Some good friends of mine will be featured in this film:
Below I’ve written a paper using the ideas of Gilles Deleuze and Alfred North Whitehead to construct a secular divinity. For Deleuze, this is an especially serious act of buggery on my part. Deleuze of course approved of that method in his own projects, but I wonder if he would approve of the baby jesus child that I’m trying to make him have in this paper. I’m directing Deleuze’s demand that we philosophers think immanently by believing in the world toward an interpretation of the Christian religion and faith. This is exactly what Whitehead does in Adventures of Ideas where he looks to the martyr Jesus for the exemplification of something that the philosopher Plato first divined as an ideal. Plato made a world-historical intellectual discovery, as Whitehead puts it, or as Deleuze would say he created a concept that has continued to reverberate across the ages. Where traditional monotheistic theologists create a concept of divinity as a transcendent and omnipotent imposer of form and order and law upon an entirely separate derivative world, with Plato you have the idea of divine immanence in the world working through persuasion–through desire, eros, beauty, and love–to transform the world “slowly and in quietness,” as Whitehead puts it, rather than by hurling thunderbolts from heaven. Plato invented a new idea of God working within the world as love, which is a kind of power, but not the power of brute force. God is no longer a creator who shapes the whole thing from outside. Rather, God is involved in, caught up with the process of cosmogenesis and spatiotemporal becoming, such that the world is as necessary for the nature of God as God is for the nature of the World…
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
The purpose of this essay is to unpack Deleuze’s and Whitehead’s philosophical contributions to the task of re-thinking religion in an increasingly fenced in, post-everything world no longer certain of its own secularity.1 “The secularization of the concept of God’s functions in the world,” argued Whitehead in 1927, “is at least as urgent a requisite of thought as is the secularization of other elements in experience.”2 With a similar sense of urgency, Deleuze (and Guattari) argued in 1991 that, in an age when “we have so many reasons not to believe in the human world,” philosophy’s most pressing task is to “give birth to new modes of existence, closer to animals and rocks,” modes of existence which renew “[belief] in this world, in this life.”3 Deleuze’s emphasis on immanence as against transcendence, on this world as opposed to the next, should not be read as a blanket dismissal of spiritual practice. On the contrary, for Deleuze, the creative thinking demanded by philosophical inquiry invites infinite cosmic forces into the finite mind, making philosophy akin to an “initiatory…spiritual ordeal.”4 Philosophers are those who dare to welcome such dangerous forces, risking not only their academic reputations,5 but the habit-formed security of their egos. Philosophers do not simply reflect ideas, they allow ideas to enter into and transform them:
This is because one does not think without becoming something else, something that does not think–an animal, a molecule, a particle–and that comes back to thought and revives it.6
Deleuze calls for a radical break with all forms of commonsense–whether it be religious, artistic, philosophical, or scientific–through the intercession of concepts with personalities who are willing to continually confront the absolute horizon of the plane, and so who are able to fold the infinite movements of Nous and Physis back into one another “in such a way that the plane of immanence is ceaselessly being woven, like a gigantic shuttle.”7 Philosophy, unlikes dogmatic religions, does not paint the firmament on an umbrella, rather it “[tears] open the firmament and [plunges] into the chaos.”8 As we will see, however, philosophy’s role is to not only to descend into the underworld, but to return with the good news.
Whitehead, for his part, has Jamesian tendencies that would at first glance seem to ally his philosophical efforts to the pragmatic interests of commonsense. “The philosophy of organism,” he wrote, “is an attempt, with the minimum of critical adjustment, to return to the concepts of ‘the vulgar.’”9 Whitehead made this comment in the context of a skeptical attack on behalf of commonsense experience mounted against the mechanistic abstractions of Newton (who dismissed the mathematically-naïve sense-based opinions of “the vulgar”) and the transcendental abstractions of Kant (who opposed derivative sensory appearances to ultimate substantial reality). Whitehead was well aware of the danger of hyperbole.10 In this case, however, it seems he fell prey to the danger of understatement. The “critical adjustment” his cosmology requires of the opinions of modern people can hardly be described as “minimal.” By the time Whitehead has finished his adventure in cosmologizing, not only will God have become creaturely, but energy vectors will have been transformed into emotional currents and atoms will have been endowed with life. Further, the very substance of the soul, the continuity of personal identity, will have become but a precariously linked “route of presiding occasions…[wandering] from part to part of the brain,” always vulnerable to dislocations and interruptions which “in primitive times [were] interpreted as demoniac possession.”11 Rather than having been made in heaven by God and beginning life fully-formed and eternally the same, the soul comes to matter to us precisely because it is what is always at risk, “what might be captured, reduced to wandering, enslaved.”12 No longer given as one, already whole, the soul becomes a social value to be achieved, a swarming community of larval subjects needing to be repeatedly composed or concresced out of the chaosmic raw materials of life (i.e., intensive percepts and affects). “Being a soul” in Whitehead’s process ontology is deeply problematic, even dangerous, because one never simply is but must become-soul. “Losing one’s hold [going mad],” in the context of Whitehead’s psychology, “becomes…the paradigmatic disaster, or else…the precondition of any initiation or any spiritual transformation.”13 It would seem that neither the traditional theologian nor the classical physicist, much less the average modern business owner, government employee, or homemaker, could feel at home in such a strange Whiteheadian universe! Both Deleuze and Whitehead generated concepts rooted in non-ordinary problematics, which is to say that the solutions distilled by their concepts problematize naïve egoic subjectivity by acting as alchemical catalysts that alter not only the contents of conscious thoughts, but the unconscious imaginative background of thought itself, thereby repositioning thinking on some as yet undetected plane of immanence. They are hermetic thinkers whose philosophizing sought not rational explanation, but the instigation of worldly renewal and the intensification of the depth of aesthetic experience. It is important in this context to forge connections between their efforts to creatively transform commonsense experience and the wider projects of establishing coherent social values and just political institutions. Deleuze’s philosophy has been criticized for being “politically irrelevant” by Peter Hallward due to its perceived “otherworldliness.”14 Isabelle Stengers has also criticized Deleuze’s tendency to celebrate the adventures of solitary, heroic creators who fearlessly dive into chaos while at the same time downplaying the conditions provided by their habitat and their inevitable need for social recuperation upon returning to consensual reality:
…all creators have learned [what] makes them able to “dive” without being swallowed. A dive cannot be improvised, but demands equipment. Unlike those who may happen to “sink” into chaos, creators are those who know what they experience “matters,” and that they will be able to recount something of what has happened to them, that is to come back…even from the land of the dead.15
Stengers’ contrasts Deleuze’s celebration of unhinged creativity with Whitehead’s tremendous respect for history and continual emphasis upon the importance of acquiring new habits in a way that is sensitive to the habitat they depend upon. “Each task of creation,” writes Whitehead, “is a social effort, employing the whole universe.”16 While Hallward’s claim may or may not be justified, Stengers’ modest Whiteheadian corrective to Deleuze’s penchant for skinny dipping in the Acheron allows us to receive much insight and inspiration from the latter without forgetting the perhaps more pertinent imperative of the former regarding the worldly responsibility of the philosopher:
…[to] seek the evidence for that conception of the universe which is the justification for the ideals characterizing the civilized phases of human society.17
When it comes to the influence of the mainline religious traditions of the West upon philosophy, both Whitehead and Deleuze lob devastating rebukes. Whitehead’s ire is almost always directed at the “idolatrous” habit of conceiving of God along the lines of an all-powerful imperial ruler or distant unmoved mover.18 “Religion,” writes Whitehead, “has emerged into human experience mixed with the crudest fancies of barbaric imagination.”19 Deleuze also mocks the idea of a “great despot” or “imperial State in the sky or on earth” typical of monotheistic commonsense.20 While this particular habit of religious thought is deemed dispensable, Whitehead is unwilling to jettison religious values outright, despite calls by the modern-minded to found civilization instead upon the abstractions of mechanistic science:
Unfortunately for this smug endeavor to view the universe as the incarnation of the commonplace, the impact of aesthetic, religious, and moral notions is inescapable. They are the disrupting and the energizing forces of civilization.21
In particular, Whitehead points to the “Galilean origin of Christianity” as an example of a non-despotic religious persona: Christ. Christ “neither rules, nor is unmoved,” but “dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love.”22 Deleuze also singles out Christian philosophy, both for praise and for disparagement. Those pre-modern Christian philosophers (like Cusa, Eckhart, and Bruno) who were bold enough to challenge church authority and risk their lives by injecting at least a dose of immanence into Physis and Nous still refused in the end to “compromise the transcendence of a God to which immanence must be attributed only secondarily.”23 Later modern Christian philosophers (like Pascal and Kierkegaard), though they were still men of faith, created concepts that recharged, rather than diminished, immanence. They were
concerned no longer with the transcendent existence of God but only with the infinite immanent possibilities brought by the one who believes that God exists.24
Deleuze suggests that, in the modern period, belief replaced knowledge as the dominant image of thought.25 The “will to truth” that had guided philosophy for so long lost its viability, as with the new technical power of modernity came also a crippling epistemic skepticism, an inability to grasp truth outright. No longer could the productivity of thought be “guaranteed in advance by the inherent connection between the good and the true”; rather, Deleuze believed that philosophical thought in the modern period required “trespass and violence,” treating the thinker of thought not as a trustworthy friend, but as an enemy.26 Truth is now to be inferred at best, tracked with suspicion but without certainty. The new plane of belief is not simply destructive or crippling, however: it is also the condition for the possibility of new forms of mental and physical experience. As with the Christian thinkers of immanence, Deleuze emphasized the “unforeseeable directions of thought and practice” that belief makes possible, directions to be judged not based on the object of a belief, but on a belief’s effect.27 A related feature of modern philosophy for Deleuze results from thought’s encounter and struggle with the unrepresentable natural forces underlying perceptual and affective experience, forces which paradoxically “must but cannot be thought.”28 Given modern thought’s confrontation with the infinite forces of the universe, its concepts can no longer be understood to represent a stable reality or to mirror a harmonious nature; rather, “what matters…in an idea is…the range of experimental possibility it opens onto.”29
Whitehead shares with Deleuze a sense for the importance of experimental thinking. In the context of religious experimentation, asking whether or not God really exists becomes irrelevant. What becomes important is the sort of thoughts and practices that belief in God makes possible for the believer, and for the society to which the believer belongs. “The power of God,” writes Whitehead, “is the worship He inspires.”30 “The fact of the religious vision,” he continues,
and its history of persistent expansion, is our one ground for optimism. Apart from it, human life is a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up a mass of pain and misery, a bagatelle of transient experience.31
The “religious vision,” as Whitehead understands it, “gives meaning to all that passes, and yet eludes apprehension,” providing life with “something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.”32 The vision, though aesthetically and emotionally ultimate, cannot be monopolized by the limited doctrines of any religion in particular. It can be said, however, that the rising or falling tide of each religious tradition through the ages depends upon the ability of its concepts, symbols, rituals, myths, architecture, and personae (etc.) to inspire worship in such a way that the intuition of God is called forth naturally from spiritual recesses deeper than can be rationally understood.33 The psychology of modern civilization, from Whitehead’s point of view, has little patience for the traditional image of God as an omnipotent dictator. In this respect, such images are “fatal,” since “religion collapses unless its main positions command immediacy of assent.”34
More often than any religious image per say, Deleuze’s target is the illusion of transcendence as such, which results whenever we “[interpret immanence] as immanent to Something.”35 The illusion of transcendence resonates with 3 other illusions, or “thought mirages”: 1) universality, which results when the immanent planomenon is conceived as immanent “to” a concept, 2) eternity, which results when we forget that concepts must be created and are not waiting in the sky for thinkers to discover, and 3) discursiveness, which results when concepts are reduced to logical propositions.36 These illusions become a thick fog obscuring the plane of immanence, condemning the philosophical and religious thinker alike to continually grasp after immanence as though it might be made immanent “to” something, whether it be “the great Object of contemplation [the neo-Platonic One], the Subject of reflection [the Kantian transcendental subject], or the Other subject of communication [the Husserlian intersubjective transcendental].”37 The plane of immanence cannot itself be thought, since it provides the very condition for thought.38 Whenever a thinker believes he has thought the plane, we can be sure he has only contemplated, reflected, or communicated an idol.
The pure immanence of the philosophical planomenon can be likened to the friend, i.e., Wisdom, She who provides the condition for the possibility of philosophy.39 The friend is the paradigmatic “conceptual persona” of philosophy. Conceptual personae, according to Deleuze, have a “somewhat mysterious…hazy existence halfway between concept and preconceptual plane, passing from one to the other.”40 In the case of the friend, it must be asked what it could mean to become friendly if the friend had not once been, and could not become again, a stranger. On the philosophical planomenon, the friend and the stranger, the thought and its thinker, never engage in discussion with one another. Discussion is useless to philosophy, since all a discussion implies is that concepts have been mistaken for propositions, as if they could be deliberately expressed in sentence form (the illusion of discursiveness).41 Once the discursive mirage has captured a thinker, thought can only circle about itself in dialectical pursuit of a shallow truth extracted from the agonism of opinion.42 The more interesting dialectics end in aporia (Plato’s aporietic dialogues and Kant’s table of antinomies); or even more interestingly, they swallow up opposed opinions into the absolute as necessary moments in the historical unfolding of the eternal concept (Hegel). But there can be no dialectic that resolves itself in absolute identity–this would mean the end of philosophy (which is why Hegel claimed no longer to be a philosopher, but to have become wise). Both the friend and the stranger are necessary illusions for philosophy: philosophy, in other words, “requires this division of thought between [friend and stranger].” The philosophical creator of concepts must remain divided against himself at the same time that he befriends the image of thought projected in the division. The progress of philosophy depends upon a philosopher’s willingness to dwell within (without becoming immanent “to”) continual crises of agonism and reconciliation, meeting therein a proliferation of strange friends and friendly strangers. Deleuze writes:
It is as if the struggle against chaos does not take place without an affinity with the enemy, because another struggle develops and takes on more importance–the struggle against opinion, which claims to protect us from chaos itself.43
To dwell in crisis is no easy task. But this is the task required of a modern thinker, especially a Christian philosopher who has accepted the risks of thinking God’s immanence. To secularize the concept of God, as Whitehead and Deleuze demand, is to uncover “thought’s relationship with the earth,”44 to dig up what has been buried beneath the foggy illusions of transcendence estranging humanity from its home. To think with the earth is still a creative act; but it is also a matter of recovery, or resurrection, and of uncovering, or apocalypse.45
Christian philosophy’s paradigmatic conceptual persona is Christ, “the Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us.”46 At first blush, He may seem, like other personae, to possess a less than incarnate, hazy existence somewhere between the immanence of the plane (matter/earth) and the transcendence of the concept (spirit/heaven). As John said, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”47:––Traditional theology has all too often emphasized Christ’s transcendence, making Him more spirit than human (and making humanity more sinful than blessed).
Despite His initially ghostly outline, Christ’s ideality cannot be understood to be in any way abstract: He is rather an (the?) intercessor, the seed of a peculiarly Christian mode of thinking. “A particular conceptual persona,” writes Deleuze, “who perhaps did not exist before us, thinks in us.”48 Of Christ it is said that He both was in the beginning before us and will be in the end after us. His omnipresence lays out a uniquely immanent image of thought based on incarnation. The Christian plane of immanence demands a creation of concepts whose central problematic, or spiritual ordeal, is death, and whose solution, should it be realized, is an earthly form of resurrection. The Christian planomenon is unique because it is founded upon the birth, death, and resurrection of God on earth, which is to say it depends upon the possibility of the becoming-immanent of transcendence itself. Only then can the Christian thinker become inhabited by living thinking. “My old self,” writes Paul,
has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.49
Like the philosophical friend, Christ’s teachings can appear strange. “I tell you,” He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”50 How can an earthly human being–normatively tied to family, friend, race, and nation–possibly live up to such an impossible, indeed infinite, demand? It is a demand that does violence to opinion and breaks with all commonsense. Nonetheless, this demand provides the peculiarly Christian problematic, an ordeal whose resolution requires becoming-incarnate, and thereby participating in bringing about an as yet unrealized providential plan(e), “on earth, as it is in heaven.”51 This is the strangeness of the “Galilean origin” of Christianity mentioned by Whitehead, where the transcendent power of divine coercion is replaced by the immanent love of divine persuasion. While Whitehead did not believe it possible, or even desirable, to construct a doctrinal unity out of the world’s diversity of religions, he did believe
that it is possible, amid these differences, to reach a general agreement as to those elements, in intimate human experience and general history, which we select to exemplify that ultimate theme of the divine immanence, as a completion required by our cosmological outlook.52
In other words, while humanity will certainly continue to disagree as to the particular qualitative aspects of religious facts and their proper moral interpretations, some coordination of these facts along a single plane of immanence may at least be attempted. Whitehead’s cosmological candidate for the ultimate religious theme is Divine Eros. His philosophical intervention into traditional theology aimed to transform the transcendent God of “coercive forces wielding the thunder” into the creaturely God of persuasion, “which slowly and in quietness [operates] by love.” 53 Given humanity’s recently seized god-like powers of technology, sustaining our planetary civilization would seem to depend upon the realization of such a secular “earth ethos.” Our civilization is in dire need of a world-renewing metaphysical consensus regarding the divine nature. If we are unable to believe in the divinity of the world, our collective behavior runs the risk destroying that world. The spirit of religion, though it is from time to time “explained away, distorted, and buried,” has never once entirely left us, according to Whitehead, “since the travel of mankind towards civilization.”54 Whenever religion takes flight from worldly concerns, it is the sure sign of a world nearing its end.
Whitehead traces the gradual realization of the concept of divine immanence through a “threefold revelation” stretching approximately twelve hundred years: 1) it begins in Athens with a intellectual innovation by Plato, 2) then passes into Jerusalem where the person of Jesus Christ exemplified the apocalyptic (ἀποκάλυψις- to “un-cover”) power of Plato’s concept, 3) and finally it culminates in a metaphysical interpretation of these events generated during the formative period of Christian theology.55
Whitehead regularly praises Plato’s depth of intuition. Just as often, he admits Plato’s failure to achieve a coherent overall statement of his conceptual scheme: “the greatest metaphysician, the poorest systematic thinker.”56 It is for one concept in particular, though, that Whitehead was lead to crown Plato “the wisest of men”: the idea that
the divine persuasion [Eros] is the foundation of the order of the world, but that it could only produce such a measure of harmony as amid brute forces [Chaos] it was possible to accomplish.57
It was this idea, conceived in principle by Plato, that the person of Jesus Christ was to reveal in actual deed. Though the historical records of His life are scattered and inconsistent, “there can be no doubt,” writes Whitehead, “as to what elements…have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature”:
The Mother, the Child, and the bare manger: the lowly man, homeless and self-forgetful, with his message of peace, love, and sympathy: the suffering, the agony, the tender words as life ebbed, the final despair: and the whole with the authority of supreme victory.58
Finally, it was the early Church fathers who made the first sustained effort to grope towards a coherent account of God’s persuasive agency in the world.59 The major fruit of their labor was the doctrine of the trinity (the mutual immanence of the theos-anthropos-cosmos multiplicity); more specifically, their most important contribution was the direct statement of the divine immanence in the world in the third person of the trinity. Unfortunately, despite this theological statement, the Church fathers failed to attain adequate metaphysical generality because they still exempted an infinite God from the categories applicable to the finite actual occasions involved in the becoming of the spatiotemporal world.60 Like Plato in many of his written dialogues, they were unable to disavow the notion of a derivative physical world poorly imitating the Ideas eternally realized in the mind of a disincarnate God.
Deleuze’s work has been read as an attempt to “overturn” Plato.61 In any attempt to “overturn” Plato it should be remembered that little more is required than continuing to “turn over” Plato–as in continuing to turn over the pages of his dialogues to be reminded that, like Whitman, he is large and contains multitudes.62 As Emerson put it:
the acutest searcher, the lovingest disciple could never tell what Platonism was; indeed admirable texts can be quoted on both sides of every great question, from him.63
Plato was equal parts poet and philosopher. He wrote dialogues, always leaving the doctrines for his characters. His meaning is never on the surface, even when it comes from the face of Socrates. Reading him, like reading the metaphysical experiments of Whitehead or Deleuze, is an infinite interpretive activity. For Whitehead, the entire history of European philosophy can be safely characterized as “a series of footnotes to Plato.”64 This despite the fact that Plato himself tells us in a letter to Dion that “no man of intelligence will venture to express his philosophical views in language.” “[Setting] down [one’s views] in written characters” is especially denounced.65 Written words lay in their parchment graves, still, silent, and dead. The reader’s questions and disputations receive no reply. On the testimony of Aristotle, Plotinus, and Proclus, we know that Plato’s unwritten secret teaching had something to do with the way that
ideas themselves were composed of matter, hyle, or in other words of an indefinite multiplicity, duas aoristos, which has as its elements the great and the small, and as its form, unity, to hen.66
If this is indeed the secret teaching, then how strangely inverted is the traditional European reading of Plato! Deleuze’s reading destroys the Platonic two-world theory of perfect ideas poorly copied by sensory images, but he is allured by Plato’s alternative conception of the idea of pure Difference. Where Aristotle reduces difference to that derived from the commonsense comparison of similars, understanding Plato requires risking the sanity of one’s mind in pursuit of the dark, difficult, and dangerous idea of Difference in itself. For Plato, individuals are not constituted by their substantial forms, or by their special determinations of a genus, as they are for Aristotle; nor is knowledge of individuals constituted by generalizations from a series. Rather, Plato’s is an ontology of singularity, where knowing an individual (be it ideal or actual) requires directly intuiting its uniquely authentic line of descent, rather than representing, identifying, or abstracting its general form. As Ramey puts it, “Knowledge is not a matter of generalization but of participation.” He continues:
The claim to participation is not simply the claim to be identified as a member of a class or token of a type. It is a claim to have passed a test or to have a basis for one’s claim. The difference between the just and the unjust, pretenders to justice and authentic stewards of justice, is not a difference between any two, but an internal and constitutive difference. It is the difference an ‘immediate fact’ of participation makes…It is the selection of an icon from within a prodigious field of idols, false images.67
The difference is initiatory, “acquired by each person on their own account.”68 That is, it has to do with undertaking the descent into the chaos of the underworld and returning to tell the tale. Philosophy without initiation would quickly turn stale and become abstract. Without stories to perform on infinite plane(s) stretching beyond the relative horizons of commonsense experience, a philosopher’s concepts cannot catch fire, nor acquire the persuasive life of personality. Once the journey into the darkness of pure Difference has been undertaken, in the difficult idea one has partaken are discovered signs of its ingression into the light of physical appearance: like a flower blooming, the idea incarnates out of earthly soil. “What man of sense,” writes Plato of his pedagogy of the concept,
would plant seeds in an artificial garden, to bring forth fruit or flowers in eight days, and not in deeper and more fitting soil?69
After the Christian-Platonic initiation, the world is transfigured into a problematic network of occult icons whose meaning can only be uncovered intuitively by the mental magic of talismanic thinking. Ideas are traced into appearances as signs, moments of discontinuity in extensive physical time-space out of which the intensive oddity of self-reference emerges.70 These recursive oddities unfold themselves into the physical plane, erupting as problematic forces requiring of the flesh-hewn mind not new representations of a supposedly extra-bodily world, but self-immolation through constant death and resurrection. Thinking is an ecstatic, violent act, always killing the neurons which support it, “making the brain a set of little deaths that puts constant death within us.”71
Deleuze’s Plato creates concepts not only iconically, but ironically, in that he never claims to represent an idea as true, but only to participate in an idea as “a way of problematizing, a manner of posing questions.”72 Deleuze pushes his Platonism as far away from any two-world caricature as possible by positing, according to Ramey,
the genesis of mind in direct encounters with imperceptible forces of perception, moments when the subtle and elusive patterns of difference and repetition animating life force the mind to interpret and even to create.73
Whitehead’s and Deleuze’s immanental reading of Christianity, along with their reading of Plato’s participatory doctrines of Persuasion and Difference, provides a world-renewing medicinal brew sorely needed in the contemporary world. Deleuze writes of the “medicinal thought” of a people to come who, according Ramey,
would, at an eschatological limit, have passed beyond the segmentation of knowledge in art, science, and philosophy in some as-yet-unrealized integral life of knowledge, such as that long dreamt of in the esoteric tradition of mathesis universalis.74
For Deleuze, mathesis is “a thinking of incarnation and individuality,”75 a form of symbolic knowing that allows for the discovery (and creation) of life’s (and death’s) deepest secrets. Knowledge of life’s individuating tendency, its power to repeatedly differ from itself, reveals how “the whole [can symbolize] itself in each individual.”76 Initiation into such knowledge would not only empower individual decision and action, but could rejuvenate the social and political life of civilization. We await the people to come who will be capable of completing creation through the incarnation of this Christogenic “body without organs.”77 “If you want to make a new start in religion,” writes Whitehead, “you must be content to wait a thousand years.”78
1 Perhaps even post-apocalyptic. See Sam Mickey’s attempt to “compost” the territorialized “postal discourses” of disintegral thought in his dissertation, Philosophy for a Planetary Civilization: On the Verge of Integral Ecology, (2012), 321cf [http://search.proquest.com/docview/1017705422?accountid=25260 (accessed 12/17/2012)].
2 Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York: The Free Press, 1929/1978), 207.
3 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 74.
4 Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 2.
5 See Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 6: There exists a “general academic-philosophical prejudice against the threatening proximity of intuitive, mystical, or even simply more emotional modes of mind to the cold calculations of pure reason…”
6 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 42.
7 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 38, 89, 177.
8 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 202.
9 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 72.
10 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 7: “The chief error in philosophy is overstatement.”
11 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 107-109.
12 Isabelle Stengers, Thinking With Whitehead (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011), 443.
13 Stengers, Thinking With Whitehead, 443.
14 Peter Hallward, Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London: Verso Books, 2006); quoted in Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 226n9.
15 Stengers, Thinking With Whitehead, 272.
16 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 275.
17 Whitehead, Modes of Thought (New York: The Free Press, 1938/1968), 105.
18 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 343.
19 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925/1960), 192. The contemplative conception of God as unmoved mover is obviously not as crude; what it lacks is the emotional and moral intensity required to engender religious vision.
20 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 43.
21 Whitehead, Modes of Thought, 19.
22 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 343.
23 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 45.
24 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 74.
25 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 53.
26 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, transl. Paul Patton(London: Continuum, 1994/2004), 139.
27 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 13.
28 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 16.
29 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 16-17.
30 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 192.
31 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 193.
32 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 191-192.
33 Stengers, Thinking With Whitehead, 133.
34 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 191.
35 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 45.
36 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 49-50.
37 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 51.
38 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 37.
39 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 3.
40 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 61.
41 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 22, 28.
42 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 79.
43 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 203.
44 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 69.
45 These Christological concepts can be read in parallel to Deleuze and Guattari’s geophilosophical concepts of “reterritorialization” and “deterritorialization” (What Is Philosophy?, 69-70).
46 John 1:14.
47 John 1:5.
48 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 69.
49 Galations 2:20.
50 Matthew 5:44.
51 Matthew 6:10.
52 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York: The Free Press, 1933/1961), 161.
53 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 166; Process and Reality, 343.
54 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 172.
55 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 166.
56 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 166.
57 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 160.
58 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 167.
59 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 167-169.
60 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 169.
61 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, Ch. 4: “The Overturning of Platonism,” 112cf.
62 See Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” section 51.
63 Journal entry, Oct. 1845.
64 Whitehead, Process and Reality, 39.
65 Ironically, of course, as Plato was himself a prolific author.
66 Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (London: Continuum, 2006), 56n8.
67 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 118.
68 Deleuze, “Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy,” foreword to Johann Malfatti de Montereggio, Mathesis, Or Studies on the Anarchy and Hierarchy of Knowledge (Paris: Editions Du Griffon D’Or, 1946), 147.
69 Phaedrus, 276c-277a.
70 Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 21-22.
71 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 216; Curiously, Christian esotericist Rudolf Steiner says almost the same thing: “The chief characteristic of ordinary thinking is that each single act of thinking injures the nervous system, and above all, the brain; it destroys something in the brain. Every thought means that a minute process of destruction takes place in the cells of the brain. For this reason sleep is necessary for us, in order that this process of destruction may be made good; during sleep we restore what during the day was destroyed in our nervous system by thinking. What we are consciously aware of in an ordinary thought is in reality the process of destruction that is taking place in our nervous system” (Lecture: 1st May, 1913; http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/OccSciOccDev/19130501p01.html [accessed 12/16/2012]).
72 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 121.
73 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 125.
74 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 89.
75 Deleuze, “Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy,” 143.
76 Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, 98.
77 Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (London: Continuum, 1990/2004), 102; see also Ramey’s discussion of Cusa’s anthropocosmic Christology (The Hermetic Deleuze, 236n29).
78 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 172.
Deleuze, Gilles. “Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy,” foreword to Johann Malfatti de Montereggio, Mathesis, Or Studies on the Anarchy and Hierarchy of Knowledge (Paris: Editions Du Griffon D’Or, 1946).
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. What is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).
Deleuze, Gilles Difference and Repetition, transl. Paul Patton (London: Continuum, 1994/2004).
Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense (London: Continuum, 1990/2004).
Grant, Iain Hamilton. Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (London: Continuum, 2006).
Hallward, Peter. Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation (London: Verso Books, 2006).
Ramey, Joshua. The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (London: Duke University Press, 2012).
Stengers, Isabelle. Thinking With Whitehead (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Whitehead, A. N. Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925/1960).
Whitehead, A. N. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York: The Free Press, 1929/1978).
Whitehead, A. N. Adventures of Ideas (New York: The Free Press, 1933/1961).
Whitehead, A. N. Modes of Thought (New York: The Free Press, 1938/1968).
For those who are in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join us at the PCC Forum this Friday at the California Institute of Integral Studies (1453 Mission St.) where Dr. Paul Caringella will speak about Voegelin‘s philosophy of history. Also on the menu will be Levinas, Hegel, Buber, and Plato. The lecture is free of charge and begins at 6:30PM in room 212 (2nd floor).
It is with my own self-consciousness that I must begin… but I will confess, I am not yet certain of my own beginning, or even of my own uncertainty. Already I seem to have said too much: “I am”–how do I know that? Do I really exist? Can I claim self-consciousness as “my own” if I do not know whether “I am”? I remain a mystery to myself. Sometimes I am whole, other times hollow. I meet the uncanny reflection of myself alternately with ecstasy and with anxiety. Self-consciousness is thinking become aware of itself, but thinking is not yet knowing. Perhaps I cannot begin with myself. I must turn to the thoughts of others. Rene Descartes discovered himself a thinking thing by doubting all cognition and all perception, of others and of the world, leaving only an empty knower behind. Immanuel Kant created the transcendental unity of apperception, bringing together, at least in time, knower and known, self and world, subject and object. Mind here finds its identity with itself, but from things, from bodies and spaces external to itself, it becomes entirely alienated. Kant may have awakened the human spirit to its freedom, but he did so only by severing its connection with the apparently mechanistic laws of the universe. To myself, and to others, thinking remains a mystery. But what of that which acts between self and other, that erotic destabilizing force all but ignored by Descartes and Kant, despite their claim to be philosophers. The force of love: too slippery to be categorized, too sublime to be secured. It is desire, eros, that connects the soul to the world, linking freedom with necessity. Thinking is desiring. The desire to think at first rises in my soul because of the inverse but complementary movement of the expanding universe. I intend as it extends. Light cannot travel fast enough through space to show me what lies beyond the edge of time: the physical eyes cannot see to eternity. An inner sight intuits the universe’s end without my having to sense it. In itself, the world remains incomplete; but through intuitive thinking, I will its wholeness. The desire to think erupts because Being is not complete in itself. Being wills also to become for itself. Substance desires to be Subject, as Hegel says. Or, as Schelling put it, “Nature should be the Spirit made visible, Spirit the invisible Nature.” I not only intuit, but am involved in the creative evolution of the universe ever onward into a wholeness never finished because always being born. In my soul, matter finds its maker in the image of Spirit. Here, I reach the still point of eternity at the center of earth around which all the heavens revolve.
For a PDF of the entire essay, click The Re-Emergence of Schelling: Philosophy in a Time of Emergency.
The difference between Hegel’s and Schelling’s system of philosophy
Early in his philosophical career while still a high school teacher in Nuremberg,116 Hegel suggested that, as a schoolmaster of philosophy, he is committed to the belief
that philosophy like geometry is teachable, and must no less than geometry have a regular structure.117
Many commentators on the philosophical dispute between Hegel and Schelling cite this statement to illustrate the nature of their disagreement: while Hegel was bent on the formalization of the system into a deductive science, Schelling all but transformed science into art in order to prevent the blind necessity of the system from subsuming the creative freedom and personality of its author.118 If the very next sentences of Hegel’s statement are included, however, it becomes apparent that he was not as unaware of the important role of individual creativity as the previous sentence lets on:
Philosophy…no less than geometry must have a regular structure. But again, a knowledge of the facts in geometry and philosophy is one thing, and the mathematical or philosophical talent which procreates and discovers is another: my province is to discover that scientific form, or to aid in the formation of it.119
The differences between Schelling and Hegel are important and should not be overlooked, but nor should they be overplayed. Despite either’s public criticism of the other’s ideas, their positions are often difficult to clearly distinguish without lapsing into caricature.120 Their personal lives from beginning to end took shape in the dialogical alembic of an intense and tumultuous friendship.121 They were both close students, perhaps the closest, of one anothers’ published texts. Hegel appropriated the historical-dialectical method brilliantly displayed in his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) largely from what he learned in Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism (1800).122 Indeed, the Phenomenology, a literary work of art, can be read as an attempt to make good on Schelling’s absolutization of aesthetics (=the study of appearance, i.e., phenomenology) and his prophesy of the coming of a poet who would sing society the new mythology of reason. On the other hand, the Phenomenology’s disingenuous dismissal of intellectual intuition, the keystone of Schelling’s early philosophy, had a pernicious effect on the public perception of his system, an effect that has lasted to this day.123
As Hegel’s own philosophical project developed and took form over the next few decades, the identification of the method of philosophy (=the science of logic) with that of geometry became increasingly important to him, backgrounding his earlier Schellingian acknowledgement of the irreducible role of the the creative discoverer in the eternally beginning life of the system. By 1831, Hegel’s creative genius, once capable of the revelatory poetry of the Phenomenology, had calcified into the formulaic certainty of the Encyclopedia.124
“Knowledge in geometry,” says Schelling,
is of a totally different nature than that in philosophy…Everyone who has reflected on the field of mathematics knows that geometry is a science of a logical character, that between the presupposition itself and its consequences there lies nothing else in the middle save mere thought.125
For Schelling, it is freedom that distinguishes the philosophical from the geometrical method. His discomfort with Hegel’s purely logical approach, however, was not a rejection of systematic coherence. On the contrary, Schelling praised Hegel for his attention to detail and steadfast adherence to the necessary movement of the dialectic as it worked its way to a genuinely completed system.126 Schelling eventually realized that such a purely rational philosophy, concerned as it was with the essence of things rather than their existence, was precisely only the negative part of the whole of philosophy. The other part, positive philosophy, does not begin already caught in the conceptual net of self-reflexive reason; it begins, instead, with the ecstatic experience of wonder, an experience that compels thought to acknowledge its dependence on what Schelling referred to as the unprethinkable (das Unvordenkliche):
that which just exists is precisely that which crushes everything that may derive from thought, before which thought becomes silent, and before which reason itself bows down.127
Schelling’s opposition to Hegel’s system is not the result of its negative method, which if properly restricted to the sphere of logical possibility remains entirely valid. Schelling rejects only Hegel’s claim to have comprehended the fact of nature (=the existence of the actual world) solely through the purely logical and plainly demonstrable labor of reflective thought. Hegel’s ambitious philosophical project stumbles into error, according to Schelling, as a result of his reliance on two fundamental “fictions” to be considered in turn below: (1) the animism of the Concept, and (2) the transition, or release (Entlassens), of logic into nature.128 To be clear, these fictions are in a different way crucial components of Schelling’s own philosophical project. While Schelling is explicit about the aesthetic and speculative status of the “likely stories” (eikota muthon) he tells in the course of philosophizing beyond the edges of conceptual reality, Hegel tends to, as it were, fake his fictions. In his Philosophy of Religion (1827), for example, Hegel mimes the conceptual skeleton of Böhme’s magnificent vision of the Trinity, pretending to have digested the fruits of mystical intoxication while all the while really remaining bound to “the purest prose and a sobriety totally devoid of intuition.”129
Schelling’s fictions represent a sincere attempt to give voice to the silent mythos of nature, thereby raising her unconscious poetry to the power of awakened spirit. To the extent that Hegel claims to have grasped the Absolute once and for all through the purely logical exercise of clear and distinct ideas, his “fictions” lack deep feeling for the ancient darkness of nature and an aesthetic sensitivity to the irony of the mythopoeic discourse required to become acquainted with that darkness.130 It is as if Hegel, as the saying goes, enlisted the floodlight of reason to go in search of darkness, while Schelling patiently waited for his eyes to adjust to the night of nature’s abyssal past. As Schelling writes in The Ages of the World,
Since the beginning, many have desired to penetrate this silent realm of the past prior to the world in order to get, in actual comprehension, behind the great process…[I]f anything whatsoever checks the…entrance into this prehistoric time, it is precisely that rash being that wants rather to dazzle right from the beginning with spiritual concepts and expressions rather than descend to the natural beginnings of that life.131
1st Fiction: The animism of the Concept
In his Science of Logic (1812), Hegel attempts to pick up where the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) left off with the revelation of “Absolute Knowing, or Spirit that knows itself as Spirit.”132 Having progressed through the entire historical series of Spirit’s self-negating forms of consciousness, Hegel no longer claimed the title of philosopher, or lover of wisdom, since he had now gained possession of wisdom itself.133 As a result of his self-initiation into Absolute Spirit, Hegel claimed to have stripped himself bare of the biological, psychological, and linguistic conditions of normal human subjectivity. Only after overcoming these prejudices did he believe it was possible to enter the domain of the pure science of logic, a domain wherein the certainty of the knower and the truth of what is known immediately coincide in the unity of the Concept:134
…the method which I follow in this system of logic–or rather which this system in its own self follows…is the only true method. This is self-evident simply from the fact that it is not something distinct from its object and content; for it is the inwardness of the content, the dialectic which it possesses within itself, which is the mainspring of its advance.135
Contrary to Hegel’s claim to have articulated (or rather to have been the instrument for the articulation of) “the only true method,” for Schelling, there can be no final and universally valid philosophy, since if such a system were to exist, it would effectively nullify the significance of free and irreducibly unique individuals, and thereby also render the possibility of moral action and genuine history meaningless.136 Schelling never denies the need for systematicity, but for him, the Absolute is not only a system, but also a life.137 The Concept is not self-grounding or independent of its existential conditions: “the concept ‘exists’ only in the individual personalities of human beings.”138 Schelling was forced in the course of his philosophical development to admit “how infinitely far everything that is personal reaches,” so far that the inner dialectic of knowledge is nearly reduced to the silence of its own impossibility.139
Hegel’s claim to have no subjective influence upon the dialectical method “which this system in its own self follows” is the main object of Schelling’s first criticism. Schelling’s commitment to a philosophy of freedom (“for true philosophy can start only from free actions”140) lead him to reject the notion of an impersonally animated Concept as a mere fiction. “The first presupposition of the philosophy that allegedly presupposes nothing,” says Schelling,
was thus that the pure logical concept has the property or nature, of itself (since the subjectivity of the philosopher should be totally excluded), to change into its opposite (to, so to speak, overthrow itself), in order to again change back into itself; a deed that one can think of a real, living being, but of a mere concept one can neither think nor imagine, but can really only assert.141
In order to get the gears of his logical system turning without any presuppositions, Hegel must attempt to perform a magic trick, a “logical creatio ex nihilo.”142 Hegel begins his trick with what at first seems to be immediate being. This simple being, in its indeterminateness, turns out in fact to be empty and so is equivalent to nothing. Upon further reflection, what at first seemed to be immediate being-nothing is understood to have all along been “the result of reflection’s negation of its own self-relation.”143 In other words, the negation of immediate being by non-being, in its truth, is always already mediated, an expression of the self-reflexivity of the Concept. Immediate being’s negation into non-being is itself doubly negated, revealing that the self-negating activity of the Concept had been at work behind the scenes all along.144 The logic is supposedly able to animate itself as a result of the unstable tension generated through the negation of a negation. Hegel’s trick is to prove that mediation is in the end the truth of immediacy.
Schelling is quite willing to commend Hegel for patiently following the logic of double negation to its objective conclusion,145 but he remains unconvinced of the status of its origin in so-called “immediate being.” From Schelling’s perspective, there is no way to comprehend such an immediate being but through an act of intuition. Such an intuition would grasp that which genuinely comes before reflection and serves as its ground. For the first moment of his logic to have any content, Hegel must presuppose outside the Concept what he thinks he has derived from within its process of self-negation.146
Even if Hegel could trick his logic into its self-animating progression without the presupposition of intuited being, Schelling maintains that the completed system could only pronounce upon the essence or whatness of things, without for that reason having anything definite to say about the contingent existence of actual things. Hegel’s logic, according to Schelling,
was only about the content of what is real, but regarding this content, the fact that it exists is something purely contingent: the circumstance of whether it exists or not does not change my concept in the least.147
Just as Kant showed concerning the ontological argument for the existence of God, Hegel’s logic of essences leaves actual existence underdetermined. Even if, as Leibniz argued, from God’s essence as the highest being existence necessarily follows, this formula can tell us only that if God exists, God’s existence would be necessary a priori. Whether God, or the purely logical content of any concept, actually exists cannot be known but through experience.148 The underdetermination of Hegel’s logic vis-à-vis existence leads us into his next fiction.
2nd Fiction: The release (Entlassen) of logic into nature
Hegel describes his Absolute system, which includes the spheres of logic, nature, and spirit, as “a circle of circles” wherein each sphere holographically contains the others as parts of the Whole within itself.149 Accordingly, the links between each of these spheres are said not to be the result of any real process of transition, since taken separately, the true content of any one sphere is nothing more than the result of its antecedent and an indication of its successor.150 Despite his ideal desire for the holographic circulation of the spheres of the Absolute system, Hegel must begin his actual exposition within the circumference of a singular sphere. The paradigmatic idealist, Hegel of course decides to begin with the science of logic, which he describes as
the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence, before the creation of nature and a finite mind.151
Schelling’s die Weltalter project was also an attempt to peer into the nature of God before creation; but unlike Hegel, he is concerned to account not only for the structure of God’s internal necessity, but for God’s willingness to risk his eternal essence in the creation of a physical universe endowed with genuine freedom. Strictly speaking, there can be no reason for such a risk, since this would immediately draw it back into the sphere of necessary logical determinations.152 Schelling’s claim is that God is not only a logic, but a life–not just a law-like system, but a loving personality.153 The difficultly of philosophically grounding such a claim is borne out by Schelling’s repeated failure to compose a definitive and complete version of The Ages of the World; on the other hand, the very incompletion of this project could be read as a justification of its core insight into the inscrutability of God’s eternally beginning nature, a nature before which
there would remain only the growing silent that the helplessness and faint audibility of language really seeks to approach.154
For Hegel, the link between God and creation, or between logic and nature, should be “perfectly transparent”; all that needs to be said about it is that God “freely releases [himself] in [his] absolute self-assurance and inner poise.”155 For Schelling, this depiction amounts to a non-answer that shirks the difficulty of narrating the awesomeness and sheer facticity of nature’s coming-into-existence.156 The profundity of the link between divinity and nature cannot be so easily “released.” The link–Plato’s “secret band”157–holding One and All in communion with the Whole is precisely that which can never be released but only ever re-bound. Schelling says of secular modern philosophy, including Hegel’s, that its “main weakness” is its lack of appreciation for the supreme importance of intermediate concepts between such extremes as spirit v. matter, morality v. mechanics, creator v. cosmos. Intermediate concepts such as life between mind and matter, or human between universe and divinity are “the only concepts that actually explain anything in all of science.”158
Though Hegel claims that the free release of nature from the Mind of God is only a figurative expression, his science of logic depends upon this release being a conceptual category, since otherwise the real which was released would no longer be the rational. Schelling calls his bluff by asking what “the astounding category of the release (Entlassen)” actually explains.159 The question remains: is there, or is there not a truly extralogical realm of nature that is not always already swallowed back up by spirit into the Mind of God? If something has been released from God, what is it? Hegel offers too little in response to such questions.
In the theosophy of Jakob Böhme, fantastic expressions concerning the emergence of creation from God are at least the result of genuine intuitions and “the predilection for nature as opposed to art,” while in the dry systems of the Hegelian type, “there is but unnatural and conceited art.”160 Hegel’s dialectical logic makes itself the beginning of everything, the source even of nature.
In The Ages of the World, Schelling attempts (whether successful or not) to pass through and beyond (über etwas hinaus) the dialectical science of logic into a way of knowing nature no longer forgetful of her status as the primordial beginning of all things.161 While Hegel claims his science of logic explains the essence of God and the existence of nature, Schelling’s argues that the nature of the link between Creator and creation cannot be explained according to a geometrical method of demonstration. To know nature as she comes-into-being, the philosopher must come to know his own self-generation through her. The proper form of expression for such generative philosophy is mythpoeia, or imaginative narration, since it transforms what would otherwise remain ideal reflection upon an abstract copy of the eternal beginning of nature into autophusis philosophia, or “nature itself philosophizing.”162
As long as this age restricts itself to the interior and to the Ideal, it lacks the natural means of an external presentation. Now, after having long gone astray, it has again developed the recollection of nature and of nature’s former oneness with science. Yet it did not abide by this. Hardly had the first steps in reuniting philosophy with nature occurred when the old age of the physical had to be acknowledged and how it, very far from being the last, is, rather, the first from which everything begins, even the development of divine life. Since then, science no longer begins from the remoteness of abstract thoughts in order to descend from them to the natural. Rather, it is the reverse…Soon the contempt with which only the ignorant still look down on everything physical will cease and once again the following saying will be true: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.163
Schelling’s Positive Philosophy
Schelling’s pursuit of a physics of divinity is a result of his attendance to the non-rational dimensions of existence. Though he admitted that a negative philosophy like Hegel’s, bound to circle within the necessary and demonstrable proofs of logic, should remain the philosophy of the Academy, he also called for a positive philosophy to complement the negative by making it adequate to actual life. Positive philosophy is an emphatic knowing that overcomes doubt, not through the certainty of science, but through the free decision to love the world.164 Schelling’s emphatic way of knowing re-unifies the powers of feeling and thinking torn asunder by the dualism inherent to modern epistemology, revealing in the soul an instinctual moral connection to the physical ground of God.165
As the Eleusinian mysteries were divided between a minor and a major rite, so too must philosophy be divided into the negative and the positive, where the latter presupposes initiation into the former.166 It is precisely through the recognition of the limits of negative philosophy–of its inability to account for a living God or for the actual creation of the world–that the need for a positive philosophy is realized. Such a positive account would no longer be simply mythic, since unlike myth, it would not be oriented exclusively to the past, but would open up into an unprethinkable (Unvordenklichkeit) future intimated only by the activity of free individuals and the loving communities to which they belong.167
116 Hegel was headmaster from 1808-1816.
117 Hegel, Briefe von und an Hegel Bd I, trans. Matthews, 138.
118 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 57-58.
119 Hegel, Briefe von und an Hegel Bd. I, trans. Matthews, 138.
120 Christopher Lauer, The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling, 174.
121 Wirth, “Schelling’s Contemporary Resurgence,” 587.
122 Lauer, The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling, 78, 95.
123 Wirth, “Schelling’s Contemporary Resurgence,” 586.
124 Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1831).
125 Schelling, Grundlegung der Positiven Philosophie: Münchener Vorlesung WS 1832/33 and SS 1833, ed. Horst Fuhrmans, trans. Matthews, 97.
126 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 150.
127 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, trans. Matthews, II/3, 161.
128 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 59; Schellings sämtliche Werke, I/10, 212-213.
129 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 176; Schelling goes on: “One forgives the individual who staggers when he is actually drunk with intuition, but not one who by nature is actually sober and only wishes to appear as if he too is staggering.”
130 See Grant, “Philosophy Become Genetic,” The New Schelling, 139-142 for a discussion of the role of mythic discourse in Plato’s Timaeus (a text studied closely by Schelling),wherein likely stories allow him to approach topics unreachable by dialectical logic, like the “difficult and dark idea of matter” and the “fabrication” of the World Soul.
131 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, 63.
132 Hegel, The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 122.
133 Hegel, Hegel Selections, ed. Jacob Loewenberg, trans, J.B. Baillie, 5.
134 Lauer, Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling, 102.
135 Hegel, “Science of Logic,” The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 176.
136 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 57.
137 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, 7/403.
138 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 49.
139 Schelling, Ages of the World, trans. Manfred Schröter, 103.
140 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, trans. Matthews, I/1, 243.
141 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, trans. Matthews, I/10, 212.
142 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 60.
143 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 61.
144 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 61.
145 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, trans. Matthews, II/3, 173.
146 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 61.
147 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 130.
148 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 199-201.
149 Hegel, “Encyclopedia Logic,” Sec. 15, The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 138.
150 Hegel, “Science of Logic,” Ch. 3, The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 249.
151 Hegel, “Science of Logic,” Intro., The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 176.
152 Lauer, The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling, 163.
153 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, 5-6.
154 Schelling, Schellings sämtliche Werke, trans. Wirth, II/1, 312.
155 Hegel, “Science of Logic,” Ch. 3, The Hegel Reader, trans. Houlgate, 250; That the personal pronoun here is masculine is purely a convention; the essential point is that it be personal, rather than the impersonal “it.”
156 Lauer, The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling, 164.
157 Matthews, Schelling’s Organic Form of Philosophy, 23.
158 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, 64.
159 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 175.
160 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, xxxix.
161 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, xxxvii.
162 Grant, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling, 188.
163 Schelling, The Ages of the World, trans. Wirth, xl.
164 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 79.
165 Freydberg, Schelling’s Dialogical Freedom Essay, 82-83.
166 Schelling, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, trans. Matthews, 198.
167 Matthews, “Introduction,” The Grounding of Positive Philosophy, 66-67.
I’ve just finished the rough draft of a comprehensive exam on the context of Schelling’s thought and the reasons for his contemporary resurgence (a list of recent scholarship). The most difficult section to write was definitely the one on the difference between he and Hegel’s approaches. I didn’t want to caricature Hegel, but nor did I want to ignore the significance of their divergence on the limits of rational system. We’ll see if I was able to pull it off. I’ve posted each section separately and made the section headings in the table of contents below hyperlinks that will lead you to that section. I’ve tentatively titled the essay The Re-Emergence of Schelling: Philosophy in a Time of Emergency. You’ll find the Bibliography below. For a PDF of the whole document, click: The Re-Emergence of Schelling Philosophy in a Time of Emergency.
- Preface 2
- Philosophical biography 3
- Literature review 15
- The Difference between Hegel’s and Schelling’s system of philosophy 26
- Metaphysically (un)grounding the natural sciences 39
- The nature of human freedom 50
- Bibliography 58
Works by F.W.J. Schelling
Schelling, F.W.J. The Ages of the World. Trans. Jason Wirth. New York: State University of New York, 200.
Schelling, F.W.J. Aus Schellings Leben, in Briefen. Ed. Gustav Leopold Plitt. Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1870.
Schelling, F.W.J. Brief über den Tod Carolines vom 2. Oktober, 1809 an Immanuel Niethammer, Klein kommentierte Texte I. Ed. Johann Ludwig Döderlein. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Fromman-Holzboog, 1975.
Schelling, F.W.J. Briefe und Dokumente, Vol. 2. Ed. Horst Fuhrmans. Bonn: H. Bouvier, 1973.
Schelling, F.W.J. Clara, or, On Nature’s Connection to the Spirit World. Trans. Fiona Steinkamp. Albany: State University of New York, 2002.
Schelling, F.W.J. On Construction in Philosophy. Trans. Andrew David and Alexi Kukuljevic. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 12, Issue 2 (2008): 269-288.
Schelling, F.W.J. Einleitung in die Philosophie (1830). Ed. Walter Ehrhardt. Stuggart-Bad Cannstatt: Fromman-Holzboog, 1989.
Schelling, F.W.J. First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature. Trans. Keith Peterson. New York: State University of New York, 2004.
Schelling, F.W.J. The Grounding of Positive Philosophy. Trans. Bruce Matthews. New York: State University of New York, 2007.
Schelling, F.W.J. Grundlegung der Positiven Philosophie: Münchener Vorlesung WS 1832/33 and SS 1833. Ed. Horst Fuhrmans. Turin: Bottega D’Erasmo, 1972.
Schelling, F.W.J. Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology. Trans. Mason Richey and Markus Zisselsberger. New York: State University of New York, 2007.
Schelling, F.W.J. On the History of Modern Philosophy. Trans. Andrew Bowie. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1994.
Schelling, F.W.J. Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature. Trans. Errol E. Harris and Peter Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Schelling, F.W.J. Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom. Trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt. New York: State University of New York, 2006.
Schelling, F.W.J., Fichte, J.G. The Philosophical Rupture Between Fichte and Schelling: Selected Texts and Correspondence. Eds. Michael G. Vater and David W. Wood. Albany: State University of New York, 2012.
Schelling, F.W.J. Schellings sämtliche Werke. Ed. Karl Schelling. Stuttgart and Augsburg: Cotta, 1856-1861.
Schelling, F.W.J. Die Stuttgarter Privatvorlesungen (1810). Ed. Miklos Veto Turin: Bottega d’Ersasmo, 1973.
Schelling, F.W.J. System of Transcendental Idealism. Transl. Peter Heath. Charlottsville: University of Virginia, 1978.
Schelling, F.W.J., On University Studies. Trans. E.S. Morgan, ed. Norbert Guterman. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1966.
Schelling, F.W.J. Die Weltalter: Fragmente, in den Urfassungen von 1811 und 1813. Ed. Manfred Schröter. Munich: Biederstein, 1946.
Barfield, Owen. What Coleridge Thought. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1971.
Beiser, Frederick. German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism 1781-1801. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Bowie, Andrew. Schelling and Modern European Philosophy: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1993.
Davies, Paul. The Cosmic Blueprint. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Day, Jerry. Voegelin, Schelling, and the Philosophy of Historical Existence. Missouri: University of Missouri, 2003.
Esposito, Joseph. Schelling’s Idealism and Philosophy of Nature. London: Bucknell University Press, 1977.
Freydberg, Bernard. Schelling’s Dialogical Freedom Essay: Provocative Philosophy Then and Now. Albany: State University of New York, 2008.
Gabriel, Markus and Žižek, Slavoj. Mythology, Madness, and Laughter: Subjectivity in German Idealism. London: Continuum, 2009.
Gare, Arran. “From Kant to Schelling to Process Metaphysics: On the Way to an Ecological Civilization.” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (2011): 26-69; http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/263 (accessed 8/7/2012).
Gower, Barry. “Speculation in Physics: The History and Practice of Naturphilosophie.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 3 (1973): 301-356.
Grant, Iain Hamilton. “Introduction to Schelling’s On the World Soul.” Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development, Vol. 6 (2010): 58-95.
Grant, Iain Hamilton. Philosophies of Nature After Schelling. London: Continuum, 2006.
Griffin, David Ray. Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Exploration. New York: State University of New York, 1997.
Harman, Graham. Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things. Peru: Open Court, 2005.
Hegel, G.W.F. Briefe von und an Hegel. Ed. K. Hegel. Leipzig: Dunker & Humboldt, 1887.
Hegel, G.W.F. Differenz des Fichte’schen und Schelling’schen Systems der Philosophie. Trans. H.S. Harris and Walter Cerf.Albany: State University of New York, 1977.
Hegel, G.W.F., Hegel Reader. Ed. Stephen Houlgate. Malden: Blackwell, 1988.
Hegel, G.W.F. Hegel Selections. Ed. Jacob Loewenberg. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929.
Hegel, G.W.F., Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1805-1806). http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hp/hpschell.htm (accessed 7/27/2012).
Hegel, G.W.F. The Philosophy of Right (1820). http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/pr/prcivils.htm#PR248 (accessed 7/28/2012).
Heidegger, Martin. Schellings Abhandlung Über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit (1809). Tübingen: Max Neimeyer Verlag, 1971.
Heuser-Kessler, Marie-Luise. Die Produktivität der Natur: Schellings Naturphilosophie und das neue Paradigma der Selbsorganization in den Naturwissenshaften. Berlin: Dunker & Humblot, 1986.
Kant, Immanuel. Opus Postumum. Transl. Eckhart Förster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Krell, David Farrell. The Tragic Absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Lauer, Christopher. The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling. London: Continuum, 2010.
Lederman, Leon. The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
Lenoir, Timothy. “Generational Factors in the Origin of Romantische Naturphilosophie.” Journal of the History of Biology 11 (1978): 57-100.
Magee, Glenn. Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University, 2001.
Matthews, Bruce. Schelling’s Organic Form of Philosophy: Life as the Schema of Freedom. New York: State University of New York, 2011.
McGrath, S.J. The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious. London: Routledge, 2012.
Norman, Judith and Welchman, Alistair, eds. The New Schelling. London: Continuum, 2004.
Richards, Robert. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Shaw, Devin Zane. Freedom and Nature in Schelling’s Philosophy of Art. London: Continuum, 2010.
Shelling, Caroline. Caroline: Brief aus der Frühromantik, Vol. 2. Ed. Erich Schmidt. Leipzig: Insel-verlag, 1970.
Snow, Dale. Schelling and the End of Idealism. New York: State University of New York, 1996.
Thompson, Evan. Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.
Vassányi, Miklós. Anima Mundi: The Rise of the World Soul Theory in Modern German Philosophy. Dordrecht: Springer, 2011.
Wilding, Adrian. “Naturphilosophie Redivivus: on Bruno Latour’s ‘Political Ecology.’” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol. 6 (2010): 18-32; http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/148/278 (accessed 8/7/2011).
Wirth, Jason. The Conspiracy of Life: Meditations on Schelling and his Time. New York: State University of New York, 2003.
Wirth, Jason. “Schelling’s Contemporary Resurgence: The Dawn After the Night When All Cows Were Black.” Philosophy Compass, Vol. 6, Issue 9 (2011): 585-598.
Wirth, Jason, ed. Schelling Now: Contemporary Readings. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Žižek, Slavoj. The Indivisible Remainder: On Schelling and Related Matters. London: Verso, 1996.
Contrapoints made this video to open up his history of philosophy series.
Here is my response.
I absolutely love what he is saying. Really, I dig it. His ontology has style, and I don’t just mean he is rhetorically skilled and so persuasive to us as subjectivities, I mean he has tapped in to the semantic subtext of reality itself. He’s plucking the harp strings of the world. He is speaking as earth’s flower, from the inside of this thing being whatever reality is becoming. He is not outside the world pondering nature, thinking about it without feeling as it. He thinks nature as nature thinking. His metaphors (metapherein in Gk.). express a sense of thinking with and through nature, a nature no longer hidden from itself beneath the traumas of collective human history but conscious of its own destiny. That destiny, even if we learn to live with the earth through the current geological transformation, is still ultimately individual death and collective extinction. Even if life on earth survives for another 5 billion years, at that point, the sun will commit cosmic suicide, taking all the planets with it into the dark abysses of elemental gravitation. In those dark spaces, what once were the metals of mars, earth, venus, and mercury will re-center themselves around a new spinning orb of nuclear light. The atoms who escape the death of our solar system will shine again as the life of some future system. Thinking this transformation of the substance of our being through deep cosmic history is perceiving hyper-time. Death no longer represents a problem in need of a solution, it is simply a return to oneness with the world we only thought we’d lost while alive. Only getting over the death anxiety that drives modern industrial civilization will get us through this ecological emergency.
It’s not that history has already ended, says Morton; its that it is just beginning. If it didn’t start in 1790 when the first layer of carbon was laid down over the crust of the planet, then it was on July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated.
Cause and effect are spooky. We don’t know how they connect because there is a crack in the universe. Contradiction seeps in through this crack in the real to give it life. This isn’t a life opposed to death, it is the undying and ever-born becoming of things themselves.
Reason isn’t necessarily human. Philosophers knew this in the 1790s. Politicians and capitalist have been slower to catch on. Icy reason, for its own sake, makes atom bombs and Vicodin. The human is not special. The whole universe is in a human situation, not just our species.
“Ecology must mean making friends with death.”
An overwhelming conversation indeed.
I’ll be working on a comprehensive examination this summer on the recent resurgence of Schelling in continental philosophy. Jason Wirth recently published a short article on this resurgence.
Below is the beginnings of a reading list for the comp. exam. My goal is to focus on contemporary scholarship (last 10-15 years), but a slightly older text that breaks new ground would also be welcome. By “breaks new ground,” I mean I am after Schellingian scholarship that approaches Schelling’s project as unique among the other German thinkers of his age, rather than simply placing him between Fichte and Hegel as some sort of bridge figure.
Here is my list. Please let me know if you know of any other titles that seem relevant!
Beiser, Frederick. German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism (2008).
Bowie, Andrew. Schelling and Modern European Philosophy (1994).
Freydberg, Bernard. Schelling’s Dialogical Freedom Essay: Provocative Philosophy Then and Now (2009).
Krell, David Farrell. The Tragic Absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God (2005).
Grant, Iain Hamilton. Philosophies of Nature After Schelling (2008).
Lauer, Christopher. The Suspension of Reason in Hegel and Schelling (2012).
Matthews, Bruce. Schelling’s Organic Form of Philosophy (2011).
McGrath, S.J. The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious (2011).
Norman, Judith; Welchman, Allstair, eds. New Schelling (2004).
Richards, Robert J. The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (2004).
Pinkard, Terry. German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism (2002).
Snow, Dale. E. Schelling and the End of Idealism (1996).
Thomas, William. The Finitudes of God: Notes on Schelling’s Handwritten Remains (2002).
Wirth, Jason. The Conspiracy of Life: Meditations on Schelling and His Time (2003).
Wirth, Jason, ed. Schelling Now: Contemporary Readings (2004).
Zizek, Slavoj. The Invisible Remainder: On Schelling and Related Matters (2007).
In the Theaeteus, Plato has Socrates say that “wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.” In his Metaphysics, Aristotle echoes this by writing that “it was their wonder, astonishment, that first led men to philosophize and still leads them.”
In the Phaedo, Plato has Socrates say that “those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.”
Philosophy, then,–at least if we take Socrates’s, Plato’s, and Aristotle’s words for it–begins in wonder and ends with death.
To become a philosopher, you must first be astonished by your own self-consciousness of the world, by the feeling of knowing your own ignorance of the whole. There is more to this ignorance than meets the eye. Socrates would never deny the truths grasped by geometry or logic. These are true enough. His is a learned ignorance: a gnosis that consists primarily in knowing that he does not know all the things he at first seems to.
Learned ignorance is not simple knowing, since the occult knowledge it provides cannot be stated clearly and distinctly in some logical formula. The Truth it approaches is no good for building marble archways or winning arguments in court. But nor is it simple ignorance, since underlying the philosopher’s knowledge of ignorance is an intuition of the whole. The philosopher is ignorant of this or that particular thing, but of the cosmos, he can be sure it exists-as-one, that it is a unity, a universe.
To wonder is to feel the infinite Whole–and in feeling it to know that it exists (existence), even if you cannot as of yet know what it is (essence). Wonder is not the feeling of everything together, but the intuition of All at once. This is the beginning of philosophy. Emerson describes it in Nature:
Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,–all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God…
The goal is not to rest in this feeling, in an immediate intuition of the One, but through it to overcome the fear of death. Such a fear is natural for self-conscious animals like us, but by learning to think and to know lovingly–that is, by philosophizing–we can come to meet death willingly, thereby relating to the body not as soul prison by as soul portal.
The soul is individual only so long as it lives with a body. To the extent that philosophy is preparation for death, for the soul’s passage beyond the body, it is the desire to think objectively, without the limitation of subjectivity. The philosopher seeks to think beyond the body. The world, then, is the arena of philosophy. Though of course it remains all the while centered on the soul–that is, the soul of the world.
Between a philosopher’s initial astonishment of the fact of the world and his passage through shadow into source, there is much to think and write about.
Kant thought quite a bit about wonder, even attempting to think methodically so as to make a science of philosophy. In the end, he could only contradict himself. He thought knowledge must begin with sensory experience, with the givens of outer spatiality and inner temporality; on the other hand, he argued that the given world of experience would make no sense in the absence of a priori concepts like substance/accident, cause/effect, and quantity/quality. Kant formulates this contradiction–which is simultaneously the generative paradox underlying the power of his entire philosophical program–with the statement: “thoughts without content are empty, and intuitions without concepts are blind.”
Kant brought forth what Schelling would later call negative philosophy. He forgoes knowledge of the Whole for knowledge of the conditions of the possibility of knowing the Whole. Having then established these conditions (e.g., space-time, the categories), he denies theoretical knowledge of anything but the parts, since it is only parts that we experience with our physical bodies. Schelling describes this negative, critical moment in the movement of philosophy as a necessary step along the way toward a new dogmatism, or a positive philosophy. Positive philosophy is unlike the dogmatisms of old, since it does not assume that the divine’s status as “the most supreme being” leads of itself to this divinity’s “necessary existence.” To think the infinity of the Whole upon feeling it is one thing, actually knowing and expressing its reality is another.
“Schelling characterizes the execution and fulfillment of this task as the never-ending process of demonstrating God’s divinity that, as the interpretation of a process freely initiated, posits an open future incapable of being reduced to the necessary unfolding of any predetermined plan.” (-Bruce Matthews, p. 69, from the introduction of The Grounding of Positive Philosophy by F.W.J Schelling ).
Theologians have long looked to philosophy to prove the existence of God. Not only does this imply that philosophy might come to glimpse God’s essence as though it were a static blueprint it could copy down on paper, it also implies that God is a mere belief in need of abstract justification. Schelling admits that no such a priori proof of God is possible–since God is not merely an idea, but a fact. Philosophy begins in wonder, which is to say it begins in an experience of the divinity of the world. To attempt to logically prove God’s existence would be pointlessly tautological, since the proof itself would always depend upon God as its own condition of possibility. For positive philosophy, the point is to communicate the divine meaning of the actual world as we experience it, to remind the actual soul of its immortality and universality while alive here and now.
“The experience toward which positive philosophy proceeds is not just of a particular kind, but is the entirety of all experience from beginning to end. What contributes to the proof is not a part of experience, but all of experience. For precisely this reason, though, this proof itself is not just the beginning or a part of a science (least of all some type of syllogistic proof posited at the apex of philosophy), it is the entire science, that is, the entire positive philosophy–and this is nothing other than the progressive, strengthening with every step, and continually growing proof of the actually existing God. Because the realm of reality in which this proof moves is not finished and complete–for even if nature is now at its end and stands still, there is, nonetheless, still the unrelenting advance and movement of history–because insofar as the realm of reality is not complete, but is a realm perpetually nearing its consummation, the proof is therefore also never finished, and for this very reason this science is only a philo-sophie” (-Schelling, p. 181, The Grounding of Positive Philosophy).
- Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Activity: Socrates, Jesus, and the Wisdom of Love (footnotes2plato.com)
- What Barfield Thought Coleridge Thought (footnotes2plato.com)
Philosopher Andrew Pickering on Cybernetics.
The AAR is here in San Francisco this year. It has been difficult to weed out my schedule this weekend, since there are very few weeds! There are at least 5 events I’d like to attend in every time slot. But here is what I’ve been able to single out:
Friday at 4pm
Theme: Homo Symbolicus as Homo Religiosus: Symbolization in the Study of Religion
Randal Cummings, California State University, Northridge, Presiding
Eric Lane, California State University, Los Angeles
What Darwin and Science Owe to Religion
Kay Read, DePaul University
Homo-Who? Quetzalcoatl and Reading Aztec Visual Symbols
Greg Alles, McDaniel College
The Mountain as Symbol: On Difficulties and Possibilities in Studying Religious Symbolization
Jes Hollenback, University of Wisconsin
What Makes Symbols and Symbolization Such Powerful Agents of Transformation?
Rick Talbott, California State University, Northridge
Friday at 7pm
Theme: Raimundo Panikkar’s Christological Contribution
Xavier Gravend-Tirole, University of Lausanne and Montreal, Presiding
Christopher Denny, St. John’s University
Purusha Sukta / Nirvana / Holy Saturday: Alternative Paths to Spiritual Kenosis
Erik Ranstrom, Boston College
I Discovered Myself a Hindu: The Promise and Problem of Raimon Panikkar as a Source of Hindu Self-Understanding
Bob Robinson, Laidlaw College
An Evangelical Protestant Appreciation of Panikkar
J. Jayakiran Sebastian, Lutheran Theological Seminary
Fragmented Selves, Fragments of the New Story: Panikkar and Dalit Christology
Responding: Catherine Cornille, Boston College
Join us for a special session exploring the transdisciplinary options for balanced and integrative approaches to Western Esotericism, while drawing attention to issues relating to the focus on disinterested empiricism as the sole acceptable method for the study of these topics. Integrative models and approaches combining scholarly rigor with imaginative and sympathetic engagement have been long established in many areas of the humanities and social sciences. Yet the question of scholarly overengagement with their topic continues to be a point of contention, while voices calling for channels of dialogue and mutual understanding between scholars and practitioners in order to better explore the application and potentials of such epistemologies are frequently met with suspicion in academic circles. In this session we seek to explore ways to build bridges of fruitful communication and mutual understanding between seemingly disparate voices and perspectives.
- Legitimate ways of knowing: experiential knowledge and/or symbolic perception.
- How can we learn from each other? Bridging the practitioner- scholar divide
- Is history and discourse analysis enough?
- Paradigms for integration and applied transdisciplinary methodology
Saturday at 4pm
Laura Hobgood-Oster, Southwestern University, Presiding
Theme: Animality, Hybridity, Divinity: Donna Haraway’s Technoscientific Revisioning of the Religious Subject
Jennifer Thweatt-Bates, Newark, NJ
Donna Cyborgs, Dogs, and Jesus: The Worldly and Religious Figures Haraway of Donna Haraway
Sam Mickey, California Institute of Integral Studies
Farfetchings for Respecting Species: Postsecular Posthumanities and the SF Mode
Amy Brown, University of Florida
Donna Haraway’s Philosophy as a Challenge to Individualism in Evolutionarily-derived Environmental Ethics
Marti Kheel, University of California, Berkeley
Donna Haraway’s “Species Encounter”: Reciprocity or Dominion?
Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz
Sunday at 9am
Theme: Elemental Theology and Feminist Earth Practices
Whitney Bauman, Florida International University, Presiding
Rosemary R. Ruether, Claremont Graduate University
Starhawk, Earth Activist Training
Marion S. Grau, Graduate Theological Union
Jone Salomonsen, University of Oslo Heather Eaton, Saint Paul University
Theme: Rethinking Secularism
Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Social Science Research Council, Presiding
A discussion of Rethinking Secularism, a recently published volume co-edited by Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen. The so-called “resurgence” of religion in the public sphere has forced scholars to reconsider both classical theories of secularization and a range of contemporary secular assumptions. Presenting groundbreaking work from an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars, Rethinking Secularism surveys these efforts and helps to reframe discussions of religion in the social sciences by drawing attention to the central issue of how “the secular” is constituted and understood.
Robert N. Bellah, University of California, Berkeley
Saba Mahmood, University of California, Berkeley
Craig Calhoun, Social Science Research Council and New York University
Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara
Sunday at 1pm
Theme: A Conversation with Robert Bellah on Religion in Human Evolution (Harvard University Press, 2011)
Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara, Presiding
The distinguished sociologist of religion, Robert Bellah, will respond to comments on his massive new book Religion in Human Evolution (Harvard University Press, 2011), which traces the development of human culture from the Paleolithic period to the Axial Age and offers a new theory on the origins of religion.
Jonathan Z. Smith, University of Chicago
Luke Timothy Johnson, Emory University
Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago
Robert N. Bellah, University of California
Sunday at 7pm
Theme: Our Final Hour: Can Our Species Determine the Fate of the Earth?
Martin J. Rees, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and Astronomer Royal, is one of the world’s leading theoretical astrophysicists. His contributions to our understanding of cosmic phenomena have been exceptionally broad-based, and his pioneering research has engaged with the origin of cosmic structures and the long-term future. He has also speculated about concepts of multiverse, complexity, apparent “fine tuning,” and other fundamental questions where science interfaces with philosophy and theology. Rees has spent much of his career as professor of astrophysics and cosmology in Cambridge, and served as president of the Royal Society from 2005 to 2010. He has been an eloquent presenter of scientific ideas to general audiences, with numerous articles, books, and broadcasts to his credit, and has increasingly engaged with issues of science policy. Most recently he delivered the 2010 Reith Lectures for the BBC, a series of talks exploring the ethical challenges facing science in the 21st century.
Monday at 9am
Theme: Plotinus and Islamic Platonism
Douglas Hedley, University of Cambridge, Presiding
John Bussanich, University of New Mexico
Plotinus on Karma and Rebirth
Shatha Almutawa, University of Chicago
Religiophilosophical Narratives: Plato in Rasa’il Ikhwan Al-Safa
Samir Mahmoud, University of Cambridge
The Problem of the One and the Many: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Divine Names and Proclus’s Henads
Martyn Smith, Lawrence University
Ibn Khaldun and Neoplatonic Views of the Soul
Monday at 1pm
Theme: Ritual, Time, and Magic Wheels: Studies in Indian and Tibetan Tantra
Richard K. Payne, Graduate Theological Union, Presiding
Ronald M. Davidson, Fairfield University
Early Buddhist Tantras and the Smārta Quotidian Manuals
Lewis Doney, University of London
Buddhist Time and Tantra in Early Tibetan Historiography
Manuel Lopez, University of Virginia
The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Buddhism During Tibet’s Dark Age
Eric Fry-Miller, Indiana University
Dreaming of Magic Wheels, Flames, and Bliss: Understanding the Transformation of Candali Practice in the Drigung Kagyu
Monday at 4pm
Theme: Western Esotericism and Material Culture
Cathy Gutierrez, Sweet Briar College, Presiding
Egil Asprem, University of Amsterdam
Technofetishism, Instrumentation, and the Materiality of Esoteric Knowledge
Shawn Eyer, John F. Kennedy University
The Use of Tracing Boards and Other Art Objects as Physical Aids of Symbolic Communication in the Rituals and Practices of Freemasonry
Stephen Wehmeyer, Champlain College
Conjurational Contraptions: “Techno-gnosis,” Mechanical Wizardry, and the Material Culture of African American Folk Magic
Henrik Bogdan, University of Gothenburg
“Objets d’Art Noir”, Magical Engines, and Gateways to Other Dimensions: Understanding Hierophanies in Contemporary Occultism
Joseph Christian Greer, Harvard University
Storming the Citadel for Knowledge, Aesthetics, and Profit: The Dreamachine in Twentieth Century Esotericism
Monday at 6:45pm
Theme: New Horizons in Religion and Ecology
At this reception hosted by the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS, San Francisco), meet with others interested in the study of religion and ecology. Four CIIS faculty—Elizabeth Allison, Robert McDermott, Jacob Sherman, and Brian Swimme—will briefly introduce a new CIIS MA and Ph.D. level program of study in Religion and Ecology.
Tuesday at 9am
Theme: The Viability of Metaphysical Realism
Stephen Bush, Brown University, Presiding
Rose Ann Christian, Towson University
The Ethics of Belief and Belief About Ethics: William Kingdon Clifford at the Metaphysical Society
Laura Weed, College of Saint Rose
Metaphysical Realism after Quantum Field Theory: a New Look at No-thingness
William Lane Craig, Biola University
The Viability of Metaphysical Realism about Abstract Objects
Michael Slater, Georgetown University
Pragmatism, Theism, and the Viability of Metaphysical Realism
Bryant posted recently about how he would define the notion of “Enlightenment.” I agree with part of what he has to say, in that clearly Enlightenment does concern the bursting forth of critique. Where we seem to disagree is on the extent to which critique can ever lift itself entirely above the mythopoietic structure of the cultures to which it belongs and out of which it came. Here is my response to him:
So “mythic” modes of consciousness are “immature” across the board? Are you arguing that the Enlightened are those grown ups who have entirely transcended myth to live in the full light of Reason? Or would you admit that story and narrative are essential and inevitable factors in all human knowledge of self and world?
To my mind, the Enlightenment represents a new awakening to (or remembrance of) a 2,500 year old axial form of mythospeculation that is not only reflexive (as the Greek tragedies and Jewish prophecies were), but now also self-reflexive. Individuals begin to step into their own authority as legitimate grounds for reasons. They need no longer draw explicitly on gods or kings or even kin when they argue for an essential rightness, or goodness, or truth concerning the world. Truth needs no intermediary. Of course, individuals always implicitly draw on ancient traditions of interpretation when they reason, whether they are deriving a mathematical formula in a lab, protesting for their freedom in the streets, or reading the first verses of John’s gospel at their bedside.
The Enlightenment didn’t do away with transcendence or myth. The Enlightenment offered us a new myth, the myth of mythlessness, and a new transcendence, that of Theory and Science. God was killed, but the Mind of Man was crowned in Its place.
I don’t think we need more Enlightenment. We don’t need more myth, either.
We need to integrate theory and story. We are more than merely rational beings. Rational intelligence emerges only within a matrix of culture and symbolism and finds its bearings amidst the stories sustained by this matrix.
Certain passions have haunted and lead us to cruelty, no doubt; but other passions provide the heart’s very reasons for living, “reasons that reason doesn’t know.”
I’m all about the Light.
But let’s not forget that the most brilliant lights casts the darkest shadows.
Update: the discussion continues over at Knowledge-Ecology.
To sum up:
Levi and I seem to be disagreeing about whether myth penetrates to the level of ontology, or whether it is merely an epistemic limit or veil that can be removed and discarded after logical, scientific thought has revealed the pure light of truth hiding behind it. Myth need not be a limit to thought; it can provide a doorway to the infinite if we do not allow it to collapse into narrow literalisms and closed ideologies.
Speculative philosophy is the telling of what Plato called “likely stories,” open-ended accounts of what may be the case, all known things considered.