Holy to Holy S***
Christianity operates through a lack: we cannot know God, so a “gap” must be filled between God and Humans. Christ is God splitting from 1 into 2, allowing us to identify and get closer to the mystery of God, but in so doing, Christ was subjected to the filth of this world. (Zizek)
The reversal of the one God splitting into two (only to mysteriously re-unify us) is the process of poop: taking all values and reducing them into one homogenous, non-mysterious pile. (Bataille)
Growth can occur from this filth (otherwise known as manure), producing roses. Beauty from secular waste, rather than an excessive effort towards mysteries that only slip away as you approach them. (Hegel)
This is a continuation of Step 74: Symbolic Victory
- 0:00 Introduction to this episode.
- 1:16 Limitations of the self and the symbolic unknowable.
- 3:41 How we identify with filth and alienation.
- 5:30 The fragmentation of the monolith.
- 7:30 Moving the sacred to the secular.
- 9:39 Solving the mystery leads to more mysteries.
- 12:16 How mimetic desire works.
- 13:41 Moving from the real to the symbolic.
- 15:29 We shun the real shit and believe bullshit.
“Sex & the Failed Absolute” Slavoj Zizek
Part 5: Christianity: Holy into Holy S***
Part 6: Real Shit vs Bullshit
We continue to challenge the persistent “binary trap,” recognizing the contradictory nature of our engagement with the world. By shedding light on these systemic operations and personal impulses, the podcast aims to empower individuals to make conscious choices in response to the allure of binary systems, both on an individual and societal level.
Binaries (didactics) atomize and fragment us while also binding us together in opposition. However, they will not vanish or be overcome, so we must discover alternative approaches to maintain social institutions and foster community without succumbing to hyperbolic division and estrangement.
We begin our journey from the realm of political symbolism and signaling in America to the functioning of reputation in the Wild West. The next episode will extend these notions into the enigmatic realm of subjectivity, where symbols (such as Christianity) hold both the power to realize ourselves and the potential for danger.
Step 75: Holy to Holy S***
Part 5: Christianity (from holy to holy s***)
To really dig into the symbolic victory lets look at Christianity. Through Slavoj Žižek talking about GWF Hegel Christianity captures the “essential failure of man himself,” that is of all humankind: if your only way to achieve subjectivity is because of an inherent limitation when a substance cannot achieve full identity with itself, that means the ‘self’ is blocked by some impossibility: an apparent agonism.
There is a “gap” between being human and achieving the transcendent or ideal.
Zizek says it is exactly that slack (the gap) that leads to the subjectivity of the self and the striving that develops an identity.
The point here is that the limitations of our thoughts are also the limitations of being itself. That means an impossibility of completely “knowing” the other because we cannot “think” them. To think is to know, and yet we cannot “think God,” he necessarily remains a mystery to us, so we cannot wholly know ourselves.
The gap between this total knowledge of the other as complete knowledge of the self is the mystery that motivates us.
This is the symbolic unknowable, which cannot be attained. From Step 74, this is not a symbolic win but a symbolic mystery you cannot achieve. This mystery moves us forward (lures us deeper).
Zizek goes on: This contradiction or limit, this impossibility, supplies the Christians with unity.
It goes like this: so far as man could not overcome the distance between himself and God, only God could bridge that gap, so God took this “failure” upon himself and sent his son down to be sacrificed and scapegoated. To function in the gap between the unknowable God and the striving human.
This symbolic enactment had to be real, with real consequences, not just a promise: God forsook himself. God alienated from God, fragmenting himself to make his son.
We, humans, can identify with being forsaken and alienated. This becomes our path (or pathos) to locate (or identify). Wallowing in the real, the pain and misery, allows us to unite with some small, fragmentary aspect of the Father: the Christ fragment is the knowable part of the unknowable God.
In terms of symbolic victory, this is a pathological driving force, which is necessary -not overcoming the world’s filth as we think of the sacred doing- but identifying with the filth and alienation as a means to get closer to God.
Holy Union, through the profane
The holy union is only possible by relating to the distasteful aspects of humanity: pain, sacrifice, fear, and torture to create Christ as the unjust scapegoat. This fuels righteous indignation, which unites people.
First, let’s consider the shape of this logic:
We see that God doubled part of himself as a fragment, Christ, which creates distance in the one God as he is somehow two and one simultaneously. And yet the split, let’s consider it an antagonism, is an attempt to create distance – to separate- which confoundingly does the opposite: the 1 splits into 2, providing a gap or space, allowing for our ability to relate to the mystery of God, or at least to get closer, to have a foothold.
We need the profane to approach the sacred.
Relating to pain and sacrifice, which are now brought into the mystery (through the re-union of Christ with God), makes us all one. Unity is attained by the powerful creating a chink in the monolith. This is not necessarily the transparency of vulnerability but the extension of the self into multiple selves having alternate experiences yet re-merged back into each other.
The philosophy of the profane
To take the need for the distasteful, painful, and sordid -that is our most filthy aspect– as necessary for unity, we must queue here Georges Bataille and Godard and their commentary on shit.
This is the holy nature of shit: to consume the structure and values, only to have them excreted as an undifferentiated mound, to which we can all uniformly relate with no hierarchy, and only from this flattened stinky mass is growth possible. ~ The sacred to the secular.
I know you’d like to think your shit don’t stank, but … Lean a little bit closer, see … Roses really smell like poo-poo-oohOutkast (Andre 3000) ~ Roses
This shit process is not making the 1 into 2, keeping it sacred and mysterious; God doubled into Christ to unify us back into one. Poop making is taking everything and reducing it to 1. It is blunt, non-mysterious, and non-motivational unification.
With God/Christ, the invitation into the indescribable, the transcendent, inscribe us together: the mystery is holy. With shit, I suppose there is no curiosity or mystery, more disgust and revulsion. But it is a dissolution of values, and while filthy and nearly nihilistic, it avoids the trappings and righteousness required by the sacred.
The ever-moving mystery
Hegel brings up the Egyptians. Mentioning that their secrets, or secrets to them, their “mysteries,” were not there to be resolved into some profound insight, just as a man cannot purify himself enough to unite with God.
To solve the antimony allows you to ascend, to sublate, to approach the sacred. This is to gain insight. But for the Egyptians, if resolved, these mysteries changed their location.
Solving the mystery only re-doubles the mystery into a more profound mystery; the more unthinkable, the more mysterious. (Unless it remains a first-order mystery.) In this analysis, the very attempt to resolve the mystery is the point of our failure.
Now, in a personal or individualist sense, in a Hegelian sense, your subjectivity is your attempt and the failure is you. Your identity is not just the attempt to solve; you are “captured” and bound into this mysterious other; this void. The mystery is a vacuum, a gap in front of you, and the driving force is more like a vacuum pulling you in, the low-pressure area in front of a sail.
You are the gap of your inability; your failure is your mystery.
And yet… the mystery was there before you, often shaped by forces beyond you, the ‘other’ who shapes your motivations. Your failure mirrors it’s own.
Step 75: Holy to Holy S***
Part 6: Bullshit
Pinching it off: we are considering mimetic desire, scapegoating, and sacrifice as a type of symbolic victory. We sacrifice to win and to unify. The symbolic sacrifice must have some element of real sacrifice (pain or death).
As well, humans need symbols and mystery to drive themselves. In a Hegelian fashion and in a Lacanian tradition, our drive is “desire,” which Lacan says is how we know ourselves as a subject. The mystery in front of you, the desire you pursue, creates you as a subject. You need a desired mystery to be you.
To solve the mystery, catch the sexy partner, or win the promotion is not to end the pursuit or mystery; it is merely to move the mystery deeper into the more unthinkable, to shift the mystery into a more unattainable object. (The location of the mystery moves: if you can solve it, it reveals a more profound mystery worth pursuing, which maintains your identity as a desiring subject.)
Mimetic desire works because we don’t see its mechanisms functioning on us. We don’t realize our desires have been introduced by a hidden mechanism, a subconscious, subliminal machine that starts our hedonic treadmill.
Scapegoating works because our anger and jealousy are put into overdrive by a competition of wanting and not getting, which is cybernetically channeled into violence. The “steam valve” of society is sanctioned murder: an extreme of filth that is blindly turned unifying sacred.
This pain-ridden idiocy (relatable injustice) gave us Christ, unifying while dividing. This is to be victorious through defeat, which is a doozy of a symbolic reversal. The victim is indeed the unifier and, in a reverse sense, the most powerful.
Filthy unification in society today
To tie this back to the last episode: economically and politically, our society primarily has our material conditions met, so we move into the symbolic, the abstraction, for stability, even though it is not always smoothly functional and is highly manipulable.
This leap from the real into the symbolic provides stability: as the real collapses around you, you can still claim permanence. (The abstract can remain eternal, unaffected by reality.) Once again, look to the Egyptian’s claims to permanence, attempted through the excesses of material reality, Christian cathedrals, or the stock market’s skyscrapers.
Georges Bataille discusses sacrifice as the excesses of civilization that must be squandered. The excess must be wasted: Bataille’s “accursed share” is the “luxury” destined for waste. Funeral rights, the hygiene of war, state and religious expansion, and extravagance on all fronts are an enactment of waste due to luxury.
An important reminder: The sacrifices are real and grounded in real-world actions: the squandering is in the form of death and destruction, opulence in structures, or bacchanalias. Yet they are obviously instantiated by symbolic and social prevarications. The actual acts stem from the symbolic: it is “real production” from the “production of the Real.”
Obviously, we know our reality is shaped by the symbolic, and we increasingly believe the symbolic is increasingly powerfully effective. Yet, those accustomed to this “symbolic reality” can neglect the real (reality), reversing the relationship and increasing the order of the simulacra.
We shun real shit and believe bullshit.Ryder
And for those of you aware of Bataille, he loves shit, reminding us the undifferentiated mass is the only way you grow something. You can’t have the rose unless you have the shit it grows from.
It is necessary to muck about, go through shit: taking your experiences and problems and mashing them, leveling them, grounding them into some secular fuel. This highlights the symbolic, or simulacra’s, deceptive promise: avoiding reality but still gaining results.
Bluntly, it is easier to manipulate symbols than reality, and the game of social standing can very quickly become all about symbolic gamesmanship. This game is signaling without a signifier, leading us to write off the real individuals we scapegoat and sacrifice to win because a more significant ideological symbol (an abstraction) trumps their individual worth.
Step 75: Holy to Holy S***
The next episode will be on Trash, another example by Zizek that helps us grasp the “concrete universal.”
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Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (’83)
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