Ktismatics

11 July 2007

Freedom from Desire

Filed under: Christianity, Psychology — ktismatics @ 4:28 pm

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

So I’m reading Fink’s book on Lacan, and he’s talking about how important it is for the analyst not to accede to the analysand’s demands. Why? Fink says it’s not so much to keep control of the analytic relationship as it is to bring desire into play:

When there is no lack — when everything demanded is surrendered — desire is stymied. Nothing is left to be desired. Desire springs from lack… Satisfaction buries desire.

When Paul says that “the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit,” what does he mean? One possibility is that Paul is describing an Aristotelian hierarchy of the soul, where the flesh and its desires are “lower” and the spirit is “higher.” The higher should rule the lower, says Aristotle. But Paul has been talking not about internal divisions of the self but about slavery versus freedom, about the Law versus the Spirit. It is for freedom that Christ set us free, Paul asserts at the beginning of Galatians 5. No hidden agenda; no freedom in order that. So why would Paul now start talking about using freedom as a tool to enslave the passions to the mind and the will?

I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. (Romans 7:7-8)

The Greek word translated as “covet” here is the same word that’s translated as “desire” in Galatians 5. I would not have known about desiring if the Law had not said, “you shall not desire.” This I think is precisely what Lacan has in mind. When there is no gap between demand and surrender, when nothing prohibits fulfillment, then there is no desire. Desire is created by the Law, by the prohibition it inserts between you and what you want.

So: prohibition creates lack, and lack creates desire. In this sense desire isn’t a natural urge or passion; rather, it is an artifact of prohibition. So to seek fulfillment of your desires isn’t just to seek natural satisfaction; it is to violate the prohibition that created the desire in the first place. That’s why desire is sin in Romans 7. And that’s also why fulfilling your desires can’t satisfy you. Desire = prohibition; fulfillment = violation.

So, when Christ sets the Galatians free from the Law, he isn’t just making it possible to be good without following the rules. By getting rid of the rules, Jesus eliminates the prohibitions that create desire, which in turn eliminates the temptation to violate the prohibitions.

The Spirit brings freedom from the Law, from prohibition, from desire, from violation. Someone who remains enslaved to the Law experiences desire as a corrupted fusion of passion and prohibition. The Law-bound person can never do what he wants, not just because what he wants is prohibited, but because his wants are themselves distorted by the prohibitions attached to them by the Law. Under the Law want is inextricably bound to the desire to sin. There is no freedom in this kind of desire. But the Spirit releases want from prohibition, fulfillment from violation. Only in the Spirit are you free to “do the things that you please.”

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49 Comments »

  1. for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

    This also refers to transgression, doesn’t it? (”The grass is greener on the other side of the fence”) Or am I misreading? From commonplace experience we know that forbidden fruit is always more attractive than the things you know. How does this relate to the problem of evil? Are we meant, like the Prodigal Son, to go through the motions of sinning, in order to be able to transcend it?

    You have noticed the same parallel that struck me between this Biblical dialectics (the prohibition of coveting is simultaneously what causes the coveting) and Lacan’s desire-loop; but when the Spirit sets you free ”to do the things that you please”, I am thinking that’s like the second phase of Lacan’s analysis, when you realize there is no Big Other. The only difference being that religion would introduce divine intervention to bring about this change. Also because the change comes from an unknown place in the subject, and cannot really entirely be channeled by the analyst, only perhaps helped or gently provoked, there is certainly an irrational element X that explains why some people get to this point, and others don’t. (I hope Warszawa is listening and all those who erroneously ascribed to Lacan the position of the Master).

    How is this release by the Spirit described in Galatians? Have you written about it before?

    Comment by parodycenter — 12 July 2007 @ 2:48 am

  2. I’m trying to understand the terminology and the context. Is a desire that is prohibited by lack of response in the world the same as a desire prohibited by the law? Do we still want it just because it is difficult/impossible to obtain? Does culture/society/marketplace serve the same role as the law?

    I’ll be back.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

    Comment by blueVicar — 12 July 2007 @ 7:09 am

  3. Coveting what somebody else has just because they have it and you don’t = mimetic desire in Girard’s schema. This too is Lacanian, is it not? Forbidden fruit: could you say that it’s forbidden in Law because it belongs to the Big Other, and you want to have it because you desire to become the Big Other yourself? That’s the lesson of the Garden of Eden. On a smaller scale, imitating the other’s desire lets you become like the other you admire, while stealing the other’s desire deposes the other and lets you take the other’s place. This is Oedipal desire, no?

    “Are we meant, like the Prodigal Son, to go through the motions of sinning, in order to be able to transcend it?”

    Good question. Of course this position is doctrinally suspect, but Paul says that the Law creates awareness of sin and the desire to sin. He also says that the Law serves a guardianship function, preparing the heirs of the Kingdom for the freedom of the Spirit. Is it necessary to confront your own lack and servitude to desire before you can recognize their illusory nature? I haven’t gotten far enough in Fink so I’m forbidden from commenting further.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 7:12 am

  4. “Is a desire that is prohibited by lack of response in the world the same as a desire prohibited by the law? Do we still want it just because it is difficult/impossible to obtain?”

    In Galatians Paul directly associates “desires” with what is prohibited, in contrast with “the things that you please,” which are wants disconnected from prohibition. Pursuing wants that aren’t prohibited but are difficult to obtain — that seems to get into Paul’s works-versus-grace discussion. Can you get what you want by working for it, or is everything a gift from God? You don’t have because you don’t ask, says James 4. The New Testament’s argument against “works” points to some kind of economy other than one based on labor, something that relies more on rest, the gift, spontaneous outflows of creation and helpfulness, etc. I’m not quite sure how to think about it.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 7:53 am

  5. The New Testament’s argument against “works” points to some kind of economy other than one based on labor, something that relies more on rest, the gift, spontaneous outflows of creation and helpfulness, etc. I’m not quite sure how to think about it.

    Which argument against ”works” ?

    I am made to think about talent – people say it’s 1% of success and the other 99%^is hard work; and yet without that 1%, the 99 is all for nothing. Notice how in a sea of artists, there is only one or two really brilliant ones.

    This is Oedipal desire, no?

    Yes and the outcome of a successfully resolved Oedipus complex would be the realization that you can’t have It – acceptance of loss. But what this means in practice, also, is that you don’t need a literal penis, in order to be a man (or a woman). Always remember metaphor et metonymy, they are crucial for understanding Lacan.

    Comment by parodycenter — 12 July 2007 @ 9:59 am

  6. you know this is where psychoanalysis hits the mark for me: the point of it all is transferred from the concrete/literal/material into another (transcedent?) realm. I’m not sure whether that makes it Platonic/idealistic, because I don’t see that Lacan disowned the material plane… I discussed this before with Sinthome. I am not really sure on what grounds Deleuze criticizes Lacan here, you probably know better.

    Comment by parodycenter — 12 July 2007 @ 10:09 am

  7. “Which argument against ”works” ?”

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. This, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, is the central text of the grace-versus-works dialectic in the Bible. Derrida criticizes Freud for his emphasis on “the work” of analysis, reflecting a kind of Jewish-Lutheran ethos. Derrida is interested in play, and also in “the gift,” which he says isn’t humanly possible — putting him in continuity with Paul’s emphasis on God as the only real giver.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 11:22 am

  8. “you know this is where psychoanalysis hits the mark for me: the point of it all is transferred from the concrete/literal/material into another (transcedent?) realm. I’m not sure whether that makes it Platonic/idealistic.”

    I’ve recently had this discussion with Jason, who likes Aquinas in part because he’s metaphorical — the mother’s smile is like God’s benevolent transcendent gaze bestowed upon us, etc. It’s been enlightening to me to understand that Oedipus needn’t refer specifically to the father-son relationship, patricide, castration anxiety, etc.; instead it can be about anyone who wants what the other has that presumably gives the other plenitude of being. The Oedipus trope becomes more literary than literal. Regarding all the possible Oedipal situations as “participating” the original myth turns analysis into something more Platonic, but I’d rather think of it as literature.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 11:32 am

  9. incidentally when I was in Paris, and coming in contact, fascinated, with la lingue Francaise, realizing that the Britons are pretty much former French slaves, which you can trace in the language, I suddenly realized that part of American disinterest in analysis must be related to the lieral-ness of American discours. Isn’t that what usually happens when the province wriggles away from the colonial master? At some point, when the master has gone decadent, the provincial discours has its moment (if only briefly). In Disneyland I thought that the Anglo-Saxonic world has a particular obsession with photorealism as well, which the French observe with a mixture of snobbish ironizing and helpless impotent immersion. That is also an instance of literalness, innit?

    Comment by parodycenter — 12 July 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  10. turns analysis into something more Platonic, but I’d rather think of it as literature.

    this is beyond my mastery of philosophy; would proclaiming the dominance of metaphor / the symbolic function be an instance of ”idealism”? Or not necessarily?

    Comment by parodycenter — 12 July 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  11. Can we make a distinction between “coveting” and “desiring”? Where “coveting” might be desiring “beyond the limits of reason.”

    “Derrida criticizes Freud for his emphasis on ‘the work’ of analysis, reflecting a kind of Jewish-Lutheran ethos. Derrida is interested in play, and also in ‘the gift,’ which he says isn’t humanly possible — putting him in continuity with Paul’s emphasis on God as the only real giver.”

    Well, that was interesting.

    And me and my concern with the ACTUAL and the bodily causes me to think of my identifying male and female with penises and vaginas not as a “literal” interpretation. But rather as an acutal one grounded in a prime cosmic categorization…and not just a descriptive categorization, either. Its no coincidence that categorization starts with “genus,” I don’t think. I don’t think of bodies and their parts as “written,” but as “spoken.”

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 12:28 pm

  12. “In Disneyland I thought that the Anglo-Saxonic world has a particular obsession with photorealism as well, which the French observe with a mixture of snobbish ironizing and helpless impotent immersion. That is also an instance of literalness, innit?”

    This echoes Umberto Eco to me. Interestingly, I was recently telling a fellow American Christian…who I would regard as being fairly “literal” and therefore fiarly numb to psychoanalysis (and quite “alive” to coginitive-behaviorial annoyances)…that I am interested in iconography rather than in photography. I was very surprised when he responded by saying “excellent distinction.” I was perplexed, acually. I think it was an emotional reaction, though, interestingly. We had just had this huge intense disagreement over consumerism, and we were in the “denoument.”

    And is it me or was there some influence from Deleuze’s “transcendental empiricism” with ” Regarding all the possible Oedipal situations as ‘participating’ the original myth turns analysis into something more Platonic, but I’d rather think of it as literature.” To the Doyle…that’s a genuine question! I have a feeling that the answer will be a surprising (to me) “yes and no” that I cannot entirely predict.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 12:42 pm

  13. …or hardly predict at all, really…

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  14. “Can we make a distinction between “coveting” and “desiring”? Where “coveting” might be desiring “beyond the limits of reason.””

    I’m saying that in the Romans 7 passage I quote in the text, the translators use the English word “covet” for the same Greek word that is translated as “desire” in Galatians 4. I suspect that the translators were trying to make the sort of distinction based on a priori expectations that you’re now asking me to do. There is nothing about “desire beyond the limits of reason” until you start reading Aquinas.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  15. Is the way of the spirit is still too mysterious and so we concentrate on desire of the flesh? I on’t see Paul as saying ‘let’s choose to ignore this desire thing and automatically we will become spiritual’ as much as if we o what the spirit tells us to do, then the whole quagmire will disappear in our new freedom.

    I do not think that in Romans Paul applies ‘the law’ and ‘the flesh’ only to those of Jewish extraction or the god fearers. He is making some very general comments on the human condition itself of which he himself having been bound under the law, found that it stangely increased his propensity to sin.

    So, we both have become and are becoming the new free children of God and that is of much greater interest than all that ‘stuff’ that we should by now have left far behind

    Comment by samlcarr — 12 July 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  16. “There is nothing about ‘desire beyond the limits of reason’ until you start reading Aquinas.”

    TRUE…BUT…

    “I suspect that the translators were trying to make the sort of distinction based on a priori expectations that you’re now asking me to do.”

    …which is WHY I put “desire beyond the limits of reason” in quotes.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  17. And its not just philosophically “a priori,” so to speak, if its contextually understood to come out of the actual living of a church body.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 2:02 pm

  18. I gave Deleuze his say about desire, and I’m working on Lacan, so now it’s Paul’s turn. Rational emotive behavior therapy is kind of Aristotelian-Thomistic in its attempt to bring desires and feelings under the control of conscious rationality. Again we call on Wikipedia:

    REBT is an educational and active-directive process in which the therapist teaches the client how to identify irrational and self-defeating tendencies which in nature are unrealistic, illogical and absolutist, and then to forcefully and emotionally dispute them, and replace them with more rational and self-helping ones. By using different methods and activities, the client, together with help from the therapist and in homework exercises, can gain a more rational, logical and constructive rational way of thinking, emoting and behaving. One of the main objectives in REBT is to show the client that whenever unpleasant activating events occur in people’s lives, they have a choice of making themselves feel healthily and self-helpingly sorry, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed, or making themselves feel unhealthily and self-defeatingly horrified, terrified, panicked, depressed, self-hating, and self-pitying.

    First of all, I’m not persuaded this method is effective. Second, I think its model of the relationships between thought, feeling, will, and behavior is open to question. Third, it’s too close to what Americans at least intuitively believe is the way we ought to be — which automatically makes it subject to PoMo skepticism and scrutiny. I think we unconsciously read this reason-over-emotions paradigm into the Bible, thereby failing to open up our hermeneutical horizons sufficiently. So I’m trying hard not to do that, nor to be tempted by well-meaning “Thomistic guys” who would distract me from the pure and radical message of Paul. Who knows, maybe Paul will turn out to be an Aristotelian after all.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  19. Well, thanks for the explanation. But lustful grabs for what does not belong to you (the perverbial you) doesn’t necessarily have to be about “reason” winning over “emotion” or will or whatever. I think I would agree that, “I think we unconsciously read this reason-over-emotions paradigm into the Bible.”

    And what is REBT?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 4:30 pm

  20. REBT = rational emotive behavior therapy.

    Maybe I misunderstood: weren’t you proposing that we adopt Aquinas’s definition “coveting” as “desire beyond the limits of reason” in these passages from Paul? So then the implication becomes that the Spirit eliminates covetousness by bringing your desire within the limits of reason?

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  21. No. To me Aquinas’ reason talk is like one facial expression of whatever freakin’ truth Paul WAS talking about. Maybe the facial expression in a bit whacky, and could use some correction…I dunno. But no, I wasn’t asserting that, really.

    Although I do think that “encounter with truth is a descent,” to quote something I scribbled on a drawing I did long ago of a slightly labotomized face (sort of), thanks to “horror vacui.” That might sound backwards and contradictory…but to me its not. “From above” doesn’t have to be taken literally.

    Part of chapter three of Dallas Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy,” which my small group talked about last night, is about how God would speak or appear as fire/storms “out of the atmosphere” or “out of thin air.” That’s not necessarily about God’s truth – Law, Grace, gravitas/levitas, essence, our “image in which we’re made,” whatever – being “rational” in the sense that you are referring to it, I don’t think.

    I don’t think of my Christian walk in terms of my reason’s overcoming my emotions, but in terms of my emotions being transfromed and molded into more Jesus-like and Jesus-governed ones.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  22. I don’t think Paul is Aristotelian, Stoic, Platonist or anything else Greekish, tho that does not mean that he was unfamiliar with that sort of thinking, as it must have been quite pervasive in the diaspora. Acts 17 pretty much wipes out those as options!

    So, what is walking in the spirit?

    Comment by samlcarr — 12 July 2007 @ 4:50 pm

  23. We are reading Isiah…its all about Isreal’s being put through the “substantial” and “present” Holy fire of God. Eugene Peterson notes that the most common form of reference to God in Isiah is “The Holy.” So that’s something like what I maen when I refer to my emotions being transformed into more Jesus-like and Jesus-governed ones. And I put “substantial” and “present” in quotes above there, because those words aren’t exactly Isiah’s.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  24. “We are reading Isiah”…sorry…I’m doing the “one year Bible” with a couple good friends in my small group…

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  25. Rational-emotive behavioral therapy = cognitive behavior therapy, pretty much. I think there’s a more radical proposal at work here, other than just the idea of keeping emotions under the control of reason. It’s the contention that thought causes emotion. So, if I think I’m inferior I’ll feel inadequate, embarassed, frustrated, etc. I guess in a rational-emotive worldview, thought always and by definition controls emotion, but if you’ve got irrational or unrealistic thoughts then you’ll have inappropriate emotions. So: if you change your thoughts you’ll change your emotions. So we’ll see how that alternative theory plays out in Galatians also.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  26. “And is it me or was there some influence from Deleuze’s “transcendental empiricism” with ” Regarding all the possible Oedipal situations as ‘participating’ the original myth turns analysis into something more Platonic, but I’d rather think of it as literature.””

    I’m thinking more about people like Jung, where individual experiences can be characterized as local manifestations of a broader mythic prototype. So, does everyone symbolically and psychologically relive in their own lives the mythic event of Oedipus killing his father and marrying his mother? That’s Platonic. Or is Oedipus a story that illustrates a point: that we often want to take the place of the person we most admire, and we want to take the things that belong to that person because we believe that having these things makes us admirable too? That’s a literary use of the story.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  27. From a purely medical standpoint, when dealing with things like depression, cognitive behavior therapy is supposed to be as effective if not more effective than meication alone. I don’t have the citations now but can find them if it will be helpful. If i remember correctly particulaly suicidal ideation was reduced.

    Comment by samlcarr — 12 July 2007 @ 5:32 pm

  28. “I think there’s a more radical proposal at work here, other than just the idea of keeping emotions under the control of reason. It’s the contention that thought CAUSES emotion.”

    Ahh yes…that’s PRECISELY why I found myself unhealthily wanting to strangle my constructivist friend whose constructivism, I feel, so effects my small group. I’m slightly aware that supposedly constructivism runs counter to cognitive-behavioral. But with constructivism, you’re still dealing with some mental “schema” that is the root/source/cause/focus of everything. Which, frankly, just pisses me off.

    My point? We’re asking about “cause.” A newer and more fashionable word for “ground,” really. Is it our mental “schema,” or our thoughts…or is it our “experiences”, or maybe our emotions themselves or whatever? WTF!? Who cares!? In a sense…I mean, obviously, we SHOULD care! But…jeez…I thought GOD was the ALPHA here! Good gosh.

    So then I end up sounding either like a “poetic mystic”, whatever the hell that means, or a irrational babbler about nothing…depending on how nice Thomisticguy wants to be that day, or depending on how nice of a show my constructivist friend wants to put on to everyone all the time.

    But whatever the case…the way I see it…you end up with a picture where you can’t yourself really change yourself, nor are you yourself really even responsible for your very own “experiences,” “feelings” OR “thoughts.” The prophets seem to indicate that when God was bent on punishing the Isrealites, they were going to “feel” like shit…and I’m sure their thoughts were’t exempt. I don’t think that necessarily means that’s what God wanted…but its certainly not, I don’t think, that the Isrealites were having bad thoughts and then so bad feelings. Nor is it that their bodies were themselves somehow responsible hormonally and communally suddenly for “bad feelings” in response to moral sin that their bodies did not determine…bringing bad thoughts in response. How would that make sense, really?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 5:45 pm

  29. On Jung and Oedipus and literature, ect…gotcha. Thanks.

    But wait? Why, then, “literature” instead of “idealism”…or living out representations of the archetypes? How are you distinguishing between those two? Or are you? Or are you just saying that you think of Jung as more mythological than philosophical?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  30. “I thought GOD was the ALPHA here!”

    But what does He do and how does He do it?

    “”you end up with a picture where you can’t yourself really change yourself, nor are you yourself really even responsible for your very own “experiences,” “feelings” OR “thoughts.” The prophets seem to indicate that when God was bent on punishing the Isrealites, they were going to “feel” like shit…and I’m sure their thoughts were’t exempt.”

    So God does something to you, and you react with feelings and thoughts? God’s actions are the ground or cause of thoughts and feelings and hormones?

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  31. “How are you distinguishing between those two?”

    Well, I thought that’s what I thought I was doing in my comment. Must not be my day for clarity.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  32. “So God does something to you, and you react with feelings and thoughts? God’s actions are the ground or cause of thoughts and feelings and hormones?”

    Well, yeah, basically. On one level, I think of it as His breath. Its like when a group of folks sit around a campfire and you can see “reflections” or projections of the fire shimmering on their faces. On another level…more in terms of like an extension of his hand…I didn’t write the laws of how things work (thoughts, hormones, “feelings”, whatever)!

    “‘I thought GOD was the ALPHA here!’ But what does He do and how does He do it?”

    See above. Let me know if that’s not clear enough.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 6:37 pm

  33. “…broader mythic prototype.”

    I missed that the first time. Must not be my day for listening. Actually, now that I reread your comment…I’m not sure you could have been much clearer…or if I could have been much denser…lol.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  34. And you think that’s going to stop me from clarifying? Buahaha!

    Take the story of Garden of Eden. One could say that each of us is destined to undergo the same experience as Adam and Eve: to do something that our parents told us not to do, thinking that doing it will make us more similar to our parents, whom we idolize but with whom we also compete. Or one could say that each of us participated in the experiences of Adam and Eve, that we lived through Adam and Eve. Those are mythic prototypes. Alternatively, we could regard Adam and Eve as a story that’s interesting in its own right, but that also conveys themes we might all experience in our own ways. That’s literary. HAH!!

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  35. “Let me know if that’s not clear enough.”

    Let’s say that God holds the universe together through his power. Let’s say that gravity, weak and strong forces, etc. are valid scientific explanations of how the universe is held together. I’d say these two explanations are compatible; they just take place in different “registers” or “levels of analysis.” So even if God causes emotions, thoughts, etc. it’s not incompatible to know how it’s done. Yes?

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  36. i must be going…i will return…

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 7:13 pm

  37. There are scientists who think that ‘the self’ can be (or someday will be) defined chemically. As you point out even if this would perhaps be possible it still woul not explain the self.

    This conscious and cognitive and perceptive ‘thing’ that ‘exists’ and is me is somehow unique and an entity in a way that science itself is incapable of recognising but that relationally and as a person makes sense quite aptly within society or in religion.

    Comment by samlcarr — 12 July 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  38. I’m not even looking for science in this exercise. I’m trying to figure out how Paul interprets the workings of the Spirit in people’s lives. Is desire repressed, replaced, eliminated, or what? Galatians 4-5 might not be the whole story, but it hangs together in a particular way, and it does seem to reflect Paul’s struggle to understand how God goes about doing what He does.

    Comment by ktismatics — 12 July 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  39. By getting rid of the rules, Jesus eliminates the prohibitions that create desire, which in turn eliminates the temptation to violate the prohibitions

    Is desire repressed, replaced, eliminated, or what?

    The Law, in whatever form, is something that we have internalised and given an overriding importance to. I’m not sure that the Law itself gets eliminated (for Paul) but it certainly does get deterritorialised, demoted, and eventually ignored.

    What replaces it, ‘walking in the spirit’, ‘the way’, being righteous, and so many other terms that Paul uses as almost equivalents, all center on the relationship, the state, of being in Christ

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 3:27 am

  40. Literature and Idealism…all right…jeez! What about The Illiad and the Trojan horse thing? Is it “archetypal” to awe people with our big horse show, and conversely to be awed by such shows? Or is that a “theme” of life?

    Science and revelation…I too would say that they are compatable. But lets say that Prince Yoda is arguing that thoughts cause emotions and we can levitate and cure ourselves of cancer with our thoughts (I’m being slightly facitetious with the levitation and curing things). Then lets say that Celebrity Professor Bartender Pink Panther comes along and says that our emotions and “experiences” are our guiding lights in the stormy seas of life; for life’s wisdom he points to Ben Franklin’s praise of beer as the way to make it through life’s struggles. Uumm…dumb argument, maybe? Then comes the Incarnation, which reconciles these things…and Yoda and Pink Panter come out looking like aliens and animals.

    And sam’s comment was interesting, I think. You could extend it. Our “schema” doesn’t go very far to define the self, but man those folks sure do concentrate on working that schema to change the self! Or of course some folks sure to spend lots of time talking about oure “experiences” and our “environment’s” role in shaping the self…but to we really want to concentrate ourselves into our living room, so to speak? A friend of mine once did astral travel, but that’s different.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 13 July 2007 @ 9:38 am

  41. The message from Paul souns more psychologically nuanced and less raical than the ‘bare’ gospel teaching of Jesus but is it? Somehow, I think that by the time Paul has set the gospel against all of our Law, enculturation, market forces, religion… the radical application of life in the spirit becomes slowly clearer

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 10:42 am

  42. “I’m not sure that the Law itself gets eliminated (for Paul) but it certainly does get deterritorialised, demoted, and eventually ignored.”

    Here in Galatians the Law persists, but only for those who aren’t ready or able to move beyond it. Another verse from chapter 5 says that the Law is fulfilled in loving your neighbor as yourself. Does this mean that love-thy-neighbor summarizes the essence of the Law, or that it completes and closes out the Law? Romans 7 is another pertinent and enigmatic reference, where Paul says that people who follow Christ are dead to the Law. I already did a sort of exegesis of the passage on Dejan’s blog awhile back: maybe I’ll go snag it and put it up here as well.

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 11:18 am

  43. I agree, the concentration is on the new that has enterred and bumped out the old. This is sometimes treated as fait accompli and sometimes as an ongoing process, and that’s partly what causes the confusion, – a bit like the ‘already but not yet’ of realised eschatology.

    It’s important in each instance to figure out what Paul is doing in that bit of the narrative flow as he moves readers towards where he is going, so blanket statements of his intent will only tend to add to the confusion.

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 12:11 pm

  44. I’d like to see that Romans 7 exegesis!

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 12:13 pm

  45. For Lacan, desire isn’t an urge or instinct but rather a demand directed toward the Other. A person expressing a desire may not even know what s/he wants; s/he expects the Other to know and to respond accordingly. So (I’m inferring, thought I haven’t gotten that far in Fink’s book yet) desire stripped of content is pure demand for the Other to decide what I need and to give it to me.

    Maybe desire works just like this in Galatians. The Law is the Big Other, so the Law tells me what I desire, in terms both of the prohibited pleasures it names and of the the punishments it bestows for violation. This is enslavement to the Other.

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  46. It strikes me that the position of Christian religion and the philosophers of that extraction has obfuscated rather than clarified what Paul makes of ‘the Law’. He is quite clear in Romans 2, and it would seem that the conclusion that everyone has a measure of law in their hearts is inescapable. Into this bursts the gospel which is both iconocalastic and potentially universal; neither the former nor the latter having anything much to do with Christianity as a religion!

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 10:51 pm

  47. I wonder how much Paul adapts his message to the specific audience. Romans 1-2 is a very different argument from Galatians. Because people didn’t acknowledge God, God gave them up to corruption? Sounds like God giving himself up to corruption. Everyone has the law in their hearts and is judged accordingly? Then why are we dead to the law in Romans 7? Circumcision is of value if you obey the law? That sounds completely contrary to the argument in Galatians and elsewhere, in which circumcision avails not at all. It’s hard to tell how systematic Paul’s thinking was, and how much the system has been created by his readers over the centuries.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 4:42 am

  48. A quote from Fink summarizing progress in Lacanian analysis: The analysand moves from being the subject who demands (as well as being subject to the Other’s demand) to being the subject who desires (as well as being subject to the Other’s desire), and then to being the subject who enjoys (who is no longer subject to the Other).

    This progression seems to be at work in Galatians as well: (1) demand to know what God demands, resulting in specific prohibitions of the Law; (2) desire to earn God’s approval or his disapproval, provoking God’s desire to be loved or feared; (3) freedom to “do the things that you please.”

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 7:24 pm

  49. Law and repressed desire are one and the same. – Lacan

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 8:55 pm


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