These are some comments in the wake Reza Negarestani's "Instrumental Spectrality . . ." and Quentin Meillasoux's "Spectral Dilemma" (Collapse 4). Surely there is not a proper argument here, only some fast-and-loose haunting thoughts that demand exorcism by/in writing. Plus, I can come up with no purer procrastination (than attending to myself as ghost, discussing the divine (in)existence, and thinking about life-after-death). And it is likely that this whole theological spectrality thing will fatally inform my Sorrow of Being project, seeing that it is all about, only about, the sorrow that one is as the ultimate and most extreme auto-mourn.
"To be atheist is not simply to maintain that God does not exist, but also that he could not exist; to be a believer is to have faith in the essential existence of God. We now see that the thesis of the divine inexistence must, to gain ground against such an alternative, shift the battle to the terrain of modalities: Its is a question of maintaining that God is possible—not in a subjective and synchronous sense (in the sense that I maintain that it is possible that God currently exists), but in an objective future sense (where I maintain that God could really come about in the future. At stake is the unknotting of the atheo-religious link between God and necessity (God must or must not exist) and its reattachment to the virtual (God could exist)" (QM). Here we see at once the most alluring speculative call and the most egregious philosophical error of QM's proposal for the solution of essential spectres.[i] A wonderful radical exposure of thought to the extra-divine contingency plus a pathetic chaining of that exposure to an all-too-human hyper-deficient understanding of time. "God"/God was, is, and will be (unless humans manage to get it together and get down to the business of immaculately conceiving a new concept that would primordially replace "God") the term or name or word (and all three) that par excellence breaks with "everyday" time. (Indeed, philosophy tends to rely on the concept of the "everyday" in the same way that science relies on "we": both are sneaky self-preserving ways of confessing-without-confessing what these discourses do not know, of staying "discourses," of keeping their failure at bay before themselves and before the people they think they are talking to). QM here deifies linear finite time (contra Augustine, Boethius, Barbour et al) and thus talks about God in a manner that cannot make sense. Just to say "God," even once, even without thinking about it, is to intuitively admit that one does not know what is really happening and that the relation between this happening and time is messed up. The simplest and most easily grasped aspect of the messed-up-ness of the relation between time and event is what stares one in the face all the time: the fact that although one's life is saturated by time and cannot properly happen without it, the event of it is timeless/atemporal (Why am I me? Why is it now now? And so on). Cleary this is and is not QM's point, to use pathetic time to lever open to our vision a new space of thought/experience and at the same time to naturalize or habituate our vision to it via pathetic time, i.e. make us feel at home with God as possibly existing despite his apparent absence. R.N. catches the scent of this contradiction as specifically time-bound when he sees that QM's "recourse to hauntology . . . obliges him to assume a decisional position which not only dampens the speculative drive mobilized by the absolute contingency but also makes his philosophy amicable to instrumental and neo-moralist regimes of ethics and politics" and that this decisional position confesses "the hackneyed ethical responsibility of the philosophy qua the living who is compulsively obsessed with doing justice to the dead on behalf of his living brethren." In other words, there is a whiff here of an existential progressiveness that makes for-other and for-future decisions so as to sweep under the rug of itself as rationality the radical arbitrariness of its own event and thus "obstruct the speculative tempest unleashed by the absolute contingency of the cosmic abyss" (RN).
What is called for then is a deeper entering into the time of the spectre. Think Hamlet. The appearance of the ghost is all about its simultaneously momentary and durable temporality, the fact that its regular brief diurnal appearance indexes the deeper, magnified, unbearable time of purgatorial experience. In other words, the time of the spectre is a beyond time within time, an eternalizing or extra-temporalizing adjunct of pathetic time. Here we see the link between speculation and spectrality. To speculate is to see a spectre. To see a spectre is to think in its time, to hear a story from time's outside. To assume a decisional position vis-à-vis a spectre (i.e. become its mourner/avenger) is to be tricked by it into forcibly re-belonging to pathetic time on a spectral behalf. This is the ghost's typical hunger, as folkloric wisdom bears out, to consume a little portion of one's life, suck one's breath, etc. To do what a spectre wants = to cease talking to it = to stop speculating. Deciding from the spectre, Hamlet ceases to be a philosopher and thus becomes fatally haunted by philosophy. This constitutes his western modernity, his embodiment of modern philosophy as the haunting of cogitation by philosophy as an outside, as something dead on whose behalf thinking must proceed. Similarly, it is possible that is QM tricked by essential spectres into "bringing back the omniscient God in the guise of hyper-chaos" (RN). The mechanism of this trickery is the essentializing of spectrality itself, which is precisely the trick of every spectre, the content of every spectral lie: "I am special [and you must do something about it]." The arbitrary indication of some spectres as essential (Which ones? What not that one?) is simply a generalized form of the selfishness of mourning, an abstract expression of the self-sting of death wherein it goes forgotten that it is always for oneself that one mourns (hence my desire to turn back the art of mourning on itself). The spectral claim to specialness preys upon human desire to be special, to believe in the specialness of its being alive, when in fact everything is alive, even and perhaps especially the dead, insofar as they are. RN addresses this confusion over the livingness of the dead under the heading of "the ontological apartheid of the living . . . the myth of the living." And yet it does not seem that QM is really tricked by any essential spectre, or that there is a a real spectre in "Spectral Dilemma." Rather there is an idea of spectres as a generalized essence, a choral class of spectres singing theodical verses. But how can essential spectrality be generalized?
I have elsewhere arrived at a somewhat similar perception of ontological apartheidism in the midst of commenting on the line Exists a creature of frost from High on Fire's "The Yeti": "Being an elemental creature means being what one is made of, being a being that is its own substance. Within the Yeti, there is no space between creaturely being and frost's existence. But human being, suspicious of itself, guilty and disoriented, is both haunted by a sense of being other than what it is made of and faithless of this other's substantiality. Auto-heretic, the human sees everyday the ghost of itself and still does not believe. Instead, it thinks and feels itself as made out of something else, something more elemental than itself. Hence the human fears and romanticizes—one coin's two sides—death as dissolution into elemental substance, as evaporation. Yet my voice, complaining or consoling, betrays itself, carries back to me its elemental, ownmost whisper, a voice within voice that is also mine, a secret suggestion that death's loss is my missing of death, its darkness my blindness to it. A big delusion, silliness to think that I am both other than and reducible to my elements, to cast myself as a spell of never being myself, neither in life or death! I AM. And my being here as body and self is not only proof but the very reality of that fact as substantial, ineradicable. 'There is no unbridgeable gulf separating the finer aspects of nature from its gross aspect. They all interpenetrate one another and exist together.' The 'impossibility' of our being here forecloses the possibility of our not being here, of death as such, wherever here happens to be. From the horizon of the beyond beyond, the Yeti calls us back to life's continuity, self-continuous life, the happy life of being one's own substance. Emblematically, Yeti is Yet-I, the self-saying speaking self that exists despite whatever surrounds it, the atemporal 'yet' that is the event of the I." So we can say that the Yeti (and other similar luminous, liminal monsters), as a supremely accidental spectre that not only does not demand mourning but terroristically insists on one's own happiness in the face of all catastrophe, is a proper antidote to the myth of essential spectres.
Yet it is hardly complete to say that QM only instrumentalizes spectres on behalf of the "living," rendering the dead "liveware (the instrument of the living)" as RN says. QM's essential spectres are more importantly godware, instruments for re-conceiving God, midwifes of the divine: "Must this future and immanent god be personal, or consist in a 'harmony', a becalmed community of living, of dead, and of reborn? We believe that precise responses to these questions can be envisaged, and that they determine an original regime of thought, in rupture with both atheism and theology: a divinology, yet to be constituted, through which will be fabricated, perhaps, new links between men and those who haunt them." In other words, QM is really only conjuring essential spectres as a fiction that evaporates before the rising of God as the the spectre of spectres, the Spectre whose instrumentalization is out of the question and with whom one might finally, infinitely, and already converse in speculation into the most absolute and post-absolute contingencies. Here the possibility of a harmonic horizon between QM and RN becomes visible, with the latter doing the work proposed by the former, as pathetic time poetically dissolves into the space of the yet and the perhaps. Which is why I expected RN's response to QM to reopen the divinologies of Cyclonopedia, especially those that formally evoke QM's god to come, namely: Zurvan Akarana, the original God whose "Outsideness can neither possess nor be possessed" and "Incognitum Hactenus—not known yet or nameless and without origin until now . . . a double-dealing mode of time connecting abyssal time scales to our chronological time, thus exposing to us the horror of times beyond." Incognitum Hactenus is totally on the way to QM's god to come the only way that god can be to come, by not being on the way at all. Cf. "The cause which led the most finite Nothing, latent in the infinite Everything, to manifest itself as infinite Nothingness, is the original cause called the 'CAUSE.' This Cause is just nothing but the WHIM or lahar of God. This original whim can also be called the first 'WORD' uttered by God—'WHO AM I?' . . . How is it then possible for the latent original infinite whim to surge in God and make manifest itself and all that is latent of the Nothing as Nothingness? Whim after all is a whim; and, by its very nature, it is such that 'why—wherefore—when' can find no place in its nature. A whim may come at any moment; it may come now or after a few months or after years, and it may not come at all. Similarly, the original infinite whim, after all, is a whim, and too, it is the whim of God in the state of infinitude! This whim may not surge in God at all; and, if it surges, either at any moment or after thousands of years or after a million cycles, it need not be surprising" (Meher Baba).
To try to cut to the chase regarding the divine inexistence (the presence of which was most recently palpably produced in Eileen Joy's "The Light of Her Face was the Voluptuous Index of a Multiplicity of Guthlacs"), the question is certainly not (as QM and RN know) whether nor not God exists.[ii] That question, now well into running its course, is only a worn out device of human self-deferral or method for continuing one's own existence in the mode of a spectre, in the worried faux-freedom of spectral wandering (I don't know where or who I am and don't care as long as I have my X). Nor is the question really whether and/or when God will exist in the future. That feels like Chaos-fetishism of a kind that would preserve a certain comfort for discourse, a certain we will keep talking in the pious thought that our thinking both belongs to a historically responsible getting better of things and still cooly performs our dark awareness of abysses even God could not glimpse. The moment Chaos is indicated as the abyssic foundation of everything Chaos itself is consumed by it, ingested by the implacable singular monstrosity of the there is. The real question, rather, the one that really grips me and "in which factical Dasein is ruthlessly dragged back to itself and relentlessly thrown back upon itself" (Heidegger), is the question of how God at once exists and does not exist, how God, existing, truly and actually manages not exist, and how God, not existing, yet truly and actually manages to exist. In short the question is not whether God exists, or how God might exist in the future, the question is WHO is God? A deeper and darker question that could face God as the real spectre, that does not require God to exist or not, that could confront the spectrality of the fact that anything is happening at all, a question that God has trouble answering, that energizes rather than hampers "the speculative vector" (RN) . . .
Feeling this question means thinking the divine (in)existence dialetheically, seeing God as always both existing and not-existing in an infinitely unpredictable manner that wholly fulfills being and non-being simultaneously with and without contradiction. Here Pseudo-Dionysius's understanding of the universe as divine ec-stasis comes to mind: "the very cause of the universe in the beautiful, good, superabundance of his benign yearning for all is also carried outside of himself in the loving care he has for everything. He is, as it were, beguiled by goodness, by love, and by yearning and is enticed away from his transcendent dwelling place and comes to abide within all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself." In other words, we can think of God as auto-spectral, both in the sense of the universe being a divine shade or ghost and in the sense of "God" being a spectre haunting the universe. In divine auto-spectrality, the mutual misunderstandings of the spectre and the haunted, the "dead" and the "living" are simultaneously and cosmically present in an infinitely purposeless and perfect way. God, the divine, is thus both a singular, special being who relates to cosmos auto-spectrally and the very ghostly relation of each thing to itself. Cf. "God or the good or the place does not take place, but is the taking-place of the entities, their innermost exteriority. The being-worm of the worm, the being-stone of the stone, is divine" (Agamben). God is dead, but does not know it, and hangs around life as its own. God is alive, but is haunted by himself as dead, and does things to dispel himself as ghost. And so on. Interestingly, divine (in)existence as auto-spectral fulfills QM's epigraph—"every man has two things belonging to him, namely, a life and a phantom" (Tylor)—better than the futuristic spectral solution. Cf. "What is properly divine is that the world does not reveal God" (Agamben).
Cinema, or life as animation, is one instrument for holding in mind the complexity of auto-spectral being. A mixture of common sense and rumor, going back at least to the middle ages, lets us know that life near/after death is intensely self-filmic: "The fret and fury of immediate responses to the changing situations of earthly life is replaced in life after death by a more leisurely mood freed from the urgency of immediately needed actions. All the experience of the earthly career is now available for reflection in a form more vivid than is possible through memory in earthly life. The snapshots of earthly life have all been taken on the cinematic film of the mind and it is now time to study the original earthly life through the magnified projections of the filmed record on the screen of subjectivised consciousness" (Discourses 3.64). Auto-spectrality is cinematic in the sense that watching the film of one's life means being both alive and dead in a wonderful way. My life is over, but I am still experiencing it. I still live, but I am already dead. Something like this seems to be the natural state of all things to themselves, the reality of their being whoever they are.
And Chaos, instead of being an absolute place or principle from which everything contingently hangs, would then be the spontaneous cosmic machine or ultimate undesignable instrument through which the auto-spectral existence of each being is maintained simultaneously as itself and as a relation to innumerable other unpredictable beings (world).
[i] "Essential spectres are those of terrible deaths: premature deaths, odious, deaths, the death of a child . . . We will call essential mourning the completion of mourning for essential spectres" (QM). Karl Steel, this is the article I realized you would appreciate in the middle of your talk on "Woofing and Weeping: Mourning with Animals in the Last Days" and this is why (apocalyptic animals as essential spectres, etc. Cf. Hegel, "Every animal finds a voice in its violent death; it expresses itself as a removed self").
[ii] Cf. "'Does God exist?' I cannot imagine a more terrible question, and at the same time a more absurd one. . . . By raising the question about God's existence is to place God on the plain of the contingent, that is to say, on a level where creatures live" (August Plinth, Princples of Levitation , 13).