We Have The Unconscious That We Deserve

We Have The Unconscious That We Deserve

The most general formulation of the religious problem is the question whether the process of the temporal world passes into the formation of other actualities, bound together in an order in which novelty does not mean loss. 
A.N. Whitehead

Life is the anarchic and continuous creation of unforeseeable novelty, and theology is the premier discipline that nails us down as subjects amidst the forces at play. Unfortunately, the theological enterprise has since its inception been permeated by a reactive desire to invoke a transcendence to which immanence effectively can be attributed. The functioning of theology has thus been to exercise power over life; to judge and to crucify the novel, singular and rare in accordance with established values, which is why the secular revolt against theology in the West was critical. However, while the secularists' negative gesture has proved itself relatively forceful, it has rarely been violent enough. Rather than opening fields of virtuality, they retained their cloaked predecessors' representational logic and thus failed in their attempts to replace the basic structure of imperial Christian thought.

As Deleuze writes: "Did we kill God when we put man in his place and kept the most important thing, which is the place?" Rather than allowing for their critique to function in the service of their differential affirmation, the secularists have failed to break open that which they struggle against. In truth, secularism functions within the frame of Christianity and should not be viewed as anything but a segment of a manifold and incalculable world religion. Deleuze continues: "The only change is this: instead of being burdened from the outside, man takes the weight and places them on his own back." It is therefore no wonder that so much intellectual energy has been spent wrestling with issues concerning the unconscious the past century, and how the unconscious keeps echoing the life denying verdicts of the despotic priesthood.

According to Deleuze & Guattari, the judgment of God is the operation of He who makes an organism to extract useful labor from the BwO, all while the BwO howls back: "He has made me an organism! He has wrongfully folded me! He has stolen my body!" The territorializing verdicts proclaimed by the high priests thus nails us down as subjects, against the BwO. Note however that our subjectivity is not strictly opposed to the BwO because the BwO is not separate from it, rather it exists in it. Nothing is, so to speak, deeper than the skin, which is why Nietzsche wrote that the Greeks were superficial, out of profundity.

I am thoroughly convinced that we cannot escape theology. It is of course possible to follow the secularists and exchange the word "God" for something other, but if our will to power is still turned upon itself; if we desire domination rather than creation, then what is the difference? I am much more interested in a free-spirited theology that refuses to acknowledge any attempts by established authorities to limit our imagination, and which simultaneously acknowledge that we cannot begin anywhere but in the middle of our own experience of being nailed downed as subjects. Our task, as I see it, is therefore not to throw ourselves into suicidal collapse, nor is it to conquer the cathedrals of established religion, but to carefully evaluate and distinguish the BwO from its totalitarian doubles, to find lines of flight, and as Deleuze and Guattari writes, have a small plot of new land at all times.

Therefore, the theme for the upcoming season of The Catacombic Machine is Desert Islands, which is the title of a short essay written by Deleuze early in his philosophical career. The small plot of new land, here described as a desert island, is both the necessary minimum needed to begin anew and a second origin that establishes the law of repetition, which is a law of becoming that recognizes that opposition presupposes difference. The law of repetition is thus indifferent to any eternal code of unification, any logic of the One, or pure origin. Being is not given once and for all and novelty does not mean loss, I suggest rather that theology must begin with the affirmation of difference and that it be understood as a futuristic and artistic practice of opening fields of virtuality. To paraphrase Guattari, theologians must therefore demonstrate that they have abandoned their priestly and academic cloaks, beginning with those invisible ones that they wear in their heads, in their language and in the way they conduct themselves. This is, I think, how we can create fresh and affirmative processes of subjectification.

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