Re-Creating the World between the Eucharist and Daily Consumer Reality
and the word became flesh (John 1:14)
The Eucharist enacts a linguistic transaction whereby simple creation, the objects and subjects of the physical and psychological universe, is received by the Host. This transformation of the physical universe into sanctified property of Christ and the members of the Church who are in every way like Him, represents the most profound alteration in the function and working principle of human language in history.
Transubstantiation, the manifestation of Christ’s blood and flesh as the host — medium — who receives the created world, is first and foremost a linguistic transaction. The simple system of exchange and circulation, where a sign is formed by associating two physical entities, a given object and a word, whereby the word replaces an image, sound, or any other type of creaturely sensation and thus ushers it into the circulation systems of human knowledge and communication, is sublated in the symbolic function of the Hostia (bread) of the Eucharist.
Sublation and Sublimation
Sublation is a term first introduced by G.W. Hegel to signify the preservation of a negated element in the new formation governed by the negating agent, which contains the supplanted form as well. For example, in historical terms, the Christian Holy Roman Empire supplanted the extinct Greco-Roman civilisation, but did not annihilate it. To the contrary, it sublated its contents in its new systems of circulation and communication. Thus the Holy Roman Empire is a product of sublation, not conquest and annihilation. Sublation is a Christian phenomenon. It is impossible outside the context of Christian teachings, because the Eucharist alone provides the basis for the preservation of a living past even as it is transformed by the Word of Life.
Sublimation is a term used in psychology and means the transformation of a set of data associated with a particular object of desire into a work of art, science, technology or philosophy that simultaneously inhibits action on the instinctive desire and allows for its displacement and active denoument in another symbolic system. It follows the logic of dreams, which often fulfil forbidden desires, but much more consciously and constructively, because products of sublimation, unlike private dreams, can enter common systems of circulation and communication.
Sublation is not limited to political history. It drives every historical trajectory such as technological development and cultural innovation. The word news stems from the Latin nova and noverum — new and knowledge. St. Jerome used the word noverim to translate the Greek gnosin — knowledge, wisdom — in composing the Vulgata in reference to the special skill some people have of interpreting the will of God. The term News/Knowledge and the practice of proclaiming and recording new interpretations of the Living Word was eventually profaned and degraded to the News Media of today.
The Online Etymological dictionary defines it thus: news: late 14c., “new things,” plural of new (n.) “new thing,” from new (adj.); after French nouvelles, used in Bible translations to render Medieval Latin nova(neuter plural) “news,” literally “new things.” Sometimes still regarded as plural, 17c.-19c. Meaning “tidings” is early 15c. Meaning “radio or television program presenting current events” is from 1923. Bad news “unpleasant person or situation” is from 1926. Expression no news, good news can be traced to 1640s. Expression news to me is from 1889.” In other words, the revision of stored knowledge and the revelation of previously hidden reality is the core principle of human knowledge. This principle was present but hidden in the linguistic reality of both the Greek and the Latin languages, but it was not revealed to humanity until the composition of the New Testament, John 1:1.
Technical media have been receiving — hosting — the world as we know it since the beginnings of Christianity. A number of technical inventions, such as bookbinding and book production, maps, compasses, and eventually the printing press allowed for the rapid re-organisation of the physical and psychological world. History teaches us that the Church was a foe to technical invention, but nothing is further from the truth. The political Church under pressure from the foes of Christianity may well have been opposed and even have persecuted scientific descent, but the basic principles of Christian linguistic and sacramental reality are the only structures that make technological development possible. The ancient Greeks and Romans had much or our technological know-how, but lacked the psychological and phenomenological structure necessary for the practical transcription of this knowledge. Contemporary science has reached a dead-end and is equally unable to translate its knowledge from the laboratories to practical purposes, because it departed from the Christian reality principle. All the money and research in the world will not help contemporary science advance its practical application unless we begin to review scientific progress within the framework of Christian reality.
The Eucharist provided the needed psychological structure to transform the physical plane of existence into the recording media. This translation can only occur if the belief in human sovereignty and autonomy is intact to carry out the re-assemblage of disparate units of communication into a whole that sublates the recorded physical object. Without human agency guaranteed by the Abrahamic conception of human sovereignty, mere translation between systems of physical signification will remain lifeless. Hence, the need for the Daily Word of Life.
Do the Media Exist?
Some media companies recently claimed that the media don’t exist. The pronouncement was a rhetorical jibe against their readers, but has unintended philosophical merit. Indeed, for non-Christians the function of the media is invisible and non-existent, because they lack the linguistic structure introduced by the Eucharist to recognise its existence as such. To media companies today, the tools in their hands are just that, tools, not real carriers of Holy Communion. But whether they see it or not, whether they acknowledge or deny it or not, is irrelevant, because the introduction of the Eucharist already sanctified the medium and operates behind the scenes in transforming language. The Hostia, the piece of bread every brother of Christ is invited to internalize — consume or make part of his being — is a medium of God’s living Word.
The strange and philosophically deficient pronouncement by the Washington Post represents an anachronistic development in the historical genealogy of media technology, which was developed on the soil of Christian linguistic principles, a fact that has disappeared from view in the current media milieu. The anomaly is not difficult to explain, if we consider that the larger trajectory of historic Christianity is both, already revealed in the New Testament, and yet to unfold in its fulness. Before as After Christ, many remained blind and deaf to the truths revealed in Christ. And even these truths are not complete. Human vision, even the vision bestowed by the Eucharist, is always partial. We can only see “in a mirror, darkly.” (1 Cor 13:12)
Daily Word in Bytes and Bread
The internet has transplanted the dwelling spaces of the arts, religious practice, consumer services, product design, even medical care and political action from their physical addresses in the metropolitan centers of the world to virtual spaces accessible from every locale touched by human industry.
The reality we are living today, courtesy of the global technological network, would have been unthinkable just a few centuries ago, but its presence in the cognitive systems of communication has been available since the introduction of the mystery of the transubstantiation, which moved beyond geometrical abstraction and neurotic, automated fear of a law foreign to the psychological interior to introduce the possibility of sublimation and transfer between physical planes of existence.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; that life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (I John 1:1-10)
The daily bread became the daily word and the daily word the daily novelty. The Biblical concept of prophecy does not mean forecast or prediction of what is to come, but rather knowledge and interpretation of the will of God. It also means novelty, new revelations that shine light on truths hitherto veiled in darkness.
The first book of John spells out the basic temporal-linguistic principle of the New Testament: the revelation of dimensions of human experience that were operative in the logic of the language, but hidden to the people of the book of the law. The old testament is and remains the founding document of biblical reality. Revelations open the door not only to the testament of the apostles, but to every future testament in the fellowship of Christ that is contained within the contractual boundaries of the complete biblical text.
This is why Jesus is recorded saying, on the one hand, that no prophecy is worth its biblical currency if it is not minted with Love, and on the other, that the most insignificant of children of the poor in spirit is as great as He, if it is received in His name. “Received in His name” is the crucial phrase here denoting a new dimension of linguistic reality, a dimension that frames and transplants physics and the law, made manifest in the ritual of transubstantiation.
The human mind is instructed through love and the human heart through humility, not the hypocritical kind, but true humility, which finds itself mirrored in the least worthy, least prominent, least educated, but most glorious all the same. As long as the child is received in His name, however, not as a creature and not as the poor thing it is, but transformed, cleansed and baptised by the living Word that testifies to the reality revealed in the Bible, it is as great as He.
The New Testament introduces the capacity for sublimation in language. It introduces a displacement of physical and logical-linguistic reality onto a loftier plane of signification where language reveals hidden presence. Thus the Old Testament holds the manifestation of the Son of Man in its internal logic, but does not make it available in any immediately available contexts. The Word of Life can only be guaranteed by the Name of the Son of Man.
A painting genre I will discuss in more depth in later posts, the still life, expresses perhaps the truth of the “mystery” of the Living Word most directly. Both expressions, Still Life and Living Word, are logical impossibilities, because the word refers to finite entities that are only available for cognition in their transient state, their ability to die and be still, whereas life refers to the most elusive, ethereal substance the Eucharist teaches us to recognise in the fellowship of Christ as human autonomy, the haloed presence of human intelligence capable of grasping the remains of creation and imbuing them with eternal meaning.
The objects depicted in still lives are sometimes objects of beauty and luxury, but more often simple objects elevated to a status of beauty and luxury. The Still Life genre in painting is in a sense the artistic equivalent of the Eucharist, by virtue of which we receive God’s grace. Through us, this grace is extended to everything we are capable of grasping, knowing (novarim), caring for and loving, whether it is available as a physical object or as a compilation of electronic bytes for mental synthesis. Nothing endures without the Children of Man.
New iCulture Category: the Daily Word
iCulture is happy to unveil the new category Daily Word, which is dedicated to interpreting and understanding the Word of Life after the age of secularism. The articles in this category will address the knowledge humanity has been amassing in the age of technology and search out its repressed and forgotten origin in Christian structural reality and practice.
The secular process itself is profoundly and structurally rooted in the Christian reality principle. No secularism, no science and no industry could have developed without the Christian structural foundation. The task of excavating the Christian roots of buried historical reality is enabled by the indestructible causal ligaments that anchor every human endeavour in libidinal reality. The term libido simply means reservoir of love.
This category takes as a starting point a departure from a purely political history of Christianity and the Church and probes the deeper levels of structurally functional sacramental principles that have given us everything from science to social media.
The posts in this category will seek to understand the Living Word today in our cultural, scientific, and technological environment. There is no better way to encourage the development of the interior than by showing scientifically and philosophically its crucial role in the daily creation and re-creation of the world. As fellows in Christ we participate in this re-creation actively. We may acknowledge and own up to this responsibility with great joy.
Finally, this category will seek to understand consumer philosophy, behavior and psychology from the point of view of the Eucharist. The Church is not the only place where we take communion. The wafer is simply a vessel for all of our “consumer” behavior, which begins with the introjection of the identity of our parents who teach us who we are. The wafer carries everything we claim as ours, everything we consume in terms of market products, cultural products, educational products, devotional products, as well as the unseen and unconscious internalisations we carry out in dreams and fantasies, in little obsessions and big passions. The objects we share with others, even as we claim possession through purchase, alter our daily language and change our living reality, the Word of Life.