9 October 2008

Trinitarian Labor Union

Filed under: Christianity, Ktismata, Psychology — ktismatics @ 4:23 pm

I concluded my post about calling by suggesting that, when a cook goes beyond merely satisfying appetites and begins trying to create something like culinary beauty, then perhaps the cook’s passion goes deeper and the calling higher — as if it were the Holy Spirit working in and through this cook. This low/high, shallow/deep distinction between appetite and art is an elitist one, where God is more concerned with pleasing the food critics than with feeding the hungry. But a cook who makes food more readily available to the hungry who otherwise might have to do without: isn’t such a cook performing an act of justice? So let’s democratize the possibility of divine calling: not just deeper and higher but wider might distinguish the Spirit’s summons.

In this mystified model of Passion and Calling the Holy Spirit has a job to do, but for the Christian Trinity that’s only a 33% employment rate. How about the Father and the Son: what useful work might they perform? Here’s a tentative outline of trinitarian job descriptions:

The Holy Spirit generates the energy that activates Passion and Calling, through which the self maintains a dynamic connection to the other and the world. The Spirit’s force is immanent, generating the drives and desires that propel human action, as well as the environmental attractors and affordances that draw human attention to themselves as possible satisfiers of desire. In Deleuzian terms, this Spirit-force is the source of all multiplicity, shooting rhizomes through the world that merge and collide with and counteract each other, churning up a dynamic force field in which everything takes shape. It is through the widespread and complex interactions and attractions affecting these immanent vectors of multiplicity that the Spirit also generates transcendence: the structures and collective forces which accumulate into a medium in which all this dynamic activity takes place.

The Son is the force of incarnation, where body interacts with spirit. This is the force of individuation and subjectivity and personal agency. It’s the force through which the free self paradoxically emerges from the interacting tyrannies of biological determinism and sociocultural hegemony. The incarnate self is inspired, channeling the passions that flow through him or her in order to shape the rhizomes of multiplicity shooting through the world. The incarnate self cultivates expertise and taste and standards in order to shape the world in particular ways. Through interaction with others and the diverse calls they issue, the incarnate self moves toward identity within flux, toward individuality within collectivity, toward meaning within absurdity. The Son represents human agency both individually and corporately: the senders and receivers of passion and calling, the individual worker and the workforce, the impetus for discrete works of creation and for the cumulative works of human culture.

The Father is the force of plenitude and perfection. Truth, Beauty, Justice — these are standards that exceed passion and calling, that go beyond individual self-expression and difference. These standards cannot be prescribed by law nor are they universal and eternal: they depend on the movement of Spirit shaped by the agency of incarnation in specific places and times. The Father also establishes the standard of subjective incarnational excellence which manifests itself uniquely for each individual. The Father is the horizon toward which all creation and every creator moves.

I haven’t compiled specific Scriptural references to justify this framework. As a materialist I don’t even buy into it myself. As I said, it’s a tentative formulation, possibly providing a basis for further conversation and collaboration.



  1. Shhhheeeesh….Just when I thought I’d figured out the last Trinitarian speculation related to the Lacanian Order, you mix it up again!

    I guess my first question is whether or not you think there is a correlation between the above proposal and the Lacan-Trinitarian speculation from your prior post.


    Comment by Erdman — 15 October 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  2. I think that this is a good model for showing a parallel between your thinking and Trinitarian theology. In other words, the above outline seems to allow you (an atheist/agnostic) to bridge the gap between atheism and theism, giving you the opportunity to participate with Christians (or the religiously minded) in a counseling setting. I think it gives both yourself and the religious a “playing field,” if you will, that allows you to engage in a game you will both understand and relate with.


    Comment by Erdman — 15 October 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  3. You’re referring to our discussion on the Unconscious God of Lacan post from last month. Of course that already presented challenge enough, since I have only limited understanding of Lacan and of trinitarian theology. I have a sense that the Church’s interest in assigning jobs to the Three-in-One peaked about 1500 years ago, so we’ve probably got plenty of leeway in making it jibe with a quasi-psychoanalytic interpretation of work.

    In that prior post I wrote this: “Chiesa says that, for Lacan, the primal Other is the Holy Spirit, the immanent elan vitale, the ‘sprite of the current’.” I think I”m consistent with that position here, and also with Deleuze. The Spirit is the source of energy or flow that passes through the world, dynamically linking self to other through passion and calling.

    A question Chiesa addressed was whether, on the other side of the Symbolic order, there is an Other of the Other who affirms that language actually makes connection with the Real. This Big Other would be the Father, or a Lacan calls him “the Name of the Father” — the Master Signifier. The Father also stands symbolically behind the Law in Lacan, imposing the constant threat of castration on all violators. Again for Lacan there is no Big Other, but if there was, He would be the primal Reality that stands behind both language and law, as well the end or eschatological fullness toward which language and law point. I think the role I assign to the Father here is compatible with that Lacanian-inspired idea: a perfection or plenitude that stands behind and before the human standards of excellence guiding the worker.

    I’ll have to return later to talk about the Son, but now other duties call…


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 October 2008 @ 10:55 am

  4. In our prior discussion, Erdman, you sought to associate the Son with Lacan’s Imaginary, inasmuch as he is the image of the Father, but then you thought maybe the Son is the Symbolic because the Son is also the Word. Both are good thoughts: for Lacan the Imaginary is predicated on an originary self-image that’s whole and perfect, like Jesus presumably. But then again through the Symbolic the son is granted entry by the father into the social order, which likewise could be Jesus’ relationship with the Father. It’s problematic, though, because all of Lacan’s orders are imperfect: the Real is killed by the Symbolic; the Symbolic is castrated from the Real and is always missing something that’s been taken away; the Imaginary whole is always shattered by the Symbolic breaking the whole into concepts and words. So then you could argue that for Lacan the Son is that which fills the gap, that restores the wholeness, that reunites the self with the Real. This idea would fit with the “magical Jesus” who takes up residence in the believer’s heart when s/he is born again.

    On the other hand, we can regard Jesus as someone who found himself living in a particular sociohistorical moment, trying to find some authentic and distinct way of being and doing that wasn’t overdetermined by his own genetic make-up or the conflicting cultures in which he was embedded. This becoming-subject and becoming-agent is what Lacanian analysis is all about. In Badiou’s sense this Lacanian Jesus was living a resurrection life, back from the dead of biological and cultural depersonalization. He engaged some forces of desire that passed through him while resisting others, upholding higher principles as they applied to his specific Dasein. He acted out of passion and in response to calling, but he actively shaped these forces through subjective agency. Yes?

    Erdman, I’m not sure how trinitarian thinking affects the church generally. Sure you get the Father as creator, the Son as role model and savior, the Spirit as helper to be more personally holy. But what about the Christian at work in the world: is there a theological sense of how the triune God works in cooperation with people in the Dasein?


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 October 2008 @ 2:53 pm

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