Thursday, June 25, 2009

In visione tua dissolutae sunt compages meae

Secretum meum mihi. Lo secreto mio a me. My secret is for me. No one was more accustomed [consuevit] to saying this than Angela of Foligno.[1] So reports the anonymous writer of her Instructions, emphasizing at once the inexpressibility of Angela's spiritual status and the difficulty with which she discussed it: "For the total state of her soul is so beyond description that we can hardly stammer [balbutire] anything about it. . . . It seemed to her a kind of blasphemy to try to express the inexpressible."[2] What does Angela know when she says lo secreto mio a me? What is the special gravity between her soul/body and these words? Who speaks them?

Let us not ask after Angela's secret, question it as something to be retrospectively unsealed. For what faces me, what I first respect about it, is that it is a secret to and for herself, a dative self, possessing its secret as a gift: hers, but given to her, still secret. This is exactly what the habit of these words figures, the remaining secret of the secret which is of the essence of secrecy as something held or worn within oneself. This is the original and ongoing repetition of what cannot be repeated: "Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi" (Isaiah 24:16). As habit strengthens and intensifies through the impression of every repetition, so secrecy stays itself by being more secret. Francis of Assisi's hesitant revelation of his seraphic vision similarly unveils a secret secret:

Although the holy man used to say on other occasions: 'My secret is for myself,' he was moved by Illuminato's words. Then, with much fear, he recounted the vision in detail, adding that the one who had appeared to him had told him some things which he would never disclose to any person as long as he lived.[3]

A real secret's revelation opens into deeper, more authentic secrecy. Secrecy subsists as an ecstatic auto-repetition, a revealing of itself within itself whereby every exposure shows a more profound hiddenness. In this, secrecy belongs to the original structure of world as divine ecstasis, or the equivalent, of God as the original secret of the world: "what is properly divine is that the world does not reveal God."[4] The divine nature of secrecy is that a secret remains a secret, that it is without or is its own place.[5] As Derrida perceives, "A secret doesn't belong, it can never be said to be at home or in its place [chez soi]."[6] The remaining secret of a secret is not static, but generative and productive, the source of the paradoxical repetition whereby what is secret is self-compelled to perpetuation via revelation of itself as secret. To reveal is to re-veil, a dialectic which is displayed in the Arabic word sirr (secret, revelation). [7] A real secret cannot not reveal itself: "I was like a hidden treasure, and I loved to be known; so I created the world that I might be known."[8] And it cannot not re-veil itself: "the very cause of the universe . . . 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."[9] Secrecy is a language that articulates the amorous order of being as absolute. It is a heart-wise way of speaking the indescribable identity of beginning and end, the oneness between the union of soul and God which holds the essence of mystical truth and the original severing or bi-location of being into lover and beloved which demands it: "He prevented the real secret from being known, namely that He is the essential Self of things. He conceals it by otherness, which is you."[10] Therefore, let me instead ask before Angela's secret, in its always-early presence as secret, the place where it also possesses her. For here we have already perceived something significant: that a secret is constituted by something's belonging to an inaccessible elsewhere, that having a secret means being able to be there (where the secret is), that belonging to a secret is a special kind of dislocation. That is what it means to possess a secret, to belong to it, to stay with it across impassible distance by having it inside a space within oneself that is entirely out of place.

Secrecy, as expressed by its etymology, is a topological severing and a severed topology, a place of disjoining and a disjoined place. Secretum, from the substantive of secerno (to set apart, sever, disjoin), signifies both something hidden, concealed, mysterious and a remote, out of the way, solitary location. This essential relation to place explicates secrecy's radical subjectivity, the sense in which an authentic secret, as opposed to something merely occluded, is exactly something that cannot be communicated or produced, something that, forever remaining in the place of itself, can only be pointed toward. As Bachelard says, "All we communicate to others is an orientation towards what is secret without ever being able to tell the secret objectively. What is secret never has total objectivity."[11] Hence the hermetic text's mode of instruction: giving directions to its secret for those who already know it. But what forever remains in/as its own place, par excellence, is place itself, as indicated by Aristotle's definition of place as "non-portable vessel" and "innermost boundary of what contains" (Physics 212a).[12] Secrecy thus communicates something essential about place per se: its incommunicability. More deeply, secrecy is itself a local relation or topological communion with the incommunicable, not a dialogue within but a whispering through place. Like the original but unseen fissure within the wall shared only by Ovid's lovers, the space of secrecy splits or disjoins place, opening a way for holding the non-portable, possessing the non-possessable.[13] Something of this structure appears captured in the tendency to talk of persons as bearing, harboring, or carrying secrets and in secret childhood experiences of secret places, places proverbially "still within us" because they were never properly anywhere else. Conspicuous here is a fundamental collapse or dis-differentation of the distinction between the object and its location, proportional to secretum's semantic confounding of the difference between a secret and a secret place. Secrecy remains an essentially epistemic category, but only by virtue of being constituted by knowledge of an object whose nature and meaning are fundamentally overtaken, like an ancient overgrown ruin, by the place of knowing it. A secret overcomes the immobility of place. Secrecy is like inverted or inside-out place, the outermost boundary of what contains, something way out there or beyond the sky, and a portable non-vessel, a highly keepable container preciously holding something at once everything and almost nothing other than itself, like a little reliquary.[14] At the limit of this inversion is the self as absolute secret, and as Bachelard says, "absolute casket." Explaining this phrase, he cites a letter by Mallarmé in which the inner and outer versions of secrecy as inverted place beautifully intersect: "Every man has a secret in him, many die without finding it, and will never find because they are dead . . . I am dead and risen again with the jeweled key of my last spiritual casket. It is up to me now to open it . . . and its mystery will emanate in a sky of great beauty."[15] Like the dwelling-place of Diana's nakedness, secrecy maps a subtle topographical state of identity between internal and external, intimate and wild, private and other, bedroom and forest. Secrecy is the divine safety Jupiter offers the virgin Io before ravishing her: "quodsi sola times latebras intrare ferarum, / praeside tuta deo nemorum secreta subibis" [but if you fear to penetrate alone the hiding places of wild beasts, with a god as your guardian you will securely enter the secrets of the woods].[16] Secrecy is the eternally individuated erotic room of mystical union: "Et unaquaeque invenit secretum sibi cum sponso, et dicit: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi. Non omnibus uno in loco frui datur grata et secreta sponsi praesentia" [And each enters with the bridegroom into a secret place for herself, and says, my secret is for me, my secret is for me. The dear and secret presence of the bridegroom is not given for all to enjoy in one place].[17]

Angela's secret us asks me to understand a being-out-of-place that is somehow more place than place itself, a dislocation that is pure home, a fracturing in the edifice of individual being that makes intimate room for the impossible. Angela's secret divinely synthesizes the double sense of secretum as dislocation. Her being-with-God is a solitary and unseekable place: "In that state I see myself as alone with God . . . God is the one who leads me and elevates me to that state. I do not go to it on my own, for by myself I would not know how to want, desire, or seek it."[18] And it is a state of indubitable disjoining:

. . . the soul then knows that God is truly present . . . When this happens all the members feel a disjointing [disiunctionem], and I wish it to be so. Indeed such is the extreme delight that I feel that I would want to always remain in this state. Furthermore, I hear the bones cracking when they are thus disjointed.[19]

It is as if the inexpressible "total state [totus staus] of her soul" could be translated as the total state of the secret, a position encompassing one's joining with a being beyond place and a disjoining within the body that happens to be the place of oneself. (This phenomenon, a kind of serious semi-ghous-like stretching, is explained by John of the Cross via Daniel 10:16 and the "hidden word" [verbum absconditum] Eliaz the Temanite hears in the Job 4:12-16).[20] As an opening of the self's secret location, Angela's dislocation is thus also an opening of the secret of individuation, an unlocking of the hacceity which embodiment holds, a release from the inexplicable fact that one is oneself. "[E]scape is the need to get out of oneself, that is, to break that most radical and unalterably binding of chains, the fact that the I [moi] is oneself [soi-même]."[21] Angela's dislocation is not escape as such, but a satisfaction of the need for escape that does not need to escape, a dis-locking of the prison that eliminates all ground of desire for leaving it behind. "He draws my soul with great gentleness and he sometimes says to me: 'You are I and I am you.' . . . When I am in the God-man my soul is alive."[22] The human-divine oneness of I and you wholly eliminates the we, the false union of collectivity that would hold itself as arbiter over what being alive is: "Even if the whole world were to tell me otherwise, I would laugh it to scorn. Furthermore, I saw the One who is and how he is the being of all creatures."[23] The means of realizing this non-reductive identity of individual and God, the substance of the intimate in through which Angela lives, is an invisibly visible space within God's human body, the secretum of its passion:

The bones and sinews of his most holy body seemed completely torn out of their natural position; and yet his skin was not broken. . . . At the sight of the dislocated limbs and the painful distension of the sinews, she felt herself pierced through even more than she had been at the sight of the open wounds. For the former granted her a deeper insight into the secret of his passion [magis intimabatur animae videntis passionis secretum] . . . The sight . . . stirred her to such compassion that when she saw it, all her own joints seemed to cry out with fresh laments.[24]

Angela's secret, like the lovers' transmural whispering, belongs to the space of a mutual foundational fissure in the corporeal material that joins and separates herself and God. And like the poet's unlocked secret, its disclosure emanates in a sky of beauty: "Angela sees the heavens open [caelum apertum] . . . I cannot tell you that I saw something with a bodily form, but he was as he is in heaven, namely, of such an indescribable beauty that I do not know how to describe it to you except as the Beauty and the All Good."[25]

To read Angela's dislocation is to take part in the problem of writing it. This problem is topological. It concerns, as Michel de Certeau explains, the location of discourse: "Where should I write? That is the question the organization of every mystic text strives to answer: the truth value of the discourse does not depend on the truth value of its propositions, but on the fact of its being in the very place at which the Speaker speaks."[26] Speaking a secret, something about which language must babble (balbutire), Angela's words are disjointed along with the body that voices them, as dramatized in the scene of her screaming at Assisi:

After he had withdrawn, I began to shout and to cry out without any shame: "Love still unknown, why do you leave me?" I could not nor did I scream out any other words than these: "Love still unknown, why? why? why?" Furthermore, these screams were so choked up in my throat [intercludebatur a voce] that the words were unintelligible. Nonetheless what remained with me was a certitude that God, without any doubt, had been speaking to me. As I shouted I wanted to die. It was very painful for me not to die and to go on living. After this experience I felt my joints become dislocated [omnes compagines meae disiungebantur].[27]

This dislocated discourse is not at all fragmentary. Instead, Angela's screams language open into a superior wholeness, a wholeness that is not singular, a one which is greater than one. Angela's word, stretched between the poles of voice, question, certitude, and pain, is not broken. In fact it cannot stop speaking. Like the skin holding together the secret of Christ's disjointed limbs, her word reveals what is within itself by concealing it, by keeping it secret. In other words, Angela's text (among other wonderful things) overcomes, precisely by entering into impossible struggle with, the original fracture in the logos, the differential fissure between expression and representation, saying and showing.[28]

[1] "[I]psa supra omnem quam unquam vidi animam consuevit semper dicere: Secretum meum mihi [Is 24:16]" [More than anyone else I ever knew, she was in the habit of saying: "My secret is mine"] (Angela of Foligno, Il libro della Beata Angela da Foligno, eds. Ludger Thier and Abele Calufetti [Grottaferrata (Rome): Editiones Collegii S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 1985], Instructiones, 4.137-8; Italian cited from the Trivulziana manuscript included in this edition; translations cited from Angela of Foligno, Complete Works, trans. Paul Lachance [New York: Paulist Press, 1993], 248).
[2] "Totus enim status illius animae est ita ineffabilis, quod vix possumus aliquid balbutire. . . . Unde quasi videtur sibi quaedam blasphemia velle exprimere inexpressibile" (Angela of Foligno, Instructiones, 4.131-5).
[3] Bonaventure, Major Legend of Saint Francis, 13.4, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, ed. Armstrong, Hellmann, and Short, 3 vols. (New York: New City Press, 2001), 2.633. "Ad cuius verbum motus vir sanctus licet alias dicere solitus esset: secretum meum mihi tunc tamen cum multo timore seriem retulit visionis praefatae addens quod is qui sibi apparuerat aliqua dixerit quae numquam dum viveret alicui hominum aperiret" (Library of Latin Texts – Series A ).
[4] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 90. I emphasize that to clarify the factical meaning, which is clearer in the original—"che il mondo non riveli Dio, questo è propriamente divino" (La communità che viene, [Turin: Bollati Boringhieri, 2001], 74)—and to accentuate the mystical content of the fact: "Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, tr. C.K. Ogden [Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998], 6.44).
[5] "God, then, being immaterial and uncircumscribed, has not place. For He is His own place, filling all things and being above all things, and Himself maintaining all things. Yet we speak of God having place and the place of God where His energy becomes manifest" (John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, ch.13, Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace [New York: Scribners, 1899, vol. 9, p. 15)
[6] Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. David Wills (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1995), 92.
[7] "The most commonly employed Arabic word for 'secret,' sirr has contrary meanings: 'something concealed, or supressed' as well as 'a thing that is made manifest or disclosed.' This contrariness in semantics is suggestive of a kind of dialectic of the secret: a secret is not a secret until it is disclosed to someone, so secrecy invites revelation, and this disclosure, in turn, necessitates concealment" (Ruqayya Yasmine Khan, Self and Secrecy in Early Islam [Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008], 25).
[8] "Ibn 'Arab­ī states that he knew this [hadith] to be sound by spiritual unveiling" (Ibn Arabī, Divine Sayings, trans. Steven Hirtenstein and Martin Notcutt [Oxford: Anqa, 2004], 99).
[9] Pseudo-Dionysius, Divine Names, 4.13, cited from The Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid and Paul Rorem (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 82.
[10] Ibn Al-'Arabī, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R.W.J. Austin (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), 133.
[11] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon, 1969), 13.
[12] "Just, in fact, as the vessel is transportable place, so place is a non-portable vessel" (Aristotle, Physics, 4.4.3, 212b, cited from The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon [New York: Random House, 1941], 277).
[13] "fissus erat tenui rima, quam duxerat olim, / cum fieret, paries domui communis utrique, / id vitium nulli per saecula longa notatum— / quid non sentit amor?—primi vidistis amantes" (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.65-8) [the wall common to each house was split with a subtle fissure, which it had formed long ago when it was made; you, lovers—what does love not sense?—first saw that flaw noticed by no one for generations]. Cf. "Arnaud Lévy notes that the word secret 'originates with the sifting of grain, whose purpose is to separate . . . the good from the bad. This separation is effected by a hole, an orifice'" (Gérard Vincent, "The Secrets of History and the Riddle of Identity," in A History of Private Life, eds. Phillippe Ariès and Georges Duby, 5 vols. [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987-1991], 5.163, citing Lévy, "Evaluation étymologique et sémantique du mot 'secret,'" Nouvelle revue de psychanalyse 14 [1976]: 117-30).
[14] "Secrets . . . configure space heterogeneously. . . . Heterogeneous with respect to the topologies and economies of visibility: the secret is never located entirely on the inside or outside, never entirely visible or invisible" (Akira Mizuta Lippit, Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005], 10).
[15] Bachelard, Poetics of Space, 85 and 85n.1.
[16] Ovid, Metamorphoses, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), I.593-4. All translations mine unless otherwise noted.
[17] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica Canticorum, 23.9, Library of Latin Texts – Series A .
[18] Memorial, 215. "Et video me solam cum Deo . . . Et at praedictum statum ego sum ducta et levata a Deo et non profecta, quia ego nescivi istum statum velle nec desiderare nec petere" (Memoriale, 9.413-29).
[19] Memorial, 158. ". . . quia anima cognoscit ita veraciter esse Deum . . . Et omnia membra sentient disiunctionem, et ego ita volo esse; et omnia membra sentient maximam delectationem, et ego vellem simper in illo esse. Et etiam sonant membra quando disiunguntur" (Memoriale, 4.323-7).
[20] "The soul, then, says to the Bridegroom: / Withdraw them [your eyes], Beloved, I am taking flight! . . . The misery of human nature is such that in this life that when the communication and knowledge of the Beloved, which means more life for the soul and for which she longs so ardently, is about to be imparted, she cannot receive it save almost at the cost of her life. When she receives the eyes she has been searching for so anxiously and in so many ways, she cries. Withdraw them, Beloved! The torment experienced in these rapturous visits is such that no other so disjoins the bones and endangers human nature. Were God not to provide, she would die. And indeed, it seems so to the soul in which this happens, that she is being loosed from the flesh and is abandoning the body" (John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 13.3-4, cited from The Collected Works of Saint John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez [Washington, DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991], 521). On Eliphaz, John writes: "what Eliphaz the Temanite refers to (in saying that a hidden word was spoken to him) was given to the soul when, unable to endure it, she said, 'Withdraw them, Beloved.' . . . He says he received it as though by stealth because just as a stolen article is not one's own, so that secret, from a natural viewpoint, is foreign to humans, for Eliphaz received what did not belong to him naturally. Thus it was unlawful for him to receive it just as it was unlawful for St. Paul to disclose the secret words he heard [2 Cor. 12:4]. Hence the other prophet twice declared: My secret for myself [Is. 24:16]. . . . And he adds that all his bones were terrified or disturbed, which amounts to saying that they were shaken and dislocated. He refers here to the great disjuncture of the bones that we said they suffer at this time. Daniel clearly indicates this when he says on seein the angel: Domine in vision tua dissolutae sunt compages meae (Lord, on seeing you the joints of my bones are loosed) [Da. 10:16]" (Spiritual Canticle, 14&15.18-19).
[21] Emmanuel Levinas, On Escape, trans. Bettina Bergo (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 55.
[22] Memorial, 205. "[E]t trahit animam cum tanta mansuetudine, ut dicat aliquando: Tue s ego et ego sum tu . . . Et in isto Deo homine stando anima est viva" (Memoriale, 9.92-7).
[23] Memorial, 215. "Sed si totus mundus diceret aliud, ego facerem inde truffas. Et video illum qui est esse et quomodo est esse omnium creatorum" (Memoriale, 9.409-11).
[24] Instructions, 245. "nervi et iuncturae ossium illius sacratissimi corporis videbantur omnino laxati a debita harmonia iuncturae; nulla tamen apparebat in pelle continuitatis solution. . . . Et maiori configebatur telo in aspect tam dirae resolutionis compagum unionis membrorum, ex qua omnes nervi videbantur dolorosa protensi, quam in aspectu vulnerum apertorum; quia in illis magis intimabatur animae videntis passionis secretum . . . Eratque tantae compassionis aspectus sic cruciati corporis boni et dilecti Jesu, quod omnes iuncturae in vidente novum videbantur provocare lamentum" (Instructiones, 4.48-59).
[25] Memorial, 151. "Angela vidit caelum apertum [heading] . . . Et nescio tibi dicere quod ego viderim aliquid corporale, sed erat sicut in caelo, videlicet pulchritude tanta quod nescio tibia liquid dicere nisi pulchritudinem et omne bonum" (Memoriale, 4.121-30).
[26] Michel de Certeau, "Mystic Speech," in The Certeau Reader, ed. Graham Ward (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 199.
[27] Memorial, 142. "Et tunc post discessum coepi stridere alta voce vel vociferari, et sine aliqua verecundia stridebam et clamabam dicendo hoc verbum scilicet: Amor non cognitus, et quare scilicet me dimittis? Sed non poteram vel non dicebam plus nisi quod clamabam sine verecundia praedictum verbum scilicet: Amor non cognitus, et quare et quare et quare? Tamen praedictum verbum ita intercludebatur a voce quod non intelligebatur verbum. Et tunc me reliquit cum certitudine et sine dubio quod ipse firmiter fuerat Deus. Et ego clamabam volens mori, et dolor magus erat mihi quia non moriebar et remanebam; et tunc omnes compagines meae disiungebantur" (Memoriale, 3.109-17).
[28] “The main point is the theory of what can be expressed (gesagt) by propositions—i.e. by language—(and which comes to the same, what can be thought) and what cannot be expressed by propositions, but only shown (gezeigt); which, I believe, is the cardinal problem of philosophy” (Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cambridge Letters, eds. Brian McGuinness and G.H. von Wright [Oxford: Blackwell, 1995], 123). Cf. “The Aristotelian scission of the ousia (which, as a first essence, coincides with the pronoun and with the plane of demonstration, and as a second essence with the common noun and with signification) constitutes the original nucleus of a fracture in the plane of language between showing and saying, indication and signification. This fracture traverses the whole history of metaphysics, and without it, the ontological problem itself cannot be formulated” (Language and Death: The Place of Negativity, trans. Karen E. Pinkhaus with Michael Hardt [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991], 18) and Agamben’s correlative diagnosis of “the scission of the word” in Western culture and its extremity as the birth point of criticism: “the scission of the word is construed to mean that poetry possesses its object without knowing it while philosophy knows its object without possessing it. In the West, the word is thus divided between a word that is unaware, as if fallen from the sky, and enjoys the object of knowledge by representing it in beautiful form, and a word that has all the seriousness and consciousness for itself but does not enjoy its object because it does not know how to represent it. . . . Criticism is born at the moment when the scission reaches its extreme point. It is situated where, in Western culture, the word becomes unglued from itself; and it points, on the near or far side of that separation, toward unitary status for the utterance. From the outside, this situation of criticism can be expressed in the formula according to which it neither knows nor represents but knows the representation” (Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture, trans. Ronald L. Martinez [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993], xvii). Following the same logic, phenomenology would point “back” toward a unitary status of the experience: “Our relationship to the world, as it is untiringly enunciated within us, is not a thing which can be any further clarified by analysis; philosophy can only place it once more before our eyes and present it for our ratification” (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Percpetion, trans. Colin Smith [London: Routledge, 1962], xx). Cf. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht’s analysis of “aesthetic experience as an oscillation (and sometimes as an interference) between ‘presence effects’ and ‘meaning effects’” and his correlative “pledge against the systematic bracketing of presence, and against the uncontested centrality of interpretation, in the academic disciplines that we call ‘the humanities and the arts’” (The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey, [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004], 2, xv).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Secretum meum mihi

Secrecy, as expressed by its etymology, is a topological severing and a severed topology, a place of disjoining and a disjoined place. Secretum, from the substantive of secerno (to set apart, sever, disjoin), signifies both something hidden, concealed, mysterious and a remote, out of the way, solitary location. This essential relation to place explicates secrecy's radical subjectivity, the sense in which an authentic secret, as opposed to something merely occluded, is exactly something that cannot be communicated or produced, something that, forever remaining in its own place, can only be pointed toward. As Bachelard says, "All we communicate to others is an orientation towards what is secret without ever being able to tell the secret objectively. What is secret never has total objectivity."[1] But what forever remains in its own place, par excellence, is place itself, as indicated by Aristotle's definition of place as "non-portable vessel" and "innermost boundary of what contains" (Physics 212a).[2] Secrecy thus communicates something essential about place per se: its incommunicability. More deeply, secrecy is itself a local relation or topological communion with the incommunicable, not a dialogue within but a whispering through place. Like the original but unseen fissure within the wall shared only by Ovid's lovers, the space of secrecy splits or disjoins place, opening a way for holding the non-portable, possessing the non-possessable.[3] Something of this structure appears captured in the tendency to talk of persons as bearing, harboring, or carrying secrets and in secret childhood experiences of secret places, places proverbially "still within us" because they were never properly anywhere else. Conspicuous here is a fundamental collapse or dis-differentation of the distinction between the object and its location, proportional to secretum's semantic confounding of the difference between a secret and a secret place. Secrecy remains an essentially epistemic category, but only by virtue of being constituted by knowledge of an object whose nature and meaning are fundamentally overtaken, like an ancient overgrown ruin, by the place of knowing it. A secret overcomes the immobility of place. Secrecy is like inverted or inside-out place, the outermost boundary of what contains, something way out there or beyond the sky, and a portable non-vessel, a highly keepable container preciously holding something at once everything and almost nothing other than itself, like a little reliquary. At the limit of this inversion is the self as absolute secret, and as Bachelard says, "absolute casket." Explaining this phrase, he cites a letter by Mallarmé in which the inner and outer versions of secrecy as inverted place beautifully intersect: "Every man has a secret in him, many die without finding it, and will never find because they are dead . . . I am dead and risen again with the jeweled key of my last spiritual casket. It is up to me now to open it . . . and its mystery will emanate in a sky of great beauty."[4] Like the dwelling-place of Diana's nakedness, secrecy maps a subtle topographical state of identity between internal and external, intimate and wild, private and other, bedroom and forest. Secrecy is the divine safety Jupiter offers the virgin Io before ravishing her: "quodsi sola times latebras intrare ferarum, / praeside tuta deo nemorum secreta subibis" [but if you fear to penetrate alone the hiding places of wild beasts, with a god as your guardian you will securely enter the secrets of the woods].[5] Secrecy is the eternally individuated erotic room of mystical union: "Et unaquaeque invenit secretum sibi cum sponso, et dicit: Secretum meum mihi, secretum meum mihi. Non omnibus uno in loco frui datur grata et secreta sponsi praesentia" [And each enters with the bridegroom into a secret place for herself, and says, my secret is for me, my secret is for me. The dear and secret presence of the bridegroom is not given for all to enjoy in one place].[6]



[1] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon, 1969), 13.

[2] "Just, in fact, as the vessel is transportable place, so place is a non-portable vessel" (Aristotle, Physics, 4.4.3, 212b, cited from The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon [New York: Random House, 1941], 277).

[3] "fissus erat tenui rima, quam duxerat olim, / cum fieret, paries domui communis utrique, / id vitium nulli per saecula longa notatum— / quid non sentit amor?—primi vidistis amantes" (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.65-8) [the wall common to each house was split with a subtle fissure, which it had formed long ago when it was made; you, lovers—what does love not sense?—first saw that flaw noticed by no one for generations].

[4] Bachelard, Poetics of Space, 85 and 85n.1.

[5] Ovid, Metamorphoses, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), I.593-4. All translations mine unless otherwise noted.

[6] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica Canticorum, 23.9, Library of Latin Texts – Series A <http://www.brepolis.net>.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Question: is something causing cosmos to appear?

Question: is something causing cosmos to appear?
I really ask—do I?—do not only appear.

See the crystal growing of all things as answer,
A perfect inverse of platitude that appears.

The more I timepass inside thinking's deep flatness,
The more wine signed mystery on my doorstep appears.

From where has everything already been let in?
That is home, not the perspective where it appears.

Funny philosophers, thinking thought as a thing,
Not image in a mirror where each thing appears.

The summit of this life is its not having been.
To be standing there now we suddenly appear.

Be happy only to hear, not catch Nicola,
One who not once to himself will ever appear.

Monday, June 08, 2009

&

Vedela tal, che quando 'l mi ridice

TINIEST DIVINITY: difference & repetition = all I confess I cannot say when I speak and
. There is what this line says, which is straightforward, and there is what this line is, something that keeps saying it. It keeps saying in a universal sense: "Man speaks only as he responds to language. Language speaks. Its speaking speaks for us in what has been spoken."[i] In a general sense: "Poetry is news that STAYS news."[ii] And in an absolutely specific sense which, like your own breath, is infinitely more important than either. This is not an other or extra or allegorical sense, not a deeper saying hidden underneath the obvious, not something structural or mythic or symbolic. It is a sense living so secretly and openly, so publicly and intimately, that it passes through us visibly unnoticed, incognito. Being seen neither with nor without comprehension, being something apparent but altogether beyond and before surface as such, this sense is exactly what makes all its senses possible, the subtle medium of their presence. Like a face itself, an impossible and inevitable silent projection preceding all expression, this can be called the apophantic sense, so as to indicate a properly phenomenological meaning-perception of something as it shows itself.[iii] Or it can be called the special sense, to mean a perception of something's special being, its essential appearance.[iv] The A/S sense is tasted by reading two-dimensionally, too close to the page, aperspectivally, floating.[v] The beauty of this sense, its God-proving detail (whatever that is), is that it ain't at all abstract, that it is always a this. It is, simply, wonderfully, as it appears to be.[vi] How does it appear? By being (the sense that appears as) wholly at home with the fact that it appears.[vii] What does it appear as? As itself, in this case, the rich, ready-to-be-endlessly-glossed idea that the what of seeing, its suchness (Vedela tal), IS the when of its resaying (quando 'l mi ridice). Or as Deleuze saw: "Habit is the originary synthesis of time, which constitutes the life of the passing present."[viii]


[i] Martin Heidegger, "Language," Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hoftadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 210

[ii] Ezra Pound, The ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1960), 29.

[iii] "Thus 'phenomenology' means . . . [apophainesthai ta phainomena]—to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself Heidegger" (Heidegger, Being and Time, 34).

[iv] "The image is a being whose essence is to be a species, a visibility or an appearance. A being is special if its essence coincides with its being given to be seen, with its aspect. Special being is absolutely insubstantial. It does not have a proper place, but occurs in a subject and is in this sense like a habitus or a mode of being, like the image in a mirror" (Giorgio Agamben, Profanations, trans. Jeff Fort [New York: Zone, 2007], 57).

[v] "If one form of thinking, rational and horizontal, clamps man to the earth, another, which we may tentatively call meditative, or 'vertical' thinking after Parmenides, may literally raise man into the air. . . Horizontal thinking, we may say as Max Frisch said of technology, is a way of organizing the universe so that man won't have to experience it. Vertical thinking is a way of transcending the horizontal thinking to rejoin the universe. Thus we may say with Heraclitus 'The way up and the way down are the same.' We might remain satisfied, with the scholars, not to take Parmenides seriously in his vertical description of seeing (flying). This is the same attitude of patronization which art scholars still indulge toward 'flat' Byzantine and Medieval painting and toward the Eastern 'mandala'. These scholars insist that painters lacked the technique for painting in three dimensions; on the contrary, it is we who have lost the capacity to see in two dimensions. . . . Many are the men who have drifted, in dreams, out the door, through the garden, and out into the street. . . . When I was a child my eyes 'flattened' space" (August Plinth, Principles of Levitation, 38-42).

[vi] Cf. "He who knows everything displaces nothing. To each one I appear to be what he thinks I am" (Meher Baba, Life at its Best [San Franciso: Sufism Reoriented, 1957], 3).

[vii] "Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, tr. C.K. Ogden [Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998], 6.44). "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. That the world is, that something can appear and have a face . . . this is the good" Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 14).

[viii] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia, 1994), 80.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Phenomenal Black Metal Trinity

"To summarize, we have a real intention whose core is inhabited by a real me and a sensual pine tree.
In addition, there is also a withdrawn real tree (or something that we mistake for one) lying outside the intention, but able to affect it along avenues still unknown.

Finally, the sensual tree never appears in the form of a naked essence, but is always encrusted with various sorts of noise.Elsewhere I have called it 'black noise', to emphasize that it is highly structured, not the sort of formless chaos suggested by the 'white noise' of television and radio.

Black noise initially seems to come in three varieties.
First, the sensual tree has pivotal or essential qualities that must always belong to it under penalty of the intentional agent no longer considering it the same thing.
Second, the tree has accidental features shimmering along its surface from moment to moment, not affecting our identification of it as one and the same.
Finally, the pine tree stands in relation to countless peripheral objects that inhabit the same intention (neighboring trees, mountains, deer, rabbits, clouds of mist)." [1]
My task now is to understand how GH's three kinds of black noise unintentionally unveil (perhaps the only way things can ever really be un-veiled) the tripartite phenomenal essence of Black Metal. Working intuition:

Black Noise 1) Essential qualities belonging to entities under pain of no longer thinking it the same. Such quality is the domain of Occult Black Metal, black metal devoted to the hidden (esoteric, orthodox, kabbalistic, apophatic etc), to accessing what lies outside the intention but still affects it via avenues unknown.

Black Noise 2) Accidental features shimmering along the surface from moment to moment. Such features are the domain of Profane Black Metal (hedonist, punk, heedless), black metal about exposing and mocking life as pure contentlless appearance.

Black Noise 3) Standing in relation to countless peripheral objects. Such standing is the thrown contextual space of Melancholic (black-biled) Black Metal, which all about expressing the deepest and self-dissolving relations between things, the abyssic proximities between and within entities, intimate relation to the non-relatable, the fact that one is etc.

Cf. Augustine's analysis of the word in De Trinitate.

"After" working this out, I will think about how black metal operates on these three noise levels in a manner that dissolves cosmos, as Volahn are doing here, for example.

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1. Graham Harman, "Vicarious Causation," Collapse II.