Somebody Put Poop on the Miracle, Part IV
What was offered as the vision of the good life for the European masses before the Enlightenment was a living with the ‘miraculous’ and a ‘miraculous’ thinking – a promise (I will document certain instances where actual promises of the miraculous are made in a major religion, if anyone is interested,) that the beautiful, the wonderful, the saving, and the comforting would be delivered in and through God’s grace.
Pre-Enlightenment Europeans understood themselves literally as God’s children, and expected to be taken care of by their benevolent, divine parent, a parent far more caring and loving than any human one, and a parent requiring no particular mental effort from his children at all.
As Kant said in his response to the question ‘What is Enlightenment?’ posed by the Berlinische Monatschrift, (and as this response was remarked upon by Foucault,) Enlightenment was regarded as a kind of maturation… one gave up (entirely? Did one entirely give up on the ‘miraculous’? No. One gave up on the ‘miraculous’ within certain limits which the Enlightenment thinkers such as Kant labored to define. Beyond those limits, though, the possibility of the ‘miraculous’ persisted, I think.) one’s childish dreams and illusions in order to…
Europeans would give up understanding themselves as God’s children, able to expect God’s care. They would become self-determining.
One gave up a certain sense of warmth and comfort, and took up a kind of disenchanting and desiccated internal laboring… one took up a responsibility for oneself and for ones’ society which feels terrible, burdensome… One imposes upon oneself a ‘despotic discipline’… “a discipline more despotic than the most terrible religion,” to use Michel Foucault’s phrase. That labor would be the cost of self-determination.
On the affective level, though, it was as if one required oneself to give up the miraculous for poop.
Self-determination was a kind of freedom, but the labor required for self-determination, the cost in effort for this kind of freedom, was a kind of onerous slavery.
One would need to be persuaded that this was a good trade, and that one was going to get more than one was giving up. Actually, the nature of this trade, and the way that this trade went down is entirely relevant to what I want to accomplish with my writings here at the Overgrind.
One could mitigate the nature of the trade in various ways… a scientist could attend mass on Sunday morning, for example. This doesn’t matter much. A kind of fundamental change in everyone’s relationship to thinking had taken place. After the ‘Enlightenment,’ Anyone attending church was not attending in the same frame of mind any more. Literally, to attend church had a different meaning.
The tremendous emancipatory potential of the Enlightenment probably never felt very liberating at all.
It really interests me that the ‘Enlightenment’, from beginning to now, has all the character of the ‘anal.’ It’s as if thinking liberated itself from external constraints of certain kinds, only to fall into internal constraints even more egregious. The change in human nature at the time of the Enlightenment, much remarked upon at the time, was a loss of warmth and openness on into something controlling – something wishing beyond all else to control, to have control, to be in control.
There is a tremendous tangle of concepts in this occurrence…
I remember the story of Carl Jung, told in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” about Jung’s vision of a turd poised to fall from God’s throne (toilet?) on to Basel Cathedral. That Jung finally had the courage to let the turd fall and collapse the cathedral is nearly the perfect symbol of how Jung conceives of release from repression.
I guess Jung leaves a big turd on Basel cathedral, though. I never understood precisely how Jung reconciled that with everything else he has to say about the sacred and the mystical, or if such a reconciliation exists as a problem for Jung about Jung’s own thinking.
I am interested in making something like that a problem for my own thinking. I want to go in to this territory with my cutting torch and my welding torch and reconfigure the connections which are being made. In a word: I want to release the emancipatory forces of the event of Enlightenment from the excretory, anal, and controlling forces with which these emancipatory forces have been combined and thus ruined.