Ktismatics

9 May 2007

Virtual and Actual Realities

Filed under: Ktismata, Language, Psychology — ktismatics @ 12:43 pm

When I speak I’m trying to communicate. Relationship is the joint attentional context of communication; language allows us to triangulate on a shared meaning of the communication; language points to the object of our joint attention and shared meaning. We’ve discussed how we (mis)understand what people say (and don’t say); this time the focus is on what gets said.

There is an unlimited number of possible things I could attend to in the world, and also a limitless number of possible grammatically-correct statements I could speak. By choosing to attend to something in particular and by choosing to say something in particular about it, am I thereby closing off all the other unchosen possibilities? Does a conversation work like a series of decision trees, where at each exchange another spoken phrase lops off all the other phrases that could have followed the preceding one? So that by the end of a conversation, when the joint attentional-linguistic trajectory has taken its final form, that particular conversation can be characterized as the realization of just one of an ininite number of possible conversational realities?

Or, alternatively… The world is real in an unlimited number of ways, depending on how it is attended to, by whom, with what intention, according to what framework of interpretation and meaning. Actualizing one of these virtually real worlds doesn’t eliminate all the other ways in which the world can be actualized — they’re still there, part of the real world. Likewise with language: it contains within itself an unlimited number of virtual manifestations. Pulling one sentence out of this virtual linguistic reality and making it actual doesn’t foreclose any of the other ways in which language can be actualized, by me or by anyone else.

This virtual reality-actual reality distinction is what I understand Deleuze to be talking about. So: I sit here at my computer and I look around the room. What do I see? I see that the rug I just vacuumed still has miscellaneous dirt on it, which is unfortunate because someone is coming within the hour to look at this rug with the intention of buying it. Now the rug has been sitting there for almost two years, and it achieved roughly its current state of cleanliness about an hour ago. Though the rug and its cleanliness are real features of the world, I’m not usually attentive to these features — to me the rug’s reality usually remains virtual rather than actual. In all likelihood the only people who are even remotely interested in this particular rug right now are me, my daughter (though her interest is minuscule), my wife (who has assigned me the task of cleaning the rug and showing it), and the potential buyer (who has seen a photo of the rug on the Photoshop catalog my wife put together and who even now is presumably on her way to Antibes to have a look at it). The convergence of time, place and circumstance charge the virtual reality of the rug and its cleanliness in a way that makes it more likely to come to my attention. And my recent cleaning act, my current intention of having a clean rug to show, and my future intention of exchanging this rug for some euros makes me more attuned to the virtual reality of the rug, pulling it into actual reality that includes me, the rug, the various intentions surrounding the rug, and all the other circumstances that are converging on the rug. In this actual reality the more-or-less clean rug is imbued with a kind of plenitude that makes it emerge from the inchoate flux of everything else that is real, that can be attended to, that can be spoken of.

In virtual reality a conversation isn’t a series of choices that eliminate all other possible pathways but the one that becomes real. Rather, a conversation is an evolving creation. By actualizing the first sentence from virtual linguistic space, I change the context in which the language is present. Everything is as it was before, with the addition of a single spoken sentence. My conversational partner takes this sentence into account as she contemplates the virtually infinite linguistic space. A different array of virtual sentences make themselves evident to her, sentences that might never have been considered until I spoke my first sentence. Actualizing the language this way isn’t so much a selection as a creation, because the virtual sentences don’t manifest themselves until the conversational context draws them out of the undifferentiated but dynamic linguistic flux. Even repeating the same sentence isn’t really a repetition, because now it’s being built onto a joint conversational creation that’s different from what it was the last time that particular sentence was spoken.

So, if that makes sense, next I’ll discuss the implications of Deleuze’s virtual-actual distinction when talking about the self.

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26 Comments »

  1. This starts sounding like a statistical problem, doesn’t it? Anytime that one event changes the probability of subsequent events occuring, I start getting a little antsy. It might be my association with stats, but it might also be the feeling of narrowing, narrowing until there is either nothing else to be said or there is no alternative at the final sentence; it has to be what it must be. I don’t like that. There is always the chance of surprise or chaos keeping the conversation on edge, creative.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

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    Comment by bluevicar — 9 May 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  2. Sometimes restrictions give space to grow or to create with more grace, I’m thinking of ballet and other creative expression within a set of rules. I’m not remembering any book about the art of conversation but now I’m curious about their rules and differences. What a smart creation that there is not only infinite in the vast but also in the tiny, n’est-ce pas, bluevicar?
    But about the rug. I’m confused. In talking about the rug you share the rug with us and it becomes ‘our’ rug. In this case I make it a teaching rug. What I learned from your rug is that it puzzles me that we started to have a conversation and apparently we have so many ‘rugs’ to talk about over and forth. Here a window to paint, there a rug. Here three years of growing used to the idea to move again, and the decision made after a series of incidents that prompted the decision to move. At the same time you and your wife were going through the same process. And we also each have a daughter that has conditions to impose on their environment.
    I didn’t know all of this when we started conversation; it is surprising that there is such synchronicity in the events. Of course it is logical to try to move before schools start again.
    Saying all this makes it real. Maybe I shouldn’t have. That is one of my problems. Where do I draw the line? Or cross it? I don’t really know when it’s too much. If I’d go in therapy it would be to do some fine-tuning. Maybe I should look up a book about the art of conversation.

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    Comment by Odile — 9 May 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  3. bluevicar –

    So you prefer the Deleuzian virtual reality idea, the second one I presented in the post, where certain features of the world come into focus and become part of your creation — a sentence you speak, an action you take, an idea you formulate. This for you is preferable to the idea of possible realities that, instead of becoming part of a creation over time, become destroyed by selecting one possibility at the expense of all the others. Deleuze’s reality expands in unpredictable ways, rather than a reality that contracts to a single choice. I think I agree with your preference.

    Odile –

    So my describing the rug partially charges your rug with meaning, and it begins to glow in the room so you must pay attention to it, devote thought to it, write sentences about it. Now we jointly converge on a reality in which rugs play a significant part. And the people did not in fact buy the rug — was it not clean enough? They said it was too dark for their room — if I had cleaned it better would it have seemed lighter, more compatible with their clean apartment?

    And the reality of the daughters must also be considered, who are far more dynamic and creative but who have very little emotional involvement with the rugs or their cleanliness. I believe that the world becomes charged in this way: by shifting one’s attention in the mind, certain features of the world begin to stand out, to link with other features in a synchronous way, to stretch thin filaments of meaning across the dead matter of the world. But this of course is strange conversation.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 May 2007 @ 7:29 pm

  4. Reading the first lines of your post an image thrust itself, full grown and armored a’la Athena into my fore-conscience (who then is Zeus and who was Metis?)of each of us as motes of sentience alone in our individual universes of infinite possibilities, futiley striving through our conversations and common experiences to rupture our private reality and join it with another’s in some sort of consubstantiation of words and perceptions with truly shared existence. Maybe it was that sandwich at lunch that causes such thoughts of alienation?

    It has been many months since I “checked out” ktismatics, and I note with interest the reference to your return to Boulder in the prior post…

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    Comment by Pyk — 9 May 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  5. Kevin –

    In prior posts I talked about the essentially social basis for children’s understanding of the world. Even babies are able to understand that when this other person speaks, she intends for me to orient myself toward some aspect of the world in a particular way. The isolation seems to come later. Maybe it emerges in adolescence: when you realize just how many different perspectives are possible, you realize both the commonalities with everyone else and the uniqueness of your own perspective. But then also is added the posing and image management and negotiation of the Hegelian master-servant dialectic and fears of being hurt, and the next thing you know you’re a mote of sentience. Or maybe it’s the sandwich.

    Yes, you note correctly: back to Boulder in June. Amazing timing on your part — we just did decide to return. Now the cat’s out of the bag and we can’t sneak in under the radar. No, in fact we were planning to get in touch, honest. But I will own up to the conclusion of yesterday’s post: I’m neither psyched nor non-psyched about coming back this time. We’ll see what happens.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 May 2007 @ 11:23 pm

  6. unrelated, sorry (but nice post) i cannot find your eddress to send the story, my computer ate all autosaved edresses.

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    Comment by stacy — 10 May 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  7. I think I understand your indifference to location, and I will not advertise your return so you guys can manage as you see fit…but I look forward to shared vin rouge this summer.

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    Comment by Pyk — 11 May 2007 @ 5:51 am

  8. Kevin –

    D’accord. I believe Anne is planning to send the email announcements to Boulderites today. A glass of red, a bit of reminiscence, some free association…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 May 2007 @ 6:27 am

  9. June, then. My question answered. Did it grow from the tree of possibility or were the neighboring branches of May and July chopped off?

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 1:16 am

  10. Oh merde, I forgot to mention. This whole virtual and actual reality thing. This reminds me of alethia and Heidegger, as I was mentioning in one of my comments on one of your other many postst on which I’ve commented today (who can say which one it was!?).

    As I was saying, this reminds me of certain Psalms, which seem to speak a reality not present.

    And since those dusty Jews had the whole “O.T.” memorized, Jesus died for what he did NOT say…for what he virtually said by way of association with certain verses coming before and/or after the ones he DID quote. This lead up to Caiphas’ being a bit fed up: “Dang it, Jesus. Tell us plainly. Are you the Messiah or are you not?” So Jesus, probably giggling to himself while waiting for his next bruise, points to the “virtual reality” again, and says, “You WILL see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds,” again making a hidden reference to scriptures (un)quoted by the Son of the Uncreated.

    This reminds me of the whole Descartes problem, too, and, again, my frustration with systematic theology. Descartes was the guy with the illusory cahones to claim some “certainty.” Built upon the appearance and presence of propositional assertaions, of course. His very quest for these certain foundational truths seems to emerge from Jesus’ irony-inducing giggle.

    The problem isn’t our mind’s ability to properly judge whether the sweater is on the chair, but our TRUST in the voice of the Word…”in the beginning…” According to your quote of the opening to Descartes’ “Meditations,” that was exactly his point. But when, then – in the Bunueal film – did the pretty nun go running out of the room when, just after saying she would like to die, Archie pulled the Friday blade out and said he could help her with her wish?

    Anyway, the point is, Psalms and such talk about God’s “crafting” the universe, not His “building it up one logical proposition at a time.” Funnily, the whole point of the propositional approach is to accurately match up with reality, but it fundamentally fails to match of with how God really does things, which is by making them (happen).

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 1:39 am

  11. oops…”But WHY, then – in the Bunueal film – did the pretty nun go running out of the room when…”

    It should be noted that the whole thrust of the propostional approach is to build to the truth in a way that is necessary for us to do because of the very fact that the truth isn’t always so readily obvious to the senses or immediately available to the intellect. My point is, then why take that need in the direction of analytic philosophy? When I present the question, some folks don’t have the ears to hear; yet that’s my whole point, is to have ears that hear (uummm…earst to TRUST, maybe instead).

    Jason

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 1:49 am

  12. Speaking of virtual realities. I just went to the churchandpomo site and realized that I never actually posted this morning. Funny, you were like, “What post this morning, where?” If reality is virtual, who was insane, me or you!?

    I will try and post again now…at churchandpomo. See if it works this time…

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 1:52 am

  13. Jason –

    It’s strange to see strands from various posts, written on different days, coming together in a set of your comments all one day. Kind of like the metaphysics of presence as a glimpse of eternity.

    Yeah, this was a possibility pruning algorithm. Our choosing a flight on June 21 obviates all other possible dates. There open up now the various nonexclusive virtual realities of our pending reincarnation in Boulder: therapists, writers, patrons of the arts, socal gadflies…

    Heidegger: I’ll have to go back and look at him in light of virtual versus actual. He usually talks about two ways of being in the world: authentic and inauthentic. Authenticity is where you progressively uncover the truths this world makes available to those who look; inaunthenticity is where you let yourself be distracted by idle talk and curiosity and the herd, so that you never see the truth. For Heidegger you’re always both authentic and inauthentic, and the world presents itself virtually to you in both modes. I think Gadamer takes Heidegger more in the direction of multiple ways of being-in, each of which might have its own truths to be discovered. Truths that get created through the process of uncovering? I’m not sure if that’s Gadamer or not.

    Christianity too has two virtual realities: the world and the kingdom, both interpenetrating the same stuff at the same time, but build on different foundations and held together with different structures. Also two virtual selves (old man and new man) that fit into these two virtual realities. Can you ever see them both at the same time, or does seeing one cause you to lose sight of the other (like those Gestalt tablecloths on one of your other comments)?

    Your reference to OT prophecy is interesting in this regard. Some contend that each prophecy has one and only one fulfillment, which eliminates all other possible fulfillments. Others see prophecy as a kind of virtual reality that can be filled again and again in different ways: this same prophecy might refer to a vengeance on Babylon, and the destruction of the Roman Empire, and the end of the world.

    You say: Psalms and such talk about God’s “crafting” the universe, not His “building it up one logical proposition at a time.” Funnily, the whole point of the propositional approach is to accurately match up with reality, but it fundamentally fails to match of with how God really does things, which is by making them (happen).

    Maybe virtual/actual is a good way to think about Biblical exegesis, and about the crafting process. The modernistic way is to regard all of Scripture as a single text, a totalizing discourse, one actual reality. Every individual text fits into this overarching unified logical structure. The structural exegete goes verse by verse, book by book, gradually pruning away all possible interpretations until you arrive at the one actual truth, which assembles itself before you as a great cathedral. But what if each book of the Bible, or even each separate thought unit, sketches out a small theme that can be manifested in a whole array of virtual realities, any or all of which can become actualized over the course of human history, in this culture or that one? So the Bible as a whole, instead of being the last reality standing after all the other possibilities have been pruned away, now comes alive in multiplicity. It generates a limitless number of virtual realities, the contours of which emerge from reading this particular passage in conjunction with some other passage, etc etc. And the kingdom manifests itself not as this single whole structure descending from the clouds, but in little glimpses, little bits of craft, in one of the virtuals becoming actual for at least a little while in this little corner of the world, in this little conversation. Then it disassembles itself, only to reappear in some slightly altered configuration somewhere else.

    If I was a Christian I’d run with this idea: Deleuze, virtual realities, and continually emerging facets of the kingdom. Maybe the final configuration is unspecified. Or maybe there will be no final configuration; the kingdom is always already coming on the clouds, here and there, now and then.

    The nun and Archie — I missed the idea or the question I’m afraid. Are you saying that Archie was just presenting the logical next step, the next whack of the blade pruning away the nun’s options for getting herself to heaven?

    I’ll go look for your Church and PoMo post…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 9:12 am

  14. Read it… liked the image of elohim creatorly talk.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  15. I have two things I want to read before the sun goes down. The Erdmanian Tornado’s paper on Ecclesiastes, and the link you provided somewhere at some time on Heidegger.
    http://www.formalontology.it/heideggerm.htm

    “Christianity too has two virtual realities: the world and the kingdom, both interpenetrating the same stuff at the same time, but build on different foundations and held together with different structures. Also two virtual selves (old man and new man) that fit into these two virtual realities. Can you ever see them both at the same time, or does seeing one cause you to lose sight of the other (like those Gestalt tablecloths on one of your other comments)?”

    I read this, though, and think, “Are they virtual or potential selves and/or realities?” My concern is for making. Aristotle’s political action, which emerges from potential, is still making. And still ontological (I think).

    And as of a month ago I thought of the foundations of the old and new man as two different ones. Now I think that that too is Protestant. Satan is a PRINCE, rather than another king. But he still has some rule. So I guess it’s like a smaller side platform that is still above the earth but far below God’s “throne.” Apply this to “Original Justice,” mentioned elsewhere, and with what as for Aquinas corresponded to our contemporary “conscience,” and you get ultimately one man and one reality. But with two differnet competing potential or virtual actualities or worlds.

    I’m not too sure about the fulfillment of prophecy.

    You wrote: “But what if each book of the Bible, or even each separate thought unit, sketches out a small theme that can be manifested in a whole array of virtual realities, any or all of which can become actualized over the course of human history, in this culture or that one? So the Bible as a whole, instead of being the last reality standing after all the other possibilities have been pruned away, now comes alive in multiplicity.”

    This reminds and helps me make sense of:
    http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/2006/10/what-kind-of-diversity-seeking.html
    I wonder how your vitual/actual distinction fits in there.

    “The nun and Archie — I missed the idea or the question I’m afraid. Are you saying that Archie was just presenting the logical next step, the next whack of the blade pruning away the nun’s options for getting herself to heaven?” Aahh…our Lacanian mirroring of each other. I was vicariously experiencing the story from the Nun’s position moreso than Archie’s. Systematic theology IS (or becomes) our saying “Sure, I’d like to die to get to heaven.” Then reality sets in, and we realize we actually have to live life; we go running from the room, usually plummeting to our (figurative) death. David Fitch is writing a book on modernism’s effect on our character, and plans to explore the character(s) that it has produced.

    My understanding is that strength and character come from trust in God, not in our intellect. As I quoted to T.G., from McLuhan: “It is not brains or intelligence that is needed to cope with the problems which Plato and Aristotle and all their successors to the present have failed to confront. What is needed is a readiness to undervalue the world altogether. This is only possible for the Christian. Willingness to laugh at the pompous hyperboles and banalities of moon-shots [very relevant to systematic theology] may need to be cultivated by some. The ‘scientific mind’ is far too specialized to grasp very large jokes. For example, Newton did not discover gravity, but levity, not earth-pull, but moon-pull.” – p. 92, The Medium and Light.

    In other words, I’m not but so concerned with Archie. He’s a bit screwed up in the head.
    :)

    I really don’t know WHAT he was doing. I’m not sure if he was really presenting the logical next step on how to get to heaven (after the nun’s saying she’d like to die), or if he was just being funny, or viscesious, or meanly murderous. So far as I’m concerned, he was presenting to me noting different from what is presented to me through most of the course of my daily living. My quest is to TRUST in the midst of all that; that’s all I was saying.

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  16. my one liner
    I have two things I want to read before the sun goes down. The Erdmanian Tornado’s paper on Ecclesiastes, and the link you provided somewhere at some time on Heidegger.
    http://www.formalontology.it/heideggerm.htm

    “Christianity too has two virtual realities: the world and the kingdom, both interpenetrating the same stuff at the same time, but build on different foundations and held together with different structures. Also two virtual selves (old man and new man) that fit into these two virtual realities. Can you ever see them both at the same time, or does seeing one cause you to lose sight of the other (like those Gestalt tablecloths on one of your other comments)?”

    I read this, though, and think, “Are they virtual or potential selves and/or realities?” My concern is for making. Aristotle’s political action, which emerges from potential, is still making. And still ontological (I think).

    And as of a month ago I thought of the foundations of the old and new man as two different ones. Now I think that that too is Protestant. Satan is a PRINCE, rather than another king. But he still has some rule. So I guess it’s like a smaller side platform that is still above the earth but far below God’s “throne.” Apply this to “Original Justice,” mentioned elsewhere, and with what as for Aquinas corresponded to our contemporary “conscience,” and you get ultimately one man and one reality. But with two differnet competing potential or virtual actualities or worlds.

    I’m not too sure about the fulfillment of prophecy.

    You wrote: “But what if each book of the Bible, or even each separate thought unit, sketches out a small theme that can be manifested in a whole array of virtual realities, any or all of which can become actualized over the course of human history, in this culture or that one? So the Bible as a whole, instead of being the last reality standing after all the other possibilities have been pruned away, now comes alive in multiplicity.”

    This reminds and helps me make sense of:
    http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/2006/10/what-kind-of-diversity-seeking.html
    I wonder how your vitual/actual distinction fits in there.

    “The nun and Archie — I missed the idea or the question I’m afraid. Are you saying that Archie was just presenting the logical next step, the next whack of the blade pruning away the nun’s options for getting herself to heaven?” Aahh…our Lacanian mirroring of each other. I was vicariously experiencing the story from the Nun’s position moreso than Archie’s. Systematic theology IS (or becomes) our saying “Sure, I’d like to die to get to heaven.” Then reality sets in, and we realize we actually have to live life; we go running from the room, usually plummeting to our (figurative) death. David Fitch is writing a book on modernism’s effect on our character, and plans to explore the character(s) that it has produced.

    My understanding is that strength and character come from trust in God, not in our intellect. As I quoted to T.G., from McLuhan: “It is not brains or intelligence that is needed to cope with the problems which Plato and Aristotle and all their successors to the present have failed to confront. What is needed is a readiness to undervalue the world altogether. This is only possible for the Christian. Willingness to laugh at the pompous hyperboles and banalities of moon-shots [very relevant to systematic theology] may need to be cultivated by some. The ‘scientific mind’ is far too specialized to grasp very large jokes. For example, Newton did not discover gravity, but levity, not earth-pull, but moon-pull.” – p. 92, The Medium and Light.

    In other words, I’m not but so concerned with Archie. He’s a bit screwed up in the head.
    :)

    I really don’t know WHAT he was doing. I’m not sure if he was really presenting the logical next step on how to get to heaven (after the nun’s saying she’d like to die), or if he was just being funny, or viscesious, or meanly murderous. So far as I’m concerned, he was presenting to me noting different from what is presented to me through most of the course of my daily living. My quest is to TRUST in the midst of all that; that’s all I was saying.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 18 May 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  17. one-liner…
    Jason –
    I read this, though, and think, “Are they virtual or potential selves and/or realities?” My concern is for making. Right, you want to make the virtual reality of the kingdom actual in your life. The kingdom is always already and everywhere present in virtual form. It’s not even hidden; it’s always being revealed. Can you see it; are you attuned to it? And are you prepared to make that virtual reality actual on an ongoing basis, and to become a person who is part of that reality?
    At the same time, there is at least one other virtual reality in the world that’s always already present and revealed: the princedom of Satan. You might oscillate back and forth between them; you might even occupy them both at the same time. In the here-and-now, in the da-Sein, these two realities are both virtually real. Eschatologically, from the point of view of an inevitable future, the kingdom of God is real because it’s eternal, whereas the princedom of Satan is a deception because it is to be destroyed. You could say these two are alternative ways of being-in: the here-and-now and the eschaton.
    Your quick dismissal of my hermeneutics of prophecy and Scripture, which I signaled as being something I thought might be important, I attribute mostly to the sense that it’s not what you’re thinking about right now. So I’ll store it up in my heart and maybe do a post on it.
    You’d have to tell me more about what it is in David Fitch’s post that resonates with the virtual-actual distinction.
    With respect to Archie and the nun, Archie was the massive ego run wild, where he identifies with king and priest and aristocracy, the triumvirate that ruled Spain and Mexico. Through his deadly embrace he carries the pure woman (who is the virgin Mother) to fulfilling her masochistic desire, which is full-time service to the ultimate Master, death. This is a Bunuel movie, who pretty much had to leave Spain because he pissed off the Catholic fascist regime of Franco. But even if Bunuel’s intention was to indict Catholicism, the film affords other readings, it contains glimpses of other virtual realities. Systematic theology? I can see it: the tyranny of a massively and multiply structured intellectual power that kills life through its totalizing discourse.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 19 May 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  18. One…I did a post on the systematic theology…and sort of the prophecy thing…LATE last night. I just woke up to the sound of my best friend’s banging on my window. I’m going hiking…I’m going to have to respond to all this stuff later. But I just wanted to let you know that I “quickly dismissed” the prophecy thing, because I was genuinely perplexed. That’s pretty much where I stand on it. I don’t have the prophecy issue reconciled and all put together in my head. It kind of reminds me of “inerrancy,” except I feel I have a better graspp on “inerrancy” as a historical development.

    I’m guessing you have lots of cool stuff in a bunch of other comments elsewhere too…I’ll have to get to them later, unfortunately.

    Lazer, dude.

    Jason

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 19 May 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  19. Having meditated on our dialogue here…I have a new question. You said that you felt that the distinction between prophecy being a one-time fulfillment as opposed to being fulfilled many times over to be an important one. But are you saying that that distinction in itself is important to the distinction between virtual and potential, or that the distinction is important to the Bible’s being Protestant facism (only one truth) or virtually/potentially (? – which one: virtual or potential) freeing?

    I’m guessing that you mean it in the first sense…as being important to the question of whether the Bible is facist or freeing. Because the next part of your referenced comment, after quoting my thought that potential/actual is still making, was your going on to say that virtual/actual is a good method of biblical exegesis. This seems to say to me that your saying that the potential/actual distinction in itself contributes to the facism. I would assume (for now) that you aren’t saying that the construct of potntial/actual isn’t in itself facist, but only in the context of our conversation:

    “The modernistic way is to regard all of Scripture as a single text, a totalizing discourse, one actual reality. Every individual text fits into this overarching unified logical structure. The structural exegete goes verse by verse, book by book, gradually pruning away all possible interpretations until you arrive at the one actual truth, which assembles itself before you as a great cathedral.”

    This leads me to two questions:

    1) What about ancient exegesis based on the construct of potential/actual? In that case, maybe your comment read (??): “The structural exegete goes verse by verse, book by book, gradually pruning away all possible interpretations until you arrive at the one potental truth, which assembles itself before you as a great theological conclusion, which will be actualized by the One whose Revelation guided the theological dialogue toward that potential reality.”

    2) Does, then, speaking of the potential truth as apprehended by the intellect as an actual one itself hinge on modern (or “post” modern) thinking? OR…does speaking of that “potential” truth as apprehended by the intellect as a virtual reality itself also hinge on modern cogitified thinking (the self as a “transcendental ego,” for example)?

    In other words, then, does the question of a facist and totalizing discourse hinge on one’s identification of his or her self with the body (or not), or does it hinge on the distinction between virtual/actual and potential/actual? In the direction of a possible answer (?), facism is distinctly modern (or “post” modern, if considered contemporarily).

    As for the David Fitch post and how – to me – it does or does not resonate with the virtual/potential distinction. I guess the idea would be that each cultural group or sub-group has its own hopes and dreams that are shaped by its place in the larger set. Each lives in its own world and its own reality. Is Fitch’s vision for a Eucharistic table consisting of representatives from many groups rather than predominantly only one group itself the virtual reality for a guilty-feeling white guy, or is it a potentially actualized reality which seems to point to the roots of both the sameness and difference of and between the different groups and/or sub-groups?

    IN other words, does the very fact of the pain and tension in and between the different groups reflect a real but unrealized potential truth of their larger unity, or is the idea of the “larger unity” (around the Eucharistic table) itself reflect either a kind of totalizing facist unity or a totalizing guilt-induction?

    Does the question itself hinge on a question of the goodness and God-ness of Christ, “through whom all were made” (as opposed to Christ’s being not good or not the Son of God), or does it instead hinge on the virtual/potential distinction?

    You wrote: “With respect to Archie and the nun, Archie was the massive ego run wild, where he identifies with king and priest and aristocracy, the triumvirate that ruled Spain and Mexico. Through his deadly embrace he carries the pure woman (who is the virgin Mother) to fulfilling her masochistic desire, which is full-time service to the ultimate Master, death.”

    This makes a lot of sense. I remembered noting in your post Archie’s aristocracy, which seemed important at the beginning of the story. I also remember noting that I would probably forget its importance as I later read some important part of the story that hinged on the fact of his aristocracy. Sure enough, I forgot.

    Question, though? What was the relationship between Franco’s regime and aristocracy? Was Franco reared an aristocrat? Was there still an upper class, as in Russian communism? I don’t know much about the Spanish politics of that time; I don’t think I even knew that Franco’s regime was Catholic, till now.

    Also, would some folk probably be proned to think of my notion of systematic theology, rather than Catholicism itself, as a watering down of the message of surrealism, which itself meant explicitly to take aim at Catholicism?

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 20 May 2007 @ 4:52 am

  20. Meister Jason –

    I’m suggesting that prophecy contains within itself a perpetual latency, an unlimited set of virtual fulfillments that depend on somebody in the world making them actual. This would account for why it seems like, in applying prophecies to the life of Christ, the NT writers stretch the seeming authorial intent of the OT writers. I’d have to do more homework to give specific examples, but there are OT prophecies that seem to have been fulfilled long before Jesus’s time, in the destruction of the Babylonian empire say, but that NT writers apply to Jesus’s times. Other OT prophecies seem to point beyond Jesus to a full restoration of Israel, but again NT writers say the fulfillment occurred already in Christ. And Christ himself foretells judgments and destructions that seem to have been fulfilled in the destruction of the second temple by the Romans, but Christians continue to interpret Jesus’s words as referring to the end days. If instead of a specific one-time-only fulfillment, prophecy might contain within itself any number of virtual fulfillments that can occur in many different space-time configurations.

    The idea of eliminating potentials until only one actual reality is left standing — this is the instinct behind systematic theology and a single valid reading of every Bible verse and a creed that specifies acceptable belief. The fascism comes in when the systematizers try to suppress dissent or variation from the one true potentiality made actual. Instead, it might be possible to see variations as authentic actualities of Christianity that express various combinations of the virtual without ever expressing everything in one single manifestation. Certainly this happens in varying expressions of the local church (which by the way was not acceptable in high Catholicism). But maybe it happens in all sorts of ways all the time: little ideas that come to mind, little bits of relationship that glimmer forth some incarnational aspect or other, etc. More later.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 11:30 am

  21. Possible versus actual theology. The early church gradually decided what it would regard as orthodox belief, codified in things like the Creeds, liturgies, rules for making icons, church chain of command, etc. As notoriously discussed previously on this blog, each statement in the Creed is a definitive selection of one and only one possibility as being actual; all the other possibilities are axed — at least as far as the monolithic entity of the Catholic Church was concerned. If this sort of pruning the options is distinctly modern, then modernity goes back at least to the 2nd century.

    But the other possibilities didn’t vanish just because they were officially banished. They remained virtual, latent in the holy texts and in the varying practices of believers. Some of them became actual, in forms that orthodoxy calls “sects” and “cults” — Marcionism, Montanism, and all the other -isms from the early church. And of course the Catholics regarded Protestantism as a cult and tried to snuff it out too. It’s still the official position of the Vatican that if you’re not Catholic you cannot have communion in a Catholic church. These are of course things you already know.

    On the other hand, as you point out, there are the medieval exegetical scholars performing all sorts of tricks with interpretation. The virtual plenitude of the texts is explicit: every text affords many virtual interpretations, but the praxis was nearly gnostic: there are spiritual and mystical readings found by the spiritual elite that are not accessible to the ordinary Christian — who was in fact discouraged from even making the attempt.

    What I’m talking about are ordinary readings, straightforward readings, that don’t necessarily assemble themselves into a structure. Instead they each float free of system, descriptive of limited aspects of the way God manifests himself at various times and places in the world. So instead of trying to reconcile a doctrine of Trinity, you can say that God is always virtually one and multiple. God can be actualized at the same time to a potentially unlimited number of people. To some he might be actually one; to others, actually three.

    I agree about your observations on the Fitch post: it’s the infinitely virtual Church manifesting itself actually in many variants, without ever exhausting themselves. Again, this was prohibited in the old Catholic church, but not so in Protestantism, especially in the more congregationally structured churches with local decision-making authority. I don’t know why every Eucharistic table needs to have representatives from all ethnic groups. That seems like the inverse of eliminating all possibilities but one. In this case there would need to be an inclusion of every possibility in order for it to be a full manifestation of the body of Christ. I don’t see why that should be necessary, unless the local church is explicitly excluding people. I would think that the virtuality of the body of Christ can be actualized in a local gathering just as authentically with all white people, or all black people, or a mixture. What do you think about this?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 20 May 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  22. “The fascism comes in when the systematizers try to suppress dissent or variation from the one true potentiality made actual.” Well, if this works out to say that gnosticism is a truly Christian actualized interpretation of Christian scripture, rather than truly Gnostic, then I’m a facist who believes in some form of Apostolic succession or authority.

    I guess, though, it also depends on what you mean by “suppression.” My expression Mondays friends can be gnostic if they so desire, but that doesn’t mean I will deem it truly Christian…it also doesn’t mean that I’ll violently punish them for their dissenting opinion.

    The way I see it, the consequences of their particular untruth will “naturally” manifest. Its only “God’s punishment” insofar as God doesn’t stop it. But the consequences WILL come. That is in itself facist only insofar as “the truth” of Christianity isn’t actually good and true. I’d prefer to know when I’m off my rocker.

    Specific examples of O.T. prophecy. Take Daniel’s image of the giant sculpture made of four different metals or metal alloys…smashed to bits. Saying that that image if fulfilled by the end of the Roman empire (different from your example) AS WELL AS an indicator of the end times is quite different from saying that it supports BOTH Christian and Gnostic interpretations of the Bible. Gnostic interpretation being only my example here, of course.

    The “pruning” process might go as far back as the 2nd century, but there’s still a difference between that and modern pruning. Pruning is much different when the tree is already up-side down (e.g. – Hegel)!

    I mean, you said: “But the other possibilities didn’t vanish just because they were officially banished. They remained virtual, latent in the holy texts and in the varying practices of believers. Some of them became actual, in forms that orthodoxy calls ‘sects’ and ‘cults’ — Marcionism, Montanism, and all the other -isms from the early church.” As far as I know, the pruning process of orthodoxy started in response to ACTUAL as-yet-undefined-as-such UNorthodox branches. In other words, the “other possibilities” didn’t remain virtual, but remained actual.

    As we’ve been discussing on the difference between Heidegger and Derrida, I don’t take it to be facist that we can uncover some or many – or even most or all of the essential – historical developments that lead to current (mis)interpretations that may or may not have some actualized form.

    Part of this, though, is simply my belief in an essential truth of Christ at the Cross, as paralelled – in the context of our conversation maybe – by my “belief” in speech as being “essential” to being human. Not as opposed to speech’s exestistentially coming forth from the son, but as opposed to cognition as a development of evolutionary development. And I’m also not here denying the truth evolution.

    You said: “What I’m talking about are ordinary readings, straightforward readings, that don’t necessarily assemble themselves into a structure. Instead they each float free of system, descriptive of limited aspects of the way God manifests himself at various times and places in the world.” Here I think is good evidence that we are speaking two different languages. To me, God’s essentail truth demonstrated at the Cross is present in each localized community and individual, but that’s different from saying that the Cross has many different true interpretations. How that relates to virtual vs. potential, though I’m not sure.

    Lets be more specific to what you said: “So instead of trying to reconcile a doctrine of Trinity, you can say that God is always virtually one and multiple.” Here you seem to be taking Deleuze with you to the Trinity, no? In a previous conversation on Deleuze, I said that I had a problem with his “modalism,” if I remember correctly. It might sound facist for me to say that such modalism flies in the face of the notion of God’s judgement, but that’s not even the central point. The central point is the reflections between the personhood of God and myself…which is good news. The reality of judgement is contingent upon the reality of my personhood, which I would prefer.

    And more specific even to our conversation on facism and interpretations: to say that the actual text of Scripture is open to either the orthodox or more Deleuzian interpretation of the Trinity is different from saying that the truth of the pure and good reflecting relationship occuring between God and man is localized in each person or communal being is different from saying that the Trinity can be interpreted in an orthodox or a Deleuzian manner.

    You said: “I don’t know why every Eucharistic table needs to have representatives from all ethnic groups. That seems like the inverse of eliminating all possibilities but one. In this case there would need to be an inclusion of every possibility in order for it to be a full manifestation of the body of Christ. I don’t see why that should be necessary, unless the local church is explicitly excluding people. I would think that the virtuality of the body of Christ can be actualized in a local gathering just as authentically with all white people, or all black people, or a mixture. What do you think about this?”

    I don’t know if the church is explicitly excluding folks, but I think the problem is the the church isn’t explicitly including folks. The fact is that our world is ripe with racial, ethnic and cultural tensions. Insofar as Christ is the reconciler and the bringer of peace, then his body would appropriately reflect that. Insofar as his body does not reflect that truth, then I would think something is wrong. And I would think that that thing that would be wrong would be the same exact thing that is wrong “out in the world,” that tension between racial and ethnic and cultural groups.

    I know there are folks in my very Christian community who struggle with being judgemental toward the Armenians in the church neighborhood, for example. Of coure, though, that’s not “explicit.” Its hidden, until those folks in my church body are comfortable enough to share with you that shameful secret. The Eucharistic table is to be the place of the light.

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  23. Jason –

    Sure, go ahead, rain on my parade — and I was still just warming up. Okay, you already know what’s wrong with my position before I’ve even stated it clearly. I’ll try to suppress my hurt feelings and respond with all due cordiality to your points.

    First of all, your inferences when I use the word “gnostic” I suspect goes far beyond what I mean. I’m talking about the essentially gnostic contention that some people have more spiritual insight than others, so they can find meanings in texts that ordinary people cannot. There is some kernel of truth to that contention, don’t you agree? And the medieval exegetes who did spiritual interpretations practiced this kind of gnosticism within the good graces of the church. And it’s this incipient gnosticism in medieval exegesis that Calvin and Luther explicitly rejected when they proclaimed that every believer can read the Bible for him/herself. Which also has a kernel of truth, don’t you agree?

    If God punishes your gnostic friends for not accepting the truth, I’d say he’s got issues. But this is another area where there are kernels of truth embedded in Scripture that are hard to reconcile systematically. It’s possible to read the NT in a way that has Christ dying for everyone, reconciling everyone to God through himself. Do you agree?

    I have no idea how the Gnostics would interpret the Daniel prophecy.

    Why is the tree upside down in Hegel? I take it you regard an upside down tree as an inversion of the right order of things. Is it because Hegel believed that history is a gradual reconciliation of the man and God? Or because God is coming into gradual reconciliation with Himself? Aren’t there readings of Scripture that would be consistent with both of these Hegelian positions? Would you be sure they were wrong?

    Similarly, are you sure that modalism is wrong? (Deleuze is atheist I’m pretty sure, so I don’t think he’s a good representative of the idea.) Why would modalism fly in the face of God’s judgment? It’s a pretty sophisticated theological point, and I suspect there are plenty of Christians who would agree with it if someone presented it to them, not even realizing that it’s heretical.

    As I said, these are all responses to your objections to a position whose main points have yet to be elaborated.

    I agree with your position on the Eucharistic table.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 8:07 pm

  24. “Sure, go ahead, rain on my parade — and I was still just warming up. Okay, you already know what’s wrong with my position before I’ve even stated it clearly. I’ll try to suppress my hurt feelings and respond with all due cordiality to your points.”

    Sorry but this made me laugh. Please don’t suppress your feelings. But please be courteous, if possible. I’m a sensitive fella’.

    “First of all, your inferences when I use the word ‘gnostic’ I suspect goes far beyond what I mean.” To be clear, I was only using the term “gnostic” as an example of my illustration of the difference between false interpretations and different possiblilities for interpretation embedded in the text. I guess, though, I’m not sure of what your suspicion is exactly.

    As for Catholic and Protestant exegetical practices of late medieval times…I’d say that “yes,” there is a kernal of truth to your gnostic reading there. But the Catholic discouragement of lay folks’ producing their own interpretations could just as well be owed to: A) the fact that those doing the interpreting would have been freakin’ illiterate and would have never even read the Bible, meaning that their being discouraged for producing personal interpretations may have been partially a good idea, coupled with B) powerful folks’ lust for power.

    You said, “If God punishes your gnostic friends for not accepting the truth, I’d say he’s got issues.” This, too, made me laugh. I would here reference my example of the hot woman at church, which I just posted at your “Thinking Is Not A Crime” post. Or, in general, I would point there for the whole idea of “God’s punishment.”

    You then said: “But this is another area where there are kernels of truth embedded in Scripture that are hard to reconcile systematically. It’s possible to read the NT in a way that has Christ dying for everyone, reconciling everyone to God through himself. Do you agree?”

    I’d say that the obvious consequences with my fulfilling my sexual desires (and hers, presumably) is, in terms of my existential condition here locally, as Johnathan was noting at the discussion on Heidegger and “uncovering” and metanarratives ect., is reconcilable with the idea of God’s reconciling all folks to Himself. That God doesn’t let me wallow in my spiritual stupidity doesn’t mean that He is running in the opposite direction when he catches sight of my wretched and stubborn (but Golden) ass. In fact, it means quite the opposite!

    “I have no idea how the Gnostics would interpret the Daniel prophecy.” Me neither. How profound are we, eh!? Lol.

    “Why is the tree upside down in Hegel? I take it you regard an upside down tree as an inversion of the right order of things.” Yes, but I was only talking about the proper order between body and intellect. Hegel’s intellectual and individual process of “dialectic(ing)” is an intellectual one. But he regards it as a kind of actualization, or a kind of actual search or quest, at least.

    “Is it because Hegel believed that history is a gradual reconciliation of the man and God? Or because God is coming into gradual reconciliation with Himself?” Uuuhhh…I’m not sure about those notions from Hegel; and I’m not sure hwo they fit in with where I stand, either.

    “Aren’t there readings of Scripture that would be consistent with both of these Hegelian positions? Would you be sure they were wrong?” I’m in a fog on that one.

    “Similarly, are you sure that modalism is wrong? (Deleuze is atheist I’m pretty sure, so I don’t think he’s a good representative of the idea.) Why would modalism fly in the face of God’s judgment?” Well, of course I’m not “sure.” But my take on it is that it is “wrong.” My take on modalism and why it would fly in the face of the idea of God’s judgement, is that eschatologically modalism – in my mind – leads to our simply returning to our “source” when we “die.” Again, though, the problem here isn’t centrally the judgement issue, but the issue of my personhood. When I “die” I won’t just return to my true spirit self or be taken up into the Univeral Spirit, or whatever.

    My take is that I’m becoming who I will be when I “die.” Or at least that’s one side of the coin of my take. The other side being the reign of Grace on who I am “becoming.”

    “As I said, these are all responses to your objections to a position whose main points have yet to be elaborated.” Elaborate away, my friend.

    “I agree with your position on the Eucharistic table.” Sweet.

    Like

    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  25. Okay, we have a clear field ahead of us. I’ll have to wait for inspiration to strike again before I elaborate — it was a beautiful moment, but it’s receded a bit. I’m pretty sure it’ll come back though, in the not too distant future. As I said, maybe a post. Or maybe after I think about it more I’ll think it’s not that good after all.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 21 May 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  26. Please do another post, if you elaborate! I’m SO confused following all these posts!

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    Comment by Jaosn Hesiak — 21 May 2007 @ 9:27 pm


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