Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I started reading the new Sloterdijk book, since it was published as a paperback.
I enjoy it; I'm far from finishing it, but so far he seems to introduce a new concept which will replace the construct of "Religion". Instead, Religions will be subsumed under the category of ascetic practices, which makes the human species the "homo repetitus", the practicing animal.
As a metaphor, he draws on Nietzsches word "the human being is a rope between animal and Ueberman" On this rope the artist (or asket) must climb and balance along. Another picture is Jakob's Ladder (from the bible) in which Jakob saw the heirarchy of angels up unto God Lord Father.
Of course, since God is dead in our times, There is nothing or nobody to climb up to and join, but, so Sloterdijk proclaims, the rope and ladder still remains: their meaning is that the human being must overcome itself, by practice, to climb "mount improbable".
The perfect example for a religion which contains nothing but nonsense and practices (or injunctions) is Scientology by L. Ron Hubbard. Apparently, so says Sloterdijk, there is no better way to show that all religion is scam than to invent a new religion. Axiom: in every religion is a core of practices or injunctions that do the trick. Every other mystical nonsense around this core is New Age and can be skipped without losing anything of worth.
Did you notice? This fits with the "Integral Transformative Practice" of Ken Wilbie. I am beginning to suspect that Sloterdijk has read one or two Wilber books also. cant wait to read on.
Happy birthday. And how young are you now?
Thank you! And .. I have to count to tell you!
I have not read the book and expect to find any criticisms answered therein -- but until then (having read only this introduction) I hesitate. Nietzsche would have understood that the "nonsense" is also an injunction. As would his great ally Wilber.
While it is certainly true that the few effective Scientology practices are in excess of the moral and scientific accuracy of their worldview stories, it is not therefore the case that practices are the religion and everything else can be skipped. That is only how it seems when the individual looks with his "upper left" goggles -- wondering how he can personally profit without being duped by the group. But the group has a different function and different needs. To go beyond individual spirituality and start to produce a culturally-potent ethos (from which we must expect all evolutionary transformation) we need to more freely embrace the imaginative potency of the "vibe" and "silliness" which people socially excrete in order to bring themselves together.
RELIGION cannot operate without practices but they are just bones without the flesh of nonsense. Our hope is that such nonsense can be improved strategically and according to a planetary and wise human context. But postmetaphysical spirituality should not be taken as merely a rational individual's attempt to escape from group imagination into a private world of effective practices. Group imagination is part of the fabric by which we commune -- the "lower left quadrant".
Postmetaphysics must challenge statements like "can be skipped without losing anything of worth". That implies a very narrow definition of worth. We want to broaden, deepen and complement systems of worth with other strange approaches to worth. An integrative model must incorporate and build upon all forms of experiential value... including fantasy, entertainment, nonsense.
Our "dionysian" goal is not no-nonsense but better nonsense, deeper nonsense, richer nonsense, a hierarchy of nonsense, a workable nonsense.
But, as I say, perhaps the text of the work addresses these very things...
I also haven't read it, but will let you know whether and how he addresses this. I agree that if he attempts to narrow still-relevant religion down to the individual and his practices, and to bracket out group imagination or fantasy (as well as institutions or generative (en)closures), his approach will be too spare. Based on some of his other writings, I don't expect him to go this route, but we'll see...
It looks like he will address this, though in what ways I'm not sure yet: "After centuries of experiments with new forms of life, the realization has dawned that humans, whatever ethnic, economic, and political situation might govern their lives, exist not only in 'material conditions,' but also in symbolic immune systems and ritual shells."
I expect he may relate this to the 'topoi' he discusses in his Spheres books: various enacted sphereological spaces, related to embodied actions or interfaces: the chirotop, or the topos enacted by performances-in-the-world of the human hand; the phonotop, or the topos enacted by vocal performances; the uterotop, empathic spheres that start with and progressively expand from maternal care; the alethotop, or lineages as guardians and enactors of particular knowledge forms; the theotop, or the place of revelation (of ancestors, spirits, semiological relations, gateways of hierophany, etc). Each of these topoi are generative (en)closures of sorts.
"If one wished to transfer all the teachings of the papyrus religions, the parchment religions, the stylus and quill religions, the calligraphic and typographical, all order rules and sect programs, all instructions for meditation and doctrines of stages, and all training programs and dietologies into a single workshop where they would be summarized in a final act of editing: their utmost concentrate would express nothing other than what the poet (Rilke) sees emanating from the archaic torso of Apollo in a moment of translucidity.
'You must change your life!' -- this is the imperative that exceeds the options of hypothetical and categorical. It is the absolute imperative -- the quintessential metanoetic command. It provides the keyword for revolution in the second person singular. It defines life as a slope from its higher to its lower forms. I am already living, but something is telling me with unchallengable authority: you are not living properly. The numinous authority of form enjoys the prerogative of being able to tell me 'You must'. It is the authority of a different life in this life. This authority touches on a subtle insufficiency within me that is older and freer than sin; it is my innermost not-yet. In my most conscious moment, I am affected by the absolute objection to my status quo: my change is the one thing that is necessary. If you do indeed subsequently change your life, what you are doing is no different from what you desire with your whole will as soon as you feel how a vertical tension that is valid for you unhinges your life." ~ Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life
A couple points jumped out at me:
"The absolute imperative [...] exceeds the options of hypothetical and categorical. [...] The numinous authority [...] is my innermost not-yet."
Recalling this post as but one example. There's a 'god' I can support.
Also see Balder's blog post on the future infinitive, and the links I posted therein.
A few notes on my reading from this book so far.
In Chapter 2, Sloterdijk approaches Nietzsche as he approaches Heidegger in his Spheres trilogy: highlighting a particular discovery of the author, turning it at an angle, and then running through an extended "what if" exercise: what if more emphasis were placed here, how might this be further developed? In Spheres, Sloterdijk meditates on "being and space" as a sequel to Heidegger's work. In YMCYL, he takes up Nietzsche's idea that we inhabit the ascetic planet -- that scarcely an older fact about human existence can be named than the fact that humans are practicing animals. He acknowledges that Nietzsche focuses, in A Genealogy of Morals, primarily on unhealthy or pathological forms of human religious practice, but suggests 1) that in some cases, Nietzsche lacked the proper lenses to see that the world-denying and zealous excess he identified among some ascetics might better be read as an expression of laudable spiritual heroism; and 2) that despite the fact that human practice sometimes is pathological or misguided, Nietzsche's identification of our world as the Practicing Planet opens the way to (further) develop a science of general Ascetology or Praxiology (of which we find both individual and collective expressions throughout human history), and that the insight allows us to develop a model of anthropotechnics which helps us to (re)understand a wide range of human-transformative practices (religious, psychological, spiritual, sociological, political, etc).
In Chapter 3, "Only Cripples Will Survive," he looks at the life story of Unthan, an armless fiddle player, whose efforts to master everyday tasks as well as various artistic and marshal talents, provide an example of what Sloterdijk calls the high art of normalcy. He situates this story in the early 20th century philosophical and political climate in Germany, where a "defiant existentialism" thrived. I have not reached the end of the chapter yet, so I don't know yet where Sloterdijk is going with this, but I immediately think of the Polydox theological trope of "Spirit as prosthesis" -- as a "supplement" which not only aids the infirm, but which allows for new and surprising forms of excellence-in-living. I'll comment on this again once I finish the chapter.
"Kafka's hermetic note can also be assigned to the complex of developments that I call the de-spiritualization of asceticisms. It shows that the author is part of the great unscrewing of the moderns from a system of religiously coded vertical tensions that had been in force for millennia. Countless people were trained as acrobats of the world above in this era, practised in the art of crossing the abyss of the 'sensual world' [Sinnenwelt] with the balancing pole of asceticism. In their time, the rope represented the transition from immanence to transcendence. What Kafka and Nietzsche have in common is the intuition that the disappearance of the world above leaves behind the fastened rope. The reason for this would be completely opaque if one could not demonstrate a deeper raison d'etre for the existence of ropes, a rationale that could be separated form their function as a bridge to the world above. There is in fact such an explanation: for both authors, the rope stands for the realization that acrobatism, compared to the usual religious forms of 'crossing over,'is the more resistant phenomenon. Nietzsche's reference to 'one of the broadest and longest facts that exist' can be transferred to it. The shift of focus from asceticism to acrobatics raises a universe of phenomena from the background that effortlessly encompasses the greatest oppositions in the spectrum from wealth of spirit to physical strength. Here charioteers and scholars, wrestlers and church fathers, archers and rhapsodists come together, united by shared experiences on the way to the impossible. The world ethos is formulated at a council of acrobats" (p. 64).
I've just finished "Thinking in Suspended Animation" (unfortunately titled "The Art of Philosophy" in English). A published series of lectures following YMCYL. It continues this investigation which picks upon Neitzsche's history of ascetism as a key self-developmental and empowerment practice associated, eventually, with philosophers. It focuses primarily on how distanced, disinterested abstract reflection or witnessing activities evolved both as a form of weakness and as a special strength which is still needed even though we must dissociated from its more blatant notions of disembodied purity in a mythological landscape.
Of course my eye is drawn, in the passage above (the world ethos... council of acrobats), to the manner in which is comes close to my inclusive of anti-fragility as a key feature of the active/healthy form of religionization of culture. Anyone who envisions "post-nihilism" can only do so by thinking of a passage which is also an adaptation -- acrobatics.