Alternate Perceptions Magazine, June 2022
In The Throes. Encountering Others
by: James Edward Carlos
While poet Marianne Moore visits an object – a jellyfish – with her use of it acting its part in the attraction to the object, it becomes for her an object of beauty but equally dangerous; thus she avoids tactile sensations with her backing off from her perception of a mystical and attracting beautiful object. Whereas poet Carl Philips uses pronoun it to give credence to a philosophical sensing more fully tactile, as an intercourse with the sexual as if in congruence, the philosophical and sexual merge, allocating being as experiencing. Philips also intermixes memory with philosophical range as an aftermath and supposition as to additional philosophical inquiry into the aftermath of living.
Now Rough, Now Gentle
Never mind the parts that came later, with all
the uselessness, as usual, of hindsight: regret’s
what it has to be, in the end, in which way it is
like death, any bowl of sliced-fresh-from-the-tree
stolen pears, this body that stirs,
or fails to, as I
turn away, meaning Make it yours, or Hold tight,
or I begin to think maybe you were right—that
there’s nothing, after . . . though whether or not like
one of those moments just past having woken to
yet another stranger,
how the world can seem
to have completely stopped when, finally, it’s just
a stillness—who can say? First I envied them,
then I came to love them for it, how the stars each
day become again invisible, while going nowhere.
(p. 8. Silvercrest – Poems by Carl Phillips)
Having lived in and through a particular erotic commingling with his character speaking, apparently, Philips thereby suggests thoughts about that spiritual gathering of one to another, which becomes an equation about the exigencies of death. Something of the anonymity of the sexual experiencing (thus conditioning memory) is a reconfiguring as with Foucault in his seeking anonymous sexual experiences in bathhouses. I am reminded of an ending to another anonymous poem that seemed to end a relationship similarly, suffused with tenderness, gentle by the roughness and ferocity such gentleness ultimately implies and belies. A rupture occurs.
This rush to dissolution is by the distancing suggested above with “stars” as in Philips’ poetry, that sensual exchanges brought into the togetherness of having been with another was resolved with a line, “being separate stars in separate skies.” In a way this poetic conjunction as a phrase is a summation of what this manuscript is about in the seeding of thoughts adjunctively in the surrounding, i.e., about the deep implications of relationship/s, and, too, the space that separates us all as with a pronoun to the noun or to a Proper Noun. A recognition of existence thereby! But, too, stars are ultimately conjoined by a nourishing and sustaining heaven, each finding their place in the shimmering world beyond the blue, as each echoes each other and cause that cosmic-wide shudder above to occur in the night sky. Like our finding the constellations and naming them, the constellations find us, and we are drawn upward into the emerging darkness of outer space “who” sires the light from within itself. Consciousness is that intrinsic, indeed the creator of the vast range of forms.
Although the metaphoric stars had a sense of being poetically conjoined once as within a heaven, the sensibility somehow apart then with one’s dying; the thought is a prelude to distancing as a forerunner of becoming invisible to each other. All of this seems apropos of Foucault* whose engendering with anonymous sex (commingling part to whole and parts to wholeness seemed to be a rehearsal of sorts with the sacred as an ongoing ritual – that sacred something in the presence that augurs a certain truth, at least. I would indicate with the following dimensions of any relationship that as part of the self-endowment as inferred in identity, is the body and the body parts that animate said body. Some sense of mutuality is implicit in relationship, especially if engaged in anonymity.
(Note: in “I, Michel Foucault,” p.xiii--introduction to The Lives of Michel Foucault. David Macey, Foucault discusses another poet, Raymond Roussel, Foucault states in an interview with Charles Ruas - “An Interview with Michel Foucault” in Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Michel Foucault: “Someone who is a writer is not simply doing his work in his books, in what he publishes ... his major work is, in the end, himself in the process of writing his books. The private life of an individual, his sexual preference, and his work are interrelated not because his work translates his sexual life, but because the work includes the whole life as well as the text. The work is more than the work; the subject who is writing is part of the work”).
Doubting The Subject.
To repeat and extend the above thought -- subject’s objectivity acting as a perpetuation of object-ness, is in the center of philosophical subjective awareness of multiple levels of being, being as consciousness, and Being as Consciousness. Dimensions are in a way a fulfillment of the expansive nature of thought. A shifting of metaphors are congruent with this process. If we consider the philosophical and theological divisions made concerning object and subject, concerning the objective and the subjective considerations of both divisions, we discover this process is ultimately, purposefully, mystifying and in turn a necessary participatory inroad of an intentionality within our consciousness. This leads to an enacting, perpetual as an affecting of an otherwise surreal, abstracting, and seemingly distant; mystical consciousness recognizes this landscape and acts upon or within regular consciousness in the stream of things and their meanings.
Such intellectualizing with recourse to abstracting object-focus is not Foucault’s alone but an initializing response in the heart of many utterances; we share in an abstracting process when confused by experience, by life, and we redress our behaviors sans understanding. Doubt might be the question asked of being. “Why do you doubt yourself?” – (a question asked in an episode of X-Files, reiterated in Paul Patrick Shanley’s 2008 stage drama/film, Doubt, where behavior, i.e. action, is predicated on self-understanding or lack of, and projected to the other, whoever the other might be, whatever the other might be suspected of doing, and regardless of recourse to any particularity of evidence over suspicion and the stereotypical mental claim of certainty). Shanley’s opening asks “What do you mean you’re not sure?” This question leapfrogs to other inferences: Do we understand what is needed of experience for the development of our souls? Are the concepts, the distinctions proffered, regarding subjectivity and objectivity mere distractions from a holistic grasp of reality, and as distractions are they basically destructive? Do the distinctions promote a violent oblivion lurking in the heart of matter? Do the distinctions promote greater realization, as understanding of the supposed and confirmed other–the object addressed and more significant aspects, perhaps, of knowledge?
Interestingly, in late 1973 a television film called Catholics, (directed by Jack Gold and based on a novel and screenplay author by Brian Moore) “speaks” to the personal dimensions of radical changes in religious orthodoxy. As abbot of a group at an isolated monastery (Trevor Howard performing) he is to lead the brothers to a new set of Vatican Counsel decrees against which the Irish monastic order’s clerics have been rebelling. The changes involve the Pope’s stating that transubstantiation is no longer an aspect of the faith (i.e., a lie or fiction in our reading of Foucault) but religious faith is the powerful effect of personal prayer. The implication of the depths of doubting is achieved in the final scene when the brothers, one after another, are awed by their own, separate personal prayer at a final ritual, whereas the abbot is shown in a terrible personal agony, because we already knew that he had lost his faith. Loss of faith is, hence, the object of doubting. This new substitution of personal prayer replacing the mass, benediction et al does not dissuade the abbot from his doubt, expressed without words through his facial features and body movements while in the chapel with the others.
When scientist, Special Agent Dana Scully, a character in the televised The X-Files, shares her feelings with Agent Reyes, for instance, “I fear that God is speaking, that when I speak no one is listening,” the character’s apprehension suggests an unspoken, but not unfelt, connection between the I of a person and an other person or being, and the possible ultimate I as Consciousness, as in “I am” (I am that I am - Ehyeh asher ehyeh, also translated as: I shall be that I shall be. Exodus 3:14). Another layer of meaning is implied: the “eye” of acknowledgement and acceptance, of seeing or understanding (seeing into, as from an externality, natural or supernatural) based on our physical sense, our corporal perception, our spiritual assertion and psychological acceptance of our being. Significantly as to my thesis, too: our human tendency to anthropomorphize our deities, such as the God of Scully’s fears, as suggested and almost hidden as an important speculation, hence her “No one” basically infers that God is beyond human reactions and naming. God is indeed an abstraction.
Abstractions are often conveniently lazy generalities (as with imagery whether verbal or visual as in the fine arts’ manifestations of meaning), and almost always an abstraction—as it--is doubling back “upon itself” perhaps reflectively, as Foucault (perhaps teasingly) denotes in “discourse having been slyly folded back upon itself” (p. 9. Ibid.) the mirroring paradox in distinguishing speaking as reflective upon speaking thus becoming fictional and epigrammatic as lying. Speaking of speaking, and writing about speaking and writing, is a reoccurrence of these two propositions that is most significant. Speech whether as truth or as fiction forces us to act through consequences of the designation; one must consider beyond the repetitive mirroring, however, whether metaphor is ultimately an asserted lingual truth, and with such an assumption, then, of the potentiality of metaphor challenging us as to the reason metaphor exists. We might ponder from what emptiness in language the grammatical metaphor arose. Does the emptiness coincide with the emptiness, the nothingness, affirmed by mystical acclimation? Body, Epigrammatic Of Consciousness.
Examining language, in this instance that of Foucault, and if considering language having a biological source in word play, we might consider that insight on an issue stems from or is rooted in a basis of externalizing our bodies, abstracting a body-part through a perhaps instinctual inference of body-parts. The body owns reference to the metaphoric engineering of the word, the natural province of the subject being the subject’s physical being, and the evolving of words’ grammatical context. Too, the exposition of the “other,” that object of our reasoning has, within dimension, a source in the body presence. Language’s own complex, extensive, and reoccurring history of referencing experience, including mental concepts, involves the diversity, even, in equating human physical dimensions with religious symbolism. In “Making Sense of God’s Body,” a discussion ensues about the sense of urgency, sensitivity, and intimacy of Moses in his mystical encounter with Divine Consciousness on Mount Sinai. Howard Eilberg-Swartz quotes Tryggve Mettinger about distinctions …
... made between the mental concept of God … and the express form in which this concept is communicated in texts. … When the Old Testament texts mention God’s ‘hands’ or ‘eyes,’ we designate this as an anthropomorphic (i.e., human-like) representation. However, such representations may be symbolic adumbrations of a Gottesvorstellung (mental concept) that is much more sophisticated than this’ (1978, pp. 204-5). ‘In other words, the metaphor is just a vehicle for a more sophisticated conception and hence does not indicate how Israelites actually imagined God. God’s appearance and essence is in fact beyond human description and comprehension. The references to the deity’s body parts are used figuratively to conceptualize what otherwise cannot be communicated. … The restraint in describing God stems not from a desire to avoid anthropomorphisms … but from the acknowledgment of God’s transcendence or otherness (Barr 1959). Awe and fear of the deity underlie the hesitation about describing God’s form. (pp. 64-65. “Making Sense of God’s Body,” God’s Phallus and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism. Howard Eilberg-Schwartz).
That metaphor, as suggested above, is a vehicle for a more comprehensive energy, a deeper significance that the metaphor as a likeness of something other and frequently something more profound, the multiple qualities in forming then become a paradigmatic expression of the supernal realm, the Supernal Other. It in the context of spiritual symbolic expression becomes the instantaneity of divine expression, as the implied expression of its own self within Itself.
Anthropomorphic imagery remains at the heart of the human impulse, rising especially when deification is tantamount to need, expressive of profound emotion and desire for a supreme subject. Divine imagery retains an anthropomorphic basis, but consider that the expression is initially and ultimately human. As demonstrated in artistic imagery during the historical evolution of human understanding, other imagery than human while combined with human is yet in the potential of expression of emotional, mythic, and spiritual resonances. Images sometimes evoke transcendence through combinations of human with mammalian, insectian, aerial, and aquatic creatures showing a dual connotation (mermaid, angels with wings to indicate flight, the satyr and centaur, etc.), i.e., through similar mannerisms of transcendental imagery. We seem to want our deities to be somehow human, somehow as enacting a given, haunting relationship between our body countenance with a heavenly countenance or presence as if mirroring each other. Sexuality and the Dream of the Body.
If we consider that either a quiescence or an aggression about the body might prefigure language, mystical language draws the mystic to insights utilized in sexuality and sensuality as expressions, as acts of creation; metaphor is not simply grammatical, an objective analytical stance on imitation or mimicry, but is an act of being spiritually experiential. The realization arises about the awesome and aggressive power of the body that expressively infiltrates the tempering of language, either as overt or in restraint.
The aversion of the gaze … reflects an ambivalence about God’s sex. Specifically, the gaze is averted from precisely those parts of the deity’s body that play a critical role in our judgments about a human figure’s sex, namely, the front and face. Because these parts of the deity’s body are veiled, it is as if the whole question of this being’s sex posed a fundamental danger that could not be faced. Furthermore, the turning of the divine figure and the diversion of the gaze from the midsection to the feet may represent an act of modesty, both on the part of the deity who turns away and on the part of the Israelites who avert their eyes. This is not too say that the divine genitals would actually have been exposed if God had not turned away or their gaze not been diverted. (p.109. Ibid.)
The gaze is a provocative gesture perhaps intentionally ambivalent to thwart rejection, yet when a gaze is pronounced in passing such intensity between two individuals proffers an attempt that is desirous for interaction, is where concerns manifest and interactions at the level of such is seemingly frightening. Further promoting an insistence of being together without reservations on the basis of a gaze between individuals. The distancing away from such intimate connections means the possibility of the gaze being accepted between the perceivers, and completed in a range of nuances, of some degree of relationship, an intercourse is possible between individuals. The couple is “caught” in an in between (i.e., inbetween) space.
The gesture of modesty as to the above quote, looking down however briefly and especially if the gaze is again adherent to the passing or possibility of passing on from the transaction, is also a gesture of submission and acceptance, of desire for the return and for the initiation of contact. That the gaze incurs the entire body, and not just face to face, or eyes to eyes, leads to an intensification of the potential transactions. One is willing to give all to receive all.
The idea of a divine phallus and of divine maleness in general became more and more incoherent as Israelite religion tended toward an exclusive relationship with one God. In ancient Israel, the very idea of a penis presupposed the existence of an other, an other of the opposite sex, with whom some sort of satisfaction could be achieved and reproduction be assured. The idea of divine genitals was therefore potentially disruptive unless God was imagined with a lover, and the biblical writers never conceptualized God as sexually active with anyone but Israel. (p. 109. Ibid.)
Generalities are easier acceptances than direct confrontations, so Israel as the love of the divinity, even as lover of the Divine Countenance, is not surprising. But the gaze is inherently personal, as is the mystical experience, and the gaze in mystical exposition remains a haunting aftermath of awe, desire, and fear. The gaze between individuals is a variable for the perception of an other as an observation, as one perceiving another without the participation of the other perceiving similarly, an inclination that remains implicit although desire may nonetheless remain imminent beneath the sight, a prelude to insight. Intent or hope conceived might easily be shifted, as a metaphoric instance, to concealment, a waiting for the openness of exchange, for what is to be revealed.
The profundity of expression beyond a narcissistic mannerism is offered in such implications as, e.g., “the music of the spheres” and “the song of the angels” are expressions when such desire for deification is expressed through imagery of the cosmic windswept galaxies, through the expansion of the body into a presence indicated as biblical furlongs; the multiplicity of an expanding anthropomorphism in the size and lengthening of the body in whatever capacity is part of the insight. Phallic tumescence is indicative of tumultuous exposition noting the proliferation of muses of spirit, and with modern technology witnessing such with creatures of the microcosmic world of spectacular coloring and grotesqueness of form (from a human perspective) and the seemingly endless immortality of human potential sought in other forms, mirroring such imagery or as with human, is then a reified human combination intermeshed with other forms.
The diction of man made in God’s image personifies the opposite compulsion – God in human image, which offers the substantive aspect of the consubstantial and of transubstantiation in religious idioms. To continue with the metaphoric possibility of provocation and the potential of attainment suggested by Eilberg-Swartz:
The solution of imagining Israel as a metaphorical woman generated other dilemmas: as part of this collectivity, Israelite men were placed in a potentially homoerotic relationship with God. The phallus of God thus represented a scandal in this religious mythology. By diverting the gaze from bodily parts of the deity, particularly from the front and genitals, the myths skirted the conceptual problem that lay at the heart of a system which did not imagine its God in sexual relations with other gods. This avoidance eventually made the entire body of the deity a problem. (p. 109. Ibid.)
Looking away or “looking back” is acknowledging the body source and not just as an historical categorization, as the officiously secular physical root of Foucault’s object-ness (i.e., looking at the other), one might infer, is referential to his own phallus as dominant object of body sensation and sensitive to sensation. Anonymous sex in a dark labyrinth of a bathhouse, e.g., removes subject for an object-pleasure derived process.
Laws suspended, prohibitions lifted, the frenzy of time that is passing away, bodies mingling together without respect, individuals unmasked, abandoning their statuary identity and the figure under which they were recognized, allowing an entirely different truth to appear.
(p. 199. Discipline and Punish. Foucault)
The inference for language in the anonymity is in the following:
The thinker flirts with self-destruction. For when the void around language ‘emerges in all its nakedness,’ when ‘Desire reigns in an untamed state, as if the rigor of its rule had leveled all opposition, when Death dominates every psychological function and stands above it as its unique and devastating norm; then we recognize madness in its present form, madness as it is posited in the modern experience, as its truth’ – a strong word, here – ‘and its alterity.’
(p. 144. “In The Labyrinth,” The Passion of Michel Foucault. James Miller).
Mythic wholeness is rendered by body part that as symbol for exposition becomes a sign of focusing; this factoring is a suggestion of augmentation toward the greater expansion, toward inclusivity that is paramount to the desire for relationship. In interviews Foucault acknowledged the prescience of awareness of the phallus, appearing as significant in his earliest writing in secondary school (doing homework for, and to attract, beautiful young men, exclaimed when interviewed) and conditioning his later expositions of societal legalities involving sexual expression in The History of Sexuality (Volumes I, II). For additional confirmation on Foucault’s experimentation with freedom, freedom in sexual excitation as well as the geographical implications of the freedom of thought, I recommend his referencing the writing of Jean Hyppolite upon the occasion of Hyppolite’s death. Foucault’s exercising of freedom, that maneuvers not just thought but the entire activity in the immediate surround and what such implies, is a remark about philosophy in terms of that freedom, sexual and all else as to thought and its surrounding. Thus, in the David Macey biography, Lives of Michel Foucault: ...the history of philosophical thought, ‘of that torsion and that turning back upon itself . . . by stepping back from its immediate form manifests what can found it and establishing its own limits’. Introducing a more subjective note, he then went on:
Conceived in this way, philosophical thought maintains the discourse of the philosopher within the instance of an indefinite vibration, and makes it resonate beyond any death; it guarantees that philosophy will be in excess of any philosophy: a light which was awake even before there was any discourse, a blade which still shines once it has entered into sleep.
(p. 231, “Vincennes,” The Lives of Michel Foucault – a Biography. David Macey).
Throughout Foucault’s writing, the phallus is metaphoric as body sensation and the politicizing of the body transfers (as it points--as a primal body sensation) into determination and causation; the object/objective of the phallus is as causative as perception (the eyes), as instigative as mental configuration and conceptualization (the brain and nervous system), et al. Objectifying the implied erect penis (or, the heart, the hands, the mind, the gut, the testicles, the eyes, etc.) confirms the objectivity of language as thrust even in naming body parts. Calling attention to the it of the gaze is acknowledging that variant something, now nominative and real, and is a means for the prescient aggressivity of the word, of the flesh made word – a personifying; and thus it becomes name and abstraction, the abstract it. Such expression emanates from body-awareness, from that confidence about the nature of engagement and communication as intercourse, and that meaning even in the objective sense is of a biological nature. Language does not deny the body but confirms the body, even the body politic, according to Foucault. Foucault is playful in his connection of individual body sexuality and the communal body.
Among its many emblems, our society wears that of the talking sex. The sex which one catches unawares and questions, and which, restrained and loquacious at the same time, endlessly replies. One day a certain mechanism, which was so elfin-like that it could make itself invisible, captured this sex and, in a game that combined pleasure with compulsion, and consent with inquisition, made it tell the truth about itself and others as well. ... We have all been living ... under the spell of an immense curiosity about sex, bent on questioning it, with an insatiable desire to hear it speak and be spoken about, quick to invent all sorts of magical rings that might force it to abandon its description.
(p. 78. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Michel Foucault). (Note: I continue to emphasize via italics Foucault’s use of the pronoun although herein another of Foucault’s books).
In this sense, the sexual act, even if promoted, stylized, and inspired by the words made more or less taboo, at least eroticized, begins on a predication of incompleteness in the objective language for what expression will congeal when one is within the other or the other is within you as the object of desire.
On the self-referential qualities in terms of power and sex, Foucault in discussing sexuality and language, indicates, ”I realize a circular project in the sense that it involves two endeavors that refer back to one another” (p. 90. Ibid.), and thereof recognizes in the often strange torsion and imagic (with this term I imply a combination of magic and imagery) language of dreams as similar to language in general, that dreams secure ...
...a secret, especially that sex is to our conduct and to the manner of power in words. Examining the sexual dream and the writing of the sexual images by Artemidorus, confers, ‘The dreamer is always present in his own dream.’ The sexual images that Artemidorus deciphers never constitute a pure and simple phantasmagoria of which the dreamer would be the spectator and which would unfold before his eyes independently of him. He always takes part, and he does so as the leading actor. What he sees is himself in his sexual activity: there is an exact correspondence between the subject dreaming of an act and the subject of the act as it is seen in the dream. Second, we may remark that in terms of his work as a whole, Artemidorus seldom contrasts sexual acts and pleasures as signified or presaged elements; it is relatively exceptional for an image given in a dream to forecast a sexual act of a deprivation of pleasure. ..,,, Artemidorus almost always has them figure on the side of the ‘signifiers,’ and almost never on the side of the ‘signified.’ They are images and not meanings, representation and not represented event.” (pp. 26-27. “Dream and Act,” The Care of the Self: The History of Sexuality, Volume 3. Michel Foucault).
Fiction becomes an act of transcendence, moving from language to a greater discourse in imagination. The words invent the body of the scheme. This objectifies experience and concept. That which might be transcendent is herein embodiment through language, dream invested or the affectations within an altered state of consciousness such as in sleep, dreams, and in close encounter narratives. A covalence perhaps of mystical consciousness as an always present subconscious, bent on resolution.
Cognition of the origin of the dream or visionary occurrences as to encountering carries one into the depths of spirituality, performed as to the individual soul needs. The dream performs both past and indicates an internal recognition of the expected future – the now state. From where the dream starts moving through episodic image states, to the ending of the dream near or at awakening, is a mannerism of the mode of transcendence. The process of transcendence begins in the physical and personal corporal body as the body’s deepest reserve of holiness, of spiritual significance, and moves through problematic episodes into the awakening by returning to the psychical, physical existence. The depth in mind is in the image narrative moving into the awakening that is the ongoing physical existence. Regarding the secret life of a dream as an interior prophetic sensibility
as future-projection and affirming a link through the seeming-present to the past (not simply in this soul’s processing of this current life as “it” has been lived, but of the soul’s other lives), a prescience of what lies ahead. A clue is in where the instances of image purport themselves into our sleeping consciousness or as within the altered state pertinent to the encountering orientation. If, for instance, the sexual, i.e., physical-corporeal, nature of the imagery falls close to the waking stage, examine what lies deeper into the sleep state, and we might find our personal understandings of God present although often this deeper stage is not remembered.
The deep range of dream sleep demands an active interpretation, a secret milieu of integration from the beginnings of our life forwarding itself (implying the self in human-psychic inferences) into our present state, for participating in our future. The dream seems automatically to work backwards from the site of awakening where the sexual and moreover body components, i.e., physicality and corporeality are readily available. And, from that, if remembered, the original “beginning” of the dream offers a movement back into the earliest part of the dream imagery where the significant spiritual origin manifests what is to follow. And this depth--the spiritual origin of the thought of the dream’s context is the hardest to remember once fully awake.
James Edward Carlos
The July 2022 SEGMENT #4 of “IT”
“Prophecy And Tracing Dreams Into The Days That Follow. Reverberation”
will follow in the July 2022 Issue of “Alternate Perception Magazine.”