The unitary or dominant way of thinking is that of a generalized hermeneutics, a hermeto-logy… The unitary philosopher (the philosopher of Being, then of Difference) was always a representative, emissary, and civil servant of the Postal and Telecommunication ministry; a transmitter and decoder of hermeto-logical Difference; an agent of postal ingenuity. He exploits confusion, the ambiguity of the secret and of censure. Nearly all philosophers were the mailmen of truth, and they diverted the truth for reasons less to do with the secret that with authoritarian censure. Meaning, always more meaning! Information, always more information! Such is the mantra of hermeto-logical Difference, which mixes together truth and communication, the real and information. The most extreme version of this hermeto-logical ambiguity is the Hegelian and Nietzschean principle: the real is communicational, the communicational is real. it is in the omnipresent effectivity of communication that hermeto-logy itself deteriorates.
– François Laruelle, “The Truth According to Hermes,” 2010
This is important to me, but I can’t tell you why.
Okay fine, I’ll say a little bit about it. I just read The Infinities, a John Banville novel narrated primarily by the Greek god Hermes. He is the divine messenger, interpreting the gods to men and vice versa. But at some point Banville’s Hermeneutical narrator acknowledges that, for the gods, watching mortals engaging in the material world is like looking into a mirror: try to reach in, to make direct contact, and the mirror breaks. Even for this narrational Hermes, then, the world of men is sealed off from the gods. This got me thinking about the other Hermes, Trismegistus, the purported author of the ancient esoteric Hermetic Texts. Was he god or man? I don’t know. He is credited with using his alchemical knowledge to make an airtight seal on a glass tube, hence “hermetically sealed.” Plato alleged that some Egyptian temple contained a secret library of Hermetic texts dating back 9 thousand years. I don’t know much about his writings, but I presume that this other Hermes claimed access to hidden knowledge. Evidently Banville’s hermeneutical narrator didn’t have access to the hermetic keys for unlocking the material world.
It turns out that I recently finished writing a novel called The Courier, about a guy who transmits packages and messages. I didn’t explicitly link the titular character to either Hermes, but he is both. As carrier of messages he is a hermeneutician; as one who does not break the seals on the messages he carries he is hermetic.
Yesterday I happened to come across Laruelle’s essay; I know it was referenced by one of the theory blogs, either Agent Swarm or An Und Fur Sich or Ecology Without Nature or Archive Fire. Laruelle’s idea of the philosopher as general-purpose hermeneutician, as “mailman of truth,” suits my fictional Courier nicely. Earlier Laruelle writes:
Next to the unitary and authoritarian Hermes, there is another Hermes. He defines the essence of truth as a secret, but as a secret that in order to exist and to be made known needs none of the light of logos, none of the tricks of meaning, the strategies of interpretation, the horizons of the World, or the transcendent forms of appearance. Truth as secret exists autonomously prior to the horizontality of appearance. The secret enjoys an absolute precedence over interpretation; it is itself the Uninterpretable from which an interpretation emerges. It is the invisible that has never been visible because it is known from the outset to be invisible. The essence of the secret does not reside in a rupture or redrawing that de-limits presence via some kind of withdrawal or “retrocession.” That the secret has never appeared in the horizon of presence is simply an effect, the effect of its positive essence.
And that works for my Courier too, in his hermetic mode: some parcels can never be opened. Not that I necessarily believe that Laruelle’s discussion of truth is itself true…