Monthly Archives: July 2012

Beauty and Emptiness

I find myself constantly returning to Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.” I also constantly connect this with Marina Ambramovic’s disturbing refrain, “Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful.” Art in my understanding of it is only and only ever can be two things: beautiful and useless. All other qualities, all other descriptions, come from outside of art. Art itself, pure, actual art is merely beautiful and useless: art is empty, evacuated, devoid.

What does art do that nothing else can do? It presents, perfectly and wondrously, pure spectacle. Art restores the world to pure surface, it signifies absence. It marks perception as perception, restores beauty to its primal state, before commodity, capital, value. The allure and seduction of art lies in its vapidity, in its total lack of depth. It is entirely because of this that from nearly the beginning of human history, art has acquired a value beyond measure: art is precisely that which negates all value.

Let us not, now, elide the techniques of art with art itself. The techniques of art, of its production, of its mystique have been utilized across time and culture for purposes which are distinctly anti-art. The most obvious of these to the modern mind will be propaganda and advertising. Both of these forms utilize the techniques of art, but unlike art, which is entirely kenotic, attempt to cover over the empty plain of pure surface with meaning, to mine into and implant social, political and commercial depth. Propaganda and advertising aim to tell you things, they carry with them a terrible depth, a drowning depth which seeks to override your own perceptions, to alter and subsume them into the desires of others for you.

These schemas blaspheme the face of art, which is entirely indifferent, blind. The aim of propaganda and advertising is to penetrate you, to fix you in the gaze of the political, the commercial, to transform you into an object of political and commercial power. Art itself serves only to deliver you back to yourself through its frigidity, its vacuity. What is absent in art is delivered into it through your perceptions. Art, strangely and viciously, however, remains entirely detached, it has given you back to yourself through its indifference. Art remains unaltered by you, by your perceptions. Your perceptions echo back from the pure surface of art and through you entirely into your own echo chamber. That which resonates in art is yourself.

There are, of course, the softer declensions of the techniques of art, those which maintain the usefulness of objects: crafts, and the like, those operations which concern themselves with the beautifying of things. A carpenter makes a beautiful table. The table is not art, it is foremost characterized by its use, it will always be a table, until it rots, or breaks, or is replaced, at which point it becomes garbage. The beautiful once table may be transformed at anytime into art, once its use is stripped of it, once it no longer becomes defined solely by its table-ness. Museums are full of antiques that once served as along side their peers to fill grand houses, demarcating social space and the use thereof, now, inert, next to busts and vases, they are returned to total object-hood, again empty, returned to the total surface which defined their materials before production.

Yet even the museum serves as an engine of commodity, marking what it acceptable as art and what is not. The contents of museums suffer and decline, loose some of the gloss of their pure surface in the face of the grand institutionalization of the commodity of art. The museum, the cultural bastion, seeks to implant depth, cultural depth back into art. Only the most dramatically useless, the most woundingly beautiful works can survive this violence. The great artists are held to be great because they strangely succeeded in creating total absence, art which endures is the art of nothingness. Only nothing can withstand the cultural turbines of the historicizing institutions.

Let it be clearly understood: art is not a mirror. A mirror serves to show you to yourself, to return to you your image. Art does not serve. It maintains itself in its uselessness. When you engage with art, you are engaging in a feedback loop within yourself, you are confronting the total surface of pure objects and the surface turns your perceptions back upon themselves. Art makes you perceive perceiving, and so doing, multiplies bizarre effects as perception, that which goes unnoticed, is thrown into sharp relief within the psyche and it becomes the only thing noticeable. Pure surface returns perception to you, fills you with it. You perceive not yourself, as in a mirror, but your perceptual powers themselves. Art is when it restores perception to you, when it collapses the reflex of perceiving into a single action, and embeds you psychically in perception, destroying your detachment from subject and object.

This is, obviously, a polemic. It suffers, as all polemics must, from an incredibly narrow and reductive focus. For that I apologize. There is a great deal here that I intend to return to and expand, to open back up.

I have been struggling for some time to write about the role of art and art making in my life and spirituality, but I have found the process much more difficult than I had originally realized. I found myself over and over writing mere validities like “art is deeply important to my spirituality” and then being unable to continue.

I realized after writing the above polemic that there I simply care too much to simply write about the role of art in my spirituality. I have too many theories about the political power and importance of art, about the cultural relevance of art, about the commodification of art and its position within capitalism to talk merely about its spiritual significance, especially as for me, the spiritual role of art penetrates into all of these other fields of discourse.

And so, I am opening up yet another project on this blog: an exploration of the spiritual import of art and its ramifications on the function of art in society.

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Towards a New Ontology, Part 3

Again, I present another digression before moving on with the discussion at hand. I apologize for the crawling pace at which this discussion is proceeding, but at nearly every step I encounter a more quandaries which I feel I must address before moving forward.

Before beginning this series, I emailed Emjay about it asking her permission as well as sending her a draft of the first post. The two of us do, I admit, rather ominously, have further plans involving this theory, but I thought that it was important for my own understanding of it to begin working through it and presenting it here. In that initial draft, I had a throw away line which I then excised before posting, about how I felt Emjay was irritated with me for my final hesitation. She clarified, saying that she was not irritated with me, simply confused.

She suggested to me the reasons for my balking, and I do believe that her analysis of my reaction was correct. Our ur-theology is terribly open ended. That was, of course, the intent. And yet… Emjay suggested that I am too uncomfortable with a theology that tolerates all moralities, including those which I, I feel justified in claiming, find to be reprehensible and destructive. I feel like part of our disagreement stems from our views on the purpose of theology. I personally feel that it is quite important to keep a sharp line between ontology and theology, as I feel that they have very particular domains.

Emjay and I have since engaged in a rather truncated discussion of the role of theology in morality (mostly do to both of our schedules and our erratic response time to emails).  She, scolded me for implying that theology plays a vital and formative role in morality. In a message to her I said, “Ontology shouldn’t produce morality, but theology should. Have we produced a theology or an ontology? I do think that the ontology is secure, but if the theology cannot function to produce a faith, then it kind of fails. Isn’t morality part of spirituality? Are they not somehow linked? I don’t mean to say that one must know god to have morals, I believe one can derive them entirely humanistically, but isn’t that still an appeal to transcendance, merely human rather than divine?” I am not comfortable quoting Emjay’s response here, as I haven’t asked her permission, but I will summarize her rebuttal. Her response was that morality is not linked to theology (and that such a position was dangerous, as it allows for religious culture warriors to claim to have the only true rights to morality) but culture. Further, such a position invalidates Humanist and secular moralities.

I certainly do not disagree that morality is a social function. It is in operation within the social sphere and has a strong component, perhaps, honestly, the strongest component, of social concern. However, I think that it is also important to recognize that theology serves a similar function, in its embedding within society. Here I think we see a parallel evolution, theology and morality grow alongside and influence the development of each other. I think it would be a mistake to sever all linkages between morality and theology. While one may not precede the other in origin, each inflect and disturb the other through their growth. Thus, theology and morality are organically linked in the roles they play not only within society but within each other. After the fact, however, or perhaps even during, theology is viewed as the dominant partner in the relationship. Retroactively the social forces which shaped morality are shifted in the domain of theology. Taboos previously established because of social factors become divine edicts. Thus, theology serves to reinforce and preserve moral codes. Religion acts conservatively, resisting social pressures and maintaining a particular moral code of conduct. While theology is flexible, I would argue that social and culture forces are much more protean, especially in the contemporary world. Therefore, the function of religion in the moral sphere is to resist cultural and social pull. So, theology is likely not the dominant player in a society’s moral development, but it certainly has a hand in the longevity of any particular morality.

So, religion, as the theological institution, becomes an institution of morality. I use the indefinite article quite purposefully here, as I see no reason why there cannot be manifold institutions of morality, or perhaps, more controversially, moral institutions. Religion has historically been viewed as the dominant moral institution, though it is by no means the only one. Platonism in its pure form is largely unconcerned with religion and spirituality, indeed, Plato’s writings have a largely secular focus, and yet Platonism has served as a moral institution for centuries in various forms. Stoicism as well, which stands directly opposed to the metaphysical, is a philosophical movement caught up entirely with morality. Again, a moral institution which derives its force not from appeals to divine transcendence, but from appeals to lived experience and rationality.

Modern Secular Humanism owes a great debt to Stoicism in particular, I feel, for its approaches to morality. Thus, Secular Humanism functions in the moral realm in a way quite similar to religion, merely with different derivations. In place of theology, Secular Humanist moralities derive from philosophy. I hold that neither is necessarily incompatible with the other. Theology first places authority in divinity, while philosophy privileges human reason. Neither need contradict the other. Difficulties emerge when particular theologies and philosophies denounce the privilege of their peers. A particular theology or philosophy may instantiate a flawed morality, but this does not contradict the functioning of morality within the class of institutions deemed moral, be they secular or religious.

Must morality be institutionalized, then? There is a great danger in answering yes to the question, as then morality is removed from the individual and implanted within the group. As such, there would be no individual accountability, all moral force is transferred to the group, for good or for ill. Thus, no single person is responsible for their actions, as their actions are merely reflections of the collective’s morality. One is moral or immoral in as much as the group is moral, and moral judgements can then only be made from outside that group, as each constituent actor would be acting in accordance with group morality, thus nullifying moral judgements as a class and defining them instead as forms of cultural warfare. I propose, then, that moral institutions serve not as the moral actors, but as libraries of morality. Moral institutions preserve and disseminate moral knowledge (which, of course, is heavily inflected by the social and cultural forces of the group in which such institutions are embedded). Moral knowledge is not, however, predicated on the presence of such institutions.

Morality, I suggest, is praxis. All that is absolutely necessary for the presence of morality is a theory from which it derives. The motion from theology to morality is exactly analogous to the motion from theory to praxis. The same motion, of course, occurs between philosophy and morality. Morality is the active practice of theology or philosophy within the social sphere. Therefore, the individual is entirely responsible as a moral actor. The individual is responsible for the derivation or acceptance of any theory or worldview presented, and thus responsible for the moral choices which proceed from that theory. Morality, while linked to society and institutions remains foremost within the individual and actions which that individual engages in in relation to others. Morality proceeds through the actions of the individual from the underlying theory.

I do not believe that I am mistaken in my desire to establish a strong link between theology and morality. Of course, the project which Emjay and I have engaged in is fundamentally different from the model I described above. We are not dealing with an organically developing theological/moral matrix. We are creating a theology out of whole cloth. What, then, is incumbent upon such a theology? How does such a theology relate to morality: how must it relate in order to preserve its position as theology, rather than drifting into mythology (which can still be immensely powerful, but differently so)? These are questions which I am still very much engaged with and as yet unable to answer to my satisfaction.

Thus, I have been very purposeful in this project in my selection of the term ontology: the study of being, emphatically not the study of god. So far this project has not even touched upon Divinity. Nearly every other essay I’ve written here references the Divine in some sense, and I am not decidedly not bringing that concept into play here. There simply is no room for it. This discussion rotates around the Subject. This discussion takes place before God, it precedes and anticipates Divinity, but it is emphatically not addressing the Divine. The Divine must relate to, must be of the Subject, and until the Subject there is no Divine. So, ontology, not theology. I am here merely defining the ground out of which a theology may emerge, and, eventually, I hope present why the theology which Emjay and I have developed progresses logically and consistently from this ground.

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Materia Magica

Over the last few months, my personal practice has come to include more and more materia magica. The particular functioning of these things (stones, herbs, bent pins…) has become something of a fascination for me. I have encountered several different explanations for the operation of materia magica, and, honestly, I find very few of them to be satisfying.

I simply cannot accept the idea that materia magica function solely as a focus for the will. A great deal of the discussion of modern magic places power entirely within the operator. While I certainly do think that there are certain forms of magic which work in this way, such as Chaos Magic, certain types of contemporary Hermeticism as well as certain strains of contemporary Alchemy, I find the idea that all magic is of the subject rather … off putting. In the case of materia magica, it seems to me as though if it were the case that the materia possessed no special properties, then the particular materia are of no importance: ritual baths could be assembled out of anything as long as the will of the operator was correct. There is a rebuttal, then, that particular materia are required for generating the correct mental state, but then, again, it seems as though one is shifting the power out of the subject, or at least splitting it with the materia.

High Ceremonial magicians rely on particular atmospheric effects, of incense, color and various paraphernalia, yet are frequently quick to denounce the necessity of such accoutrements. It seems to me that either the materia magica is vital, or else absolutely unnecessary. I may be making too harsh a distinction, but if one is determined to achieve a certain mental state, does that not imply that the mental state alone is sufficient? Now, to say that the various materia are an aid seems unsatisfactory. From a phenomenological perspective, the changes which the necessary materia induce on consciousness can only be achieved through the lived experience of those materia. The embodiment of the operator is inescapable. So, then, the accoutrements of High Ceremonial Magicians are the source and fulfillment of their power. All the window dressing is as absolutely necessary to their success as their intent, as all of the complex atmospheric effects are caught up in the spell craft, regardless of their individual powers.

It appears, then, that I am moving toward a basic supposition: materia magica is effective because of the particular effect it has on perception. However, I feel like this is far too basic to be of any real use. All objects, being perceived, produce effects within perception. The use of materia magica relies on the assumption that they possess some special qualities which make them particularly suited to magical acts.

Now, I must shift slightly. I do think that there are some materia which do operate predominantly on a symbolic level: the bent pins in a Witch’s Bottle or the sword of a ceremonial magician. These things operate largely within the subject, their effects are interior. These sorts of materia are intended to act predominantly within or upon subjects (the magician, in the case of the sword, malign spirits, in the case of the pins). That materia which is is actant upon the Subject need not possess anything more than the power assigned to it by the operator/Subject. Therefore, symbolic power is power which manifests within the Subject, and that materia which acts predominantly upon the Subject need not possess anything more than symbolic power, fulfilled in the Subject.

Now, what makes basil a good luck charm? I must say that there is some quality possessed of basil that attracts good luck. It seems to me that magic pretty much must be a thing in the world, possessing formal qualities. If we, as subjects, are able to recognize and manipulate it, it must share some properties with other things which we manipulate. That is to say, magic must always react in the same way given the same circumstances. Magic must be as formal as the rest of the world. I may be making a mistake in naming magic as the thing manipulated. Magic may be a frame in which things are manipulated. However, my argument still holds. Objects, being bound by formal relations and bound as well by magic, so, if such is the case, magic must be a formal relation. Magic is shifted into the world itself, as gravity or strong nuclear force. Magic, however, remains somehow unique, as it appears to be a force accessible only to the Subject.

So, I recognize that these musings are largely incomplete: I’m really just trying to air some ideas. It seems to me like magic must be more than just an effect of will, and, if so, then materia magica becomes incredibly important.

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Metamorphosis

I woke up this morning from a strange dream. I have been having very strange dreams these last few weeks, but this one in particular left me, well, shaken.

I dreamed that I was walking along a busy street. It was a city that I’ve never been to, but it was the city I lived in. I was quite familiar with everything. I have to say, too, that it was a lovely city, full of sunlight and white stone and well kept gardens.I found myself caught up with a group of women dressed like conservative Jews talking in hushed tones amongst themselves. Evidently they were on a mission, a very important mission. We all stopped before a long slung stone and glass structure, vaguely Japanese looking, with broad overhanging eaves and a lovely garden of small herbs set in a patch of pale grey stones. The women had either not noticed or did not care about my presence, and so I decided to continue and observe.

As well as the garden, there were two deep pools of water with a large cairn rising from the center of the pools. However, the left most pool had been drained. Before the pool on the right sat an older man dressed like a conservative Rabbi. He held a long brass rod with a small cup attached to the end of it. With this device he scooped up a cup full of water and poured it upon the stone, praying.

One of the women, a motherly looking lady, approaches the man and gestures angrily at the empty pool. He mutters something, upset that she interrupted her, and says that the women responsible for setting up the pool was sick this morning. She snaps something back at him and he shrugs her off. Furious, she turns on her heel and storms into the building. Several young men in the older man’s retinue rush off after her.

I step forward from the sidewalk to examine the pool, and a young man in an ill-fitting suit stops me from coming any closer with an expression strangely of sympathy and confusion. Taking my accidental distraction as her cue, a young woman rushes forward to the pool, pushing past a few young men. The older man shrieks at her. She has a small cup in her hand. The young men turn to grab her, but are suddenly caught up in the arms of the other women.

She cannot touch the water, the water is holy. The water is holy and the stone atop the cairn is holy, and she must venerate the stone, as the stone which has been privileged to her sex was not prepared this morning. It seemed this was an ongoing struggle. She, however, must not touch the water. She kneels down and leans carefully, as her companions scuffle with the young men behind her. She canot quite reach the water. One of the women slip free and holds her so that she can lean further out.

She gets a small cup full of water. The old man in shrieking his prayers. She casts the water out and it splashes upon the stone. Her friend hauls her back upright and she spins and dances and the stone flashing upon which she stands gives way and she plunges into the pool.

No one moves. The young men are paralyzed, the old man has collapsed onto his knees. “God save her!” I shriek and leap into the pool. The women follow me.

There is a ledge within the pool. The pool is much deeper than it appears. There is a large cubic block upon which stands the cairn. She has fallen down, another twenty or thirty feet, between the side of the cube and the wall of the pool. The broken ledge lies on top of her. “God save her!” I cry again.

The women swarm down to the bottom of the pool. I am standing atop the cube, my head and shoulder above water. I yell at one of the young men to fetch an ambulance. He shakes out of his paralysis, nods and runs off. Over and over I am screaming “God save her, God save her, God save her.” The women are struggling to remove the broken ledge. A young women is returns to the surface, but she has no strength to lift herself to the surface, as she comes up to the edge of cube, I grab her and haul her up. Twice more I do this. I look down, “God save her, God save her, God save her,” where there were two women there are twenty, five young men are lifting away the ledge, and she is brought up to the edge of the cube, and I haul her and the last two women atop the cube and she is a dolphin.

A young man rushes to the edge of the pool. The ambulance is here, but he is silent, because he sees that she is a dolphin. We lift her from the pool, and as her head and shoulders break the surface, she is a woman, bruised and breathing raggedly. “God save her.”

And I awake.

Now, those who know me will know that I am the last person to cry God save anything. Honestly, upon waking, that was what disturbed me the most. I have never been a man of faith. Which isn’t to say that I don’t believe, that I don’t feel strongly, just that I don’t, well, have faith. Or at least, certainly not the kind of faith that would drive me to turn to God, any God, for help. I have never been the kind of man who thought that a God would care, could be moved, to reach out to us. I look at the world and I do not see love pervading. I see love, of course, in little places, in small rooms, between two hands, in eyes and glances and the tenderness of shoulders. I don’t see love, though, as a force in the world. So, I think, perhaps, then, I have never seen a God, and maybe I am looking in the wrong place, and maybe I don’t know what I am looking for. I was raised, as well, in a religion which for the longest time destroyed all hope for me. Only over the last four or five years have I been able to regain my spirituality.

The oddest thing, though, was the waking realization that the God I was calling to, the God who I was filled with faith for, was Dionysus. Of course, Dionysus would save her, and of course he would save her by turning her into a dolphin. And then, doubly odd, was the realization that what my faith had done, was not only save a woman’s life, but demonstrate to these other people of faith, that there was more than one God, and that it was not their God which saved the life of one of their people.

It was a very strange dream, and there was a good deal that I do not understand. I live in a neighborhood with a large conservative Jewish population, so it makes sense that my mind would turn to their aesthetic to depict a devout religious group. The gender binary was also important, and so, again, the attachment of the Jewish aesthetic was fitting. I have always had a great deal of respect for the strength of women, and so it makes sense to me that they would be the protagonists in my dreamworld. Women too often must fight for what is theirs by right. So, of course, I am given the struggle for faith in terms of women demanding their birthright.

I am left wondering: do I have faith, now? Do I have that thing which has baffled me, that Neo-Pagan buzzword, a Patron Deity? I don’t know. I know that I have a great deal of work left to do. I know that I am still deeply affected by a very short, very strange dream.

I really would appreciate any insights or comments that any of you have to offer. The thing that I am mostly deeply looking for is a community, is conversation and mutual understanding and growth. Please, let’s talk.

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Through the Subject

Rather than launching into a very long digression, which I already partially engaged in, to be fair, within the massive project that is Toward a New Ontology, I have decided to take a moment here to explicate further my conception of being in relation to objects and the Subject. In as much as I wear my influences on my sleeve, I should state that these ideas are heavily influenced by Phenomenology (no one is surprised), in particular my recent reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time as well as Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. That said, I do think that I am veering wildly from their intended readings, particular in my metaphysical/ontological focus.

For the sake of clarity, here I will refer to the Subject on in the singular, though I by no means am making claims to an idealized Subject, such as a deity. The singular capitalized Subject is meant to refer to all singular instantiations of the Subject in their singularity. In as much as all subjects, as discrete entities, share sets of relatable characteristics which define and guarantee their subjectivity, the Subject is used to refer to that set of instantiated qualities. Therefore, the Subject is emphatically instantiated and does not refer to idealized form. It is used to describe a collective set, with the intention of maintaining emphasis on the singular units within that set.

Previously, I claimed that objects are not with the same intensity as the Subject is. Allow me to explain myself, I hope, more clearly. Objects certainly and indubitably exist. While it is true that all knowledge we possess of objects is subjective, is filtered through our senses and reasoning, we are forced, by the nature of our subjectivity to accept the presence of objects discrete of our subjectivity. Of course, the precise nature of objects need not necessarily correspond to our impressions of them. All that is required of objects for us to have assured knowledge of their presence is that, regardless of their private natures, they continue to impact upon our consciousness in coherent fashions. Therefore, we have knowledge of objects because our perceptions of them are such that they present consistently and coherently. Objects are known in as much as they present a network formal relations which we are able to process and comprehend.

Now, the presence of objects must be of a nature different from the presence of the Subject. Only the Subject is capable, as previously mentioned, of the reflexive actions of perceptions, that is to say only the Subject is simultaneously aware of itself and the World. It is not required of objects that they be aware of either. Indeed, it is not, I believe, controversial to claim that objects lack interiority. By this I do not mean that objects lack interior spaces, merely that they lack internal conscious states. Consciousness, in general, demands an interior, a presence withdrawn from the World, wherein only consciousness abides. I would argue that consciousness demands both interior and exterior, for it appears to be incoherent to claim that an object, possessing no exterior awareness, could be filled interiorly with consciousness, as then, lacking true exterior, the consciousness would have no interior space, either. If consciousness is withdrawn from the World, the presence of the World is vital for the necessary retreat of consciousness to its private demesne.

That which perceives must have an interior to perceive against, it must have a portion of itself discrete from the world for perception to penetrate. Objects lack such an interior. Of course, objects still interact, they merely have no consciousness of such interaction. Object relations are governed by formal properties according to the natures of the objects in relation. Indeed, this is the way in which we recognize objects are emphatically present. Objects will always relate to each other in coherent, consistent fashions. Inter-object relations come, then, to describe a complex set of formal relations which govern the actions of objects across a network. The complexity of actions within that network is determined by the number of objects in relation and their discrete natures in relation to each other. It is as a result of the formal coherence of the object network, and the formal nature of objects that we are guaranteed their continued coherent impact upon our consciousness.

Now, the presence of objects is not the same, I argue, as their true being. How is it that presence is distinguished from being? Being rests upon awareness. The confusion and complexity emerges from the simple fact that our entire conception of being rests upon our awareness of it. We are aware of our being, and being so aware are also aware of the being of other things. This entire action, the action of being, is fully embedded with the fascinating reflex of conscious awareness. Indeed, the action of being is embedded by its nature within the Subject. Being is an emergent property of the Subject just as the Subject is emergent, that is to say transcendent, of objects. Objects, incapable of awareness, are incapable of being. Any being which is ascribed to an object is ascribed outside of itself, being is not a property possessed of objects themselves. It is merely that our awareness of being makes incoherent the assertion that objects are not, when, in truth objects are through our awareness of being distinct from ourselves in the manifold of the interior/exterior divide necessary for conscious awareness. The intensity of being is dispersed through the conscious awareness of the Subject into the World. Thus, objects persist, amongst themselves, bound by their formal network. Only the emergence of the Subject, with its fully realized capacity for being is capable of bringing being into the World around it. Being, as an active state, is instantiated with the Subject.

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Towards a New Ontology, Part 2

So, then, having outlined the necessary conditions for its instantiation, what is the Subject? Simply put, the Subject is that mode of being which is reflexively self-aware and, so being, is emphatically engaged with the act of being at all points in its existence. One could claim that objects, which lack awareness of any sort, be in the most basic and fundamental sense. However, I would interject what may in fact be a radical reworking of the the verb, and suggest that being, in its most fully empowered sense, requires the Subject to actuate it.

Now, let us examine being. To be, without conjugation, is more than the state of mere existence, which I suggest objects possess. Objects do not be in the same sense as Subjects, they merely exist, subsist, or persist, but they have no active participation in the act. Objects are passive to the state of being, whereas Subjects are at all moments actively engaged in it. Therefore, being itself when applied to the Subject is modulated always into an active, perpetually refreshing state. The Subject is caught up in being by its nature in such a way that it must be constantly aware and interacting with its being. All action of the Subject is an effect of its own awareness of its being in a fundamental way. Objects lack this awareness, and so lack this direct engagement with being. Objects are bound up in a set of formal relations which determine all potential effects between all objects within a network, and so objects appear in being in a relatable fashion, yet are not possessed of being, meaning here both made full of being and possessing it as a manipulatable quality. Indeed, the Subject, I argue, is embedded within a strange reflex of being, both made of it and capturing it. The Subject is in such a way that being is altered by its presence. Being itself is enriched and fulfilled by the presence of the Subject. Being is realized in the Subject: no mere object can bring about the state of being.

I argue, thence, that the Subject is by its nature transcendent. What is transcendence? Well, now I must digress. I have always flexed against traditions which aim towards transcendence as a spiritual state, because such traditions universally fail to define transcendence in a way that leads the practitioner towards a recognizable goal. Transcendence is always something lost in the horizon, or else possessed only by the elect few, the transcendent masters (be they corporeal or ghostly), and never by the layman (unless they be a martyr or a saint, and then they must be dead to be so recognized). Now, I do not mean to say that one should not seek growth and expansion within one’s spiritual pursuit, merely that transcendence is something entirely different. The Subject, fully realized, must by its nature transcend the realm of objects. Indeed, the Subject, by becoming Subject has its basis entirely within transcendence. The Subject has, by brining itself into being, fundamentally altered its state of existence and has made itself transcend from object to Subject. The Subject is transcendent in as much as it is a Subject. To aim toward transcendence is to aim toward the most basic act of the Subject, the act which the Subject realizes fully upon its transformation into Subject.

I feel, now, like we are capable of addressing a question which should have arisen already. Why is a new ontology necessary? It is my belief that prior attempts to explain the creation of the World have always subjugated being to artifacts. By this I mean that attempts to explain being have reduced to an effect, a by product of other forces, of God, of Science. Rarely has the question of being itself been addressed, especially in a spiritual sense. God, Science, all these artifacts are secondary to being, and I do mean the enriched being of the Subject, and not primary forces. Only being itself is full enough to bring about the world, before which there was nothing, as there must have been, as something requires a something to notice it. Prior to being, there is no mechanism of creation. Being is not subjugating: nothing is declined in its presence. Being enriches and fills: it creates.

Is the Subject, then, being? No, the Subject is of being, and being is of the Subject, but they are not reducible to the same thing. Thus, objects are, in the minimal sense of the word, yet their being is made into being by the presence of the Subject. Being washes over and permeates, it transcends. There is an important difference, here, between extension and intensity. All things, objects and Subjects, possess extension. Everything extends through space, everything which exists exists dimensionally. Therefore, in extension, all things have equal ontological weight. Within pure extension, there is no greater value assigned to any thing, purely spatial relations govern all. The barest possibly meaning of being relates to pure extension. Intensity, however, incorporates much more into the meaning of being. Intensity relates to the powers of discrete beings. The Subject possesses greater intensity through its reflexive relation to being itself than objects. The intensity of the Subject, then, in relation to being grants it greater ontological weight than mere objects. The Subject is capable of being in a fashion which empowers it over the mere persistence of objects. Only the Subject can be in the fullness of the state of being, reflexively awash in being and being.

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Good Housekeeping

I have been under a great deal of stress, lately, for a variety of reasons, and I have barely been able to relax at all. I realized recently that a good deal of my inability to escape, even temporarily from my stress is a direct result of my current living situation. My space, my home, are very important for my mental well being. I need to have a place that I can identify as my own. It doesn’t have to be grand or luxurious. I have quite happily lived a space just large enough for a single bed and a small table for months on end in the fairly recent past. All I need is a space that is mine, a space that I can control, a space that feels like home. Going on six months now, I haven’t had a place like that.

Reasonably, I should. I am living in a lovely neighborhood, close to friends and relatively close to family. My apartment isn’t gorgeous, and I have my share of problems with the building and the landlord, but nothing that doesn’t come with the territory of renting. I don’t need a lot to be happy, and my basic needs are quite satisfied. My problem is that I have lived with a series of people who have not and essentially refuse to act respectfully toward the space and the other people who use it. My frustration and irritation with essentially being the only person who cares about and maintains the space has inspired in me a deep seated resentment and anger toward some of these people. I don’t feel at home in my apartment in no small part because every time I come home, or get up in the morning, or wander through the shared space, I am smacked in the face with other people’s disregard.

On several occasions, my husband and I have thoroughly cleaned, top to bottom, our apartment, and nearly every time we are then confronted with a heap of garbage, or worse, the end result of a much neglected cat’s boredom. Two of our roommates are moving out, and in preparation for showing off the apartment and finding new roommates, my husband and I spent five hours cleaning. It was torture discovering more and more nastiness that was a direct result of other people’s casual disregard for the home.

My frustration has gotten to the point, recently, that I haven’t been able to maintain a regular spiritual practice. The vast majority of my work is spent in quiet contemplation. I just feel so uncomfortable in my own home that I cannot get myself to relax enough to properly meditate. All I can think about is having to clean that mess in the kitchen, or the bathroom, or wondering why someone thought it was acceptable to just dump their shit in the middle of the living room floor.

It also doesn’t help that our apartment appears to also be home to some rather strange spiritual entities. They don’t seem to do much except occasionally freak out the cats and play with doorknobs, but it can get a bit unsettling. I have been loathe to really do anything in no small part because I feel like I can’t throw them out of my home until, well, it actually feels like home to me.

Part of home is cooking, it always has been vitally important to me. Sadly, the kitchen has been a battle ground for some months now. I don’t like cooking because I don’t trust that someone isn’t going to freak out at me because I left a pot on the stove, or that if I leave something in the sink to soak, that it’s not just going to have a bunch of other stuff that doesn’t need to soak heaped in on top of it and made dirtier and grosser instead of just being washed in the first place. One of my chief joys is cooking breakfast, pancakes, waffles, french toast, bacon… there’s no better way to start the day than cooking for your friends and family. I just can’t do it, as there’s always an unwelcome surprise waiting for me every morning in the kitchen.

Luckily, all of this will be changing soon. People are leaving and people are coming in, and I am hopeful for the future of this living space. I am looking forward to having a home that I can care, comfortably, about again, a home that’s not a bundle of resentment and frustration. I am looking forward to being able to set aside a space for my spiritual practice, a space that I can meditate and reflect in and know that no one will disturb me there. I am looking forward to being able to relax.

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