Saturday, September 12, 2009
Post-Abysmal Roundtable Abstract: Getting Anagogic
What miracle is happening in your mouth?
Instead of words, discoveries flow out
from the ripe flesh, astonished to be free.
Dare to say what “apple” truly is.
This sweetness that feels thick, dark, dense at first;
then, exquisitely lifted in your taste,
grows clarified, awake, luminous,
double-meaninged, sunny, earthy, real—:
Oh knowledge, pleasure—inexhaustible.
—Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus
The anagogic sense is totally post-abysmal by virtue of being an experience of significance as palpably crossing the gap between word and thing, as fulfilling signification by overcoming signifying as such. Being the sense that proverbially gives a foretaste (praegustus) of heaven, anagogy fuses in principle the sensuous and the intellectual, the temporal and the eternal, the immanent and the transcendant. It is accordingly conceived in the medieval period as the mystical sense of textual understanding, that “which perfects through spiritual ecstasies and sweet perceptions of wisdom” (Bonaventure) and provides “the foreseeing of hoped-for rewards” (Richard of St. Victor). Anagogy is thus defined by a simultaneously double movement, a going at once beyond and more deeply within the terms of the present. This double movement is intelligible, as Henri de Lubac explains, as anagogy’s eternalizing trajectory, its entering into the place that holds everything, its finding of the something that includes what searches for it: “[anagogy] forms the total and definitive sense. It sees, in the eternal, the fusion of mystery and mysticism. Alternatively, the eschatological reality attained by anagogy is the eternal reality in which every other has its consummation.” Crucially, the mode, the substance, the how of anagogy is pleasure, the savoring of the sense itself, which is (typically) sweet, fragrant, brilliant, and perfectly subjective is an absolutely objective way: “Every person . . . is free to pursue the thought and experiences, however sublime and exquisite, that are his by special insight, on the meaning of the Bridegroom’s ointments” (Bernard of Clairvaux). The anagogic sense is deeply positive, good, a flavor from a wonderfully/terribly absolute perspective that precludes the possibility of not saying yes to it, of not tasting it for yourself. Who does not enjoy actually sensing the inevitability of her utmost bliss? Anagogy idealizes the real, preempts the abyss.
So the question I will pursue is: Where is the anagogic sense now? Where has it gone? Nowhere. The anagogic sense is always present. Every hermeneutic realizes some form of non-dualistic psycho-sensual fulfillment. Every thought and interpretation revolves around a taste for something immanent to itself. The issue is: what? In dialogue with medieval and modern authors (Rilke, Richard Rolle, Bachelard, Jacopone da Todi, Wittgenstein, Julian of Norwich, Agamben, Ibn Arabi), my paper will venture into the potentiality of this what beyond its traditional theological determination.
Cf. Sympathy's Anagogic Tyranny!