“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More on Paul

Officially sanctioned Christianity only lets a few people have mystical experiences. The full-on one of course was Jesus himself, who, in the fabulous phrase of Alan Watts, was “kicked upstairs” (what they do to you when you are a nuisance in England: give you a peerage). Only Jesus was allowed to be the Son of God, whereas his message appears (from an outsider's point of view) to be that we can all become sons of God.

To a lesser extent, Paul is allowed to have his mind blown because he is responsible for franchising Christianity to non-Jews, thus spreading the religion worldwide.

In order to think Paul is amazing, at least two of these have to be held true:

The Abrahamic God exists.
Mystical experiences are very rare.
Paul's mystical experience was unique.

I find it suspicious that left philosophers have latched on to these beliefs. Consider another religion: Buddhism. In Buddhism, being blinded by light and changing your life around should be a daily, even hourly occurrence, or you're not doing it right. Or consider a persecuted sect of Christianity: so-called “Gnosticism.” The same goes for that. You can become a son of God, according to Gnostic scriptures. A Paul a day keeps the doctor away.

How come left pretty much atheists have attached so much to Paul? I put it to them that at least one of these applies to them:

they are not as atheist as they claim;
out of sheer ignorance they have never stepped outside the Abrahamic bubble;
at the very moment at which postcolonial awareness becomes inevitable, they have attempted to pin down world history to a corner of “the West”

More soon.


zareen said...

To be fair, mystical experience is open to all, and not considered entirely uncommon, in Orthodox Christianity.

Dave Mesing said...

Tim, I don't meant to be combative, but none of those charges have anything to do with Agamben's book. I'm less interested in defending Badiou's book, but I just think it's too much equivocation to dismiss appropriations/readings of Paul altogether. In other words, these seem like metacritiques... if I'm just nagging away at a pet peeve, then I will stop, but if you are actually claiming that all of the contemporary leftist readings of Paul are terrible, I'd like to see some textual arguments.

I'm re-reading parts of Agamben's book for something I'm working on, so I'm keen to keep defending him even though I'm actually arguing against his Romans book!

Joe Clement said...

"We can all become sons of God"

That seems to be what Leon Rosselson is suggesting at the end of "Stand Up For Judas"