“To answer before listening — that is folly and shame” Proverbs
Allegory of the Folly of Gossip, French 1600
The unfortunate story in the news today left us all rattled and puzzled at the blatant distortion of what everyone can see to be the truth. iCulture e-therapy consists of verbalizing an event as it occurs in our interior environment. Leibniz, the father of modern calculus, once said that it is no wonder man is able to search out knowledge in the world since he carries God’s image and intelligence within. The harmony between external knowledge and internal intuition is the only origin of true knowledge. Let’s unpack the event today, so we can verbalize what occurred inside us as we read the headline story today: a major newspaper deliberately twisting and misrepresenting the truth.
It is hardly worthwhile to honor the intentionally false statements published in the WSJ, but let’s entertain them for a second to understand the folly they are committing. The President of the United States, a legitimately elected head of the government of a free country, was attempting to communicate his well advised and well researched peaceful approach to the totalitarian regime in Asia, whose figure head is Kim Jong Un. Instead of reporting on the substance of his statements, the goal, means, and intelligence involved in the approach, WSJ stooped to malicious gossiping and maligning of the President’s character. There is nothing further we need to state or think about the incident to protect our inner world from the pollution caused by a liberal public institution.
When a public institution, which is an external organ of knowledge, abuses its power and falsifies the truth we are robbed of our interiors. What we know and see to be true is silenced, brutalized, and denied expression. This leads to feelings of anger and despair, which in turn gives evil a foothold in our souls. Thus public institutions like prominent news agencies destroy character, enslave our thinking, and seduce us to walk a path that leads to further destruction and degradation.
Resist the pollution of the news to preserve your inner peace by writing down and articulating the feelings of despair the news wrought in our souls today. Know God is in charge, voice your concern with the low character of our public institutions, and re-focus on being productive and positive in your outlook.
The Holinshed Chronicles, first published in 1577, contain an account of the history of the British Isles from the division of the earth in three parts by Noah after the flood until the reign of Elisabeth I of England. One of the most expensive printed works of all times, the Holinshed Chronicles were first conceived as a comprehensive history and geography of the Globe. The project proved difficult and too large for a single book. The entrepreneurs had to settle for a history of the British Isles, mostly focused on its crowned heads.
Other world systems
A similar project was undertaken in France with the compilation of an Encyclopaedia that contains the sum total of human knowledge on all known topics. The very idea of encyclopaedic knowledge answered the need for an exhaustive system of interpreting the world in its entirety that arose around the time the notion of one globe emerged in the scientific imagination.
In Germany the efforts culminated in the introduction of the Humboldtian model of higher education, the university, as a place that promised to collect, transmit, and produce knowledge about the entire universe.
No matter which point of view we take the idea of one globe, one universe, one world ends up reflecting not the world, but the culture in which it originated. For the English intellectuals it was history and geography, for the French it was a linguistic nominal system, and for the Germans theory. Naturally other nations made similar attempts to organise the world in its totality, most recently the pioneering efforts of the United States and Russia to produce images of the earth from the cosmos.
Politicization of the Idea of the Globe
Early in the twentieth century a political philosopher, Carl Schmitt, also focused on the idea of one world. In his Nomos of the Earth introduced the notion of a global political order modelled on the British global empire that ended up fuelling the most sinister regimes humanity had ever known. His ideas continue to inspire dreams of global power realised by very irresponsible individuals with the monetary power to move masses of biological human material across the globe.
Unlike applications of Schmitt’s basic ideas that are less informed, unreflected, and not very well thought out, the original philosopher of the global order was aware that the establishment of a global power in the world would inevitably lead to permanent civil war in all countries. We are beginning to experience this painful reality in all of its cruelty and brutality.
A seemingly innocent idea that arose in Renaissance Europe that had served the production of knowledge, culture, and literature, has culminated in a dreadful dystopian political reality that we are just beginning to confront.
The Literary Globe
By contrast, the Globe in the literary imagination under the protection of the Crown, served as the occasion for the development of the richest and still operative theatrical legacies in the English-speaking world. The Globe Theatre is almost synonymous with Shakespearean theater.
Unlike Holinshed’s Chronicles, organised by the objective parameters of time and space, Shakespeare reflected the linguistic, cultural, psychological, ethical, and aesthetic reality of the English imagination. It’s not the Globe in its objectivity he aimed to reproduce, but the endless variety of the inner world of the English-speaking subject, which contains the world from the English point of view. Shakespeare was the beginning of modern literature. His works opened a door to an infinite world of marvellous poetry in prose and verse that continues to inspire to this day.
The New Mass and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb
But Shakespeare could not have achieved his status without the protection of the Crown, a symbolic rather than an instrumental power, that much like a wedding ring, serves as a token of an eternal bond between the people and their culture, between the people and the crowned head of the monarch, indeed between the people and the Globe. To understand a people we must understand the history of its crowned heads. The idea of organising the historical chronicles of power in one book originates in the Biblical narrative. The Bible is the origin of the idea of one world and must remain the reference point. The New Testament refocused the narrative on the idea of language as the only origin of the human world. It placed language in all of its manifold splendour at the center of human history and at the center of the human world.
The Christian Crown takes its symbolic power from the Biblical narrative recorded in the Book of Revelations where Christ the Saviour enters a matrimonial bond with the Church, his flock, and becomes its Crowned Head. All Christian Crowns follow this principle of marriage between the monarch and the flock. The Crown is the wedding band guaranteeing the preservation of a legacy like that of the British World, not a world for the world, but a world for the individual English speaker, today every subject in the vast Commonwealth and the United States.
Long live our Gracious Queen, keeper of the faith and protector of the nations of the Commonwealth!
The Spiritual Powers of Darkness and The Powers of Revelation
Laocoon Group, the Vatican: Contest between the Earthly Authority of Power and Beauty and the Spiritual Authority of the Power of Language (Prophecy)
As the news are causing many to grapple with the current shakeup and distribution of power in the world, it may be worthwhile to reflect on the notion of power we have inherited from the Gospel.
Everyone believes to understand the common sense truth that all earthly power is evil. The very concepts of earthly power and evil are far from simple and hardly unanimous. They possess a history and unfold in time as well as in the simple three-dimensional space of the physical order under the powers of earthly authority.
The Power of Classical Earthly Authority
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing discloses an important principle of distinction between the plastic arts and the poetic (linguistic) arts in his contemplation of the group statue of Laokoon that can be applied to the distinction between the powers of darkness and the powers of revelation. He composed his reflections on the statue of Laokoon in response to the intellectual trend of his time that attempted to restore the perfection and beauty of the presumed lost Greco-Roman civilisation known as neoclassicism.
In the eighteenth century great classists like Winckelmann, who laid the foundation of modern aesthetics after the Baroque failed to establish Christian aesthetics as mainstream practice, subordinated life on earth to the classical principles of proportion, beauty, and perfections he found in the visual arts of Antiquity. He even went as far as to subordinate language and poetry to the ideals of visual perfection.
Lessing was disturbed by this proposition. As a poet and dramatist he viewed language arts not only as superior, more demanding, and truer to life in all its dimensions and multiplicity than the plastic arts, but as a Christian he had a problem with the subordination of the word of God to anything, especially the earthly authority of classical beauty.
He illustrated his arguments in the form of an ekphrasis, a Greek practice of delivering a lengthy rhetorical argument through the observation and contemplation of a visual work of art. Lessing wrote a polemic on the ancient Rhodosian group statue Laokoon and his sons ensnared by the Serpents of Poseidon from 40 BC, which has been housed and curated in the Vatican since 1506 when it was found in the Esquiline Hill of Rome.
Laokoon was the Trojan prophet who warned his fellow citizens not to accept the gift of peace from the Greeks, the infamous Trojan Horse. Poseidon and Athena, the Greek gods of the sea and of war respectively, were on the Greek side, so they caused giant serpents to rise from the sea to punish Laokoon and his sons for warning the Trojans. His fellow citizens took that as a sign that his prophecy is false, accepted the Greek gift, and their city was leveled with the ground.
The statue, Lessing argued, depicts the moment of suffering, before the fate of the prophet and of the Trojan people was decided. It is a moment snatched from the claws of time, perfect and beautiful in its three-dimensional glory, and frozen for the memory of eternity. But this perfect moment lacks truth because it lacks the dimension of time. Only language and linguistic arts have the power to represent the truth of time. It is interesting that a tragic play by Sophocles titled “Laokoon” is purported to have existed but has been lost. Sophocles was the undisputed master of perfection in representing time through dialogue.
Laokoon’s story appears to be rather a polemic that could have strengthened Winckelmann and not Lessing, because the prophet, whose medium is language, had failed to persuade his fellow citizens and had been punished for telling the truth about the future by the gods themselves. Winckelmann loved the Laokoon group because it illustrated and justified his argument for neoclassicism. He argued that earthly beauty is all that matters, that language and prophecy must be subordinated to it. His proposition was ironically affirmed and dramatized by none other than the English Romantic poets.
But the story does not end with the demise of Laokoon and Troy. The founding of Rome by a survivor of the sack of Troy, Aeneas, carried forth the legacy of the ancient pearl of Greek civilization. From the ashes of Troy rose the most powerful eternal city, Rome, the cradle of Roman civilization and eventually of Christian civilization. Rome became the eternal city of God, one could argue, because it was born of the Word, of literature. Whatever the fate of Rome may be, Troy most certainly survived and lived on after death as it were.
It is interesting to note that the founding of Rome by a Trojan survivor is not a historical fact, but a literary fiction, Virgil’s “Aeneid,” the founding document of Roman civilization, the very heart of its identity. This fact underscores once again the superiority of language over the plastic arts. The question is not only about declaring a winner of the contest between physical beauty and poetic beauty, but the heart of the thematic that preoccupies us today, the nature of the relationship between the earthly power of beauty and the spiritual power of language. A chiasma opens between the two instances, that gives both equal shares in good and in evil.
The authorities that destroyed Laokoon and Troy not only proved him wrong, but also brought about the resurrection of Troy in Rome. His prophecy had been limited to the earthly events surrounding the fate of Troy, much like the statue depicts a moment in time and not the entire story. Laokoon’s prophecy was fulfilled only within the limited time-frame of earthly mortality. It doesn’t look beyond the horizon of physical transience and has no knowledge of the resurrection and recreation of Troy in Rome. In a sense, the statue preserves his existence beyond the grave and despite his linguistic work, his prophecy.
The resurrection of Troy in Rome is not carried out in a visual medium, however, but in the very medium of Laokoon’s prophecy, language. Nevertheless, Virgil’s “Aeneid” powered actual historical events. A literary masterpiece became the highest expression and emblem of Roman identity and though the empire itself was doomed, the city lived on. Virgil’s epic is the only dimension within which Troy survives and thrives. Literary creation, which, unlike visual creation, exists only in the temporally multi-layered dimension of language, is neither earthly nor mortal nor bound to the laws that structure reality and order on earth, but becomes the cradle and justification of history, reality, and authority.
A similar truth unfolds in the Bible. Contrary to popular misconception, the adversary of God’s children is not simple earthly mortality, as Laokoon also assumes, but “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In Ephesians 6 we read:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Mary presenting Jesus at the Temple, Cranach the Younger, Wittenberg Cathedral
The Power of the Order of the Snake
Simple understanding attributes the powers of darkness to sin or evil in the world. The ten commandments and the slew of regulations recorded in the Old Testament were intended to maintain order in the carnal body and in the body politic of the people of God and sealed the premise that evil resides in sin.
The design of the law is to maintain harmony with the order of the Creator. Yet the law was never meant to represent a conclusive stage of human history nor the ultimate order of human existence. The law is a stage in human development, the stage at which what was good in the garden Eden became evil and what was bad, the temptation by the Snake to know good and evil, became good.
We are told that the wages of sin are death. The law was introduced to increase the power of sin in the world, that is, the power of mortality, which is not natural among humans, but became so after the fall. Fallen nature, the natural body after the Fall and expulsion from Eden, is the body ruled by the Snake, symbol of the forbidden knowledge of good and evil, sin and virtue.
Adam and Eve were never simple creatures like the rest of creation. They were endowed with language from the beginning. The power to name and organize all creation crowned them rulers of all creation. Adam and Eve were co-creators of the world by virtue of their possession of language.
But their fall also caused nature and all their creation to fall. Fallen nature, human and animal alike, is of the order of the Snake in the Biblical narrative, which is why the Snake is so important to Moses. Not all knowledge was declared evil, only the knowledge of shame and sin, the knowledge of the law.
Those who did not know the law were not free from it, but are not held accountable before God. Likewise, those who received knowledge of the law from Moses were held accountable and every sin caused them to perish for all eternity.
Since the Greeks and Romans had no knowledge of the law, their co-creation of the world was spared and the later Kingdom of Christ preserved their knowledge, whereas those who had received the law left no trace of their works and perished definitively.
Language is authority. Language is human responsibility for all creation. Through language God gave us the authority to rule the world. The Gospel clearly states that flesh and blood is not the enemy, refuting any claim that the pure creaturely state of being, the world, is inherently evil. It does state, however, that evil resides in authority, not all authority, but that which is governed by the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” in the very knowledge of evil.
All human authority, all systems of governance that regulate human justice are powers of darkness. They belong to the order of the builders in Psalm 118 who rejected the boulder that will become the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Christ tells his disciples repeatedly that He begins where human knowledge fails, not all human knowledge, but the very knowledge of the law and of justice.
Literary creation and, historically, the Christian crown and scepter, are the only exceptions to the rule that the authority of the builders is spiritual darkness, because they exist in a world beyond good and evil and beyond and above authoritative systems of knowledge. The power of literature and of the Christian crown is good when it seeks eternity. Their power does not perish, whereas the authoritative systems of knowledge define the boundaries and horizons of transient existence. The power of death resides in the power of evil. The truth of eternal goodness is the telos of the Old Testament that was doubly revealed in the Gospel when we were freed of the power of the law and instructed to become slaves of righteousness.
The Gospel was written for simple farmers, slaves, fishermen and fairly uneducated folk. Only the Roman centurion (Matt 8:5-13) understood that the power of Christ is beyond the physical and temporal limitations of the created world and accepted His Word as the ultimate “spiritual” authority. Two thousand years later we have a number of sophisticated signification systems like the scientific-technological complex at our disposal that require ever new translations and reinterpretations of the Gospel, even as its simple truth remains unequivocal.
The most convincing philosophical system to date that placed language at the origin of being is the linguistic ontologist Martin Heidegger’s (Derrida followed in his footsteps), but it suffered the limitations of a classicist, Winckelmannian definition of both language and technology. What the simple mind perceives as “spiritual” is nothing other than the power of language to determine being at a latent, fundamental level of signification that is not immediately available in unidimensional sign systems, but unfolds in the process of philosophical linguistic contemplation. Goethe called it unfolding, Heidegger unconcealment, Derrida deconstruction , the Bible simply revelation.
Though paradisiac man possessed language and though we now understand spirituality to be the concealed creative power of the living Word, language itself is not beyond good and evil. In its function of naming fallen, mortal creation, which constitutes all systems of knowledge, it is in fact evil, as the myth of the Fall of Adam and Eve also tells us. In the service of pure knowledge language is at the core of the spiritual powers of darkness and evil.
Moses was the first prophet to recognize this. Hence he organized the system of the law to mirror the order of the Snake and commanded his followers to stare at the Snake to be saved from its mortal bite. (Please see illustration above: we see the temple of the Snake depicted in Cranach’s interpretation of Mary’s presentation of the infant Christ.) Of course, no human was able to obey the law Moses commanded and all perished.
Moses understood his power, symbolically represented by the snake become scepter, to reside in the order of fallen creation. But Moses also prophesied the arrival of the Messiah who would deliver all creation from slavery to evil — fallen nature — much as God had delivered his followers from slavery to the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea and thus defeating the earthly, authoritative laws of nature.
When we are told to submit to slavery not to the law, but to righteousness, we are encouraged to commit to the fundamental, essential, latent power of language to bring being into existence. Language that operates at the level of eternity is filled with grace, kindness, and forgiveness, because it knows itself to constitute the imperishable power of the only good and the only virtuous authority in the world. We are encouraged to submit our lives to eternal language, the spiritual powers of goodness and beauty. This “righteousness” is not opposed to the spiritual powers of darkness — knowledge of the law: knowledge of good and evil — but it is free from darkness even as it includes all shadows in the greater grace of Christ’s kingdom.
In nature there’s no blemish but the mind
None can be call’d deform’d but the unkind
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Authentic American Pop subordinated the plastic arts to poetic arts
America is Doconstruction, America is Revelation
To understand the historical role of the United States in the linguistic evolution of the people of God, we must understand that it was not of the order of the builders, which are governed by the spiritual powers of darkness, but of the order of the boulder the builders left behind (Psalm 118). The boulder the builders rejected represents the power of deconstructive language.
Socialism put the United States on the path of the builders. The nation is at a crossroads and must decide whether it will follow the earthly authorities and their powers of darkness or the authority of goodness and the revelatory powers of eternal language.
The world woke up this week to devastating news of tumult in the house of the world’s most powerful warlords in Washington DC and the possibility of another war in the Middle East. The chaos followed the President’s meeting with Islamic states of head.
The last recent war in Syria was the gateway that unleashed the current demographic, discursive, and political crisis. This war itself had been the work of several decades of progressivist political agenda that was proposed by some of the darkest heirs of twentieth century totalitarian systems and rested on a world populist racial animosity against Christian Europeans who have been vilified in every university disciplinary narrative as the only source of woe on planet earth. The intellectual limitations of the argument need no further elaboration.
The university systems of the West and all public institutions corroborated and advanced a narrative inspired by totalitarian power that unleashed a migrant crisis of unprecedented proportions putting an impossible burden not only on the countries targeted by migrants, but above all on migrant populations themselves. The end result is a very poorly managed, miserable global populace pushed beyond the limits of peaceful existence and forced into a permanent state of conflict and war. The inhumanity and primitivism of the current global system is showing and something must be done to stop it.
The Essence of War: Language
Today’s news should perhaps give us a chance to pause and think about the very essence of war. War is the process whereby historical change takes place and it involves every public institution engaged in the building, distribution, and maintenance of all pubic circulation systems. Cynicism has it that only banks benefit from war, but the truth is all institutions of circulation are involved in the making, build up, and mop up of war.
Wars require technological advances and often deploy new technologies that require the populations involved to adapt. Wars change the very essence of humanity, since our essence is determined by technology. Technical superiority also includes the most advanced linguistic forms. Language is not only the rhetoric and arguments for war, but also its level of sophistication and state of the art products. Language may be said to be the most important factor in a war effort. Heidegger taught us that language, especially poetry, is the most essential part of technology.
But where is our English language today? The need to accommodate newcomers has greatly reduced its features and vocabulary. Shakespeare represents to this date the most advanced form of the English language, consisting of the largest vocabulary, philosophical dramatisations, psychological reflections, and the greatest number of idiomatic expressions. Have we regressed 1616?
Hollywood and American pop, the mass deployment of new media, alongside the older developments in modern protestant German idealism and literature challenged the English language to change and advance philosophically, an effort that was largely led by university researchers on both sides of the Atlantic until the early nineties of last century. The efforts remained on top of new developments and guaranteed the superiority of the English language in the world.
In the mid-nineties university discourses in English-speaking countries were drafted in the service of a global war that continues to this day. This reduced the capacities of linguistic research greatly since it was demoted from the theoretical sophistication of supra-disciplinary work to the drudgery of maintaining ideological arguments for the war on European Christianity.
Today, the English language is indeed in a very dilapidated shape and our researchers have no knowledge of the linguistic capacity of any of the potential “enemies,” because neglecting one’s own language inevitably leads to an impoverished understanding of other languages.
Of War and Imminence
In Christian thought imminence is reserved for the will of God, which manifests itself in the language of prophets and poets who speak in tongues. Imminence in language had led the development of the most advanced civilization known to humanity, Christian civilization, which was able to conquer most of the world over the past five centuries and left indelible, positive, constructive, and life-affirming traces in the cultures of the world. It preserved local heritage and introduced state of the art technologies that saved and improved the quality of life worldwide.
The historical system based on the imminence of war is directly opposed to the Christian system based on the imminence of the Trinity: God, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity is the first humanist system known to man that put human existence at the center of public life, because it included the Son of Man as a crucial dimension of the Trinity. All other definitions of the human in contemporary English are derived from the Biblical definition of the Son of Man. A language that loses touch with its linguistic foundation in the Bible cannot develop further.
Not only are the military historical system and the Christian system of being diametrically opposed, but historically the latter has already won and will continue to win over the first. It already conquered all primitive systems based on military history and pushed the capacity for spreading peace, knowledge, and cultural sophistication beyond anything the pre-Christian world could imagine.
We can’t win with war alone! The imminence of the Trinity is the superior power to the power of war.
We can only win with poetry, as Shakespeare also knew! The British empire only proved him right until the more primitive powers of the totalitarian twentieth century ended its fragile advantage over the systems of darkness.
But is it over? Language, the medium of God and His Children, has the last word. We don’t obey commandments and weapons, we write poetry to win over time. For the weapons and laws of tomorrow will have made our own laughably obsolete. What remains is the laurels of memory: the poetic arts of Christian languages.
La Piscina | I like The Monologue Even More Than The Duet ▪ Edition of 3 ▪ € 5.000.- ▪ 2 Left
My next post will deal more subtly with the world of circulation, commerce, and coins, which will be an offshoot of the ongoing reflections on the literary and artistic design of identity. But please allow me to post this recommendation of a photography sale I found online as a preamble.
Photography is the most philosophic medium. Like the reflection of thought on the invisible dimensions of being, it has the potential to shore up the essence within. Vilem Flusser (http://cmuems.com/excap/readings/flusser-towards-a-philosophy-of-photography.pdf) famously proposed an analogy between writing and photography. He claimed the same revolutionary powers for photography as linear writing. Flusser’s limited, Darwinist interpretation forgets or wilfully erases the history of a vital relationship for the design of the human form. The relationship between the image and the text is the techno-genealogical origin of photography.
The historic relationship begins with Christian art in antiquity. It inherited the perfection of Greco-Roman culture and the passionate humanity and femininity of the textual culture of the Bible. The New Testament established the human interior as a physical topos in the world for the first time in history.
Madonna with the Book by Raphael Sanzio, 1504
Self-Design Not Selfie
Collecting photography is a unique and poetic way of articulating the private identity. As the world scurries around the world chasing cheap selfies it forgets itself and its beholder. The quick and mindless snapshot of what one believes is the genetically singular shape of a humanist visage is highly artificial. Pre-processed and pre-fabricated by the enormous technological apparatus charged with designing the globe and the heavenly spheres, the selfie is as unique as a piece of lunch meat.
Most selfies have a lifespan of about 10 seconds. Some may get framed and survive a few decades on a dusty shelf. But only few will make it into significant enough frames to pass on to posterity. A carefully designed collection, on the other hand, organised by the fingerprint of one’s private and deeply personal desire, serves to re-educate the senses to perceive what matters to the collector. The market and the bureaucracies are irrelevant to collectors consciously focused on works that reflect their human individuality.
Ethan Hawke as Iachimo SPYING on a lady with a book in 2015 production of Cymbeline
In fashion photography the medium does not reach its fullest potential, because the images are intended as templates for selfies, even before selfies existed.
Fashion addresses itself to the feminine body in its most vulnerable states. Moments of transgression break through the fabric of interiority and offer a peep into forbidden territories.
The world of contemporary fashion emerged after the French Revolution to mop the spillage from entire industries that revolved around the culture of the crown. Fashion and Pop continued to develop at least the technical dimensions of fashioning the personality of the crowned heads of state, which represented the body of the nation.
Unfortunately fashion and pop also removed the religious dimension of their original setting. To restore the passion attending the arts of fashion and pop, the twin industries that continued to articulate what had once been the property of sovereign heads of nations, we only need remember that the structure of articulation is fallen human desire. The individuality emerges as a symptom and an aberration. The arts charged with fashioning the crown were cultivated at the cutting edge between virtue and transgression.
As the quintessential feminine art of transience, fashion requires a more encompassing medium like photography to preserve its timelessness. Commercial fashion photography is a mere prop in this project.
Art photography, like the exemplars I’m recommending, takes the fashion photograph as its object in an act of disruption of the mass context. Each photograph interrupts the continuity of the flawless fashion image, which hides its structure, and offers a peep-show into one’s own interior. Between the edges of the components, model, setting, light, eye, and camera, an invisible secret agent of personal desire sutures a different image. Discover it. Re-write it.
01A909TW; CYMBELINE [RSC 1962] Vanessa Redgrave as Imogen and Eric Porter as Iachimo photo by Gordon Goode Date: 1962
As we continue to explore the psychological reality of human relations in the post-Christian world with one of the masters of interiority as our primary guide, Shakespeare, we gain profound cognisance of the place, time, and design of the individual private sphere. But how do the works of private identity enter the realm of public expression and circulation? The answer is through marriage.
Resting on the reality principle of marriage and the relationship to the beloved woman, Christianity is not just the only earthly order organized by the feminine essence of love, but also the only system to circulate private works. The private constitution of the public sphere is the paramount legacy of Christian thought.
Since marriage is the fundamental structure and reference point of Christian fellowship, it carries the individuality and supports its entry into a public space structured by the works of love furnishing the material dimension of Christ’s marriage to the Church.
A large number of Shakespeare’s plays focus on marriage. “Romeo and Juliet,” currently on our agenda, is no exception. In the final reckoning, it is a Christian marriage and not desire that unites Juliet and her Romeo. The work of love they leave behind — fruit of their marriage — is their magnificent death: a gem of tragic poetry with a peacemaking mission. The grace Shakespeare bestows on his characters at the end of each play is probably the most precious, unsurpassed, and incomparable quality of his poetry. It is not withheld from the ill-fated lovers.
Noli me tangere
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. To interpret this passage we need to consider the telos of the scriptural narrative, because it represents the meaning-granting caesura. Every caesura refers to the larger telos that frames it.
The Christian Reality Principle: the Wedding Feast of the Lamb
The Book of Revelations is organized around one central event: the wedding feast of the Lamb. The crowning moment of biblical teleology is a wedding feast. The New Testament transforms epic history and the book of the law into the Divine Comedy of love’s triumph on earth. The conclusive event, the wedding feast of the Lamb, however, is neither final, nor singular, nor historical. Since it represents the ultimate telos of the biblical narrative, it is also the point of its eternal recurrence.
The Christian reality principle is established in relation to the eternal return of the Lamb’s wedding. This singular event is always rising on the human horizon in its unspeakable, eternal glory and beauty, and defines the phenomenological boundaries of Christian experience. It represents the event horizon of the Christian reality principle.
According to the father of psychoanalysis who coined the term “reality principle,” reality is the product of a process of testing in the wake of death, caesura, or permanent loss. The caesura of judgment, like the finitude of death, 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 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.”
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.
Universe of Christian Works
“Noli me tangere” refers to the fundamental principle of Christian reality. Untouchable and unavailable to the immediacy of the creaturely senses, the immaterial reality of sublimation structures the Christian universe.
Sublimation is the process of artistic or scientific creation whereby creaturely instinct is transformed into works of immaterial immediacy. It is the inherent, internal logic of a work, which requires another work to bring it to recognition. This is why we measure the staying power of works of art by their homages and reproductions or reinterpretations.
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 and represents symbolically the time of conception of Christian works. The actualisation of the principle of individuality is the crowning work of Christian faith.
Sunday is a time of recurrence and repetition. The crowning work in a Christian biography and point of recurrence is marriage. It is the soil on which the individuality fully blossoms. Because Sunday is the day of God’s rest, it is empty of His creation and filled with the human works of love, invention and re-creation. To the works of re-creation belong all flowers and fruits of marriage, from children to the dazzling sepulchre of Romeo and Juliet.
In their bare state of nature, human children bear the mark of what John calls the “sign of the beast.” It marks the pure, creaturely state of being. The ritual and sacred practice of marriage is what makes the creaturely human body a Son of Man.
In Revelations, the time of the future — both utopia and apocalypse — is none other than the time of judgment of the works, for works are the currency of the soul’s final destination. Judgment Day is not a fixed, historical day in the distant or near future, but rather a recurring event like Sunday.
Power, Marriage, Recurrence of the Eternal Feminine
The late nineteenth century poetic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra 1892 correctly identified three rings symbolic of the power of recurrence and repetition inherent in the making of autonomous human reality, as coextensive of each other, albeit in the inverted anti-Christian context of Zoroastrianism. The author, Friedrich Nietzsche recognised that the ring of power, the ring of marriage, and the ring of recurrence symbolise the world of human action and God-given autonomy.
Nietzsche was, however, well versed in the Bible and Christian sacramental practices, being raised in a family of pastors. He inverted the Christian Trinity for poetic purposes and to lend a dying doctrine fresh power: the Father, who is all-powerful, the Son, married to the Church, and the temporal Spirit, which is eternal and internal recurrence.
Earthly power is simply the ability to set up reality. The Christian reality principle is the trinity of recurrence, marriage, and the power of governance.
Recurrence is the portal through which all Christian works of disparate times, languages & cultures communicate & sustain each other.
Marriage rests on the feminine principle of love, which subordinates all passions.
Common objects and works of circulation set up the power of governance. In the Christian experience power is intimately bound to the sacrament of marriage and its principle of the eternal feminine. The temporal dimension of power is allegorically illustrated through the main event of the Book of Revelations, the wedding feast of the Lamb.
The time of the events disclosed in the Book of Revelations is exactly a week after the admonition “noli me tangere.” It designates the time of the judgment of the works, a kind of aesthetic contest, when Jesus’s marriage to the Church takes place. A week is simply a cycle, a mark of recurrence. A cycle is an hour, a day, a century or a millennium.
To take place means to “make” an event in the physical world. Christ’s bride consists of the good works of God’s children. Every invention, every masterpiece, every work of art or literature are judged for their fitness to perform the marriage of marriages, the Lamb’s wedding of the Church, the Christian bride.
Marriage is a very special ritual in Christianity, not only on the wedding day, but every day thereafter, for the works of marriage furnish forth the eternal feast of the Lamb’s nuptials.
Jewel in the Bride’s Crown, Duomo of Siena
Not Yet Ascended: Between Heaven and Earth
Titian’s rendition of the moment Jesus asks Mary not to touch him is extraordinary in its sensitivity to the creaturely vulnerability of the natural human body at the time before its ascension to the Father, that is before its sublimation.
Jesus asks Mary not only not to touch him, but also to tell the others He is going to the Father. The vehicle of the ascension to the Father is made up of the works of one’s biography. The crowning one is the work of marriage, because it embodies the feminine principle of love.
The time before the ascension is also before the judgment when beings dwell between the creaturely body and the works of sublimation, which will either become their vehicles to the Lamb’s wedding feast or vehicles of their damnation. Not all works are good.
The day of Judgment does not mean judgement of the creaturely body, which is ultimately destined for death, sin, and disease. The creaturely body is already judged, because it is incapable of faith, whose vehicle is language. The apocalypse awaits mute nature and all her works not saved through sublimation.
The creaturely body and all works of nature are made good in their sublimated form, as works destined for the altar of the Lamb’s wedding day. Thus the touch of the gardener transforms and sublimates raw nature. As the work of human hands and instrumentality, the garden is healed, curated. Christ touched the sick to heal them. The same curatorial, healing power is allotted to his brethren. The garden represents the sublimated form of the wild bush, which is a work of nature.
On the eve before the work week begins, Jesus admonishes Mary not to touch him, for He has not yet ascended to the Father. There is a time then between cycles and between judgments when the power of healing is gone from the children of God and they must protect themselves from the touch of brute nature.
There are two sides to the Book of Revelations. In Latin, the book is called the Apocalypse. The time of the future is both the apocalypse of the creaturely world and the utopia of the Lamb’s wedding feast. All the good works accomplished by God’s children are destined for the feast.
The day of Judgment condemns and saves at the same time. It is a day that recurs every Sunday and at the end of every individual cycle. The Apocalypse condemns the creaturely body, but saves works of sublimation. As works of ascension they include reproductions of the creaturely body in funerary figures. These serve the representation of both the apocalypse and the utopian dream.
Works of sublimation grace the wedding feast of the Lamb. Secular works belong to this collection of masterpieces as well, because secularism shares the Christian reality principle. They too rest on the discursive foundations of sublimation and hermeneutics.
The judgment of the works establishes their reality and their ascension. The creaturely body, always already dead, is untouchable. At this vulnerable time between death and ascension, it is unavailable for sublimation and eternal return.
Shakespeare dedicated his most enigmatic and widely commented work, “The Tragedy of Hamlet,” to the temporal dimension of the untouchable. A later post will read the dark creation that can take place at this time, because of the double failure of marriage the play documents. Part II of this post will focus on the circulation of works, a system bordering on the limit Hamlet represents.
This post is dedicated to my mother and to my husband
The main attribute of our personal idenity, the name, is, as Juliet discovers on her balcony, not part of the creaturely body governed by desire. Literary and philosophical contemplations of love and desire often bring the boundary between family identity and group identity into sharp focus. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” can enrich the theoretical discussion of the tensions between private and pubic identity as the play refines the distinctions between love and desire, between the name and the word, as well as between the self, the family, and the state. Not unlike Sophocles’s “Antigone,” a tragedy about the clash between family duty and state duty, (on the tragic aesthetics of State design please see: Tragic Design), this early play by the Bard reformats the relationship between tragic love and family identity.
Shakespeare’s play is perhaps the crowning masterpiece in the Western canon about the limit built into the very nature of love, a limit that is intimately related to the function of the name and to the growth and flowering of living language. The boundary introduced by the name is central to the growth of language and all the arts, because it erects an irreducible difference and a remainder into the grammatical calculus of language. The name introduces difference and an inviolable limit, which girds man’s divine presence like a halo and protects his dignity as a child of God. The divine nature of humanity is given in language. The name is the limit at which language originates and at which it must also stop if it is not to consume itself without remainder and thus also annihilate the human world language constitutes.
The Name of Adoption
The name is the cornerstone of Western morality built not on pagan but on Biblical principles, because the Bible altered the function of the name from representing the bare life of a pure biological unit to a mark of divine nature and grace. This is the function of the sacrament of baptism, which symbolised God’s adoption of the name. It is not just an empty ritual. Historically it altered the way language functions by introducing the immaterial dimension to mores, morality, all human relationships, and above all, it to one’s relationship to the self.
Forms of metaphysics and narcissistic worship of the self are well known and widely available in antiquity. Classical metaphysics remain absolutely dependent on physics through the logos (word and logic) and the nomos (law). They are not related in any way to human agency and the name it carries. The name introduces an inviolable limit within language, a limit desire seeks to transgress, but without which love becomes superfluous, its sublimating power drained of actuality, and aesthetic currency emptied of its immaterial minting.
Aesthetic currency is pure desire. Juliet’s transgression is all-consuming love, the kind of love known as desire in the philosophical lexicon: hot, unruly and uncontrollable creaturely passion destined for death. Desire is not conditioned by the internal law of the individual being, but by purely external, objective, shared reality. “You kiss by the book” says Juliet to Romeo, who at the time of their encounter is emerging from a fresh break-up, emotionally battered and internally unavailable for a new relationship. Juliet runs the show from the very beginning. Romeo follows, blindly worshipping at Juliet’s altar. His emasculation, like the erasure of his baptismal name, is the tragic action driving the play. He is going through the motions of courtship automatically, “by the book,” even bureaucratically. Desire burns his and Juliet’s young lives quickly and leaves nothing but their desire as their legacy.
The aesthetic conventions of desire consumed the individual without remainder. In the true fashion of tragic poetry, which shatters the flawed hero onstage only to preserve the rules of classical perfection, which are purely external and ostentatiously public, Romeo and Juliet’s remains become the common property of the world. Indeed, countless languages, media, and art forms have adopted and adapted the play since its original appearance in London. Only the internalisation of their transgression individualises their passion and confers upon it a saving grace.
Political Misappropriation of Juliet’s Tragedy: Nomos over Name
The en vogue interpretation of the play among scholars of the new historicist school of thought today foregrounds the young couple’s victimisation by traditional values. This interpretation justifies social design of racial and cultural interbreeding as a form of intervention in tragic destiny. This classical state intervention, however, is not supported by Shakespeare. It ignores basic cultural distinctions between the classical and the biblical traditions, as well as among biblical traditions.
The internal logic (nomos: law) of the tragedy of desire and the two corpses it inevitably produces is as dead-certain and fixed from the beginning as the law of gravity. Interracial unions based on racial identities, which conflate the distinction between the group, the family, and the individual in one dominant racial currency, inevitably produce violence and senseless destruction. Such is the tragic nature of the limit family identity posits to group identity. The group cannot articulate itself except through the family, but in order to adopt a family identity, the group must sacrifice it, that is, articulate its desire as common aesthetic currency. This was the function of Greek tragedy.
Ancient Rome demanded the sacrifice of the family to the state. It permitted the articulation of family identity only within the circulable discursive network of the state. In this case, interracial union is simply a matter of state interests, neither family nor individual interest. The relentless calculus of tragic aesthetics governed the ancient world and even as it pitted existence against the harsh realities of desire, it also developed the fine arts at the locus and limit between the nomos of the state and the family. Roman patricians took great pride in their family history, but only insofar as it served the ars memoria of the state.
Civic Crown: Nomos not Name
Biblical Name & Freudian View of the Family
Only in Jewish thought is family identity completely subsumed by group identity. The names listed in the Old Testament are inviolable and protected, not subsumable by the law (nomos). In the old testamentary biblical context interracial breeding becomes taboo. Freud’s thought originated in this tradition, which he confused, unwittingly and unfortunately, with the Greek tragic tradition. This made his articulation of the psychoanalytic world-view of the family as the centre of the universe a little blurry. But Freud made a mistake by merging tragic with Jewish family identity. The natural mores of gentile nations and their moral universe remained materially grounded in the tragic distinctness of the family from the nation. Tragic poetry, and later in Rome, more neutrally, pastoral poetry, served to articulate distinct family identities. Thus gentiles maintained a crucial distinction between the group and the family that is not available in other identity patterns.
Christian Re-Interpretation of Classical Identity Patterns
I will devote future posts to the Greco-Roman virtue of sacrificing the interests of the family to those of the state, especially Shakespeare’s Christian treatment of the material in “Coriolanus” and the other three Roman plays. Suffice to say at this point that the creative lancet of classical aesthetics operates between the family and the state. This is the price and the place of classical perfection. The profoundly Catholic Jacques Lacan considers tragedy the ultimate calculus of desire’s irreversible march toward death.
Christ’s Sword: Birth 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. The Christian individuality under God is separate from the family, as well as from the group/state. In antiquity separation from the family was normal and expected. In Jewish thought it is unthinkable. Christ has Romans and Greeks in mind when He says: “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). What Christ introduces in this crucial passage is self-difference, which is absent in both Jewish and Greco-Roman cultural reality.
Self-difference produces an infinite remainder that prevents annihilation of the individual. His consummation by social, biological, aesthetic, and all other currencies he shares with a group, be it family, tribe, national group or political organisation, is never total and complete. Self-difference produces a remainder that does not obey the logic of time and nature. It has its internal clock and calculus, even as it encloses the temporal and the natural world. Mathematically self-difference is evident in the number Pi. Simultaneously a finite value, a conglomerate of finite values, and an infinite number, Pi is the number of individuality.
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. This healing cut vouchsafes the unique truth and being of the individuality. The Christian context altered the function of the name profoundly. From objective unit in the chain of signifiers, whose meaning is guaranteed by blood lineage in Jewish thought or by the nomos in Greco-Roman logic, the name becomes the guarantor of a unique interior. The name is a portal to language and to internal infinity.
Desire and Regression to Tragedy
Desire erases the baptismal name and precipitates regression to tragic formatting. Shakespeare sets tragic regression in motion with Juliet’s famous balcony soliloquy. 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, the source of her transgression, is the conflation of the word and the name. This purely linguistic operation erases his humanity. Words in circulation represent a system of signification that orders the created world. We name creatures, but as creatures ourselves we lose the power to name. Nature is mute. Only humanity has the God-given gift of language, the medium of human creation. A bee may remain a bee even if we call it a violet or a true. The name of an object is replaceable. Stripping a Christian of his name by equating him with his race or family annihilates his interior and his being. Juliet’s curse, much like Romeo’s, is their bondage to families that indulged the magnificent tragic passions of family rivalry. Italy inherited the tragic arts of Rome and never really let go of them.
The function of the name is to stop the infinite circulability of words, to mark a limit that re-routs external passions to the interior. It also protects the teaching of Scripture, which no Christian can claim in his own name. Christ said “I am not here in my own name, but in the name of the Father.” This was necessary for the conversion of gentiles. The maker of their identities is not God, but the pale, earthy image of desire and its tragic beauty. This is why their initiation in the Biblical lineage is by adoption only, that is, by grace. The sublimation of Romeo and Juliet’s gruesome end is an act of grace. The play initiated an endless mourning ritual we still engage with pleasure. Shakespeare gives each character enough time to begin mourning and internalising the other marking a temporal caesura for their salvation.
The Limit in Love
Though Romeo and Juliet do marry, the consummation of their love is without remainder until the bitter end when Shakespeare makes them mourn each other and acknowledge their difference. The erasure of the name is also an erasure of the limit between the two. In a sense the tragedy of their union is the total merger of the two individualities. A love too passionate to stop at the threshold of transgression that consumes the beloved is star-crossed in its nature. Ironically, it is the names Shakespeare gave the young lovers, the very names they erased in their youthful passion, that remain as their only monument for all eternity: Romeo and Juliet.
In the ancient currency of tragic aesthetics the name is accidental, objective, and property of the state. In Christianity, the name simultaneously designates the entry to the interior and the guarantee of objective reality of Scripture. It certifies the name-bearer’s dual citizenship in the reality of Scripture and in his own difference from it. In a sense, it transports the tragic cut between the gentile family name and the classical nomos within the self. Because we know self-difference ourselves, we can identify with the transgression of the young lovers. Their passion remains in the cleavage between the self and its negative.
As self-difference the name constitutes an internal tragedy, the separation of one’s own name from the name of the Father. Self-difference is the essence of Christian passion. It is not narcissism, because there is no pure yield of pleasure nor self-worship, but to the contrary, a glorification
of difference. The identity pattern of self-difference initiated industrialisation and Western liberalism. The latter permitted other cultures and religions to participate in the project of modern statehood. Whether the politicisation of an internal Christian principle was a positive development is a question for another post.
What does the name have to do with the news? Which identity pattern emerges in the news and how do we relate to it?
It is difficult to watch a country that had preserved itself intact, united, and under one God for over two centuries disintegrate at such a rapid pace. The public discourse is littered with words like “community” instead of family, church, and country. The ideology of Marx is never far from community vocabulary. “Community” has become a code word for “ghetto,” division, racial hatred, ethnic strife, exclusion, and conflict, often armed and dangerous, as the Orlando massacre plentifully demonstrated. In the face of terror, which is just another word for civil war, we are challenged to preserve our identity intact, to remember that the American flag was woven by Christians, that the country and its constitution, as well as our historic-cultural specificity, rest on the identity patterns implemented by the same Christian faith that built European civilisation. Its material practices transcend earthly, creaturely, totemic ethnic or racial identities. The political pressure to accept primitive totemic identities to replace the Christian ones is extraordinary. It is a direct violation of the basic freedoms America has defended over the past couple of centuries. There is little individuals can do in the face of so many internal and external foes, other than remember who we are and not let fear, terror, and violence cause us to give up our faith, our principles, and our historic identity.
A quick reflection on the barrage of bad news that flooded our mailboxes over the past week would leave one aghast. The two issues that should have initiated a civilised discussion about the meaning of identity and its politics were native origin/birthright and sexual identity/orientation. Before the massacre of Orlando, most news stories focused on Mr. Trump’s mistrust of the fairness of a judge born to Mexican parents in the US and Dr. Warren’s claims to Native American heritage based on her cheekbones. A charged, unreflected, and unreasonable discourse on “racism” dominated the unilateral news coverage, but more often than not racist thinking was actually indulged by the plaintiffs, Warren, La Raza, establishment politicians and the media, and not by their targets, Trump & Co.
It is perfectly reasonable to bring up the core values that constitute American identity for discussion, which is what Mr. Trump’s comment about a judge with Mexican heritage should have initiated. It became clear that born in the USA does not necessarily make one American, especially if the parents did not espouse the values of American identity, but brought up their children in their native tradition instead. One can’t really blame foreign-born parents alone for failing to raise their children as Americans. Americans created an environment of nativist thinking, where the place of birth determines one’s identity for life. Americans espoused a belief system that ran against their core values and expected American-born children to be instantly American. Everything about a belief system based on values like land and blood is contrary to core American values, beliefs, and history. But it seems the general American public as represented by the media has forgotten these values.
The foreign belief system the replaced the values of freedom and free choice with the value of land and blood was adopted after WWII, which saw the end of a regime that justified its aggression with blood lineage and birthright. The basic belief of the Nazi system was “land and blood.” Tenets of these corrupt principles were rather blindly embraced by Americans as the country welcomed the victims of the regime during and after the war. Victims often share the values and structural thinking of the perpetrators. The flood of immigrants from Germany imported their beliefs in land and blood, along with their nativist identity patterns. Slowly but surely they imposed their system on American schools, colleges, and universities. The philosophy of Hannah Arendt is a good example. She argues that a person’s identity is based on their “natality,” the blood parents’ lineage, and that this natality determines who the person is from cradle to death.
Nativism is contrary to Christian principles, sacraments, and identity structures. It is foreign to American history, which is the history of mostly Christian and mostly protestant immigrants who escaped the oppressive regimes of Europe to practice their God-given right to free will. Nativism as identity structure is a recent foreign import that changed the way we think about race, ethnicity, and birthright, for the worse. Moreover the confusion this thought pattern inflicted on American historical narratives made it more difficult than ever to process rationally and responsibly the legacy of slavery. Very sloppily thinkers like Arendt lumped together slavery and persecution of Jews in the same category, which upped the emotionalism of the racial discourse and left it with no rational, historically and culturally specific tools of analysis. The problem it created is a charged, emotionally unruly, fanatical public space that ignites on contact and instantly torches the very possibility of a reasonable discussion. This situation has long been the norm in most Latin American countries run by autocratic governments, but it is fairly recent in the US, only since the end of WWII. The US used to enjoy an independent scientific and teaching community, but nativism and racism have corrupted the country’s educational and research institutions.
deep under the magnificent facades of the eternal city, the first Christian Church laid the foundations of the Christian reality principle
Our educational institutions have failed us on many fronts. The disappearance of the humanities following the culture wars, which instilled deep mistrust of European traditions even as the political establishment blindly espoused European political philosophies divorced from their cultural context, was a devastating consequence. Europe lost the battle against nativism well before America did. The German nation especially forgot its Christian roots and staked its nationalism on its pagan heritage. The romantic traditions of the nineteenth century were purely cultural, artistic, and literary, but their transfer to political philosophy proved disastrous. The subordination of what remained of the humanities after the culture wars to nativist identity politics eliminated basic emotional and aesthetic education from the curriculum. As a result students grew ever more primitive, crude, and insensitive to their internal landscapes, which makes them unfit for public service, because they are incapable of reflection, self-reflection, or discussion.
The history taught in American classrooms has been reduced to racial hatred, ethnic strife, and revenge politics. There is so much more to history and historical identity. The past is an immense well of knowledge, self-knowledge, and delight, if one would just get past the Cerberus of political history guarding the entrance to historic knowledge. Even Shakespeare, the most prolific and sublime poet, has been reduced to the bare bones of one-sided political historical interpretations. It is hardly a surprise then that contemporary journalism has degenerated to the level of primitive emotionalism and is running on automatic reflexes, unable to host a civilised debate about anything.
The construction of human identity is a complex, culturally sophisticated, and infinitely rich phenomenon that cannot be shoehorned into the ethnic labels available on employment and government forms. To think that a Harvard professor, Dr. Warren, running for public office has no more to offer than the ethnic identity checkbox on an institutional document is sobering and worrisome. Our government consists of functionaries who exist only on paper and show no humanity, no intelligence, and no interiority. Such individuals cannot guarantee our safety, let alone a prosperous environment where knowledge, culture, and intelligence can thrive and develop. The Darwinian reduction of humanity to biological features like cheekbones, blood lineage, skin color, or native DNA, has severely crippled our intelligence and our ability to adapt to a changing world. An identity in Christ is infinitely more humane, unifying yet diverse, and rich with possibilities.
The political war on Christianity is preying on the fears of those who feel excluded from the great American family. In reality, the Christian identity of the American family is open and available to all who are willing to accept Christ as their saviour, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Exclusion is self-imposed, not demanded by other members. Christian civilisation is in fact the ONLY civilisation to foster the development of identity patterns of choice.
Among the essential beliefs of Christianity is the doctrine of adoption. Christians are made God’s children not by descent and blood lineage, but by Grace. Adoption by God is unthinkable in other belief systems, which hold birthright to be the only source of ethnic, national, and sexual identity. Only Christ frees His followers of all material constraints of identity, including ethnic and racial lineage. To the Sadducees who did not believe in adoption by God, interpreted the laws of Moses too narrowly, and held blood ties to be the only source of identity, Jesus replies: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels.66 They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 (Luke 20)
The soul is pure and free of the material constraints of identity. This also means the adopted identity does not replace the identity of origin, like a prosthesis replaces a missing organ or body part, but rather sublates it, elevates it as immaterial presence. Christ’s pardon of the adulteress (John 8), along with His revelation that in heaven the spirit is not bound to earthly identities and covenants, extends to all sexual transgressions. So long as we are in the earthly body, however, transgressions do exact a price, though it is not one demanded by the law or by fellow members of the Church. A Christian has the duty to warn members of the Church of the earthly constraints and troubles awaiting them if they indulge sexual transgressions. Nothing more, nothing less. A Christian also has the duty to forgive, to honour the purity of the soul, to consider everyone in the faith worthy of resurrection, to practice grace, and above all not to judge the next person, but to love him or her unconditionally regardless of their deeds, identities, or choices. Where does Christianity clash with LGBT, as politicians claim and as the media dishonestly, viciously maintain?
Christianity has no laws and no punishments, but it does express its beliefs frankly and with love. Literally everyone is welcome in the Christian family, but everyone is also individually responsible for the choice to enter or not to enter and individually responsible for all choices they make. The government was never intended to be a moral guardian of its constituents. In the Christian family — not community — the moral law is within and cannot be imposed by force from without. The American family is a Christian family, perhaps the only Christian family born of adoption and not tied to land and blood lineage as it is in the Old World. There is no coercion in a Church founded on the belief in free will. Greek civilisation, though friendly and accommodating to LGBT, was also excruciatingly oppressive of non-Greeks and women. That’s not who Christians are and that’s not who Americans are.
Over the past eight years the government staged a war between the Christian and the LGBT community, the black and the white community, and among religious and ethnic communities that has left the country heart-broken and desolate. A twentieth century political philosopher, Carl Schmitt (Nomos of the Earth), was deeply concerned with a rising New World Order that would change the nature of war from armed contest between equals to “just war” against “unjust foes” and plunge the world in a permanent civil war that would tear societies apart and prevent interludes of peace. What Schmitt feared is at our door. He foresaw that the new kind of war, called a “just war,” would create “unjust” foes for the first time in history and that eventually communism will claim to be the only just war, leaving the international community at the mercy of communist rule. This has come to pass.
The only remedy is fastidious maintenance of the Christian European traditions that created the world as we know it, because only the Christian European context holds the keys to the information we need to adapt and adjust to the new and unprecedented demands for peace. With the decline of European civilisation and the gradual elimination of European languages and cultures from American academic curricula, we are destroying the only hope for peace. The medical and scientific systems supporting the social body are culturally specific and no one can hope to use them and to continue to develop them outside the context of their origin. We cannot afford to confuse European identity with the European traditions that gave birth to the systems of knowledge we employ daily. The destruction of the Christian European roots of our world order will only lead to dictatorships, grossly oversized, ineffective governments and bureaucracies, and ultimately to a state of permanent civil war in all countries. European Christianity is not a race, nor an ethnicity. It is the structural foundation of our world. A war against it means permanent war against the basic constitution of reality, an unwinnable war.
Flag Day is a fantastic opportunity for reflection on historic memory and the arts of memory. As I encourage you here to write down or document in some way your personal history, I also try to foster philosophical habits of reflection that help us think about historic memory as such. A good deal of iCulture’s content already focused on the arts of memory. Tragedy, allegory, poetry, visual memory and the techno media are all forms of record-keeping, technologies of memory, and arts of remembrance. This frame gives us a dwelling space within which we can engage in a contemplation and a discussion about Flag Day 2016. Historic memory and knowledge offer the best protection against the numerous acts of terrorism we are asked to endure daily, some by actual physical attacks carried out in our public spaces and some in our very homes and private spaces, courtesy of the press and the media networks.
The flag is a memorial. The flag of a nation represents its honour and its memory. Its appearance as an object and a prop in action reflects the health of the historical identity it bears. When it appears on the calendar, it does so as carrier of recurring content, content that requires remembrance and reinterpretation with every return of the day. The calendar is the most important memory technology we employ to collect our identity from the scattered and otherwise meaningless events of linear chronology. Ours is the Gregorian Christian calendar. Even though its secularisation emptied it of liturgical content, the calendar remains bound to Christian sacrament, the material practice of Christianity, which was designed to format human existence on earth from birth through baptism and confirmation to marriage, healing and death. History as we know it today began with the advent of Christ’s resurrection, in 0 AD. It begins with the birth of the Son of Man, the only God-begotten son, and stretches to eternity. Every historic body falls under the flag of Christian identity. Our calendar begins with the birth of Christ and our history can only be told through recurring structures in that calendar.
The Flag Stands for the Body of a Nation
The body the flag represents has a history. Today the identity of a historic body is often confused with totemic identity, which is marked by the sacrifice of a totem animal. When we say our soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice to the flag, their lives, we are in fact dishonouring them. We are all part of the same body represented by the flag, no more nor less than the soldier, but the flag elevates this body above the creaturely body fit for sacrifice. It is a dishonour to treat any part of the historic body represented by the flag as a sacrifice. It reduces us to the status of creatures and robs us of our humanity.
The body the flag represents is Christian. What does “Christian” mean? To some it is just another totemic identity, but that’s far from its intrinsic truth. Christian identity is different and special because it put an end to the sacrifice of creatures practiced by all pre-historic religions. The American flag does not represent the body of a creature, whose blood is to be sacrificed to the alter of group identity, because at its inception it did not serve humans practicing pre-historic rituals. The American flag represents a very different group body: an abstract, immaterial presence that is nevertheless active in history. Since the logic of this identity follows the historic path of the Son of Man, Christ, and his saints, all children of God, it is marked not by sacrifice, but by the struggles of the Lord at the hands of earthly power.
There is no other nation whose flag is fully identified with its role in history, because it is the youngest flag among the world powers. Christ was the door to history and this means the American flag, like the veil of Veronica, represents his earthly remains, a record of the suffering endured at the hands of earthly power. This is the flag the world celebrates on Flag Day, the flag of the Angel of Freedom and the living power of the Lord moving history relentlessly toward the splendour of His Kingdom of peace and eternal grace. On Flag Day the gentle wing of freedom glides over all the nations and the American flag embodies this ephemeral presence. This, more than the sacrifice of soldiers some believe is the meaning of Flag Day, is the true calling of the holiday.
Realities of War
Memorial holidays also remind us of the realities of war. Their significance changes every year as the nation is confronted with new challenges. It is the responsibility of the media to frame the new narrative intelligently, but partisanship and extreme censure by the political affiliations of news agencies and the press at large has reduced their capacity to reflect anything beyond pre-formatted political content. It is up to us to pick up the pieces.
It is fitting to remember the prayer for peace Nixon penned in 1969 in the context of a bloody, senseless, and unnecessary war that claimed the destiny of an entire generation of Americans. memorial prayer (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=105927) Wars and acts of terror are intended to change our identity. Our holidays help us heal the wounds of war and terror. They help us preserve our identity and our flag intact through every debacle and every national tragedy.
An example from our recent history is the Vietnam war, which was matched by an equally successful internal “drug” war, by which I don’t mean the war on drugs, but the war drugs wage on human life. The drug war claimed the lives of the most talented young artists, poets, and philosophers. It cut them off from reaching maturity, and robbed us of their contribution to the intellectual life of the nation. Besides holidays, the national media are also means of preserving our identity. The media, film especially, help us make sense of the immense losses of national resources every war and every act of terror cost.
Film Medium Processes Psychological Impact of History
Film: the Art and Psychology of Historic Memory
The film medium picked up the pieces with such productions as the musical plea for peace “Hair” (Forman, 1979). The title is, intentionally or not, an homonym for “Heir” and a reference to the Heirs of God who appeared to be abandoned by Him at the time of the most destructive war. Here is a reminder: Children Forgotten by God https://youtu.be/fhNrqc6yvTU. The more lasting reformatting of the psychological reality of unjust war came with the gradual re-definition of the horror genre from sophisticated Hitchcockian thriller to mass massacres at the hands of zombies, vampires, and cannibals. Film was not only responding to an altered reality, courtesy of the Vietnam war, but also began educating the mass consumer in the pleasures of sacrificial ritual until the viewing public became numb to its horrors and simply accepted the re-definition of Christianity as a religion of horror. Even Christian leaders forgot that the paramount goal of Christianity was the abolishing of sacrifice and slavery and began to accept a devastating historical narrative designed to abolish Christian faith. By the 1990s American youths had widely accepted the replacement of the immortality of the Christian soul with that of the vampire. The finest work of the film medium such as Neil Jordan’s 1994 “Interview with the Vampire” reflected and even embraced this new identity, which was violently imposed on Christian youth during and after the Vietnam war.
Children without God
Meaningless Vietnam War undoes and defaces the Just and Good Cold War Resulting in Hunger, Violence, and the Mass Displacement of Humans
The Vietnam war was a distraction from and ultimately the undoing of the Cold War, which was a just war. The Cold War had advanced the art of war to bloodless warfare, an unprecedented development in history. It achieved a level of sanity in the art of war and the highest historical standard of regard for human life. The powers of evil, unfortunately, continued to lust after blood. The Cold War shed no blood and was carried out entirely through media, industrial, and high technological means. The USA won this war with intelligence, technical sophistication, and an ideology of freedom deeply rooted in American Christian consciousness. The consciousness of a nation is its only claim to honour. It is won slowly, painstakingly, and with historical determination. The US is currently undoing both its honour and its memorial arts as it continues on a downward spiral of forgetfulness. The consequences are dire for the entire world, because its highest calling is to be the model democracy for the developing world and the guardian angel of European Christian civilisation, which would otherwise fall in the hands of tyrannical regimes, homegrown or imported.
We have now largely forgotten that the Cold War was not waged against the Russian people, but against the corruption of Marxism. Marx simply took the moral code of the Christian community and applied it to a meaningless materialist system of valuation, economic currency, thus emptying the community of the meaning of divine presence and of Christian sacrament. Marxism sounds good because it is re-selling the stolen goods from the Church. Marx provided the ideological foundation for all dictatorial regimes and gave them justification and historic validation. The 1993 US election reversed everything we gained in the Cold War. The years that followed plunged the world back into the pre-WWI colonial and economic chaos as the US embraced Marx as ideological foundation of its domestic and foreign policy. An unfortunate historic development, the institution of debilitating government bureaucracies had already taken hold of the (post)-colonial world. Would-be post-colonial democracies were delivered a final blow when the US embraced Marxism in the mid 1990s. Instead of seeing the US as a pillar of hope and a model democracy, newly freed colonies, fuelled by Marxist ideology, had been counting the US their enemy. Under pressure from the other colonies, in the mid 1990s the first and only successful post-colonial country, the USA, was seduced by Marxism. This left the developing colonial world with no real alternative and no real values. The corruption of the post-colonial world then led to mass migration, because the freshly minted democracies were too weak to sustain a moral code necessary for real economic and political stability. Mass starvation, mass corruption, and in some cases, mass genocides ensued. Photographers like Sebastião Salgado documented the atrocities that are still with us:
By 2001 the technological gains of two world wars and the cold war were essentially obliterated as the US, the only hope and model for the colonies, was debilitated by another Vietnam-type quagmire of a war with no end in sight, the Middle Eastern debacle. The senseless bloodshed is still with us and the number of hopeless, hungry, driven to violence refugees rises catastrophically on a daily basis.
The Gift of 2016: A Choice for the Future
Flag Day 2016 staged a contest between the two competing versions of the holy-day: those who believe it stands for totemic sacrifice and those who believe it stands for the only freedom available in history. This year, like every year, presents not only Americans, but honest citizens of free countries around the world, with the choice between tyranny and peace, for both are plentifully available to us, this year and every year. The choice is in every beating heart.
Tragedy of Flag Day 2016
The Orlando shooting is a national tragedy. Much like the terror attack in Brussels during Easter week 2016, this attack attempted to mar the celebration of our Christian flag. The spectrum of political responses is a strong indicator that democracy is well and alive in the country. The national territory is home to many who don’t identify as Christians and Americans and who do not honour our flag. We have a duty to be good hosts to them, but we also must recognise their difference and the impossibility of universal inclusion under one flag. By the same token, we have to preserve our identity and the sacred body represented by the flag intact. We cannot let our guests desecrate it and we must stake the right to ask them to leave if they cannot respect the identity of their host. We cannot let guests take over our identity and forget who we are, forget that we live under a Christian flag representing a historic body that has specific cultural features and traditions.
Christianity is not a religion of birthright, blood lineage, and totemic identity. In Christ we are all children of God, adopted, not born. We don’t belong to earthly entities like blood, land, and language. Romans 9:3: “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise.” As children of the promise we have no earthly origin and no earthly resting place. God had mercy on us and granted us entry in His Kingdom by our faith in Him. Who are we to reject His grace and revert to beliefs of blood sacrifice and birthright? Even though we are surrounded by guests who are bound by their blood and ethnic lineage to preserve their identities, we should never forget that we are free of such ties. This is the essence of our freedom. It is represented by the flag.
Flag Day is also the birthday of the American army. Our army was created to protect the flag and our freedom from blood lineage and all earthly material determinants of our identity, including terror attacks designed to alter our sense of self and our identity as a nation. As the only flag on earth that represents the freedom to choose one’s identity, it deserves unconditional honour, love, and dedication.
Every tragedy has a flawed but lovable hero. In this case it is neither the terrorist nor his victim, but rather the average American who let the flag of freedom drop to accommodate a passion for some material identity that was too dear and too precious to renounce. It is up to the individual psyche to identify the loss and to forgive the offender within with the grace God gave us in Christ.
A forum for the users of literary e-spa dedicated exclusively to the newsfeed online
The daily news often leave us rattled, helpless, or hopeful, but they don’t provide a frame for containing the immediate effects of raw news reporting. The news are neither reflexive nor self-reflexive, which leaves half the work not finished. Official academic and political discourses tend to dismiss or outright condemn all acts of consumerism, not realising that consuming is half of our daily work. As a result we lack public spaces where we can train intelligent, reflected, and self-aware consumer habits. This forum will help us fill in the gap in public services.
An essential part of iCulture therapy is the cultivation of a strong interior that is immune to violent alterations brought about by external events. Historical acts and significant political events reach us via the media outlets and naturally alter the formats of our existence, but we are not at the mercy of unfiltered news. We have the power to determine how they affect us by framing a conscious response that reflects our inner identities. Preserving our freedoms includes the right to design who we are inside. Learning to practice this right to achieve full personal autonomy is among the paramount goals of iCulture therapy.
Feel free to share a story, political, cultural, scientific or any other, that you found online or in printed media within a month of your post.
Please provide a question or a context for your particular take on the event and define a relevant topic for discussion.