Thursday, May 22, 2014

Natural Laws

So what I want to do is, in the first part of my talk, to propose a certain reading of Christianity, aiming to demonstrate how Christianity effectively provides the foundation to human rights and freedoms.

To put it in a somewhat simplified way — I simplify it very much, I know — there are two basic attitudes discernible in the history of religions along the axis of the opposition between the global and the universal: On the one hand, there is the pre-Christian pagan cosmos, the divine hierarchical order of cosmic principles which, when copied on the society, gives the image of a congruent edifice in which each member is at each/his/her own place. The supreme good is here the global balance of principles, while the evil stands for their derailment or derangement, for the excessive assertion of one principle to the detriment of other principles, of the masculine principle to the detriment of the feminine one, of reason to the detriment of feeling, and so on and so on. The cosmic balance is then reestablished through the work of justice which, with its inexorable necessity, sets things straight again by crushing the derailed element. With regard to the social body, an individual is good when he or she acts in accordance with his/her special place within the social edifice, when he respects nature which provides food and shelter, when he shows respect for his superiors who take care of him in a fatherly way, and so on and so on. And evil occurs when some particular strata or individuals are no longer satisfied with their proper place within the global order, when children no longer obey parents, when servants no longer obey their masters, when the wise ruler turns into a capricious, cruel tyrant, and so on.

So the very core of the pagan wisdom resides in the insight into this cosmic balance of hierarchically ordered principles, more precisely, the insight into the eternal circuit of the cosmic catastrophe, derailment, and the restoration of order through just punishment. Perhaps the most elaborated case of such a cosmic order is the ancient Hindu cosmology first copied onto the social order in the guise of the system of castes, and then onto the individual organism itself in the guise of the harmonious hierarchy of its organs: head, hands, abdomen, and so on. Today such an attitude is artificially resuscitated in the multitude of New Age approaches to nature, society, and so on and so on. So that's the standard, traditional, pagan order. Again, being good means that you fully assume your proper place within some global order. But Christianity, and in its own way already — maybe, I'm not sure, I don't know enough about it — Buddhism, introduce into this global balance, cosmic order, a principle totally foreign to it, a principle that, measured by the standards of the pagan cosmology, cannot but appear as a monstrous distortion, the principle according to which each individual has an immediate access to the universality of nirvana, or the Holy Spirit, or today, of human rights and freedoms. The idea is that I can participate in this universal dimension directly, irrespective of my specific particular place within the global order. For that reason, Buddha's followers form a community of people who in one way or another have broken with the hierarchy of the social order, who started to treat this order as something fundamentally irrelevant. In his choice of disciples, Buddha pointedly ignored castes and, after some hesitation, true, even sexual difference. And do Christ's scandalous words from Luke [14:26] look, not point, in the same direction? "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Here, of course, I claim we are not dealing with a simple brutal hatred demanded by a cruel and jealous god. Family relations stand here metaphorically for the entire social network, for any particular ethnic substance that determines my place in the global order of things. The hatred enjoined by Christ is therefore not any kind of dialectical opposite of love, but the direct expression of love. It is love itself that enjoins me to unplug, as it were, from my organic community into which I was born, or, as St. Paul put it, "There are neither men nor women, neither Jews nor Greeks."

We can see here how truly heterogeneous is the Christian stance with regard to that of the pagan wisdom. In clear contrast to the ultimate horizon of the pagan wisdom, which is the coincidence of the opposites — Namely, what is wisdom? The ultimate point of wisdom is that our universe is the abyss of the primordial ground in which all false opposites — good and evil, appearance and reality, and so on and so on — ultimately coincide. That's wisdom. Wisdom always is basically a fake platitude, I claim. You can be sure of it. Make a simple experiment. I think the proper attitude of a proper Christian or leftist today is to despise wisdom. What's wisdom? What's wisdom? Wisdom is that whatever happens you have a good excuse. Wisdom means you do something. If you succeed, then you have a proverb which is a form of wisdom to legitimize it, like we in Europe have a proverb, a standard one which says, Only those who risk can succeed. If you fail we have another proverb to legitimize it which says in very vulgar terms — something, I don't have it in English — You cannot urinate against the wind. That's wisdom for me. Anything goes basically. The basic wisdom is that differences don't matter, what was up comes down, this eternal circulation of fortune, and so on and so on.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Human Rights and Its' Discontents"

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