Exposure is perhaps the very hallmark of modernism.
What began with what Moses Mendelssohn called the psychological sublime, an aesthetic category for awe-inspiring creations of inner experience, culminated in the exaltation of private subjectivity.
At the threshold of the modern age, the Faery Queen Elizabeth famously said she didn’t plan to build windows into human souls, prefiguring perhaps more than she knew, because that is exactly what the arts of the subsequent age accomplished.
By the nineteenth century an enlightened pastor in Berlin, Schleiermacher, recognized that this movement had begun much earlier in the history of humanity and re-introduced the concept of Christian hermeneutics.
What appears to be secular and even defiant of simplistically conceived religious prohibitions, is in fact profoundly Christian. The mere fact that such art was bred on the rich soil fertilized by the Word of the Bible speaks eloquently in support of this thesis.
The realm of private experience is nowhere closer to its ontological vulnerability than in nudity stripped of its exchange value within a public economy. To re-sexualize this act of sublimation would rob us of a world within.
But as the prophetic Queen warned us, the interior has to remain off limits to power, money, and politics, which act as desublimating factors, exposing the contents of the soul not only to the curious, admiring, and loving gaze, but to envy and plunder.
It is perhaps a forgotten or simply ignored fact that Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, Bride of Christ, concludes a period of mourning.
The Church and the Second Creation
The yearly celebration of Pentecost marks the cyclical return of the moment the Holy Ghost descends on the apostles and all present and subsequent followers, enabling them to participate in the will and intelligence of the Lord. This is an unprecedented event in the history of the faith and in the history of humanity. It initiated a new order of things and marked the beginning of the Second Creation, which succeeds the first creation, which fell and became subject to sin and the law. The Second Creation is free of sin and the law. The story of its genesis sheds light on the nature of its substance and the substance of its freedom from sin.
Manifest History and Spirituality
To grasp the superb design of the Biblical testament and its truth, we would be best served by abandoning the idea of mere spirituality, soothsaying stories, and superstitious religious ideas in general. Spirituality and religion that don’t interpret the material dimension, nor organize it into a system of values, historic teleology, and manifest reality aren’t worth anything. A system of thought and values like the Judeo-Christian one, which has commanded world events over the last five thousand years isn’t mere superstition, religion, or spirituality. But to grasp the power of its bequest we would do best to position it in its proper temporal, material and historical context as the text itself defines it.
The event of the descent of the spirit takes place exactly forty nine days after the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
Mourning between Tradition and Modern Psychoanalysis
Traditionally, the official mourning period is forty days. Though the number may be symbolic, it’s also concrete in the division of the year into weeks, which still follows the first seven days of creation, and the annual recurrence of the mourning period after Easter. Prescriptive rules about mourning aren’t there to force neurotics to perform compulsive acts of whaling and mourning, as Freud and anthropologists disdainfully believed, but an important period for the group and individual mental organization.
During the period of mourning the mind engages in highly productive activities and generates an imago that from then on will dominate the libidinal life of the mourner and organize their perceived environment. When he was more reflective and less anthropologically fashionable, Freud observed a period of latency (non-manifest psychological processes that are imperceptible but active at a fundamental level) in the wake of mourning that endows the entire world of the mourner with meaning.
In the individual development of the human psyche, this is the period following the dissolution of the Oedipal complex, when the child accepts the limits to its sexuality, namely that the mother and father are debarred from providing sexual satisfaction and with them, all representatives of the child’s own sex. This is a crucial moment in the development of the psyche, since without it the child will fail to build necessary emotional attachments to its environment and may be threatened with mental degenerative diseases. The child must learn that sexual satisfaction is only provided by an appropriate object in the future and for the specific purpose of producing an heir like him or herself.
The latency period, as Freud called it, is a mourning period that lasts several years until the psyche matures enough to seek love objects outside the family. It begins when the child accomplishes the important task of giving up instinctual satisfaction and renouncing its parents as sexual objects. This important period builds the entire world of the individual and imbues it with its specific and quite unique characteristics. Every future experience the individual gains will refer to this bedrock of reality. The future partner will likely be chosen from a similar symbolic order.
What is true for the individual is also true for large epochal and historical formations and phenomena. Pentecost likewise commemorates the establishment and continual growth of both the Church and every individual follower of Christ as a creature of mourning. The Second Creation is ex maeroris.
The prototype for this event in the Old Testament is the conception, birth, and life of Samuel the King-Maker. Anna conceives literally “ex multitudine doloris et maeroris” foreshadowing the Immaculate Conception, the Second Creation, and the birth of the Church from a period of mourning. As with the founding event of Pentecost, the task of mourning is the conception of a King-maker, a divinely appointed figure endowed with power over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. Taken at its most abstract, this power echoes the centrality of the world the child psyche erects in the wake of its renunciation of instinctive satisfaction. From the founding event of Pentecost onward, historical, political, and discursive power will derive from the act of renouncing the body of the first creation and its instinctual needs, symbolically represented by the Crucifix.
Pentecost: The Mourning Period from the Crucifixion to the Birth of the Church
The Holy Ghost is likewise a product of the work of mourning. Christ’s apostles and followers, especially the women, his mother, her sister, and the Magdalen, engage in the work of mourning during the forty days following the Crucifixion. It is important that His nearest accomplish the work, not strangers. Love, libidinal currency, is the driving psychological reality principle of the process. Mourning is intimately related to love. It is the response of the bereaved psyche to the death of the beloved.
Death is not simply absence. Those who depart on long journeys are also absent, but not dead. Death takes away our agency in the world, which is why the mourning period is so important for the preservation and curation of human remains. The mourning period isn’t just a superstitious ritual, but a crucial period during which the dead continue to have agency through the bereaved they have left behind.
Christ appears numerous times to the eleven disciples and to the women teaching them how to build the Church as they begin to draw multitudes. It is in the wake of his death that they learn to act on His behalf and to enact His will and legacy in the world. We participate in their work as we return to this crucial period cyclically.
The nine days from His Ascension to Pentecost add the week of Second Creation ex maeroris, which is two days longer than the 7 days of original creation because they include the day of Crucifixion and of the Black Sabbath, during which Christ descends to the realm of the dead to gather the heathens and non-believers He grants salvation.
On Sunday of Easter, when Christ appears to the Magdalen and commands her not to touch him, the work of the Second Creation, from mourning, that is, in the physical absence of His agency, begins. A lack of agency characterizes the Second Creation. It is a work of love and mourning. This is why I claim that Christianity is the religion of mourning. Mortification of the flesh is an essential part of the faith.
Consciousness of Mediated Reality
This is a decisive moment in the history of human civilization, when we begin to explore mediated reality, the materially manifest dimension of distance and the distant and their ability to remain active in the world through our love. Now we understand why the commandment to love is the highest. It participates in the work of mourning that enacts the will of the absent dead. It is different from following the commandments of the dead in that it is voluntary work of love, charity. The work of mourning is essential in the arts of mastering spacial and temporal distance.
Mourning isn’t merely a response to the death of someone near, but can be triggered by any kind of loss that takes away agency. It is a process of mortification of the immediate needs of the flesh, a separation from the instinctual body that repeats the original process of the birth and formation of the psyche in the course of individuation that takes place between mother, father & child.
Renunciation and the Bride
The renunciation of instinct is a kind of sublation of it and not a direct repression. When we renounce instinct, we don’t abandon it, but to the contrary, we bring it to work on behalf of the higher bidding of immaterial love in mourning.
The Church is called the Bride of Christ. The concluding event of the Bible and the final book of Revelations is the Marriage of the Lamb to the Body of the Church, the body of saints united in holy communion. The divine comedy reenacts the events of a human lifetime. As man is made in the image of God, so is his biography a copy of the divine biography or history as we know it.
Human development requires the child abandon and renounce its instinctual bond to the parents and replace it with the marriage partner. The frame for the choice of marriage partner, which guarantees a healthy covenantal relationship, is constructed during the latency period of mourning. That is the period we are in historically in relation to the Church and Her Bridegroom. History itself is a period of latency that culminates in the union and covenantal relationship to the Lord.
A common depiction of the virtue of caritas, believed to be a gift from the Lord, the allegory of a crowned young woman with an infant at her breast, symbolized nurturing care for others. The fire emanating from her fingers symbolizes divine love and the flaming crown on her head divine rulership. In this allegorical figure, the virtue of love and of just rulership are combined into one. The painting was commissioned by the Florentine body that determined disputes among merchants, a public court of sorts that aspired to incorporate and embody Christian virtue.
On closer inspection, however, the flimsy comparative connections among the disparate parts that compose the allegory, don’t necessarily hold. A mother’s love for her suckling is instinctive, not virtuous. Virtue requires the overcoming of the flesh and it’s desires, whereas there is nothing more basically instinctive and of the flesh than a nursing breast’s attachment to its suckling and vice verse nothing is more instinctive than the child’s attachment to the breast. In fact, psychoanalysis teaches us that the psychic apparatus, the soul, begins to form through its mastery of the separation from the maternal breast. It is doubtful the instructions Moses received at Sinai and the kind of love — Caritas — Christ placed above all other commandments were of the carnal kind depicted in this allegory worshipped by merchants. What kind of love would encourage indulgence of the flesh and withhold the far more valuable experience of support during the phase of withdrawal and separation from the source of nourishment, the rupture in which the mental apparatus is born and “nurtured!” It is clear why those who made a living out of unbridled consumerism would worship this kind of mental regression and support its elevation to the level of virtue.
Shakespeare was among the first to contemplate this peculiar and contradictory condition of dawning modernity and its order of mercantile and banking rulership. The portrayal of Lady Macbeth as a woman who has given suck and is yet capable of plotting a cold-blooded murder is far from spurious. Though the Macbeths hail from rural Scotland, which was yet to join the new world order of bankers and merchants, their very backwardness proved a potent measuring tool of the damage the new order inflicted on old Christian virtue. Lady Macbeth is progressive by all critical accounts, and obviously well versed in the new mercantile symbolic order. She invokes the very image of the virtue of caritas even as she plots the murder of the old Christian King Duncan. Shakespeare was an allegorical thinker. His portraits are seldom simple individuals and always larger figures for the conditions of the times. His plays are prophetic allegorical sketches of the modern and postmodern condition of humanity, which is fettered by the order of banking and mercantilism that replaced the old rulership by the sacred body of a Christian head.
In true Christianity, the crown is worn by the child that was sacrificed in order to redeem the source of all sin, the flesh under the Edeitic curse of its instinctive desires. Only then does the mother receive her crown from Him. The mercantile allegory appears to reverse this process, also called the Second Creation, the “milk of human kindness,” and revert to the order of creation under original sin. When Lady Macbeth fears her husband’s weakness and calls him “too full of the milk of human kindness,” she is in fact referring to true Caritas, the kind that attaches to the Ghost returning from the grave, the Holy Ghost indwelling every Christian mind, which is both the source and true suckling on the breast of true Caritas. In the context of Lady Macbeth’s symbolic universe “the milk of human kindness” is precisely NOT the same as the real milk of the breast she has given, but the kind that causes a remorseful Macbeth to see the ghosts of his victims.
Lumière, Odilon Redon, 1893. Lithograph, 24.6 x 17.8 in. (sheet).
In the category for Daily News on Monday, January 15, 2018, I shared a quote from Proverbs: “To answer before listening — that is folly and shame.” The folly of gossip is so ubiquitous today that we hardly think about its manifestation and consequences, but it remains a very destructive power in the emotional world of humanity. In the news and on social media, the practice of discrediting a person’s character to avoid engaging their God-given reason, arguments, and the uncomfortable truths they may be stating, often by stooping to such low forms of communication as dog-whistling and trolling the domain of their expertise, is so widespread and all-pervasive, it escapes scrutiny. But the damage to the social fabric remains and it translates easily into damaged physical environments.
What happens when we engage a person’s character, identity, or political identity instead of listening to what they have to say? We dehumanize them. It doesn’t help that every liberal institution in the West today exists for the sole purpose of pandering to identity politics, which are not only not helping create a harmonious social milieu, but in fact commit the folly of gossip in their foundational system of signification. To treat a person as a representative of their specific political group is the same as gossiping about them, answering them before we listened to them speak. This form of social interaction destroys the very origin of knowledge, intelligence, and the quality of social life, which take shape and become historical events that have the power to re-create and re-establish human reality at the very intersection between external social reality and inner reality. How did we get here?
Linguistic Transformation in Christ
To answer this question we must understand the enormous linguistic transformation Christ initiated by depositing the gospel of his life and teachings in the midst of living humanity and for the renewal of the Jewish faith. The human world does not exist in itself. It is made real by language. Linguistic features are essential not only to communication, but to the very foundations of reality, which is what makes human reality essentially different from that of other living species who may communicate, but whose reality is fully dependent on human language. Nothing more is meant when the Bible tells us that man is the ruler of the animal kingdom. Our language determines the reality of animal existence, which is why it is more imperative than ever to take care of language in order to protect animal rights. Language has a divine origin, that is to say, it takes place between individuals, between languages, and between cultures. What IS, the Jahweh of the Old Testament (I am Who I Am), has being only in language and that means between entities.
There is no reality beyond language. The pre-Christian Jews knew this to be true, which is why they based their life, culture, and traditions, in other words what makes an ethnicity, on one book, the Torah. This tradition is unprecedented and is really only seen among pre-Christian Jews and later among the Christian nations, which founded their societies on one book, the Bible. With Christ the linguistic reality principle of absolute domination of the world through language was passed onto heathen cultures. This is why different linguistic groups produce different environments. By the same token, however, all post-Christian systems based on a more diffuse form of language and on later books, like the Quran and the countless Marxist systems of organization and world order, are reduced to instrumentality, that is a closing off of language, in a sense the deadening of language, the closure of its present and its future. ONLY IN CHRIST does language remain living, forver changing, and reflective of the deepest, most profound transformations humanity undergoes, because, unlike the later examples, the Gospel represents an open linguistic system. It is wrong to understand humans as mere representatives of ethnicities, because ethnicity is subaltern, that is lacking linguistic expression, animalistic. Post-Christian systems like Islam and Marxism reduce language to an animalistic functionality and close off its divine attributes: an open future and the infinite play of the signifier between subjects it requires.
Language creates environments. Christ changed the languages of the world by introducing one basic principle: the establishment of human interiority. To be sure, the Greeks and Romans had the notion of a subject and an emotional interior, but these concepts were only made meaningful in relation to their dialectical opposite, the world of objects. Yet in Greco-Roman thought the world of objects is absolutely independent of human subjectivity. Not so in the gospel where the Word is accorded absolute primacy in the creation of human reality. In ancient Jewish and in Christian thought, interiority is purely linguistic, that is, neither object nor subject, but pure language, pure medium. As such it is absolutely protected from objectivation and understanding in human systems of knowledge and science. It is this sacredness of the interior that changed Christian languages to the core. The verb “to be” for example was suppressed in systems of knowledge and replaced with bridge structures as in the suppression of the linking grammatical structure known as copula, the verb “to be,” in the English language. The emptying of Being, Jahwen, which is inherent in the copula, is not an emptying of content, but only of the certainty of existence that is fixed in human language. In other words, God dwells between signifiers, in a rarefied state of language where it is not merely fulfilling the utilitarian functions of communication and memorization of knowledge.
Simply put, whereas pre- and post-Christian heathen systems of signification and morality are completely external and require total submission to a law that becomes reality precisely at the moment it falls to its death, language IN CHRIST refers to interior reality, which is much subtler, sophisticated, sublimated, and ultimately unavailable to vulgar linguistic structures that operate at the animalistic or instrumental level. Nothing more is meant by the final commandment to love God and one’s brethren as oneself. It bespeaks the interiorization of the law, the re-making of the law as subjectivity, the emotional substance that binds us to the world of existence and to others. The space between us is dominated by God. Reducing a human being to their political group is the equivalent of murder in God’s eyes.
Don’t live your political identity. Live your passions, the forum within that gives Christ a place to BE, and express this being in your care for your linguistic environment. It is foolishness and folly to speak before we listen, but not because Proverbs say so, rather because we thus rob ourselves of the air of love we need to live and prosper. To hear between the lines what another brethren has to say is to give them love, the love we need to breathe. For giving is receiving!
Reducing a human being to their political representation is the most malignant form of the folly of gossip. Private gossip may rob a person of their peace, but the political usurpation of their will and voice is the equivalent of social murder. Political groups are nothing more than death cults that require their members to discard their individual existence, unless they share a confession that respects the rights of the individual such as the Christian confession when it is practiced in conformity with the gospel. Even the Church has been guilty of reducing its members to political bodies at certain times in its history, but that is a separate problematic.
In the history of Christianity, gossip occupies an interesting locus for social communication. It evolved gradually from a vice, an unhealthy and destructive form of social interaction, to a sophisticated tool of verbalizing and articulating inner experience. The development of the stage monologue, for example, offered a fictitious peep into the inner world of sinners. The (early) modern stage character evolved from and inherited the characteristics of the medieval allegorical figure of vice. Bodies of work that were devoted to exploring the interior of these characters like Shakespeare’s ultimately gave rise to the now nearly extinct but once mighty and crucial to the development of the modern sciences literary canons of the the Christian vernacular languages.
In literary genres gossip is a form of knowledge. Literature elevated, purified, and sublimated gossip, which eventually gave rise to the human sciences of psychology and psychoanalysis. Today yellow press gossip still functions as a tool for the design and representation of the interior dimension of human experience in a world that doesn’t have one. In this form, gossip still serves the articulation of interiority, but it often lacks the self-awareness and sophistication of its fine literary counterparts. Much worse is the usurpation of this form of communication by external political platforms, which constitutes a regression to pre-Christian linguistic being that not only annihilates the possibility of literary expression, but also imprisons linguistic structures within structures of power. Christ liberated language from power structures, but identity politics re-root linguistic being in political power. Once the mass media degraded the literary forms of gossip to tools of political propaganda, it was forced into regression to its function of silencing the voice of the other it performed in pre-Christian times. The loss of fine literature is also a massive setback for mental health. Identity politics is a very unhealthy vice that threatens the very fabric of social harmony.
Despite the loud insistence of the mass media on dehumanizing the President of a free country, do not damage your psychological health by falling in that trap. Maintain your dignity and the dignity of the person they dehumanize. Refuse to participate, refuse folly, listen to your internal voice, and love against the odds.
“And in the same disc of the sun shines the face of Jesus Christ,” Odilon Redon. Plate X in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1888. Lithograph
The Bible is not a complete book. The hearts of the human disciples of Christ are the sacred chambers where Holy Writ is completed. Every testament, every individual reading of the Bible matters and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, that is, by God himself.
Our interiors are made up of our personal biographical memories, which are largely structured by the Seven Sacraments of the Church, whether we know it or not.
Each interior is unique as we are confronted with an endless variety and variables of human experience, which is why every biography is precious and dear to our Lord. It is irreplaceable and irreproducible.
The testament we leave for posterity is a pale record of the true reality of our lived experience, but nevertheless the building block for the materialization and manifestation of Christian being in the world. It articulates the individual contribution to the communion of Saints. We owe the Church not only taxes and donations, but our life works, our individual testaments, which enrich the Christian community with knowledge, beauty, and emotional splendour.
The Vatican, earthly center of Christian civilization and symbol of Church Unity
Disciples of Christ Today
Joining a Church community is important for maintaining Christian power and leverage in an increasingly hostile world. Church practices are losing ground in traditional strongholds. Christian thought has been expelled from all university disciplines. Christian intellectuals have shrunk enormously in numbers. The few who have been allowed to participate in contemporary intellectual discussions are severely restricted. The role they have been allotted is already pre-packaged and pre-determined by other overarching discourses. As a result Christian thinkers are not present as active interlocutors and agents of knowledge on the intellectual scene. Their influence is very limited.
Given these sad historical developments, it is paramount that the remaining Churches reunite and individual members renew their commitment to the Bride of the Lamb. The Church represents the Christian communion of Saints directly. Each Christian must understand himself as part of the greater body of the Church, which spans all times and historical epochs and consists of the community of Saints.
Sacramental culture has been essential in establishing the cultural reality of the Christian world. Participating in the sacraments is our first duty as Christians. Our contribution to Church culture is also the cornerstone of our lives, which are structured by the sacraments. Our biographies wouldn’t make sense without our participation in the sacraments.
Rogier van der Weyden, The Seven Sacraments The Christian Life is structured by the sacraments, at the center of which is the crucifixion and the ensuing principal sacrament of mourning (the following post will focus on cultural production and the central sacrament)
Literary Testament, Individual Testament
Though we are required to remain in the Church, the living word of God only becomes complete in our interiors. Mechanical participation in rituals and sacraments would be meaningless if we don’t let God dwell richly in our innermost being.
God’s love unfolds in the interior of the disciple of Christ. We read in the Gospel that God dwells inside us. He sets up His Kingdom in the innermost spaces of our being. This also means that the unique labyrinth every Christian heart represents is an exclusive world fashioned after God’s image and resonating with God’s being.
Every Christian leaves a testament of some kind. Some leave books, poetry, or memoirs, others leave buildings, gardens, scholarly studies, or designs, still others leave athletic records and media, works of art and fashion, etc, the list goes on as there are endless ways of leaving a testament.
What is important in leaving a testament, however, is not how well it was received at the time of its making and presentation, nor how closely it conformed to the highest technical standards of the times, which become obsolete all too quickly, but how richly they let God’s word resonate in them and how well they accommodate the Living Word.
It is not by chance that the arts and sciences were developed and thrived on Christian soil. Christians understand the value of their work as service to God, service to others, but above all as an expression of the most precious gift we receive, the baptism in the spirit, which is absolutely unique for individual Christians.
What kind of testament are you leaving? How do we understand our interior worlds? How do we develop individual reading practices?
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (c 1524) by Parmigianino
The modern age developed a unique form of literary arts, which lifted the curtain on an endlessly rich and elaborate interior human world. Since most testaments are written and since all testaments begin to mean something only once they become articulated in language, it is important to understand literature as sacred testament and not simply as profane commodity. Stay tuned for the Biblical and sacramental theory of literature as a personal and sacred testament. Literature upholds a standard designed to aid and support individual testaments, not to replace or annihilate them.
Christ separates God’s from Caesar’s Province. Please note, Christ is the MEDIUM between the two provinces, the one below and the one above. The Coin of Caesar, Domingo Sequeira 1790
God’s Letter to us
God’s letter to every individual, the Gospel, speaks differently to each of us. It echoes the unique internal landscape and architecture each of us carries inside. It is infinitely satisfying to read, interpret, and marvel at the beauty of the revelations held in scripture, but Biblical reading on its own is as fruitless as living and reading without the guiding light of God’s word.
Just as much as we are children of God we are dust of the earth, that is, transient, instinctive, natural beings. In an environment where government, academic, medical, and legal institutions have abandoned Biblical teachings and have adopted the single dimension of creaturely existence, it is difficult to find anyone remotely interested in following the Bible. But the truth is, most who do crack it open and begin to engage in its truth, end up cutting themselves off from worldly formats and ways of living.
The truth is, living with the Bible and living in contemporary historical reality are not mutually exclusive, but they do require a complete commitment to scriptural interpretation.
A good metaphor for the relationship between the Christian self and the worldly self, both of which dwell inside us, is the contrast between a natural reserve and a garden.
The garden is designed architecturally, styled, and groomed observing the conventions of art, technology and design appropriate to the historical era of its creation. The natural elements are no longer wild and purely creaturely, but re-created by a human mind and hand. Nature is sublimated in the garden creation, elevated to another dimension of existence that is recorded in books and other media. Based on these records a garden may be maintained for indefinite time. The garden immortalises transient, fallen nature, and displays the splendor and glory of the biblical elements of human existence. It does not dispose of creaturely natural elements, but uses them as a painter uses a pallet, as the basic elements of a human creation that supplants them.
To be true Christians we must do the same with the instincts we bear inside and the reality we face outside. History in and of itself is no different than nature. It is driven by natural and instinctive life cycles and transient living forms. At the same time, history is the path we travel toward Biblical revelations. In other words, the Gospel is the garden that sublimates and immortalises historical material existence. This also means there are as many historical realities as there are individual human interiors.
It is no accident that the only surviving historical recording systems hail from Christian societies. The Greco-Roman world, which also led historical records, became extinct and was resurrected in the Renaissance only due to the diligent efforts of Christians who preserved and ordered its archive, keeping much of its teachings alive in its own doctrines and in medieval scholasticism. The passion of St. Jerome for classical philosophical pleasures was never extinguished in Christian thought and became quite perilous and disproportionately powerful in the fading modern age.
The existing formats of what we have recently come to understand as the Deep State, a perilous new formation threatening the communicative nature of democracy, should be approached as natural, instinctive formations. Since most of us have to function in some fashion in the real world, we can’t avoid these formats, but we can frame and contain them within the province of Biblical teachings. This is the form of webevangelism I want to propose to you.
There are plenty webevangelists who perform the basic task of delivering scriptural wisdom in its raw, unadulterated form, but few to none that engage our contemporary — often unpleasant and ugly — realities. Most Churches today preach abstinence from the political process, but is that indeed what Christ counselled? Can we ignore Caesar or the priestly castes?
Since Christ intimated the separation of Caesar’s and God’s provinces (Matthew 22), Christians have been confronted with a choice between two masters and two realities. Christ was certainly not advocating a double existence and a divided conscience, one abiding by the laws and systems of the historical-political reality in which we find ourselves, and the other the Biblical reality of God’s rest: eternal peace and unity in Christ. If we make a decision to devote our life and works to Caesar’s world, then we will inevitably subject Biblical reality to Caesar’s reality. If, on the other hand, we choose God, we subject Caesar to God. The Chalcedonian rulers of Europe understood this very well and willingly subjected themselves to God’s Word.
Deep State Theocracy and Elite M
Chalcedonians are not to be confused with theocracies, which represent a social order run by elites, by an entire class of priests who have usurped the right to know and interpret God’s word. The Deep State today is a theocracy, though it claims the God it serves is a No-God, atheism. In fact, we have regressed to non-Roman, ungodly, pre-Christian times when the priestly – now academic – castes determined the rule of the land. The current global political architecture is absolutely denying Christ and European Christian experience and history.
In contrast, the Chalcedonian kings, had accepted Christ as their personal savior and recognized only the authority of God’s Letter to the gentile nations, the Gospel. Of course, Church and Crown worked very closely together, but the main tool of their collaboration was communication through the Word of God, not an administrative network determined by the priestly-academic caste as we do today. The Chalcedonian were incredibly successful and managed to develop the most sophisticated cultural networks and recording systems known to humanity, the European humanities until the French Revolution. In the center was human individuality. Chalcedonian kings comprise the subject matter of the entire Shakespearean canon, which unfolds the richness and beauty of human consciousness and places it at the center of political power. This kind of apotheosis of humanity is unthinkable in our contemporary global theocracy.
Are we walking in Christ’s shoes?
It may appear that the formats of the deep state and the elite media who have appointed themselves global rulers of every nation today have placed evangelists and webevangelists in the position of the Christ once again. It may appear that our hands are bound by these formats, but that is not true. The Christ came already. We are not facing another crisis. Jahweh’s promise to us is as good and true as His promise ever was.
The current ruling castes and systems are creaturely and as all natural creation they will pass. Like silent nature and the silent animal kingdom they worship as their god, they cannot save themselves, because they do not possess God-given language. The ruling elite only has the system language of natural science and the bureaucracies derived from natural scientific knowledge. These formats area absolutely transient and will go to dust.
It is up to us, Christians, evangelists, and webevangelists to save the remains of the deep state, elite media, and the secular academic archive. It is up to us to interpret their legacy in accordance with God’s architecture, the sublimated edifice to which Christ ascended. It is up to us to frame them and preserve their contribution to life on earth. This requires forgiveness, because they did throw us under a bus and because they have banished Christian thought.
Media of Forgiveness and Testimony
By forgiveness Christ never meant forgetting the evil done, but rather understanding that it belongs to the order of the snake that tempted Eve. The order of the snake preceded Him on the pole of knowledge at the center of human understanding. This is the order of fallen nature. By forgiveness Christ meant neutralizing material nature, understanding it is dumb and deaf, understanding it is condemned to return to the dust from whence it came. By forgiveness and testimony, Christ meant rising above and beyond good and evil to frame and glorify fallen nature and its earthly remains as God’s creation in our TESTIMONY. This does not mean submitting to evil, serving its formats, or even participating in their evil doing, but it does mean representing it with grace as something past and gone, as something transient, because we were chosen to carry its memory in eternity.
Art and politics have never had an easy relationship, because their goals are fundamentally at odds with each other. Political establishments strive to reach and universalize philosophical standards in the domains they govern, despite or even in opposition to Biblical teachings. Art by definition exceeds human and technological standards to enrich existence with new realities and new creation. Since its essence is the act of creation, art survives and attains victory over time and eternity only by fulfilling the living Word of the Creator, who is a triple agent: Father God, Christ the Son on the Cross, and the Holy Ghost dwelling in His children.
Though the separation of Church and State also divorced art from politics and art from the Church, the era of mass technologization complicated the role of politics in art production. It ushered in two totalitarian models of governance, which continue to vie for power over nations and the world. Their power lies entirely in the centralisation of the media outlets controlling human communication: mass print, TV, radio, all mass technological formats. The two totalitarian systems that dominated the politics of the twentieth century, communism and fascism, also dominated the greater part of art production, which is why we have so much bad but expensive art in circulation. Liberal Marxism, which sometimes goes by “communism” sometimes by “national socialism,” commissions art as propaganda tool, subordinating art and science to ideology. This liberal practice is known as politicization of art. Fascism, the conservative form of Marxism, on the other hand, uses existing art forms and standards from the past belatedly to hide the Marxist roots of its autocratic ideology. This practice of de-contextualizing and appropriating past formats and standards is also known as aestheticization of politics.
Technological advances in communication media aided the standardization of both practices of political design, the aestheticization of politics by conservative Marxists and the politicization of art by liberal Marxists. The new media like photography, film, radio, TV, and mass print allowed for an extreme centralisation of human communication, which created the totalitarian formats of twentieth century governments. The most violent and destructive century in human history showcased human inability to come to terms with its newly gained technological powers. Freud optimistically termed modern man a “prosthetic god,” which anticipated the absolutist point of view instrumental science and government still use to legitimize and steer the politics of a globalized power grid.
The personal computer and the internet are changing this reality rapidly by allowing not only for feedback from previously silenced, subaltern media consumers but for their active participation as co-producers. This reset of the technological era is yet to find resonance in politics. The 2016 US election announced a new political era that will inevitably hark back to pre- or early-modern times when the individual mattered and rulers had distinct human personalities. The free American voter, unburdened by totalitarian ideology, entrusted President Trump with the power to coin the new political standard that will reflect our new technological reality. That this development happened in the United States is no accident, as will be elaborated below.
The new technological reality requires a new political model, but since the past century largely blocked artistic development free of political slogans, we are lacking the symbolic means of articulating the new political reality. The likelihood that the US will once again lead by developing a new political idiom is very high as the country just launched an unprecedented political experiment. The “new” idiom cannot but uphold the only existing American ethical standard, which is profoundly influenced by Biblical teachings.
Turn of 21st Century America: The Great Ennui
The tedium and ennui that has plagued art production, collection, and marketing in the US is almost entirely due to the extreme unilateral politicization of American culture over the past two decades. The demand for clear collectivist political messages reduced art and science production to the simple calculus of political shorthand that stunted linguistic development, and with it quality art production. But before we can move on, we will have to clarify the structure of our social bond, which lies in communication. The bedrock of communication was and remains human language.
Rumoured mistress of Baudelaire, dazzling poet who chronicled modernity and its symptoms
Language and Art
The Eleatics, the oldest known philosophical school in Western civilization, insisted that nothing ever changes, because the laws of the physical universe and of human communication, never change. The civilization that gave birth to this belief became extinct and was replaced by a social order based on Biblical teachings. It has unfortunately once again become the standard foundational belief of our contemporary global science. Since the Renaissance Western thinkers have been gradually distancing themselves from the Bible in favour of ancient Greece, once again dooming European civilization to extinction. The truth of the matter is that ancient Greece had no knowledge of the human interior and hence a very limited understanding of language, which is the central concern of the New Testament. The liberation of the Word was announced with the Cross and the Resurrection.
In evolutionary terms, since it is our unfortunate scientific standard, the development of language takes place in the historical work of poetry. Poetry is the non-communicative, non-utilitarian form of writing, a kind of laboratory or incubator of what will become reality. The primary function of poetry is to advance language and to expand the mental capacities of linguistic being. The three modes of linguistic being are love/charity, communication, and art, as Paul writes in Corinthians.
In I Corinthians 13-14 Paul writes about the conditions, task, and purpose of charity, communication, and individual artistic talent. Charity or love is the first condition holding the social bond in place. It is conditioned and formatted by the individual relationship to God, whose love is unconditional, that is, unearned, by grace. Genuine love can neither be legislated, commanded nor calculated. Every individual pursues its course in absolutely unique fashion through his relationship to God. It is only in reference to Love (Latin Caritas) that Paul is able to render the purpose and order of human communication. In other words, in the beginning was Love (Caritas: Charity).
Sigmund Freud discovered a similar truth in his very un-biblical pseudo-scientific exploration of language. He recognized the healing properties of personal language, its life-and-death dispensing power. Freud linked physical symptoms and ailments to erroneous intra-psychic linguistic structures that impede the human capacity for love and every other social and biological function. Though most of his followers unfortunately focused on sex and sexuality, Freud, an atheist Jew who nevertheless and in spite of himself carries the intellectual DNA of Old Testamentary principles, was able to perceive what the New Testament had already revealed to followers of Christ: the power of the word and the power of love. Since Freud was unable to articulate his astounding observations as Biblical standards and principles that had nourished two millennia of Christian civilization, his science was doomed and has even fallen in disrepute today, despite its many brilliant followers.
Gustav Klimt, Beethovenfries (Detail): Poesie
Poetry is the Highest Form of Charity
The mystery Paul calls “speaking in tongues” is the gift of poetry, which, he interprets as the way the individual communicates with God. Paul encourages every Christian to be a poet and bear witness to the mysteries revealed in poetic language. In fact, poetry is the only form of personal communication with God. But this form of communication is not intended for others, for interpersonal and group communication cannot grasp the mysteries of individual poetry, which is the stuff love is made of; it glitters, dazzles, entertains, it stirs poetic and charitable impulses, but does not edify, does not instruct, and cannot console the sick and brokenhearted.
Poetry awakens love or charity, through which, Paul continues, we worship and strive to edify, instruct, and console others. Paul counsels that “prophecy” is a gift greater than poetry, because the latter establishes the individual, but the former edifies the Church. At the same time, Paul subordinates both poetry and prophecy to Love, which is the only commandment or non-commandment in the Christian gospel. Since poetry is the highest form of Love, prophecy too must follow its precedence. Submitting to external formats and philosophical standards, as totalitarian politics demanded, is a direct violation of the only Christian commandment, which is love. Respect and acknowledgement of one’s individual means of communication with God, the singular poetic idiom, is the kernel of communicating philosophical standards. This is why the development of fine literature was only possible in Christian civilisation.
The ability to communicate the Word of God clearly in a language everyone understands to build them up, to help them understand Christ’s teachings, and to sooth mental suffering is what Paul calls “prophecy.” Paul was not familiar with the rich and sophisticated poetic traditions that were developed in Rome and that continued to develop later in history. Though much scholarship has been devoted to his Greek philosophical and cultural background, in the Biblical source itself there is little support for these theories. Paul did not make much use of the ancient traditions. His phenomenological horizon is exclusively Jewish and the substance of his teachings from the epistles concern exclusively revelations from the spirit and the apostolic testaments.
Had Paul made use of Roman literary arts at all, he would have been able to name poetry among the edifying forms of communication, because poetry is the highest expression and only teacher of Love. Moreover, the ancient world did not recognize individual poetry the way we do today, but only poetry that serves the memory of the nation and the politics of the Roman empire. This is why Paul refers to the immaculate communication between God and the individual as “speaking in tongues.”
Poetry does not necessarily make its message fully legible to all, at least not until it is interpreted through the available language of Christ’s teachings. Individual poetry that has reached the stage of prophecy becomes common currency in the Church. I am not referring to physical churches and ethnocentric rituals, but to the immaculate communion of Saints, which transcends all boundaries between human institutions, languages, political bodies, and historical nations, to make up the greater body of the One Church and its multilingual heritage/memory. Historically there is only one church which embodies this principle and this is the Catholic Church, but this is another topic. Though most modern poets are considered secular, after the Middle Ages, all poetry written in the languages of the Bible, that is, all languages that received and were transformed fundamentally by Biblical teachings, represents an interpretation of the Bible.
Schubert’s musical poetic interpretation of literary sources successfully prefigured the bards of the twentieth century whose sovereign patron is the individual consumer. The British roots of American Pop Culture remain palpable in its formatting as royal service addressed to one sovereign subject, which in the unique US American democracy became every consumer/customer. The new totalitarian models of mass communication that were introduced in the US in the mid-90s are deeply dissonant with American cultural standards, which reach back to the quality pursued in Catholic European formats that designed the very foundations of the British Crown and the Church before the dawn of modernity. These formats are still making up a large unseen part of our reality.
Poetry and Prophecy in the Ancient World
In the ancient Greco-Roman system poetry and prophecy have very different meanings and purpose. Poetry is a group memory technique and prophecy concerns a very specific fate: the fulfilment of the law of the Greek city-state. The private world of the individual and the family are considered a threat to the social order and subjected to psychological trial and formatting in the public rituals of tragic spectacle. A comparative analysis of poetry and prophecy in the Biblical and the Greco-Roman contexts affords a panoramic view of the psychological function of the two modes of linguistic being. The poetic function is born in the absolute originality of human experience, which can never be shared with the community in its entirety, but provides the social glue of genuine charity/love and the material for new knowledge as well as the foundation for technological innovation. The prophetic function, on the other hand, is subordinated to the communication systems. The latter are not static. The agent driving their state of constant flux and development is the difference poetry makes in normal language use. The difference becomes the future standard of reality birthed in language.
Art between Poetry and Prophecy
Art is a form of poetry insofar as it uses common visual language to communicate solitary experience, but it is only prophetic when it inspires poetry. The concept is neither as relative nor as undecidable as contemporary art theory, largely based on visual advances of the nineteenth century, proposes. Art’s historical determinants are well documented. Their lifespan contains the limited historical horizon of artistic reference. Art is held within the two bookends of our literary civilization: the Bible and the Archive. New or creative thought has one birthplace, language, and this is doubly true for visual art. Art refers itself to language or it is doomed to extinction. The bureaucratization of language limits the possibilities for visual expansion, yet the formulas and theories of art are contained within the literary archive. In the modern setting, the structure gives birth to the content, but the only the content can reflect on the structure and birth new structures. Failing Biblical reference, modern art is doomed to tautology.
Literary Art Theory: Goethe’s Modern Standard
The literary standards of the past centuries articulated much of the essence of what later became the technical norms of the new media. In other words, the formats of modern literature allowed for the elaboration not of content, but of the future structures of communication. The best documented and most prolific philosopher and chronicler of modernity who left us an invaluable encyclopaedia of the deepest secrets of the modern mind and the modus operandi of its charity or love, J. W. Goethe, defined art as the delicate balance between state of the art technological sophistication, which is historically limited and destined for obsolescence, and the fine arts, which master and exceed it until they reach the status of new technical norm. The state of the art norm is the zenith after which a technique is doomed to decline and become obsolete. This model only applies to modern art and is derived from the modern philosophy of history, which perceives the movement of time, transience itself, as its absolute reality principle.
Goethe articulates the main principle of modern art theory: its absolute dependence on technical being. Of course to him technique was still the technical mastery required to create masterpieces, a function that would be completely colonized by the new media. The postmodern update to Goethe’s formula would position art at the difference or remainder from technical sophistication that not only becomes the next new shiny gadget you had to have for Christmas, as Goethe’s formula correctly predicts, but also enters the canon of imperishable human creation. The Christian harvest of Greco-Roman fine arts and philosophy laid the foundations of this canon and continued to develop it in the historical good works of the Church. This makes the Biblical standards the structural containers of all human works. Other pagan European and a number of non-European legacies were preserved from extinction in the same manner as the Greco-Roman heritage by their re-interpretation and archivization by the works of the Church. The formats of Biblical Christianity are the only structural means of preservation that maintain human works as living applied standards.
The Nation Bearing the Technical Standard
The birth of the USA as a nation at the height of the modern age and concurrently with the most significant technological boom in history determined the peculiar features of its identity. Unlike any other national group, the origin of US American identity is deeply intertwined with the technical media, not with tribal heritage or native traditions. Americans do not identify with land and blood, ethnicity, or heroic epics as European nations for example do. Naturally these narratives exist and persist in some form in American culture as well, but they are not structurally essential to the American identity, and function rather as Baroque ornaments. The latter render entire histories and tragic narratives in miniature allegorical compressions that serve as warnings of the perils of creaturely existence.
Because they are not bound to blood-and-earth epic narratives, Americans were free to embrace the Biblical “epic” as its deepest core and identity, while simultaneously rooting their existence in technical standards already developed by European Christianity. The constitution represents one of these formats, an unsurpassed instructions manual for governing. The United States were the nation chosen to spread the Word through the new technical means and norms. With this responsibility, however, also comes a challenge and a temptation, namely the temptation to use technical superiority and know-how to dominate others and risk their rise against Christianity and/or Jewish heritage.
Contemporary art cannot but refer itself to the American standard, precisely because the history of American identity is also the autobiography of the technical media. The twin birth of the nation and the era of mass technology meant that the US would have to bear the moral responsibility of technological being. In the twentieth century America came to embody the applied norms of the world, which is the only real power it possesses to this day. In pre-modern Europe the technical standard was largely developed and upheld by the Catholic Church, but the Great Schism of 1054 and then the Reformation significantly weakened the Church’s investment in techne and the banner was passed on to the United States, where technology became the birthplace of a nation.
It is not so much US politics and military power that have bestowed on the American nation the scepter of world rulership, but the essence of its being, which is technology. Americans and non-Americans alike are required to master the standard in the applied arts the US continues to push forward, develop, and uphold in order to project its being in the world. America is not an imperial power, for its influence is not in the political realm, but a technological power, which enables as it challenges itself and others to grow with the historical progression of time and its technical standards. Because of its linguistic heritage, the US is also deeply rooted in the formats of British Royal culture, which in a democracy were transferred onto individual members of the American family. Until the 1990s, however, the American group never placed itself above the individual, just as the crown was never subordinate to the group. The import of European totalitarian models of mass communication changed this fundamental American feature of group formation. It is up to the American individuals to reclaim the structures of a British-American linguistic being and allow its cultural forms to continue to develop historically. It is hardly in the interest of any nation or culture of the world to stunt the development of any cultural-linguistic body, and especially one with a rich literary tradition such as English.
The significant weakening of American formats in the last couple of decades manifested itself as extreme politicisation of the country, which invested all of its resources in political power and dreams of world domination while abandoning its own technical standards in favour of setting foreign political benchmarks. The 2016 election clearly decried this development and exposed a deep-seated discontent with the political direction of the country. This is neither surprising nor unnatural, since the nation that was founded by the technological media was suddenly pressed in the service of outdated power-structures hailing from the European continent, namely Marx’s unfortunate misinterpretation of modern industrial relations as heirs of ancient power structures like imperial Roman rule and master-slave rule.
What technology enabled in fact was a complete emancipation from ancient imperial power structures. Marx, following Hegel’s Napoleonic system, unfortunately re-routed industrial relations in the old thought patterns and initiated a very destructive political theatre, which undermined American technology-based democracy, that is, a democracy that is structured less by ideas and more by the means and models of applied communication in the hands of private persons. Since traditionally America was settled by devout Christians escaping religious persecution in Europe, the standard of communication has always been Biblically measured, that is, structured by Biblically prescribed forms of human relations and communication.
If the energy of the 2016 election maintains its strength, and by all signs and indications it is gaining rather than losing momentum, we can expect a rebirth of the American standard in applied art. Political activism will likely wane among true artists, for whom the relationship to the medium is of far greater psychological value than the relationship to power and community, and art will once again seek its poetic and prophetic idiom as it did during the decades when it reflected and re-created technical media output in the works of the Pop Art movement. Pop was caught dead in its tracks by the lesser works of political activism motivated by crudely articulated political identities, not by a profound, authentic, and deeply personal investment in the medium. Art will again offer the human response to technical being from the very depths of its charitable-libidinal, not political-narcissistic identity.
— Warhol The Factory
After the Flirt with Totalitarian Politics
Language is already absorbing the shock of propaganda violence perpetrated by the political class over the past two decades by breaking it down into ironic ready-mades for the pop culture idiom. President Trump, in whom the American nation placed its trust unanimously, will likely be the first American president to influence art profoundly by re-prioritising the protection of the Christian faith and by restoring the Biblical foundations of the nation that bears the standard of technology.
When the Visigothic ruler Receswinth offered a crown, an attribute of governance, as a votive object, now housed in Madrid, he set a precedent in the world that has been unbroken to this day, namely the promise-become-reality that any ruler who protects the Christian faith will be granted enormous grace, influence, and historical staying power. The European monarchies were not successful and did not achieve the highest level of sophistication in culture, science, and technology by the sheer power of their political structure nor by theocratic despotism, but by the sheer grace of God. His protection is guaranteed to any ruler, monarchic or constitutional, who embraces and guards the freedoms afforded by the Christian faith and acts in the best conscience of its teachings. Monarchies that failed to protect the faith like Byzantium, the Balkan medieval kingdoms, and most recently Austria, and fell to non-Christian — mostly Islamic — rulers and dictators, were doomed for varying periods of time to cultural stagnation and near-extinction.
In 2016 the American people voted for Christ and for the preservation of their civilisation. We can expect a rebirth of self-reflexive, intelligent Christian art, personal testaments fashioned after the highest standards of technological design. Left alone and de-politicised, technology — not political ideological, financial, economic, or medical systems — will dictate the new “political” reality in the world. For a man is not created to eat and sleep alone, but thrives and survives through communication, what Paul called “poetry and prophecy.”
The role President Trump is expected to play on the historical political stage is to protect the Christian faith and to liberate the pure standard of applied art from the need to serve earthly political powers, making it available to individual citizens, enterprises, and individual nations. Freeing the Word of the totalitarian formats of the twentieth century and once again allowing art to become prophecy will inevitably unleash the power of poetry to awaken love and charity in the hearts of worldwide humanity. The technical standard, unlike the current narcissistic norms of identity politics dominating the art and media world, will push language to make a qualitative evolutionary leap. Rather than lord it over a diminished and instrumentally reduced humanity, the “prosthetic god” will liberate the English language from the political formats of totalitarian rule, and give private persons and individual nations once again the opportunity to enrich human experience with their unique and beautiful presence.
What Might Prophetic Art Look Like
Here is an example of prophetic art from Europe at the turn of the twentieth century (in the live version the colours are luminous and the forms reverberating, a truly masterful execution of “presence”):
Paul Klee Allegorical Figure
Swiss painter Klee was one of the prophetic artists of high modernity whose keen perception captured profound substrata of the structural linguistic reality of human existence. Reducing an allegorical figure to its self-referential aesthetic category, allegory as such, and truncating it into structural splinters prophesied the fragmentation of the human psyche through technological mass formats in the politically red twentieth century, which not only emptied human experience of its interior, but delivered the human psyche to nearly total control by the centralised organs of communication. In traditional allegories, the figure represents sin and temptation, which, as Christ testifies (Mark 7), are born in the interior and cannot be legislated from without by forbidding certain goods or by prescribing certain behaviours or medical and psychiatric treatments. The truncated psyche is unable to integrate its parts and becomes a conglomerate of fragments produced by the very structure of sin and death. It is in a state of interminable mourning over its lost possibility for integration.
Thankfully technology evolved and the Personal Computer once again allowed the individual to re-integrate the broken pieces of the twentieth century psyche and re-gain independence and prepotence over its design and expression. The political formats, as always, will follow the technological formats, because the latter are not beholden to any single political power, but are independently driven by the Living Word of living communication.
What prophetic works the artists of today and tomorrow might produce is infinitely variable and impossible to predict, but two coordinates are certain: technical standard and prophecy. The new masterpieces, for there is no doubt after the 2016 election artists on both sides of the Atlantic will return to the masterpiece, which preceded and will succeed the political formatting of the twentieth century, will first, measure up to the most sophisticated techniques available in the chosen medium and second, they will engage in prophecy. In other words, technical standard and prophecy are the two constants we can expect from the future of art.
The future, whatever it may hold, is announced by the Holy Spirit that inhabits the interior worlds of poets, visual, verbal, or both, who have opened their minds and hearts to receive Christ’s message, not in an abstract, empty or purely private form, but as a charitable acceptance of the will of the people. As the old saying goes, vox populi vox dei. The task is not only to deliver the future, but also to preserve even the most tainted and most severely repressed technical legacy, like that of the twentieth century, as a living archive that can enjoy continuation and future life. Klee’s shimmering, vibrant figure is a wonderful example of the prophetic masterpiece that changed reality. It endures because it dazzles and prophecies with startling buoyancy despite the deadly weight of its content.
Botticelli, The banquet in the forest , Prado, Madrid
Romeo and Juliet’s Marriage
The most profound, unlikely and graceful aspect of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” is its award envelope, the covenant of marriage. A plot driven by a grisly engine of death and sexual violence unveils a stunning portrait of incomparable beauty, the good and faithful work of Romeo and Juliet’s wedding. The twin work of poetry and marriage shares a common heart, a counter engine to creaturely death, in its quest to re-create and immortalize the heavenly joys of marital bliss.
The Freudian concept of “work” and the Heideggerian concept of “enframing,” which refers to the phenomenological horizon of presence (Wesen) and being (reality), illuminate a rich analysis of both, the work of dramatic poetry and the work of marriage. The object of enframing is the seminal tragedy of the play Shakespeare wrote in the final decade of the Cinquecento in London, which he based on an imported Italian tale of an ill-starred vendetta. The “enframing” linguistic horizon of the tragic spectacle of star-crossed love, is the Divine Comedy of the Book of Revelations, which concludes the cyclical Biblical narrative with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
Defining Public Spaces: Tragedy, Marriage, and Public Health
Coming from a public health background recently I also consider “tragedy” in terms of its use of ex-votos. The pinax or votive tablets of ancient Greece were often used to drape and dress the stage of tragic sacrifice. As a public sacrifice of individual moral and familial deviation tragedy is harmful to public health. Ex votos are traditionally delivered as thanksgiving for healing, that is, as tokens of conformity and a testaments of aberration from the health norms of the public.
Corinthian votive tablet (Pinax), about 575-550 b.C.
The tragic process is a process of corpse production. The re-creation of the corpse saves it, along with the significance of its experience for the enrichment of public life and public health. The work of marriage, like all works of poetry elevates as it sublimates the work of death, which is the mode of production of all creation.
The word “work” in my reading refers both
–to the Biblical sense of works as that by which a man is judged
— and as a work of poetry in the Heideggerian sense I draw from his reading of the Greek term techne in “The Question of Technology”(1950). The essence of being, any being, is a product of technology. Poetry is techne.
The definition of works as products of technology is supported by Heidegger’s insistence on the reality building capacity of poetry as the ultimate source and maker of the world. The object Heidegger is concerned with is not a natural object, but a human work of language.
Human works are re-creations, not originals, but they are crucial to preservation, which the Bible calls saving grace. To save something is to steal it from death, from its creaturely estate. Products of human sublimation make up the world we inhabit and determine its recurring reality.
Techne and Recurrence
Heidegger’s unhistorical understanding of techne as the poetry of being and the Biblical teleology unveiled in Revelations share the same cyclical temporality of recurrence. What recurs is the moment when works are judged for conservation or destruction.
Their judgment is not human. It is a reality test, coextensive with divine judgment. Heidegger’s experiment can be concluded with a theorization of divine judgment. Nature saves and preserves the works of God’s creation, but the works of man undergo judgment. In Revelations the final judgment is both a Wedding Feast, of the Lamb to his Bride, the Church, and an apocalypse. In other words, some works are judged good and therefore recur to establish being and time, and some become condemned sites.
The Biblical point of return is feminine, because it is a work of love. It is marked by the ritual of marriage as the life-giving source of meaning and the techne of biographical memory.
Marriage as Eternal Telos
Though not the final event in the chronology of the five acts, marriage is nevertheless the eternal telos and the source of internal illumination of the tragedy. Every lasting work contained in the dramatic poem “Romeo and Juliet,” be it a trope of learned contemplation, a strophe of seduction, an image of vice, a portrait of virtue, or an eloquent philosophical argument, is a work of the holy union between the two young lovers, since it takes its significance directly from the event of their union in the chapel.
Ex Voto and Effigy
The two golden statues pledged by the survivors at the end are an eloquent effigyand a kind of ex voto offered for the healing of the families, whose strife had condemned their generation to mortal sin:
Effigy of Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587
Capulet: O brother Montague, give me thy hand./ This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more/ Can I demand
Montague: But I can give thee more/ For I will raise her statue in pure gold,/ That whiles Verona by that name is known,/ There shall no figure at such rate be set/ As that of true and faithful Juliet.
Old Montague is pledging an ex voto that won’t bring his child back, but will serve to establish the identity of Verona, much like Thebes rests on the bones of the royal family of King Oedipus. This belongs to the tragic formatting of the poem. The marriage bond, coextensive as it is with the dramatic work, exceeds the Greek tragic format of both the sacrifice of the young lives and the identity of the city. The play contains the flower of their bond. Like the golden effigy pledged by Old Capulet, it is their true living legacy that will not only leave the walls of Verona, but also of London and go on a worldwide journey to attend the moment of eternal recurrence that Revelations call “The Wedding Feast of the Lamb,” when all victims are “raised again.”
Unlike Thebes, their tragedy does not become the tragedy of Verona, but remains the incomparably beautiful and beloved legacy of Romeo and Juliet, who then, like wandering stars, set off on a journey worldwide. The vehicle that sets them on a journey of global circulation is not the death of the creaturely phenomenological horizon, but love enframed by marriage.
St. Rita’s Legacy and the Union with the Lamb
The Saint of the Italian vendettas is St. Rita. The mortal rivalries plagued Italian youths for centuries and re-rooted the otherwise Christian belief system that prevailed on the peninsula in the ancient rituals of blood sacrifice. St. Rita was married off into a powerful family involved in a vendetta when she was only 13, the age of Juliet. She lost her husband to the vendetta and was about to lose her sons, but they were “spared” by untimely death by sickness. Rita took that as a sign that her prayers had worked. She knew no greater death than the damnation awaiting her sons if they were to commit the mortal sin of murder in the course of the vendetta.
Her faith was so enormous that she managed to reconcile the families and bore patiently a permanent wound in her forehead. Rita refused to let the wound heal. She believed every symptom, suffering, and trial we endure brings us closer to union with the Lamb.
Mortification of the Flesh in Marriage
This is another aspect of the Wedding Feast mentioned in Revelations: every work brought for judgement to the Feast, like the ex votos carried to the tragic stage or to the holy shrine, has to overcome some unique form of suffering, which sin roots in mortality. The vendettas are an obvious example. This gives the doctrine of mortification of the flesh a new and very special meaning.
Rita of Cascia’s wound never healed. She bore it fervently and was able to perform minor miracles of healing through the sheer power of her personality. Notorious in Cascia during her lifetime she became the patron saint of the city.
Today she is known as the Saint of improbable causes, the most improbable being faith itself.
French postwar painter Ives Klein dedicated his ex-voto to St. Rita in an act of defiance of the materialism of the art market. The sacraments dedicate all Christian works to sanctified love, even if it is not of one’s own marital bond. This is a very interesting moment in Christian thought palpable in Shakespeare. Ex-votos renounce the individuality of the symptom, yet for artists they take on the meaning of devotional objects in circulation. Thus marriage becomes the unique setting for the articulation of individuality. The circulability of works is a mark of common currency that guarantees their exchange value. It is finite and creaturely. The story they tell of suffering humanity on its journey to the wedding feast is in excess of tragic formatting. Marriage is the techne of love, the transformation and sublimation of the apple of original sin.
The Beautiful People
Rene Magritte, Le Beau Monde, 1960
The apple in Le Beau Monde is not a physical apple, but a two-dimensional image. The image recoups transient creation. But Magritte takes the act and product of painting itself as his object. He removes the proverbial apple, the source of temptation and ultimate object of original sin, twice from its fallen physical state. His is not a mere image of an ordinary apple, but an image that points to its second nature as image and a sublimated object. It is conscious of being a mirror within a mirror.
Magritte takes the apple of original sin out of its context in the natural world and then also removes it from the context of the technical world of painting. Magritte goes a step beyond Heidegger. Its pure technical essence consists of a few brushstrokes, colour, paint, and canvas (the elements in Ives Klein’s ex voto). Magritte sublimates the very materiality of the medium of representation and achieves a new level of sublimation at a time in history when his medium, painting, has become stale and desublimated as a cultural artefact.
A point of recurrence punctuates the transition from old to new techne. Nietzsche and the Odyssey place recurrence in the feminine province of love. Christian thought will make it its fundamental reality principle by making the Wedding of the Lamb the goal and point of recurrence of the Divine Comedy.
At a time when painting an apple has become an ordinary act, Magritte sublimates the crude, material act of painting by removing it one metaphysical level further from the origin.
Magritte, Son of Man, 1964
Magritte’s later work The Son of Man takes this self-reflexive process of sublimation even further. He paints his self-portrait as Christ and covers it with the trivialized image of an apple. The face we put in circulation in social circles is neither original nor unique. It hides the real face with a pre-fabricated image, a product of old cultural processes of sublimation that have been automated in their production of ‘individual’ identities.
Sublimation re-channels and re-creates the symbolic pathways of raw creaturely desire. A form of mourning that dispenses with the negative half of emotional ambivalence toward the dead, it does not deny nor conceal the loss.
New linguistic and artistic shapes and beings arise from basic instincts, movements and emotions when the natural object is withdrawn.
Between Death and Sublimation: Reality Tasting, Feasting, Consuming
Titian, Noli Me Tangere, 1514
In the gospel of John 20, Jesus appears in the flesh on the evening of the first day of the week and admonishes Mary Magdalene, whom he finds weeping next to his empty tomb, not to touch him.
The new testament achieves another marriage, that of the Greco-Roman and the Jewish heritage flowing into one world of love’s works. The conclusive event, the wedding feast of the Lamb, however, is neither final, nor singular, nor historical. Since it represents the ultimate telos, it is also the point of its eternal recurrence.
Freud introduced the term “sublimation” as a model for the psychological reality of Ovidian epic, which is metamorphosis. For Freud reality is the product of a process of testing in the wake of death, caesura, or permanent loss.
Judgment is also a kind of caesura and death. It withholds something of great value and disrupts the fabric of life in the psychological world of the subject. Reality testing is a form of mourning and repair of the damage inflicted by traumatic loss. It covers the period during which the mourner has to confirm the loss as real.
It is significant that Jesus does not allow Mary to touch him, not because she is doubting his resurrection like Thomas will, but because she must establish the reality of his death. The interruption constitutes the meaning-giving caesura. It is the moment of re-creation. The time of re-collection of the works, human and divine, fills the presence of the departed. Here it is the presence of Christ. This is the time when reality is made. The period between death and resurrection represents the psychological timeframe of reality testing, which establishes the core reality principle. It is a time of material absence, literally untouchable by the senses: “noli me tangere.”
What returns is the essence and internal being of the departed. Their transformed, reconfigured presence is re-collected from the good works. In the case of St. Rita of Cascia it is the famous rose that grew in the barren winter garden of her family home.
The Good Husband
Romeo is a melancholic. He is deeply entangled in the pleasures of metamorphosis. In fact, we first encounter him in a sycamore grove, mourning Rosaline an inch too deeply to be psychologically healthy. The sycamore is a symbol of aberrant forms of love well known to artists. An artist who delights in the sweet pleasures of parting, Romeo is also very skilled with the rapier. Romeo is Shakespeare, an indulgent and glamorous self-portrait. Poets, like good husbands, glory in the art and passion of departure.
This kind of passion is not unaccounted for in the Bible. In fact, it is central. When Jesus admonishes the Magdalene not to touch him, He also says that he is not yet ascended to the Father. Not yet ascended, He is in the space between death and reunion. The moment of eternal recurrence is the birthplace of earthly reality in its human essence, that is, as constitutive of human presence. In a sense we are always already ghosts.
“Noli me tangere” refers to the fundamental principle of Christian reality, which means beyond mortality and the mortal creaturely essence. Untouchable and unavailable to the immediacy of the creaturely senses, the immaterial reality of sublimation structures the sacramental experience of Shakespeare’s works.
Romeo and Juliet’s problem is one of oral impatience, as Freud would call it. Impatience impedes their ability to process the absence of the other. Their response to the reality of banishment is exactly to disobey the commandment: noli me tangere. Their failure initiates a relentless cycle of death: Mercutio, Tybald, Paris, Romeo, and Juliet.
Jesus appears to the Magdalene on the evening of the first day of the week. Sunday evening is the pregnant time before the workweek begins. It represents symbolically the time of conception of works. Sunday is a time of recurrence and repetition. Because it is the day God rested, it is empty of His creation and filled with the human works of love, invention and re-creation. All flowers and fruits of marriage belong to Sunday, from children to the dazzling sepulchre of Romeo and Juliet.
Juliet’s passion, her unique suffering is not initiated by murder as Romeo’s, but by a transgression against the name. The function of the name changes in the Christian experience. Christ’s sword delivers the cut of self-difference. The introduction of Biblical thought to the Greco-Roman cultural foundation changed the tragic dis-articulation of family identity by making a further division within the family. ” Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.35For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’c (Matthew 10:34-36). Recreation introduces self-difference, absent in tragic sacrifice.
In language, the individuality dwells in the spaces between signifiers. Difference is the origin of poetry and the idiomatic calculus of unique interiors. In the endless chatter of language, a caesura introduces the breaking point where Christ’s sword cuts the self in two to introduce divine presence. Heidegger calls this presence techne. This healing cut vouchsafes the unique truth and being of the individuality. St. Rita’s attachment to her wound understood this profoundly. The sacramental use of the name altered its function from an objective unit in the chain of signifiers, whose meaning is guaranteed by blood lineage or by the nomos in Greco-Roman logic, to a guardian of unique suffering. It is the portal between language and internal infinity.
Juliet’s raw desire erases the name and precipitates regression to Greek tragic formatting. Violation of the limit built into the name initiates a relentless cycle of tragic annihilation.
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself. (R&J II.ii.38-48)
The limit Juliet fails is the name. This purely linguistic operation erases Romeo’s and her own humanity. It is her wound, moreover, that makes her frantic but futile actions an engine of greater hunger for what she cannot have because it is already inside.
Her wound initiates an endless mourning ritual we still engage with pleasure. In the tragic format of the tale, the names of the young lovers, the very names they erased in their youthful passion, remain the monument of their union for all eternity: Romeo and Juliet. Their mortal passion becomes their passport to the global systems of circulation.
Circulation (to be continued)
Paul Klee, Sirens of Ships, 1917
Paul Klee’s 1917 image of the Sirens of Ships is an interesting commentary on the psychology of global circulability, epic transformation, and adultery. The Sirens represent the Bard Homer, whose song of war glory tempts men away from their work of marriage. Sirens beckon with the adulterous temptations Odysseus had to conquer on his long journey home to his spouse, Penelope. But unlike the Sirens of war, the crossed stars of Romeo and Juliet keep testing our works for their fitness to grace the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Reality testing and tasting is an endless work of epic transformation and sublimation.