The Studio of Eric Valosin

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The PROBLEM. (and a link to some solutions)

In my research this summer I laid the groundwork for an expansive and promising new practice.  I explored the grounds of mysticism and the way it reacts when thrust into the midst of postmodernity, coming away with with a "post-secular" "techno-sublime" (to borrow terms from John D. Caputo and Hal Foster).  I successfully drew connections between Meister Eckhart, Zen Buddhism, and Heidegger (among others) in an effort to overcome Nietzsche.  I cleared the way for the mystically postmodern to be seen in art throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.  I uncovered out the topics to be considered: Unity, Ineffability, and Interiority; the tools with which to do so: Apophasis, Contemplation, and Detachment; the bridges from mysticism to the postmodern: Technology and the "Impossible;" and the artistic outcomes: Alchemy, Silence, and Environment.  (For more particulars, follow the link below.)

But in a conversation with the director of the MFA program over Caputo's "The Mystic Element in Heidegger's Thought," he warned that Heidegger's philosophy falls short of the historical grounding that Foucault would become famous for, his notion of "Being" teetering dangerously on the edge of an eternal, metaphysical "other" that backslides into metaphysics.  I fervently rebutted that I thought Heidegger's principal of "ground" actually paves the way for historicity (as specified later by Foucault), and that he does not at all fall into the ahistorical chasm of metaphysics.  I followed up with the following quote:
"We should at once point out that for Heidegger Being refers to the epochal coming to pass of the event of truth, the successive clearings opened in the various historical ages. And obviously Eckhart's 'ground of the soul' has nothing to do with this.  Indeed Eckhart's ground is absolutely timeless and eternal. It does not provide a clearing in which history comes to pass, but one in which the ahistorical root of man's life is recovered." (Caputo, mystical element in heideggers thought, 161)
My director's response was, "Yup, there's you're problem alright.  So here's your question: How to use that to make some concrete and grounded work." 

 I thought of course that I was proving the case for Heidegger.  What I inadvertently did however, was blow the door wide open for a major disconnect.  This problem of eternity and God's otherness in light of Heidegger and Foucault's historicity, in which there is nothing outside of time or history.

The problem, restated, is this: Postmodernism would say that "God" is only known by His actions within history, by people who are bound to history, and that you cannot address a thing outside of its contextual framework as if you could step outside of time and your own worldview to some objective unbiased vantage point.  Yet that is precisely the vantage point of God as claimed by the mystics: wholly detached and unbound by time - a position to aspire to as a mystic seeking detached unity with God.  

So now I need to really investigate what to do with the necessary, eternal otherness of mysticism that places God both inside and outside the walls of reality, when the framework set up by postmodernism has no such walls to speak of at all.  My mind immediately goes back to Heidegger's exegesis of Plato's cave, saying that the ideal forms themselves are merely a sort of world in itself, in the same way as - and in strife with - the world of shadows inside the cave.  But could it be so easy as to analogize that to God?  Surely there's more...

So I've got some thinking to do.  Not that I expect to have this all worked out, but I mainly need to find just what my director proposed: a way to use this to make some concrete and grounded work.

If you'd like to look at my findings from this summer in more depth (and hopefully a bit more clearly explicated as it won't have been written stream-of-consciousness at 1:30 am like this blog post... well at least not all of it), I'm posting a link to a pdf of my paper, entitled Techno Sublime: The Art of Postmodern-Mysticism.  Until I find a better solution, it will link temporarily to my public Dropbox folder.  I hope you enjoy it!

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