strength not from that which merely is but also that which has never yet been, of which the latter holds us into a fidelity to theaphony -to the divinization of created difference. It attempts to transcend the boundaries of empirical experience, capable as it is of confronting what is actual with the incriminating dimension of the ideal, but does so in a way that refuses to accede to a mere identification of the real with the instrumentally rational, avoiding the reduction of thought to the status of a handmaiden to natural sciences (which locks it into a cycle of the mythic always-the-same). In this sense, the Christology does not see as impossible the transcending of its age in thought, since it accepts the First Icon that has already “overcome the world,” and it is from this position of Christ who already “overcomes the world” – who is already the Beginning and the End – that folds back upon the present and provides each age with compelling reason to transcend its own limitations and blindness.
And in order to transcend this blindness, one ought to be informed of the proper place of the ethical, which for theology is an aesthetics of desire where all at once there is a play of eros, pleasure, grace and gratuity. One “grows in faith” to Christ when one learns to desire the other because the other is desirable, because the other is beautiful. It is not, therefore, an evasion of ethics that sneaks in under the sign of avoiding “my” intentionality, where the other is reduced to an anonymity, a formal instance of alterity. Rather, the moral of the story of morals is to love the infinite particularity of the other as other, and to desire this particularly that is an aesthetic unrepeatability.
Consider also that the violence ontology can be seen as an insular mythos that does not break from its entrenched cycles – it is mere return for return without any ability to turn outward, to move forward out of the same, to rupture the interpretation of exchange as possession by going outwardly in the gift. Dionysus and Apollo are not conflict at all but comrades in a game, an enclosed structure of chaos versus order, whereas Christ is what is truly anarchic to this enclosed structure. What is anarchic is precisely the prodigality of love. [Hart]
This love is the gratification of desire in the discovery of another…