Frames /sing

kvond

Levi’s Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’s Words Amended

Blessed Be the…

I don’t really like writing on religious-sensitive topics, largely because the discussion that flows from them is often far from interesting (more heat, less light, as some say); but Larval Subjects has a unique interpretation of the Life and Teaching of Jesus, such that he feels Jesus challenges us let go of our Imaginary relations of wholeness, while at the same time disbanding the Symbolic order as well. (Levi is a lapsus  Lacanian, and has recourse to Lacanian concepts now and again, sometimes in unorthodox creativity, sometimes with orthodox, near bible-thumping fervor.) It is a kind of anti-Imaginary, anti-Symbolic call that would lead us all to a “strange kind of new community”:

In short, the social and political vision Christ seemed to envision was that of a form of social life beyond the Lacanian dimension of the Imaginary. The “Imaginary” here does not signify the “illusory” or “imagination”, but rather is the domain of “…wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality, and above all, similarity” (Dylan Evans 1996, 82). The Imaginary is the domain of self-identity, of being identical to oneself, and of social relations based on similarity. Moreover, it is the domain where we take ourselves to be masters of what we say, where we think of meaning as being defined by our intentions (psychoanalytic practice being premised on the thesis that our words and actions always say more than we intend and that meaning is bestowed by the Other, not our intentions). Lacan associates the domain of the Imaginary with that of narcissism insofar as the Ego or self-identity is produced through narcissistic identification. Most importantly, it is a realm characterized by rivalry and aggression, insofar as we see our mirror counter-parts as contesting our own identity and therefore threatening o[u]r sense of wholeness and completeness or our belief that we are master’s of ourselves and of meaning. Whenever you protest to another “but that’s not what I meant, you’re twisting my words!” you are thoroughly immersed in the domain of the imaginary.

Throughout all of his teaching and more importantly his practice, Christ can be seen as challenging this dimension of the Imaginary. He contests the domain of imaginary identification with the Other in proclaiming that “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). As Levi-Strauss demonstrated, the incest prohibition and the structure of kinship relations is a matter of the symbolic and symbolic identifications, not a matter of the danger of producing five headed children. In contesting kinship relations the point isn’t that we should follow Jesus and God above all others, but that in the name of this new community we should undergo a subjective destitution where we refuse our Imaginary tribal identifications in the symbolic order. Kinship structures are organized around the dialectic of sameness and difference, the same and the other, such that they are designed to maintain the identity of the One or the Same against the other.

Now, at the surface of it this seems like a profound observation. There is something so radical about Jesus’s message that it defies both the Imaginary and Symbolic orders of Lacan. But I am most interested in the idea that “Christ can be seen as challenging this dimension of the Imaginary”. Perhaps, but what does this mean? Levi tells us that the Imaginary dimension is where narcissism and aggression is born, where we encounter others as threatening our sense of wholeness. Do we have to be Lacanians to buy this understanding of Jesus? Further, as proof of this interpretation he cite’s Jesus’s call to hate your family members (in contrast to your love for him), a sign that Jesus is not only against the Imaginary, but also against the Symbolic order. But then he specifies, the imaginary that we are supposed to fore go, are the Imaginary “tribal identifications in the symbolic order”. Is this is the same thing as “challenging the dimension of the Imaginary” itself?

The Imagination Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Its hard to tell, because when I tried to get some more precision on just how Levi arrived at his conclusion I ran up against a very interesting mode of “defending” it, rather than explainingit. Rather than using the citation that Levi selected to exemplify the core of Jesus’s teachings, I suggested the rather more commonly understood distillation:

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV, Mark 12:28-31).

And I asked, is not Jesus’s essentialization of the Law here one great mode of Imaginary identification? It seems to be broken into both an identification with God and with your neighbor. Instead of challenging the “dimension of the Imaginary” it seems that Jesus is employing it to its fullest, creating a wholeness of world and conduct. What is most odd is how Levi responded. First he says that this is just how the “figure of Jesus” speaks to him. Fair enough, but then adds in regard to the way he had selected biblical quotation,

Personally I think Scripture is a bit of a rorschach, why not make alternatives available?

Later to say, 

Why is that [my] interpretation any less valid than an interpretation that privileges one particular line in Leviticus or Revelation?

This is what I don’t get, or even appreciate. People, particularly intellectuals, spend a lot of time arguing forcefully against the kinds of inventive, almost deadly-whimsical textual games fundamentalist Christians play with their sacred scriptures, making up (finding) the message they want to hear. Levi seems, when asked to explain his interpretation, actually appeals to this unique kind of authority. Scriptural passages are inkblots to him. One can get really radical about Jesus’s message if one selects the right lines (and he does advocate something of the cut-and-paste Bible of Thomas Jefferson). His turn towards the hatred of one’s family looms large in the mutal defeat of the Imaginary and Symbolic realms. But Levi’s call is a political call, a call for a kind of strange community, and political calls are not usually made from inkblots and should be examined.

I do not deny that Jesus’s message was (and is) radical, but what I wonder about is its relationship to the dimension of the Imaginary. In a sense, the very wholeness of our Being is an imaginary process of identification, one recognizing another as oneself. And it is to this concept of wholeness that Jesus appeals.

Spinoza and Jesus: Who Would’a Thunk?

These thoughts on Imaginary relations are not idle, as for sometime I have been working through the role of the imaginary in the thinking of Spinoza, someone who has a strong reputation for arguing against imaginary relations – he relegates them to the third form of an inferior kind of knowledge (with rationality and intuition ascending above it). Spinoza’s position on the imaginary though is problematic and perhaps inconsistent. There can be no doubt though that upon close examination Spinoza actually places very important imaginary processes at the core of both sociability and the pursuit of blessedness.

The first of these I have recently discussed in other contexts and has received some attention in terms of its place in Spinoza’s political reasoning. It argues a fundamental imaginary and affective bond between my person and another person imagined to be the same:

E3, Proposition 27: If we imagine a thing like us, toward which we have had no affect, to be affected with some affect, we are thereby affected with a like affect.

The second of these is quite neglected in Spinoza studies, for it comes in the highly excelerated Fifth part of the Ethics as Spinoza intensely speeds towards the Intuition of God:

E5,Proposition 13 – The greater the number of other images which an image is associated, the more often it springs to life.

Proof: The greater the number of images which an image is associated, the more causes there are by which it can be aroused (2p18).

This proposition culminates a short sketch of imaginary powers which proceeds from the previous two:

5p12 – Images are more readily associated with those images that are related to things which we clearly and distinctly understand than they are to others.

5p11 – In proportion as a mental image is related [refertur] to more things, the more frequently does it occur – i.e., the more often it springs to life – and the more it engages the mind.

I have previously argued for a Spinozist advocacy of metaphor (as oxymoronic as that sounds) on the strength of this proposition: Spinoza and the Metaphoric Rise of the Imagination . Briefly, Spinoza posits a kind of imaginary path towards an intution of God which is predicated upon associated images to our clearest understanding of things. This is to say, taking the two imaginary references in hand (E3p27, E5p13), we find the Spinoza proposes that the imagination of other persons intimately seen to be “the same” as us and the creation of imaginary images (one supposes that he has in mind God) which have the greatest number of other images associated with it, puts human beings not only within the social, but also well on the track of clear and distinct knowledge which empowers the many. I would suggest that Jesus’s two commandment distillations are precisely of this Imaginary process, the love of God and the love of neighbor.

Levi “Translates” the Bible for Us

Further on in the comments section (and Levi has since posted a heavily Lacanian theory-laden treatise on Jesus which I have not read, nor likely will, given his unfortunate propensity to expound rather than communicate), Levi tells us that he “translates” the word “neighbor” as “stranger” such that Jesus’s message is “love thy stranger”. After being pressed with the problem that the Greek word is “plêsion” and strictly means “the one near you,” he retreated, telling us that his “translation” is not a philological translation at all, but something of a Heideggerian one. That is, he feels that he has come to understand the “truth” behind the word enough to change it completely.

He deleted my objections to this kind of “translating” from the comments section, but they are worth repeating here because they go directly to my claim that Jesus’s teaching and practice are not against the domain of the Imaginary, but rather gainfully employ it. What I would like to emphasize about the word “plêsion” is that this proximateness is much in keeping with what seems to be a coherent message of proximate love over abstract love. When Jesus offers the story of the Good Samaritan, it is the proximity of the “neighbor” that he is right there before us, in an encounter (and not that he is a “stranger”), that qualifies the tale. Personally I find this message of contact-lead love quite present in the figure of Jesus as he is not only physically close to those he engages with, but repeatedly defies abstractions of either class, kind or object. The imaginary processes advocated in his dissolution of the law are immediate and always in terms of vital connections based on identifications of wholeness.

Levi says that in past posts he has declared that it is unfortunate that Jesus used the word “neighbor” as if Jesus (or our approximate historical construction of him) didn’t quite know what he was saying and that the Lacanian-aided Levi has figured it out better. Perhaps though when reading the text we should pay greater attention to what actually is said, rather than creating inventive “truths” which we graft upon the text in translation.

This brings me to another thought as to the standing of the text we approach when we treat words some take as holy. If we are not going to take a distinctly religious approach, how are we to judge Levi’s claim that interpreting Jesus is like reading inkblots on paper: one can just see what one wants to see, and that’s that. During the discussion some emphasis turned to the old scholarly issue of the imagined “Q” document, something proposed to contain the “real” teachings of Jesus, while devaluing as simply projective much of the others. Personally I think it a mistake to think that at any time we are attempting to get at exactly the truth of Jesus, stripping away the extraneous. Rather, we have to understand the figure as constructed, layered through the centuries, because this very process of sedimentation is the one that brought “him” into tremendous importance. As such, the “Q” Jesus only stands in historical importance due to the “non-Q” Jesus. All the strands must be taken into hand. If we want to talk of the core “teachings and practices” of Jesus, as someone like Levi would like to, this is fair, but I think it a mistake to presume some aspects of the Gospels as NECESSARILY less vital, simply because they do not fall into the “Q” category. We do not know the oral traditions and priorities of vision which either preserved or invented these aspects, and at best Q statements must live within their non-Q contexts, within a kind of dialectic. Clearly the authors of the Gospels, no matter who we count them to be, expressed a synthesis of meanings all concordant with the supposed Q elements, and there is no authoritative way to trace out the roots of this concordance. Historical force alone, the weight of the centuries pressing down, insure that we take them together if we are to speaking meaningfully about the meanings of these texts. This is not to say that we cannot make distinctions, but our distinctions should remain observational. I do not know if the (non-Q) Good Samaritan was spoken by Jesus or not, but it remains a meaningful illustration.

Lastly, I hope that it is the text itself that we deal with most specifically when attempting to identify the meanings therein. And if Jesus had the misfortune to speak the Aramaic word which was most readily translated into “plêsion” it is only with great abuse that we venture to, in Heideggerian aplumb and Existentialist Procrustian bedmaking, “translate” it into “stranger”. It is in all likelihood, as far as we can tell, that Jesus meant “the one near” and not “stranger” (in fact the concept of “stranger” I would suggest did not exist at the time). It seems to me that like Spinoza, who has a reputation against the Imaginary Domain, Jesus’s message of proximate love and love of God, involves deep imaginary processes of identification, the lived construction of wholes, both locally built up from the nearby, and circumfrentially deploys inwards from an imagined limit.

The importance of grasping the imaginary processes invoked is exactly that suggested by Levi, that the imaginary vision of wholeness and authority of meanings, while at many time is curative and inspiring, also holds the possibilities of its shadow, the fears that the wholeness will be threatened from the “outside” under some projective external force. The sometimes, perhaps often brutal history of religious violence speaks vividly about the shadow of these imaginary divisions, but it is important to see that the imagination itself is both part of their production and their possible healing. It specifically is not that Jesus’s message is/was “challenging the imaginary dimension” but employing as fully as possible the powers of imaginary identification, very much in the same way that Spinoza proposed as well. We must recall that Spinoza was an active Collegiant associate, and one imagines likely attended quite a few bible study-like events, an image we do not regularly call to mind.

Advertisements

55 responses to “Levi’s Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’s Words Amended

  1. anodynelite May 8, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    In a way, the more I read from those who are following this trend of Christian neo-revisionism (which might be an unfair way to think about it, since Christianity has been constantly under revision since it was named–but there does seem to be an element of deliberate shoving of square-pegs into round holes going on here), the more it seems like Jesus really is a new ink blot test: anybody who has radical pretensions can read just about anything they want to into his words and legacy.

    Though I hate to be ever the cynic, I think this is what all of the most seminal religious prophets and icons did quite on purpose: made a point of emptying out their prescriptive language of any cultural significations specific enough to limit or bind them to a specific set of political circumstances, thus lending them the aura of “timelessness” and “generic” truth. It’s the same thing a fortune teller or tarot reader does–make sure you’re general enough in your prognostications that what you say could apply to anyone anywhere.

    I must be a strange and horrible kind of person, because what I read into the Jesus inkblot is the worst sort of charlatanism. Really, what Jesus is quoted as saying in the gospels isn’t all that different from what Charles Manson or Jim Jones said to their followers: the prevailing superstructure is unjust, you are the alienated ones and thus are God’s favorites, forget about politics and family attachments and social norms and follow me. The results all three got from their followers has been similar, as well.

    • kvond May 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm

      AL,

      Just a short time ago you are posting again and again on the power and truth of MLK jr.. Or did I hallucinate that? Was MLK an inkblot of an inkblot?

      Just curious.

  2. anodynelite May 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Haha– no you didn’t hallucinate that.

    I don’t hate Jesus or anything, I actually think he had a really good set of ideals (so did Jim Jones, by many accounts–a very good communist, in fact). I think that Jesus gets misread as politically viable when that’s the opposite of what he was going for. The way I read the NT Jesus (who refused to be tricked into making a statement of political allegiance by the establishment/Pharisees), he wanted to suggest that love happens on an intersubjective level, and that it needs to happen in spite of Empire (which will always be there), not just in opposition to it. So love will transcend political conflicts and affiliations, and compassion will be its most basic unit–not radical political ontology.

    That’s my generous reading, as opposed to the conflicted one above.

    Martin Luther King, of all the politically or socially minded Christians in recent history, fits in best with my generous reading of Christian love. He followed the civil disobedience => martyrdom over violent resistance model that Jesus himself lived. To me, the belief in God is secondary to the lived “love” that MLK advocated and practiced.

  3. anodynelite May 8, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Either way I prefer close hermeneutical readings to other kinds, where the Bible is concerned.

  4. kvond May 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    AL,

    I like your generous reading, if only because it allows us to not take simple oppositional positions.

    I have a complex position on the notion of “belief in God”, but I wonder if “belief in God” was secondary to MLK, or primary? That is to say, is it merely a crutch, or is it a frame for the love that you favor?

  5. anodynelite May 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    It’s hard to say, really, what faith ends up meaning to individuals, but I feel slightly more comfortable talking about the role of faith in the larger African-American community of the time. I think it’s safe to say that the church (mostly Baptist, but there are other denominations, too) played a very central role in the daily lives and political organization of black radicals, to the point where it may have functioned as the “higher power” of black intellectuals in lieu of a more literal God figure.

    There’s a balance to be struck between inventive hermeneutics and all-out eisegesis (vs exegesis), especially because it is offensive to the sincerely faithful when their beloved texts get co-opted by those with political agendas. At least, I have witnessed this in my personal life between intellectual “Christians” and believers.

    I try to stay out of those kind of disputes. Usually I find that believers are less offended by brazen atheism than they are by revisionism, so I’ve maintained a sort of distance by voicing my lack of faith around believers, rather than going Derrida or Buber…

  6. kvond May 8, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    AL: “Usually I find that believers are less offended by brazen atheism than they are by revisionism, so I’ve maintained a sort of distance by voicing my lack of faith around believers, rather than going Derrida or Buber…”

    Kvond: I spend very little time paying attention to believers whether they be of the Leftist ilk, or the Christian one, but perhaps you are right. Either dispute doesn’t sound very interesting to me. What amazed me about Levi’s oddly univocal interpretation of the “teachings and practice of Jesus” was the unassailable unjustified explanation he gave. He simply claimed something like, “Hey, I don’t care for textual facts, reasons or evidence. This is simply the Jesus I see as in an inkblot, and I translate significant words according to their “inner truth” regardless of what they mean”. This struck me as bizzare. When presented with alternate views, he simply asked, “Why are you doing this, I’m not going to give up my opinion”. That this was done in a distinctly philosophically minded forum was hilarious. It was as if the spirit of the worst aspects of religious belief sudden reared their heads, confirming my sense that political vision and religious vision have much more in common than is usually assumed.

  7. theguavatree May 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

    you write:

    “When Jesus offers the story of the Good Samaritan, it is the proximity of the “neighbor” that he is right there before us, in an encounter (and not that he is a “stranger”), that qualifies the tale.”

    But this is simply not true. It is the otherness of the “neighbor” that qualifies the tale.

    As you write above, Jesus is trying to answer a “tricky question” from a lawyer who asks: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (In Mark and Matthew the question is the more famous: “Teacher, which is the great (“most important” or “first” in Mark) commandment in the law?”) Jesus’ answer is the same in all three synoptics, though, which ends with the “second” most important law: Love your neighbor as yourself.

    Right after this in Luke comes the “Parable of the Good Samaritan”, only found in Luke. It is still very important as you write above, even if it only shows up once. The lawyer asks: “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus’ answer is snarky, essentially: “Not who you think it is, hotshot.” In the parable the bloodied victim who was robbed is first ignored by a priest, then he is ignored by a Levite (a member of a priestly tribe of Israel). It is the Samaritan, a member of a tribe absolutely hated by the Jews that claimed to be the “true” monotheistic religion. In bringing up the Samaritan, this is like someone going on a right-wing Fox News show and telling the host that his “neighbor” is a gay man with AIDS (presumably one of these hosts would be frightened and horrified by such a person). Or it’s like telling a member of the Israeli government that his “neighbor” is a member of Hamas. or vice versa. Most Jews around Jesus’ time would have heard “Good Samaritan” and replied: “Oxymoron!”

    So the whole point of the parable is to change our perception of the word “neighbor”, the one who is close to you. “Who is close to me that you’re telling me I should love like myself?” It is someone who you hate. So the whole purpose of renaming “neighbor” as “stranger” is I think doing Jesus’ work for him in a way because the parable is about making people question who they habitually call their neighbor. Your neighbor may in fact be a total stranger.

    you say:

    when reading the text we should pay greater attention to what actually is said, rather than creating inventive “truths”

    but it seems like closer attention should be paid that the “greatest commandment” passage leads right into the Good Samaritan in Luke only (you quote the Mark version of the greatest commandment above) — The good Samaritan is there I think in Luke in order to clarify the type of misreadings that can happen with the “greatest commandment” and it’s sequel: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” So it’s important to read the Good Samaritan correctly.

    Now there is more to be said on your interesting thoughts on Spinoza and the Imaginary that I’d like to reply to –hope to get to that tomorrow

    • theguavatree May 9, 2009 at 12:41 am

      I lose some meaning in my narration of the Parable, so here is the ending for those who are curious. The usually hated, despised, spat on Samaritan shows compassion where the preist and Levite (who most Jews then would certainly call their “neighbor”) do not:

      But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 10.34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 10.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 10.36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 10.37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

      The Lawyer, at the end of this story cannot even say the word “Samaritan”–he has to say “the one who showed mercy on him”, reinforcing how despised the Samaritans were.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 2:05 am

      A very colorful exposition, no doubt, and I have no problem with just these kinds of imaginary developments, but I find little of the “stranger” (in its modern meaning) in Jesus’s example. First of all, the illustration of the Good Samaritan, in my view, is an example of a very specific “one near you”. The Samaritan is not the receiver of the love, but the giver, and his status as “neighbor” was due to very proximate love he gave. And he is defined as a neighbor because he gives. The man taken by robbers was right there in front of him, on the road. And he maintained his proximity his generous the care of the innkeeper. Yes, the Samaritan was well-hated, but he was not “The Stranger” or more problematically “thy stranger” [plesion sou]. The point is not merely that “you should be nice to Samaritans, and aids patients” but rather “what unites persons is their proximity and the care they give each other”. One becomes “near” by treating others “near” with love. This very well can serve as a direction to no longer separate out others by the Law, but in terms of a universal proximity.

      Now as to the idea that “plesion” could be translated “stranger”, aside from effacing what for me is a core concept in the word (even lost some in the choice of “neighbor”), the modern idea of “stranger” that Levi tries to import simply did not exist at that time. He has in mind some sort of Same/Different philosophical binary of the utmost abstraction, and the “stranger” of this kind was not present in concept. People are not defined along merely a Same/Different binary, but by custom and practice with great specificity.

      As a first point, Jesus (or whomever) is invoking Leviticus 19:33-34 (New International Version)

      33 ” ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

      Jerusalem was an incredibly heterogeneous area, (and the schism between Samaritans and Jews came under the severe pressure of Hellenization). Jesus is insisting that Jews themselves remember their own imigrant status, note, the parable is about co-travelers.

      Secondly, Luke, the most fluent in Greek of all the Gospel writers, was likely writing to a rather Hellenized audience for whom the word stranger “xenos” also meant “guest”. This double sense of stranger is strictly missing from the English modern, and in fact existentialist meaning. The “xenos” was not someone with whom you would have no dealings at all (as in your vibrant metaphor of Fox News), but one, within the Greek world, with whom you had strong hospitality responsibility. Jesus’s words (whether to Jews or Greeks) are woven through with the pre-existing attachments to the “stranger/guest/neighbor”. While it is certain that in using a Samaritan as an example he created a tension, in choosing the correspondent word “plesion” made the answer and mode very clear.

      Aside from dreaming up that Jesus is confronting Lacanian categories and “translating” as one wants, the choice of word here, “plesion” is in my mind significant. Everything that Jesus preaches and does is bent toward a proximity interpretation of love. This is shown at verse 10:36 when Jesus asks the learned man:

      “Which of these three do you think was a “plesion” [a neighbor, a nearby one] to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

      This is in exact opposition to your thought that plesion should be translated as “stranger”, as you write:

      “So the whole purpose of renaming “neighbor” as “stranger” is I think doing Jesus’ work for him in a way because the parable is about making people question who they habitually call their neighbor.”

      You are not reading closely. Obviously, Jesus is not asking, “which of these three was a ‘stranger’ to the fallen man”. Indeed there is a self/other dialectic, but his dialectic is already performed under heavy cultural assumptions of interdependency and a project of proximity. Here the word “plesion” is distinctly positive and binding, much as our positive connotations of the word “neighbor”. Which one is the one who is “close by”.

      To my larger point, the status of a “plesion” is he who makes/does [poiesas] compassion/mercy [eleos] with him (v. 37). It is precisely through the imaginary extension of identity that a person becomes a “plesion”. Imaginary processes are central, rather than the notion that Jesus’s challenge is to the Imaginary domain.

      It should be noted that the lexical form of “plesion” also can be read as the future participle of the verb “pimplemi” [to fill] meaning, “your that which will fill up”.

  8. kvond May 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Theguavatree: “The Lawyer, at the end of this story cannot even say the word “Samaritan”–he has to say “the one who showed mercy on him”, reinforcing how despised the Samaritans were.”

    Kvond: Nice of you to give me the “correct” reading of the Good Samaritan from Wikipedia which you have reworded for me as if it were your own thought, or an authoritative interpretation, as it writes:

    Wiki:“Samaritans were hated by the story’s target audience, the Jews, to such a degree that the Lawyer did not mention them by name but as “The one who had mercy on him.”

    but please, leave Wikipedia theology at Wikipedia.

    Far from this being an obvious example of pure hatred, the failure to distinguish the man by his Ethnic class but rather by his mercy, much more likely means that the Lawyer actually understand the parable quite well, and has overcome his supposed “hatred”.

    In fact, given my lack of interest in arguing theology with people and that you are gathering your points from Wikipedia, feel free to continue to comment if you like, but I won’t likely be responding. Perhaps others will find your points of interest. Best of luck.

  9. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    And I asked, is not Jesus’s essentialization of the Law here one great mode of Imaginary identification?

    Kvond,

    And the problem is that you apparently never read Lacan, the first two paragraphs of the post clearly tell me that. In Lacan’s system, imaginary identification means that from the acquisition of language and onwards you ”introject” the image that others have of you, and on this basis form a subjectivity/identity. There might be other obscure parts of Lacan’s teaching, but this one is actually quite straightforward. Because this image is never in accord with who you are, there is always a slippage, a discord – hence Lacan called it false recognition (meconaissance). The subjective destitution that the narcissistic cat is talking about means realizing that this image is false, and that you have the (relative) freedom to create your own self, or at least that this freedom should be something to strive towards.

    The narcissistic cat’s attraction to the idea of the Bible as a Rorscach blot is understandable given Lacan’s understanding of language, in which the signifiers are loosely attached to the signifiers so that language is by definition unstable. This kind of a reading is much less ideological, for one thing, than a ”straightforward text”.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:17 pm

      PC,

      Sorry to tarry with that Lacanian Bible of yours. It seems I have another “true believer” commenting, just on a different set of texts. The problem is, Jesus never read Lacan. (Further, Lacan read, and was quite influenced by Spinoza.). I am commenting upon the SPECIFIC characterizations of the Imaginary expressed by Levi in his post (and I certainly was not engaging Lacan in total. In fact, when commenting on Levi’s Lacanian flavored points, one never knows if he is making some vague reference to a Lacan he has rejected, or if he has to Truth Lacanian orthodoxy). It was specifically the notion that wholeness and mastery of discourse is an imaginary relation, but more sthe notion that recognition in the mirror stage is a recognition of self. Lacan changed how he treated the Imaginary over the course of his theorizing, actuallly with great shift. Whatever Lacan wants to argue in regards to the acquistion of speech, primarily what I have in mind is the mirror stage, pre-linguistic imaginary effects of wholeness. The entire “splippage” conception has little bearing at all here. In fact, one could say that the pre-linguistic powers of identification that mark the Imaginary are those that Jesus (and Spinoza) call upon, that is, there are fundamental imaginary processes that called into service in order to construct a freedom beyond the deliniations of the Law. In Deleuze this is the construction of and sharing of affects. So, when I put my question to Levi, is not Jesus’s God/neighbor identification not a vast project of Imaginary Identification? The answer I find, is yes. Whatever dainty Lacanian “truth” this may violate would strike me as a deficiency in Lacan, and little more.

  10. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    On this last one I don’t think that just because some Republicans out there or Bible Thumpers use the ambiguity of the Biblical text as an excuse for racist interpretations, the Biblical text is intrinsically conducive to such interpretations. That you should say something like that bespeaks a certain unsubtlety that is far below par for your amount of talent, Kvond you [explicative].

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

      I don’t know what you are talking about. But if it refers to the explicit way in which Levi justified his reading of Jesus, something he compared to reasoning-by-inkblot, and exclaiming that nothing would get him to change his opinion, I see no difference between this and other fundamentalist processes of claims of “truth”.

  11. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    a sense, the very wholeness of our Being is an imaginary process of identification, one recognizing another as oneself.

    You didn’t elaborate on this one, I don’t understand what you mean

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      I am referring to Levi’s explication,

      “The “Imaginary” here does not signify the “illusory” or “imagination”, but rather is the domain of “…wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality, and above all, similarity” (Dylan Evans 1996, 82). The Imaginary is the domain of self-identity, of being identical to oneself, and of social relations based on similarity.”

      This is precisely the Imaginary process that Spinoza invokes, that Jesus commands, and is indeed indicative of the (mythical) mirror stage of Lacan. I don’t know what kind of elaboration you need.

  12. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    And I asked, is not Jesus’s essentialization of the Law here one great mode of Imaginary identification? It seems to be broken into both an identification with God and with your neighbor.

    So, to the contrary, Jesus’s essentialization of the Law is to love the neighbour in spite of his strangeness, thus in spite of the impossibility of identification.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:35 pm

      I disagree with this completely. The “neighbor” may be on the surface strange/different, but explicitly what makes the Samaritan qualified to be a neighbor in Jesus’s view is that he acted with compassion [“eleos”]. Com-passion is the sharing of “passions,” experiences, affects. That is, having the SAME ones. It is via this sharing of affects, this similiarity that a deeper, or one might say pre-linguistic imaginary force, of recognition occurs. The Lawyer in the parable telling recognizes the “neighbor” because he identifies. Jesus closes the loop when telling the Lawyer that in recognizing that the Samaritan is a “plesion” because of his act of compassion, “Go and do the same”. In otherword, identify with him, be the same.

  13. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    but more sthe notion that recognition in the mirror stage is a recognition of self.

    I think you are reading the word ”Imaginary” to mean ”fantasy”, and that’s not it. There is no recognition of the self in the mirror phase either; to recognize something, you have to establish it as existing in the first place. What Lacan meant is that you are deceived by the mirror image into believing that this image is you, hence all relations with others are false recognitions. The self cannot be found, because it doesn’t exist. But you can construct one that isn’t trapped in the expectations and desires of others.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:41 pm

      Well, YOU might mean “fantasy” but Lacan early on distinctly meant “Imaginary” (as in based on an image). Any quick google will tell you this.

      Here’s an example:

      “MIRROR STAGE (Lacan) : The young child’s identification with his own image (what Lacan terms the “Ideal-I” or “ideal ego”), a stage that occurs anywhere from 6-18 months of age. For Lacan, this act marks the primordial recognition of one’s self as “I,” although at a point before entrance into language and the symbolic order….The mirror stage establishes what Lacan terms the “imaginary order” and, through the imaginary, continues to assert its influence on the subject even after the subject enters the symbolic order. See the Lacan Module on Psychosexual Development.”

      But really, I have no desire to argue Lacanian orthodoxy and the tiny parsing of terms trying to follow Lacan’s own shifting treatment of the Imaginary, with Lacanian true believers. Its like trying to keep track of, and justifying, all the papal positions on purgatory. No thanks.

  14. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    This is precisely the Imaginary process that Spinoza invokes, that Jesus commands, and is indeed indicative of the (mythical) mirror stage of Lacan.

    I don’t know about Spinoza, but Jesus’s command to love thy neighbour is most commonly interpreted as meaning to love someone despite their faults and your complaints, or in other words to love them for who they are. Since this is IMPOSSIBLE in the context of my previous explanation, it means, in fact, utterly giving up on the illusion of selfhood and embracing otherness. I don’t see what’s complicated about this?

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:49 pm

      Unfortunately I don’t follow what “is most commonly interpreted as”. Nice of you to let me know what the usual interpretation is. The problem is I look specifically at the passage, the context of its use, and the actual words used, and decide was is most coherent and meaningful.

      I see no evidence at all that the Lawyer in the telling is asked to “give up his selfhood” or even “love someone despite their faults”. The Samaritan does not love the man fallen on by robbers “for who he is,” but out of compassion.

      I can certainly see that following such a project could lead to a blurring of selfhood (in either Jesus or Spinoza), but in fact Spinoza and Jesus seem to think of a purification of selfhood rather than “giving up the illusion of” the same. One might say, expanding the notion of Self.

      I don’t find anything complicated about it at all. One does this through imaginary identifications and imaginary processes.

  15. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    For Lacan, this act marks the primordial recognition of one’s self as “I,” although at a point before entrance into language and the symbolic order….

    Kvond, this is some highly simplified reading of Lacan, the ”primordial recognition” does not exist in the original Lacan. It’s a FALSE RECOGNITION, because any ”self” is only an image. Self=illusion, and this you also have in Zen Buddhism and I also believe in the Koran and in way too many philosophic and religious systems to list. You’re making it sound like an arcane science for privileged mystics, which it isn’t.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 5:59 pm

      I’m not really interested in getting to the core, authentic “truth” of Lacanian theory, I’m interested in raising the question of Imaginary Identification, in particular in the aspects emphasized by Levi in his post, with a particular view towards what Imaginary identification might be beyond the specific strictures of Lacanian requirements. If indeed an infant “recognizes” itself as a coherent whole body, bringing its body into greater coordination, through the image of a mirror, (or in the images of other persons), I really don’t care very much about what Lacan wants to do with this in his great architecture of the Symbolic. I am more interested in what really is happening in the infant, what are these powers of imaginary identification.

      Quite distinctly from Lacan, I do not see human beings as plagued by a linguistic realm that cuts them off from the Real. The processes of imaginary identification that an infant undergoes, pre-linguistically, are the very same processes animals undergo as they are able to read the world through other animals and objects in the world. And they are the same processes of imaginary identification that Spinoza calls upon when he speaks of a sharing of (imitation of) affects. Com-passion is the sharing of passions, and does not rely upon the symbolic order, and it is an imaginary identification process. When I identify with another, feeling pain when they do or not, the entire need for this to be a “false recognition” isn’t really germane to the discussion. Lacan thinks, needs it to be, false because he wants construct an entirely linguistic oriented conception of Self and Symbolic worlds, getting it all wrong as far as I am concerned.

  16. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    The Samaritan does not love the man fallen on by robbers “for who he is,” but out of compassion.

    Ok but in loving a criminal, he also loves someone who deviates from social norms / laws and hence also social identifications, which is sort of the same as saying that he loves him contra expectations, or contra illusory identifications (with the image of the ”socially acceptable”).

    but in fact Spinoza and Jesus seem to think of a purification of selfhood rather than “giving up the illusion of” the same. One might say, expanding the notion of Self.

    I’d have to know more about Spinoza’s conceptualization of the Self. I don’t know much about this, to be able to respond. But I do know there are numerous kinships bw Spinoza and Christianity.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 6:15 pm

      PC: “Ok but in loving a criminal, he also loves someone who deviates from social norms / laws and hence also social identifications, which is sort of the same as saying that he loves him contra expectations, or contra illusory identifications (with the image of the ‘’socially acceptable”).”

      Kvond: I think maybe look over the parable. The Good Samaritan shows mercy to a man who had been fallen on by robbers, not TO robbers. I don’t know what “criminal” you have in mind. The guy is beat up and laying on the side of the road. One does see that Jesus himself loves people despite their status, this is pretty clear. In fact, he seems to love in particular people who have poor status, almost because of it.

      PC: “I’d have to know more about Spinoza’s conceptualization of the Self. I don’t know much about this, to be able to respond. But I do know there are numerous kinships bw Spinoza and Christianity.

      Kvond: Hmmm. There really aren’t that many kinships as far as I can see, that is, the idea of God sacrificing himself as a divine entity is pretty much antithetical to Spinoza’s approach. But perhaps you mean something like Christianities “love thy neighbor” thoughts. If so, this is what I have been arguing and trying to specify.

      As far as the “self” in Spinoza, he certainly sees it as a kind of illusion, as the negations that determine us all give us the sense of separation where there is none. But also he seems to see his clarity of vision project one that involves purifying the body/mind of reactive passions of sadness, and even claims that the “soul” is in some way eternal.

  17. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Quite distinctly from Lacan, I do not see human beings as plagued by a linguistic realm that cuts them off from the Real. The processes of imaginary identification that an infant undergoes, pre-linguistically,

    It is when the child begins to speak that the discord which Lacan explicates becomes ”active” in a manner of speaking, for at the moment the child is able to name objects, he or she endorses the split in language – and this split is extrapolated from de Saussire’s explanation of the unstable social contract between the signifier and the signified. You’re not the first one to critisize Lacan for his privileging of the linguistic, but I would say that as long as we speak, i.e. live in a language-centered society, which we do, this theme cannot just be thought away, just dismissed. I would agree though that the real question is how does this social contract come to be, and why, and then what would be a way of working around it. Animals and humans differ crucially as regards certain aspects of the symbolic function (e.g. they are not able to use metaphor to the extent that humans do).

    are the very same processes animals undergo as they are able to read the world through other animals and objects in the world.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 6:24 pm

      PC: “You’re not the first one to critisize Lacan for his privileging of the linguistic, but I would say that as long as we speak, i.e. live in a language-centered society, which we do, this theme cannot just be thought away, just dismissed.”

      Kvond: I certainly hope I’m not the first one (hilarious), but it would be very clever of me if I was. Anyways. I never suggested that we “dismiss” linguistic effects, but they must be qualified. I disagree that we live in a “language-centered society”. Quite to the contrary I suspect that is it our primary, affective identifications with others (however conditioned by language use) that provides the “center”, the structural core, of our society. This was Spinoza’s point as well. Social relations are established at the very center as imaginary relations through which affects are shared. Because of this our attachments, the modes by which we indeed communicate and cohere with others, through images and imaginary processes of every effect, distinctly supercedes any linguistic designation. We are animal, and thoroughly animal, well beneath our language selves. And this “animalness” is not just some kind of violent/sexualized “uncivilized” series of drives that have to domesticated as Freud would fantasize about, but also quite civilized, community building powers. Animals actually are quite social, quite civilized, as well as brutal and preying. The “center” of us, our imaginary affect powers, are actually far more powerful than our linguistic powers. At least that is my opinion.

  18. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    re Spinoza are you saying that he sees the Self as a kind of a vessel, a portal, or an energy field? In that case the only difference between him and the Lacanians is the premise of the Lack (the Self is covering up the gap in the Symbolic Order), I read somewhere that Spinoza didn’t believe in any exisential lack, while Deleuze thought the lack was produced by the desiring machine. The psychology of self that Lacan was opposed to though was the one that saw the self as a stable notion, something real and given, and I don’t think this is something opposed to any Spinozism.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm

      PC: “Spinoza are you saying that he sees the Self as a kind of a vessel, a portal, or an energy field? In that case the only difference between him and the Lacanians is the premise of the Lack…”

      Kvond: Completely. This is the huge difference, and it manifests in maybe two theoretical ways. Spinoza denies that there is any kind of ontological lack (that is, desire chasing an object is not a categorical state). For this reason he denies that human beings are a kingdom with its own laws (let’s say a Symbolic kingdom) within a kingdom (Nature). Everything in a human being is “natural” and connected to nature. There is no “split” or “cut”. For this reason linguistic practices so emphasized by Lacan mean very little for Spinoza. Instead our happiness comes from having clearer, more powerful ideas, understanding how we “work” (for this reason it has some connection to Buddhism).

      At another level, Lacan was strongly influenced by Spinoza, but also by Hegel (who strongly asserted ontological lack, claiming that this was Spinoza’s big mistake). There is a kind of tension between these two poles in Lacan. For someone like Althusser, it was the inner-Spinozist in Lacan that was the important one. For someone like Zizek, it is the inner-Hegelian in Lacan.

      Yes, you can say that the Self in Spinoza is kind of like an energy field. In fact all things in their distinctions are like this. The distinctions between one thing and another are real and concrete, but because everything is connected, the distinctions only point out the precise ways in which things are connected, not how they are sealed off. The “field” that maintains itself that is “you” is in a sense an expression of the “field” that encompasses it.

  19. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    That discussion is pretty irresoluble, one of those chicken vs egg things, and so there’s no use getting into it. For every example you quote that illustrates the Spinozian view I can quote an example of clinical psychology that will put it down.
    Probably both views have something to them.

    This is why I find Deleuze’s explanation – that Lack is produced – the most convincing one.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm

      Well, Deleuze was, and distinctly saw himself as, a Spinozist. Indeed Spinoza would say that “lack” is concretely produced as a historical fact (that is, people act as if they lack, and there are real consequences of this), but contrary to Lacan, because this is an illusionary perspective, it is not the case that there is no way out of it. The difference between the two positions are the kinds of projects of freedom you can construct, or at least the kind you will attempt to construct. (In fact, Spinoza saw the fluxuations of happiness and sadness as something you could address immediately, even in your very next thought.) Deleuze is on the Spinozist side which sees desire as not object-oriented in its essence, but rather as something expressive. Deleuze bends Spinoza in directions he may not want to go, but primarily, it is through the embrace of the body and the capacities of the body to act, feel, transmit and combine, that each would agree that freedom is composed.

  20. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    and the capacities of the body to act, feel, transmit and combine, that each would agree that freedom is composed.

    Christian Orthodoxy (I mean the Russian-Serbo-Greek church) preaches the absolute unity of body and soul and the cruciality of Jesus’s incarnation on Earth. The soul is manifested through the body and we must take care of it greatly. This is a little-known parallel, mostly because Western circles only discuss Western culture and religion.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

      Interesting. Very much the same in Spinoza, who presents the so-called Parallel Postulate. Mental actions and Bodily, extensional actions occur in strict parallel. This was Deleuze’s love for Spinoza, that the mind cannot be freed without freeing the body.

  21. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    because this is an illusionary perspective, it is not the case that there is no way out of it.

    i think lacan’s view was more nuanced on this. i think it’s extremely DIFFICULT to get out of these illusionary identifications, but in the hypothetical case of a fully successful analysis, one would be rid of them to the extent of being able to at least make a relatively free choice. i always found that spinozists and deleuzians see this way too optimistically, as if denying all the ugliness of mankind

    but primarily, it is through the embrace of the body and the capacities of the body to act, feel, transmit and combine, that each would agree that freedom is composed.

    the most obvious problem being – what happens to physically challenged people, or people suffering from illness? and what about PAIN?

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 7:47 pm

      PC: i think it’s extremely DIFFICULT to get out of these illusionary identifications, but in the hypothetical case of a fully successful analysis, one would be rid of them to the extent of being able to at least make a relatively free choice.

      Kvond: Spinoza does not disagree that it is difficult, for he claims, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” What I would suggest though is that if the project is seen as a constructive one, and that imaginary indentifications are part of the process (identifications of increased flow and connectivity), then the very framing of the difficulty changes. Come on, you are an artist. You understand that imaginary processes of affect exchange are primary to freedom.

      PC: “the most obvious problem being – what happens to physically challenged people, or people suffering from illness? and what about PAIN?”

      Kvond: Well, Spinoza contracted tuberculosis just about the time he made his devotion to philosophy as a young man, giving up the family buisness, his father having died; and likely he had at times bouts with great weakness and difficulty breathing, a disease from which he was to die at 44. It may very well have been his struggle with illness which convinced him of the importance of the body (Nietzche was another philosopher of the body who didn’t have the best physical condition). I think for Spinoza what freed the body (and its pain) was the way that the mind could come to see how the body itself was connected to so many things around it, in a kind of continuum. Pain (physical and emotional) has a way of cutting off, isolating behind some boundary. In fact Spinoza defines sadness in just this kind of way. Because Spinoza denies that there is ANY kind of cutting off that is possible (one is always connected, but doesn’t always know it), joy comes from becoming cognizant of those connections, feeling them as affirmations. He suppliments this with his determinism. Whatever mental or physical state I am in, this is the way that it HAD to be. Part of freedom is embracing the necessity of what has happened. I think these two things, embracing what has happened, and becoming aware of connections and mutuality are core to Spinoza’s idea of freedom.

      But more than this, Spinoza asks that we change the way that we think, right now. In a kind of Buddhist charge, he wants us to stop blaming our present state on external conditions. Each and every thought is a kind of affirmation of the body such that it grows more perfect or less perfect, making it happier or sadder. The “path” is to gain awareness of how we do this, moment by moment, thought by thought. It is a question of retraining the mind so that it sees that many of its states are self-created. He emphasizes (because he is not dealing with categorical changes, huge revolutions of perception), small changes, degrees of happiness, tiny improvements, moment by moment. For Spinoza, you can be happier in the next five minutes. Not “free” but slightly “freer”. One can always do better.

      As to pain, I think Spinoza had his fair share. He is a stoic to pain.

  22. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I don’t have a subscription to Jstor, but maybe you do

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/1509938

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      Sorry, I’m on the outside looking in, in terms of JSTOR freedoms.

      But I am pretty well aware of the Chirstian Gnostic problems with the materiality of Christ’s body, and their insistence upon his non-physical nature. This dualistic approach (matter evil/spirit good), dovetailed with Manichian dualism, is pretty much what pushed Augustine to embrace Plotinus’s Neoplatonism, and the notion that things exist in degrees of Being (and not in two kinds of Substance). It is exactly this “degree of being” ontology that Spinoza turns to that helps him make corrections to Cartesian dualism.

  23. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    well in Orthodox theology (at least what I know of it, and I still have to study hard to get anywhere with that) the body is a manifestation of the soul, they are inseparable, and hence there’s no soul without expression. Orthodoxy also places an accent on meditation and stoicism, which is why I find Dr. Zizek’s ”subversive violence” of Christianity something not only Hegelian but also restricted to the Catholic view on things. It is not indigenous to the way I was raised in Serbia.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm

      All very interesting, and I appreciate the way in which “Christianity” has distinct cultural species. As far as Levi’s notions of “subversive violence” it seems to me that his perceptions of violence are very real to him.

  24. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Thus my vision has always been that ”I have come here to bring the sword” refers less to a violent disruption, than to activity – again, the lived experience of faith, the incarnation, the embodiment, without which faith would be useless. You can observe it in Hegelian fashion, thinking that action is propelled by the experience of a lack, or you can observe it in Spinozian fashion, that it is a gradated continuum that increases our connectedness to the world, without interruption. But considering the other aspects of the Bible, such as ”love thy neighbour” and ”turn the other cheek”, I would say that this second reading is more in accord with the religion. This because in Orthodox vision, hell, though often described in metaphor as punishment inflicted by God, is in reality the soul’s rejection of God’s infinite love which is offered freely and abundantly to everyone. (*Orthodoxy doesn’t believe in the Purgatory

  25. anodynelite May 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Guavatree–just because the Samaritans were considered lowlifes and enemies doesn’t mean they were “unknown” or “strange” to their Jewish neighbors.

    I understand your point, but I think changing the translation to “stranger” might be taking the semantic shading of the original term somewhere it wasn’t quite intended to go. The problem isn’t that it’s hard to abstractly love unknown “strangers”–that’s easy (cf Zizek’s claims in Violence)–what’s hard is to love your own neighbors, despite the narcissism of small differences. It’s very easy to say “we shouldn’t be killing people in Iraq!”, but it’s much harder to, say, take a real stand against Arab-American discrimination and spend time and money helping Arab-Americans who need advocacy.

  26. anodynelite May 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I always read Deleuze on “lack” this way: that while historically desire has been produced in such a way that it was centered around phallic lack, it need not be produced this way. New desires can be produced that aren’t centered around lack through conscious realignments of and within desiring machines.

  27. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I understand your point, but I think changing the translation to “stranger” might be taking the semantic shading of the original term somewhere it wasn’t quite intended to go.

    I’m sorry Kvond, but this will only increase the narcissistic cat’s obsession with setting the world straight. There are plentiful other places in the Bible where Jesus is being kind to queers and oucasts, who are certainly strangers by virtue of their excommunication from mainstream society. Surely it isn’t such a metaphorical stretch to include that in the meaning of ”stranger”. And proximity/distance is also I think a trope that goes well with the expression ”stranger”.

    Anodyne, I was researching this issue of lack when I bumped into the work of Guy Hocquenghem, who thought that his ass was not structured by phallic lack and then put it in free circulation, which resulted in his early death from AIDS. Ever since that time I’ve been wary of jumping to conclusions in this arena, and honestly I would never hack off my nuts as quickly as Comrade Fox did.

    • kvond May 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm

      PC: “Surely it isn’t such a metaphorical stretch to include that in the meaning of ‘’stranger”. And proximity/distance is also I think a trope that goes well with the expression ‘’stranger”.

      Kvond: If you’re going to change the translation of the word “plesion” to “stranger”, as in “love thy stranger” (whatever that might mean), then you would have to translate the same word in Jesus’s question to the Lawyer,

      “Which one of the three men was a “stranger” [plesion] to the man who had fallen to robbers?”, pretty much a nonsensical question.

      Of course you can “translate” anyway you want, but it would be nice if the word you use had something core to the word being translated, and the concepts employed. As mentioned to Levi (I don’t remember if it was among the comments he deleted), his “translation” falls into the arena of Caucasian Jesus paintings, giving us a Jesus for our times. White Jesus who tells us to Love Strangers. It somehow has a ring to it.

  28. the voice of parodic reason May 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    In this regard one should also consider the sad rag results of the Marxist-inspired sexual revolution, where sex was manifoldly commodified more than anything else and all the sexpol projects turned into soft pornography.

  29. anodynelite May 10, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Jesus is a Doors song.

  30. anodynelite May 10, 2009 at 10:34 am

    So, Jesus’ message is a song by the Doors?

    Sex was commodified long before the sexual revolution, tho…

  31. john doyle May 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I’d like to offer a remark regarding Jesus’ political leanings with respect to the love God/neighbor passage in Mark 18. Of course Jesus isn’t making up a new law: he’s citing Torah. “Hear O Israel; Yahweh our god is one; and you shall love Yahweh your god…” — this is the beginning of the שמע ישראל, the Shema Yisrael of Deuteronomy 6, an invocation which Moses delivered to the Jews as they were about to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Israel, Yahweh, our God is one — this is a strongly nationalistic proclamation. We are Israel, and our god can kick any other gods’ brass asses. In the very next chapter, Moses commands the people to slaughter all the Canaanites living in the Land, man, woman and child…

    For you are a holy people to Yahweh your god; Yahweh your god has chosen you to be a people of his own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

    Jesus’ second commandment comes from Leviticus 19:18. Here the context is established in the first half of the verse:

    You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.

    This command refers specifically to relationships among the Jews. It seems clear that, in Jesus’ parable of good Samaritan, the waylaid victim was a Jew. Only the Samaritan treated the victim as a neighbor in the sense of Lev. 19. He thus showing himself to be a Jew at heart and therefore more worthy of participating in the “holy people” than were the “real” Jews who passed by.

    I’m not going to push it here, but a pretty strong case can be made that Jesus regarded himself as a Jewish prophet, calling Israel to repentance just as Isaiah, Jeremiah and the rest had done before him. Jesus anticipated a coming day of vengeance to be meted out by Yahweh against Rome, which would be accelerated by Israel purifying itself. Then Israel would be restored as a nation and an autonomous political entity.

    Jesus’ embrace of the stranger can be found in the gospels, but the nationalistic fervor of his preaching is more consistently demonstrated throughout.

  32. amarilla May 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Kvond: Completely. This is the huge difference, and it manifests in maybe two theoretical ways. Spinoza denies that there is any kind of ontological lack (that is, desire chasing an object is not a categorical state). For this reason he denies that human beings are a kingdom with its own laws (let’s say a Symbolic kingdom) within a kingdom (Nature). Everything in a human being is “natural” and connected to nature. There is no “split” or “cut”. For this reason linguistic practices so emphasized by Lacan mean very little for Spinoza. Instead our happiness comes from having clearer, more powerful ideas, understanding how we “work” (for this reason it has some connection to Buddhism).

    This paragraph convinces me that it would be very worth while to spend some time reading Spinoza. Would you mind at all explaining that last sentence a little more to me?

  33. kvond May 13, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Amarilla,

    Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I got caught up in other things.

    Spinoza’s analysis of the affects urges us to pay very close attention to the nature of our thought to thought engagements, because each time we think about and experience something in the world the very nature of our thoughts changes the quality of our Being. We pass to and fro in an oscillation of growing more perfect or less, more active or less, more powerful or less. And each thought is an affirmation of our body in one way or another. The connection to Buddhism is that a careful study of the causal relationship between the nature of our thoughts and the relationship of this to our Being, invites a radical change in the way that we think. While causal chains force us into habits of thought which drag us along, tossed between happiness and sadness, Spinoza feels that if we actually perceived that our modulation is largely the effect of wrong attributing the power to affect us to external objects, we would see the world more comprehensively. And as such, any clearer understanding of the way that we work, and the way that the world works, would give us a greater mental (and physical freedom).

    I hope this helps.

  34. Amarilla May 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I had no idea Spinoza went there. Thanks!

  35. Amarilla May 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Also, here’s my take on the ink blot of Luke 14:26 if you have an interst. Kindly forgive this self promotion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: