Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Severed Hand: Commentary as Ecstasy



“Immediately the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand: and the king saw the hand as it wrote” – Daniel 5:5

“Mais qu’il euvre des mains iteus: / Non pas des main esperiteus, / Mais des mains dou cors proprement, / Senz metre i double entendement.” [But he should work with hands like this, not with spiritual hands, but with actual bodily hands, without putting a double meaning on them] – Roman de la Rose, lines 11479-82

“La représentation de ces deux mains, corporelle et spirituelle, indispensable à l’intelligence du texte, a dû ètre figure dan le ms. original, autrement iteus n’aurait pas de sens.” [The representation of these two hands, corporeal and spiritual, indispensible for the understanding of the text, must have been drawn in the original manuscript, otherswise iteus does not make sense] – Ernest Langlois, note to the above lines

“The manicule is evidently the only sign that . . . is at once icon, index, and symbol” –William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England.

“All our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text” – Nietzsche

“[T]he very cause of the universe . . . is also carried outside of himself . . . 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.” – Pseudo-Dionysius

The amazing moment of reverse manicular deixis pictured above—text indicating drawing of hand rather than drawing of hand indicating text—provides an inviting opening into the limitless space of relation between commentary and ecstasy that my remarks will only haphazardly and tentatively (but hopefully nonetheless spectaclularly and tentancularly) explore. I call this space limitless because it extends, as these epigraphs suggest, from every moment of conscious experience to the event of the cosmos itself as an expanding spherical commentary explicating the divine being or infinite unnameable who that inexplicably brings it into being, following the broadly pre-modern (and more specifically Neoplatonic) vision of existence as eternal procession and return. As Ibn Arabi explains, the cosmos is to be understood as the ongoing effect of an original erotic auto-deixis or desirous indication towards self-presence that simultaneously splits and joins Being into ephemeral and eternal: “The movement that is the coming into existence of the Cosmos is a movement of love. This is shown by the Apostle of God in the saying, ‘I was an unknown treasure, and longed to be known,’ so that, but for this longing, the Cosmos would not have become manifest in itself. . . . The image of perfection is complete only with knowledge of both the ephemeral and the eternal.”1 So Augustine, commenting on John 5:25 (“he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life”), envisions perfect being as final, face-to-face understanding of the original word sans gloss: “The fruit of faith [is] understanding, so that we may arrive at eternal life, where the Gospel would not be read to us, but he who has given us the Gospel now would appear with all the pages of reading and the voice of the reader and commentator removed.”2 At this scale, commentary is the ekstasis of absolute being, its being outside of itself in the ordered nowhere or placeless place of cosmos, a place that corresponds perfectly to the unbounded elsewhere of the margin, which, as the figure of the manicule ceaselessly dramatizes, includes everything that is in contact with it.

At the more actual and familiar level of individuated being where we happen to find ourselves, thinking the moment of consciousness as commentary delivers the sense in which experience takes the form of an asymmetrical subject-object relation that is always both constrained to being about something and open toward the spontaneity or potentiality of its own movement. Thus object oriented philosopher Graham Harman, sounding like commentary personified, writes: “I do not perceive insofar as I merely exist, but only insofar as I am a piece of a larger object composed of me and another thing.”3 In the same vein, Heidegger understands interpretation “as a how of Dasein itself”: “Hermeneutics is not an artificially devised mode of analysis which is imposed on Dasein and pursued out of curiosity. . . . Rather, interpreting is itself a possible and distinctive how of the character of being of facticity. Interpreting is a being which belongs to the being of factical life itself.”4  In other words, commentary, whose etymology (via comminisci, to devise, invent) indicates the creativity of thinking with something, is intelligible not only as a certain application of consciousness, but as an application that discloses the nature of consciousness as a kind of writing on/of the reading that it is. Whence Nietzsche’s prioritizing of affect over knowledge, which allows us to think of the object of consciousness, the “unknown but felt text” on which it is a commentary, as a ceaselessly mobile apophatic function that operates at once at the level of specific concrete objects, which are thought only in the midst of their first being felt (as form, image, appearance, relation, etc), and at the level of an absolute ur-object of consciousness toward which it is gravitationally and orbitally bound: “pondus meum amor meus.”5 Indeed the word affect (ad + facere), in the sense of a working on something, itself furnishes the commentarial principle. In a correlative way, Gershom Scholem, addressing commentary as “the characteristic expression of Jewish thinking about truth,” defines it as the “laying open of what [the seeker after truth] receives from [the tradition of the Divine word] in the context of his own time.”6 Releasing this definition from its scriptural, revelatory determination opens the way towards understanding commentary as a broader and yet particular mode of interpretive relation to the world, one that prioritizes the integrity between the object and the impulse of its original reception, a hermeneutic that paradoxically owns by disowning and moves within the negative responsibility of not being responsible for what it uses but rather for its use. As Agamben says about his text on signatures, or “that which marks things at the level of their pure existence”: “I have . . . preferred to take the risk of attributing to the texts of others what began its elaboration with them [ciò che andava elaborando a partire da essi], rather than run the reverse risk of appropriating thoughts or research paths that do not belong to me.”7 Commentarial consciousness is in these terms profoundly phanic, in the sense of recognizing and pursuing appearance as always appearance of hidden depths, as appearance of being always more than what appears, appearance of further appearance. At the Future of Commentary roundtable last April, Gumbrecht proposed something similar in identifying commentary as maximization of the conjunction between spatial proximity or presence and existential remoteness.8 Such maximization is also comparable to Lucian Blaga’s concept of luciferic, as opposed to paradisaic cognition: where the latter “attempts to quantitatively reduce the mysteries of existence” and progresses linearly, “adding new facts to the existent body of knowledge,” the former “seeks to qualitatively reduce mystery, through attenuation, or if that is not possible, through permanentization or intensification of the mysterious,” what Reza Negarestani calls “bask[ing] in the speculative glory of the problematic.”9 And where paradisaic cognition is enstatic, luciferian cognition, writes Blaga, is an operation of the “ecstatic intellect.”10

All of which leads me back to Walter Benjamin’s ungenerated androgynous ‘other’ self, Agesilaus Santander, kabbalistically glossed by Scholem as an anagram of The Angel Satan (Der Angelus Satanas), and the theological impulse of its grand commentarial project. “Bear in mind that commentary on reality,” writes Benjamin in the Arcades Project, “calls for a method completely different from that required by commentary on a text. In the one case, the scientific mainstay is theology; in the other case, philology.”11 Such commentary, Benjamin explains, “is comparable, in method, to the splitting of the atom,” for it “liberates the enormous energies of history that are bound up in the ‘once upon a time’ of classical historiography” (N3.4)—a transgressive citational rupturing of the eternal non-present of linear temporality that saves, as Agamben explicates, not “what cannot be saved . . . the past as such. But what . . . never was, something new . . . what has never happened . . . [this] is the historical and wholly actual homeland of humanity.”12 What does it mean, then, to collapse Benjamin’s text/reality distinction into itself, to comment—let’s resuscitate (re-sub-citate, citation as resurrection) the transitive tense of this verb—to comment reality and text at their site of non-duality, to push the exegetical principle of inexhaustible meaning to the breaking point, into the danger zone, here, where it already dwells? That of course is the essence of the exegetical operation. As Levinas says: “The possibilities of signifying tied to a concrete object freed from its history . . . are innumerable. Requiring the usage of uncommon speculative abilities, these possibilities unfold in a multidimensional space. The dialectic of the Talmud takes on an oceanic rhythm” (Levinas, Nine Talmudic Readings, 8). But what if the oceanic dialectic of endlessly new meaning overflows and its depths, in whose details dwell the monster of God (see Warburg), are released from religion (not what unites men and gods, but the zookeeper of their distinction) and allowed to overflow, interdimensionally infecting all space? What if all becomes scripture, infinitely tautologous holy book of the religion of life? That is, of life in a yet-to-be-realized sense of which the Dionysian concept may be considered the seed: “The transcendentally originating Life is the cause of all life, produces it, brings it to completion, gives it specific form. When we speak in praise of it our words must be drawn from all of life, for we have to remember that it teems with every kind of life. It may be contemplated and praised amid every manifestation of life, for it lacks nothing or, rather, it is overflowing with life.”13 What if every actuality enjoys as its surroundings, not not the slimy auras of the artificial now, but a copious, commentarial space, one capable of intense but unhurried relation to the terrible totally of what is happening?

That, I think, following Benjamin’s model, is the proper domain of ecstatic commentary, commentary whose scientific paradigm is mystical theophilology, a term we can begin to make sense of by remembering the mystical simultaneously as irresistible need for identity between the absolute and the actual, what Bataille names the “desire to be everything,” and as the experience of language as sacred site of the unsayable, the zone between name (onoma) and discourse (logos), as explicated by Agamben: “The ancient wisdom that, under the name of mysticism, keeps watch against the level of the name being made to coincide with that of the proposition takes its stand on this fracture in language. The name enters, to be sure, into propositions, but what they say is not that which the name has called. . . . All language . . . rests on a single name, never in itself proferable: the name of God.”14 In other words, mysticism is an etymologically true philological relation to world, the loving of the world as word or event of the unsayable. Whence Wittgentstein’s definition of mysticism, which proportionally traverses the gap between indication and expression: “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.”15 Mystical theophilology, then, corresponds to the space of equation between word-love and the desire to be everything, the place of the phanic event where one is lifted up into or overcome by the fact of language as appearance of the unnamable, what Meister Eckhart indicates in the form of a prayer against the Name (I pray to God to rid me of God), and what H. P. Lovecraft provides under the sign of horror: “No - it wasn't that way at all. It was everywhere - a gelatin - a slime yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes - and a blemish. It was the pit - the maelstrom – the ultimate abomination. . . . it was the unnamable!”16 The object of philological knowledge—a thousand shapes beyond all memory—is in this space not an object at all, not an end or product, but the means of being beyond means, of being at their end. This is a mysticism, then, of a supremely practical, or better a perversely and inordinately practical, sort, a practice whose inviolable unknowing renders it resistant to every instrumentalization and ensures its operation as auto-anagogy, a foretasting, not of a distant homeland, but of the paradises, the enclosed gardens, of its own present. Such, indeed, is the traditional domain of mystical theology: “[The] anagogy of the ‘negative way’,” writes Williams, “offers no ‘religious experiences’ other than those which arise from participation in a community devoted to ‘doing the truth’; it allows us to articulate our hunch that the reality we seek to actualize is not represented by the signs. . . [here] individual development and theophany are not opposed, but are united through the kenotic negation of both divinity and humanity.”17

So back to the hand, which in the moment from Romance of the Rose is now more clearly visible as a term holding the intersecting strands of all I am trying to address:
    1. The double ecstasy of a primordial splitting of Being, coincident with creation, into temporal and eternal, human and divinean eternal event that itself goes represented under the sign of a manicular, divine severed hand.
    2. The dual, subject/object structure of consciousness, which always puts a double meaning on things as its essential and only way of having thema structure exemplified by the hand itself, as an instrumentalization of a form from within by remaining outside it, in the gestural space of its appearance.18
    3. Commentary as an essentially deictic relation to the text, in the sense of an ecstatic encounter that both that enters by standing outside and stays outside by entering the objecta situation for which the manicule as severed hand is emblematic, something both coding the real presence of your own manipulating hand within the text and a hand cut off, a mere, self-moving sign.
    4. The originary facture in language, between showing and saying, indication and expressiona division that is correlative to body/mind or matter/spirit distinction, here given as different kinds of hands, powers of manipulation and apprehension. If hand and word co-originate (Heidegger), what does word, called by Augustine the hand of the mouth (manus oris) grasp and get a hold of itself?
    5. The labor of commentary, manual and intellectual, a production of presence in the middle, the midst of all these dualities, at their present and anagogical interim.
Trying to synthesize these—remembering that life, like spice, can never be synthesized and only exists on one planet in the universe (the one you are one—the ecstasy of commentary is explicable as participation in the event of language, recalling that “Indication is the category within which language refers to its own taking place” (Agamben). Deixis is where language points back to itsel, and in these terms the reverse manicular moment of the Roman de la Rose encodes the anagogic “arrival” of commentary as arrival at the word’s wondrous auto-deictic presence. “So metaphyiscs,” notes Agamben, “is the experience of language that, in every speech act, grasps [coglie] the disclosure of that dimension [emphasize that, that dimension = dimension of the that], and in all speech, experiences above all the ‘marvel’ that languages exists” (Agamben). This metaphysical wonder is formally equivalent to that charted by Bataille’s definition of ecstasy as an experience that is properly imaginable as the dialectic of a severed hand in the void: “THE OBJECT OF ECSTASY IS THE ABSENCE OF AN OUTSIDE ANSWER. THE INEXPLICABLE PRESENCE OF MAN IS THE ANSWER THE WILL GIVES ITSELF, SUSPENDED IN THE VOID OF UNKNOWABLE NIGHT.”

But there is more. What Agamben’s marvel and Bataille’s will avoid is the foundational fact of love in their equations, something Julian of Norwich perfectly indicates in naming love “the ground of our seeking.” And it is putting this love back into philology in a big way (love of word as desire to be everything) that returns to itself the practical meaning of mystical theology, defined by Hugh of Balma as a word of the word, “the hidden divine word with which the human spirit, disposed by ardor of love, converses secretly with . . . her Beloved in the language of the affections” (Roads to Zion Mourn). This is the real, beautiful ecstasy of commentary, where the text not only indicates the weird marvel of its own and your event, but gives you something to do about it, saying, take me – I am yours. “Every person is freed,” writes Bernard of Clairvaux about a spicy detail from a text whose commentary generated among other things the Kabbalah, “Every person is free to pursue thought and experiences, however sublime and exquisite, that are his by special insight, on the meaning of the Bridegroom’s ointments.” Ointment, application, affection – this is the ungraspable space where ecstatic commentary makes its ever-expanding home, what Nietzsche calls “the whole Olympus of appearances.” Here the text undresses itself into a commentary on you (all the glossator every wanted) and makes all your dreams come true. Taste and see. Commentary’s ecstasy, the necessity of its standing so nearly outside its object, is the state in which it must stay in order to maintain, to keep always at hand, the irreplaceable promptings of the heart. “The Psalmist says,” says Hugh, “Taste and see. Taste refers to the affectus of love; see refers to the intellect’s cogitation and mediation. Therefore one ought first to surge up in the movement of love before intellectually pondering . . . For this is the general rule in mystical theology: one ought to have practice before theory.” For that is what you do anyway.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Getting Anagogic (in anticipation of the Post-Abysmal panels at KZoo)



The question whether human thinking can reach objective truth—is not a question of theory but a practical question. In practice man must prove the truth, that is, the actuality [Wirklichkeit] and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking. (Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach)1

Live more and more in the Present which is ever beautiful and stretches away beyond the limits of the past and the future. (Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing)2

[I]f a man could write a book on Ethics which really was a book on Ethics, this book would, with an explosion, destroy all the other books in the world. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Lecture on Ethics)3

Pleasant is the sward; heart-alluring is the air; pure is the wine :
Now, save the joyous heart, naught is wanting. (Hafiz)4

This is it. There is no more. And it is forever. Today my remarks take aim at understanding anagogy as an essential, inevitable, and generally ignored dimension of hermeneutic experience. In open dialogue with some of its premodern concepts and instances, I mean to medievally think anagogy for the present, rather than demonstrate its past. This may be considered an attempt to study anagogy anagogically, to understand it in a manner that produces an anagogic sense of anagogy, a postmedieval foretaste of its presence. Mirroring the fourfold sense of scripture, I attempt this by speculatively splitting anagogy into literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. These I name Arrival, Constellation, Spice, and Now, respectively.

Literal Anagogy: Arrival, or, There is another world, the same as this one
Anagogy is arrival in the literal sense of being an intersection between its etymological meaning and its position as the last and highest of hermeneutic senses, an intersection that situates finality in motion rather than stasis. Understood as the equivalent of sursumductio, ana-gogy (fr. Gk. ana ‘up’ + agein ‘lead’) signifies uplifting. But whereas uplifting is more generally thought from the earthbound perspective as elevation or raising, that is, with a reference that prioritizes the state left behind or what would otherwise remain below, anagogy inflects uplifting with an inverse transitivity that invests the terminus with motive agency. More precisely, anagogy is itself a transition within transitivity wherein subject/object and sign/thing boundaries directionally invert in a wonderful way. Such inversion typifies the Platonic principle of circulatory return. “The Good returns all things to itself . . . All things are returned to it as their own goal,” says Pseudo-Dionysius, whose mystical understanding of anagogy fused with the hermeneutic concept to form its general medieval sense: the conjunction of signification and experience of final reality.5 That is, anagogy is the site where telic movement becomes intelligible only in the passive voice,6 where signs become something like upsidedown repetitions of their own event,7 and discourse is borne back upwards into its object, returning to by moving from its end, as Hugh of Balma says, carried upward by its own weight.8 Such is the weird shape of this sense, elegantly defined by de Lubac as that “which does not allow anything else after it.”9 So in the modern world, anagogy survives, like much else of medieval theology, in the register of horror: “I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. . . . When you have read these hastily scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must have forgetfulness or death” (Lovecraft, Dagon).10
Unpinning anagogy from its theological determination as participatory perception of an eternal beyond (a procedure whose imperative is retrievable from the way medieval discourse on anagogy is deeply about its metaphors), anagogy becomes intelligible as its own movement: the return of the word to itself. As Agamben explains, such return constitutes the word’s overcoming of its own internal fracture (between expression and representation, saying and showing, etc.), in other words, language’s self-fulfillment of its limitless secret prophecy (the end is nigh), the verbal undoing of the irresolution between telos and death: “Crossing over time and the scission that reveals itself in the place of language, the word must return to itself and, absolving itself of this scission, it must be at the end [essere alla fine] there where, without knowing it, it was already in the beginning; that is, in the Voice.”11 Literal anagogy, to echo Lacan,12 is littoral, a stumbling forward of the letter over its own shore, the zone where the world your word was headed towards is breathlessly sucking you into this one. So Garnier of Rochefort (†1225) speaks of anagogy as the state where the mind “by advancing fails in a marvelous way, and then advances more when it has arrived at its failure.”13

Anagogy leads me to follow it as a nomadic concept of arrival, one that deterritorializes both critical suspicion of arrival as completion and naïve celebration of arrival as contribution, that is, both coin-sides of its modern, statist concept. Anarchically free from the burden of these dues, anagogy actualizes the identity of hermeneutics and its own aufhebung, continually meets its end in new beginning, and thus defines the mode of a consciousness that pleasurably dwells on the perfect threshold of satisfaction and departure.14 This funambulist state, whose interior is the inversely spacious post-abysmal dwelling of staying at the place where talk and silence never arrive (think Mr. Petit relaxing on the wire), might also be seen as thought’s finally becoming, without ever falling into, song, its apotheosis as voice that always has enough and is ready to go. Ich habe genug, sings Simeon in the anonymous text of Bach’s version of the final hymn from the Gospel of Luke’s infancy narratives (the only composition he ever labeled cantata): “I have enough . . .  Now I wish even today with joy to depart from here.”15

Allegorical Anagogy: Constellation, or, My God, it’s full of stars
Anagogy is constellation in the allegorical sense of being a signifying experience of the ever-new and unseeable unity of things, an immediate relation to the ‘other’ scale of being that never has to be brought from anywhere. This is the plural astral point of the final moment of Paradiso, not the content of the vision (whatever that is), but the already being moved by it: “Here power failed the lofty phantasy; but already my desire and my will were revolved, like a wheel that is evenly moved, by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars” (33.142-5).16 Unity is not totality or an absolute whole, but the principle according to which everything, even nothing, is with everything else only by virtue of being something. Unity is coincident with void, the space that grounds manifold otherness (Dante’s l’altre stelle). Constellation is the prime exemplar of unity—a concrete image-event whereby vastly remote entities are conjoined in a unique form without touching their singularity. Such non-contradictory self-otherness is the generative foundation of the constellation’s appearance as figural sign, the principle that makes the image original allegory, the speaking of one thing in the form of another (allos agoreuein). Allegorical anagogy is hermeneutic arrival at a fabric of reality that all image is allegory of, the unveiling of thought’s object as face or reading of what was never written,17 glossed by Agamben in the context of astral signatures as “the place where the gesture of reading and that of writing invert their relation and enter into a zone of undecidability.”18 This zone, the place of thought’s binding to a new exterior, is definable as the living intersection of Benjamin’s dialectial image—“Where thinking comes to a standstill in a constellation saturated with tensions—there the dialectical image appears”19—and Levinas’s definition of religion as totality-breaching bond: “The void that breaks the totality can be maintained against an inevitably totalizing and synoptic thought only if thought finds itself faced with an other refractory to categories. Rather than constituting a total with this other as with an object, thought consists in speaking. We propose to call ‘religion’ the bond that is established between the same and the other without constituting a totality.”20 Constellation is the religion of life, or experience. Try talking to it. “Then he turns to tomb and talks to the corpse” (St. Erkenwald). “Seek his face always,” comments Augustine (on Psalm 104.4), “let not the finding of the beloved put an end to the love-inspired search; but as love grows, so let the search for the one already found become more intense.”21

Moral Anagogy: Spice, or, The sleeper must awaken
Anagogy is spice in the moral sense of being an absolutely savory imperative for conscious creative action. Anagogy’s special status, in all senses of the word, is extractable from the way the four exegetical senses form a constellation with the fourth (anagogy) as their paradigmatic star, the part of the whole that is simultaneously part and whole. Anagogy is exemplary sense, the spice of sense, the materialization of the flow of all four. This meta-positionality is reflected in way medieval metaphors for the exegetical senses double and fold themselves when they hit anagogy, as if to make new matter of the metaphor itself. If the senses comprise a wine cellar containing four large jars, explains Alexander of Canterbury (fl. 1120?), then anagogy, the furthest from the door and the sweetest, is located “quasi in angulo” [as if in a niche], i.e. the cellar of the cellar, and even the tiniest taste will make you instantly drunk.22 If the senses are dyed fabrics, says Stephen Langton (†1228), then anagogy is twice-dyed scarlet, signifying charity, which is dipped in the present and in the future.23 If they are the gardens at the end of the Song of Songs, explains Hugo of Saint Cher (†1263), then anagogy is the “garden of spices, in which is given a certain foretaste of eternal things.”24 Anagogy is paradigmatically spicy. Just as “it is impossible to clearly separate an example’s paradigmatic character—it’s standing for all cases—from the fact that it is one case among others,”25 so spice is both genus and species, or as Mortain says, “a Möbius strip . . . It is as if the universal were on the side of the particular itself.”26 Anagogy is proportionally both means and end of the four senses, the terminal term that, by being beyond the abyss between signification and perception of something, carries the operation of sense itself. Being the identity of its twofold meaning,27 anagogy is erotic apprehension of the body of the image of thought. It encodes the desiring of signifying sense, its always being a movement into some presence or actuality, the pursuit of a trackless path that paradoxically proceeds by staying with its scented breath: “I’ mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira, noto, e a quel modo / ch’e’ ditta dentro vo significando” (Purgatorio 24.52-4) [I am one who, when Love breathes in me, takes note, and in the way it is spoken within I go signifying]. Pay attention. Anagogy is where hermeneutics wakes itself up and becomes world. So Rupert of Deutz (†1129) recommends getting as anagogic as the biblical whore Ooliba who “carried her harlotry further” (Ezekiel 23:14) by taking Chaldean warriors for lovers upon seeing paintings of them, who knows how to open her eyes: “And I say to you: even as that woman . . . opened her eyes to see men depicted on a wall, to see the images of the Chaldeans expressed in painted colors, to see their belts, their crowns, and their bodily beauty, so now you—open your eyes, your interior eyes, to see this Beloved, to see his golden head, his brilliant eyes, his awe-inspiring cheeks, his radiant and glorious lips, his smooth and golden hands, his ivory stomach set with sapphires, his upright legs. And touch his throat, surpassingly sweet, in accord with the words: ‘Taste and see how sweet the Lord is’ (Ps. 33).”28 Moral anagogy is the active appropriation and restoration of idea or image consumption for more profound (higher and deeper) appetites, the profaning reversal of the site of (capitalist) separation from reality into the decisional present of eternal return,29 in other words, atheological liberation theology, or vice-versa, depending wholly on your taste: “Liberation, in the context of the anagogical imagination,” writes Garcia-Rivera, “consists not so much in concretely overthrowing a reigning system of abusive power, but, rather, subverting the foundations of the imagination of such power which perpetuates its ‘pseudo-existence’.”30 Moral anagogy, or spice, makes anything taste good.

Anagogical Anagogy: Now, or, Behold I make all things new
Anagogy is now in the anagogical sense of being a stretching open of the present beyond the past and the future, an extensional space taking place on the inside of a perforation of the temporal boundary between life and death. Essentially suspensional, anagogical anagogy appears in two flavors. One negative: “An soo he herd an horne blowe as it had ben the dethe of a best. ‘That blast,’ said Balyn, ‘is blowen for me, for I am the pryse, and yet I am not dede.’”31 One positive: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Yet, at the level of the event of the sign, in the deictic interim of the blowing of the horn and the speaking of today,32 in the middle of the passion of the word wherein, as Julian says, “sekyng is as good as beholding for the tyme that He will suffer the soule to be in travel”33—here there is so much sameness in this difference that the distinction carries no more weight than the infinite square root (under the sign of the new) of the space between two always and equally true statements of the speaking mortal: I am dead, but I still have to live and I am alive, but I still have to die. In fact the now of the sign—the only time of facts (cf. Peter Damian)—is exactly the space explored by commentary on Christ’s today (hodie), which questions whether the word refers only to the moment of discourse (I say to you today . . .) or to the moment it signifies (. . . today you will be with me in paradise).34 This temporal openness of the word, like a radio telescope scanning the universe for the location of paradise, is the essential domain of anagogy, the place of its return to itself. Anagogical anagogy, the anagogy of anagogy, is the now itself, the site of our all-too-actual apophatic suspension—“Wher Joves wol me stellyfye? / Or what thing may this signifye”” (Chaucer, House of Fame, 586-7)—and thus the universal rubric of all discourse and understanding whose authenticity, whose do-it-yourself truth, does not reside in the dead subjects to which it would for ungiveable approval backwardsly refer, but in the torturously active present into which we are always arriving.35  

The End

1 Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, trans. Easton and Guddat, in Selected Writings, ed. Lawrence H. Simon (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), thesis 2, p. 99.
2 Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing (Beacon Hill, Australia: Meher House Publication, 1963), no. 37.
3 Ludwig Wittgenstein, “A Lecture on Ethics,” The Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 3-12.
4 Hafiz, Divan, trans. Wilburforce Clarke,  243.6
5 “‘Anagogy’ served for the contemplation of celestial things to come. It focused on the final stage of the spiritual journey, as fulfilled on the individual or on the cosmic level. In the Greek speaking world, Pseudo-Dionysius gave it a new theological relevance as a technical term with Neoplatonic connotations, meaning the ‘return’ of spiritual beings ‘up’ to the heavenly hierarchies. The Pseudo-Dionysian legacy was to play a major role in the Latin Middle Ages, being quoted by Thomas Aquinas more often than Augustine himself” (Handbook of Patristic Exegesis, 1.257).
6 Commenting on “you will be uplifted to the ray of the divine shadow which is above everything that is” (Pseudo-Dionysius, Mystical Theology 1000A, Complete Works, p.135), Paul Rorem writes: “The passive voice is also typical. Neither Timothy nor the Areopagite nor any other Dionysian character makes this ascent on his own; rather, Timothy ‘will be uplifted’ by the generous power above him, all in good order. In this text, ecstasy and anagogy are one and the same movement, standing out of one's self and being lifted up to God” (Pseudo-Dionysius: A Commentary on the Texts and an Introduction to Their Influence [New York: Oxford University Press, 1993], 186).
7 As René Rocques explains, anagogic inversion is a kind of upsidedown repetition of the event of the sign: “to discover the profound meaning of the symbols . . . we should undertake the inverse movement of that which gave them birth: the divine condescension has disclosed to us its unity in multiplicity, its identiy in changing figures, its purely spiritual and simple nature in material and composite forms: by a movement rigorously inverse, our intelligence ought to know how to return from these complex and impure forms to the pure simplicity of God, from their instability to his inalterability, from the multiplicity of their components to his unity. It is necessary that the anagogy correspond to the condescension” (L’Univers dionysien, cited and translated in Paul Rorem, Biblical and Liturgical Symbols within the Pseudo-Dionysian Synthesis, 64).
8 “Just as a stone pulled by its own weight is naturally drawn down to its own center, so the apex of the affectus by its own weight is carried up to God directly and unmediatedly, without any oblique tangientiality” (Roads to Zion, Difficult Question par. 34, in Carthusian Spriituality: The Writings of Hugh of Balma and Guigo de Ponte, trans. Dennis D. Martin [New York: Paulist Press, 1997], 165)
9 Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, trans. E.M Macierowski (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 2.32.
10 Vide Eugene Thacker, “Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror,” Collapse IV: Concept Horror (2008): 55-92.
11 Giorgio Agamben, Language and Death: The Place of Negativity, trans. Karen E. Pinkus with Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 93.
12 “[Between] knowledge [savoir] and jouissance, there is the littoral that only turns into the literal on condition that this turn may be taken in the same way at any time” (Jacques Lacan, “Lituraterre,” in Autres écrits [Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2001]).
13 “miroque modo proficiendo deficit, et tunc magis proficit, cum venerit ad defectum” (Sermones, Sermo 23, PL 205:730).
14 Cf. “only if one is capable of entering into relation with unreality and with the unappropriable as such is it possible to appropriate the real and the positive” (Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas, xix).
15 “Ich habe genug / . . . nun wünsch ich noch heute / mit Freuden von hinnen zu scheiden” (Johann Sebastian Bach, Cantata BWV 82).
16 “A l'alta fantasia qui mancò possa; / ma già volgeva il mio disio e 'l velle / sì come rota ch'igualmente è mossa / l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.”
17 “The historical method is a philological method based on the book of life. ‘Read what was never written,’ runs a line in Hofmannstahl” (Walter Benjamin, “Paralipomena to ‘On the Concept of History’,” Selected Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott et al [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006], 4.405).
18 Giorgio Agamben, The Signature of All Things: On Method, trans. Luca D’Isanto with Kevin Attell (New York: Zone, 2009), 56.
19 Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), N10a, p. 475.
20 Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1960), 40.
21 Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms, trans. Maria Boulding, 6 vols. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003), 5.186.
22 PL 161: 707-8, discussed in de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 191-2.
23 Signifying “caritatem, que in presenti tingitur et in futuro” (cited from Beryl Smalley, “Stephen Langon and the Four Senses of Scripture,” Speculum 6 [1931], 63n1).
24 “Quartus anagogicus, hic est hortus aromatum, quo quaedam traditur praegustatio aeternorum” (Hugo of Saint Cher, In Libros Proverbiorum, Ecclesiastae, Canticorum . . . [Venice, 1703], comment on Song of Songs 8:13).
25 Agamben, Signature of All Things, 20.
26 Timothy Morton, The Poetics of Spice, 33-5. See also Nicola Masciandaro, “Becoming Spice: Commentary as Geophilosophy,” Collapse VI: Geo/Philosophy (2010): 20-56.
27 “The standpoint of the first anagogy is objective and doctrinal; that of the second pertains to subjective realization; in other words, the one is defined by its object, and the other by the manner of apprehending it” (Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 2.181).
28 Rupert of Deutz, Commentum in Cantica Canticorum, PL 168.929-30, trans. cited from Ann W. Astell, The Song of Songs in the Middle Ages (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1990), 69.
29 See Giorgio Agamben, “In Praise of Profanation,” in Profanations, trans. Jeff Fort [New York: Zone, 2007], 73-92; Benjamin Noys, “Separation and Reversibility: Agamben on the Image,” available at and published in Slovenian as ‘Separacija in reverzibilnost: Agamben o podobi’, trans. Rok Benčin (Slovenian), Filozofski Vestnik 30.1 (2009): 143-159.
30 Alex Garcia-Rivera, The Community of the Beautiful: A Theological Aesthetics, 186.
31 Malory, Works, ed. Eugene Vinaver,  55-6.
32 On anagogy as interim, “the reality of salvation . . . inserted in history and immediately offered to us, the night illumined as day, etc. see de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 2.183ff.
33 Julian of Norwich, Shewings, ed. Georgia Roman Crampton (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institue, 1993), 10.406-7.
34 The Greek Gospel of Nicodemus actually transposes the words to fit the former reading. A brief review is provided in Richard Chenevix Trench, Studies in the Gospels, 306-309. Augustine’s topological solution, based on the omnipresence of the divine person, is orthodox: “Wherever, then, paradise is, whoever of the blessed are there, they are there with him who is everywhere” (Epistulae, letter 187). Cf. Anselm, Orationes 42, where this line is read as problem of paradise, solved by saying that paradise is where one is with the lord, the space of "mecum". Cf. Aquinas, Summa, 3.52. 4.
35 Cf. Jameson’s critique of Frye: “The essentially historical interpretive system of the church fathers has here been recontained, and its political elements turned back into the merest figures for the Utopian realities of the individual subject. A social hermeneutic will, on the contrary, wish to keep faith with its medieval precursor in just this respect, and must necessarily restore a perspective in which the imagery of libidinal revolution and of bodily transfiguration once again becomes a figure for the perfected community” (The Political Unconscious [London: Routeledge, 1983], 59). Anagogy is practical  mysticism, undoer of the religious separation of God and man: “[The] anagogy of the ‘negative way’ . . . offers no ‘religious experiences’ other than those which arise from participation in a community devoted to ‘doing the truth’; it allows us to articulate our hunch that the reality we seek to actualize is not represented by the signs”; “the ground on which apophatic anagogy is based: the understanding that individual development and theophany are not opposed, but are united through the kenotic negation of both divinity and humanity” (J.P. Williams, Denying Divinity: Apophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000], 13, 211). Such truth-doing is the proper act of beings who admit to their own torture, the crucifixion of the moment : "The philosophy of cruelty, in this sense, inaugurates the opportunities of grounding ethics on a new definition of being unshackled from the priority of its ontological necessity and mobilized by its chains to that which is exterior to it – the universal" (Negarestani, Differential Cruelty).