The cultivation of childhood goes back to Mother Mary’s profound transformation of family culture.
We don’t see such enormous emphasis on the representation and refinement of nursery culture before her magnificent historic feat. The Greco-Romans were into adolescence and adolescent sexuality, but had no appreciation and no use for childhood. Children were treated more or less as slaves.
Christianity begins to invest in their individuation and recognition of their interior lives. This alone may have stimulated the enormous technological advances that were made in the Middle Ages and which led to the industrial revolution that improved the quality of life globally.
For writers, the reference to child subjectivity is among the endless sources of inspiration and productivity. In childhood lie the endless treasures of Mnemosyne that feed their productivity and inspiration.
Picasso was one of those eternally child-like artists who delighted in representing his own playful imagination in nearly every work he produced.
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.
Heidegger modified the concept of the traditional philosophical term “object” to account for the new objects of technology by shifting the emphasis to the more general term “thing.” Forgetting the techno-philosophical background of the term’s origin in Heidegger’s thought trajectory, Lacan applies it, nevertheless correctly, to the psychoanalytic object of desire, making the thing a creation ex nihilo, Latin for ‘out of nothingness.’ He illustrated the concept with the object of the empty vase, which does not hold an object, but rather nothingness. The empty space signifies nothing beyond an essence that can only be revealed in the course of its being put to use, in the course of its proper time. The vase is a reservoir of emptiness or energy that can only unfold its being-unto-death as a thing in the course of its tragic-poetic action. Kate Mandrukevica’s Dislocation, Scale and Transparency is an uncannily correct illustration of the infamous Lacanian vase. (saved from fineartphotographyvideoart.com)
Rise of Modern Literacy: Invention of the Interior
I did promise Goethe and Burckhardt for this post, but I realised we need more background in theory before we can place them properly in the discourse and practice of iCulture therapy. In preparation for the fathers of modern classicism, we need to stake the Christian position on technology. Classicism is a disappearing aesthetic today, but still structures the formal design of most products we buy, so we need to be able to reflect on it intelligently, if we truly want to ‘own’ it. The modern industrial age would not have been possible had a literate public not demanded cultural sophistication for the design of its private sphere.
Milestones in the History of Technology: the Printing Press
The invention of the Gutenberg press reformatted a large group of individuals who became increasingly aware of their interiority and whose demands were more cultural than materialistic. This historical development was lost on historians focused on materialist history. One unfortunate consequence of materialist historiography is that contemporary identities and consumer practices around the world are almost entirely structured by politics.
To understand how the immaterial human interior participates in the material world of objects and things in order to cultivate better, more self-reflexive and ultimately more satisfying consumer habits, we need to understand the relationship between the structure of Christian faith and technology. Technical knowledge alone is not sufficient to initiate the kind of large-scale technological modernisation we see in early modern Northern Europe. Many cultures have claimed pretty much every major invention in the history of technology, but none of them launched the industrial age. There are two reasons for this development: Christianity made the technological era possible by providing the needed identity mechanism and it also invented interiority in the first place by postulating that God dwells in His subjects and the subjects in God. In a sense the initiation of technological modernity worldwide was the fulfilment of the Christian structure of the interior temple. This structure was unknown to ancient civilisations, including the Greco-Roman. A number of posts will be devoted to the development of technology in Christian civilisation now and in the future, but let us begin with a few cornerstones from twentieth century philosophical thought, since the most recent past is the most repressed and most misunderstood.
Blindspots of the Academic Discourse on Technology
Academically influential twentieth century philosophy was largely unconcerned with the Christian experience and if so, either only critically or in conformity with a theological school of thought that remained absolutely divorced from modern developments, scientific, technological, and philosophical. The problem the Church has with philosophy lies in the great schism that took place in 1054, which split the Church into a theoretical East and a largely political and practical West. The Reformation initiated by Martin Luther tried to amend the evacuation of theoretical reflection and that allowed the rapid modernisation of the North. The South remained relatively underdeveloped, which carried over into the new Latin territories in America. The Reformation stalled, however, when national and socialist thought gripped the main engine of progress in Europe, the Germanic countries, in the 19th century. The Church is yet to bridge the immense gap in philosophical development socialist thought inflicted on German letters.
An important philosopher, who had otherwise a great deal to contribute to the conception of technology, Martin Heidegger, remains a national socialist thinker. His academic progeny has been struggling with this fact, failed to account for it, and remains unable to reconcile itself to it. But the fact that academic philosophy paid little attention to the monumental historic importance of the Christian experience for the development of technological modernity does not mean it was not operative in the blindspots of philosophical practice. We will try to fill in some of the gaps, insofar as they concern the practice of iCulture therapy.
The Classical Heritage and the Philosophy of Technology
Human interiority is intricately involved in the history of technology and is deeply invested in technical sophistication. Historically, the interior represents a fairly new object of philosophical reflection, one that traditional philosophy is ill equipped to handle, because philosophical structures are pre-Christian. This is why history and theology have little to tell us about the historic importance of Christian interiority for the development and refinement of the technologies of emotional and psychological design. On the one hand, history is limited to politically backed power discourses and hence is not always reliable as a source of truth. On the other hand, theology is limited to the disciplines of logic and philosophy, both unable to reflect on the core of Christian experience.
An earlier post discussed St. Jerome’s tormenting passion, classical philosophy and arts. The author of the Vulgata was unable to tear himself from the incredibly rich intellectual pleasures and passions the classical world had to offer. And perhaps he didn’t have to. Since the Nicenean creed does specify the historical time of the crucifixion, the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, classical civilisation remains an essential part of the earthly design of the Christian experience, even though the tension between the two can never be resolved. It also means that the political Latin framework remains the earthly and historical dominion of Christianity.
The Vatican has a huge responsibility to the entire ecumenical Christian community to incorporate its experience in its practices, but it keeps failing at this task. Instead of incorporating new developments of the interior and its technologies, it keeps reconciling itself to foreign political developments like Marxism and Islam, failing in its basic task to be the earthly protector of the Christian faith. The Vatican is currently more open to socialism and nationalism than to the Protestant and Eastern Orthodox teachings and traditions. This problem is not intrinsic to the Church. It is dictated by academic discursive developments of the past two centuries.
Even the Vatican cannot deny, however, that classical antiquity was carried forth by Christian civilisation. Without Christianity, the Greco-Roman civilisation would have become extinct. This fact was lost on the best philosopher of technology we have to date, Martin Heidegger. The reason Heidegger was unable to develop a satisfactory bullet-proof philosophy of technological being on the basis of Germanic etymology alone is because he failed to take into account the historical significance of the Christian mechanism of subject-formation in language. His philosophy was inspired by Germanic etymology, forgetting as it were that the German language was radically altered through Luther’s translation of the Bible. No more nor less than the Hebraic, the Germanic language is not the native or natal context of Christianity, which provided the psychological mechanism for the initiation of the technological and industrial age. Every language is native to Christianity, but the Latin language and classical antiquity remain the materialist, historical-political core of the Christian world. This is stated in the the Nicene creed. Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilatus, a Roman governor. This material event is the portal to the historical and political manifestations of Christianity then and forever. Contemporary political philosophers like Georgio Agamben have recognised this fact, but took it as licence to preach socialist dogma, without reflecting on the fact that socialism originated in a different historical and political context, namely a pagan — classicist — Germanic one, not in the native Latin of the Nicene creed.
Though always at multiple removes from their origin, Latin and classicism exist in multiple translations and not in a pure state of natality. We’ll get back to the concept of distance in sublimation. Its cultivation is another important topos (point of return) of Christian civilisation. The history of the Christian experience remains firmly rooted in the classical world, at least as far as its pure historical record goes.
Literary and Visual Archive
There is one exception to the purely historical archive: literary history and its twin branch of art history. Both disciplines run on parallel tracks with the history of technology and contain an archive that is fairly independent from political-historical data and documents. The literary and visual archive contain psycho-genealogical data and the shrouded history of technology. Before a piece of technical equipment becomes manifestly operative in the world, it exists not as a clear Platonic idea, but as psychological reality that has no means of articulating itself in existing media of communication. It has to await the invention of a suitable medium or technological equipment as it were to unfold its being. The literary archive and the visual depositories of historical data have a good deal to tell us about the psycho-genealogy of the technologies that structure our being in the world, our communication systems, and our interiors.
Technologies of Mourning
Shakespeare has more to tell us about the still ongoing burial of Julius Caesar than any historical document, because his play, a form of burial in words, focused squarely on the afterlife of the dominant political format of leadership (Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni and Marco del Buono Giamberti Italian, 1415/17-1465 & 1403-1489 The Assassination and Funeral of Julius Caesar, 1455/60)
The most sophisticated philosophical approaches to technology have treated it as a funeral practice, a way of framing, preserving, transmitting, and storing remains, human remains. Twentieth century thinkers like Martin Heidegger, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Friedrich Kittler are among the more aesthetically sensitive readers of technology. All four, though Heidegger will never admit it, work in the shadow of the Freudian pre-historic interpretation of ethics, which he based on his reading of a literary work, Sophocles’s tragedy “Oedipus Rex.” Freud was in fact more deeply influenced by Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which he coupled with the ancient Greek predecessor to plummet Hamlet’s labyrinthine depths. We will return to this problematic, but for now it is important to stake that for Freud the murder of the father becomes the founding event of any symbolic system, because it clears the path to substitution.
Language functions by way of substitution. For example, in the statement “the rabbit is a carrot-eater” the term “rabbit” stands for “carrot-eater,” because they are interchangeable. The verb “to be” is in a sense the ultimate weapon and harbinger of death, because only dead entities can enter the system of substitutions. Whatever is known of the rabbit, that it is a carrot-eater, a mammal, etc., constitutes its transience, its creaturely status. The sum of all substitutes that account for its being are only equal to its mortality, the shape of its corpse and its creatureliness. The rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland,” on the other hand, is not mortal, but also not considered a real being, even though it has all attributes of a real rabbit. What the rabbit in the children’s book does as opposed to what it is makes it a techno-rabbit, a thing standing in reserve and holding energy, to borrow Heidegger. To be interchangeable is to be dispensable, i.e. capable of dying, disappearing, dissolving into dust, non-being. In Heidegger’s system the essence or presence of being is hidden in language and can only unfold in the process of thinking, not by way of metaphor or substitution, but rather by the very circumvention of the verb “to be.” In a sense Heideggerian being cannot enter the grammatical system of circulation, grammar being among the most ancient technologies known to man. Being is not available for direct representation just as the thing, something of technological nature, is not simply an object, but rather a reservoir, a container of energy, like the Lacanian vase, that will only reveal its essence, that is its ability to be present, in action.
Though Heidegger was not usually concerned with ethics, but rather with the truth of being and especially what he considered its most beautiful version, Greek antiquity, his subordination of being to language shares a great deal with Freud’s conception of the world as ordered by the law of the father. The two are reconciled completely and nearly without remainder in Lacan’s work, which inspired Friedrich Kittler’s invention of media-genealogical research and alienated Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, both of whom represent a more hermeneutic dimension of thinking about technology, that is, an interpretation based on subjective difference. Just as for Heidegger and Lacan the object of post-Socratic philosophy becomes a thing standing in reserve, a reservoir of energy whose essence is revealed in action, the subject in Kittler and Derrida becomes, respectively, a consumer and an individual, that is, non-repeatable difference.
On the set of F. W. Murnau’s “Faust” (1926), a visual interpretation of J. W. Goethe’s prophetic tragedy of the modern leader
Preserving the Cultural Traditions of Tragic Formatting
Over the course of its two thousand-year reception history, tragic poetry has remained the highest form of expression of what Heidegger called being. It is not accidental that its definition coincides with Heidegger’s shortcut definition of technological being: the unfolding of an action over a given time at a fixed place. An ancient technology of mourning, tragedy is a thing that unfolds itself over the time period of its use. A carrier of pure energy, it is synonymous with death or nothingness. In the next post we will see how Lacan treats this insight in his interpretation of the Sophoclean tragedy “Antigone” and what that may have to do with the invention of the war plane and modern warfare.
The ethical being that emerges in tragedy is mortal in an absolute sense, since its being unfolds from its annihilation. It is the only subject of war and statesmanship subordinated to the military. To the Greeks, tragic spectacle was not a matter of entertainment or aesthetic pleasure, as it is to the moderns. It was a religious ritual, probably based on sacrificial rituals, and a way of programming the citizens’ interior to accord with the ethical principles of the Greek community. This was the meaning of the Aristotelian term “catharsis,” a process whereby the emotions of the spectator are ‘purged’ of all unwanted and unethical elements. In ancient Greece tragedy was a form of social engineering.
This form of social engineering is still alive today, though it is almost entirely unaware of its origins, affiliation, and philosophical genealogy. It pervaded postwar political thought through such concepts as “bare life,” “human rights,” post-colonialist views of what constitutes a ‘native,’ and especially the concept of “natality” as we see it articulated in Hannah Arendt’s tragic writings. As a student and intimate companion of Heidegger, Arendt’s thought was programmed to understand being as something that unfolds through its action unto death. Her concept of “natality,” which was implicitly designed as a polemic against the Christian notion of rebirth and life-after-death, is in fact being-toward-nothingness and reduces human life to its funereal technologies. The native “futures” her tragic worldview defended so emotionally are in fact foreclosed. If we are to carry forth the values of universal care — caritas — for human life, we need to be more vigilant about tragic ideas contaminating discourses about native life. Arendt’s case is a good example of the confusion brought about by the perilous indulgence in pure classical philosophical thinking, especially in regard to political philosophy, that St. Jerome rightly feared.
Premature critics of Christian thought mushroomed after the war and were quick to blame Christian civilisation for the atrocities of war. This was possible largely because theologians had failed to establish a dialogue with contemporary discourses, but also because official organs of the state, by default, that is, through no fault of their own, demanded a total war effort from intellectuals. The movement was carried by blind emotions of political allegiance, horror, and moral outrage, but cannot be maintained on the strength of its poor, unsustainable arguments forever. Outspoken intellectuals who waged war on cultural Christianity, Lacan being among them, have read the Christian concept of life unfolding “after death,” especially in hagiography (https://web.archive.org/web/20150331030718/http://www.the-orb.net/encyclop/religion/hagiography/hagio.htm) as creation ex nihilo, that is, birth out of nothingness. This was a much mistaken application of the term and originated with Lacan’s Heideggerian reading of ex nihilo as the essence of technological being in his most famous seminar “The Ethics of Psychoanalysis:” http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1315975.files/6%20Seeing%20Things/Lacan-%20seminar%207%20Ethics%20of%20Psychoanalysis%201959-1960.pdf
Heidegger’s greatest contribution to human thought was his discovery of the essence of technology. His focus on the thing rather than on the classical object revealed its essence: a reservoir and a potentiality holding energy, always standing reserve. Its being is held in its action and use, its emptying of energy. The concept of the thing suffered a reduction by its subordination to Heidegger’s general conception of all being as being unto death. Thus the specific essence of technology remained bound to objectivity, its classical frame. Heidegger remained trapped in the native Germanic roots of language-based philosophy and did not take the Biblical “after death” into consideration. The proper trajectory “after death” is a means of transport to the interior as a form of sublimation and displacement. The Biblical “after death” is far removed from classical metaphysics. It points to the immaterial realm of sublimation and its action enables emancipation from material existence. Had Heidegger taken his Germanic insight further, he would have been able to position technology where it belongs: inside the human psyche. But his philosophy remained famously non-receptive to any kind of psychological formatting of subjectivity, in a truly tragic line of thought, because his philosophy remains, tragically, without a future.
Material technologies of mourning are as perishable as the contents they bury, frame, and allegedly preserve. Technologies of the interior, on the other hand, have been preserving beings without a future for over two thousand years by programming internal psychological reality, which endures beyond the material remains of bare life. Only under the protection of Christian sacramental practices does the interior attain the status of reality. Its technologies of introjection structure the psychological reality of future generations and represent the ultimate form of cultural preservation.
To sidestep and integrate the automatic interior design propagated by the mass media in a self-authored private environment, some historical knowledge about the function of language is indispensable. The introduction of Christian teachings with the Vulgata by St. Jerome altered the function of language in ancient European cultures and their historiographies fundamentally. The very concepts of the resurrection and the transubstantiation, which structures the sacraments, introduced the realm of the immaterial to simple linguistic transactions like metaphor, simile, and poetic metamorphosis.
The new linguistic genre Christ introduced into human language in general and St. Jerome into Western languages was allegory. Christ invented this form of communication to speak to his disciples, because the truth he bore could neither be communicated nor understood by the followers through literal use of language. The simplest definition of allegory is telling a story with another story. The impossibility of a total match between the two stories, the manifest one and the one being illustrated, which is immaterial and internal, creates an opening, a caesura (see earlier post) for the immaterial to enter our material world.
There are two concepts of subjectivity, the deterministic concept and the Christian concept. The determinist view defines the interior as a largely unconscious entity comprised of emotional and psychological material. The Christian concept of subjectivity is open-ended and points to an infinity and to the immaterial. Behavioural psychology, psychiatry, psycho-pharmacology, and a large part of the psychoanalytic school contend that the interior of an individual consists of instincts and mental processes that are absolutely independent of the individual will, action, or emotions. According to this view, the interior is structured by biology, psychology, sociology, and the media. This view is correct as far as science goes, but it is by far not a total view and remains open to revisions and new knowledge. This opening is guaranteed by the introduction of immaterial transubstantiation with Christian thought. It is unlike Platonism, Aristotelian metaphysics, and unlike poetic metamorphosis, which were all known to the ancient pre-Christian world, which remained absolutely conditioned by physical and material laws.
We will continue to address the presence of the classical heritage in Christian civilisation, especially its philosophical foundations, but today it suffices to note that to earn a degree of autonomy over the interior, over the interior, private, subjective sphere, an individuality has to be established and furnished with its exclusive dwelling space of difference that refers to the immaterial.
Remains of Bare Life
Jacky Tsai, Floral Skull design made for Alexander McQueen
The Christian world celebrates Good Friday every year. The idea of the calendar originated not so much in the need to coordinate activity and synchronise human life and labor, but rather in the need to indicate points of return for otherwise fragile, transient, and fleeting life forms. The desire to preserve something that is destined to perish is the cornerstone of all material civilisations. The old religions and their linguistic systems function much like calendars and serve the preservation of culture, which in turn guarantees the return of perishable life forms. But culture also chains, because what returns is already dead. The material remains that make up the physical world, to which we have dedicated our learning and science, are not living and breathing. We engage in acts of repetition to give them breath and life again.
Remembering the crucifixion on Good Friday, we also contemplate the significance of human remains and how they shape and design our world. Christ is raised on the third day and leaves no human remains for us to enshrine, worship, and lock under heavy symbolic, social, and actual keys, as the old cultural and religious systems have done. The difference between the material sarcophagi of traditional cultures and the fragility of bare life is illustrated, allegorically, in material design, in architecture for example. Intelligent, impactful design not only follows theoretical concepts, whether consciously or unawares, but can also introduce them to the world. The little chapel of Mary in the impressive but austere glass and stone Catholic building on the lakeside where I live, designed by one of the leading contemporary female architects, Heike Buettner — https://www.uni-weimar.de/de/architektur-und-urbanistik/professuren/grundlagen-des-entwerfens/personen/prof-dipl-ing-heike-buettner/competence-and-performance/ — is reminiscent of an unassuming wooden barrel and presents a stark contrast to the glittering weighty structure. It is shaped like a keyhole, a narrow passage way; it is open to all; no key, no barriers, no remains. Through Mary’s womb Christ entered the world and became human — the Son of Man — but he left no remains, only the empty grave signifying the greatest hope and the resurrection, on which our civilisation is built.
Christian saints are identified not only by name but also by their main attribute, which functions like a miniature allegory of the main trial in their hagiography. St. Jerome, whose translation of the Bible from Greek into Latin, the Vulgata, became the foundation of Roman Catholicism, is identified by the skull — http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/july/why-st-jerome-is-icon-for-our-times.html. The cranium is the epitomic representation of materiality. It is proof that something material remains after death, not in heaven, but here on earth. It stands for everything we value highly on the market and in our social interactions: possessions, everyday household items, medicine and hygiene tools, educational material, instruments of knowledge, real estate, family jewellery, objects of value. In their original conception, art collections don’t belong to this list, because they are private, and like everything private, designed in the realm of immaterial interiority. Today art collections are used as material assets in global circulation, which has degraded their original purpose. As far as they are reducible to their market value and material ownership, contemporary art collections mostly consist of meaningless objects.
The material world surrounding us is symbolically represented by the skull. It is everything that remains after we depart. European civilisation is built on two strong pillars: the classical Greco-Roman heritage and the Bible. The classical world is the last great pagan age and the most advanced civilisation known on earth. It continued to develop after Christ, but only in relationship to the Church. The article linked above represents an irresolvable paradox, a binary structure, that forever opposes the classical to the biblical heritage. They are, in fact, not in some kind of competition over dominion of the world, but have blended wonderfully in the medieval, Renaissance and modern European world. The philosophical structures of the contemporary political order have departed radically from the Biblical heritage and rely exclusively on the ancient pre-Christian traditions. The evacuation of the Biblical contribution to European civilisation continues to justify political orders like socialism, national socialism, and refugee socialism, which have eliminated the individual private sphere and with it the only symbolic place where subjectivity can be created and self-authored. These regimes continue to engage in inhuman treatment of individuals and are currently threatening to undo every cultural, moral, and political achievement of Christian civilisation.
Alexander McQueen Design
Classical Aesthetics and the Bible
By introducing allegory in language through Christ’s words, the Bible became the world’s first material manifestation of the immaterial. Language is the paradoxical manifestation of the immaterial in the materiality of existence. In its function between linguistic elements, it is the only material trace that makes us God-like. The rest belongs to the realm ruled by the skull, which language names and masters by ordering it in our minds. St. Jerome belonged equally to the classical world of the past and to the always emerging, always breaking immaterial world of the transcendent word. St. Jerome’s passion for classical learning and aesthetics is the beginning of a long tradition of veneration for the classical arts that is still with us today. It has given us wonderful buildings to dwell in, beautiful art objects, sophisticated design, all theatrical and narrative arts from tragedy to Hollywood, plastic surgery aesthetics, the drive to dwell in healthy, beautiful bodies, and much more. The dominion of the skull is mighty powerful and it has a very specific origin: classical Europe. Language and writing were as highly developed and perfected in the Greco-Roman world as their material arts and sciences. But language was not considered a divine attribute as it is in the Biblical tradition. The classical world had little use of the immaterial. Even Plato and Aristotle could only conceive of ideas and metaphysics as metaphors and substitutive structures. Classical deities remained bound to dreams and phantasmagorias, to human wishes and desires that found no other manifestation than the materiality of a supremely powerful imagination, but they could not reflect anything beyond equivalencies between media of representation. St. Jerome remained enthralled by that beautiful classical world until his very last and this has something to do with his main accomplishment, the translation of the Greek New Testament into Latin. St. Jerome wrote the Vulgata, meaning popular, for the people, the common folk: http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_nt_epist-titum_lt.html.
Alexander McQueen Design
St. Jerome the Translator
Translation is an activity that requires transcendence, the breath of God animating bare life between the fixtures of specific language systems. What is transmitted between languages is the only living form on earth. What we consider living is not reducible to the sciences of biology and zoology. Neither is living language reducible to the state in which it is used and recorded at any given time in history. The historicisation of language, that is, its systematisation according to the social and cultural recording network systems of any given time, reaches highest visibility in its translatability. This is why translation is a form of burial and mourning of linguistic being. Translation represents the form in which language ‘remains.’ It is an excavation tool that lays bare the fossilised form of language. Languages are living organisms and as such not reducible to their bare remains. The Biblical God dwells in the Word of the Bible. If letters and words are sheep, the book of the Bible is their only shepherd. The preservation of languages depends on the degree to which they are permeated by allegorical Biblical language. It is in translation, however, that they “die.” The skull is St. Jerome’s attribute because he was the first translator of the Bible and because translation represents the death of language. The Vulgata, however, instead of remaining encrusted in a dead language, Latin, became the source of all modern European languages, because it allowed for its infinite translation. St. Jerome is its author and as such the founding father of all modern languages founded on the teachings of the Bible.
Alexander McQueen Scarf
St. Jerome’s Passion
The passion of St. Jerome was the classical heritage of Greco-Roman civilisation, which is still largely with us. His vision of his punishment at the hands of God’s angels for the sinful passion he nurtured for the classical arts is generated by his awareness of their historical demise and fossilisation. By the same token, however, the Resurrection also teaches us that everything that dies can be saved by the living breath of the Biblical word and thus transcend death. This is why St. Jerome’s translation is also transcendence. Latin is both a dead language and a transcendent language. The living breath of the word animates us and our languages, but it is not given in anything material, which is a mere fossil, mere remains.
Next to St. Jerome, Shakespeare is the other ‘founding father’ of modern language frequently pictured with a skull, not least because he wrote the most famous and most powerful scene with the mentioned prop, namely, Hamlet’s contemplation of the skull of his court jester and nanny, Yorick. Yet, Shakespeare’s skull is ironically the most notorious no-show in history. Periodicals circulate news of Shakespeare’s skull cyclically, obsessively, almost religiously. Here is the latest example: http://nyti.ms/1q4BmQg. The warning on Shakespeare’s grave, not to dig up his bones lest a curse befall the digger, is also meant to protect not a secret, but the very sanctity of life. As long as Shakespeare’s grave, like Christ’s, remains empty, his legacy and his language shall live. There is perhaps a degree of truth to the conspiracy theory that his skull was stolen. Every translation, every interpretation, every transfer of his work in other languages, media, and systems of thought is a kind of theft of the original that produces a skull. The remains are a work of translation and a dolorous work of mourning. Everything we “know” and understand clearly about Shakespeare is in fact stolen from the living breath of his language, the mystery that animates his creations and holds us in their thrall.
Life remains a mystery, its only manifestation being held in the living language of Biblical exegesis. By exegesis here I don’t mean scholarly interpretation, but rather a living hermeneutics, the power of the Biblical word to shape and re-create our daily life. Shakespeare’s work is deeply rooted in Biblical knowledge, though the scholarship of the past two centuries has been gradually moving away from reading Shakespeare side by side with the Bible. We will do so on this site and learn to read for our own reflection in the Bard’s incomparably rich, aesthetically immaculate, and morally superior texts. A future post will provide more literary historical and theoretical background to the infamous prop in Hamlet.
The skull made a spectacular appearance in the world of haute couture recently through the work of the late British designer Alexander McQueen. Fashion reaches the status of haute couture when it proves a faithful, more or less self-reflective record of historical cultural developments. At the same time, fashion has a historical record, its datedness, which it has to transcend to be considered art. The most recent developments in fashion originated in the bourgeois household that emerged with modern urbanisation. The transition from traditional landed gentry households to modern households has been plentifully documented in literature, but most memorably in the poetry of Baudelaire and the 19th century French novel. Future posts will take a closer look at the relationship between the adultery novel, the fashion world, and gossip media in more detail, but suffice to say here that modern haute couture has always been self-aware about its flowers — and passions — of evil. McQueen’s reference to one of the staples of Christian civilisation commemorating contemplatio mortis (contemplation of death) as a door or a keyhole between states, modes, cultures, and information systems was an expression of the designer’s struggle with the world he inhabited. His suicide, like the memorable, culturally significant designs, totalise his remains and bring them under the sign of absolute death. We’ll discuss this phenomenon in contrast to transformation and transubstantiation further in later posts.
The Saving Grace of the Word
The attraction of death is a mighty passion that participates powerfully in the design of our world and beckons with the pleasures of perdition. It possessed Christ as he took the dolorous path to Golgotha out of love for mankind, St. Jerome as he journeyed through the library of the classical world he could not let perish in oblivion, and McQueen’s designs as they weaved the condemned sites of our contemporary social milieus. The vigil we hold in the night of the Resurrection, however, and the living power of the Biblical word in Shakespeare’s texts provide the saving grace that will preserve the remains of passion’s work of destruction. From the veil of Veronica, the only material imprint of Christ’s passion, to McQueen’s prints our memory contains and curates the earthly remains of passion through the immaterial word within. Inside, in the hidden crevices and private languages of subjectivity, we weave the only living fabric of God’s image.
In response to a user’s question, this post elaborates on a term used in the previous post. The original context, in which the term sublimation appeared was a historical observation on the disappearance of the liberal arts and humanities from college curricula and research platforms, which results in cultural impoverishment. Sublimating activity is essential to the survival of cultures and traditions. The essential part of the process, which is a key aspect of iCulture therapy, takes place at the individual level of media engagement before it is publicised. Blogging is a promising new medium that has the potential to rejuvenate stagnating traditions, if it is engaged consciously, with purpose and design. As a tool of self-design sublimation is a key theoretical concept and the central practice of iCulture therapy. A number of posts will be devoted to this category, since it is not only a purely theoretical reference, but also a fundamental literary, religious, and consumer structure. Consumer products are not acts of sublimation, but they are inscribed in a cultural network that provides a number of media for sublimation activity. In this sense, sublimation can also function as consumer practice.
Origin in psychoanalysis
The concept originated in Freud’s writings on psychoanalysis and remains a much contested and elaborated term. It has a very specific definition and function in iCulture therapy. Traditionally sublimation refers to the displacement of instinctual satisfaction through mental engagement of the arts, science, and religion. In iCulture it refers to these activities as they are changed and re-designed by online activity, especially blogging and social micro-blogging, aka social media. Whether we realize it or not, every message we send into cyber space is potentially an instance of sublimation.
As in chemistry, where the term is reserved for the transition of solid substances directly into their gaseous state without passing through the intermediate liquid phase, in iCulture therapy sublimation stands for structural transformation of mental states, mental demands and commands from a state of raw physical instinct, material wish, or impulse into its metaphysical state of valuation.
Here is a crude example of sublimation: boy can’t get girl; boy writes a song or a Tumblr post to satisfy his hungry instinct. This explains the numerous soft-porn images we see on Tumblr, but iCulture will train users to perform at a more sophisticated, culturally relevant level. When deprived of an opportunity to satisfy a wish or an instinct directly and immediately, the mind begins to search for alternative solutions in the immaterial, mediated realm. It engages material media and performs a number of symbolic actions that have the capacity to satisfy the failed execution of the demand. Instinctual demands are not biological, but rather culturally and historically determined. Culture, though born through sublimating activity in the immaterial, symbolic realm needs renewed acts of sublimation to maintain itself and not be degraded to instinctual materiality in a process of de-sublimation. A lot of what passes for culture today in fact belongs to a degraded material system of instinctual satisfaction and no longer qualifies as “culture” in its original state of sublimation.
Other Practices of the Immaterial: Dreams and Hallucinations
Sublimation is different from hallucination and magic, which are purely imaginary activities that cannot bring about the symbolic satisfaction of instinct. They can only simulate material satisfaction. The dream is different from both sublimation and hallucination in that it hides the sublimating activity it performs. In sublimation the symbolic conversion of mental data is real and has a real effect on the structure of the mind. It alters the mind and its behaviour. It also alters the medium of its execution, which makes it available for all forms of externalization and socialization. Thus it produces culture.
The dream performs this activity behind the scenes and in private. It is well-known that a dream is the fulfilment of a wish that cannot be satisfied in reality or that is repressed in the unconscious, as Freud argued, because it is not admissible to the system that programs one’s self-image. For example, Mr. Smith is angry with Mrs. Smith, who cheated, and wishes to kill her, but his conscience, which is the mastermind behind his self-image, prohibits the very notion of murder. Mr. Smith represses his anger and the wish to kill Mrs. Smith and dreams about the unfortunate demise of a certain gold-smith in a flood. The dream has converted the murderous wish into a mental picture that performs it in a benign, permissible scenario, in which Mr. Smith remains a good person, yet the negative image of Mrs. Smith has been cleaned up. Her transgression, which caused anger, has been safely erased from his emotional landscape. Mr. Smith forgets his displeasure with Mrs. Smith and the two enjoy a harmonious relationship. The dream has performed its function and restored love between the two.
The dream alters the mind by rewriting unwanted scenarios, but since the mind was not conscious of the alteration, it is not empowered by it. The dream work does not interact in any way with the public sphere. It remains inarticulate and does not impact in any way the medium of its execution. Dreams use all available media the mind engages in wakefulness. In an act of sublimation, Mr. Smith would engage an existing medium to accomplish what the dream did, but with the tools and technical know-how of a master. If the act of sublimation is executed with mastery, which requires that Mr. Smith is familiar with state-of-the-art technical artistic media, the product, which can be a song, a novel, a prayer or a blog post, will alter the medium itself, because it will make a new form of its application available to others. This is what makes works of art priceless. Alterations in the medium also alter reality, which is entirely structured by media. Only sublimating activity can alter reality. Dreams, magic, and hallucinations cannot. They are passive, whereas sublimation is an active manifestation of individual will. It contributes to the design of culture.
If we were plugged into a vast social system, well engineered by political and social scientists to meet every instinctual demand, we would never need to sublimate, dream, hallucinate or perform magic. In fact, the entire entertainment industry and consumer culture would become obsolete, because that is their job, to offer substitute satisfaction where we can’t get it. A world free of instinctual or material demand is often what sociologists and politicians promise to deliver. This is an empty promise, indeed emptier than most consumer products. Sooner or later we will lose a dear beloved, a loved one will reject us, or we will be stranded on a road without food or drink. We will run into fatal ‘friends’ or somehow get into trouble. This is when the cultural and consumer habits get activated to protect the mental apparatus from collapse, so it continues to function and maintain the memory and continuity of what we know as human life, as bio-graphy, or blog-graphy.
To sum briefly, sublimation is mental power, whereas dreaming achieves passive satisfaction. Hallucination, much like magic, is an illusory and delusional activity that does not change the state of instinctual need, nor the mind of the individual. Both the dream and the hallucination do not alter the personality, which makes them unusable as tools of self-design. The dream has the capacity to heal a broken link in the mind and to restore it to its original design, but only sublimation has the power to change the design of the interior.
Artists, musicians, writers, professors with original ideas — very rare today — appear eccentric and quirky because the cookie-cut personality, in which an individual is issued by the particular programming language of his culture, has been altered by works of sublimation. The reason people generally shy away from sublimating activity is their fear of disfiguring the perfect, socially acceptable face they put on in order to function in the civilized world. If Mr. Smith is unable to acknowledge his anger, his wife’s transgression, and his own sinful wish to retaliate, he will fail to initiate a conscious sublimation process.
Self-reflexivity, the ability to observe oneself, is crucial to the process of self-design. Acknowledging an uncomfortable truth about ourselves or a painful realization such as the loss or betrayal of a dearly beloved does not mean condoning evil and transgression, and even less acting on it. To the contrary, the negative experience is the fossil fuel that propels the creation of objects of high cultural value.
The next post will broach the religious host of sublimation and a later one will address Shakespeare’s use of sublimation, dreams, and magic in The Tempest.
Magritte, The Son of Man
Magritte’s Works: Mirrors within Mirrors
Like most works of art that have altered perception historically, Magritte’s paintings possess a high degree of self-reflexivity. The apple in Le Beau Monde is not a physical apple, but a two-dimensional image, the sublimation of an apple. But Magritte does something else: he takes the act and product of painting as his object, thus removing 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 an image and a sublimated object. It is an image that is conscious of being an image, a mirror within a mirror. The apple of original sin is taken out of its context in the natural world and then also removed from its context in the technical world of painting, where it consists of a few brushstrokes, colour, paint, and canvas. Magritte sublimates the very materiality of the medium of representation and achieves a new level of sublimation at a time historically when his medium, painting, has become stale and physical as a cultural artefact, in other words no longer capable of sublimation.
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. The Son of Man takes this self-reflexive process of sublimation even further. Obviously referring to Christ, who is the original Son of Man, Magritte paints his self-portrait as Christ covered by the external and trivialized image of an apple. The face that is put in circulation in social — media — circles is not original, nor individual, but pre-fabricated through old cultural sublimation processes that have become automatic in their production of ‘individual’ identities. Original sin, as Soren Kierkegaard also writes in his Sickness unto Death, is not having a unique identity that is invisible to others and available to oneself and to the world only through acts of sublimation. Human autonomy is unthinkable outside sublimation processes where the individual is free to practice auto-design.
There are over 60 million bloggers worldwide, not counting micro-blogging. Most blogs are private and function as either an open diary or a social organ. Business is secondary, though it consumes a good deal of resources and planning. iCulture estimates that most bloggers, no matter how technical the topic, have been transformed by their online work. It has given them a coveted opportunity to re-design their image and relationships, including the not unimportant relationship to oneself. Blogging is an entirely new, previously unavailable form of communication, commerce, education, and socialisation. The blog is a new medium of creation and recreation. Though it is yet to produce its masters and masterpieces, it is undeniably a new technical form of design. iCulture, an online, psychoanalytically informed therapy method developed on the basis of Prof. Dr. Viola Timm’s lifelong research, will help you harness this medium to design a genuine and rich interior by supplementing the historical, theoretical, and cultural knowledge you need to be effective in your blog therapy.
Here is why historical knowledge is important. To understand blogging and how it can serve us, we need to look at the way older media and the cultural and political institutions they spawned transformed the world. Since the liberal arts and humanities are currently being phased out of higher education curricula, there is no incentive for supporting research into media history and genealogy. The problem is of the catch 22 variety. The mass media transformed all educational institutions as they gradually colonised the liberal arts and humanities. As a result, there are currently no academic disciplines that possess the necessary autonomy to conduct research into media history and theory. In other words, there is no academic discourse that can inform an intelligent, self-conscious, and self-reflexive new media research and practice, because the new media took the place of the old academic humanities. As a non-academic research and educational platform, iCulture supplements self-reflexive research on the mass media. As a form of blog therapy iCulture also provides rehabilitation from the mass media by providing tools and materials to customise media experience the way liberal arts did in the past.
Mass Media Goddes
iCulture as Liberal Arts Education for Bloggers in the Age of the Mass Media
The mass media largely serve the politically dominant powers of the day. Even so-called independent outlets are formatted by the power discourses that structure the systems and networks of communication and socialisation. The mass media represent the most efficient tool of engineering social reality. At the same time, mass media structure the emotional interior of the individual. In the past, liberal arts education was able to offer a select and privileged few some guidance on interior emotional design. K-12 education then attempted to democratise this process by making the liberal arts available to all. The twin development of the technical mass media and psychotherapy in the 20th century, however, gradually made these functions of the liberal arts and humanities obsolete. Last century saw the end of the liberal arts and humanities in the form in which they had existed since their institution in the Age of Enlightenment.The enlightenment set in motion the discursive processes that supported the American and French revolutions politically, promised the liberation of the autonomous individual, and laid down the foundations of the existing institutions of higher education. Yet the gradual technologisation of the mass media brought this era to its limits. Todaywe are at the cusp of a new educational and political order. The extreme dependence of the modern political order on academic organs, however, has prevented the development of new research in all matters of government science. Since the 1980s philosophers have been discussing the return of religion as a social system, but little has been done to adapt the legal and governmental systems to accommodate this so-called ‘return.’ As a result the futures of both government and mass media discourse have become vast and unimaginable unknowns.
For as long as they functioned, the liberal arts and humanities offered some degree of freedom in designing an individual course of study. The gradual absolutisation of the scientific method in academic publishing, dictated by the colonisation of discourse by the technical media, coupled with the powerful takeover of the humanities by sociology and political science in the 19th century, have virtually evacuated what was known as the liberal arts from university and college curricula. The fundamental principle on which the liberal arts were built, the autonomy of the individual to design a pattern of thinking and inquiry that is developed privately and once it reaches critical maturity and sophistication is also articulated publicly, has collapsed.
The principle of private scholarship was first elaborated in Immanuel Kant’s famous 1784 address to the general public “What is Enlightenment?” https://archive.org/stream/AnswerTheQuestionWhatIsEnlightenment/KantEnlightmentDanielFidelFerrer2013#page/n1/mode/2up We will contemplate enlightenment culture in a separate blog post. For now it is enough to note that the disappearance and subordination of the autonomous sciences in higher education today has robbed us of a world of sublimation that in the long run will result in the spread of mental disease and make us increasingly dependent on controlled drug therapy.
Technology is not the enemy. Autonomy is always within reach to those who are willing to put in the time to think and research. Technical media like the internet are making it possible to connect, communicate, and research faster and more efficiently than ever before. The technical media are our helpers and our only hope to balance and diversify the unfortunate one-dimensional developments in our public structures.
The internet offers an endless array of opportunities for personal growth and custom-designed educational experience. iCulture therapy is the first of its kind as it offers an online matrix of individually designed, ongoing professional research and teaching. The platform replaces the traditional classroom professor with online tools for educating the scholar within. Individual or small group instruction is also available as paid service. Please contact your host for inquiries.