Altizer: “America and the Death of God”

Thomas Altizer asked that I pass this along on here.

“America and the Death of God”

by Thomas J. J. Altizer

Our most revolutionary prophet, William Blake, in his first prophetic poem, America (1793), enacted the American Revolution as the initial realization of the death of God, the deity here named as Urizon, the preincarnate and alien God, whose death initiates apocalypse. This is the God whom Hegel named as Abstract Spirit and the “Bad Infinite,” a God not realized until the advent of the modern world, and who is the consequence of an absolute self-negation or self-emptying of the Godhead. Both Blake and Hegel enact the death of God, indeed Hegel and Blake are the first enactors of the death of God, a death that for each is an absolute self-negation or self-emptying, a self-negation that is the absolute source of all and everything. Hence the death of God is both genesis and apocalypse, or absolute beginning and absolute ending, the absolute beginning of all and everything, and the absolute consummation of everything. That consummation itself proceeds out of an original self-negation or self-emptying, one negating or emptying an original absolutely undifferentiated Godhead, and only this self-negation makes possible either apocalypse or the world itself.  Hegel is our most profoundly apocalyptic thinker, while Blake is our most totally apocalyptic visionary, each recover and renew a long lost apocalyptic ground, a ground that is the original ground of Christianity, one that is wholly transformed in the great body of Christianity, and only recovered in revolutionary movements, which are the most revolutionary movements in our history.

Both Blake and Hegel are profoundly Christian, but they are radical Christians, even atheistic Christians, who absolutely negate the given God, or who deeply and comprehensively realize that this God has absolutely negated itself, a self-negation that inaugurates the modern world. Each could know the French Revolution as the historical realization of the death of God, but Blake, at least in America, could know the American Revolution not only as the initial realization of the death of God, but as the inaugurator of absolute revolution. This is the deepest calling of America, one known to every deeply American seer, and actualized in that America which is the first secular nation, the first not only to separate Church and State, but to create a public realm that is a truly secular realm. This inspired an assault upon America by many European Christians, but Europeans have never been able to understand America, and the question can be genuinely asked if America has ever understood itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Altizer on Leahy: “Apocalypticism and Modern Thinking”

Thomas Altizer asked me to pass along a few things in honor of D. G. Leahy.  The first is an article, “Apocalypticism and Modern Thinking,” originally published in the Journal for Christian Theological Research 2.2 (1992), par. 1-27.

“Apocalypticism and Modern Thinking”

Thomas J. J. Altizer

1. While the power of apocalypticism in our history is now acknowledged, we have little sense of its power or even meaning in thinking itself, and this despite the fact that so many of our primal modern thinkers, such as Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, have manifestly been apocalyptic thinkers. Indeed, the very advent of modernity can be understood to be an apocalyptic event, an advent ushering in a wholly new world as the consequence of the ending of an old world. Nowhere was such a new world more fully present than in thinking itself, a truly new thinking not only embodied in a new science and a new philosophy, but in a new reflexivity or introspection in the interiority of self-consciousness. This is the new interiority which is so fully embodied in the uniquely Shakespearean soliloquy, but it is likewise embodied in that uniquely Cartesian internal and radical doubt which inaugurates modern philosophy. Cartesian philosophy could establish itself only by ending scholastic philosophy, and with that ending a new philosophy was truly born, and one implicitly if not explicitly claiming for itself a radically new world. That world can be understood as a new apocalyptic world, one which becomes manifestly apocalyptic in the French Revolution and German Idealism, and then one realizing truly universal expressions in Marxism and in that uniquely modern or postmodern nihilism which was so decisively inaugurated by Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God.

2. Yet a truly modern subject or “I” is a doubled or self-alienated center of consciousness, and is so in a uniquely Cartesian internal and radical doubt, one never decisively present in previous cognitive or philosophical thinking, although its ground had been established by Augustine’s philosophical discovery of the subject of consciousness. Even as Augustinian thinking had been deeply reborn in the late Middle Ages, thence becoming a deep ground not only of the Reformation but also of Cartesian thinking, this new modern subject which is now established and real is an interiorly divided subject, and so much so that its internal ground is a truly dichotomous ground. Nothing else is so deeply Augustinian in modern thinking and in the modern consciousness itself, and if Augustine discovered the subject of consciousness by way of his renewal of Paul, it was Paul who discovered the profoundly internal divisions and dichotomies of consciousness and self-consciousness. This is the Paul who is so deeply renewed in the dawning of modernity, but also the Paul who was the creator of Christian theology, a theology which if only in Paul is a purely and consistently apocalyptic theology, and Paul’s realization of the ultimate polarity or dichotomy of consciousness is an apocalyptic realization, one reflecting an apocalyptic dichotomy between old aeon and new aeon, or flesh (sarx) and Spirit (pneuma). Read the rest of this entry »

RIP, D. G. Leahy (1937-2014)

Word is circulating that radical theologian D. G. Leahy passed away yesterday.  He is probably best known to AUFS readers as someone whose thought has been enormously influential on Thomas Altizer, just as Altizer’s writings deeply influenced Leahy.

His dense books include Novitas Mundi, Foundation, and Faith & Philosophy.  He continued to write after these works, including two recent books Beyond Sovereignty and The Cube Unlike All Others.  His website was updated with new material as recently as March, 2014.  (His website used to have a great essay on gender, which seems to have been taken down, and may be part of one of the new books.)  He founded the New York Philosophy Corporation, where he taught courses. Read the rest of this entry »

On online schools of thought

In my day, I’ve had run-ins with a few self-declared “schools of thought,” and all those interactions have been invariably toxic. One is probably reminded of the old truism that if you have nothing but bad relationships, you have to recognize that the common factor is you — and I’m sure I’ve contributed in my own way. That being said, however, there are some familiar dynamics that seem to repeat themselves.

First, the new name brand is trotted out as though it was a well-defined position. Sometimes, as with Accelerationism, you’ll find a literal manifesto — but in all cases, there have been efforts at exposition and wide-ranging discussions of what an “X school of thought” position on a given issue is. We are informed of all the exciting influence that this school of thought is having in the most wide-ranging settings.

Second, when criticisms — or in some cases, actual innocent questions — arise, the previously well-defined label becomes radically indeterminate. Depending on the precise nature of the criticism, a few strategies are available. The first, and to me most annoying, is to claim that the critique doesn’t adequately account for the rich diversity of thought represented by this movement (which was formed a year and a half ago). This can shade into the claim that the movement as such doesn’t actually exist, that it’s just a contingent grouping of radically heterogeneous forms of thought that found some temporarily overlapping factors. The alternative is to hunker down and claim that the new school of thought is the subject of a widespread smear campaign, a brave persecuted minority. We can’t get a fair hearing in the academy for this thing that we just came up with! Will our suffering never end?

And of course, once the storm has passed, the school is yet again an exciting, influential movement that’s sweeping the globe. Rinse and repeat.

New JCRT

A new issue of the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory is out, featuring my review [pdf] of Less Than Nothing.

Call for manuscripts and new book series announcement: INTERSECTIONS: Theology and the Church in a World Come of Age

Series Announcement:

Intersections: Theology and the Church in a World Come of Age

Published by  Noesis Press (Davies Group, Publishers)

Description:

Theological discourse typically teeters between obscure, abstract thinking suitable only for academics and direct “how-to” writing: how to preach, how to evangelize, how to educate children and adults into the faith, how to lead for financial stability, how to teach happy relationships.  Obviously, neither the abstract nor the practical are unnecessary or unfruitful; however, creative, constructive theological voices fruitfully inhabiting the in-between spaces of the abstract and instructional, who engage and converse with the practical aspects of church life have become rare.  Furthermore, theological writing which inhabits this liminal space is sorely needed in our secularized and secularizing world, vital to those seeking a “metapoietic” condition in a post-Christendom world—one that takes seriously the Gospel, the church, and the world “come of age” in science, technology, literature, and the arts.

The titles in the forthcoming Intersections series are envisioned to be short monographs or edited collections which offer fresh and bold perspectives on theology, practical theology, church practice, and religious issues beyond organized religion, by individuals with clear commitments to and entrenchments in the academy and religious assembly.  Of particular interest to the series are short monographs which introduce important figures in academic theology or philosophy to a pastoral or seminarian audience with clear application for religious life, or collaborative works between clergy and academics.  Intersections series titles will be written for scholarly clergy and seminarians, for those who take academic theology and religious life seriously, who welcome and are searching for theological thinking and writing that refuses to rehash old mistakes, blindly retreat into doctrine, or insult its audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Conestoga Wood Specialties / Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case: An observation

There is a lot of blogging and writing, and tearing of shirts, and pointing of fingers in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell case (see info here), but I just had an observation.  If Conestoga Wood, whose headquarters are located in my area, are really “Conservative Mennonites” to the point that they will challenge the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court, would they be open on July 4, U.S. Independence Day, since most Anabaptists do not celebrate national holidays?  Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon: “The Second Amendment vs. The Second Commandment”

Here is the draft of a sermon I am working on for this Sunday for St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA.  The Lections are Psalm 8 and Exodus 20:1-20.  The sermon will begin a new nine-month focus on peace in my congregation’s worship life.

I have been so heartbroken over the past few weeks over the news of shooting after shooting.  People shot with guns.  Death after death.  Devastated families.  Communities brazen with fear and anger. Reports of funeral after funeral.  Embalming fluid and blood.  The media selectively reports the details, partially in fear of copycat crimes, partially in fear of being accused of exploiting the facts out of some liberal agenda.  I have friends and family who are responsible gun owners, and know a few people who even work in the firearms industry.   I also know folks whose lives have been destroyed by gun violence.   I have ministered to men in prison whose mistakes and aggressions, usually with a firearm, led them to the situations they now find themselves.  I have known too many people who have taken their own lives with a firearm.  My own great uncle, John Rodkey, was a nationally known marksman during his life and ran a small gun shop in his retirement.  For a short time in Chicago I became friendly with a police officer who introduced me into target shooting, even while I lived in a neighborhood where I would wake up to gun shots fired in the night.

I’m not here to give you my own history with guns but I preface my sermon with these details to say that I’m trying to work out the question of our spiritual sickness of gun violence for myself—and for me it’s not out of some political agenda.  I know and have experienced the faces and the stories, the real people, on every side of this issue.

Which is also why I am so sickened by our inability to even talk about the issues surrounding gun violence in our country.  One cannot so much as pray a public lament about this problem that we have in our culture without it being politicized.  Rational and level-headed discussion are strictly forbidden.  We know the lines, and many of them are patently or at least partially false.  That access to more guns makes us safer as a nation.  That changing laws will change the culture.  That mental illness is the root cause of gun violence.  That banning guns will make us less violent.  That guns don’t kill people.  That stricter gun control is an act of aggression by an already oppressive government who wants to enslave us with their guns.  That study after study performed by the medical profession, and academics and clergy are part of some big agenda.  That a desire to restrict gun access is a slippery slope that will soon lead to the banning of baseball bats, forks, and knives.  The debate gets personal, and creates a cultural division between those who are gun owners and those who are not, with the assumption one side wants to take something away from the other.

The debate tinges with sexism, elitism, classism, and racism.  Read the rest of this entry »

London Seminar–Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency

For anyone in or around London, on July 16th I’ll be giving a seminar on my current book project, Politics of Divination:  Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency.  Below is a description of the event, hosted by Nathan Widder of Royal Holloway’s Politics Department.  All are welcome.

Prof. Joshua Ramey Seminar – Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency

 

Date:  Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Place: Room 261, Senate House, University of London

Time:  6-7:30pm

 

Abstract: Michel Foucault was the first to see, far in advance of its full realization, that the neoliberal endgame has never been the decrease of governmental power and the unleashing of economic freedom, but the total governance of everyday life through the strategic, violent, and totalizing introduction of market forces into every affective, intellectual, and biopsychic sphere.  But how and why the neoliberal project has so completely triumphed, especially since the crisis of 2008, is a problem with a number of different dimensions.  My argument is that a great part of neoliberalism’s appeal is due to its peculiar political theology, which manages to appear in the guise of both an archaic spirituality and a modern scientificity.

 

Economic historians such as Philip Mirowski (Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste:  How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown) have detected the politico-theological element in the neoliberal thought collective as a covert extension of Carl Schmitt’s program of authoritarianism.  Political theorists such as William E. Connolly (The Fragility of Things:  Neoliberal Fantasies, Democratic Activism, and Self-Organizing Systems) have discerned that the neoliberal fetish of market processes as conveyors of absolute knowledge and truth depends on a spirituality of (apparently) radical openness to chance and contingency.  And philosophers such as Philip Goodchild (Theology of Money) have analyzed how money itself, as the price of credit, embodies a sacrificial theology wherein the present is permanently indebted to an unredeemable past, but under the guise of pursuing a speculative value of the unforseeable future.  Following such insights, I construct the hypothesis that neoliberal governance and economy exhibit a highly specific political theology, one that can be captured as a religion of contingency and a concomitant politics of divination.  Following current ethnographic and anthropological research, I define divination as any ritual practice or tradition of obtaining more-than-human knowledge of human life.  As such, for neoliberals, the market is the divination tool, par excellence.  Market forces and imperatives function as what Mirowski calls a transcendental meta-mind, dispensing absolutely unimpeachable “information,” including the worth, meaning, and purpose of individual or collective destiny.  To undo this spiritual-scientific doublespeak, it is necessary not only to fully politicize science (as Mirowski and science studies have already argued), but also to expose the divinatory pretenses of neoliberalism as an inverted echo of universal practices of divination that are, in the last instance, generically human by right.  Only in this way can both science and spirituality be politicized otherwise than as neoliberal endgame.

 

Bio: Joshua Ramey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Grinnell College (USA).  His research covers a range of issues in political theology and political economy from the perspective of contemporary continental philosophy and critical social theory.  He is the author of The Hermetic Deleuze:  Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (Duke University Press, 2012), co-translator of François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophical Mysticism for Today (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming), and author ofPolitics of Divination:  Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming), on which this presentation is based.

 

Special issue of Angelaki: ‘Immanent materialisms: speculation and critique’

You might be interested to know of a special issue of Angelaki just published entitled ‘Immanent materialisms: speculation and critique’. Co-edited by Patrice Haynes and Charlie Blake, it comprises papers from, and inspired by the theme of, the Association for Continental Philosophy of Religion‘s 2009 conference ‘Towards a Philosophy of Life’.

The issue includes work by AUFS regulars Anthony Paul Smith [the first 50 of you can download my article for free using this token, but please only use if you don't have library access - APS] and Joshua Ramey, plus a host of others, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog: John Ó Maoilearca, Jim Urpeth, Colby Heath Dickinson, Frank Ruda, Michael Burns [again, first 50 of you can download this using this token - APS], Alastair Morgan, Patrice Haynes and Benjamin Noys.

Posted in blog posts, immanence, materialism, publications. Comments Off
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