The Non-religious Essence of Gnosis
December 30, 2012
Indeed, we can only infer from an immanent excess, a certain image, icon, or notion of Being; Other, or Void, all set down as plastic facsimiles of transcendence. But that already involves a double operation: 1) a gaze, 2) a return gaze, all from the position of the subject. Contentiously, it is in itself another distinct operation, this very positionality of the subject, yet not counted as such. Here, some kind of subtractive ontology is at work.
Refusal of Creation
It is always a decision on its part. As is always the case, a decision invokes the null in the last instance. Why?
Because the subject, if it desires to persist, cannot make its position totally accessible to the chaos of the Outside, which contrary to Meillasoux’s opinion does not actually destroy, rather, it really does the opposite. It creates as it throws everything into the unbreakable consistency of contingency.
The subject is the very refusal of creation, needless to say. Its positionality is its en-owning, ultimately, its right to die vis-à-vis the Void that promises life via the creative process. Incidentally, philosophy would later embrace this Void, for different reasons, as its foster child, having lost the poetic and the Open after its falling out with Heideggerianism. You are right if you recall Deleuze.
Let us state the definitive position of this nullity: The (sub)ject has to keep something to itself (the ‘sub’ entails that it is a minority principle), something by which it can retain its integrity despite its lack of integrity. The minority principle (we are extending Laruelle’s minority principle) is the last bastion of the self, digging in trenches to be protected from the outside. The Outside: one is free to call it the majority principle.
The subject of this null operation has continuously decided to grow in the sense of expanding its superfluity, and not just to live. To live without the benefit of excess, or the Bataillean waste, would be to accept the offer of life, of a certain totalization, or to sacrifice the gnosis to the creative redundancy of Chaos. It decides to grow even in the absence of a natural image of itself by way of othering itself into an image, already a practice of growing ‘in excess’. But as an alterity this image or excess has no obligation to stay in the subject.
The most basic alterity/image/excess would be the poetic. Without a doubt, as Bachelard says of this image, “it is transubjective” (Poetics of Space). We can take it from there that the poetic image is an alterity that, once again, has no obligation to stay.
Gnostic basis of emergence
On this limited basis alone, the immanent excess, the gnosis, first intuited by poetry, is originally non-religious, that is, by contrast, if we mean religious as an invocation of either a/cosmic God or cosmic God, both characteristically esoteric. (But this is already quite un-Durkheimian). It is rather the monotheistic God, always challenged by the pangs of solitude, that invokes an alterity. God, who else but the saddest of all solitary beings, its sadness bordering on animality–its lack of world (Heidegger).
By claiming omniscience, God also claims to have no need of alterity, no need of gnosis, which means vis-à-vis the poetic image that the image has no right to flee. Yet this very claim will turn on itself. God learns that its self-image is no less its own alterity, its possessiveness. He is His own gnosis. At this point, He believes the image chooses to stay.
By that He becomes His own claim to ownership of an image (Marx was thinking of the priest-ideologist), but also His own unlearned knowledge in His state of obliviousness to the transiency of the image, which He has to learn/remember anyhow. Alterity always demands attention. It can hold one hostage as Levinas would agree. It demands attention according to its natural tendency to withdraw, to flee; the object of the Heideggerian pointing-towards-what-withdraws is precisely this alterity.
God learns by rediscovering the very process of self-learning via the ekstatic, also as self-oblivion. As He learns He transforms all the more into delusional, but more than that. He cannot transform His positionality as the ground of History. He would not allow His hallucination to leak into the clinic, hence, His ekstasis, His standing-apart from Man/History/Knowledge, His murmuring words, His unwritten speeches, the heart of His true revelations.
For any poetic being this ground is absolutely private. I mean the poetic as the original gnostic that has its own hallucinatory history.
Once His speeches reached the immanence of the other in History, or Man, Knowledge, the gnosis that is His alterity becomes doubly removed from the immanence of the absolute ground, hence, the business of interpreting the Gospels.
Already untouched by the process of immanent/historical learning insofar as it remains a null operation where all interpretations fall flat, and by all hallucinatory rights that He grants to this ground, the gnosis starts to dictate the direction of learning/remembering via the ekstatic. In this sense exegesis is a process of remembering, on behalf of He whose words are now scarcely understood, the absolute ground that is His that has all along resisted interpretation.
We can cite Zizek’s words for all their worth: “You know why I do it? Because I’m terribly afraid that if people were to see me, to put it naively, how I really am, they would be terribly bored” (Interview with Salon).
NB: This interview has become viral. Check it out at I am not the world’s hippest philosopher! – Salon.com . But also check out a critical review of Zizek’s Less than Nothing at http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/more-than-everything
Learning is thus operationalized from the void, again, the gnostic precondition of knowledge. Yet this time the gnosis is dictated by the nihilism of the ekstatic, a creative territorialization of Chaos, the great triumph of Life! The poet turning into a philosopher.
The same case applies to the Hindu poet of the pre-Vedic and Vedic traditions down to Upanishads. Already driven to the excess of gnosis to the point of dyslexia in the guise of Knowledge, in the universal guise of Light, the light serving as his state of self-learning, the Hindu poet confuses his poetry with the Real that is nothing less than the simplicity of emergence. The poet is ignorant of this simplicity that the Real (Meillasoux’s Great Outdoors) is emptying itself of light as it offers the poet a life, the same life that reaches the Hindu poet, what reaches any poetry, what has reached the language of poetry as ‘emergence’, what philosophy has turned into Reason.
In the meantime, we can state here that Deleuze’s Fold has historicized this process in terms of affirming a realist commitment to Creation. The theological Deleuze.
It is on this basis that gnosis as ‘unlearned’ knowledge does not arise as a plastic form of transcendence (a/cosmic God or God’s cosmos, both hermetic to knowledge) after the most basic operation of first-order immanence, the enowning of a position; rather, gnosis is the very operation that guarantees emergence, including that of God, and not to mention, philosophy.
In lieu of conclusion
It always takes language to capture a mystery, but since language is for the most part bound to a culture, it is always a matter of cultural transcription, not without an effective expansion of power. In this case, Christianity has been successful in operationalizing the term gnosis, either for stigmatic purposes or with a certain accommodation in mind.
Lastly, it is not at all bad to affirm that this knowledge can only be achieved via the affective (M. Henry). The affective is a good starting point on the assumption that one is restricted to a limited world. As I can infer from the phenomenological directions of Henry’s works, a limited world has certain advantages. In fact, a limited world is what originally philosophy envisioned itself to be dwelling in, a world where real friendship (philia) could flourish. A limited world is a world where the subject can most ably refuse Life. We cannot say however that it has ever proven itself successful.
Rightly so, almost everyone would agree that Life cannot be defeated.
This is my long reply to Noir-Realism (http://darkecologies.com/). See his comments on the comment section of my post entry “Flush Thoughts: Laruelle’s Gnosticism,” http://veraqivas.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/flush-thoughts-on-laruelles-gnosticism/. Needless to say, I’m grateful to Steven’s comments.