Monday, June 18, 2007

Derrida's Gift of Death, chapter 2: "Beyond"

I want to begin this week by focusing on Derrida’s focusing on Patocka’s focusing on Poe’s/Heidegger’s focusing on that which escapes focus: the purloined (Lacan, you’ll remember, transgressed Baudelaire’s volee by focusing on the etymology here, rendering “purloined” as “prolonged”) letter. In one of Derrida’s more brilliant linguistic plays: “Heidegger himself, and his work, come to resemble a purloined letter. He is not only an interpreter of the play of dissimulation who can be likened to one who exposes letters; he or it is also in the place of what is called here being or the letter [l’etre ou lettre].” Heidegger thus plays two roles: he is the philosopher who eulogized philosophy (giving it its very being, but thereby cutting short its time), and he is the philosopher (inevitably like all philosophers) who is never eulogized by anyone but suicides (that is, philosophers).

I was reminded again and again in the course of reading “The Secrets of European Responsibility” of a curious little paper by Francis Landy, titled “Tracing the Voice of the Other: Isaiah 28 and the Covenant with Death” (found in Exum and Clines, The New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible, 140-62). Landy writes: “The primary symbol in the passage [verses 1-8 of Isaiah 28] is drunkenness. Drunkenness in Isaiah is a paradigmatically inane defence against death, as the carpe diem motif, ‘Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’ (Isa. 22.13), suggests. Drink fends off but also anticipates death, anaesthetizing fear and rendering the subject unconscious.” (p. 150) This fleshing out of drunkenness leans on her earlier articulation of poetry: “Poetry plays with alternative worlds, with the infinite combinations of sounds and images, with the transition between narcissistic omnipotence and the terror of finitude. It is a game with language and the world that constitutes preeminently a ‘transitional object,’ transitional between mother and child but also between union and separation. The spoken or unspoken other player in this game is death, not only in that poetry tries to make sense of the world despite death, nor in that it seeks immortality for our voices and our lived experience, but in that it passes between being and non-being, what can and cannot be said, the thought of being and the unthought.” (p. 142) At precisely that point, she adds in a footnote about Heidegger on poetry: “But if poetry marks a trace of the holy, it also sounds the knell of the philosophical subject.” (p. 142).

I think this nicely traces the contours of Derrida’s discussion of Patocka’s paper: in Plato, Europe makes a covenant with death, but in Christ, death makes a covenant with Europe. But let me take up Landy’s paper primarily as a kind of excuse for reading Derrida in an Isaianic idiom (without trying to get too involved with genealogies, it was in part my encounter with precisely the Isaiah passages I’ll take up below that gave birth to this curious Abraham seminar…). That is, following up on a comment I made perhaps a week ago, I’d like to think more carefully about the Isaian image of the seal.

Isaiah 8:16 nicely articulates Derrida’s/Patocka’s Heidegger in (I’ll leave this undecided) 1976/1967: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Gerhard von Rad takes this passage as the key to an important historical puzzle: when and why did the writing prophets begin writing? (His brilliant reading of this problematic is found in his section on First Isaiah in volume II of Old Testament Theology.) If von Rad does not thematize the act of sealing at any length, let me emphasize the importance of doing so in any serious attempt to grapple with the broader problem of Mormon theology (and I imagine we can all sense which of our four questions is at the center of my thinking this week).

David John Buerger opens his “history” of Mormon temple ordinances (The Mysteries of Godliness) with the claim that “Some time between June and November 1831, however, LDS salvation theology changed, tied to the 3 June 1831 conferral of High Priesthood on church elders.” (p. 2) He makes this change primarily a question of sealing: “This notion, when taken with key Book of Mormon passages, represented a departure from biblical precedent. In the New Testament, for example, the terms ‘to seal’ and ‘to place a seal on’ referred to the ancient practice of placing a wax or mud seal to close and protect a document from misappropriation.” (p. 3) He unfortunately then goes on to sum up the Book of Mormon references to sealing up a text as “obvious non-figural usages of the term.” (p. 4) But it seems pretty easy to sense in Buerger’s approach a (rather common) presupposition that does a great deal of violence to the meaning of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration: the Book of Mormon, as a sealed text, is precisely a question of sealing the fathers and the children (according to what is usually dubbed the “Nauvoo theology”). The title page itself makes this clear, since, in all rigor, there the Book of Mormon is first and foremost written “to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever,” only secondarily---“also” is the term the title page itself uses---“to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST.” Nor is one justified in reading some kind of distance in the “Nauvoo theology” from textuality, translation, or writing: “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of---a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?” (D&C 128:9)

But polemics aside, what of sealing---of Heidegger as a “book that is sealed,” of the purloined letter as sealed despite its broken seal (or really, its two broken seals), of Isaiah and the Book of Mormon as sealed, of Abraham’s facsimiles and even text as sealed, of families and covenants as sealed, etc.? But collapsing the sharp (ultimately historical) distinction between sealing documents and sealing covenants/people, might we not pave the way to some real work on what constitutes a uniquely Mormon theology? At the very least, we would thereby be laying the foundation of a theology devoted primarily to the two extremes that temporally define the prophetic work of the prophet Joseph: on one extreme, an angel with a text; on the other extreme, the “family kingdom.”

…Even as I would appear, I think, to leave off much of Derrida’s discussion, let me argue that I am hardly doing so. The “thought-through” (that is, impossible) Christianity Patocka pines for is precisely, I would suggest (but would anyone else here?), what began in 1820 in the Sacred Grove (and I don’t, by that, mean the Church, but the Kingdom). And if we can agree with Derrida about much of what he has to say about the mysterium tremendum---and I do, for now---then we might suggest that death has indeed made a covenant with Europe (or with Ephraim). That is, the impossible gift is being given in every temple we’ve built (gift: endowment), and it is being given in much the manner Derrida is describing. And that gets me thinking about two comments from the recent PBS special on Mormonism, one from Terryl Givens about the temple as a kind of vehicle for total reconstitution, and one from Harold Bloom about Joseph Smith’s Mormonism being the only religion that really aims at fully conquering death as such. But this preface is already twice as long as my entire post should have been…

At least this can be said of the sealed as such: the sealed is the epistolary (and the secret, the tremendum, as Derrida will say at the beginning of chapter 3). The Book of Mormon is a prime example. Written to the Lamanites and sealed up. And, as we are all quite aware, it remains a sealed text: two-thirds, they say, of the text has never been cracked. But what of the part we have read? Are we not simply reading the address of an epistle? The Book of Mormon, as we read it today, is precisely the seal (that is, the signature) and the address on the outside of a letter to the Lamanites (given: the address and seal are quite lengthy!). What in the Book of Mormon is profoundly public---all that has been published---is given to the Gentiles as to a carrier: the Gentiles have the task of working out (and in some detail!) the address, of making sense of the seal and the address, and then of delivering the text up to those who will break the seal and read the contents (and whether or not the addressees desire to share those contents with the Gentiles will be entirely up to them). (And we do not even begin to address here the question of having to translate the address/seal, etc.) And what is clearest, perhaps, of all in that seal and that address is that this is a letter written by the fathers and for the children, written precisely to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers (written: an act that can only be described as the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children; and an act that can only be brought to completion in the turning of the hearts of the children to the fathers).

Hence, the epistolary, the sealed letter: a binding or welding link between the fathers (according to the covenant) and the children (according to the covenant), delivered “by way of the Gentiles,” the Platonic. (Joseph Smith as hermeticist, as translator: a Westerner trying to make sense of the Eastern---trying to translate characters of ancient date---in an attempt to retreat from the Western, to retreat from the Platonic, in what has been called, by Marvin Hill, a Quest for Refuge….) The absurd, as a kind of call (Nephi tells us that the deaf will hear the word of the book, remember), passes through the public---that is, ethical (in Kierkegaard’s sense)---sphere as a trace, as an address and a seal, being carried from one to another precisely by the individual, the citizen, the Platonist, the European, the Gentile. The text, sealed up and sent, comes as a message, a messenger, true messengers, fathers or angels with/by a book (or a letter, taking especially into account the theme of “the end of the book and the beginning of writing” in all its ambiguities).

But too many themes are converging here. In a word: Mormon theology as an epistolary theology?


Blogger Joe Spencer said...

My positivity in posting has revealed some negativities I'd like just to mention.

More and more, I'm interested in the last two pages of this chapter, where Derrida lays the foundations for a critique of Marion (and, as he points out, Patocka, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Ricoeur, and, for provocative effect, Heidegger). It could just as well be a critique of Henry, whose work I've been studying quite a bit lately. I'd like to think more about this careful foundation of a critique, and I'm wondering if I can't especially lure out Adam into some discussion of this point (at least partly in hopes of getting a better grasp of Badiou).

Speaking of Badiou, and hence of Lacan, I'm also realizing, as I read chapter 3, that Derrida does with Lacan what he points Patocka out as doing with Heidegger: drawing on him again and again but without naming him. I suppose this becomes most obvious in chapter 3 when Derrida begins to discuss the name(s) of the father (it was in the "Names-of-the-Father" seminar that Lacan discussed the Akedah), but it is present as early as chapter 1 with the thematic of the secret, and it is still more present with the theme of the purloined letter (as I mention in my post). I'm wondering what to make of this, still, but there is something curious at work.

Also, I'm trying still to think about what on earth Derrida might be trying to say by titling this chapter "Beyond." The word itself is of course under rather constant critique in post-modern contexts, and yet Derrida draws on it. Beyond what, anyway? Or are we calling on the "general" idea of transcendence? Or what?

1:09 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...


Is this the passage you've got in mind?

"What engenders all these meanings and links them, internally and necessarily, is a logic that at bottom . . . has no need of the event of revelation or the revelation of the event. It needs to think the possiblity of such an event but not the event itself. This is a major point of difference, permitting such a discourse to be developed without reference to religion as institutional dogma . . . . The difference is subtle and unstable and it would call for careful and vigilant analyses. In different respects and with different results, the discourses of Levinas or Marion, perhaps of Ricoeur also, are in the same situation as Potocka. . . . [All] belong to this tradition that consists of proposing a non-dogmatic doublet of dogma, a philosophical and metaphysical doublet, in any case a thinking that 'repeats' the possibility of religion without religion." (49)

Can you say more about exactly what you take Derrida's critique of this position to be? He does appear to be dissatisfied, though thinking "religion without religion" is in some ways precisely his game. What's the difference between Derrida's non-dogmatic doublet and those he mentions above?

7:09 AM  
Blogger Joe Spencer said...

Adam, that is precisely the passage I have in mind. And I was just as struck by the fact that if anyone has been working out religion without religion, it is Derrida! (I've not read Caputo's book on this very subject, The Tears and Prayers.... Since you are quite familiar with Caputo, do you have anything to say about how helpful it is?) But I don't know that Derrida means to criticize this position so much as to critique it: to point out that it doesn't do to call it a phenomenology, to point out that by reinscribing it within the confines (if only nominal) of a phenomenology one speaks impossibly (impossibly in so many ways), etc. And this, I take it, is where we begin to measure the distance between Badiou, et al.

I've still not found my way into Badiou, at least in any way that I feel comfortable with. But I am more and more enthralled with Lacan's work, and that is helping me, I think, situate Badiou in this mess. Lacan's final words (of sharp rebuke!) at the end of the Names-of-the-Father seminar are a good example of what is so helpful: "[O]ne of my students ... felt himself obliged to say that the meaning of my teaching would be that the veritable import of the truth is that one can never get hold of it. What an incredible misinterpretation! What childish impatience! ... Where can you find a science---and even mathematics---in which each chapter does not lead on to the next one! ... Could you not see that as I advanced, I was perpetually approaching a specific point of density to which, without the preceding steps, you could not arrive? ... I have never, at any moment, given any pretext for believing that there was not, for me, any difference between yes and no."

I appreciate Fink's discussion of this point in terms of mathemes towards the end of The Lacanian Subject (I've written two of these mathemes on the face of, of all things, an envelope, which was ready to hand, as if one were the address and the other were the return address, perhaps as a kind of reminder, since the envelope now sits right next to my computer...). The point seems, to put it quite simply, certainly reductively, that we are headed towards something we can articulate.

But perhaps it is precisely because Lacan speaks to me (and Badiou does not as yet) that I think Marion, Henry, Ricoeur, Levinas, Kierkegaard, the Late Heidegger, etc.---not to mention Derrida---are so important: they seem to offer the promise of thinking God, something even Lacan cannot seem to do (though he might in the end be able to formulate, in full rigor, the meaning and structure of analysis). And it is precisely Paul who is helping me work this out. So I probably ought to take up Badiou's book on Paul....

10:19 AM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Two books have set the course of my professional life. The first is John Caputo's The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, a book that convinced me to pursue a PhD in philosophy rather than literature (my BA is in Comparative Literature). The second is Alain Badiou's Saint Paul: The Foundations of Universalism, a book that set the agenda for my dissertation and all the work that I have done in the past 4 four years and am likely to do for at least the next few.

There is a great deal that we can (and probably should) say about Derrida's notion of a "non-dogmatic doublet." With only a moment at my disposal this morning, I'll simply say two.

(1) Could we identify what distinguishes Derrida's version of this doublet from the other's (Levinas, Marion, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Patocka, etc.) in that he aims to be more faithful to the "absurdity" of the enterprise? That is, Derrida aims to be more faithful to the fact that the condition for the possibility of responsibility and, hence, religion (the "secret") is also the condition for its impossibility?

(2) Could we describe Mormon theology itself as a "non-dogmatic doublet" of religion? A non-dogmatic doublet that simultaneously takes seriously the concrete actuality of the impossible event (contra Derrida?) and refuses dogma? Maybe.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Joe Spencer said...

Adam, very interesting and helpful comments. I'll get involved right quickly on Tears and Prayers and Saint Paul.

A quick response to your (1) and (2).

(1) Without trying to get too far ahead, I think chapter 3 makes it possible for me to see a difficulty in Derrida's thinking that he does not seem to me to address (at least here and in his "Foi et Savoir," though I think I'm veering towards the Villanova debate between him and Marion). Kierkegaard regards the absurd as the absolutely individual (and hence has been called the father of existentialism). But I'm not sure how to read that in light of Kojeve's interpretation of Hegel, where the individual per se is precisely the totality at which the PhG eventually arrives. That is, the individual per se is precisely the political universal, the Napoleonic citizen, etc. I don't know whether this suggests that Kierkegaard simply does not have the conceptual framework yet to think the third way he is calling the religious, or whether there is something I'm missing in him. But it seems to me that, especially in "Knowing not to know," Derrida depends too heavily on this confusion in Kierkegaard to develop the aporia, and I wonder if that doesn't call into question what he thinks is an impeccable rigor. Though I'm only reading Patocka between the lines, I wonder if his very "Is Technological Civilization in Decline and Why" doesn't provide the key to thinking all the way through this, something Kierkegaard had not done (by Derrida's admission).

I doubt what I've said here is even coherent. I'll have to wait to see how it is responded to, but I'll be more than happy to attempt to rearticulate that!

(2) Mormon theology certainly offers a unique possibility in terms of this problem, but there is so much that remains unthought in Mormonism as well! Again I'm thinking of Harold Bloom's final statement at the close of the PBS documentary:

"What is the essence of religion? Sigmund Freud said it was the longing for the father. Others have called it the desire for the mother or for transcendence. I fear deeply that all these are idealizations, and I offer the rather melancholy suggestion that they would all vanish from us if we did not know that we must die. Religion rises inevitably from our apprehension of our own death. To give meaning to meaninglessness is the endless quest of all religion. When death becomes the center of our consciousness, then religion authentically begins. Of all religions that I know, the one that most vehemently and persuasively defies and denies the reality of death is the original Mormonism of the prophet, seer and revelator Joseph Smith."

Defies and denies? In that it receives (actually, despite the aporia) the gift of death? The gift of death that is life? Given death the Latter-day Saint lives? "Curse God and die!" says Job's wife, inviting him to authenticity and the care of death, but Job would rather seek and receive the impossible (remember that Job permeates Repetition, and I think Kierkegaard was far more successful there). And on and on.

(3) But I want to think more about this third way that is the gift, that is the name spoken in praise, that is charity or celestial, that is the the empty throne above the two wrestling cherubim, etc. What of that third way?

10:05 AM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

Not sure when I'll get caught up (maybe about 10 years from now, considering the list of names, books and ideas being thrown about here!), but I thought I'd mention there's a rather interesting note regarding "the sealed" in Revelation 7:2ff and 9:4 which is discussed in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 7, p. 951. Given the importance of Revelation and Isaiah in Mormon scripture, I think there are some very interesting issues begging to be taken up here. This TDNT quote I think points in such a direction:

"By specific technical development the sign became a seal and then the seal again became a sign, taking on material significance theologically, serving both as a literary image and also as a mode of speech among believers. Signs are indications and need interpretation. In the language of revelation image and reality become a distinctive unity. The reality can take shape only in the metaphor, the transferred use, the figure, the non-literal. It can be expressed only in the impression of a seal. In these basic questions the metaphorical use of the word seal in the NT is also implicated."

I actually have in the front of my mind the link in Deut 11:18-21 between God's word and the hearts of God's people and the children. That is, I think this is a foundational passage for thinking about how God's "gift of life" (i.e. covenant a la Jim) plays out after Abraham. And I'm sure everyone's sick of me asking about D&C 93, but 93:35 seems to be screaming to be taken up as well in this line of thinking: "The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple."

1:22 PM  
Blogger Robert C. said...


12:37 PM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

I'm still struggling to catch up on these readings, but I've been reading (listening to...) Jim's Genesis 2-3 article and have been thinking about the obvious relations to what we're reading. Most likely this will make more sense to me when I get through The Gift of Death (and after I study Heidegger's notion of being-toward-death much more carefully...), but I'm struggling in particular to understand Jim's paragraph #17--this sentence for example: "Death reveals the nothingness behind the image."

I think I have at least a vague sense of what this means, but it is in thinking about linking a more spiritual and metaphorical sense of this idea to a more literal, physical sense of this that I struggle. And it is precisely through this struggle that I'm trying to think about the notion of covenant that Jim keeps pointing to. That is, why isn't spiritual death enough? Why isn't being separated from God or others enough to accomplish the attitude induced by our being-toward-death? In response to this, here' one thought: Spiritual death is separation from God, physical death as separation from my spouse, and spatial separation is separation from third persons. It is this "merely spatial separation" that the Akedah and circumcision is all about, a kind of separation that is, in many respects, less obvious and easier to miss than physical death and spiritual death.

In Mormon folk-doctrine, we have a notion of "being translated" which seems to undermine, at least in some sense, the experience of death. Does this undermine the notion of being-toward-death in Heidegger and the gift of death in Derrida? Does marriage for eternity disrupt marriage in analogous ways? As I come to understand Derrida in light of Christian resurrection, will these Mormon issues clarify themselves too? Is this the main question that Adam's SMPT paper on marriage has already taken up, or am I asking a different question?

I realize that no one really has the time to be my personal philosophy tutor here, but I thought I'd put these questions down, if for no other reason, to help prepare myself for the next few chapters of reading.

[Also, sorry for the mistaken "test" post(s), it's just from clicking "publish" instead of "preview" while trying to switch Google accounts....]

1:17 PM  
Blogger Joe Spencer said...

Robert asks: "Does this undermine the notion of being-toward-death in Heidegger and the gift of death in Derrida?"

I don't know whether the Mormon doctrines or translation or resurrection do anything to undermine Heidegger's being-towards-death or Plato's melete thanatou (perhaps primarily because I'm not at all sure I understand either of these two "Mormon doctrines," the former especially). But I think Derrida (or Patocka) is suggesting precisely that the gift of death undermines Plato's philosophical, and Heidegger's existential, authenticity. But note---and this is vital---Derrida (perhaps following Patocka here, but it is not entirely clear to me) understands the gift of death (Christianity) to be what can, strictly speaking, never happen (the gift of death as messianicity, etc.). And yet, of course, here it is: the gift of death and not the gift of death...

The gift of death thus seems to be a figure for Derrida of the closure of the epoch of metaphysics (like deconstruction, differance, khora, pharmakon, justice, democracy, God, etc.), a closure that is a structural facet of metaphysics rather than a finishing off of metaphysics. Closure as structure: Christianity is what has never happened in Christianity. This paradox is the ground of all possibility, etc.

What of Mormonism in all of this? Marion and Henry seem to me to lay a foundation for thinking that question, and Adam would add Badiou (an addition I'm still trying to work through, will be working through for some time, I'm sure). I really think Henry does a good job of thinking through a phenomenology of life (his Essence of Manifestation details his phenomenology of life in great detail; his I Am the Truth nicely summarizes it). And he explicitly relates this phenomenology of/according to life to Heidegger's phenomenology of/according to death (this latter locution more explicitly in I Am the Truth).

I'll be eager to see how Adam upsets Marion's (and, thus, Henry's) project, but I'll have to wait for that, as I'll have to wait for Givens' new book...

At any rate, I hope that helps to situate you a bit, Robert. The gift of death is precisely what "undermines" being-towards-death, but Derrida would suggest that it is impossible (metaphysics or being-towards-death is necessary, so to speak).

2:04 PM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

Thanks Joe, that will really help in my Gift of Death reading.

To be clear, my questions above have primarily to do with Heidegger's being-toward-death, or at least what Jim says about death in paragraph #38 (see link in my previous comment): "Mortality and finitude show the importance of the moment: community is something that we must work for between ourselves and between ourselves and God, now." Very simply, it is this "importance of the moment" that belief in an after-life and an after-life-marriage seems to disrupt....

3:45 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...


My two cents on your question about the priority of the moment in relation to eternity:

I think the key may be to think about eternity not as an endless quantity of time but (as I suggested in my last SMPT paper) understand it instead (as Elder McConkie suggests) as a particular quality that a life (or a moment in a life) can acquire. Roughly, we might say: eternity is kairos (rather than chronos), not something beyond time or an endless time but a modulation of chronological time that reveals the present moment as an urgent, pregnant, pivotal moment. In this sense, death has a particular power to induce the "eternal" in the "now." If we are waiting for eternity to begin sometime other than right now, then eternity will never begin - not even after we die.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

Thanks Adam, your comment has been very helpful (esp. in thinking about D&C 19), and integral to my sporadic thinking below.

I was reading in Raymond Brown's Anchor Bible commentary on John (v. 1) where he discusses an article by de la Potterie (in French, which I can't really read...) that argues that "truth" is used by John as a synonym for wisdom, and closely associated with mystery. This got me thinking back to D&C 93, how God is full of grace and truth (v. 11), and we are promised to receive of his fulness (v. 20). And now I'm trying to think about how the significance of this word fulness, how Christ ful-fills the law and prophets, and is full of the glory of the Father--full (though not at first, v. 12) and perfect (D&C 50:24?), and yet still independent (v. 30). Isn't this precisely Derrida's aporia of responsiblity (pp. 24ff)?

I've been struggling for a couple weeks thinking about the difference between revelation and hermeneutics--that is, receiving a specific command from God vs. having to make your best guess and simply doing what you hope to be the best thing. But, finally, I think this is a false dichotomy. Even with the most specific command, I think there is an infinite amount of space to determine how we respond, that is, the extent to which we obey cheerfully or begrudingly, a dramatic difference illustrated by Cain vs. Abel.

This is related to something I was a little nervous about in Derrida in that he describes responsiblity in a way that seems to focus only on intellectual responsibility. But, I think this ignores the idea that most primary kids learn about the purpose of life, to get a body and see if we'll be obedient to God's commandments. The test is not an intellectual one, at least not exclusively or even primarily, but a physical and experiential test. The distance and the mystery resides, again, in ourselves as a mystery that unveils itself as a mystery (see Derrida p. 37). The unfolding of this mystery is perhaps what D&C 93 is discussing in terms of us being a truth/mystery, acting for ourselves. The test then, for us as it was for Abraham (Abr 3:25), is to see whether we will fulfill God's commands--that is, take up God's call and respond to it in our own singular, independent way, giving our lives as a unique, iconic offering as a response to that call, a call which is inherently untotalized and unthematized (even in its most specific form), a call that cannot complete itself, but awaits our unique and creative response to become complete/fulfilled.

Of my lingering questions, one stands out: what does it mean then to be fulfilled or to receive of a fulness? Is this the death Derrida is getting at, a giving of our life over to an Other or others that is not complete until our mortal life is over (and after that, our "resurrected life" is ony "filled" from a mortal, finite perspective, and we become part of the ongoing bringing-to-pass of more eternal lives)?

Some thoughts anyway....

11:52 AM  
Blogger Joe Spencer said...

I've been working out a paper based loosely on our discussions, and I wrote a paragraph yesterday (about Jacob 4:5, about "intent" in keeping the Law) that perhaps speaks to Robert's series of questions here. For what it's worth:

Jacob’s point about his own hopeful worship seems to circle around the word “sanctified” (a word he abases in translation only a few words later, rendering it “accounted” when he speaks of Abraham’s far more hopeful worship or far more worshipful hope). The point seems clear enough, based, as it is, on Nephi’s several discussions of the same point in 2 Nephi 11:4 and 2 Nephi 25:24-30. The keeping of the Law, an action that is apparently not holy (sancta) in itself, is sanctified through a thorough typological reorientation by which it (the keeping far more than the Law) is bound to Christ, the typological being a question, in Nephi’s discussions, of grace or of givenness. That is, inasmuch as keeping the Law is something one takes upon oneself, keeping amounts to claiming, and obedience becomes (or remains) unholy; but inasmuch as keeping the Law is something to which one is given, keeping becomes a kind of vigilance or a watching over (what Jacob calls “righteousness”), and obedience is sanctified or becomes holy, while the Law itself becomes a (pre)figure(ment) or a type of grace.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...


I think this formulation of our (holy or unholy) relation to the law is right on the mark.


2:17 PM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

I think Joe's work at the wiki on Jacob 4 is astounding, so here is a link to encourage everyone to read what he's written there. Much, much to think about....

3:05 PM  
Blogger Joe Spencer said...

I'll add just that my work at the wiki on Jacob 4 is entirely a mess! I will get back to it soon, hopefully, and begin to work it into something more readable! I've written some nine pages about the passage into my paper, and I'm imagining that it will run to about four or five more pages before I'm finished with that passage (I'll be dealing with three different passages in my paper).

8:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home