On the OOO thread, I recently posted a link to a new book exploring a Latourian / object-oriented approach to the topic of "grace."  It turns out the author, Adam Miller, first posted his thoughts in a series of blogs.  I'll post links to them here and will come back to discuss them once I've had the chance to read them.  Just from a brief glance at them, it looks like you could skip to parts 4 and 5 if you want to get directly to the Latourian / OOO formulation of a nontheistic, object-oriented theory of grace and sin.  Part 3 presents an ontology of multiplicity.


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5

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Joe, thanks for your response.  I just read one of the blogs (#4) last night and am also planning a response.  I'm slammed at work today, so I'll write sometime this weekend...

Joe:  For me, a "non-theistic conception of grace" is obvious.  It is subject-object separation where "the subject of one level becomes the object of the subject of the next level."  Grace is the destruction of false towers, the destruction of "true but partial" paradigms which provides an awakening to another kind of world.

Also traditionally known as the "Felix culpa" or the "happy fall."  Could also call it the fortuitous accident, the healing wound, etc...

In my understanding of Miller's argument, the latter points seem closer to his meaning than the former.  The integral formulation of "the subject of one level becoming the object of the next level" gives the impression of a neat and total transcendence and inclusion, which I think the principle of irreduction, on which Miller is relying, would deny. 

As Miller summarizes Latour's principle of irreduction:

Given an original multiplicity, (1) no multiple can be entirely reduced (without remainder) to any other multiple or set of multiples, and (2) no multiple is a priori exempt from being reducible in part to any other multiple or set of multiples.

The first part of this principle ensures multiplicity (and, thus, a non-theistic ontology) because it prevents a complete unification of multiples under any given heading. Every relation will always entail an unsubsumed remainder.

And grace, Miller suggests, is then this "resistant availability" of all things.  It is not, in other words, just the epistemological play of (or transition between) subject and object, but the double-bind of things being both ever-subject to multiplicitous relations to other things (i.e., passibility) and never-fully-enlistable or entrainable by other things (i.e., resistance).  Grace or "resistant availablility" thus marks not only subject-object transitions, but any sort of relation or translation whatsoever.

This seems, to me, to be closer to the traditional concepts of the happy fall or healing wound -- especially since Miller identifies grace and suffering in the same paradoxical manner.  Suffering marks beings because they cannot avoid being available for relation, for being 'pulled' and enlisted and re-distributed by other beings, and because they cannot wholly master or control those others that they themselves actively engage or incorporate (always meeting some degree of resistance, uncontrollability, etc).  But this is also grace, because the unmasterable excess of beings is unavoidable and always-given; it means beings are always available for new relations, new work.

If you've read the blogs, you'll see that Miller focuses on a particularly human form of suffering -- namely, the suffering of being reflexively aware of resistant availability.  We know that we are "susceptible to feeling...or external impression," to being affected and pulled and impacted by others.  Sin, in this context, is the refusal of this condition: the simultaneous refusal of suffering and grace, a demand for totalization, absolute mastery or control over others or ourselves, etc.  Pride.

I see in Miller's discussion some affinity with Sharon Betcher's notion of intercorporeal generosity.  As Betcher, following Natalie Diprose, argues (and as I discussed in my "Opening Space" paper), generosity is not an ordinary virtue but the (or a) root of virtue, in that it marks a pre-egoic, pre-reflexive, bodily condition of being given-over to others: it is, using Miller's terms, the condition of our passibility, our corporeal relations to others; and using Latour's term, the condition of being composite and multiple.  As Betcher puts it, our pre-volitional openness and interdependence simultaneously saddles us with a yoke and invites us to a yoga of neighbor-love.

While Miller and Betcher are both drawing on Christian tradition, there is something Buddhist about all this.  I am reminded, for instance, of Joanna Macy's work -- what she calls "Despair Work" or "The Work That Reconnects."  In her Buddhism-inspired work with social activists and revolutionaries of various sorts who suffer burn-out and despair as they face, daily, the many massive challenges of our age, she frequently reminds them that their suffering is a testimony to their interdependence with that with and for which they suffer.  And it is this interdependence, this capacity to touch and be moved by and to suffer with others, that is the bodhisattva's greatest resource.  It is, among other things, how living systems inform themselves of the state of their compositional relations -- an essential feedback mechanism without which systems grow occluded and die. 


One other sympathetic echo, this time from Levin (on crying as a practice of the self):

“What does this capacity [for crying] make visible?  What is its truth?  What is the truth it sees?  What does it know as a ’speech’ of our nature?  How does it guide our vision?”

“We could think of our eyes as capable of three kinds of mood:  (i) the ontical moodedness of everyday seeing, which can differentiate and articulate what it beholds only in a more or less dualistic, objectifying, re-presentational manner; (ii) the transitional moodedness of a seeing which cries for vision, immersed in painful seeing, immersed in the processes of its subjectivity; and (iii) the moodedness of a more joyful, more fulfilled seeing, clear and bright and articulate, and capable of being deeply touched and moved, even at a distance, by what it is given to see.”

“Crying is the rooting of vision in the ground of our [universal, shared & interacting] needs:  [our] need for openness, [our] need for contact, [our] need for wholeness.”

“Crying, of course, is involuntary.  But the experience of crying, with which we are all familiar, can be taken up by the self, taken to heart, and turned, through the gift of our thought, into a PRACTICE of the self.  The practice is concerned with the cultivation of our capacity for care —  Crying becomes a critical social practice of the self when the vision it brings forth makes a difference in the world, gathering other people into the wisdom of its attunement.”

Not mentioned in the quote above, though consonant with Miller's reliance on the principle of irreduction, Levin stresses a seeing which is attuned to the invisible, to that which exceeds or escapes the eye -- the unmasterability of things, the withdrawal of beings -- as a space in which care can flourish and a new consciousness can form.

Hi, Joe, I'll write more tomorrow.  For now, I wanted to ask briefly how you relate your discussion of the One Will to Miller's definition of "nontheistic."


...by “theism” I mean any ontology that understands God, as the Creator, to be the single unifying source of reality. In this sense, a belief in God is not necessarily incompatible with a non-theistic ontology. Only a belief that God is the single unifying source of reality is incompatible with a non-theistic ontology.

But, further, I want to claim that any ontology founded on the axiom that reality is ultimately “One” (whether this basic unity shows up as a governing principle, a macro-totality, a micro-uniformity, a transcendental horizon, etc.) remains essentially theistic. Such ontologies have simply substituted a philosophical avatar of original unity for “God.” To be clearly and decisively non-theistic, an ontology would need to break fundamentally with this traditional assumption of basic, original unity. Rather than accounting for how localized multiplicity comes from an original unity, it would have to account for how various localized unities emerge from an original multiplicity.

Third, my working concept of grace is minimally defined by four features. Grace is (1) prodigal: it is necessarily in excess of what is deserved or expected, (2) enabling: it opens avenues for action or ways of being that would otherwise remain closed, (3) absolute: it is, as least in some substantial respect, free or unconditioned, and (4) unmasterable: though it may be influenced, grace cannot be captured or controlled.

By this definition, an ontology which appeals to an underlying or originating and unifying One, even philosophically or psychologically framed, would be "theistic."   How do you understand the One Will in relation to such a claim?

I wondering Joe if you're a member of BOTA, given the Cube, Tarot and BOTA-esque rhetoric? Btw Balder, BOTA is way theistic.

I too was a member for a few years, then joined the HOGD for a few more. Gave them both up when I went integral due in large part to the metaphysical (i.e. supernatural) orientation of the hermetic tradition, and given integral being so post-metaphysical. I've just kept going in the postmetaphysical direction although tarot was one of the few interests I retained from those days. Now though I just 'play' with it via free association, trying to let go of the hermetic meanings attached to the images. See the tarot card meditation game. In a way by so doing I'm opening to a grace of sorts, non-theistic of course. ;)

North is dark and cold, death. Not transformation but the end of a suobject's existence. No soul, no afterlife, death.

Actually I can see the center and 3 axes as Bryant's withdrawn center (object a) and the axes being the 3 paradigms of the symbolic, the real and the imaginary. I could further see how this might relate to 6 faces and 12 edges given the overlapping spaces and lines. And all in a non-theistic, postmetaphysical perspective. I suppose I could, if so inclined, try to relate them to the qabalistic correspondences. But I'm not so inclined to the latter.

Wow, I'm feeling quite "in sync" with you today, Ed.  I was just about to write to Joe, also, that I don't think a non-theistic approach requires the removal of the center of the cube but the reconceptualization of the center.  To represent a non-theistic orientation by the removal of the center would seem to privilege a theistic orientation, since it represents the former as fundamentally lacking or incomplete.  Nevertheless, Joe, I do think the cube model has a lot of flexibility and promise.

I'd recommend our very own OOO thread first. It's only about 100 pages now and ranges over most of the above references, and you get our feel for the material. Keep in mind that our views in the later posts have changed and grown from those at the beginning of the thread, the conversation being over the course of 19 months. In one of the last posts I provided a link to a video on the geometry of the Borromean rings, so you can get a visual to compare with the cube of space.

One can see the center, 3 axes, 6 faces and 12 edges to the knot if you use your imagination and build the cube around the 3-D rings. It would be a matter of developing Bryant's 3-ring skeleton with a center to fill in the other aspects, which he's slowly starting to do in the latter pages of the OOO thread. And I've written quite a bit on the center of that diagram in the last few pages of the thread, a very non-theistic center at that.

The cube shape emerged quite clearly in the video on the Borromean rings you posted earlier today.

Joe, regarding where to begin reading, I agree the OOO thread is a good place to start.  The Quadruple Object is a simple and quick book to read, and you might appreciate some of the diagrams and reflections at the end of it.  The Democracy of Objects provides one of the best intros, for now, to Bryant's model (which appears to be changing).  For Tim Morton's approach, you might check out Realist Magic instead of his essay, "Here Comes Everything."  (Both of these latter books are available online for free).

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