Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing:
I wanted to jump in on the many conversations that are being had now on the dark night of the soul, on the Death of God, on Atheism for Lent, on Gnosticism, and so forth but for the longest time I had not the proper angle of approach available to me. There was recently a beautiful exchange of posts between Peter Rollins, Micah Bales, and other friends (see here for the whole story) but I was unable, it seems, to properly approach these subjects without first being able to speak on the nature of “projection” which I believe lies at the heart of this issue.
For me, this required a long look at, among other things, questions of (inverted) teleology and intentionality. Now, with my recent post on what I am calling “entensionality” (see here), I feel more confident that I can appropriately provide to this ongoing discussion. As usual, I will be “filtering” my response through a meditation on three other thinkers, in creative ways where possible. The selection, this time, was more difficult than ever before. I have carefully chosen Nietzsche, Jung, and the late Sartre to guide me. This triangulation will first and foremost allow me to best work the issue from all angles, from several time periods, and so forth.
More importantly, however, it will allow me to confront my own shadow (see an introduction to Jung’s use of the term here and here), re-live my own crisis of faith of which leads me to the wilderness (see here for my “wilderness theology” hypothesis), my own encounter with the dark night of the soul, in a more stabilizing way than before. With these three in particular, I certainly feel I am in good company.
I would like to recall quickly my idea of entensionality as being more or less non-intentional, and focused instead on decidedly non-visual and non-visible cues. I have expressed my more “psychoacoustic” tendency before in my post on the fragmented body (see here), though a nice post from John Priestley’s blog Reading Sound (see here) tagged ADUMBRATION gives me a better feeling of this self-conscious construction, this enconstruction of entensionality, with recourse to Husserl:
46. [Regarding Robert Morris' Box:] Past and present, making and perceiving, thus become conflated in experience. This situation would seem to parallel Husserl’s notion of phenomenological “adumbration,” in which an object is perceived from multiple perspectives, yet understood ‐ precisely because of the constancy of certain features ‐ to be one and the same object with a set of essential qualities…. Morris discovers that sound recommends itself as an ideal medium for such temporal adumbration. Sound initiates its own nonintentional, perspective-neutral shifts in the relation of subject to object. Because sound is immersive, it inevitably creates an environment that is simultaneously and irredeemably a product of an interaction not just between spectator/auditor and object/sound source, but also includes a third component: situation. The situation is a product of time, context, expectation (protention), and memory (retention). [Quoting Robert Morris:] [A]rt “is primarily a situation in which one assumes an attitude of reacting to some of one’s awareness as art.”
It is this resource which gives me the name for this post, and as it proceeds through a helpful and otherwise fragmentary sketch the author is led to consider the meaning of John Cage:
259. Sound alone, signifies itself. This accepted, essentialist reading of the two great bestowals of Cage and Schaeffer — silence-as-sound and sound-in-itself — accepts sound as a kind of god, a unifying and unified sign. This amounts to the same unsustainable premise upon which the phenomenological construction is balanced. It maintains that self-presence takes place in the Augenblick, the blink of an eye. It happens so fast, it is so apparent, that it requires no sings, no representation. [...] 259. Lyotard’s reading realizes a Cage more radical than teh myth: “When Cage says: there is no silence, he says: no Other holds dominion over sound, there is no God, no Signifier as principle of unification or composition…. Neither is there a work anymore, no more limits…to determine musicality as a region.”
It is here where I would like to begin my conversation on the death of God, on the point of its “adumbration”.
adumbration (n.) 1530s, from Latin adumbrationem (nominative adumbratio) “a sketch in shadow, sketch, outline,” noun of action from pp. stem of adumbrare ”to cast a shadow, overshadow, represent (a thing) in outline,” from ad- ”to” (see ad-) + umbrare ”to cast in shadow,” from PIE *andho-”blind, dark” (see umbrage).
We must read Jung’s seminars on Nietzsche in the light of an awareness of this death, in an attempt to integrate this looming shadow in particular. It is this same approach which I would ultimately suggest marks the difficult center of gravity in this conversation between Pete and Micah (and the others). The difficult part, from here, is showing how this is done especially in terms of my use of entensionality.
To begin, I believe we must recognize the “problem” of Dionysus and take it as our starting point. From Paul Bishop’s The Dionysian Self, we find the following on page 17:
Or, for a greater re-articulation of this problem, consider Jung’s Reception of Friedrich Nietzsche: A Roadmap for the Uninitiated by Dr. Ritske Rensma (see here):
A topic which still remains to be discussed, however, is in which way Nietzsche, and the concept of the Dionysian in particular, influenced Jung’s own conceptual framework. This is a topic all its own, and one which I do not have enough room for here to fully do justice. It is also a topic about which the scholars who have written about Jung’s reception of Nietzsche disagree somewhat. For myself, I have come to the conclusion that the concept from Jung’s own theoretical framework which was most explicitly influenced by Nietzsche is his concept of the shadow. Jung hypothesized that all the inferior (Jung’s term) parts of ourselves which we refuse presence in our lives — our wild and untamed instincts, as well as our unethical character traits and ideas — take on a subconscious life of their own, occasionally overtaking us when we least suspect it. According to Jung, the best way to deal with this shadow side of our personality is not to deny it, but to become conscious of it and work with it. The shadow, in other words, is not to be neglected — it is to be confronted. When this task is accomplished, the shadow stops being antagonistic, and can even become a source of great strength and creativity. The shadow, in other words, must be integrated into the conscious personality.
Though, the “answer” gets really thick, and I mean really quickly. I’m drawn to consider the final few chapters of Nietzsche and Jung: The Whole Self in the Union of Opposites by Lucy Huskinson as key stimuli for thought.
The layout of this book is quite extraordinary, and the back-and-forth chapters entitled “Nietzsche’s madness: A Jungian critique of Nietzsche’s model”, “Nietzsche’s absolution: a metacritique of Jung’s critique of Nietzsche’s model”, “Jung’s shadow: the ambiguities of Jung’s reception of Nietzsche resolved” and lastly ”Jung’s madness: a Nietzschean critique of Jung’s model” give us an immediate sense of the rhythm such an encounter should take, playing out like a kind of dance. It reads like a championship boxing match, where the two thinkers knock each other up until madness ensues in both.
All without knowing who will be standing in the last instance.
Do not be mistaken: Dead or alive, God’s blood is everywhere, splattered all over the arena in the midst of all of this violence. When immersed in the dark night of the soul, in its very monstrous immediacy whose sublimity rises well above your head, it overwhelms you that God is actually dying right before your eyes. There’s simply no disputing this visible spectacle, just no two ways about it. He’s attended to by a squadron of angels, wrapped in swaddling bandages, shivering and shaking along the way, placed in a stretcher with the whole world watching on national TV.
Then, he is still. His heart stops beating, there is no further movement. From one manger to another, from the middle of the ring to the ambulance, experiencing unhealthy blood loss and disfigurement, not even a twitch of “His mighty right hand” or a thumbs up from the Buddy Christ appears to show us he’s OK as he’s taken from the scene. “Multi-system injuries” reported. Sirens roar and trumpets sound as God Almighty is sped straight to the hospital bed. It is this sound which is key for the dark night.
The sound of the Crisis itself, the sound of Christ himself, these cries in the Wilderness, all full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The signified “nothing” that is the piercing sound of death itself. I know I must learn to hear this sound from a distance.
Dead, but still with us, still with us, but dead:
This past week my mom (an ordained chaplain) met a young couple.
The man was diagnosed with liver cancer in mid-February, and was growing worse. His condition was deteriorating rapidly. From what I understand, it was as though he could see his death coming, and was holding-on-for-dear-life just to ask my mom to marry him with his girlfriend. This past weekend, on Friday, they swore their final vows. He couldn’t even leave his bed to go to the chapel. He died Sunday morning, two days after the event. Had my mom asked to wait for a week, the man would have been dead.
I am ever more convinced that the finality of death, of even the death of God, is central to the experience of the dark night. I do not think this can be understated, or brushed aside so easily. Put otherwise, I do not believe that there can be a dark night without a dead God, without a body cold as ice, without a burial or the spreading of ashes. It is finished, really. At its darkest, the humble nurse approaches you, personally, and says (perhaps in tears herself) that God is dead. Dead as a door-nail. Cause of death? Severe trauma to the God-head. Like the trauma triad of death, we hit ‘em right in the Trinity!
Thomas Altizer, in his recent piece called The Self-Saving of God, writes:
Let us first note that the symbol of the self-saving of God or Being is extraordinarily rare until the full advent of the modern world, perhaps it can be fully found in the ancient world only in Gnosticism, and Hans Jonas, a former student of Heidegger’s, and surely our greatest Gnostic scholar, could identify a uniquely Gnostic redemption as the “self-saving” of God. This self-saving is necessitated by the fall of Godhead itself, wherein a “devolution” of deity occurs, and a devolution reversed by a redemption effecting the reintegration of the impaired Godhead. Gnosticism, for Jonas, is the most radical movement in the ancient world, one that not only reversed classical culture, but shattered the pantheistic illusion of the ancient world. [...]
Today we can understand Gnosticism as being born in the very advent of Christianity, and Gnosticism has ever accompanied the deeper expressions of Christianity, for even when these truly transcend Gnosticism, as occurred in both Augustine and Aquinas, it is Gnosticism which impels or makes possible such a transcendence, a Gnosticism which thereby can be understood to be essential to a uniquely Christian transcendence, and above all so if a uniquely Christian transcendence can be understood as a reflection or embodiment of the self-saving of God. Gnosticism gives us the deepest and purest image of such self-saving in the ancient world, just as Gnosticism gives us the deepest and purest image of the darkness of God in that world, and if the darkness of God is inseparable from the self-saving of God, then the advent of the deepest darkness of God may well be the advent of a truly new self-saving of God, and one certainly known not only by Hegel and Heidegger, but by virtually all of our deepest modern visionaries. Has the time now come for theology itself to incorporate such understanding? Or is ours the time for a new silence of theology, one which virtually all of our contemporary theologians have seemingly chosen, and chosen perhaps because only thereby can theology now be preserved?
The phrase I wish to hone in on here is the “reintegration of the impaired Godhead”. If it is a matter of impairment, it is a matter of coping or otherwise dealing with the ultimate Impairment, i.e. of the Death of God.
“God is dead, but still with us, still with us, but dead” — dead as a door nail, my friends Brad and Jeremy (who speaks of the shadow) are correct here. They nailed it on the spot by asking: Which corpse(s) are we carrying with us in our atheism(s)? I wish to ask a few of my own, perhaps provocatively. Can we speak of “self-saving God” before an “other-saving God”? What is God trying to save, when he saves himself? Should we perhaps stop him? Should we help him? etc.
The problem of the “Dionysian shadow”, we shall see, is no different from the problem of learning to live finally in the wake of the death of God, all corpses included. It is a problem of corpses, both living and dead. Even if a corpse is still with us, despite that a corpse is still with us, because a corpse is still with us nonetheless. Emmanuel means “God with us”. Yes, of course dead, of course still with us, what does this even mean in our lives? After our mourning, how are we to live? How do we think? How do we speak? How do we act? How has the Death of God affected us? Do we sometimes carry the Dead-God around too much on our backs? Does it perhaps weigh us down? Does it help?
Can we leave it in the ground, and sometimes visit it in the cemetery with some flowers? Remember: There is no “shadow” underground, if God like anything else is interned as such. If God’s ashes are scattered, there is no shadow. Can we put down our Cross, stand out from beneath its Golgothaian-sized shadow, and leave behind the desire to crucify ourselves and others? Do we still perhaps mourn too much? Too little? Can we move on, finally? Should we? Do we really need God? Do we need the concept of “God”? Can we ever stop our crying so as to begin to help others? Does the God-concept get in the way? Does it liberate?
To ameliorate… I am in a position, as is anybody reading this blog, to ameliorate.
Let us begin to think of amelioration. When dealing with individuation, amelioration pertains to this “union of opposites”, a union which may or may not bury God in the end. To approach this question of “order” and “form”, we open chapter called Jung’s madness to page 153:
The union of opposites is not an a priori starting point, it is rather an (a posteriori) end-product of the opposites acting alone. The union of opposites is not prior to experience, because it is the opposites themselves that create the relevant experience. For Nietzsche, there can be no pre-designated teleological path of experience (WP, 1062, 1064, 1066; BGE, 13), only the ceaseless and random flux of becoming. While the Self is an inevitable goal of the healthy psyche, an intrapsychic pre-designated plan, the Übermensch is defined by the strength to endure the immediate chaos of existence. It is to create order and form, but in such a way that no shape can be recognized or fully established. As Nietzsche says, simply to ‘impose upon becoming the character of being – that is the supreme will to power’ (WP, 617, italics mine; cf. GS, 109). To assemble a definite structure out of the chaos of opposites, as Jung has done, is to impose limitations on individual creativity. [...]
In his preoccupation with form, Jung cannot accommodate the freedom and creativity that chaos initiates and the Übermensch demands. Zarathustra teaches that ‘one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star’ (TSZ, prologue, 5), but this is just what the Jungian model lacks. Certainly the Jungian model shares similarities with that of Nietzsche but, from a Nietzschean perspective, Jung’s model is concerned with Being over Becoming
So, which is it? The author concludes (quite convincingly) that Jung has misread Nietzsche in his seminars, and that this misreading of Nietzsche was also a self-diagnosis.
Though I haven’t gone back to the seminars myself to see if this is the case throughout the 1500 pages, I am not at all opposed to this reading given my own discernment. If it holds, we find ourselves at the threshold of a door which reads “NIETZSCHEAN/POST-JUNGIAN” thought (see here, then mix to an even blend with Zarathustra’s warnings). It is a door which lies at the very edge of my knowledge, a door which we have reached well before many others have in our Wandering. Do we choose to enter it? Do I?
Like any unknown, the possibility of danger seeps from beneath the cracks. The purple mist shrouds around my feet. Perhaps some may have entered before me, but what of their fate?
Admittedly, there is something really fishy about them, about Jung’s seminars, about own behavior and teaching, about the setting of the seminars, about who was selected to be present, about those elements of control, and so forth. I am given pause by the conditions of this seminar, of the very construct of this seminar. This is not too much unlike the point Lacan tried to make in his later seminars, speaking of his own performance in front of his audience. How well-received was this point, made by the “character of Lacan”? Do I listen to Jung, even if it turns out that I am completely making up this conveyed warning to us?
Jung suggests: Do not enter, at least not just yet, make sure you are prepared first, I myself was not prepared. Whereas Zarathustra provokes: Live more dangerously! You are ready, and if you are not, you will soon become ready! Am I prepared? Here, Jung is my Angel, Zarathustra my Devil. But what if the Angel is at once devilish, and if the Devil is a fallen angel? If Heaven and Hell are indiscernable, if they spin around each other, pulling each other close with their gravity, from their projected celestial or archetypal realms into the World, into my Self in the world?
Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped.
I cannot help but feel there is something slightly deceitful at work, but that this deceit has its properly cathartic purposes. If not deceitful, then at least dizzying.
I confess here and now in this place that I am having a hard time imagining that Jung of all people would misread Nietzsche in that way — unless it were deliberate, in order to convey something to us. Yet, perhaps this too is a self-diagnosis of “me”, when dealing with the abstract ideas of others, can “I” avoid becoming a character “myself”? The late Nietzsche here comes across as more genuine to me, but do I think that only because he was “mad”? How do we compare them historically, the collective unconscious of their respective eras? Does Jung see something Nietzsche could not? Can he say what it is?
This is of course the question of Sartrean authenticity, perhaps put a little otherwise. Can we ever be fully individuated? If I recall properly, Jung ultimately believed he was, as of course did Nietzsche. But me, myself? I am young, the temptation is great, I have little choice but to enter the door. To put to rest, or rather, to heal, the unsettling thoughts of both my sick Fathers Jung and Nietzsche is surely the grand life-time task ahead of me. Where do I find my inspiration to break the chain of inheritance?
I lift my eyes up to the hills… (Psalm 121:1)…
It is not unlike that famous line from the 1921 Swedish silent film The Phantom Carriage (see here), the only prayer I can say here is: “Lord, please let my soul come to maturity before it is reaped.”
We may agree, of course, that the Will to Power is not a metaphysical doctrine. There is no “metaphysical miracle” of synthesis of opposites present, and it is instead a matter of experience.
I am certainly lacking in this field compared to some of my friends. I have not had any extremely serious tragedies befall me so far, and for this I remain forever grateful. The question, then, seems to be one of what we mean by “chaos” particularly as it concerns our experience. To an extent, yes, it is about stochastic processes, of entropy theory, of probability, etc. It is, on a pragmatic level, about gambling, about wagering (I hear you well, Pascal), about experimenting, about bricolage (see here). It seems it must be done in a certain way, or in many certain ways. I still have much to learn in this art, but he next round is just about to begin, so be sure to place your bets!
In continental thought today, surely, there is a privileging of Becoming with the likes of Deleuze. We speak of dynamics, but how dynamic are things really? Do we balance this with the static? What, ultimately, do we make of the “metaphysics of presence”? What happens with the “synthesis of opposites” in our own lives? Here, the discussion gets very personal, very co-personal, very trans-personal — very mutual and intimate in any case. Each of these questions have been answered, in terms of my limited experience alone, in some form or another through my previous posts on continuous integration (see here).
If we are to be concerned with “radical immanence”, then it is certain that the synthesis of opposites, the integration of fragments, is never complete as we never have a “full transfer principle” — I don’t know if that means anything to you, but I’ve used the concept before and it helps me. There are, as it were, only approximations of the vision-in-One. We may see only from the plurality of positions available to us from around the ring of the O, but never from its interior.
And yet, all of this assumes certain categories. This assumes we draw the circle, that we make lines and quadrants and boundaries even as we avoid them. It assumes we carve out a conceptual space and give it a name. It assumes fragmentary pieces that can be transferred between individuals and integrated as such, brought together as a make-shift Whole. It assumes some minimal form of communicability, of intelligibility, of comprehensibility. And if there is none? Beyond Badiou’s set theory, beyond Deleuze’s differential geometry, beyond Laruelle’s topos theory, beyond even our quantum set theory (see here …is it too soon to speak of a Beyond?), it seems to be category theory which is the place of the final showdown, of dealing with finality of the Death of God.
Proposition: The categories we use remind us of the corpses we carry.
These categories cast a shadow, whether positive or negative or a mix thereof. It is not enough to speak of the “creation of concepts”, we must strive to speak of ameliorative ones. I give the name PRE-ADUMBRATION to the act of thinking in advance the shadow that will be cast by a category. Will the category of “Self-Saving God” better anything in the world? Will “death of God”? Will “Atheism for Lent”? Will “Gnosticism”? Some concepts we must bury, others we must carry.
At varying stages of my individuation, I could say yes to any of these. I could also ask: At which stage are certain concepts needed most? Instead, moving with-and-beyond from one stage to the next, I have been asking in each of my posts: On this stage, which concepts do I need to conjure? I have not much else I can say further on this subject right now, except to give my best wishes to all the other Wanderers I have encountered to date. Where ever they may be, I wish to reassure them all that the concepts they are dealing with have been ameliorative to me at some level or another. I wish to challenge each of them to move to the beyond of their concepts with pre-adumbration in mind.
As for myself, I turn the knob and open the door. Like any door, on the other side there lies a tightrope spanning the abyss. I do not have to enter. I could stay out of it if I wish to do so until Crisis comes again, until Christ comes again. To emerge from the dark night of the soul is to be forever vigilant of falling back into it. To rise out of the dark night of the soul is to aid others who are in it presently, yes, of course, but it is also to try to rise out of it for good, to overcome the darkness. To be a Lover of the Light, I must step on the thin line over its abyss.
I put one foot in front of the other…
Altizer, Thomas J. J., and William Hamilton.Radical theology and the death of God. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966. Print.
Bishop, Paul. The Dionysian self: C.G. Jung’s reception of Friedrich Nietzsche. Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1995. Print.
Huskinson, Lucy. Nietzsche and Jung the whole self in the union of opposites. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge, 2004. Print.
Jung, C. G., and James L. Jarrett. Jung’s seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. Abridged ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Walter Arnold Kaufmann, and R. J. Hollingdale. The will to power. Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1968. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Walter Arnold Kaufmann, and Walter Arnold Kaufmann. Thus spoke Zarathustra: a book for all and none. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print.