classic_symptom (classic_symptom) wrote in sublimethinking,

Origen and Augustine discussed how "the letter kills", how the Old Testament is to the New Testament as the signifier is to the signified. Lacan's "dead father" of the Symbolic register seems to correspond with the naive literalism with which Scripture is all too often read. That is, the reader stops at the letter and goes no further, foregoing the essential experience of God-As-Real.

The productive (mis)reading of these two books involves reading the Old Testament as the Symbolic and the New Testament as the Real. Entering the Real without the initial fall of the Symbolic brings psychosis to mind: Sin involves the desire to be like God, in a space beyond language, rather than coming to be in language. This necessary coming to be in language is essential in the act of subordinating oneself to God, since God is "after-the-image" and therefore corresponds to the unsignifiable Real. This seems to frame psychosis as a sort of "Unlightenment," an ineffable, unlettered antithesis to mystical celebration of God, which, for the sufferer, entails "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The desire to become like God in psychosis manifests itself in the infamous delusions of grandeur, and the role of the Demiurge played by the psychotic in creating his own universe and reigning over it. The lack that is the Symbolic register, which occurs when the subject comes to be in language (and therefore, according to Augustine, sin) seems necessary in order to desire God. 

The Hegelian tendencies in Lacan seem to come to surface at this point, used in a similar way by Hans Kung: It is only through the dialectic, after the Fall, of lack and substance, sin and love, that man comes to fulfill his role as servant to God. There is, as Kung seems to argue, a perversion through which man must pass in order to fulfill his role as God's servant. Originally, there was no Symbolic or Real, just a blissful nothing. Adam and Eve chose to suffer desire, however, and therefore create the impassable gulf between the Symbolic and the Real, between lack and Love. Language is therefore an idol, preventing the subject from ever fully regaining its union with God but only allowing it to become closer and closer. Desire can never quite reach its sublimated object but only redounds on itself in eternal pursuit of its object (God) whose glory is always being progressively unveiled but never fully realized.

I associate such psychosis with the borderline states documented by contemporary psychiatrists. I keep thinking back to Christopher Lasch's critique of the "permissive culture" in which the unmitigated, antisocial individualism of the 20th century is identified as the culprit in this epidemic of despair. As it says in the New Testament, to seek life is to die, to die is to receive life. 

An other-oriented love provides the substratum for a healthy self whereas the frantic solicitude of humanistic individualism results in a catastrophic obliteration of the self. The Symbolic, while sinful, is essential to the dialectic of desire in desiring God because it is language, the Symbolic, which creates the space for desire in the first place. Adam and Eve, it could be said, existed in an "unlanguaged" paradise until they decided to desire, which necessitated language, and therefore lack, and therefore sin. It is only through this fundamentally flawed medium of language, therefore, that they now desire God. They were given their own Garden and existed with God, in a timeless and spaceless nothing which did not require the flawed medium of desire. It was simply a union with God. Sin has its origin in this desiring not simply of something, but of something other than God. Relegating God to an Other rather than the One, was the fatal differentiation that resulted in language (One might say, reducing the Holy Other to the Wholly Other).

The iniquity visited on their progeny was thus desire: This desire, by its very nature is lack, and so subsists in sin, but can, and must, be used to desire God, though the desiring-subject inevitably runs into the obstacle of idolizing the word instead of the Word. Origen, in his commentary on Solomon's Song of Songs seems to nod toward this idea, when he tells us how the Bridegroom frequently leaves and returns. He feels God's presence occasionally, but frequently does not. God visits us in the form of the return of the Real, an indescribable lightning-flash that would destroy us 'languaged' subjects if presented in its unlanguaged fullness. Such would be gazing on God Himself, which, as the Bible argues, is fatal.

It is therefore through Christ that God made himself known to man. God need not be impeded by the lack that is language and thus, as Athanasius argues "became man so we could become God." He spoke our language so we would no longer need to. It is in this way that God, through Yeshua, bridged the gulf between language and Love, between the divided, and therefore sinful, subject, and God. To confess this is to experience the influx of the Real, of God, without being annihilated. Yeshua died for us so that we wouldn't have to die for God.
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