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This is a book about theory and method in the study of religions. The premise is straightforward enough: debates about theory and method in the study of religions have been conducted in terms of the opposition of understanding to explanation, with phenomenologists of religion legitimizing their methods on the grounds that theirs is the only approach that properly preserves, describes, represents or evokes the believers point of view and the interiority of the religious belief or commitment and which, therefore, does not simply reduce religion to an effect of some other process. Those arguing against phenomenology – and they come from various backgrounds including anthropology, sociology and psychology – critique the phenomenological approach as value-laden and saturated with prior and often undeclared hypotheses about the truth of the sacred and as such offer their own approaches as properly scientific and value-neutral. But post post-modernism, it is clear that the idea that there can be value-neutral approaches to any phenomena whatever is itself a value, that is, is itself an assumption or prior hypothesis. As such, it is my opinion that the conduct of debate about theory and method in the study of religions in which particular approaches are classified as either privileging understanding or explanation or as being scientific or anti-scientific, has become sterile, producing only caricatures of particular theories and theorists. In place of the understanding : explanation opposition I therefore propose to re-classify theories and methods in the study of religions around the opposition of fact and value. In particular, I will group together those theories in and for which fact and value are necessarily intertwined to demonstrate certain commonalities and differences that were hitherto invisible. As such, I will bring together the phenomenology of religion, postmodernism and Marx-ism as approaches to religion that all, though
in different ways, bring certain values into play for the study of religions. The question then becomes which values are appropriate for the further development of the study of religions in the twenty-first century. I ‘read’ the phenomenology of religion as an instance of the aesthetic critique of modernity that critiques modernity as the forgetting of the sacred, invoking nostalgia for authentic sociality, privileging powerful, de-centring and transformative experiences over subjectcentred instrumental reason. This phenomenology of religion claims that positivism reduces religions to facts without meaning and questions the possibility of representation through its emphasis on evocation. I will treat the aesthetic critique as a discourse in the Foucauldian sense, and I will demonstrate that this discourse also substantially structures the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud – thinkers usually associated with reductionism in the study of religions and who are therefore positioned in opposition to phenomenologists of religion. I will subsequently move on to explore the writings of three post-modern thinkers – Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau and Jacques Derrida – to argue that their works constitute a continuation of the aesthetic critique of modernity and to establish certain points of comparability or harmonic resonance between the phenomenology of religion and post-modernism. However, I will also detail some important differences between phenomenology and post-modernism before turning to the thinking of Jürgen Habermas and Marx-ism to suggest an alternative grouping of theoretical tools for the study of religions in the twenty-first century. The book is structured in three parts. In Chapter 1 of the book I will seek to offer counter readings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Ninian Smart. The purpose of these readings against the grain will be to show that the debate about reduction actually authorizes a very limited understanding of the scholars concerned: as such, a reading that begins by situating Otto, Eliade, Smith and Smart within the aesthetic critique of modernity will take as its point of departure the moments at which these authors can be shown to share with Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, the idea that there are no facts without a prior framework of values through which they can be interpreted.
Ricoeur’s brilliant readings of Freud (1970, 2004a, 2004b) constitute an important step in exploring points of harmonic resonance between the so-called hermeneutics of suspicion on the one hand, and the hermeneutics of restoration, on the other. I will then proceed to focus on the ways in which my four phenomenologists of religion understand modernity, conceive of method in the human sciences, elaborate writing and the evocation or representation of facts and the tension between phenomenology as an empirical discipline that is committed both to the value-neutral description of a certain class of facts and advocacy on behalf of or for the promotion and celebration of religion as a form of the ‘good’ life. I will attend to the conjunction – in their writings – of religion and the sublime, focusing on their privileging of powerful, transformative experiences that de-centre and indeed threaten to dissolve the knowing subject whose presence to itself and to reason allegedly constitutes the guarantee of objective, rational knowledge. These will be readings that concentrate upon resonances and harmonics between certain aspects of the phenomenology of religion with the writings of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. The analysis will go beyond conventional recapitulations of theories of religions organized around claims and counter-claims about reductionism to show that the phenomenology of religion – like the writings of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud – is structured in advance by the aesthetic critique of modernity. In Chapter 2 of the book I will juxtapose the writings of Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau on madness and possession with Jacques Derrida’s writings on religion and his idea of the so-called metaphysics of presence, at all times attending to the connecting threads between their work and the issues highlighted for analysis in Chapter 1, in particular the tendency to privilege experience as a counter to subject-centred instrumental reason, the critique of positivism and the privileging of meanings over facts as well as the (romantic) tropes of tragedy, loss and exile that together register a certain debt to the writings of Nietzsche and Heidegger. I will argue that the post-modern refusal to commit to any substantial body of values apart from critique means that it offers no grounds whatsoever for guiding future research in the study of religions.
In Chapter 3 of the book I will offer some concluding remarks first on some important differences between the phenomenology of religion and post-modern thought. In particular, I will focus on Foucault’s archaeology and genealogy and Derrida’s deconstruction which offer significant strategies for reflexive investigation into scholarly practices and their historicity and which surely belong to that ‘tradition’ of thought known as ideology critique, a critique developed by Habermas who tries to find a way out of the philosophy of the subject without abandoning the emancipatory content of modernity. As such, I will contend that the phenomenology of religion, through its insistence on ‘bracketing’ or ‘suspension’, is incapable of asking questions about its own operational concepts or critically reflecting on its own authorizing practices for establishing the truth of certain descriptions or evocations against or over other kinds of statement. I will also argue that post-modern critiques of the subject and of meaning and of modernity’s ‘grand narratives’, however compelling, must in the last analysis be held in check given the refusal of post-modernists to commit themselves to any system of values whatsoever. I will end by arguing, via a case study from my own field work on local religion in the Philippines, for a return to Marx’ notion of ideology that treats religion as a form mediation and to a discriminating scholarship about religions, able and willing to make judgements not only about the veracity of the claims of other scholars, but also regarding those about whom we write, whether those subjects are historical or ethnographic.
I would like to acknowledge here the influence of a number of people without whom this book could not have been written: first Cosimo Zene and Alnoor Dhanani for finding me things to do and giving me reason to think – for reasons too numerous to detail here, they are the inspiration for this book; to Fang-long Shih, Stephan Feuchtwang and Stuart Thompson – and indeed everyone who has been involved with the Taiwan Research Programme at the LSE – for the sophisticated and edifying discussions to which you invited me to participate; to Steven Engler for timely comments and critical observations; to my Mum for all the encouragement over the years; and finally, to Dave, Holf, Jules, Linn, Neil, Nigel, Mark and Mike for the welcome diversions you have offered. All errors in fact and interpretation contained in this book are, of course, your fault. One final word of thanks goes to Richard Bartholomew for formatting the manuscript and preparing the index.
The procession of the Black Nazarene takes place every 9 January at Quiapo Church in Manila, in the Philippines.1 Crowds begin to gather around dawn outside the church, while the procession itself is preceded by masses repeated every hour until the Nazarene appears. These are broadcast via huge video-screens and a public address system to the throng outside the church, accompanied by the throwing of holy water over the crowd and short speeches from local and national dignitaries. Before leaving my hotel and making my way to Quiapo, I watch local television news reports and take in local newspapers to see if and how the procession is being reported. The procession is notable for its absence from the main pages of the newspapers bar a few lines warning of traffic disruption or reiterating security assurances, while early morning television represents the crowds already congregating at Quiapo and the event generally in terms of disruption to Manila’s at best patchy circulation of vehicles and bodies. Quiapo emerges from these reports as an area best avoided. Nevertheless, on my arrival at the square I find that several Filipino media vans are in attendance, and several stories and features will appear in the newspapers after the event. The crowds gathered in the square outside Quiapo church are largely Manileños, though some have travelled considerable distances to participate. The majority are young men, barefooted, tattooed, many wearing t-shirts designating membership of a particular fraternity, fraternities defined by locality and for honouring the Nazareño and often sponsored by local politicians. As soon as the so-called Black Nazarene emerges on its carriage with its fraternity guards from the church into the square, these groups of young men press forward, throwing their head towels to the men on the carriage, who
Religion and the Discourse on Modernity
then wipe the towels on the icon and throw them back. Others, helped by their barkada or fellow fraternity members, attempt to clamber upon the carriage itself to touch the Nazarene. The passage of the carriage is extremely slow and fitful. Its progress across the square and through to the streets around the church is constantly interrupted by groups of young men attempting to obtain a ‘blessing’ from the Nazarene. These men describe themselves and are described by others as ‘fanaticos’ because of their devotion to the Nazarene. As the Nazarene leaves the square to enter the narrow streets around the church, the crowd in the square begins to thin. Behind me is a Philippine media outside-broadcast van, and a camera is mounted on its roof. A young and apparently well-known female broadcaster is up there as well. Within a few minutes a crowd, composed of women and men, gathers around the van. Most try to peer through the tinted windows to get a glimpse of the van’s interior. Then, two women toss their head towels to the woman atop the vehicle. Extraordinarily, this young journalist appears to possess the same or similar powers of attraction that only a few moments before, led thousands to follow the Black Nazarene. How should religions, religiosity and religious events and spectacles be interpreted? Typically, in the study of religions, the call is to attempt to access the inner lives of the religious. What meanings do they ascribe to their actions? What is the interiority of the religious commitment? In order to accomplish this task, the researcher must place her or himself in brackets or suspense, and through imaginative or empathic liason, seek to reconstruct the religious world(s) of his or her co-subjects. But, what of the contingent structures and articulations that circumscribe and limit religious meanings and commitments? In the event described above, it might be argued that what is really being enacted at Quiapo is the reproduction of particular norms and conventions surrounding social relationships in the Philippines, specifically rules that surround dealings with persons and entities of higher and lower status. These rules circumscribe linkages and articulations between individuals, groups, institutions and objects and constitute a cultural code for approaching authority and entering into a reciprocal relation of debt and obligation that also functions as a guarantee of protection. As such, what is expressed at
Quiapo is not (or at least, not only) a religious conviction although participants may justify their presence and their actions in these terms. Obtaining a ‘blessing’ from the Black Nazarene is, to be sure, an occasion for young men and the fraternities to which they belong to demonstrate their physical prowess through gaining proximity to power. The blessing itself secures a variety of things: it confers, for example, potency or virility, protection against illness and accidents, and confirms or raises the status of both individuals and fraternities competing for limited resources of symbolic power. Yet, in the newspaper articles and features that surfaced in the days and weeks after the procession, Quiapo was written about in purely religious terms. For example, the Manila Bulletin published a lengthy article describing the relationship of a local man to the Nazarene. What is interesting about this piece is its patronizing tone and trite emotional economy: The second time he took part in the procession, he was able to grasp for some exultant minutes one of the ropes from the carroza [the Nazarene’s carriage]. Next year, he hopes to achieve the supreme act, the rite of the towel touching the dark wood of the Nazareno. He has vowed to assist in the January rites for nine successive fiestas. He has seven more to go and is confident that the Señor of Quiapo will not deny fulfilment of his vow. One day, in the year devoted to consoling the Nazareno is, after all, small recompense for all the favours the Lord has bestowed on him. His children have survived their illnesses; his wife has found work as a casual worker in a textile factory; his jeepney, despite the numerous hazards of city streets, has suffered nothing more grievous than an occasional dented fender. Blessed are the simple of heart, for theirs are the ecstasies of the spirit in the Quiapo of the Eternal Galilean. (Manila Bulletin, 19 January 2003) What is perhaps most remarkable (and most troubling) about this passage is how clearly religion emerges as consolation and compensation for the poor, such that Quiapo’s function as part of an economy of illusory rewards for desperate bodies is actually celebrated.
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Indeed, the article authorizes a religious interpretation of Quiapo that circumvents alternative interpretations, interpretations that seek to go beyond what people may say about themselves, their motives, intentions and inner lives and instead situates such claims in a wider milieu of cultural, political and economic practices and discourses. This book is about interpretations in the study of religions and is specifically concerned with the structural–discursive features of apparently diverse and even allegedly mutually opposed interpretative strategies in the study of religions typically formulated in terms of the opposition of understanding to explanation. Indeed, the purpose of this book is to offer a critique of theory and method in the study of religions from a broadly Marx-ist perspective. Specifically, I will argue that by taking Jürgen Habermas’ (1990) claim that the discourse on modernity is characterized by an aesthetic critique of Enlightenment or instrumental reason that privileges experience set free from the constraints of temporality and socio-cultural situated-ness that simultaneously evokes a nostalgia for an existence without mediations, an important point of departure for re-framing debates about theory and method in the study of religions – in particular, the debate about reductionism that describes a choice between a theoretically incoherent and unscientific phenomenology on the one hand, and an unsympathetic positivism on the other – is made available. Debates about theory and method in the study of religions have typically been conducted in terms of Wilhelm Dilthey’s classical methodological opposition of the naturwissenschaften to the geisteswissenschaften – of the so-called natural sciences to the so-called human or social sciences and of explanation (erklärung) to understanding (verstehen) (Palmer 1969: 100).2 It is also implicitly a debate about fact and value, for whereas Marx-ist, phenomenological and post-modern narratives about modernity are committed to making evaluative judgements about the modern condition and about religion, positivists seek the apparent rigorous separation of fact from value in order to (hermetically) seal science and scientific arguments in an antiseptic capsule in space. Segal’s (1989a) drawing of hard lines to demarcate so-called reductionists from religionists is significant both for the strident terms in which the battle-lines are drawn and also for
its aggressive critique of the phenomenology of religion and the defence of the social sciences: Religious studies . . . continues to be dominated, though not quite monopolized, by persons committed to the defence of religion. Against philosophy and the natural sciences religionists defend the truth of religion. Against the social sciences religionists likewise defend the truth but more distinctively defend the religiosity of religion: they defend an irreducible religious analysis of the origin, the function, and by some definitions the meaning of religion. The religionist rejoinder to the social scientific challenge takes disparate not always consistent forms: the denial that the social sciences deal at all with religion; the denial that the social sciences deal with the heart of religion; the denial that religion can be explained; the claim that religion can only be interpreted; the claim, or assumption, that an interpretation of religion is necessarily irreducibly religious; the claim that the social sciences have come round either to explaining religion the way religionists do or else to interpreting rather than explaining religion; and the claim that the issue of truth is beyond social scientific ken. (Segal 1989a: 1) Segal’s arguments demand careful reading. For example, Segal’s (1989b, 1989c, 1989d)critique of Mircea Eliade proceeds or takes as its point of departure, the value-saturated-ness of Eliade’s work on religions. It should be pointed out at once the care with which Segal works through the understanding : explanation problematic and the debate about reductionism, but also the ambiguity of his position. Segal does not claim ‘that reductive analyses are superior intellectually to nonreductive claims’ (1989b: 27) and indeed he states, correctly, that ‘a scientific explanation challenges not the phenomenon being explained but only alternative explanations of it’ (1989b: 25). Importantly, however, he also claims that the ‘social sciences ordinarily seek only the origin, function, and meaning of religion, not its object’ (1989c: 39) and, elsewhere, that with regard to the social sciences ‘only the origin and function, not the object, of religion get reduced’ because those sciences can ‘explain no more’ (1989e: 57; see also 1989f: 82).
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These comments suggest perhaps that Segal thinks the question of religion’s object belongs to another discipline (e.g. philosophy) but it also carries the suggestion that there is a certain surplus to religion that must forever remain not only beyond social scientific enquiry but all rational knowledge. But, perhaps Segal’s position – and it must be inferred from the manner in which he approaches the arguments of his adversaries – comes down to this: the study of religions, in order to be able to offer warrantable theories of religions, must purge itself of all prior or constitutive values and must as such conform, in its formulation of hypotheses and their testing, to the standards of positive science. I use the word ‘positive’ because of Segal’s frequent citations of the likes of Ernest Nagel and Carl Hempel, figures associated with the philosophy of science, the Vienna Circle and so-called logical positivism. Segal’s core objective would then appear to be an anti-septic study of religions cleansed of all ‘contaminating’ values. But given that such appeals to value-neutrality are themselves value-saturated, Segal is either surprisingly naïve or, and this is perhaps more likely, seeking only to rule out some values from research on religions. This point becomes more acute when one considers the question Segal asks at the end of the final essay from Religion and the Social Sciences : ‘how would one interpret seemingly irrational beliefs and practices?’ (1989g: 176). No answer is proffered and one can only assume that Segal wants things all ways: Eliade’s values are ruled out of court while other apparently innocent values are smuggled in through the back door. The question of values in the study of religions lies at the centre of this book and I hope to offer an answer to Segal’s question. In recent years a number of further texts have appeared that also advocate the rejection of phenomenology in favour of allegedly more scientific approaches or at the least, a generalized shift away from understanding to explanation: Penner’s (1989) turn to Lévi-Strauss and structuralism is accomplished through the destruction of phenomenology on scientific (positivistic) grounds; Lawson and McCauley’s (1990) critique of phenomenologists such as Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade as ‘anti-scientific’ (1990: 14) provides an opening to argue for a cognitive approach to religion;3 Fitzgerald’s claim that ‘there has never been a pure, disinterested scholarship in the field of religion’
(2000: 39) leads him to first advocate dropping the category ‘religion’ altogether on account of its ideological saturation and secondly to call for a turn to anthropology and cultural studies;4 McCutcheon’s (1997) archaeology – a view from afar of the study of religions – lays bare the discourse of sui generis religion as an object for analysis and the rules and procedures for the regulation of truth-statements about religion, though critically McCutcheon also writes from within the opposition of understanding to explanation, advocating a ‘naturalist’ or scientific approach, privileging the equally value-laden idea of ‘explicit and testable theories of religion’ (1997: 193);5 Flood’s (1999) critique of phenomenology and advocacy of ‘dialogism’ turns on an opposition between subject-centred reason for which reason is a tool for mapping and naming objects on the one hand, and situated co-subjects embedded in the very world(s) they seek to explain or understand on the other, and it is similarly hinged on the explanation : understanding dichotomy though with the ironic twist that it is phenomenology that comes to play the role usually occupied by positivism. The volume of essays entitled Religion and Reductionism (1994) demonstrates the sterility of the debate: there is nowhere to go except to one or other entrenched position, to learn the arguments either way and wile away the hours in the intricacies of demolition. The first premise of this book is that the debate about reductionism is a dead-end. The second premise is that if one examines the normative boundaries and lines of demarcation that the debate draws between so-called religionists on the one side (Otto and Eliade and Smith and Smart), and so-called reductionists on the other (Marx, Nietzsche and Freud), one finds that it engenders a very partial and probably distorted reading of the scholars and theories concerned. By reading the phenomenology of religion through the aesthetic critique of modernity I will be writing against the scientism of some contemporary scholars of religion who insist on denying entirely the value-laden-ness of the sciences (Gellner 1992),6 and the tendency of the phenomenologists of religion to regard ‘theory’, especially ‘social theory’, as some kind of subterfuge or coded attack on religion, but most especially against the crude classification of theory and method in the study of religions in terms of the understanding : explanation problematic.
Religion and the Discourse on Modernity
For example, according to Palmer (1969: 44), Ricoeur distinguishes between two kinds of hermeneutics: ‘one . . . deals lovingly with the symbol in an effort to recover a meaning’ while ‘the other seeks to destroy the symbol as the representation of a false reality’, as if some kind of unbridgeable abyss divides an Eliade from a Marx. However, Ricoeur’s position is more complex. Ricoeur is highly critical of the reduction of Marx to ‘economism and the absurd theory of consciousness as reflex’, of Nietzsche’s association with ‘biologism’ and ‘violence’ and Freud’s association with ‘pansexualism’. For Ricoeur, all three offer a new ‘art of interpreting’ (Ricoeur 2004a: 144) which I take to be a call for the cross-reading of scholars of religion rather than their rigid separation along dubious theoretical and methodological lines. However, my argument is not – in the spirit of Paul Ricoeur – an attempt to, as it were, recuperate ‘atheism’ or the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ for the construction of ‘a postreligious faith or a faith for a postreligious age’ (2004c: 436). Rather, I will argue that the aesthetic critique of modernity is constitutive of the phenomenology of religion and its critique of ‘profane’ existence. Moreover, I claim that this aesthetic critique is a discourse in Foucault’s sense of the term. Foucault asserts the autonomy of discourses in generating truth-statements according to particular rules of statementproduction. Foucault argues first that truth-statements are products of discourse – rather than, say, the products of the mental acts of particular authors – and illustrates how discourses operate according to hidden rules and procedures for selecting and discriminating between statements (see also Laclau and Mouffe 1994: 105). Secondly, he suggests that discourses do not necessarily or only speak about objects that are empirically given. Rather, he claims that ‘discourses . . . [are] practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak’ (Foucault 1974: 49). As a discourse, then, the aesthetic critique of modernity is an encompassing structure of statements, values and claims. This aesthetic critique authorizes a narrative of loss whereby the advent of modernity is understood as the dissolution of authentic social bonds and the corruption of an essential human Being; it further authorizes a critique of reason that privileges powerful experiences that destabilize the subject and it rejects what it frames as the ‘reduction’
of religion to ‘mere’ facts, thereby elevating intuition and sympathetic imagining to the status of method. According to Habermas, Nietzsche was the first to conceptualize the attitude of aesthetic modernity before avantgarde consciousness assumed objective shape in the literature, painting, and music of the twentieth century . . . In the upgrading of the transitory, in the celebration of the dynamic, in the glorification of the current and the new, there is expressed an aesthetically motivated time-consciousness and a longing for an unspoiled, inward presence. (Habermas 1990: 122–3) By reading the phenomenology of religion through the aesthetic critique of modernity, it will be possible to establish threads and connections between, in the first instance, the hermeneutics of suspicion (exemplified in the writings of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud) and the hermeneutics of restoration (i.e. the phenomenology of religion) and, in the second instance, between the phenomenology of religion and post-modern thought. It will also be possible to establish the theoretical weaknesses of these approaches and positions but without having to do so through recourse either to a utopian positivism or scientism or the idea of pure and discrete facts given un-problematically to the refined senses of the knowing subject. Rather than invoking a scientific or value-neutral methodology I shall turn to Habermas and Marx-ism – like the phenomenology of religion and post-modernism, an approach for which facts and values are of necessity intertwined – to suggest not only a point of view for reading theory in the study of religions but also to indicate a way forward for that study at a time when religious ideas are acknowledged as playing a vital role in mediating local conceptions of identity and belonging (for example) in a world that is simultaneously and intensely more fragmented and more interconnected than at any other time in human history. In this I follow Hewitt (1995) who embraces what she calls ‘substantive reason’ that founds notions such as ‘justice, freedom and happiness’ (1995: 20) as against an instrumental-technical conception of reason that is associated, by phenomenologists of religion, post-modernists and Marx-ists alike, with ‘dehumanisation and alienation’ (ibid.).
Religion and the Discourse on Modernity
Marx-ism has rarely if ever been taken as a theoretical point of departure in the study of religions. Because Marx’ thinking is represented as reducing religion to an epiphenomenal effect of economic processes, it is generally rejected as a valid point of departure for thinking about religions. This, in my opinion, is a serious mistake: in broad terms, Marx sought to theorize the manner in which religious ideas and practices mediate apprehension of the world. Marx’ notion of ideology – developed from his readings of Hegel and Feuerbach – was not only a means of theorizing the relation of religious ideas to specific kinds of society but was also part of generalized effort on Marx’ part to argue that knowledge has a real social basis and to offer grounds for discriminating between competing truth-claims about society, nature and human being. This surely remains an important project at a time when we seem increasingly paralysed by the sheer excrescence of opinion and debate and when the new media empower the dissemination of any point of view, no matter how absurd, parochial or patently wrong. As such, in the concluding sections of this book I will return to Marx’ notion of ideology and Habermas’ critique of post-modernism and post-structuralism to argue that the study of religions must commit itself to a realist ontology that takes the inevitable hiatus between the believer’s point of view and reality as the starting point of analysis. I will argue that such a move does not of necessity lead to any paralysing of reflexivity, and nor can it simply be dismissed as a species of ‘orientalism’ or intellectual vanguardism. I will claim that a commitment to realism does not negate the factvalue problematic. Indeed, the observation that ‘facts’ can change under differing kinds of (historical) enquiry (Kuhn 1998) effectively lays to rest the idea that there could ever be fully objective knowledge of any kind. Knowledge, as Popper understood (1998), can only ever be provisional. Nevertheless, this must not mean the abolition of all and any criteria for the falsification of truth-claims or for discriminating between rival interpretations. Most importantly of all, the fact that Marx-ism is committed to discerning the value of facts and the fact of values constitutes a critical point of comparison both with post-modernism and the phenomenology of religion, and sets all three approaches very much in opposition to a narrow positivism or scientism that refuses to acknowledge the situated-ness of knowledge
and presupposes with one hand the possibility of objective, valueneutral knowledge while with the other denies that it holds any prior assumptions at all. The phenomenology of religion had its beginnings in an attempt to wrest the study of religion away from early anthropologists who sought to situate religion – as a certain type of world-view – within an evolutionary framework of intellectual and social development (Sharpe 1986: 220). During the nineteenth century, a significant shift took place in the way the category ‘religion’ was understood. Early anthropologists such as E. B. Tylor, J. G. Frazer and H. Spencer conceived of human history as a linear, developmental process, akin to evolution and susceptible to scientific study. History was understood as a sequence of stages through which humankind gradually evolved from savagery to civilization, and religion was understood as playing a pivotal role in this process. For these scholars, religion was a precursor to science, and although a necessary stage of development, it was ultimately to be conceived as an obstacle to reason. This notion of linear evolution was exemplified in the idea of a progression of sequential stages each marked by a forward movement to rationality, improved technology, mimetic representation and body discipline and a simultaneous backward movement in the believability of religion based in the absence of reference between religious symbols and actually existing states of affairs. For the early anthropologists, then, the quantitative measure of difference between societies lay in their technical achievements, and religion was as such understood, by proponents of the evolutionary hypothesis, as a backward theory of nature that would be replaced by positive science. For liberals and Marx-ists alike – for whom the promise of science typically implied not only the gradual accumulation of increasingly accurate knowledge of the world but also the possibility of society being organized according to rational principles – this meant that science and indeed sociology would replace religion not only as a theory of the universe but also as a theory of society and social organization. This schema profoundly shaped popular and scholarly conceptions of time and progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was also extremely important to the development of Marx and Freud’s respective theories of religion.
Religion and the Discourse on Modernity
In response to this essentially Enlightenment critique of religion, it was countered that religious truth-claims ought not to be understood as referring to any objective, materially constituted reality – the proper domain of scientific enquiry – but rather to an inner, allegedly spiritual realm. The origins of this understanding of religion is typically traced to Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Speeches on Religion to its Cultured Despisers, in which he claimed that religion had little or nothing to do with doctrine or morality, but was rather born of a certain sensitivity of feeling or cultivated interiority through which the individual comes to recognize him or herself as a fragile creature, dependent on something higher (Capps 1995: 13–18; Kippenberg 2002: 14–17). The glimpsing of this higher and ultimately constitutive truth is the paradigmatic religious experience that is at once knowledge and feeling and both transient and ineffable (James 1997: 300). This movement towards interiority and (aesthetic) transformative experiences both anticipates the work of Otto and resonates strongly with the emergence of the twin categories of the aesthetic and the sublime that I shall turn to later on. However, it was also a means of defending religion by identifying ‘the instinctual impulses from which religious feeling proceeds’ (Capps 1995: 15). The narrow, rationalist conception of religion as a series of explanatory propositions about the world was, then, countered by phenomenologists of religion who privileged first the symbolic or non-representational features of religion and religious language and secondly, claimed for religion a basis in the experience of the ‘wholly other’ that strategically attempted to move religion beyond the positivistic or scientistic forms of enquiry authorized in certain sociologies, psychologies and anthropologies towards ‘methods’ that emphasized experience, intuition and meaning. These counter measures were part of generalized critique of modernity – ‘the desacralized world’ in the language of phenomenology – for which the study of religion itself represented the possibility for the re-enchantment of that world and a return to authentic sociality. Interestingly, however, phenomenologists of religion also worked for the emergence of a rationally founded, world order. The ideal of global religious dialogue founded on respect for the Other and mutual understanding but which at the same time embraces the value of rule-bound rational
speech – based in a Hegelian/Marx-ist conception of historical development as the inevitable flowering of a global self-consciousness – is a consistent feature of certain phenomenological writing about religions. Post-modernism is a body of theory rarely dealt with in any systematic fashion in the study of religions. King’s (1999) engagements with post-colonial theory in his critique of the discursive production of a ‘mystic east’ and Carrette’s (2000) attempt to rewrite Foucault as a theologian were, in the spirit of post-modern inter-disciplinarity, efforts to draw the study of religions into debates and discussions and developments already embedded elsewhere in the human sciences. In similar fashion, McCutcheon’s (1997) application of Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘discourse’ for a meta-analysis of theory in the study of religions and Flood’s (1999) engagement with the likes of Mikhail Bakhtin and Hans-Georg Gadamer and a critique of that subject-centred reason Flood claims is authorized by the phenomenology of religion, were likewise demonstrations that post-modern theory could make a valuable contribution to theoretical debates in the study of religions. Rennie (2001) and Permenter (2001) have ventured considerably further to rewrite Mircea Eliade as a post-modernist-cum-poststructuralist, though their reading depends, it seems to me, on a fundamental misunderstanding in particular, of Derrida’s thought. Permenter’s claim that ‘the awareness of (non)duality . . . is a central characteristic of postmodernism’ (2001: 107) is surely a gross misreading of Derrida’s claim that Western thought is constituted by repression and by binary oppositions such as absence : presence and writing : speech (with one pole privileged while the other is held in abeyance) as means to guarantee or anchor meaning and as such, truth (Derrida 1997: 3). In Of Grammatology (1997), Derrida is not making ontological claims about the structure of the cosmos but is rather attempting, in a manner reminiscent of Freud, to demonstrate the ruses of interpretation and the duplicities of meaning. Furthermore, Rennie’s juxtaposition of Eliade and Derrida depends on the claim that ‘Derrida identifies a longing for a centre’ in the same way that Eliade recognizes ‘the desire to live in close proximity to the sacred’ (2001: xiv). The problem here is that whereas ‘longing’
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is critical to Eliade’s analysis of the state of human beings in profane existence – the ‘need’ for immersion in the sacred is fundamental to Eliade’s ontology7 – ‘longing’ has been written into Derrida’s thought by Rennie who is, as such, ‘guilty’ of eisegesis or of reading into Derrida an idea or meaning that simply is not there. Derrida’s critique of the ‘metaphysics of presence’ is not based in a theory of needs but rather focuses attention on the interpretative strategies through which meaning is produced and grounded but also, through attentiveness to polysemy and how meaning unravels beyond the conscious control of any author, how a putative text is ‘de-centred’. More generally, where the term ‘post-modern’ is deployed it is conventionally as a form of abuse (Segal 2004: 50), a disparaging throwaway remark that rarely implies an effort to engage, in systematic fashion, with post-modern thinking and how it might constitute, through critical juxtaposition with the phenomenology of religion, a means for re-framing the manner in which theory and method in the study of religions has been conceived.
The discourse on modernity In contrast to the aesthetic critique of modernity with its stress on the limits of reason and the impoverishment of existence, the purposive rationality of capitalism enshrines a modern episteme whereby knowledge emerges as measurable and quantifiable, and where truth can be judged according to criteria of successful action and/or rational speech. This positivistic epistemology based in the formal separation of subject and object allegedly leads to increasing consonance between the real and representations of the real and as such, to the emergence and cumulative generation of predictive, rational knowledge. The freeing of reason from tradition and religion is a central element of the narrative of liberation at the heart of modernity but, the linking of freedom, reason and truth not only masks re-articulations of the power–knowledge nexus in modernizing societies, it also privileges procedural, contractual rules of interaction over other possibilities of sociality. The ambiguity of the modern – as the possibility of freedom and truth rationally realized as against, perhaps, a Weberian or Foucauldian
narrative of incremental or progressive un-freedom – is captured by Marshall Berman, who defines the modern condition in the following terms: There is a mode of vital experience – experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life’s possibilities and perils – that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience ‘modernity’. To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, ‘all that is solid melts into air’. (Berman 1982: 15) There are a number of points one might remark on in reflecting upon Berman’s definition. Berman asserts the universality of modernity. A project initially rooted in the particular cultural and historical conflicts of Western Europe is now global in reach. The relatively new paradigm of globalization and the opposition of ‘the global’ to ‘the local’ demands negotiation of opposing positions embedded in Berman’s definition. The first position posits the existence of a global system – capitalism – which increasingly ties even the most remote localities into a global economy. It points to the emergence of international financial and judicial institutions – among others – and the hegemony of liberal-democratic states as a means of organizing and homogenizing the political and economic life of nations across the globe. These economic and political forms privilege a conception of human nature and of rational social action that orients individuals towards the calculated, goal-oriented pursuit of personal wants that appear to transcend parochialism, tradition, class, gender, ethnicity and religion.
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The second position acknowledges modernity’s global reach, but simultaneously points out that its effects are mediated and negotiated by the local – by local cultures, religious conceptions and so forth. Whereas the first position seems to portend a world in the grip of gigantic, impersonal and essentially non-negotiable processes of standardization, homogenization and conformity, the second position speaks of fragmentation and hybridity as modernity’s effects are worked out, interpreted and acted upon by different individuals, social groups and classes in different parts of the world. Here, modernity is not something that happens to people but is a process susceptible to intervention. To return, then, to Berman’s definition of modernity: after informing us of modernity’s global reach, Berman moves on to emphasize its ambivalence, indeed, its schizophrenia. Modernity, it would appear, is thoroughly post-modern. The post-modern predilection for uncertainties, for dislocations, ambivalences and struggle is, it turns out, the defining feature of what it is to be modern. To be modern emerges as a condition and as an experience where one is caught betwixt and between – betwixt and between the overcoming of the past and of torpor and of being propelled, at speed, towards a future that has no certain form. Modernity has the structural characteristics of ritual: the experience of modernity is thoroughly and essentially liminal. Positivistic definitions of modernity tend to elide both the liminality that Berman’s definition of modernity privileges and the aesthetic critique of modernity for which the modern condition is a radical loss of authenticity. Noting a plethora of quantifiable and positive phenomena held to be indicative of modernization including industrialization, technological innovation, secularization, individualism, massive demographic upheaval, urban expansion, systems of mass communication, capitalist relations of production, literacy and the emergence of print media, and the rise of nationalisms and of nationstates, modernity becomes measurable and is stripped of values such as authentic : inauthentic and ambivalence. The standard, positivist story of the modern era proceeds something like this: the onset of modernity is marked by certain shifts in conceptions of time and space, and in the methods employed for acquiring knowledge about the world. History is conceived as a linear process of development
and as a civilizing movement. The uncertainties of modernity are assuaged through the positing of a destination (Fukuyama 1992). Modernity’s potential radicalism is as such negated. A powerful allknowing Western subject able to represent and interpret the world, modernity’s hero of knowledge and truth, emerges as the standard bearer of modernity’s promise to uplift the world. In the same moment that time acquires purpose, space is transformed into something that can be planned and rationally administered, effectively and efficiently disciplined and managed. This history is periodized in such a way as to give each stage or chapter the feel of necessity and inevitability (Kumar 1995: 66–85). Before Christianity, pagan Europe conceived of time as cyclical – as being defined by the seasons, by day and night, by the inevitable procession of birth, death and rebirth. Time was as such understood as repetitive and regular, the world as unchanging. Christianity, however, with its focus on the unrepeatable and miraculous event of the coming of Christ into the world, eroded the pagan world-view. Henceforth, time could be divided between the time before the coming of Christ and the time after. Furthermore, the Biblical narrative of creation, fall and redemption articulated a new relation between present, past and future and gave time both a purpose and a direction. The notions of the modern and the new – notions elaborated by mediaeval Christian theologians – initially carried a negative or derogatory meaning. In mediaeval Christian thought, the past was hallowed. The Renaissance in Europe did not fundamentally alter this view. The new knowledge promised by Renaissance thinkers, writers and artists was constituted in terms of a return to the Golden Age of antiquity – a return to an authentic past after centuries of stagnation and darkness. In fact, it was only in the eighteenth century that ideas about the modern and the new started to take on meanings and values similar to ‘our’ own. History had been understood as a process of inevitable decay. This understanding was inverted: hereafter history was conceived of as a developmental and enabling process, and fundamental to this inversion were two revolutions whose reverberations are still being felt today. The Industrial Revolution transformed modes of production and consequently relations of production across Western Europe from
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the eighteenth century onwards. Peoples were uprooted from their lives on the land – lives organized according to the cycle of the seasons – to work in the new urban industrial centres. Clock time and spaces deliberately constructed for work, travel, leisure, education and punishment fundamentally transformed the landscape and human interaction with it. ‘Nature’ was radically reconstituted as a result of these transformations from an ordered system of relations and dependancies to an arena of competition and struggle. The French Revolution of 1789 brought together the twin ideas of reason and liberty. The overthrow of the traditional political élite of Western Europe and the gradual expansion of political rights to non-property-owning men and women saw the emergence of ideas that attempted to harness the urbanization and industrialization of Europe into a political project. The Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution were the two events that between them generated the so-called grand narrative of modernity: the ideas of history and progress, of reason and truth, of science and freedom. Socialism and liberalism emerged during this period, as did the social and natural science disciplines. For Comte and Saint-Simon, the new order would be led precisely by the new specialists of modernity: industrialists and positivists. However, in the writings of the likes of Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Weber, Heidegger and Foucault – among, of course, many others – one finds modernity, its dislocations and upheavals, and the narrative of progress and of the gradual closing of the gap between the real and accurate knowledge of the real, subject to critical scrutiny. It is to this aesthetic critique of modernity that I now turn, as the leitmotif that is repeated and elaborated across postmodern thought and, as I shall demonstrate later, the phenomenology of religion.
The aesthetic critique of modernity The aesthetic critique of modernity – a critique of subject-centred reason, of scientific rationality and objectivism and of the instrumentalization of social relationships in capitalism – is a key element of both the phenomenology of religion and its rejection of positivism and its emphasis on an encounter with an Other beyond reason,
Marx-ism and its claim that capitalism is a de-humanism and postmodern or post-structuralist thought with its privileging of the limits of reason and fascination with madness, frenzy and transgression. If, then, the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Rudolf Otto – typically understood as coming to the question of religion from divergent and indeed opposed standpoints – can be shown to share an interest in special experiences that can authenticate existence and give it meaning, or that Karl Marx and Mircea Eliade are both committed to an anti-science of modernity that seeks the re-enchantment of social relations, then this not only opens up alternative ways to think about theory and method in the study religions beyond the narrow and stifling confines of the debate about reductionism, it also opens up new avenues of critique that in turn are suggestive of how the study of religions might fashion a future for itself. The contours of the aesthetic critique of modernity describes the loss of pre-modern local universes of shared, inter-subjectively held meanings and values normatively thought to reside in religion and ‘the sacred’, resulting in fragmented societies where instrumentality, utility and performativity mark the triumph of process over substantive values. Indeed, the liquidation of gemeinschaft – of mechanical solidarity – emerges as the core problematic at the heart of discussions of modernity. In particular, capitalism and the egotism of the market-place are thought not merely to dissolve parochial ties of kin and culture thus liberating individuals from feudal systems of stratification, but are also thought to threaten social order through the disconnecting of social action from any concept of the social conceived holistically. The state or national community, supported by the educational apparatus and the media, is precisely supposed to fill the vacuum created by the evacuation of religion from public life. As such, ‘the modern state has to make citizenship the primary principle of identity’ in order to transcend modes of identification ‘built on class, gender and religion’ (Asad 2003: 5). In similar fashion, Durkheim argues that the object of education is to ‘arouse and to develop . . . a certain number of physical, intellectual and moral states’ (1956: 71) in order to guarantee organic solidarity in modernity, while according to McLuhan, ‘print created individualism and nationalism in the
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sixteenth century’ (2004: 21) suggesting that the advent of new forms of media(tion), particularly mass or popular forms, coincided with or indeed caused new forms of sociality that would become the new adhesive of post-religious societies. Benedict Anderson’s thesis that print media played a critical role in the emergence of nationalism makes exactly the same point (1991): the new bonds of national loyalty, according to Anderson, create a belonging in anonymity out of the everyday and paradoxically solitary practice of reading newspapers. If religion and ritual generated and sustained fraternal bonds in pre-modern societies, a new fraternity would be created by the media. McLuhan’s assertion that ‘the medium is the message’ (2004: 7) was intended to draw attention to the fact that ‘the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs’ (2004: 8). According to McLuhan, the advent of mass media equates with the advent of modernity, the steady secularization of society and the decline of religion precisely because the medium itself generates change at the structural level of society. Mass media, then, according to both McLuhan and Anderson, fill the void created by the evacuation of religion from society. Mass media, like education and citizenship, then, are supposed to provide the fraternal bonds and linkages that will bind individuals to one another (see Williams 2005a: 52). However, the thrust of critical theory assumes that these substitutes for religion are in fact incapable of generating an authentic or meaningful sociality and indeed serve only to perpetuate the ideology of capitalism. In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer claim that [t]he sociological theory that the loss of support of objectively established religion, the dissolution of the last remnants of precapitalism, together with technological and social differentiation or specialization, have led to cultural chaos is disproved everyday; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything. Films, radio and magazines make up a system which is uniform as a whole and in every part. (Adorno and Horkheimer 1972a: 120) Although modern capitalist ‘culture’ acts as a social adhesive, the rationalization of being away from substance to function strips it of
authenticity. Secularism’s self-conscious historicity is turned towards the steady impoverishment and instrumentalization of relationships under capitalism leading away from meaning to nihilism. In the writings of Nietzsche one finds the onset of the modern described in terms of flux and uncertainty. Nietzsche’s infamous declaration that ‘God is dead’ encapsulates the extraordinary sense of vertigo that accompanies the destruction of old foundations. The passage in which Nietzsche famously invokes the death of God occurs in The Gay Science though it is repeated in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This news, proclaimed by the madman, is both vertiginous and an expression of anguish: the madman’s words are not comprehended by his audience in the market-place, because none among them foresee the profound consequences of the event of God’s death that the madman perceives so clearly: Haven’t you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran around the marketplace crying incessantly, ‘I’m looking for God! I’m looking for God!’ Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing around together just then, he caused great laughter. Has he been lost, then? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated? – Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. ‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I’ll tell you. We have killed him – you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? Don’t lanterns have to be lit in the morning? Do we still hear nothing of the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we still smell nothing of the divine decomposition? – Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! . . .’ Finally he threw his lantern on the ground so that it
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broke into pieces and went out. ‘I come too early’ he then said; ‘my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder need time; the light of the stars needs time; deeds need time, even after they are done, in order to be seen and heard. This deed is still more remote to them than the remotest stars – and yet they have done it themselves! ’ (Nietzsche 2004: 119–20) The passage speaks of a radical de-centring of the world. No doubt Nietzsche sees the wiping away of the ‘entire horizon’ as an opportunity to create new values, yet he also sees God’s murder as a further sign of the weakness of Western culture. Nietzsche regards Christian values as bankrupt, but he also regards the certainties of science as equally hollow. Moreover, he believes that recognition of this fact will lead to nihilism. As such, Nietzsche is sometimes labelled a ‘nihilist’ and indeed he called himself the ‘prophet of nihilism’. Nihilism implies a denial of all values or morals and Nietzsche is profoundly interested in values and morals and their role in culture. Nietzsche does not proclaim the arrival of nihilism as something to be celebrated. Rather, Nietzsche regards nihilism as a profound threat to Western culture such that a way has to be found to revalue values. Indeed, Tanner suggests that what Nietzsche portrays, throughout his works, ‘is the gradual but accelerating decline of Western man into a state where no values any longer impress him, or where he mouths them but they mean nothing to him any longer’ (1997: 379). The problem for Nietzsche, then, is to work out which values and which forms of sociality might constitute preferable vehicles for an essential will to life denied, according to Nietzsche, by Christianity, socialism and positivism. In The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels define what they call ‘the bourgeois epoch’ in the following terms: Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fastfrozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become
antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air. (Marx and Engels 1968: 83) For Marx and Engels, the break with the past is a critical moment that promises the transformation of the consciousness of the proletariat and a subsequent transformation of all social relations. Further, the modern is the moment of liberation from fossilizing tradition, and The Communist Manifesto is precisely an attempt to inscribe certainty and direction to modernity by giving it definite moral content, something conspicuously absent from Nietzsche’s writings. Yet, Marx’ theory of ideology – which delineates the relationships between knowledge and particular constellations of political and economic power – encourages one to see behind every claim to truth the will to power or will to illusion (Nietzsche’s notion of genealogy is similarly meant to reveal the subterfuges of truth, morality and taste). If ‘the’ Marx-ist narrative of modernity relishes the destruction of the past world and eagerly anticipates a secular promised land of universal peace and freedom while yet offering the means – via the concept of ideology – to critically interrogate and indeed deconstruct itself, Freud’s analysis of the individual and its relation to society unhinges, in significant ways, the narrative of modernity as progress and freedom advancing as it does an alternative narrative of instinctual restraint in which the body is bound ever more tightly within an ethic of discipline through which it is progressively subordinated to the mind and cognitive control and as such adjusted to the demands of culture and civilization. In ‘The future of an illusion’ Freud suggests that repression is an essential feature of civilization, claiming that ‘every civilisation must be built up on coercion and renunciation of instinct’ (1991a: 185). This point is reiterated in ‘Civilization and its discontents’ (1991b: 286). Significantly, the linking of civilization and renunciation was not a new idea: Herbert Spencer had already claimed that civilization depended on the ability to defer gratification (Brickman 2003: 46), while Weber’s analysis in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism posited an ‘elective affinity’ (1978: 341) between rational capitalist accumulation and ascetic Protestantism, in which capitalism and abstract doctrinal religious commitments were linked to an ethic of bodily discipline. This was in turn linked to
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Weber’s own negative assessment of modernity as being ‘bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which . . . determines the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism . . . with irresistible force. . . [it is] an iron cage’ (2002: 123). Weber’s analysis seems to equate modernity with loss and dehumanization, such that the idea of modernity-as-freedom has been completely swept away. The ideas of Marx, Freud and Weber exercised considerable influence on the so-called Frankfurt School. In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer’s analysis of the myth of Odysseus and the Sirens in which Odysseus plugs his crew’s ears with wax and lashes himself to the mast of his ship in order to avoid succumbing to the Sirens’ song represents, according to Adorno and Horkheimer, the repression of emotion and desire in favour of hard work, duty and self-discipline that Adorno and Horkheimer claim is constitutive of bourgeois civilization (see Hewitt 1995: 21–7). If, for Freud, the repression of desire is a critical and necessary element of civilization or modernity, for Adorno and Horkheimer desire poses the possibility of release from the drudgery of clock time and the dehumanization of the person under capitalism. Desire, for Adorno and Horkheimer is constituted as ‘the promise of happiness which threatened civilisation in every moment’, (1972b: 33) and as such it has revolutionary potential. For Adorno and Horkheimer, repression is not an inherent feature of the human condition but the product of particular historical circumstances. Similarly, in Eros and Civilization (1969) Marcuse argues that although what he calls ‘basic repression’ was necessary for overcoming resource-scarcity in building civilization, it is now the case that technological and scientific advances have made such repression unnecessary. As such, modern societies are now characterized by what Marcuse terms ‘surplus repression’ – repression that is surplus to the maintenance of the social order and which exists rather to perpetuate specific forms of political and economic domination (1969: 44). Moreover, according to Marcuse, human liberation depends upon the liberation of sexuality – of the libido – from the asceticism of monogamy, the limits of reproductive sex and the work ethic.8
For Freud, however, echoing Hobbes, the human being is by nature anti-social, aggressive and destructive, and in ‘Civilization and its discontents’ Freud characterizes history as an ongoing struggle between Eros and Thanatos – between the instinct for life and the instinct for death. Furthermore, the promises of modernity – of true knowledge, of universal peace and liberation – are displaced by Freud’s own pessimistic assessment of the human condition. Freud argues that ‘society is perpetually threatened with disintegration’ by the ‘mutual hostility of human beings’ (1991b: 302), and he remarks that scientific advances provide the means of ‘exterminating one another to the last man’ (1991b: 340), even though those same advances are elsewhere constituted as the grounds for rational self-knowledge and the overcoming of illusion. Freud’s work, then, sits ambivalently within the discourse of modernity: the contention that ‘there are present in all men destructive . . . anti-social and anti-cultural, trends’ (1991a: 185) – an unconscious signifying primitive urges and neurotic impulses – suggests that Freud’s work can also be read as a radical dissection of the figure of the detached and neutral knowing subject drawn in Enlightenment thought, a subject that is seen to be constituted by forces and desires beyond its own conscious apprehension and which undermine any unproblematic access to or use of reason, a picture that resonates strongly with Nietzsche’s writings. Heidegger, in common with Marx, Weber and the Frankfurt School, conceives of modernity as a radical loss of authenticity, and Being and Time can be read as a critique of mass society and modern life that for Heidegger corrodes and contaminates the possibility for authentic existence. Thus, Heidegger juxtaposes Dasein – that being that enquires into its own Being in seeking to live authentically – with ‘the they’. Dasein is threatened by ‘the . . . dictatorship of “the they”’ (1998: 164) and by their ‘averageness’ (1998: 165) such that [t]he Self of everyday Dasein is the they-self, which we distinguish from the authentic Self – that is, from the Self which has been taken hold of in its own way. As they-self, the particular Dasein has been dispersed into the ‘they’, and must first find itself. (Heidegger 1998: 167)
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According to Heidegger, the possibility of living authentically depends on the eschewing of what elsewhere he calls ‘fancies and popular conceptions’ (1998: 195). An opposition of authentic to inauthentic frames Being and Time, and Heidegger employs it in a critique of modernity that ties authentic existence to a primordial connection with a mystical habitus that appears to evade or be beyond any kind of analysis whatsoever. Foucault’s critique of modernity borrows explicitly and implicitly from the writings of Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Weber and Heidegger. A central concern for Foucault is to explode the myth of liberation that dwells at the heart of conventional narratives of modernity. His analysis of total institutions, of Bentham’s Panopticon and of discourse unveils the modern period as an epoch in which bodies and lives are subjected to ever greater levels of surveillance and control or ‘discipline’. However, Foucault does not conceive of this as dehumanization or as the repression of something essentially human: rather, Foucault’s ‘micro-powers’ are productive, generating new discourses, practices and bodies in immense and anonymous processes beyond the intentions or purposes of any individual or class. As such, Foucault seeks to demonstrate how power and knowledge are inextricably intertwined. Modernity emerges not as the rational organization of social, political and economic spheres or as a context that encourages the value-free and detached pursuit of knowledge, but instead as a radical shift in the organization of power-knowledge: Humanity does not gradually progress from combat to combat until it arrives at universal reciprocity, where the rule of law finally replaces warfare; humanity installs each of its violences in a system of rules and thus proceeds from domination to domination. (Foucault 1991a: 85) Lyotard’s definition of post-modernism continues the critique of modernity that began with Marx but, whereas Marx sought to counter the fragmentation and exhaustion that seems to encapsulate the burden of the modern condition, for Lyotard the value of values – at least of universal values – is no longer clear. Indeed, any attempt to create a common or shared ground is eschewed in favour of a
position that claims only to expose the limits and even the tyranny of reason: I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself by . . . making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject or the creation of wealth. For example, the rule of consensus between the sender and the addressee of a statement with truth-value is deemed acceptable if it is cast in terms of a possible unanimity between rational minds: this is the Enlightenment narrative . . . I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. (Lyotard 1984: xxiii–xiv) According to Habermas these attempts to grapple with the problem of modernity can be understood as attempts to negotiate a single problematic: Since the close of the eighteenth century, the discourse of modernity has had a single theme under ever new titles: the weakening of the forces of social bonding, privatization, and diremption – in short, the deformation of a one-sidedly rationalized everyday praxis which evoke the need for something equivalent to the unifying power of religion. Some place their hope in the reflective power of reason, or at least in a mythology of reason; others swear by the mythopoetic power of an art that is supposed to form the focal point of a regenerated public life. (Habermas 1990: 139) Elsewhere, he argues that the aesthetic critique of modernity leads inevitably to the privileging of (allegedly) spontaneous, unmediated experiences, both overwhelming and transformative: The Young Conservatives recapitulate the basic experience of aesthetic modernity. They claim as their own the revelations of a decentred subjectivity, emancipated from the imperatives of work and usefulness, and with this experience they step outside the modern world. On the basis of modernistic attitudes, they justify an irreconcilable anti-modernism. They remove into the sphere of the
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far away and the archaic the spontaneous powers of imagination, of self-experience and of emotionality. To instrumental reason, they juxtapose in manichean fashion a principle only accessible through evocation, be it the will to power or sovereignty, Being or the dionysiac force of the poetical. In France, this line leads from Bataille via Foucault to Derrida. (Habermas in Hoy 1986: 8–9) Habermas places his hope of reconciling the worthy aspirations of modernity (freedom, knowledge) with the critique of reason and political and economic iniquity and injustice through what he calls communicative action (1990: 299) whereby ‘the knowledge of objects’ is ‘replaced by the paradigm of mutual understanding between subjects capable of speech and action’ (1990: 295–6). According to Habermas it is language that provides human beings with a shared horizon of meanings through which reason and rational social action might be re-connected to a conception of the social. According to Habermas, a shift to a notion of ‘communicative action’ provides the possibility for a reason located not in an isolated and atomized meaning-giving individual but one that is held between dialogically engaged co-subjects. Such a reason poses the possibility of a kind of knowledge that is generated through dialogue rather than models. According to Habermas, then, at the centre of modernity is the notion of a solitary reasoning or knowing subject that classifies, names and gives meaning to objects. However, this knowing subject and the method of introspective self-inquiry gives access to a reason out of context. On the other hand, a reason that is exercised between subjects – that is enacted in dialogue or communication – is a reason that operates in a context and which therefore can return a moral or ethical content to modernity. According to Habermas, a critique of modernity that proceeds via the privileging of special experiences – a critique pursued by both the phenomenology of religion and post-modern thought – runs the risk of a descent into reactionary nostalgia for an imagined past, a rejection of reason and a rejection of the emancipatory content of modernity. As is clear from the above, Habermas takes the post-modern critique of the subject extremely seriously, and with the emphasis on dialogue, Habermas is clearly seeking to steer
a course between any narrow vision of meaning or truth as correspondence with verifiable states of affairs on the one hand, and the post-structuralist or post-modern emphasis on endless deferral and polysemy, on the other. In this book, Habermas’ affirmation of the emancipatory content of modernity, an affirmation for which facts and values are necessarily conjoined, is the ground I have chosen for rethinking theory and method in the study of religions.
In the study of religions a core assumption that defines debates about theory and method is that Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud are ‘reductionists’, that they can all be criticized for failing to take account of the believer’s point of view and further that they are guilty of ‘reducing’ religion to some epiphenomenal effect of other processes, either political and economic as with Marx, or psychological or even physiological as with Nietzsche and Freud. Although there is considerable debate about what ‘reduction’ actually entails, it is broadly assumed by those opposed to it to entail a kind of violence that distorts the original testimony of the religious believer. By contrast, phenomenologists of religion such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Ninian Smart, Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade are said to approach religion on its own terms: they encounter it as it is and without prejudice and therefore are able to represent religion as religion. This, of course, hardly clarifies matters, as value-neutrality – the formal separation of fact from value – is also the key principle of positivism and the sciences generally, but it nevertheless constitutes the phenomenological guarantee of pure and uncontaminated representation (Smart 1997: 16). But, the problematic of representation is rarely theorized, either with regard to the writings of the reductionists or of those texts composed by phenomenologists of religion themselves. This is especially significant given that phenomenologists frequently claim to be engaged in evocation rather than representation (Otto 1958: 12; Eliade 1969) and, as such, to have transgressed their own rule of value-neutrality by allowing certain assumptions about the reality or truth of the sacred to structure their mode of enquiry. However, phenomenologists of religion also subscribe to the notion of the rational speech-act as the means of producing real and
deep inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding which channels phenomenologists of religion towards a completely different theory of language, meaning and verification. Indeed, some phenomenologists of religion make frequent appeals to a developing historical consciousness – an Hegelian or Marx-ist self-consciousness – as a means of envisioning the emergence of a spiritualized, global modernity, which draws them towards other ‘utopian’ writers such as Marx while others articulate a critique of modernity reminiscent of that offered by Nietzsche. Furthermore, phenomenologists of religion typically position their approach against reduction by arguing that religion is a special kind of phenomenon that lies, in the last analysis, beyond rational enquiry. This move draws the phenomenology of religion towards corollary critiques of reason and of the limits of reason though yet again, such a position and the webs and networks that link it to other thinkers and movements of thought are not explored. As such, in this first chapter of the book there are four sections: first, I will offer a brief sketch of the phenomenology of religion before setting out the manner in which the writings of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud have been represented as examples of so-called reductionism. Secondly, I will demonstrate that Eliade, Nietzsche and Freud share a critique of positive science as an inadequate tool for the apprehension and understanding of meaning and that this critique is linked to the aesthetic critique of modernity; thirdly, I will examine the ways in which Smith and Smart and then Otto and Eliade conceive of language and the related issues of understanding, translation, representation and evocation. Fourthly, I will focus on the representation, by Otto and Eliade, of the sacred as the ‘wholly Other’, as a phenomenon in excess of reason and the extent to which this draws them into the orbit of, on the one hand, theories of aesthetics and the sublime and, on the other, post-modern critiques of reason.
The phenomenology of religion The term ‘phenomenology of religion’ was first coined by the Dutch theologian, P. D. Chantepie de Saussaye, in 1887. The term suggested a mode of cross-cultural comparison of the alleged constituent
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elements of religion such as prayer, sacrifice, mythology, worship, art, divination, doctrine and scripture, and was essentially descriptive. The phenomenology of religion would later be positioned as an approach that privileged the understanding (verstehen) of religion and that sought to grasp its object through the value-free description of religious phenomena, and later scholars would attempt to delineate a distinct phenomenological method – for example, the Norwegian-Dutch theologian William Brede Kristensen argued for the priority of the believer and the believer’s point of view, while the Dutch theologian Gerardus van der Leeuw in Religion in Essence and Manifestation resolved the task of the phenomenologist of religion into five stages or methodological steps. These involved the assignation of names to specific phenomena, to experience these phenomena, to observe in a detached and neutral manner the experience, to clarify and comprehend and then to testify to what has been understood. The early phenomenology of religion, then, emphasized a comparative approach to religion that was sympathetic to the believer and sought to avoid contaminating the analysis by placing value-judgements in, as it were, ‘brackets’, and this view remains current in the field (Sharpe 1986: 220–36; Merkur 1998: 76). According to Twiss and Conser (1992), the phenomenology of religion has drawn its methodological and theoretical inspiration from the writings of Edmund Husserl and Wilhelm Dilthey though, it should be noted, neither of them were engaged in the study of religions. This methodology is usually conceived as comprising four steps, while the phenomenology of religion itself is characterized by Twiss and Conser as having three variants or strands. These differing strands within the phenomenology of religion emphasize variously, the experience of religion or the sacred, the historical–typological features of religion and existential–hermeneutical enquiry into religion. ‘Essential phenomenology’ implies a concern with the ‘essence . . . of the religious consciousness’ (Twiss and Conser 1992: 7); ‘historical–typological phenomenology’ with both the ‘worldviews of particular religious traditions’ and the ‘recurrent patterns shared by these traditions’ (1992: 24) and ‘existential-hermeneutic phenomenology’ with ‘structures and problems of human existence’ (1992: 44) in order to ‘rediscover humankind’s bond with a transcendent, sacred’ (1992: 45) and thereby counteract alienation and anomie.
Each strand draws more or less consistently from the following four methodological steps borrowed, according to Twiss and Conser, from Husserl’s endeavour to construct a philosophy ‘without presuppositions’ (Twiss and Conser 1992: 2) and Dilthey’s insistence on the importance of verstehen or understanding – through imaginative and intuitive re-enactment or reliving – of the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others. The procedure is as follows: (1) a focus on religious phenomena as they appear in particular times and places; (2) epoché or the bracketing or suspension of assumptions, commonsense beliefs and presuppositions so as not to ‘contaminate’ the experience; (3) the sympathetic and empathic re-experiencing of the phenomena and (4) the intuitive observation of and reflection on the re-enacted experience (Twiss and Conser 1992: 3). The notions of preserving the believer’s point of view through epoché or bracketing, the importance of empathy and reliving also known as einfühlung, and the eidetic vision – the search for the essence of the experience of the sacred or of religion itself via the identification of recurrent patterns that point to a grammar of religion – are constitutive of the phenomenological enterprise which seeks both to treat religions as a special class of facts for neutral description and to describe religion from a putative insider’s point of view and to evoke within the sympathetic reader an appreciation or experience of the religious phenomenon in question. These assumptions and methodological steps have, in turn, been elaborated more generally as a distinctive approach to a unique and therefore irreducible phenomenon that seeks to ensure that religion is not simply explained away as the epiphenomenal side-effect of some other process. Equally central therefore to the phenomenological approach to religion is the idea that religion is a phenomenon sui generis – in other words, that it is an autonomous and distinct datum and realm of belief and practice that cannot be reduced to any other. This strategy of demarcation and contextualization has been critical to the debate about reduction. For example, in The Idea of the Holy, Otto claims to be conducting an analysis of a ‘mental state [that] is perfectly sui generis and irreducible to any other’ (Otto 1958: 7). This ‘mental state’ cannot be elucidated by an enquiry that begins in physiology or psychology or, for that matter, as an outcome of institutional disciplines or socio-cultural forces. Rather, it must be apprehended
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as it is for it is not derivative but there, as it were, from the very beginning, a Kantian a priori, part of the structure of the mind itself (1958: 112). Like Otto, Eliade holds that religion is a unique and irreducible phenomenon. ‘To try to grasp the essence of such a [religious] phenomenon’, writes Eliade, ‘by means of physiology, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics, art or any other study is false; it misses the one unique and irreducible element in it – the element of the sacred’ (Eliade in Morris 1987: 176). Both Otto and Eliade, then, assert that religion is a unique phenomenon and, as such, that it requires a special kind of analysis. Critically, the assumption that so-called reductionist approaches are inappropriate to the study of religions pervades contemporary recapitulations of theory and method in the study of religions, from the reification of Ricoeur’s distinction between ‘interpretation . . . conceived as the unmasking, demystification or reduction of illusions’ and ‘interpretation conceived as the recollection or restoration of meaning’ (1970: 9), to Smith’s absurd claim – absurd because, as Gadamer so acutely made plain, pre-judice is not an obstacle to understanding but its condition and its very possibility (Gadamer 2004: 277) – that ‘to interpret others within one’s own categories is to misinterpret’ (1983: 8). Although Smart acknowledges that ‘the insider can be wrong’ (1997: 4) he nevertheless also holds to the view, pervasive among phenomenologists of religion, that phenomenology means the use of epoché or suspension of belief, together with the use of empathy, in entering into the experiences and intentions of religious participants. This implies that, in describing the way people behave, we do not use, so far as we can avoid them, alien categories to evoke the nature of their acts and to understand those acts. In this sense phenomenology is the attitude of informed empathy. It tries to bring out what religious acts mean to the actors. (Smart 1997: 2) These kinds of methodological commitments have led phenomenologists of religion into seeing their approach as being in opposition to other approaches in the humanities and social sciences.
Even Ricoeur – whose sophisticated reading of Freud is in part the inspiration for this work – reifies this opposition with his insistence that the phenomenology of religion is ‘descriptive, not explanatory’ (2004e: 315), that its fundamental methodological operations involve ‘sympathy’ and ‘imagination’ and that the phenomenologist of religion must re-enact or adopt the ‘motivations and intentions’ of the believer ‘in a neutral manner’ (2004d: 422). Furthermore, his insistence on the non-arbitrary nature of the (religious) symbol and the suggestion that within each such symbol can be found ‘the trace of a natural relationship between the signifier and the signified’ (2004e: 315) leads him to draw a contrast between ‘the fullness of the symbol as opposed to the essential emptiness of the sign’ and to argue that the phenomenological concern for symbols ‘is a renewal of the . . . theory of recollection’ that implies ‘new contact with the sacred, a movement beyond the forgetfulness of Being which is today manifested in the manipulation of empty signs and formalised languages’ (2004e: 316). This Heideggerian reading of the phenomenology of religion as a quest for addressing the long forgotten question of Being (Heidegger 1998: 21)1 is clearly value-laden in its implicit claims about what constitutes authentic life, and it also re-erects the boundaries of method that, elsewhere, Ricoeur seeks not merely to juxtapose, but to bring into ‘dialogue’ (2004e: 319). As such, conventional recapitulations of the phenomenology of religion uncritically reproduce the reduction : anti-reduction opposition through which the phenomenology of religion has been constituted as an enterprise that is the only means to correct the distortions it alleges are inherent to social scientific approaches to religion: for example, Daniel Pals claims that Freud’s theory is an example of ‘functionalist reductionism’ (2006: 77) and that Marx is ‘aggressively reductionist’ (2006: 139), while Sharpe asserts that ‘the Freudian approach made sympathetic and accurate study of the phenomena of religion impossible’ (1986: 203). Both re-inscribe a methodological and theoretical divide between the phenomenology of religion and the social sciences or the hermeneutics of suspicion so-called. Although Newell has attempted to rewrite Marx, Engels, Freud and Nietzsche as mystics (1995: 70–1, 126, 184) – an argument that I find both provocative and entirely unconvincing – the dominant discourse
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on theory and method in the study of religions remains stuck on the debate about reductionism, which is in turn bent on representing the debate about theory and method in the study of religions as a choice between an unscientific phenomenology or an unsympathetic positivism (for phenomenology the idea that explanation is always ‘bad’ is perfectly counterpointed by the idea that religion is always ‘good’). What is the evidence that is used to support this argument? In what follows, I will demonstrate that the argument is based in a partial reading of the scholars concerned that selects specific texts for analysis and ignores others, and does so from within a very narrow regimen of interpretation.
Nietzsche Central to Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity is the claim that the elimination of unpleasant physiological and psychological states lies at the heart of the desire to develop systematic explanations of the world. According to Nietzsche, ‘any explanation is better than none’ and thus explanation comes to depend not on veracity but rather on the successful elimination of unpleasant feelings such that a situation comes into being whereby ‘proof by pleasure’ becomes a ‘criterion of truth’ (Nietzsche 1990: 61). But the pleasure derived from feelings of power and control and the system of explanation that is built upon the elimination of distressing states must, according to Nietzsche, be measured in terms of the extent to which it either denies or affirms ‘life’ and, according to Nietzsche, Christianity is ‘hostile to life’ (1990: 52). Indeed, Nietzsche’s condemnation of Christian values emerges from his analysis of the origins of Christianity in the experiences of subject peoples. According to Nietzsche, values arise out of conflict and struggle. Christian values were born of resentment and feelings of revenge (ressentiment) and are essentially projections of hostility sublimated within a morality or code of conduct which emphasizes humility, obedience and bodily asceticism. For Nietzsche, Christian values produce a herd mentality and a hatred of the body. His analysis and condemnation of the ascetic ideal at the end of
On the Genealogy of Morality anticipates his call for a radical ‘revaluation of all values’ (1990: 31) in Twilight of the Idols: Man, the boldest animal and the one most accustomed to pain, does not repudiate suffering as such; he desires it, he even seeks it out, provided that he has been shown a meaning for it, a reason for suffering. The meaninglessness of suffering, and not suffering as such, has been the curse which has hung over mankind up to now – and the ascetic ideal offered mankind a meaning! As yet, it has been the only meaning; and any meaning is better than no meaning . . . man was saved, he had a meaning, from now on he was no longer like a leaf in the wind . . . now . . . he was able to will something – it did not matter at first to what end, why, and with what means he exercised his will: the will itself was saved. We can no longer conceal from ourselves what this willing directed by the ascetic ideal actually expresses in its entirety: this hatred of the human, and even more of the animal, of the material, this revulsion from the senses, from reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this yearning to pass beyond all appearance, change, becoming, death, desire, beyond yearning itself. All this represents – may we be bold enough to grasp this – a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental preconditions of life; but which is and remains none the less a will ! . . . And . . . man would rather will nothingness than not will at all. (Nietzsche 1996: 136) Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity – and of religions generally – is, if narrowly conceived, entirely reductive in that the phenomenon of religion is distilled down to merely the outcome of certain physiological and psychological states and feelings. However, once contextualized alongside some other of Nietzsche’s writings, his work can be shown to anticipate the very contours of the critique of science and modernity sketched by Eliade, while Nietzsche’s attention to style and the importance, especially in The Birth of Tragedy, to powerful experiences, likewise suggests that the juxtaposition of phenomenologists of religion with the likes of Nietzsche is likely to produce some
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important avenues of speculative enquiry that are completely closed off if one allows one’s thinking to remain within the narrow confines of the debate about reductionism.
Marx Marx’s theory of ideology, his linear conception of the historical development of the forces of production – that would culminate in the abolition of all contradiction and hierarchy in commune-ism – and his dynamic modelling of social structure, are fundamental to his reductive explanation of religion. According to Marx, religion has no substance or reality. It is akin to the fantastical thinking that occurs when one is intoxicated by powerful drugs, and it is, as such, entirely spectral, without a body, a side-effect, an epi-phenomenon and a bad dream from which the sleeper must awake in order to properly and accurately understand his or her world. Both in the Contribution to The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and the Theses on Feuerbach, Marx develops and elaborates the position set out by Feuerbach, arguing that the only way for the illusion of religion to be destroyed is for the destruction of the world that produced it: ‘the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it’ (1977a: 158). In projecting all the best attributes and qualities onto an imaginary entity, human beings are left alienated from themselves (Larrain 1992: 13). Moreover, this separation comes to legitimate and naturalize a political-economic order but also becomes a potential vehicle for opposition to that order. As such, ‘religious suffering’ is the ‘expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people’ (1977b: 64). But, religion can only offer mental compensation for a deficient reality and a solution to the contradictions of the material world in the realm of imagination and fantasy. Thus, religious consciousness is ‘an inverted attitude’ precisely because the world or society that produced that consciousness is itself ‘inverted’ (1977b: 63). As such, the religious consciousness is not empty – rather, it has a social basis, namely the inversions or
contradictions that lie at the heart of society. Once those (economic) contradictions have been removed – once the transition from capitalism to communism has been effected, either by the agency of the working class or simply by the inevitable progression of the historical stages of productive forces – religion will simply wither away and die. In the ‘Preface’ to A Critique of Political Economy Marx attempted to delineate the precise structure of societal antagonism. He identified the economic base or ‘real foundation’ of society claiming that it determines or conditions the ‘superstructure’ which consists of ‘definite forms of consciousness’ that in turn relate to specific stages in the historical development of the productive forces. This hermeneutic of depth is in common with both Nietzsche and Freud: the dissimulations of the surface are to be explained away through reference to deep and hidden causes. Thus, the inevitable development of the forces of production or technology leads to historic shifts from one mode of production to another (i.e. from feudalism to capitalism) that in turn drives concomitant shifts in the relations of production and as such constitutes the motor of history and of societal change. Religion, as ideology, is as such merely one of the ‘ideological forms’ through which human beings become conscious of this antagonism and ‘fight it out’ (1977c: 390). Certainly it would appear that Marx is a reductionist par excellence. His faith that positive science would allow, for the first time, the development of a science of society that would displace any religious theory, would seem only to lend ammunition to the claims of phenomenologists of religion that they offer a distinctive alternative with regard to theoretical and methodological points of departure for the study of religions. However, not only do some phenomenologists of religion maintain, albeit in carefully moderated form, a similar utopian view of history and society as tending inevitably towards rationality and an end to antagonism but, a careful reading of certain other of Marx’ texts demonstrates that for Marx religion was not so much an analytical category as a metaphor, a point which allows for the critical analysis of tropes that cuts against the grain of the debate about reductionism with its stress on the upholding and patrolling of normative boundaries that only stifles rather than provokes debate. Moreover, Marx’ critique of modernity and commitment to a
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value-saturated analysis of the modern condition leads it towards rather than away from the phenomenology of religion, perhaps especially with regard to Marx’ view of revolution as a powerful and indeed sublime experience that exceeds all conventional forms of representation and knowledge.
Freud Freud’s writings – broadly understood – offer a theory of the psychological constitution of the individual, a theory of society and culture, a theory of interpretation and an outline of a therapeutic practice or technique, all of which rest on a series of unsettling claims about the role of sexual desire in the formation of the self and the primacy of the hidden realm of the unconscious as a determinant of behaviour. According to Ricoeur (2004a: 122–34), Freud utilizes two separate but related strategies in his approach to the interpretation of religion: first, in ‘The future of an illusion’ and in ‘Civilization and its discontents’, the point of departure is one of costs and benefits – it is, as Ricoeur says, a ‘structural-economic’ (2004a: 127) model of explanation. Freud’s twin concepts of the libido or ‘pleasure principle’ and the instinct of self-preservation and adaptation which Freud terms the ‘reality principle’ constitute the person as a site of conflict and antagonism between the opposed biological or instinctual demands of the body and external, social demands and pressures. Furthermore, Freud claims that civilization is actually founded upon the repression of the pleasure principle. Through ascetic renunciation libidinous energy can be re-channelled and made available for the task of creating culture (cathexis). Later, this constitutive opposition is reworked as a foundational struggle between Eros and Thanatos, between the struggle for life and the instinct for destruction. As such, with regard to religion the question posed by Freud can be summarized as follows: what role does religion play in compensating and reconciling human beings, given their inherent narcissism, for the trade-off between the renunciation of the desire to kill and for unlimited sexual access in return for the safety and security of civilization?
Secondly, in Totem and Taboo, Freud employs what Ricoeur calls a ‘genetic’ model of explanation (2004a: 129). In order to explain how and why a symbol that has no referent in the world can yet be so emotionally charged and influential on human belief and conduct, Freud claims that religion has its origin in a real historical event. The memory of this event or crime – the murder of the primal father and, prompted by feelings of remorse and guilt, the instantiation of the rule of exogamy (and law in general) which, for Freud, registers the transition of humanity from nature to culture – is transmitted genetically from one generation to the next. It is via this Lamarckian theory of transmission that Freud seeks to, as it were, guarantee the return of the repressed or the original guilt, and it is precisely this sense of guilt that ties the economic and genetic models of explanation together, on the one hand as the means for the domestication of aggression and on the other as the means by which homo becomes sapiens (Fox 2004: 161). If these two models of explanation effectively do away with religion either by transforming it into an outcome of a certain play of forces and energies and, in the second, by demonstrating the truth of religion’s origins both in the life of the species and in individual maturation, then perhaps it is no surprise that the rendering of Freud as an arch reductionist has held such sway in the field. However, Freud is not simply a narrow positivist. Freud’s repeated attempts to describe psychoanalysis as a science and his appeals to a kind of realism of truth are simultaneously undermined by his appeals to myth and his insistence not on facts but on meaning. I shall explore Freud the hermeneut in more detail in the pages that follow.
Facts or values? I want to begin this section by re-visiting Eliade’s now infamous statement regarding the kinds of theory and methodology appropriate to the study of religions. ‘To try to grasp the essence of such a [religious] phenomenon’, writes Eliade, ‘by means of physiology, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics, art or any other study is false; it misses the one unique and irreducible element in it – the
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element of the sacred’ (Eliade in Morris 1987: 176). What does this statement mean? Eliade’s theoretical and methodological position is constituted in advance by a certain structure of values implicated on the one hand in a critique of modernity as an inauthentic and profoundly alienating mode of existence and, on the other hand, a linked critique of positive science which, from Eliade’s perspective, will always destroy meaning through its reduction to mere fact. This resonates very strongly with broadly existential-hermeneutic approaches to religion, art, culture and Being (Grondin 1994: 99; Ricoeur 2004e: 316). For example, in the preface and in the various essays that constitutes The Quest Eliade talks about the study of religions as a special form of research that operates on behalf of the re-enchantment of the researcher, the sympathetic reader of that research and even of modernity itself: The hierophanies – i.e., the manifestations of the sacred expressed in symbols, myths, supernatural beings, etc. – are grasped as structures, and constitute a prereflective language that requires a special hermeneutics . . . by means of a competent hermeneutics, history of religions ceases to be a museum of fossils, ruins, and obsolete mirabilia and becomes what it should have been from the beginning . . . a series of ‘messages’ waiting to be deciphered and understood. The interest in such ‘messages’ is not exclusively historical. They do not only ‘speak’ to us about a long-dead past, but they disclose fundamental existential situations that are directly relevant to modern man . . . a considerable enrichment of consciousness results from the hermeneutical effort of deciphering the meaning of myths, symbols, and other traditional religious structures; in a certain sense, one can even speak of the inner transformation of the researcher and, hopefully, of the sympathetic reader. What is called the phenomenology and history of religions can be considered among the very few humanistic disciplines that are at the same time propadeutic and spiritual techniques. (Eliade 1969: unpaginated) Central to this ambitious and politically charged project of restoring authentic meaning to the world is the assertion that only a certain
approach – an approach willing to treat its subject matter in a special way and indeed an approach that claims to refuse to reduce questions of religion to the delineation of classes of objects or facts – can accomplish this momentous task: It seems to me difficult to believe that, living in a historical moment like ours, the historians of religions will not take account of the creative possibilities of their discipline. How to assimilate culturally the spiritual universes that Africa, Oceania, Southeast Asia open to us? All these spiritual universes have a religious origin and structure. If one does not approach them in the perspective of the history of religions, they will disappear as spiritual universes; they will be reduced to facts about social organisations, economic regimes, epochs of colonial history, etc. In other words, they will not be grasped as spiritual creations; they will not enrich Western and world culture – they will serve to augment the number, already terrifying, of documents classified in archives, awaiting electronic computers to take them in charge. (Eliade 1969: 70–1) At this stage, whether one agrees or sympathizes (or not) with Eliade is beside the point. Rather, with regard to the question of method and the study of religions, what is of significance is the observation that both Nietzsche and Freud also find it necessary to modify scientifically oriented research methods (philology and psychoanalysis respectively) in order to pursue their research and ultimately restore meaning to the world. Ricoeur’s essay ‘Technique and nontechnique in interpretation’ is surely a pertinent point for departure at this juncture. Ricoeur notes that while Freud sometimes makes appeals to ‘science’ as a means of legitimizing psychoanalysis as a technique of investigation – in ‘The future of an illusion’ Freud described psychoanalysis as ‘an impartial instrument’ (1991a: 219), invoking the notion of a calm and detached science concerned with the elucidation of timeless truths – psychoanalysis is not a science but a ‘work within language’ (Ricoeur, 2004b: 182). Freud’s early break from late nineteenth century accounts of hysteria and neurosis as the results of biological conditions was, according to Ricoeur, a break from medical science towards a hermeneutics of meaning. Freud’s contention was not merely that desire
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has meaning and that human beings need a new kind of knowledge to read their desires, but also that conventional science was incapable of providing such knowledge. This is precisely the terms in which Freud lays out his methodology in The Interpretation of Dreams: according to Freud, ‘scientific theories of the dream leave no room for a problem of dream-interpretation’ because ‘according to these theories, dreaming is not a mental act at all’ (Freud 1991c: 169). Moreover, Freud claims that dreams have meaning and that psychoanalysis is the means for translating the ‘pictographic script’ of the dream-content (1991c: 381) and this resonates strongly with Eliade’s rejection of physiology, psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics for the study of religions, and his posing of new methods and strategies for the work of interpreting religious symbols. Psychoanalysis, then, might be read as an example of a certain kind of ‘hermeneutics’ whereby the ‘hermeneutical effort of deciphering the meaning of myths’ renders it ‘among the very few humanistic disciplines that are at the same time propadeutic . . . techniques’. In his first work The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche informs his reader, in a preface dedicated to Wagner, that the work addresses a ‘German problem’, a ‘vortex and a turning point at the very centre of German hopes’ going on to claim that ‘art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life’ (1993: 13). The first line of the text proper asserts that ‘we shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics when we have succeeded in perceiving directly, and not only through logical reasoning, that art derives from the duality of the Apolline and Dionysiac’ (1993: 14). For Nietzsche, Apollo represents form and is associated primarily with sculpture while Dionysus points to excess and loss of identity and is associated with music (Smith 1996: viii). Nietzsche’s interrogation of early Greek Tragedy and his belief – articulated in the last ten sections of the work – that Wagner’s work constitutes a rebirth of the tragic form, is a register of Nietzsche’s intention to use the past as a means of mounting an inquiry into the then condition of German culture. According to Nietzsche, the performance of tragedy put the Greek audience into a state of intoxication, a state which, through the work of Wagner, had become available again. Thus, Tanner suggests that Nietzsche is ‘intent on the regeneration of the spirit of community
thanks to its members being united in a common ecstasy’ (1997: 358). Theories of modernity typically pose the decline of religion as a loss of social bonds and as a breakdown of shared values while scientific rationality is thought to offer no substantive values upon which to reconstruct society. As such, Nietzsche offers art and aesthetic experience as a means to cure the ills of modernity and to fill the void created by the evacuation of religion from society. Nietzsche’s project in The Birth of Tragedy – ‘a re-interpretation of ancient Greece, a philosophical and aesthetic revolution, a critique of contemporary culture, and a programme to revitalise it’ (Vattimo 2002: 13) – is indeed the guiding thread through all of his writings. Such a project, which is surely not entirely alien to that proposed by Eliade, is similarly stuck on the question of method. Nietzsche spent his early adult years as a university professor of philology at Basle. Philology was, at this time, the means or point of access to the cultures of antiquity, but according to Vattimo Nietzsche felt that the ‘study of antiquity had become a purely antiquarian activity’ (2002: 10) while philology was incapable of ‘regarding antiquity as a model worth imitating, seeing it instead as no more than an accumulation of (arte)facts for academic investigation’ (2002: 11). In other words, Nietzsche believed that a positivistic philology – enamoured by the cult of the pure datum – could only establish a relationship with antiquity in a way that actually closed off the potential for a deeper and more profound kind of understanding. Philology – as a science – could not be a vehicle for the kind of culture criticism that Nietzsche was seeking to set in motion. As with Eliade, then, a certain kind of critique of science and scientific methods accompanies a certain kind of critique of culture and of modernity. Eliade used methodological arguments as grounds for legitimizing and authorizing culture critique. McCutcheon’s assessment of Eliade’s critique suggests it is politically suspect at best and, at worst, an apology for fascism (1997: 158), articulating a potentially dangerous ‘politics of nostalgia’ that ‘deemphasises difference, history, and socio-political context in favour of abstract essences and homogeneity’ (1997: 3). This may be an accurate assessment but it might also be worth assessing the extent to which Eliade’s critique of modernity follows already established avenues of thought that, perhaps
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counter-intuitively, echo Nietzschean and Marx-ist diagnoses of modernity. I will begin by outlining Eliade’s critique of ‘profane’ existence. In The Sacred and the Profane (1959), Eliade offers the following distinction between the sacred and the profane: ‘the first possible definition of the sacred is that it is the opposite of the profane’ (1959: 10). This contrast allows Eliade to assign particular attributes to each: whereas the sacred manifests an abundance of meaning, the profane indicates relativism and fragmentation. This is, of course, in stark contrast to Durkheim’s use of the same terms for whom the classification of ‘things’ as belonging to one or other of these two classes is entirely arbitrary and is not dependent on any essential attribute or quality (Durkheim 1915: 37–47). Moreover, whereas the sacred is associated with the mythical, primordial and the primitive, the profane is linked with modernity and industrial society. As such, Eliade describes the sacred and profane as ‘two modes of being in the world, two existential situations assumed by man in the course of his history’ (1959: 14) and he sketches the outline of the book in the following manner: Our chief concern . . . will be . . . to show in what ways religious man attempts to remain as long as possible in a sacred universe, and hence what his total experience of life proves to be in comparison with the experience of the man without religious feeling, of the man who lives, or wishes to live, in a desacralised world. It should be said at once that the completely profane world, the wholly desacralised cosmos, is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit. It does not devolve upon us to show by what historical processes and as the result of what changes in spiritual attitudes and behaviour modern man has desacralised his world and assumed a profane existence. For our purpose it is enough to observe that desacralisation pervades the entire experience of the nonreligious man of modern societies and that, in consequence, he finds it increasingly difficult to rediscover the existential dimensions of religious man in the archaic societies. (Eliade 1959: 13) Eliade goes on to argue that the primordial manifestation of the sacred reveals a ‘fixed point’, a ‘central axis for all future orientation’
and further that ‘the manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world’ (1959: 21). In numerous passages Eliade emphasizes the function of sacred space: it founds, establishes and fixes the world, giving it meaning and moral content, setting its boundaries, annulling the threat of chaos, confusion and relativism. It is, essentially, the means through which empty space is transformed into meaningful place (Eliade 1959: 12–21). Thus the profane – organized according to the needs of industrial society – although containing traces of the sacred, is nihilistic in the sense that, in Eliade’s words, ‘there is no longer any world, there are only fragments of a shattered universe’ (1959: 23–4). Such statements are clearly value-saturated prescriptions for an allegedly damaged or sick culture. Modernity is, for Eliade, a kind of pathological condition marked by alienation, loss, relativism, amnesia and ultimately nihilism. The purpose, then, of the phenomenology of religion is to make a contribution towards the re-awakening of humanity’s essential spirituality in order to re-enchant the world. The phenomenological epoché has itself been placed in brackets or suspense: a very particular structure of values, upon which Eliade’s critique of modernity and valorization of the archaic proceeds, comes to play a constitutive role in the selection and interpretation of facts. Paradoxically, Eliade’s critique of modernity is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s critique of the Last Man and the idea of eternal recurrence and Marx’ critique of capitalism. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche introduces the opposed figures of the Last Man and the Over-man. The Over-man or übermensch is one who is yet to come and is defined as one who is able to affirm and esteem ‘life’ in all its horrors and joys. Opposed to the Over-man is the so-called Last Man. The Last Man has forgotten itself: it speaks but values nothing; it indulges and avoids, but is incapable of either love or hate: The earth has become small, and upon it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His race is as inexterminable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest. ‘We have discovered happiness,’ say the Last Men and blink . . . Nobody grows rich and poor any more: both are too much of a burden. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both are too much of a burden. No herdsman and one herd.
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Everyone wants the same thing, everyone is the same: whoever thinks otherwise goes voluntarily into the madhouse. (Nietzsche 1969: 46/Callinicos 1999: 116) The Last Man reveres nothing. In a world where people are no longer moved and in a world without meaning, Nietzsche’s Over-man is the promise that an authentic life will be possible once more. Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal recurrence – which also appears for the first time in The Gay Science and which is revisited in Thus Spoke Zarathustra – is precisely meant to awaken ‘Western man’ from this descent into meaninglessness. It is an idea so shocking and horrifying that only the ‘strongest’ could possibly bear it. But Nietzsche doesn’t want the strong to merely endure this thought – he wants them to revel and exult in it: What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine’. If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?. (Nietzsche 2004: 194–5) Should this parable be read as a serious theory of time or is it merely a question in the manner of ‘what if. . . ?’? Regardless, then,
of arguments for or against the eternal recurrence as a serious theory of time, Nietzsche’s notion of the eternal return invests what does happen in our lives and in the world with a terrible significance: what is worse, a universe in which Auschwitz occurs once, or a universe in which it occurs over and over again, for eternity (Tanner 1997: 404)? If Eliade’s culture criticism resembles that of Nietzsche in its diagnosis of modernity as a species of nihilism and in its proposal of a ‘cure’ in the work of phenomenology or philosophy as such, then Marx’ diagnosis of modernity and its ills is structurally isomorphic with Eliade’s critique of ‘profane existence’ with its stress on an estranged essence that must at all costs be recovered. Marx may have identified himself as a materialist yet his focus is never solely on facts and quantifiable processes but also on ‘expressions of human life and energy’ (Berman 1982: 93). Indeed, Marx’ early critique of capitalist modernity – in which the working class is alienated from itself via its reduction to a cog in the process of industrial production and to a being which is emptied of all desire save the desire for things – is the identification of a way of life stripped of all sensuality and meaning: By reducing the worker’s needs to the paltriest minimum necessary to maintain his physical existence and by reducing his activity to the most abstract mechanical movement. In so doing, the political economist declares that man has no other needs, either in the sphere of activity or in that of consumption . . . He turns the worker into a being with neither needs nor senses and turns the worker’s activity into a pure abstraction. (Marx 1992: 360) The trope of alienation – whether from an essential ‘species-being’ (Marx 1992: 350–1), from the sacred or from the affirmation of life as a general crisis of values brought about by the onset of modernity as de-sacralization – is constitutive of the aesthetic critique of modernity that deplores the instrumentalization and disenchantment of modern existence and seeks to locate the possibility of authenticity in some transcendent category that somehow remains beyond the grasp of a pernicious rationality and which therefore demands a mode of enquiry that exceeds purely positivistic methodologies.
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Rational history, rational speech In this section I want to demonstrate first that both Ninian Smart and Wilfred Cantwell Smith share a view of historical progress that belies their respective antipathy to Marx’ thought and the thinking of early anthropologists whose evolutionism they claim to be writing against, and secondly that they commit themselves to a notion of language as rule-bound rational speech that constitutes an important point of departure for thinking through certain ideas about language, writing and representation. Marx, of course, believed that history is governed by rules and that through an appropriate kind of analysis those rules could be discerned. Marx and Engels were confident that their theory of history did not just reveal the fundamental historicity of institutions such as the family, private property, the state and capitalism but also that history was the inevitable progression of stages towards communism defined by continual progress in freedom and the gradual accumulation of rational, true (or, non-ideological) knowledge. Marx’ theory of history was derived from two main sources: Hegel and anthropologists such as Lewis Henry Morgan, Sir Henry Maine and J. J. Bachofen (Bloch 1983: 7–8). Although most scholars – including most Marxists – would no longer subscribe to a view of history as rule-governed progress towards a destination given in advance, Smart and Smith both share a sense of history as rational and progressive, and their respective visions of global religious dialogue and inter-religious understanding based in a fundamental respect for the Other is surely a legacy of Marx’ vision of the possibility of a world where shared understanding comes to replace antagonism and contradiction. Smart’s views, then, are implicated in a view of history that owes more to Marx than, say, Eliade’s phenomenology and its insistence on the ‘terror of history’ (1989: 149). According to Smart, the study of religions furthers mutual inter-cultural and inter-religious ‘understanding’ which, according to Smart, is an effective ‘antidote to nationalism and racism’ (1997: 290) (note the medical metaphor). As such, the study of religions can promote ‘pluralism’ which is essential ‘in so far as we wish to promote a new world order’ (1997: 295):
The collapse of the Soviet Union has indeed ushered in a new period of world history. We can probably assume that the remaining Marxist states will wither too. Probably China will create its own form of capitalism . . . the pervasiveness both of United Nations and World Bank interference will lead to convergence. If so, no longer will the globe be bitterly divided by ideology. (Smart 1997: 292) Smart’s utopianism is however grotesquely naïve – apparently a world without ideology is a capitalist world, as if capitalism is some entirely natural state of affairs and not the product of particular historical forces. The ‘new’ world order turns out to be a misnomer: global capitalism is hardly new and cannot be credited with ushering in an era of world peace or global dialogue of any kind or at any point in its history. With the ‘great game’ afoot in the Middle East as the so-called powers scramble for the last remnants of fossil fuel to support ailing political systems and élites and unsustainable lifestyles, it can only be regretted that Smart failed to read Marx properly, if only to avoid unwise predictions about a happy future under capital. Smith on the other hand talks about the otherness of other cultures as ‘a stage that we are . . . in the process of leaving behind’ (1983: 5). The strange-ness of the Other belongs to a world divided along religious, political and economic lines. That world is, according to Smith, being replaced by a new, global order: For each sector of our planet today, other cultures are becoming daily less ‘other’ as ‘the global village’ increasingly becomes a reality. And even more strikingly at the intellectual level: we are now able to see – difficult though it be at first to appreciate – that human history has all along been a whole, its admittedly variegated parts never fully disparate; and that whole is growing more and more unified as we approach the twenty-first century. (Smith 1983: 5) Smith’s basic contention is simply that the greater awareness there is of humanity’s global religious history, the greater the opportunity for a rational and global self-consciousness. But this view of a whole and total history, rewritten and modified away from Marx’ secularism,
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is nevertheless a legacy of the Enlightenment view of history as progress and of the Enlightenment promise of a rational, world society in which fraternity and understanding are underpinned by shared subscription to rules of rational discourse. Smith and Smart then, do not only subscribe to an evolutionary view of history as tending inevitably to greater rationality, but also to a very particular view of language that is strongly reminiscent of Habermas’ notion of the ‘ideal speech community’ that is presupposed in all uses of language (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 110). On this model, agreement depends on analysis or evaluation of the propositional content of a putative speech-act but also its ‘sincerity’ and ‘appropriateness’ as a means of founding and sustaining a community without having to resort to any transcendent source to establish its legitimacy or indeed, to coercive force. Although this pragmatic account of language and language use has certain problems which I will discuss in the third chapter of this book, for the time being suffice it to say that this notion of language sits uncomfortably beside Eliade’s insistence on ‘evocation’ as a means of suggesting the sacred and the positivistic model of a scientific language stripped of value-content indicated by the epoché.
Of writing, representing and evoking A significant but for the most part unexplored aspect of the comparative study of religions project is the idea that, through the description or sometimes the evocation of religious facts or phenomena, some kind of cognitive change can be produced within the reader or student of religions. Of perhaps even greater significance, given the contradiction that lies between description/representation and evocation, is the view of language that phenomenologists of religion subscribe to. For example, in The Idea of the Holy, Otto seeks to precisely delineate what he considers to be the unique and irreducible experience of the sacred or holy in terms of particular affective states of consciousness, and he sets out to use a particular strategy of writing that makes use of ‘analogy or contrast’ and ‘metaphor and symbolic expressions’ in order ‘to make the states of mind . . . ring out . . . of themselves’ (1958: 12). However, to those readers
unacquainted with any kind of religious experience, Otto paradoxically advises that they ‘read no farther’ (1958: 8). According to Eliade the sacred is an element of the structure of consciousness, and therefore to lose contact with the sacred means to lose touch with one’s essential humanity. Thus, in the preface and in the various essays that constitute The Quest Eliade holds that the scholar of religion has a special task, namely, the re-enchantment of the world. As such, the phenomenology of religion constitutes ‘a special hermeneutics’ that deals not with ‘fossils’ or ‘ruins’ but rather (religious) ‘messages’ that ‘disclose fundamental existential situations that are directly relevant to modern man’. Moreover, the work of interpreting these messages can occasion ‘the inner transformation of the researcher and, hopefully, of the sympathetic reader’ such that this special hermeneutics should be understood as a ‘propadeutic and spiritual’ technique in its own right (Eliade 1969). Twiss and Conser (1992) describe the language of the phenomenology of religion as ‘performative’ (1992: 13, 33, 61): The phenomenologist’s evocative description turns out to be a type of performative language intimately tied to his method of enquiry: the phenomenologist uses language in a quasi-causal way to evoke or prompt the reader’s own empathetic response and appreciation of aspects of religious consciousness. This performative use of language to describe evocatively is indicative of the phenomenologist’s respect for showing the phenomenon as it appears in religious consciousness as well as his methodological commitment to experiential understanding of the structures of human consciousness. (Twiss and Conser 1992: 13) Gold’s intriguing analysis suggests that phenomenologists of religion have played on the tension between representation and evocation, in the process producing a distinct genre of writings on religion: The art found in the most successful historians of religion plays on the tension between a romantic evocation of the human imagination and a rationally enlightened, scientifically true, analysis. (Gold 2003: 45)
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These intriguing comments suggest a number of extremely important questions about writing, representation and evocation that relate in turn to the empiricism of the phenomenology of religion and its commitment to the epoché as a guarantee of pure representation and which, in a certain light, appears not as kind of hermeneutics but rather as a species of positivism. Most significantly of all is the almost complete absence of debate about this aspect of the phenomenology of religion (but see Capps [1995: 209–65] for a useful chapter on how the study of religions has focused on non-discursive language such as symbols and art and discursive forms including assertions, statements and propositions in articles of faith and such like). Therefore, in this section I want to explore the mixed metaphors of presence and evocation with particular attention to the strategies of writing to be found in Nietzsche and Marx but, in the first instance, with reference to debates in anthropology about the problem of representation and the translation of the being-there of fieldwork into ethnography. The collection of essays entitled Writing Culture marked the crystallization of representation as a new problematic in anthropology with the focus on ethnography as a literary genre. With fieldwork unproblematically defined as ‘participant observation’, Malinowski’s ‘ethnographer’s magic’ (1992: 6) – which amounted to the collecting of ‘concrete data’ (1992: 5) and evidence, the making of ‘extensive maps, plans and diagrams’ (1992: 14), and the recording of ‘minute, detailed observations’ and ‘typical utterances’ (1992: 24) – it was assumed that a sentence could describe a state of affairs in the world. For Malinowski, the work of the social anthropologist consisted in disclosing – through neutral description – the existence of an object or event or series of objects or events through the collection and ordering of oral-statements and observations. There was no interrogation of anthropological writing as a discourse pervaded by conventions, rules and procedures that might determine the means by which an ethnographic statement could attain a status as true, and which consequently could be taken to be an accurate depiction of the real. Critically, while anthropologists preserved the notion that their words were descriptive rather than productive, the illusion that the things of the world could be encountered neutrally and described
objectively could prosper. Writing Culture was as such an attempt to problematize anthropological practice, particularly the practice of writing. Aware that anthropology is empirical and that there is an uncertain relation between the formulation of hypotheses or theories and the observation and description of cultural practices and social facts, and aware too that writing is dependent upon the use of metaphors, analogies, ellipses and flourishes, contributors explored the powerknowledge problematic, whether theories were pre-saturated with values that determined in advance the significance of the facts selected for analysis and whether representations of non-Western cultures were literary, and as such whether they could be analysed in terms of style. As such, contributors analysed the literary devices through which ethnographic authority was secured and considered whether, through the adoption of alternative strategies of ethnographic text construction, the authoritative voice of the anthropologist might be de-privileged and de-centred through juxtaposition with other voices, a move with important epistemological consequences: anthropological knowledge would cease to be the preserve of a meaningendowing knowing-subject, and would become the partial and fragile product of encounter, confrontation and dialogue between situated co-subjects. The contours of this critique was established in the first instance through a re-reading of anthropology’s canonical texts, a re-reading intended to displace anthropological claims to objectivity and to demonstrate the historicality and indeed ethnocentrism and even fictiveness of anthropological representations of other cultures. For example, in an analysis of Evans-Pritchard’s The Nuer, Renato Rosaldo (1986) begins by analysing the opening chapter where EvansPritchard informs his reader of the difficulties of fieldwork among the Nuer, his problems with illness and the volatile political and military situation in ‘Nuerland’. The opening chapter of The Nuer includes a short dialogue between Evans-Pritchard and a Nuer named Cuol whereby Cuol’s – and thereby Nuer – resistance to the innocent questions of the anthropologist is framed as recalcitrance. Rosaldo contrasts these opening pages with the later chapters on political organization and social structure where the figure of the anthropologist is conspicuous by its absence.
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According to Roasaldo, Evans-Pritchard convincingly and disarmingly positions himself in the opening section as a detached observer and as a disinterested social scientist who, in having endured and overcome numerous hardships, had come to understand ‘the chief values of the Nuer’, and as such is finally able ‘to present a true outline of their social structure’ offered as ‘a contribution to the ethnology of a particular area’ (1969: 15). This in spite of the fact that Evans-Pritchard’s work among the Nuer was requested and financed by the British colonial government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan that regarded Nuer as obstacles to colonial rule and raided Nuer camps and bombed their settlements with aircraft. Rosaldo suggests that the function of the opening section of The Nuer is to precisely separate ‘the context of colonial domination from the production of ethnographic knowledge’ (1986: 93) or, in other words, to clearly separate anthropological enquiry and representational practices from contamination by the operations of political power, a contamination that would see the efficacy and truthfulness of the former undermined by the latter. In his essay ‘On Ethnographic Allegory’ (1986a), James Clifford argues that an allegorical reading of anthropology’s founding texts exposes the extent to which anthropology’s ‘exotic other’ is preconfigured within the Western romantic imagination. Clifford also focuses on Evans-Pritchard’s The Nuer referencing Evans-Pritchard’s representation of Nuer as ‘deeply democratic’ and as ‘egalitarian’ living in a state of ‘ordered anarchy’ (1969: 181). This ideal Rousseau-esque state is constituted positively as Evans-Pritchard contrasts Nuer and modern conceptions of time: Though I have spoken of time and units of time the Nuer have no expression equivalent to ‘time’ in our language, and they cannot, therefore, as we can, speak of time as though it were something actual, which passes, can be wasted, can be saved, and so forth. I do not think that they ever experience the same feeling of fighting against time or of having to co-ordinate activities with an abstract passage of time, because their points of reference are mainly the activities themselves, which are generally of a leisurely character. Events follow a logical order, but they are not controlled by an
abstract system, there being no autonomous points of reference to which activities have to conform with precision. Nuer are fortunate. (Evans-Pritchard 1969: 103) According to Clifford, Evans-Pritchard’s representation of Nuer and their mode of life is constituted in and through a series of binary oppositions: West vs. non-West, civilized vs. primitive, town vs. country and unfortunate vs. fortunate, such that Nuer come to occupy a position in a narrative of lost origins whose ultimate referent is Eden. The emergence of representation as a critical problematic in Writing Culture not only generated new ways to read old texts: it also provoked experimentation in ethnographic writing. According to Richard Fardon, Clifford employs ‘images of liberal democracy’ (Fardon 1990: 10) to suggest that the voice of the ethnographer ought to be framed alongside other voices because field work is a dialogic process and that dialogism or poly-vocality should be represented in the ethnographic text proper: Polyvocality was restrained and orchestrated in traditional ethnographies by giving one voice a pervasive authorial function and to others the role of sources, ‘informants,’ to be quoted or paraphrased. Once dialogism and polyphony are recognised as modes of textual production, monophonic authority is questioned, revealed to be characteristic of a science that has claimed to represent cultures. (Clifford 1986b: 15) In similar fashion, Stephen A. Tyler (1986) argued that in a postmodern world, ‘evocation’ rather than representation should be the new discourse: A post-modern ethnography is a cooperatively evolved text consisting of fragments of discourse intended to evoke in the minds of both reader and writer an emergent fantasy of a possible world of commonsense reality, and thus to provoke an aesthetic integration that will have a therapeutic effect. It is, in a word, poetry – not in its textual form, but in its return to the original context and function
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of poetry, which, by means of its performative break with speech, evoked memories of the ethos of the community and thereby provoked hearers to act ethically. Post-modern ethnography attempts to recreate textually this spiral of poetic and ritual performance. Like them, it defamiliarises common-sense reality in a bracketed context of performance, evokes a fantasy whole abducted from fragments, and then returns participants to the world of common sense – transformed, renewed, and sacralised. It has the allegorical import, though not the narrative form, of a vision quest or religious parable. The break with everyday reality is a journey apart into strange lands with occult practices – into the heart of darkness – where fragments of the fantastic whirl about in the vortex of the quester’s disoriented consciousness, until, arrived at the maelstrom’s centre, he loses consciousness at the very moment of the miraculous, restorative vision, and then, unconscious, is cast up onto the familiar, but forever transformed, shores of the commonplace world. Post-modern ethnography is not a new departure, not another rupture in the form of discourse of the sort we have come to expect as the norm of modernist esthetics’ scientistic emphasis on experimental novelty, but a self-conscious return to an earlier and more powerful notion of the ethical character of all discourse, as captured in the ancient significance of the family of terms ‘ethos’, ‘ethnos’ and ‘ethics’. Because post-modern ethnography privileges ‘discourse’ over ‘text’, it foregrounds dialogue as opposed to monologue, and emphasizes the cooperative and collaborative nature of the ethnographic situation in contrast to the ideology of the transcendental observer. (Tyler 1986: 125–6) Jean-François Lyotard’s (1984) definition of post-modernism actually excludes the possibility of consensus between or the ‘therapeutic integration’ of subjects, yet it is precisely ‘evoked’ by Tyler as the ground of this new experiential, ‘dialogic ethnography’. Moreover, the turn to ‘textualism’ that Clifford and Tyler in particular espouse potentially severs ethnography from its ‘cognitive content, reducing them to an array of rhetorical devices and thereby effacing any difference between them and explicitly literary texts’ (Callinicos 1989: 70). In other words, if ethnography is really a genre of writing and not a
factual account, on what grounds can an ethnography be judged when the criteria of factual content has been completely effaced? Perhaps what is most remarkable about these various pronouncements is how closely they go over ground covered, albeit unconsciously, by our phenomenologists of religion: first, both phenomenology and anthropology regard themselves as empirical disciplines and that through the observation of certain facts or socio-cultural/religious phenomena general or universal theories can be developed to explain or account for further instances of the same; secondly, either that the descriptions of facts is a value-neutral exercise or, as the counterargument goes, facts are never encountered neutrally (meaning theory always comes before observation and is indeed constitutive of it) and, moreover, objectivity is always circumscribed in advance by the cultural-historical situated-ness of the questioner and thirdly, that while both phenomenology and anthropology make claims about the veracity and accuracy of their representations they also make other claims about their disciplines – phenomenologists that their approach to religion is itself a spiritual technique hence the call to evocation, while anthropologists have also worked towards a perhaps more politically oriented cognitive revolution among their readers, often as advocates working on behalf of minority peoples, hence perhaps Tyler’s stress on evocation. It is clear that representation and evocation are two very different theories about writing and language. If representation belongs to the idea of the reference theory of the sign that affirms that words and sentences can depict states of affairs in the world, evocation seems to ‘point’ elsewhere, though certainly not to any simple notion of the re-presencing of objects, events or persons through description. Indeed, evocation suggests the impossibility of description, that indeed description would constitute some kind of a violent reduction and therefore the scholar must turn to poetics in order translate the otherness of the sacred or for that matter the otherness of another culture into metaphorical and symbolic rather than formal, academic language. Phenomenologists and anthropologists have as such also argued that their respective objects of analysis exceed language – that empiricist or positivist theories of language deny the surplus of meanings that attach to culture or to religion and, interestingly, this has
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been a central strategy for discriminating between rival approaches to religion and culture in terms of whether they privilege either understanding on the one hand, or explanation-reduction on the other. For example, in his work on Nuer religion, Evans-Pritchard proceeds both as an orthodox functionalist and phenomenologically. Thus, he states that ‘the imprint of the social order on the conception of spirit is very evident in the totemic beliefs and observances of the Nuer’ (1956: 91) and ‘I do not think . . . that the configuration of spirit, the faults which are regarded as sins, and the roles of the master of ceremonies, priest, and prophet in sacrifice can be fully understood without a knowledge of the social order’ (1956: 313). Yet, Evans-Pritchard is simultaneously wary of the reductionism these statements imply, and at the end of the book he declares that Nuer religion is ultimately an interior state. This state is externalised in rites which we can observe, but their meaning depends finally on an awareness of God and that men are dependent on him and must be resigned to his will. At this point the theologian takes over from the anthropologist. (Evans-Pritchard 1956: 322) Here, Evans-Pritchard draws lines of demarcation between anthropology and theology that reproduces the explanation : understanding problematic. Similarly, towards the end of Theories of Primitive Religion Evans-Pritchard suggests again that anthropology as a science, while able to represent exterior rituals and social practices, is illequipped to access the interiority of religious belief and commitment: If religion is essentially of the inner life, it follows that it can be truly grasped only from within. But beyond doubt, this can be better done by one in whose inward consciousness an experience of religion plays a part. There is but too much danger that the other [the non-believer] will talk of religion as a blind man might of colours, or one totally devoid of ear, of a beautiful musical composition. (Evans-Pritchard 1990: 121)2 Interestingly, a careful reading of Nietzsche and Marx, two of our arch reductionists, reveals that both likewise reject any narrow view of
language as nomenclature and as a tool for re-presencing things and objects, and that both utilize a range of literary strategies including poetics and evocation in their respective writings. Marx’ writing is notable both for its appeals to empirically verifiable facts on the one hand and, on the other hand, for the use Marx makes, in a range of essays including The Communist Manifesto, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and Capital, of a series of inter-related metaphors pertaining to magicians, phantoms, fetishes, spectres, conjurors and necromancers. For example, in the ‘Preface’ to A Critique of Political Economy, Marx claims that the structure of economic and property relations in a historical society ‘can be determined with the precision of a natural science’ (1977c: 390), a move that assumes the possibility of a disinterested language of science, above or beyond contamination by politics. Yet, Marx is an avowedly political thinker and, more than that, an outstanding writer. For example, Berman attends to the importance of the metaphor of ‘melting’ in The Communist Manifesto (Berman 1982: 90–8). Moreover, Marx’ predilection for the related metaphors of magicians, spectres and vampires has also attracted the attention of Derrida (1994) and Carver (1998). Derrida focuses on the spectre and the idea of haunting, arguing that Marx summons ‘the very thing that will never present itself in the form of full presence’ (Derrida 1994: 65), suggesting that the spectre defers any claim as to the end of history to which the critique of Fukuyama brilliantly attests and which also defers any definitive reading of Marx (Sim 1999: 50). Carver examines Marx’ allusions to vampires, fetishism and witchcraft in the first volume of Capital, pointing out that for Marx there is a link between commodities and religion that can only be pursued through metaphor. According to Marx, commodities are ‘theological’ (Marx 1970: 76) because both commodities and gods ‘appear as independent beings endowed with life’ (1970: 77). The juxtaposition of gods and commodities through metaphor challenges common-sense understandings of an apparently ‘uncontentious world’, defamiliarizing both as a means of demonstrating the need for both explanation and action (Carver 1998: 20). Reading Nietzsche poses problems not conventionally faced by readers acquainted with academic or scholarly texts. Nietzsche writes
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with tremendous passion and energy adopting multiple personae and voices in his texts that often contradict one another. Writing not in the sustained, analytical style of a philosopher and instead using aphorisms, metaphors and hyperbole that are by turn penetrating, witty, sarcastic, shocking and downright offensive, Nietzsche’s writings seem to resist interpretation, as if a final or definitive or at least hegemonic understanding of Nietzsche’s oeuvre is not merely elusive, but actually impossible. Indeed, Nietzsche even declared that he did not want to be understood, privileging what he considered to be the ‘un-timeliness’ of his thinking. Given that his writings have been, since his death in 1900, co-opted by such diverse groups as Nazis, feminists and anarchists, the business of reading and interpreting Nietzsche has not been characterized by consensus. Heidegger argued that the final developments of Nietzsche’s work are to be found in the notebooks which were published posthumously as The Will to Power. Heidegger set out, through a reading of the fragments contained therein, to reconstruct Nietzsche’s thought as the end of Western metaphysics. Kaufmann, whose translation of Nietzsche’s key works facilitated Nietzsche’s re-entry into the Western academy, also argued that Nietzsche’s thought displays a unity, though not in thought but in method and attitude (Tanner 1997: 345–50). However, Kaufmann also claimed that Nietzsche’s use of different styles and literary devices was part of Nietzsche’s search for an adequate means of expression. On the contrary, Nietzsche’s self-conscious manipulation of style and genre impresses upon the reader that no view, opinion, interpretation or indeed perspective is independent of style. Nietzsche reminds us that interpretation is polemical and that dispassionate or objective or scientistic writing are special instances of polemic that consciously seek to mask their partisan nature. As such, Nietzsche’s concern with style can be taken to be more or less consistent with his privileging of art and aesthetic experience as potential sites or occasions for the re-evaluation of Western culture and values. Indeed, in his essay ‘On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense’, (2000) Nietzsche argues that words do not correspond to entities but are metaphors that, moreover, are elements of a specifically human way of understanding and giving truth to the world. Truth, then, like value, is made and does not lie in any correspondence between a sentence
or word and a thing or object in the world. The truth of the other in anthropology – like the truth of the sacred for Otto and Eliade – emerges not in terms of any one-to-one correspondence between a signifier and a signified but rather through the more or less selfconscious manipulation of language, style and genre. In the phenomenology of religion this is elaborated in terms of the idea that the truth of the sacred or the holy resides beyond reason and beyond language in the realm of unmediated experience.
The aesthetics of the sacred Otto describes the encounter or experience of the holy or sacred in terms of the ‘mysterium tremendum’ (1958: 12). According to Otto, this feeling or experience is deeply ambivalent, combining feelings of fear, awe and fascination. Otto poses the evolution of this experience from ‘crude primitive forms’ (1958: 15) typical of so-called primitive religion in which the feeling of ‘daemonic dread’ (1958: 16) is predominant, suggesting that the experience of the holy or the sacred reaches its most refined fulfilment – refined in the sense that fear ceases to be the dominant experience and is combined with feelings of majesty and attraction – in Christianity. Christo-centrism aside, what I want to focus on here is Otto’s emphasis on the feeling or intuition of the ‘wholly other’ (1958: 25) – the supernatural or the numinous – as the non-rational apprehension of the holy or the sacred. This focus on a powerful, transformative experience echoes romantic writings on the sublime and anticipates the post-modern privileging of the limits of reason, and even reason’s transgression into madness.3 This link between the privileging of powerful experiences in the phenomenology of religion and aesthetics has been noted by Crockett (1998) and Merkur (1998) – whereas Crockett proposes a genealogy from Kant through Schleiermacher to Otto and Tillich (1998: 11), Merkur writes more generally of ‘limit situations’ (1998: 74) – and is founded upon the romantic notion of the sublime as the gap and possible bridge-head from the limits of reason to the ineffable and the unknowable. However, the most wideranging foray into this area is Gold’s Aesthetics and Analysis in Writing
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on Religion (2003) in which he elaborates on what he calls the ‘religiohistorical sublime’ (2003: 45). According to Gold, Since the religiohistorical sublime is experienced when a complex imaginative response is evoked through a rational analysis of the materials of a tradition, those materials cannot appear as simple representations of an exotic other of the sort that have haunted orientalist texts. They must instead resonate expansively enough for us somehow to relate to them as our own: myths of broad significance, say, or human actors in existential distress. One-dimensional stereotypes may beguile us for a while, but the complex imaginative reflection that builds to the religiohistorical sublime demands complicated human materials that keep pulling us in new directions. For only when readers (and writers) feel pulled to extremes will their own sense of self be given a jolt. (Gold 2003: 230) In this formulation, experience is not the passive imprint or reception of sense impressions but an opening and a dis-orientation – an aletheia, if you will – that allows something to appear as it has never appeared before. For Blanchot, ‘the work of art . . . is the affirmation of an extreme experience’ (2000: 345) whereas for Bataille, experience is implicitly the transgression of limits and dogmatism and an opening towards that which cannot be known by conventional means (1988: 3–5). In Chapter 2 I will explore the post-modern fascination with madness and transgression in some detail as a means of exploring the extent to which the phenomenology of religion and postmodern thought are instances or expressions of the aesthetic critique of modernity and the critique of instrumental reason. As such, I have already indicated that Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, appeals not to reason but, according to Habermas, to experience ‘liberated from all constraints of cognition and purposive activity, all imperatives of utility and morality’ (1990: 94). Nietzsche’s diagnosis of modernity as ‘mythless existence’ and ‘the loss of the mythical home’ (Nietzsche 1993: 116) is suggestively counterpointed by the proposal of a cure or a solution in art and music so that ‘the gulfs separating man and man’ will ‘make way for an overwhelming sense of unity that goes back to the very heart of nature’ (1993: 39).
As Habermas points out, art or music for Nietzsche – but also for Schlegel, Schelling and Hegel – will replace both religion and philosophy as the route to the sublime and will ‘reacquire the character of a public institution and develop the power to regenerate the ethical totality of the nation’ (1990: 88). Beauty, intuition and experience are as such privileged as the means to access ‘the archaic sources of social integration’ (1990: 91) and, for Nietzsche as for the other romantics, a Dionysian messianism signifying excess, frenzy and madness points to the renewal of primal meanings, forgotten or lost in the seductions of reason. Only ‘when the categories of intelligent doing and thinking are upset, the norms of daily life have broken down, the illusions of habitual normality have collapsed – only then does the world of the unforeseen and the absolutely astonishing open up’ (1990: 93). Art and music – like some powerful mystical or religious experience – abolish mediation and restore an alleged authentic unity. Critically, the legitimacy of these extreme experiences, according to Nietzsche, are to be found in the extent to which they either affirm or deny ‘life’, and the dangers of such a formulation are surely self-evident. The influence of Nietzsche on Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida is well established (Habermas 1990: 97), but the links between ‘experience’ in the study of religions and in Nietzsche’s and post-Nietzschean thinking, are not. Yet, my only purpose here is to note the resonances across Otto to Nietzsche and how, in the move to delineate religion as a discrete category or object that is beyond reason and which must be studied empathically or intuitively, our phenomenologists of religion were thinking not so much theologically but rather in a manner structured by the aesthetic critique of modernity. Perhaps surprisingly, the appeal to an overwhelming and utterly shattering and transforming experience is also made by Marx in his writings. According to Eagleton (1990), Marx writes with two notions of the sublime, a ‘bad’ and a ‘good’ sublime with the valuations tied to the extent to which certain phenomena defy or exceed signification. According to Eagleton (1990: 212), Marx’ ‘bad sublime’ is capitalism or, more specifically, money, and its ability to translate all things into one kind of value to the exclusion of all other possible values. The ‘good sublime’ is to be found in Marx’ concept of revolution in the
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Eighteenth Brumaire. In this text, Marx argues that the failures of revolutions past can be attributed to their repeated evocations of the past – in other words, their necromancy. The revolution of the future will, according to Marx, have to forge a complete break with the past if it is to succeed: The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped off all superstition in regard to the past. Earlier revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to drug themselves concerning their own content. In order to arrive at its own content, the revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead. There the phrase went beyond the content; here the content goes beyond the phrase. (Marx 1977d: 302) If, in the revolutions of the past, legitimacy was fabricated from within established systems of meaning and representation, the revolution to come will be of the order of the sublime as an overwhelming, transformative and shattering experience that will exceed all established codes and structures of meaning. This might be called the anarchist ‘theory’ of the revolution as miraculous and extraordinary event that promises to change everything, an experience with both mystic and religious dimensions that defies interpretation and promises the restoration of a lost unity to human being.
Summary Throughout this section of the book, I have sought to demonstrate that the demarcation of the phenomenology of religion from so-called reductionists such as Nietzsche, Marx and Freud inhibits the rigorous thinking through of questions of theory and method in the study of religions. Phenomenologists typically reject scientism or positivism as reducing religion from meaning to fact. However, this by no means is a strategy or argument limited to phenomenology: Freud rejected medical accounts of neurosis precisely because he believed such conditions had meaning. Likewise, Nietzsche rejected philology because
it reduced texts to pure facts rather than as possibilities for the re-enchantment of modern culture. Phenomenologists also engage in culture critique: but they are not alone in this enterprise and the contours of that critique follows those established by the likes of Marx and Nietzsche in their respective diagnoses of modernity. Phenomenologists are also caught between the empiricism of their approach and thereby the need to re-present beliefs and practices as faithful description, but simultaneously advocate evocation as a pointing to a presence that is not empirically verifiable. This leads towards the corollary interest in powerful experiences that allegedly transcend rational description, though even here this appeal to such experiences is in common with Nietzsche and Marx who likewise seek to authorize particular positions of argument though recourse to the wholly other. It is my contention that these are all examples of positioning specific to a discourse that I have identified, following Habermas, as the aesthetic critique of modernity. In Chapter 2 of this book I will continue to explore this aesthetic critique via the writings of Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau and Jacques Derrida.
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In Chapter 1 of this book I ‘read’ the phenomenology of religion through the aesthetic critique of modernity and, through that reading, I attempted to establish important points of resonance between phenomenological writings on religion with the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx. As such, I argued that the aesthetic critique can be understood as a structure – a discourse in the Foucauldian sense – that insists where subject-centred instrumental reason is posed, its counterpoint is spontaneous and unconstrained experience that tears the subject from its moorings; where scientific method or procedure is privileged, intuition is raised as its spectral twin; where the discourse of empiricism is articulated, evocation is posed as an alternative and where modernity is presented as freedom an alternative story of loss and amnesia takes its place. The aesthetic critique, then, privileges experience over reason, intuition over method, evocation over representation and loss over emancipation and structures not only the phenomenology of religion but also other human science sub-discourses that are conventionally understood as opposed and incommensurable to the phenomenology of religion according to the logic of the debate about reduction. In this section of the book – working under the assumption that the phenomenology of religion and post-modern thought both work from within or are structured by the aesthetic critique of modernity – I will demonstrate points of resonance between phenomenology and post-modernism in particular via readings of Michel Foucault’s History of Madness (2006), Michel de Certeau’s The Possession at Loudun (2000) and Jacques Derrida’s essay ‘Faith and Knowledge: the Two Sources of “Religion” at the Limits of Reason Alone’ (1998) and his
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claims about the so-called metaphysics of presence. First, I will suggest that Foucault’s privileging of madness as a special kind of limitexperience that tears the subject away from its usual moorings echoes Otto’s valorization of experience in The Idea of the Holy. Otto’s divine sublime performs the same function as Foucault’s limit-experience on the one hand to undercut the self-transparency of subject-centred reason and on the other to delineate certain areas that are beyond the reach of reason to explain or control. Secondly, I will argue that de Certeau’s mode of writing-evokingfabricating history – in its refusal of any ‘convenient contemporary interpretative apparatus’ (Ahearne 1995: 76) – is paradigmatic of the post-modern aloofness from values. Eschewing positivist historiography for the same reasons that Nietzsche rejected conventional philology, de Certeau constructs a poly-vocal democratic text out of the undemocratic and indeed febrile and vindictive atmosphere of a witch hunt. Thirdly, I will argue that Derrida’s claims about the ‘metaphysics of presence’ and ‘phonocentrism’ is not only parasitic on the idea of the intending, meaning-endowing subject that it supposedly undermines, but that it can also be read as a sociology of proximity and dispersal – of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft – and that such a reading reveals Derrida’s writings on religion as a reworking of romantic categories in which tropes of tragedy, loss and exile predominate. Finally, I will suggest that post-modernism seeks – in the spirit of the claims by Otto and Eliade that religion and the experience of the sacred lie beyond rational enquiry – to establish reason’s limits and privileges madness, frenzy and transgression and a mode of interpretation that steps back from definitiveness or evaluation towards open-ness, plurality and endless deferral. This leads to a series of dead-ends and cul-de-sacs which reveal, in the last analysis, the poverty of the aesthetic critique of modernity necessitating, in Chapter 3, a re-engagement with Marx-ist thought and in particular the concept of ideology both for an empirical critique of modernity and an empirical critique of religions set free from the constraints of the debate about reduction and released as well from the aesthetic critique of modernity.
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On madness – Michel Foucault Dreyfus and Rabinow describe the History of Madness as an ‘analysis of historically situated systems of institutions and discursive practices’ (1983: xxiv) that is structured by the ‘twin themes of spatial exclusion and cultural integration’ (1983: 3). In particular, they argue that Foucault seeks to direct the reader’s attention to changing classifications of madness from the Renaissance to the Classical and on to the modern age, specifically from a time when madness was seen as divine and as an inverted reason to a time when it was seen as a disease that led to the confinement of the mad alongside the poor and destitute and on to the eventual separation of the mad and the emergence of new institutions, discourses and forms of expertise specifically for managing madness as a ‘new’ phenomenon (Merquior 1991: 21–4; Carrette 2000: 12–13). From the Renaissance when madness was conceived as a form of knowledge or wisdom to the modern age when it becomes an object of science, this history is not one of greater sophistication in the treatment of madness or of the improvement of welfare in terms of a secular-humanist narrative of progress, but forms a part of a broader Foucauldian narrative about population discipline or ‘bio-power’ and Foucault’s focus is essentially directed at the micro-level of decision and event as a means of explaining the emergence of specific social practices, discourses and institutions. According to Foucault, the emergence of capitalism and the nationstate as new modes of social, economic and political organization required new techniques for – on the one hand – the harnessing of population as a resource and – on the other – the surveillance and control of this resource to ensure its effective and profitable utilization. Foucault’s notion of ‘bio-power’ marks the moments at which population or the social body becomes an object of political intervention and regulation, specifically as an object of discourses and social and institutional practices concerned variously with health, fertility, punishment and labour among others. In other words, what Foucault terms ‘bio-power’ is a strategy or series of strategies for the increasingly complex ordering of the social under the guise of the welfare of the population as a whole:
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In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a form of power comes into being that begins to exercise itself through social production and social service. It becomes a matter of obtaining productive service from individuals in their concrete lives. And, in consequence, a real and effective ‘incorporation’ of power was necessary, in the sense that power had to be able to gain access to the bodies of individuals, to their acts, attitudes, and modes of everyday behaviour. Hence the significance of methods like school discipline, which succeeded in making children’s bodies the object of highly complex systems of manipulation and conditioning. But, at the same time, these new techniques of power needed to grapple with the phenomenon of population, in short to undertake the administration, control, and direction of the accumulation of men (the economic system that promotes the accumulation of capital and the system of power that ordains the accumulation of men are, from the seventeenth century on, correlated and inseparable phenomena): hence there arises the problems of demography, public health, hygiene, housing conditions, longevity, and fertility. (Foucault 1994: 125) According to Foucault, then, the identification and mastery of madness is one strategic element of ‘modern domination’ (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 10) and he places considerable weight on the role of the doctor/psychiatrist claiming that ‘with the new status of the medical character it was the deepest meaning of confinement that was abolished: mental illness, with all the connotations that are familiar to us today, then became possible’ (Foucault 2006: 504). Foucault states that the discourse of positivism and scientific objectivity effectively distorted and mystified the operations of power lying behind the new, apparently enlightened, modern approach to madness which was embodied in the figure of the specialist. Foucault, then, offers a counter-history – a counter-history that, as I outline below, makes appeals to madness as the other of a reason silenced by bourgeois domination – but, as Merquior points out, ‘we need to ask: does Foucault get his history right?’ (1991: 26). The writing of a counter-history, of a history against the grain does not, after-all, release the historian from proper attention to and scrutiny
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of the empirical sources. Indeed, it probably necessitates even greater scrupulousness and attention to detail. The central problem that Merquior identifies lies in Foucault’s insistence on radical breaks and discontinuities in the treatment and understanding of madness from the pre-modern to the modern periods (1991: 27). As such, it turns out that long before Foucault’s ‘Great Confinement’ the mad were incarcerated in hospitals and asylums, while Foucault’s claim that the medicalization of madness took place in the modern period is belied by numerous pre-modern therapies, including fasting and bleeding, that were used to try to address the condition. Likewise, Foucault’s contention that the emergence of a science of madness (psychiatry) was one instance of a broader bio-discipline and the ‘regime of truth’ of an imperious reason ignores the fact that the ‘madhouses and old state asylums used to be scandalously ill-handled and the reforms . . . leading to the creation of the first modern mental hospitals, though not so perfectly angelic as it was once thought, were genuine deeds of enlightened philanthropy’ (1991: 29). As such, Merquior accuses of Foucault of offering only ‘ideological melodrama’ (1991: 29–30). At the same time as Foucault proffers this counter-history of madness, he writes as if madness were a special form of otherness that all the practices he recounts were seeking to master and render silent, but which are ultimately unable to grasp. Madness, says Foucault, is ‘a stranger to the sovereign enterprise of reason’ eluding all attempts at control which ‘cannot and will never be able to hear the voices of unreason nor decipher on their own terms the signs of the insane’ (Foucault 2006: 511). This is reiterated in Foucault’s ‘Preface’ to the 1961 edition in which he claims to have written ‘a history not of psychiatry, but of madness itself, in all its vivacity, before it is captured by knowledge’ (2006: xxxii) with madness described as a ‘wild state’ and a ‘primitive purity’ (2006: xxxiii). If Foucault here poses the possibility of a pure madness that might be encountered as it is in the manner of the epoché – on this point, Caputo accuses Foucault of ‘phenomenological naïveté’ (2004: 123) – he also invokes the names of Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Nerval and Artaud as ‘incendiary’ expressions of ‘the life of unreason’ (ibid.). Moreover, towards the end of the History of Madness Foucault writes about Goya’s The Madhouse and de Sade’s Justine and Juliette, claiming that ‘through Sade and
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Goya, the Western world rediscovered the possibility of going beyond its reason with violence, and of rediscovering tragic experience beyond the promises of dialectics’ (2006: 535). These statements suggest an other to reason – an other cast as a special experience – which cuts against the grain of Foucault’s claim in an interview in 1976 that the History of Madness was about ‘power and knowledge’ (Foucault 1994: 111). But, if Foucault is interested in powerful experiences that lie beyond the remit of reason to explain, then the über-positivism that is the archaeology – Foucault’s godstance from some undisclosed vantage-point that allows him a privileged vision to reveal the ordering practices of autonomous discourses and institutional practices – sits extremely uncomfortably beside the valorization of powerful and transformative experiences that lie at the margins or limits of reason: with the best will in the world, the attempt to suture together positivism (structuralism) and romanticism is a trap and, in Derrida’s words, ‘the maddest aspect of his project’ (2002: 40), given that the archaeology is surely ‘the most efficacious and subtle restoration, the repetition . . . of the act perpetrated against madness’ (2002: 41). Foucault’s little revolution against reason, as Derrida points out, can only proceed from within reason and as such, the History of Madness to all intents and purposes fails as ‘a history . . . of madness itself . . . before it is captured by knowledge’ (2006: xxxii). Commentators typically dismiss the ‘romanticism’ of the History of Madness as some kind of aberration on Foucault’s part (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 11–12; Hacking 1986: 29) whereby madness was constituted as a ‘good thing’ while power was conceived of as repression and therefore as a ‘bad thing’. Ian Hacking, in his ‘Foreword’ to the new translation of the History of Madness by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa, writes of two books (and one might perhaps also speak of two Foucault’s) and Hacking draws a contrast between ‘one . . . governed by an idea of déraison, in which there lurks a dream of madness in the wild, as something prediscursive, inaccessible, pure’ against another ‘stripped of romantic illusion’ (Hacking 2006: xii). The contradictions between these two books or two Foucault’s are vividly played out in the original 1961 edition and the later versions where the original preface was cut, restored and replaced, passages deleted, and the title changed. Yet, Foucault continued to point to
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his interest in experience and in writers, poets and artists such as Nietzsche, Blanchot and Bataille, and in an interview with Duccio Trombadori in 1978 Foucault talked of his books as ‘experience books’ (1991b: 42) and of the process of research and writing as a ‘limit experience’ (1991b: 31) that tears the author from him or herself in a manner that is essentially transformative.1 Foucault’s mysterium tremendum turns out to be a de-centring experience that ‘prevents us from always being the same, or from having the same kind of relationship with things and with others that we had before’ (1991b: 41). As such, Foucault assumes a noetic quality for experience as a form of knowledge that lies beyond ordinary language or reason. The History of Madness, then, registers Foucault’s fascination for ‘boundary-transgressing experiences’ (Habermas 1990: 240), for total institutions – the asylum reappears as the prison and panopticon in Discipline and Punish (1982), and it is in these places of internment and confinement that ‘Foucault perceives the monuments to victory of a regulatory reason that no longer subjugates only madness, but also the needs and desires of the individual organism as well as the social body of an entire population’ (Habermas 1990: 245) – and finally for subject-centred reason and instrumental rationality that, in Weberian fashion, forces the body and desire to inhabit an ever more vicious and cynical ‘iron cage’ (Weber 2002: 123). For Foucault, it is only in and through allegedly powerful and vital experiences that total(itarian) institutions and their disciplinary regimes can be overcome, in much the same way that for Weber only the power and seductiveness of the charismatic prophet or leader could disrupt the authority and legitimacy of a rational-legal apparatus.2 In the absence of a political project, only experiences at the edge of reason can pose the possibility of emancipation. The dangers of such a formulation are surely self-evident.
The Possession at Loudun – Michel de Certeau The Possession at Loudun was, according to Highmore, de Certeau’s ‘first substantial historiographic monograph’ (2006: 45) (it was originally published in 1970). It covers the alleged possession of Ursuline
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nuns that began in 1632, the execution of the local curé, Urbain Grandier, for sorcery in 1634 and the theatre of possession that continued after Grandier’s hideous and violent death. Certeau quotes extensively from the historical sources, keeping a certain tension in play not only between himself and the material, but also between the protagonists – both individuals and institutions, for example, between Grandier and his enemies in the febrile atmosphere of small-town politics and gossip, the struggles between Catholic and Protestant factions, struggles over which institutions – ecclesiastic or secular, priestly or medical – should have jurisdiction over the truth of possession as well as the growth of state power under Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. As Greenblatt puts it in his ‘Foreword’ to The Possession at Loudun [t]he whole complex, interlocking structure of French society in this period was touched, lightly but decisively, by the writhings of a group of young cloistered women in a small provincial town. And linked to these individuals and these institutions are obscure but momentous changes that Certeau brilliantly evokes: a glacial shift in the relation between the sacred and the profane; a last, perversely theatrical manifestation of a certain form of ancient faith; a closing of the borders between the natural and the fantastic; a murderous rearguard action against an epistemological transformation. (Greenblatt 2000: x–xi) But, says de Certeau, ‘history is never sure’ (2000: 1). Between the documents themselves and the antagonisms to which they point, between the documents and the figure of the historian and, of course, between a past and a present, The Possession at Loudun is exemplary of a certain manner of writing – or, as Greenblatt would have it – of ‘evoking’ history: strange-ness and alterity will not be domesticated. The historian will maintain a certain epoché so as to let that strangeness remain. In keeping the past open, de Certeau closes off any coagulation or sedimentation of the meaning of Loudun: Readers are warned about what they are not going to find in Certeau’s account: history is never ‘sure’, what took place was, in one way or another, ‘strange’, and Certeau does not set out to
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absorb and resolve this strangeness by means of a convenient contemporary interpretative apparatus . . . He refuses the historian’s task of ‘exorcizing’ the danger and alterity/alteration of history, the operation of sealing it off and circumscribing it in another place. The interpretation of possession challenges our own suppositions about what is real, reliable or permanent. (Ahearne 1995: 76–9) As such, I approach this book from two separate angles: first, according to the question of historiographical method and secondly according to the question of possession itself and the manner in which de Certeau’s reading privileges transgressive unreason as a phenomenon beyond positive analysis, and as the motor of historical transformation. Highmore describes de Certeau’s mode of historiography as ‘interstitial history’ (2006: 48). He describes de Certeau’s use of documents and quotations as a ‘montage’ (2006: 46) in which the voices of the protagonists and the historian are allowed to rest side by side in a polyphony that ‘disallows a single assured knowledge of the past’ (2006: 47). Moreover, despite de Certeau’s extensive use of archival documents, the presence of the archive does not bring the reader closer to the authentic past or any Geertzian ‘thickness’ (1973: 6) or indeed an inter-subjective accessing of minds and intentions from the past but rather propels the reader to confront history as an absence and to consider whether there is any sure location from which to see history and know it and apprehend it as a totality. As such, de Certeau reminds ‘us’ that knowledge of the past does not steadily become more accurate as ‘better’ theories and methodological tools are developed for ‘doing’ historiography. Progress in knowledge is not an assumption held by de Certeau: rather, in the attention to the singular event of the possession and the overlapping mutability of the contextual horizons not only of the possession itself but also of the questions that are asked of it, writing history ceases to belong to the discourse of neutral description or the re-presenting of the empirical, but becomes rather the production or fabrication of the past that produces new spaces of un-certainty:
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What characterizes a work as ‘historical’, what allows one to say that one is ‘making history’ (we ‘produce’ history as we manufacture automobiles), is not the conscientious application of established rules (although such rigour is necessary). It is rather, the operation that creates a space of signs proportionate to an absence; the structures the reconnaissance of the past not in the manner of a present possession or yet another science but in the form of a discourse structured by a missing presence ; that, through its processing of materials presently dispersed in our own time, opens up a place in language and a reference unto death. (de Certeau in Highmore 2006: 50) The beauty of The Possession at Loudun is the extent to which the text folds into itself in an endless regress, such that the (positivist) historian’s inability to close or explain history mirrors the efforts of the witnesses (expert and lay) to the possession to grasp its meaning without it slipping from their fists and transmogrifying. ‘In this story’, says de Certeau, ‘there is fright, a fright that eludes localization and refers back globally to a certainty that should be there and is missing’ (2000: 113). Indeed, according to de Certeau, the historian has conventionally occupied the role of the exorcist for whom possession (and, indeed religion) belongs to the past and is, as such, ‘an eliminated reality’ (2000: 227). Possession, exorcism and history, then, are constituted as figures for that which can never be known or for an other that lies beyond rational knowledge and, on the other hand, as corollary attempts to impose an order of knowledge on all areas and aspects of human life and to bring enlightenment to once dark places. But, one is tempted to ask, surely de Certeau’s analysis informs of some very pertinent and ‘certain’ facts, not least that of the ‘humiliated [and tortured] women’ (2000: 88) forced to perform in a theatrics of possession to enable the production of its truth or, of equal consequence, the grotesque torture and public burning at the stake of the accused, Urbain Grandier (2000: 171–80). Surely, such certain facts at least are worthy of a judgement, perhaps even a condemnation? Indeed, are there events, or occasions, for which an ‘interstitial
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history’ would be inappropriate? Does the post-modern predilection for deferral, for the in-between, for an incoherent value-laden aloofness that seeks to write against the alleged imperialism of reason and its optics, does this discursive strategy par excellence of the aesthetic critique of modernity actually trivialize – in its egalitarian spirit through which all facts are flattened out and rendered equal – the horror of the possession as an episode of vanity, venality and cruelty? The fact is if de Certeau’s historiography eschews definitive interpretation, it can only do so under the entirely erroneous assumption that ‘other’ approaches assume that total and absolute clarity or knowledge is possible. I want now to turn to the manner in which de Certeau begins the book: a Freudian economy of constraints, channels, energies and displacements is invoked that draws the events at Loudun towards Freud’s figures of darkness, primitivity and madness as an absolute other to reason, that interrupt all apparently stable categories and systems of meaning and, of course, historiography’s own hero of knowledge: Normally, strange things circulate discreetly below our streets. But a crisis will suffice for them to rise up, as if swollen by flood waters, pushing aside manhole covers, invading the cellars, then spreading through the towns. It always comes as a surprise when the nocturnal erupts into broad daylight. What it reveals is an underground existence, an inner resistance that has never been broken. This lurking force infiltrates the lines of tension within the society it threatens. Suddenly it magnifies them; using the means, the circuitry already in place, but reemploying them in the service of an anxiety that comes from afar, unanticipated. It breaks through barriers, flooding the social channels and opening new pathways that, once the flow of its passage has subsided, will leave behind a different landscape and a different order. (de Certeau 2000: 1) In bringing together psychoanalysis and historiography, de Certeau is seeking to highlight what he calls ‘the persistence and lingering action of the irrational ’ in history (de Certeau in Freccero 2001: 366). It is, at first sight, an odd conjunction given, as Highmore remarks,
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‘the evident antipathy that psychoanalysis seems to have for history’ (2006: 60). For example, in Totem and Taboo (2003), Freud deploys Ernst Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation as a means of arguing that the maturation of the individual can be taken to represent the intellectual and moral development of the species or that phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny. Freud also uses the writings of early anthropologists such as J. G. Frazer whose evolutionary and intellectualist conception of history as a visible and determinable whole that is governed by laws is obviously at odds with what Highmore describes as de Certeau’s ‘interstitial history’ (2006: 48). Freud also relies on Lamarck’s notion of ‘inherited characteristics’ as a means of conceiving how a founding event – the guilt accrued from the murder of the father – could be remembered (a murder which of course mirrors Grandier’s murder at the stake), a strategy that effectively collapses the temporal distance between unreason and the savage impulses of the ‘primal horde’ and the modern, rational and bodydisciplined self. In Totem and Taboo, the story that Freud narrates pinpoints the emergence of the law, and it not only rests both on the narration of linear temporal sequences of mental and civilizational development but also, in a manner that disturbs any idea of history as linear succession, the notion that past and present inhabit each other (Highmore 2006: 63). It is precisely for this latter reason that Freud can conceive of neurosis as the ‘return of repressed’ – at once the repressed traumas of childhood manifesting in adult life and as the passage of the modern self backwards into prehistory, narcissism and unreason. It is also this final point that is of such significance to de Certeau, for it works against any sense of a rational, modern present from which unreason, madness and indeed possession and religion have been expunged. According to Highmore, de Certeau’s psychoanalytic historiography privileges ‘imbrication and equivocation’ over ‘fixed lines of causality and movement’ (2006: 64) and that it is therefore a mode of writing where the voice(s) of the other – in this case, of the unconscious – can be heard. Moreover, the apparent embrace of interpretative pluralism or liberal-democratic open-ness – as poly-vocal history – certainly seems appealing. But surely ‘equivocation’ has its
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dangers, as does the reduction of history to the ‘play’ of psychic forces. The Possession at Loudun, as a montage of commentary and archival sources, ultimately forms an irreducible ‘polyphonic excess’ (Highmore 2006: 71), in which the immemorial conflicts between ‘the reality principle’ (law) and ‘the pleasure principle’ (madness) play themselves out, and through which real historical causes are lost amid a cacophonous relativism.
Religion and the absence of God – Jacques Derrida In this section I propose to begin by setting out Derrida’s ideas concerning the ‘metaphysics of presence’ and ‘phonocentrism’, on the one hand as a means of reconstructing his thought as a kind of sociology and, on the other, as a point of departure for producing a reading of his writing on religion, in particular the essay ‘Faith and knowledge: the two sources of “religion” at the limits of reason Alone’ (1998). Derrida’s basic contention is that Western thought is structured in terms of a series of dichotomies, for instance: presence : absence; good : evil; being : nothingness; truth : error; mind : body; life : death; man : woman and so forth. In each case, the second term is understood as a corruption of or supplement to the first, such that, taking presence : absence as an example, present-ness – as the guarantee of the good, of truth, of identity, of reason (mind) and speech (immediacy), is privileged over absence as dispersal or distance, evil, error, death and writing. Indeed, this linkage of presence with speech and absence with writing – the metaphysics of presence – forms the basis of Derrida’s critique of Western philosophy: Derrida’s critique of Western metaphysics focuses on its privileging of the spoken word over the written word. The spoken word is given a higher value because the speaker and listener are both present to the utterance simultaneously. There is no temporal or spatial distance between speaker, speech, and listener, since the speaker hears himself speak at the same moment the listener does. This immediacy seems to guarantee the notion that in the spoken word we know what we mean, mean what we say, say what we mean, and know what
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we have said. Whether or not perfect understanding always occurs in fact, this image of perfectly self-present meaning is, according to Derrida, the underlying idea of Western culture . . . Writing on the other hand, is considered by the logocentric system to be only a representation of speech, a secondary substitute designed for use only when speaking is impossible. Writing is thus a second-rate activity that tries to overcome distance by making use of it: the writer puts his thought on paper, distancing it from himself, transforming it into something that can be read by someone far away, even after the writer’s death. This inclusion of death, distance and difference is thought to be a corruption of the self-presence of meaning, to open meaning up to all forms of adulteration which immediacy would have prevented. (Johnson 2004: ix) In Of Grammatology Derrida is precisely concerned with the opposition of speech to writing and the presence : absence dichotomy. According to Derrida, Western philosophy has denigrated writing and privileged speech. Writing is constituted as supplementary to speech and through a ‘deconstructive’ reading of texts by Husserl, de Saussure, Rousseau and Lévi-Strauss, Derrida sets out to reveal the phonocentrism that allegedly lies at the centre of the Western philosophical tradition. Derrida argues that voice and speech suggest the proximity or presence of the speaker and this presence is held to be a guarantee of fully manifest meaning and unmediated understanding that resists contamination by spatial or temporal contingencies or dispersion. In other words, the presence of the speaker in speech functions to put a stop to the endless ‘play’ of the signifier. Therefore, ‘full speech’ or ‘originary speech’ is ‘shielded from interpretation’ (1997: 8) because ‘the essence of the phone . . . [is] immediately proximate to that which within “thought” as logos relates to “meaning”’ (1997: 11). Presence is as such the ontological ground of truth: ‘The history of . . . metaphysics . . . has . . . always assigned the origin of truth in general to the logos: the history of truth, of the truth of truth, has always been . . . the debasement of writing, and its repression outside “full” speech’ (1997: 3). According to Derrida, then, the privileging of speech over writing constitutes a strategy that guarantees that meaning can be crystallized
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(through recourse to the figure of God or Man or mind or the author as a ground, foundation and as transcendental signified) thus ensuring the possibility of communication and understanding. Indeed, speech is commonly understood, according to Derrida, as a natural act that facilitates direct or unmediated communication between speakers. Speech allegedly transparently conveys the thoughts of one speaker to another. For example, according to Aristotle ‘spoken words . . . are the symbols of mental experience . . . and written words are the symbols of spoken words’ (1997: 11). This is because, for Aristotle, ‘the voice, [as] producer of the first symbols, has a relationship of essential and immediate proximity with the mind. Producer of the first signifier, it is not just a simple signifier among others. It signifies “mental experiences” which themselves reflect or mirror things by natural resemblance’ (ibid.). For Aristotle, voice enjoys a privileged proximity to mind that is the source of all signs. What Derrida identifies as ‘the epoch of the logos’ (1997: 12) amounts to the privileging of voice, speech and sound as the natural carriers of meaning and as such, of truth in Western philosophy. Writing, as the re-present-ation of speech, has the potential to sever the connection between words and the thoughts of a putative speaker and thus to distort communication. Writing is as such condemned as a secondary, derivative and indeed supplementary form of communication that, because of its separation from its moment of origin, gives rise to all kinds of misunderstandings and errors. Writing, then, is a form of violence that threatens and distorts the pristine purity of full speech. Derrida’s critique of the metaphysics of presence and of phonocentrism is, in its claim for the instability of language and meaning and indeed for the impossibility of certainty in interpretation, an attack on the (Cartesian) subject that, with the aid of reason, claims to say what it knows and know what it says. Habermas’ critique rests on the manner in which Derrida approaches language pointing out that ‘Derrida does not make use of the analyses of ordinary language carried out in the Anglo-Saxon world’ (Habermas 1990: 163). Rather, Derrida works from Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and with Husserl’s idea of the subject as a transcendental and ultimately isolated ego. With the subject cast as an isolated ego, communication between egos can only be modelled as the ‘signalling [of the] contents
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of experience’: according to Habermas, ‘because Husserl posits as originary the subjectivity of sense-giving acts rather than the linguistically created intersubjectivity of mutual understanding, the process of reaching understanding between subjects has to be represented on the model of transmitting and deciphering experiential signals’ (1990: 169). The result is that Derrida fails to escape the philosophy of the subject and subject-centred instrumental reason that his critique of the metaphysics of presence is supposed to achieve, precisely because it is inherently parasitic upon that notion. Perhaps what is most (un)remarkable about Derrida’s claims about phonocentrism and the metaphysics of presence is how closely they resemble the conventional sociology of modernity as a rupture from societies defined by a certain face-to-face solidarity, a special unmediated inter-subjectivity, a belonging in proximity that is simultaneously the realm of the religious – ‘where’, says Derrida, ‘the socius or the relation to the other would disclose itself to be the secret of testimonial experience’ (1998: 64) – to societies defined by the mediations of books, of computers, of diasporic exile and of writing. In that German sociological tradition beginning with Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber and their reception and reworking by the Frankfurt School, this journey takes on the pathos of the tragic that is constitutive of the force of the aesthetic critique of modernity and which, paradoxically ‘designates disenchantment as the very resource of the religious’ (Derrida 1998: 65) except that, whereas anomie and alienation arrive as a result of ‘the fall’ precipitated by modernity, for Derrida they are there from the very beginning. This is demonstrated most efficaciously in Derrida’s reading, in Of Grammatology, of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropiques, where Derrida demonstrates the extent to which the metaphysics of presence structures Lévi-Strauss’ writing about so-called primitive peoples. In two chapters from Tristes Tropiques titled ‘On the line’ and ‘A writing lesson’, Lévi-Strauss recounts an incident that took place during his field-work with the Nambikwara in Brazil. His work among them had been complicated from the start by the fact that the Nambikwara are forbidden from using proper names. When one day he was playing with some children, one little girl hit another. The victim approached the anthropologist and whispered a secret in his ear,
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but Lévi-Strauss could not understand what she was saying. The perpetrator saw what was happening and tried to tell him a second secret. ‘After some hesitation and questioning,’ writes Lévi-Strauss the meaning of the incident became clear. Out of revenge, the first little girl had come to tell me the name of her enemy, and the latter, on becoming aware of this, had retaliated by confiding to me the other’s name. (Lévi-Strauss 1992: 279) The ‘lesson’ Lévi-Strauss draws from this episode is the corruption of nature by the introduction of writing – moreover, the violence of naming that interrupts and disturbs the pure presence of the primitive community and which is introduced from the outside by the foreigner, Lévi-Strauss himself. ‘This incapacity [for writing]’, Derrida suggests, ‘will be presently thought, within the ethico-political order, as an innocence and a non-violence interrupted by the forced entry of the West’ (1997: 110). Derrida draws further attention to Lévi-Strauss’ romantic representation of the Nambikwara as ‘among the most primitive to be found anywhere in the world’ (1992: 272) and as ‘survivors from the Stone Age’ (1992: 276): On the dark savannah, the camp fires sparkle. Near their warmth, which offers the only protection against the growing chill of the night; behind the frail screens of palm-fronds and branches, hurriedly set up on the side from which rain and wind are expected; next to the baskets filled with the pathetic possessions which constitute the community’s earthly wealth; lying on the bare ground which stretches away in all directions and is haunted by other equally hostile and apprehensive bands, husbands and wives, closely intertwined, are aware of being each other’s support and comfort, and the only help against day-to-day difficulties and that brooding melancholy which settles from time to time on the souls of the Nambikwara. The visitor camping with the Indians in the bush for the first time, is filled with anguish and pity at the sight of human beings so totally bereft; some relentless cataclysm seems to have crushed them against the ground in a hostile land, leaving them naked and shivering by their flickering fires. He gropes his way through the scrub, taking care not to knock against the hands, arms
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or chests that he glimpses as warm reflections in the glow of the flames. But the wretchedness is shot through with whisperings and chuckles. The couples embrace as if seeking to recapture a lost unity, and their caresses continue uninterrupted as he goes by. He can sense in all of them an immense kindness, a profoundly carefree attitude, a naive and charming animal satisfaction – and binding these various feelings together – something which might be called the most truthful and moving expression of human love. (Lévi-Strauss 1992: 293) In this condition of innocence and of pure presence, Lévi-Strauss draws out the lesson of writing from among the Nambikwara – a people without writing. Writing, claims Lévi-Strauss, has a ‘sociological rather than an intellectual purpose’ (1992: 298). He suggests that the invention or advent of writing cannot be used as an indicator to distinguish between ‘savage’ or ‘civilized’ peoples, the former allegedly without history or a past except in terms of that which remains within recall of a living individual, the latter able to account for their past achievements through the archive and the library, and as such progress. Rather Lévi-Strauss, in anarchist fashion, links writing to the advent of violence, the political and the state: The only phenomenon with which writing has always been concomitant is the creation of cities and empires, that is the integration of large numbers of individuals into a political system, and their grading into castes or classes . . . it seems to have favoured the exploitation of human beings rather than their enlightenment . . . My hypothesis, if correct, would oblige us to recognise the fact that the primary function of written communication is to facilitate slavery. (Lévi-Strauss 1992: 299) As such, Derrida points to the violence that precipitated the whole incident and the ‘ethnocentrism’ that Lévi-Strauss is consciously writing against but yet simultaneously reproducing: Only an innocent community . . . only a micro-society of nonviolence and freedom, all the members of which can by rights remain within range of an immediate and transparent, a ‘crystalline’
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address, fully self-present in its living speech, only such a community can suffer, as the surprise of an aggression coming from without, the insinuation of writing, the infiltration of its ‘ruse’ and of its ‘perfidy.’ Only such a community can import from abroad ‘the exploitation of man by man’. (Derrida 1997: 119) The violence of naming occasioned by the outsider Lévi-Strauss is analogous to the violence of writing which is likewise held to be outside or exterior to speech. However, according to Derrida this violence that seems to have accidentally befallen the community and speech from the outside is actually inscribed in language from the very beginning. Language is a system of relations and differences – language is characterized by the ‘play’ of signifiers which point not to any stable ground beyond or outside language but only to other signifiers. Signifiers differentiate and defer such that no thing – neither consciousness nor world – can ever be purely present because they are always mediated by the (violence/play) of signs. If, in sociology and social anthropology, the pristine purity and present-ness of pre- or non-modern societies and cultures has functioned as a lever that facilitates a certain critique of ‘the West’ that uses a strategic essentialism, for Derrida presence permits the erasure of polysemy and the possibility of ‘play’. Against the now familiar ogre of positivism that allegedly reduces meaning into ossified artefacts, Derrida pursues an anti-science of language in which meaning is never present except by the ruses and duplicities of institutions and socio-political orders and their authorizing practices that, nevertheless, Derrida steadfastly refuses to analyse. Interestingly, Habermas equates Derrida’s thought with a kind of Jewish mysticism (Callinicos 1989: 78–9; Habermas 1990: 182–4). If Derrida is, in the wake of Heidegger, an ontological thinker, or, following Nietzsche, a figure whose thought is entwined within the pathos of the tragic, then the critique of the metaphysics of presence becomes a confirmation of what, in Judaeo-Christian thought, is known as ‘the Fall’, a moment that registers the exile of human beings from God. Without that comforting presence there is only the cacophony of mutually unintelligible languages, de-centred and now decidedly subject to the play of deconstruction (Habermas 1990: 181).
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On religion – a category or term which Derrida refuses to contain, allowing it to, as it were, leak into the allegedly incommensurable domains of reason and the secular – the approach is, as Sherwood and Hart (2005) recognise, one that vibrates at a similar frequency to Rudolf Otto’s in The Idea of the Holy: Though he does not slip so easily into realms of pure irrationality, or supra-rational ‘feeling’, Derrida’s ventured ‘definitions’ of religion resonate with Rudolf Otto’s Das Heilige. For Otto, as in a sense for Derrida, the holy signifies, by definition, a clear ‘overplus’ over ethics, so that, even though the holy intimates intense moral significance, that moral significance never empties out the whole meaning of the word. (2005: 24) As such, religion, for Derrida, is an experience and a faith ‘that is beyond ethics and knowledge’ (Derrida 2005: 35), a kind of radical undecidability that forestalls the closure of the meaning of the secular and the rational in the same way that Marx’ spectres defer the ‘end of history’ so rashly and dangerously proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama in The End of History and the Last Man (Fukuyama 1992; Derrida 1994: 49–75; Sim 1999: 38–57). As such, religion – for Derrida – is a foil for reason, another opportunity to assert the limits of reason and knowledge, limits that, since Kant, most philosophers were already well aware of: the world can only be known through the species-specific apparatus of the mind–body, an ‘observation’ that in no uncertain terms suggests a point of departure for locating and delineating the fragility of knowing and – as the horrors of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries attest so acutely – its dangers.
Summary The call to post-modernism in the study of religions via readings of the likes of Foucault, de Certeau and Derrida seems irresistible. It is posed and justified in terms of an opposition between a modernist project that reduces (for example) religious texts into antiquarian artifacts that insists on abiding by fixed rules of interpretation in
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order to definitively establish textual meaning as against a postmodern approach, that [b]y sweeping away secure notions of meaning, by radically calling into question the apparently stable foundations of meaning on which traditional interpretation is situated, by raising doubts about the capacity to achieve ultimate clarity about the meaning of a text, postmodern readings lay bare the contingent and constructed character of meaning itself. Moreover, by challenging traditional interpretations that claim universality, completeness, and supremacy over other interpretations, postmodern readings demonstrate that traditional interpretations are themselves enactments of domination or, in simpler terms, power plays. (Bible and Culture Collective 1995: 2–3) This stance stets up the post-modern/post-structuralist position as being typified by suspicion and as an unmasking of ruses, dissimulations and ‘power plays’. I take this point seriously and I will try to do justice to it in the next chapter as a means of outlining some important differences between post-modernism and the phenomenology of religion, differences that lie, I think, precisely in the realm of theoretical reflexivity and ideology critique. The phenomenology of religion has remained myopic at best towards its own operational concepts, developing no reflexively geared strategies to be able to enquire into its working assumptions, its historicity, itself as a discourse and so on and so forth. However, the rather vulgar opposition of ‘modernist’ modes of interpretative closure as against a ‘postmodernist’ open-ness is surely a caricature. Moreover, as I have argued in this part of the book, the post-modern approach – like the phenomenology of religion – comes from within or is structured by the aesthetic critique of modernity and as such articulates a loaded and tendentious suspicion of science and the knowing subject that supposedly aspires to total and totalitarian knowledge. In the place of reason, post-modernism privileges experiences beyond reason that, in their undecidability, somehow explode the subject tearing it from its alleged self-transparency, and exploding also the dominations of
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an instrumental reason that, it is claimed, reduces the study of histories, cultures and religions to an optics of the museum and the autopsy. These caricatures belie the abandonment, by post-modernists, of modernity and its emancipatory content, and testifies to their nihilistic journey into irrationality.
Across the first two sections of this book I argued that the phenomenology of religion, alongside the so-called masters of suspicion Nietzsche, Marx and Freud and indeed post-modern thinkers such as Foucault, de Certeau and Derrida, write from within – or at the very least their arguments are structured whole or in part by – the discourse of the aesthetic critique of modernity. The aesthetic critique of modernity constitutes a certain set of values: it involves a critique of modernity as the instrumentalization and de-authentification of social relationships and a critique of science and of instrumental reason as forms of domination that reduce meaning to fact. This leads to the privileging of essences, experiences and intuitions in an encompassing nostalgia for presence – in the phenomenology of religion a nostalgia for the sacred and, in post-modernism, for experiences and truths that lie beyond the rational in art, music and in the religious. Marx-ism, which I flagged in the early parts of this book as an approach that also refuses to separate facts from values, will form the theoretical resource from which I will attempt, in the pages that follow, to develop an alternative set of theoretical tools for the study of religions, particularly the notion of ideology as a critical tool for discriminating between competing truth-claims about the world and as a means of approaching socially, culturally, religiously, economically and politically mediated social relationships. However, I want to begin this section of the book by focusing on certain aspects of postmodern analysis that can be understood as kinds of ideology critique and which differentiate post-modern thinking from the phenomenology of religion to the extent that reflexive critical tools and concepts are entirely absent from the phenomenological ‘tool kit’.
Phenomenology and post-modernism revisited I have already presented an outline of the phenomenology of religion. My contention here is straightforward enough: the phenomenology of religion is marked by theoretical poverty: its operative concepts and assumptions do not provide or allow for the critical interrogation of those concepts and assumptions. By contrast, Derrida’s ‘deconstruction’ and Foucault’s ‘archaeology’ and ‘genealogy’ offer the possibility for reflexive critique that is largely absent from the phenomenology of religion. For example, in their overview of the three strands of the phenomenology of religion (1992), Twiss and Conser also engage with a range of critiques directed at the phenomenological method which, to recap, involves, to begin with, treating religion as a phenomenon sui generis or better, as a discrete class of facts, and then focusing on religious phenomena as they appear in different times and places, enacting the epoché or bracketing out assumptions, common-sense beliefs and presuppositions so as not to ‘contaminate’ the experience, sympathetically and empathically re-experiencing the phenomena under investigation (verstehen) and then reflecting on the re-enacted experience. What is remarkable is the ease with which Twiss and Conser are able, apparently, to refute all potential avenues of critique without ever having to clarify, for example, how or why the epoché, as a commitment to the insider’s point of view and to accurate description or representation is not compromised by the simultaneous commitment to ‘evocation’, or for that matter how the epoché as a commitment to value-neutrality is not undone by various prior assumptions including the reality of the sacred and the essential goodness of religion. Indeed, through its insistence on ‘bracketing’ or ‘suspension’, the phenomenology of religion is incapable of asking serious questions about its own operational concepts or critically reflecting on its own authorizing practices for establishing the truth of certain descriptions against or over other kinds of statement. That Twiss and Conser make no effort to cross disciplinary borders is perhaps most telling of all: the phenomenology of religion is presented as a self-sufficient approach to religions that does not need to engage with other human science disciplines
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because its methods are entirely capable of, on the one hand, legitimizing phenomenology as a distinct approach and secondly, of providing a proper point of departure for research in the study of religions. The frame of mind is dogmatic and xenophobic. Phenomenology appears, on this reading, to be incapable of reflexively investigating its own historicity as an approach to religions, or critically reflecting on its methodological shortcomings. Despite my earlier critique of post-modernism, it could be argued that the ‘spirit’ of post-modernism is precisely that reflexivity that phenomenology denies. As such, I will take Derrida and Foucault in turn in order to effectively differentiate certain aspects of post-modern thought from the phenomenology of religion. Christopher Norris describes deconstruction in the following terms: He [Derrida] argues that philosophers have been able to impose their various systems of thought only by ignoring, or suppressing, the disruptive effects of language. His aim is always to draw out these effects by a critical reading which fastens on, and skillfully unpicks, the elements of metaphor and other figurative devices at work in the texts of philosophy. Deconstruction in this, its most rigorous form acts as a reminder of the ways in which language deflects or complicates the philosopher’s project. Above all, deconstruction works to undo the idea – according to Derrida, the ruling illusion of Western metaphysics – that reason can somehow dispense with language and arrive at a pure, self-authenticating method . . . [but] deconstruction is not simply a strategic reversal of categories which otherwise remain distinct and unaffected. It seeks to undo both a given order of priorities and the very system of conceptual opposition that makes that order possible. (Norris 1991: 18–31) According to Derrida, deconstruction does not mean destruction. Deconstruction is meant to imply not simply a taking apart or disassembling but also a reconstruction. It is a concept that borrows from both Heidegger and Nietzsche: from Heidegger’s notion of destruktion which implied a manner of reading the Western philosophical tradition and appropriating that tradition and from Nietzsche’s
critique of Western values and his search for a re-evaluation of those values. As such, Derrida claims that deconstruction is not nihilistic, concerned only with the destruction of philosophical systems. For example, in his ‘Letter to a Japanese friend’, Derrida claims that ‘the undoing, decomposing, and desedimenting of structures . . . was not a negative operation. Rather than destroying, it was also necessary to understand how an “ensemble” was constituted and to reconstruct it to this end’ (Derrida 1991: 272). Deconstruction, then, is about dismantling and reassembling and is to be conceived of as a positive operation. However, we may nevertheless still legitimately ask as to whether there is a step-by-step procedure to follow whereby an outside agency – the reader or interpreter – brings the tools of deconstruction to bear upon the text? According to Derrida, deconstruction is not a method or a procedure – ‘deconstruction could not be reduced to some methodological instrumentality or to a set of rules and transposable procedures’ (Derrida 1991: 273). Derrida provides a definition of sorts in Of Grammatology: The movements of deconstruction do not destroy structures from the outside. They are not possible and effective, nor can they take accurate aim, except by inhabiting those structures. Inhabiting them in a certain way, because one always inhabits, and all the more when one does not suspect it. Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction always in a certain way falls prey to its own work. (Derrida 1997: 24) Later, deconstruction appears as a certain strategy or ‘task of reading’: The writer writes in a language and in a logic whose proper system, laws, and life his discourse by definition cannot dominate absolutely. He uses them only by letting himself, after a fashion and up to a point, be governed by the system. And the reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns
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of the language that he uses. This relationship is not a certain quantitative distribution of shadow and light, of weakness or of force, but a signifying structure that critical reading should produce. (Derrida 1997: 158) Deconstruction, then, is not a method or formal procedure, nor is it an attitude or stance that seeks to dis-assemble texts with tools smuggled in from the outside. Rather, it is instead a mode or manner of revealing or witnessing the way in which texts undo or deconstruct themselves because, according to Derrida, language and meaning are always beyond the conscious control of any given author. As such in Memoires for Paul de Man Derrida writes that ‘there is always already deconstruction, at work in works, especially in literary works. Deconstruction cannot be applied, after the fact and from the outside, as a technical instrument of modernity. Texts deconstruct themselves by themselves’ (Derrida in Moran 2000: 452). Derrida’s insight is that texts weave the illusion of possessing a central meaning and he claims that a deconstructive reading reveals that such a core meaning is never in fact attained and indeed is subverted by other meanings within the text. The essay ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ is one of the finest examples of a Derridean or deconstructive reading. It is a meditation on the Phaedrus, a dialogue in which the function and value of writing are discussed. Socrates recounts the story of Theuth, the mythical inventor of writing. Theuth offers writing to the god-king of Egypt Thamus as a pharmakon for memory and wisdom. Derrida’s analysis hinges precisely on the translation of this single Greek word: it can mean variously remedy, poison, charm or spell, dye or paint. Further, it is related to the word pharmakos which means a scapegoat sacrificed for atonement and purification as well as the word pharmakeia which means both pharmacy and sorcery. According to Derrida, translators have consistently decided which of the meanings – at different points in the text – to employ, and have as such decided in advance what is essentially undecidable: We hope to display in the most striking manner the regular, ordered polysemy that has, through skewing, indetermination, or overdetermination, but without mistranslation, permitted the rendering
of the same word by ‘remedy’, ‘recipe’, ‘poison’, ‘drug’, ‘philtre’, etc. It will also be seen to what extent the malleable unity of this concept, or rather its rules and the strange logic that links it with its signifier, has been dispersed, masked, obliterated, and rendered almost unreadable not only by the imprudence or empiricism of the translators, but first and foremost by any redoubtable, irreducible difficulty of translation. It is a difficulty inherent in its very principle, situated less in the passage from one language to another, from one philosophical language to another, than already, as we shall see, in the tradition between Greek and Greek; a violent difficulty in the transference of a non-philosopheme into a philosopheme. With this problem of translation we will thus be dealing with nothing less than the problem of the very passage into philosophy. (Derrida 2004: 77) In Derrida’s revisiting of this text he seeks to keep the ambiguities of meaning in play. Unlike a conventional commentary in which an argument is countered, modified or proved, Derrida seeks rather to expose (and preserve) the fragilities and instabilities of Plato’s text. According to Derrida, every translation is a reading that runs the risk of closing off as much as it opens up. As such, the essay does not so much inform as perform, seizing on the word pharmakon as a point of instability through which the text’s metaphysical assumptions can be brought to the surface and the repressions, through which a certain meaning or set of meanings is privileged, can be unmasked. Deconstruction, as a non-technique of reading and interpretation, provides, then, a certain emancipatory potential as a means of liberation from traditional or canonical or fixed interpretations. Against the violence of repression, deconstruction offers ‘play, with its connotations of free experimentation and endless alternatives’ (Bible and Culture Collective 1995: 131). But herein lies a problem: in refusing to commit to anything but play, the deconstructionist ends up on the fence, and one wonders, therefore, if there are times or occasions when even an ardent post-modernist/post-structuralist might refuse such a mode of reading? I now turn to Foucault’s essay ‘The order of discourse’. This essay is of interest not only because it exemplifies the central features of the archaeological method, but also because it was composed at a point
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when Foucault was shifting away from archaeology towards genealogy (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 104). In this essay Foucault engages in a meticulous analysis of discursive procedures and regulations governing speech-acts. Foucault highlights the ways in which speech is mediated by discursive rules and conventions, and the extent to which such rules and conventions determine what can be said by a speaking-subject in certain situations. Foucault begins the essay by examining instances of what he calls ‘prohibition’ and ‘division’ through which a speaking-subject (such as a psychiatrist) attains legitimacy as a speaking-subject and, further, the means by which others (such as those defined as ‘mad’ and whose speaking has, as such, the status only of noise) are excluded. He posits the existence of a ‘taboo’ on speech, and notes the complex ‘ritual’ procedures that surround the circumstances of speech and the privileges and rights accorded to the speaking-subject. That Foucault should begin in this manner is of utmost importance: ‘The order of discourse’ was itself an inaugural lecture delivered by Foucault at the Collège de France, an occasion dictated by the conventions and rituals Foucault seeks to draw attention towards: Ritual defines the qualification which must be possessed by individuals who speak (and who must occupy such-and-such position and formulate such-and-such a type of statement, in the play of dialogue, of interrogation or recitation); it defines the gestures, behaviour, circumstances, and the whole set of signs which must accompany discourse; finally, it fixes the supposed or imposed efficacity of the words, their effect on those to whom they are addressed, and the limits of their constraining value. Religious, juridical, therapeutic, and in large measure also political discourses can scarcely be dissociated from this deployment of a ritual which determines both the particular properties and the stipulated roles of the speaking subjects. (Foucault 1981: 62) If ‘prohibition’ and ‘division’ are elements that function as it were on the ‘outside’ of discourse, then there are also ‘internal procedures’ such as the classification and ordering of texts into ‘primary’ and secondary’ sources, as well as ‘commentaries’ and such like. For Foucault, these hierarchies at once guarantee the proliferation
of discourse while simultaneously limiting or depleting what can be said. For example, Foucault argues that the notion of the author veils the fact that it is discourse that delineates a domain of objects for analysis, a particular methodology for the analysis of said objects and a set of fundamental propositions about said objects to which all new propositions must return and are thus limited by. As such, a ‘true’ proposition or statement attains its status as true only insofar as it has been formulated according to the rules of statement production particular to a given discursive formation. Foucault contends that the rules internal to discourse have been ignored, as if discourse were merely a neutral bridge between thought and speech. However, if Foucault wants ‘us’ to be aware of the rules and regulations that govern and police the production of statements – be they anthropological, philosophical or juridical – he also warns against assuming that underneath discourse there is vast and repressed unsaid (note the break with the History of Madness). For Foucault, there is no underneath to discourse – the world is disclosed through discourse, and discourse operates according to rules and principles that are not derived from knowledge about the world but rather the mechanical interplay of hidden rules and particular articulations of the power/knowledge nexus. As such, Foucault approaches discourse in much the same way as a structuralist approaches language – as an enclosed and self-regulating system of rules and relationships that produces statements according to a logic or grammar that is independent of any speaker or author. Foucault can be criticized for granting discourse too much autonomy and he fails to adequately theorize the relations between particular discursive formations, institutions and human agents. However, as Foucault moved away from archaeology and structural analysis towards genealogy and what Dreyfus and Rabinow call ‘interpretive analytics’ (1983: xxvi), he situated structuralism as an example of the ‘isolating, ordering, systematising practices’ characteristic of modernity and ‘disciplinary technology’ (1983: xxvii). Furthermore, if truth was placed in suspense or brackets in the archaeology, it would be exposed as an illusion in the genealogy. The reflexivity demonstrated in ‘The order of discourse’ and the project of providing a counter narrative to the discourse of modernity as progress, welfare and freedom that began in the History of
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Madness is continued into Foucault’s later works such as Discipline and Punish. Moreover, as Foucault shifts from structuralism and archaeology to a genealogical history inspired by Nietzsche (1991a), the concern becomes ‘to unmask the solemn hymns of progress’ (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 106) and to reveal that the world is, so to speak, interpretation all the way down, a fact that, according to Foucault, reveals the arbitrariness of truth and its dependence on relations of power. Dreyfus and Rabinow render the work of the genealogist in the following terms: The task of the genealogist is to destroy the primacy of origins, of unchanging truths. He seeks to destroy the doctrines of development and progress. Having destroyed ideal significations and original truths, he looks to the play of wills. Subjection, domination, and combat are found everywhere he looks. Whenever he hears talk of meaning and value, of virtue and goodness, he looks for strategies of domination . . . The genealogist writes effective history . . . He is opposed to a supra-historical perspective that seeks to totalise history . . . Effective history seeks . . . to put everything in historical motion. All of our ideals of truth and beauty, our bodies, our instincts, our feelings might seem to be beyond relativity. The effective historian seeks to dissolve this comforting illusion of identity and firmness and solidity. There are no constants for the genealogist. (1983: 108–10) Certainly, genealogy offers the possibility of counter-history. Indeed, Discipline and Punish should be understood as a political intervention rather than merely as the re-presentation of empirico-historical data. Foucault’s analyses of French penal practices began with the founding of the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons on 8 February, 1971. The aim was to collect evidence about conditions inside French jails. As Foucault explained in 1972 [w]hat is fascinating about prisons is that, for once, power doesn’t hide or mask itself; it reveals itself as tyranny pursued down to the smallest details; it is cynical and at the same time pure and entirely ‘justified’ because its practice can be totally formulated within the
framework of morality. Its brutal tyranny consequently appears as the serene domination of Good over Evil, of order over disorder. (Miller 1993: 190) As such, Foucault’s analysis of French penal practices most certainly does not constitute a passive, value-free or scientifically detached and neutral exercise in data-collection. But, despite the claim that genealogy works against any ‘supra-historical perspective’ it is unclear from where the genealogist writes history: from what lofty vantage point does it become possible to ‘see’ history as a ‘play of wills’ – as if there is anything playful about intimidation, murder, betrayal, war, genocide, and so on – and in effect, to totalize history (Merquior describes Foucault’s genealogy as a cratology [1991: 108–18]) as power and war? Moreover, what is the point of a political intervention when Foucault’s complex formulations on the ‘microphysics’ of power and on power as production rather than repression, actually close off the possibility of any articulation of a political project? Both Foucault and Derrida direct critical attention to the production of margins and marginality and to the exclusions of thought and ordering and authorizing practices concerned with the erection, maintenance and patrolling of borders. Not only does this spirit of critique differentiate aspects of post-modern thought from the phenomenology of religion, it also marks the extent to which Derrida and Foucault also write from within an Enlightenment tradition in which reason takes on the role of ideology critique. However, the post-modern critiques of the subject and of meaning and of modernity’s ‘grand narratives’, however compelling, must in the last analysis be held in check given the refusal of post-modernists to commit themselves to any values whatsoever. As such, it is to ideology – as a concept and as a reflexive critical tool – to which I now turn.
A return to ideology It has been the central contention of this book that the study of religions is not about a clash between theories that privilege either explanation or understanding, but is a value-saturated enterprise that suggests rather an antagonism between approaches that seek to deny
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or efface the intertwinement of fact and value and those, such as Marx-ism, the phenomenology of religion and post-modernism, that explicitly bring (albeit competing) values into their respective analyses. As such, I have attempted to demonstrate both certain similarities and differences between the phenomenology of religion and postmodern thinking but most of all I have sought to stress their privileging of experience, their apparent opposition to evidence-based research and their rejection of representationism that actually prevents, for example, detailed, empirical analysis of mediated experiences of locality in a globalizing world and the role of religions in those mediations. In this section, I want to argue for a Marx-ist study of religions that treats religions as ideologies that mediate local conceptions of the cosmos but also of culture, society, polity, economy and also landscape and environment. In the concluding section of this book I offer a case study from my own field work in the Philippines to show what a Marx-ist approach in the study of religions might look like. As a prelude to that case study, I will discuss Marx’ usage of the term ‘ideology’ and then introduce Habermas’ approach to ideology critique and its weaknesses, before moving on to suggest a more nuanced notion of ideology and of critical theory generally conceived. For Marx, the term ideology is primarily negative and Marx uses it to denote those ideas that conceal ‘the real nature of social and economic relationships’ and thus serve ‘to justify the unequal distribution of social and economic resources in society’ (McLellan 1995a: 153). This view undoubtedly tends towards a kind of conspiracy theory, in which a ruling class peddles certain ideas, values, sentiments and conceptions which are useful in so far as they ensure the legitimacy of that class’ ruling position. Moreover, it also leads to the view that ideologies are merely the effects of other processes – of class position; mode of production; organization of power and property – and that an ideological notion is therefore ‘an epiphenomenal illusion in which each idea’ is a ‘distorted representation of some real “thing”’ (1995a: 154). However, Marx’ view is more complex: in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx seeks to explain how Louis Bonaparte – nephew of Napoleon – had managed to pull off a coup d’état in France. Marx examines revolutionaries from the past including Martin Luther, Oliver Cromwell and Maximilien
Robespierre and focuses on the imageries, meanings and symbols they appropriated that concealed certain motives and interests and shaped material conditions (Hawkes 2003: 92–4). In other words, for Marx a representation is not merely the reflex or pale reflection of a given set of historically transmitted circumstances but constitutes a semi-autonomous realm in which ideas both reflect the social circumstances of their use but can also in turn condition or effect future circumstances. In the ‘Preface’ to A Critique of Political Economy, Marx also draws a distinction between science and ideology, and seems to suggest that all the elements that make up the ‘super-structure’ of a society – art, philosophy, religion, politics and law – are ideologies, which would logically suggest that Marx viewed his own ideas as ideological (McLellan 1991b: 15). However, if Marx believed that science remained outside or beyond ideology, it was not a view that was shared by his successors of the Frankfurt School, who regarded positivism as a form of instrumental reason and, as such, a critical element in the technical domination of modern societies (McLellan 1991b: 57). Jürgen Habermas has continued the critique of instrumental reason that was begun by Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse, and in The Theory of Communicative Action Vols I & II (1984 and 1985) Habermas interrogates the linked problems of social action and social order in terms of the Weberian narrative of progressive rationalization. Habermas develops a critical diagnosis of modern societies arguing that the means-end purposive or instrumental rationality characteristic of the bureaucratic-administrative and economic system threatens what Habermas calls the lebenswelt or ‘life-world’. Drawing on the speech-act theory of Austin and Searle as well as the philosophical hermeneutics of Heidegger, Habermas proposes a shift to a notion of communicative rationality which, he suggests, provides the possibility for a reason located not in an isolated, atomized, meaning-giving and all-powerful knowing subject but rather one that is held between dialogically engaged subjects. Such a reason poses the possibility of a kind of knowledge that is generated through dialogue rather than models of efficiency and performativity. In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1990), Habermas further develops his theory of communicative action in opposition to what he terms subject-centred instrumental reason. Although critical of
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both hermeneutics and post-modernism, Habermas takes the turn to language in social theory seriously. Habermas links Weber’s notion of rationalization with the subject-centred reason exemplified in the rationalist philosophies of Descartes and Kant. Arguing that philosophy has been dominated by a mono-logic of reason, Habermas claims that the only way out of the philosophy of the subject is ‘from the paradigm of action oriented toward mutual understanding’ (1990: 82). In what follows I will summarize some of Habermas’ key ideas and their precedents in a little more detail before moving on to suggest certain problems with Habermas’ view on language and the consequences of this for ideology critique. In his essay ‘Critical and traditional theory’ (1995) Max Horkheimer drew a distinction between bourgeois, positivist science which seeks a realm of pure knowledge, and critical theory which rejects the fetishization of knowledge and the myth of the disinterested and autonomous scientist – in short, of knowledge without interests (see also Hewitt 1995: 8–15). ‘In traditional theoretical thinking’, writes Horkheimer, ‘the genesis of particular objective facts, the practical application of the conceptual systems by which it grasps the facts, and the role of such systems in action, are all taken to be external to the theoretical thinking itself’ (1995: 208). As such, according to Horkheimer, positivist science disavows the contexts of its practice and the uses and interests for which its knowledge will be used. By contrast, critical theory is a form of praxis – a kind of creative and self-transforming activity – that emphasizes the active role of thought in unmasking ideology and transforming society. Yet, in Dialectic of Enlightenment Horkheimer and Adorno appear to preclude the possibility of social change in their analysis and unmasking of mass, capitalist culture as domination and standardization. In that analysis, culture turns out to be an industry defined by a calculating means-end rationality that seems to signal the total eclipse of the autonomous individual. Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man similarly envisions a society dominated by capital and a procedural or formal means-end instrumental rationality and, like Adorno and Horkheimer, Marcuse emphasizes processes of standardization and homogenization through which individual freedom is steadily asphyxiated:
Domination – in the guise of affluence and liberty – extends to all spheres of private and public existence, integrates all authentic opposition, absorbs all alternatives. Technological rationality reveals its political character as it becomes the great vehicle for better domination, creating a truly totalitarian universe in which society and nature, mind and body are kept in a state of permanent mobilisation for the defence of this universe. (Marcuse 1964: 31) Habermas, in a rereading of Dialectic of Enlightenment, points out the paradox that lies at its heart: As instrumental, reason assimilated itself to power and thereby relinquished its critical force – that is the final disclosure of ideology critique applied to itself. To be sure, this description of the selfdestruction of the critical capacity is paradoxical, because in the moment of description it still has to make use of the critique that has been declared dead. It denounces the Enlightenment’s becoming totalitarian with its own tools. (Habermas 1990: 119) In other words, reason cannot on the one hand be shown to have entirely lost its critical function and yet be called upon to perform a critical unmasking. Nevertheless, Habermas’ own work incorporates many of the key concepts and assumptions of critical theory: knowledge and interests go hand in hand and the notion of apolitical enquiry depends on an unsustainable separation of facts and values; the goal of critical theory is emancipation from technical forms of control and domination; science and technology are increasingly intertwined with the systems of production, consumption and administration and must be shown to be so intertwined; Enlightenment reason is now defined by measures of performativity and efficiency such that its emancipatory content has been lost – this content must at all costs be recovered; the proceduralization and instrumentalization of decision-making processes by experts – the reduction of social policy issues to technical problems – has resulted in these processes becoming divorced from open society and critical debate. These decision-making processes must therefore be subject to democratic accountability. Indeed, in
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the appendix to Knowledge and Human Interests (1972: 301–17), Habermas refers to Horkheimer’s essay and the distinction drawn by Horkheimer between critical and traditional theory, and reiterates the claim that critical theory cannot be objective, detached and valuefree, but rather presupposes an interest in values such as human freedom, autonomy and social responsibility. Further, Habermas distinguishes between three modes of human questioning or knowing: first, a technical and purposive rationality concerned with knowing and controlling the world around us; secondly, an interest in understanding others and thirdly, an interest in removing obstacles and distortions to self-understanding. In particular, Habermas critiques theory for its own sake, arguing that ‘objectivism’ (1972: 316) masks ‘the connection of knowledge and interest’ (1972: 317). Indeed, a certain effacing of ethical responsibility of the public intellectual follows when ‘critique uncritically abdicates its own connections with the emancipatory knowledge-constitutive interest in favour of pure theory’ (1972: 316). However, if Habermas follows the contours of thought established by the thinkers of Marx and the Frankfurt School, he also draws on the functionalism of Emile Durkheim and Max Weber’s theory of social action. In the first volume of The Theory of Communicative Action Habermas engages in a detailed examination of both Weber’s rationalization thesis and Adorno and Horkheimer’s critique of instrumental reason. In the second volume Habermas pursues a critical analysis of functionalism and hermeneutic interpretations of the so-called life-world. Habermas’ aim is to proffer a diagnosis of the structural and systemic problems characteristic of modern societies, and in volume two of The Theory of Communicative Action Habermas elaborates this diagnosis through distinguishing between ‘system’ and ‘life-world’. According to Habermas, the life-world is a realm of implicit shared values, norms and symbolic meanings responsible for cultural reproduction, social integration and socialization. This Heideggerian realm of pre-understandings is described as a ‘reservoir of takenfor-granteds’ (1985: 124) and as an ‘intuitively familiar, preinterpreted reality’ (1985: 132) which is defined by communicative action. Habermas defines communicative action as a form of social action
where the actions of agents or actors are calculated not according to criteria of individual success but rather in terms of reaching agreement with others. Indeed, Habermas claims that implicit in every speech-act or utterance is an orientation towards consensus and agreement. In the appendix to Knowledge and Human Interests, Habermas writes that it is in the very structure of language that ‘autonomy and responsibility are posited for us’ (1972: 314). As such, free or un-coerced consensus is the telos of every act of speech: ‘the utopian perspective of reconciliation and freedom is ingrained in the conditions for the communicative sociation of individuals; it is built into the linguistic mechanism of the reproduction of the species’ (Habermas 1984: 398). Therefore, Habermas’ objective is to ‘preserve the life-world and bring out its fundamental core, which is to serve the normative self-regulation of society’ (Furseth and Repstad 2006: 51). The life-world is however threatened by the rational-instrumental form of social action characteristic of the bureaucratic-administrative and economic systems that have no substantive dimension. Worse: distortion occurs when the formal imperatives of the system threaten to colonize the life-world: Capitalist modernisation follows a pattern such that cognitiveinstrumental rationality surges beyond the bounds of the economy and state into other, communicatively structured areas of life and achieves dominance there at the expense of moral-political and aesthetic-practical rationality, and this produces disturbances in the symbolic reproduction of the lifeworld. (Habermas 1985: 304–5) According to Habermas, this necessitates a return to the founding values of the project of modernity, and a re-connecting with the lifeworld that must be more than the empty celebration of the past. However, this latter can only be achieved if the process of societal rationalization can be steered towards a different course. Habermas argues that the life-world has to be able to develop its own institutions which can then circumscribe the means-ends technical imperatives of the economic and bureaucratic-administrative system while
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simultaneously enabling the objectivation of the life-world to enable critical reflexivity and to prevent the ossification of the life-world into the imperatives of ‘tradition’. However, it should be added that Habermas is far from optimistic about the likelihood of such a reordering of relations between the life-world and the system. Importantly, Habermas’ distinction between system and life-world also has an epistemological dimension: they represent, as it were, two forms of knowledge and knowing. Habermas’ privileging of the lifeworld as the realm of cultural reproduction and socialization, as indeed the realm of a communicative rationality precisely oriented towards consensus and agreement between subjects engaged in speech or dialogue, denies the positivistic, empirical and methodical forms of knowledge and their claims to epistemological validity. As such, Habermas rejects any ‘correspondence theory’ of truth, instead suggesting that agreement constitutes adequate criteria of validity or truth. In the Philosophical Discourse of Modernity Habermas traces the aesthetic critique of modernity and instrumental reason through a close analysis of the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida among others. Is the project of modernity exhausted as some would have us believe? According to Habermas, in order to revitalize the project of modernity we need to find a way out of the philosophy of the subject. As such, he sketches two positions or two forms of reason. The first is defined by Habermas as subject-centred instrumental reason for which knowing is the methodical knowledge of objects. The second is communicative reason where ‘the knowledge of objects’ is ‘replaced by the paradigm of mutual understanding between subjects capable of speech and action’ (1990: 295–6). According to Habermas, at the centre of modernity is the notion of a solitary reasoning or knowing subject that measures and classifies objects. This view confines the manner in which human beings can relate both to each other and to the world. It is confined ontologically because the world becomes a world of entities to be measured, named and counted and classified; it is confined epistemologically to our capacity to describe particular states of affairs or to bring them about through purposive and calculating rational action and it is confined semantically to factual statements. Habermas argues that
thinkers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida have all sought to escape subject-centred instrumental reason, but have done so in ways which efface modernity’s original, emancipatory content. On the other hand, a reason that is exercised between subjects – that is enacted in dialogue or communication – is a reason that operates through consensus and which therefore can give or return a moral or ethical content to modernity. The model Habermas takes is that between the Freudian analyst leading his or her patient to selfawareness, and, according to Habermas, ‘critical theory can do the same for a society by exposing the roots of its legitimating ideology’ (McLellan 1995b: 68). As such, because Habermas’ focus is on language the critique of ideology becomes the critique of ‘systematically distorted communication’ (Ibid.). According to Habermas, communication has, as its telos, the possibility of an ideal speech community in which the truth of an assertion, claim or argument rests on its acceptance by a speech community. In an earlier discussion of the writings of Ninian Smart and Wilfred Cantwell Smith, I suggested a certain resonance between their views on the phenomenology of religion and the creation and sustenance of an ideal speech community and Habermas’ concept of communicative action (see also Gadamer 2004). However, the problem with this approach to language and truth is that it allows for the perverse situation whereby a claim could come to be accepted as truth even though it is false (Callinicos 1989: 111). Habermas is aware that defining truth in terms of consensus is problematic. ‘Good’ or persuasive interpretations must not only make claims that are warrantable, sincere and contextually appropriate, but must also present facts which can be independently verified or falsified and against which the success or failure of an argument and its conclusions can be evaluated. On these grounds, a non-ideological argument, claim or assertion would be one that is open to independent scrutiny by an interpretive community and which makes no appeals to any transcendent truth beyond rational scrutiny. It should be noted that, on this basis, a nonideological argument or point of view is one that does not play any of what Donna Haraway terms ‘god tricks’: between social constructivists, post-modernists and relativists for whom there are no facts only rhetoric and power and positivists and empiricists for whom facts are
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value-free and just lying around out there waiting patiently to be discovered, Haraway seeks a middle way: I think my problem and ‘our’ problem is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own ‘semiotic technologies’ for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a ‘real’ world. (Haraway 1991: 187) Between, then, a post-modern relativism and a positivist concern with the real, there can be a knowledge that comes from a declared location that provides evidence and a value position by which it can be evaluated and which can as such become a valid point of departure for ongoing dialogue. Neither the phenomenology of religion nor post-modernism can do this. Phenomenologists of religion oscillate inconsistently between a positivistic reverence for the pure datum and the accurate description or representation of (religious) facts on the one hand, but hold fast to a prior set of largely undeclared values on the other, at times even rejecting the possibility of description or representation emphasizing instead evocation and the absolute otherness of religion. The post-modernists suffer comparable problems. Although similarly committed to a critique of instrumental reason it is unclear – due in large part to their abstinence from staking out value positions – from where it is they speak and write. The dis-locations of post-modernity are precisely that. Moreover, the postmodern critique of subject-centred reason so often resorts to the privileging of madness and excess and to romantic and aesthetic tropes of tragedy, exile and loss that post-modernism might better be understood as a ‘post- or ‘neo-romanticism’ where alienation and anomie have been accepted not as conditions prevalent in certain types of society but rather as the essence of the human condition. Only a Marx-ist approach is committed to freedom, autonomy and justice as the guiding values of research, but also to making claims based in evidence that can be checked by others belonging to various interpretative communities. To reject such guiding values for the study of religions is surely to embrace reaction and nihilism and to
reject in its entirety the Enlightenment project which began in the critique of all truth-claims, religious and political and particularly those authorized through recourse to transcendent or absolute realms. If the study of religions is to take seriously a broadly Marx-ist approach wedded reflexively to ideology critique, what would such a study of religions look like? First, on the account given above, treating religions as ideologies does not involve any a priori assumption that religious conceptions are false and neither does it necessarily assume that religious ideas are the pale reflections of a social order. Indeed, the only assumption involved is that religions, as ideas, mediate understanding of the world and, as social practices, are involved in the (re)-production of that world. As such, the first move of a Marx-ist study of religions would be the investigation of those processes through which religious interpretations are authorized, legitimated and reproduced. As Talal Asad argues: What requires systematic investigation therefore are the ways in which, in each society, social disciplines produce and authorise knowledges, the ways in which selves are required to respond to those knowledges, the ways in which knowledges are accumulated and distributed. Universal definitions of religion hinder such investigations because and to the extent that they aim at identifying essences when we should be trying to explore concrete sets of historical relations and processes. (Asad 1983: 250–2) Secondly, the approach to religions as ideologies takes as a given the notion that religions are embedded in historical, cultural, social, political and economic contexts that are the conditions of their possibility but, at the same time, those contexts are conditioned in turn by sentiments and practices that are understood to be specifically ‘religious’ (the authorization of what is and what is not ‘religious’ should also be central to this kind of research). Religions are therefore both products of history and makers of history. However, religions are not the ‘natural’ or ‘given’ facts of analysis and study. What requires study, therefore, is the historically contingent articulations of place, people, culture, and of religion, such ‘that whatever
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associations of [religion] place and culture may exist must be taken as problems for . . . research rather than the given ground that one takes as a point of departure’ (Gupta and Ferguson 2001: 4). Thirdly and finally, the study of religions as ideologies is a value-saturated approach that seeks to preserve and heighten the gains of modernity in terms of political rights, democracy and social justice. Unsurprisingly, the application of the concept of ideology to religions is hardly a new idea. An excellent example of this kind of approach can be found in the work of Maurice Bloch’s writings on the circumcision ritual of the Merina in Madagascar (1986). According to Bloch, this ritual shares with other ritual practices documented by anthropologists elsewhere in the world ‘the creation of a transcendental order’ through which a certain hierarchical social order is naturalized and legitimated and which involves ‘the cultivation of . . . hatred of life for the sake of authority’ (1986: 175). Bloch suggests that the common elements of ritual can be summarized as (1) repetition, (2) formalization and (3) the construction of a specific idea of temporality (1986: 184), and that these function to produce a certain kind of knowledge of the world that ultimately transcends or supersedes but does not replace practical or everyday knowledge. Ideological knowledge serves domination and is ideological precisely because it is immune to contestation and argument and, moreover, because it provides an ultimate framework for the iniquitous organization of society. Bloch’s work, like all scholarly work, is open to argument. Nevertheless, it offers facts that can be verified or falsified by others belonging to potentially diverse communities of interpretation; moreover, it is motivated not by career-ism or any misguided fascination for pure theory or the cult of the fact, but rather by a sense of social justice – that research into religions can contribute to the unmasking and critique of illegitimate power and violence. The study of religions must acknowledge that it has a role to play in a world increasingly characterized by a new intensity of exchanges and interactions, many of which are rooted (and routed) in economies of violence. As such, the suspension or bracketing of values in troubling times is to turn one’s back on the sufferings of the world.
In lieu of a conclusion I want to indicate, via a case study, the contours, shape and texture of the kind of approach I have been advocating throughout this book.1 Here, then, I want to examine the application of a post-structuralist theory of meaning with its emphasis on the plurality of meaning and the openness of texts, to a society in which meaning is frequently authorized through recourse to physical intimidation and murder. As such, I want to address the application of post-structuralist ideas to the issue of meaning and lowland Filipino appropriations of Christianity in particular of the Bible and associated local texts such as the pasyón. I will specifically be addressing the writings of a triumvirate of scholars – Reynaldo Ileto (1979), Vicente Rafael (1988) and Fenella Cannell (2006) – who all argue, though with reference to different historical events and cultural practices – that Christian texts in circulation among lowland Filipinos and the interpretative practices of those self-same Filipinos have typically exceeded attempts to establish a stable ontology of meaning for those texts.2 I want to contest the manner in which the different works of these scholars seem so seamlessly to confirm each other, and to offer three further instances of Bible-reading practices among lowland Filipinos which I witnessed during field work in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon in the Philippines in 1999–2000. Initially, this may seem to confirm exactly the point that Ileto, Rafael and Cannell, in their different ways, are making, namely that Christianity has been appropriated in and takes multiple forms at the local level, providing a veritable surplus of meanings and readings (and Christianities) for different sectors and groups in Philippine society. But, the problem with a theoretical approach that celebrates the indeterminacy and plurality of interpretation is that it ultimately
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abrogates responsibility as to the veracity of those interpretations, something none of the scholars cited above would countenance in either writings about their own scholarship or that of others. Let me make clear as to where I am writing from: I am most certainly not arguing that there is a single interpretation of the Bible or indeed any other text. To that extent, I share the post-structuralist suspicion of truth-claims and authorizing practices and the idea of meaning as an essence to be revealed by exegesis. But, some interpretations are better than others, and while work on religions must begin by seeking to understand local meanings and interpretations that can only ever be the first step of the analysis. As such, I will conclude by reflecting on competing theories of meaning in the anthropology of religion and offer some suggestions for how the anthropology of Christianity, at least in the context of the Philippines, might proceed.
Reading Philippine interpretations of Christian texts In Ileto’s analysis of the role of the Filipino pasyón in the Philippine revolution, he argued that although the text was ‘intended’ to cement the loyalty of the peasantry to Spanish rule, it nevertheless provided alternative meanings that enabled the peasantry to imagine a condition in which the relations of debt to Spain could be severed and a new social order ushered forth through revolutionary action. According to Ileto, ‘because of their familiarity . . . [with the pasyón] . . . the peasant masses were culturally prepared to enact analogous scenarios in real life in response to economic pressure’ (1979: 24) and the pasyón ‘nurtured an undercurrent of millennial beliefs’ that, during the revolution of 1896, ‘enabled the peasantry to take action under the leadership of individuals or groups promising deliverance from oppression’ (1979: 14). In particular, Ileto argues persuasively that the pasyón elaborates local cultural themes relating to kinship, spiritual power and potency and leadership. For example, Christ’s preparations for leaving his home and his mother receive extensive treatment in the pasyón. The text also suggests that social status based on wealth has no real value while further emphasis is placed on Jesus’ humble origins, his appearance among the poor and his ability to
gather a large number of followers from among them that, according to Ileto, constitutes a powerful threat to colonial politics and ‘traditional’ notions of leadership and power in the Philippines: The most provocative aspect of the pasyon text is the way it speaks about the appearance of a ‘subversive’ figure, Jesus Christ, who attracts mainly the common people (taong bayan), draws them away from their families and their relations of subservience to the maginoó, and forms a brotherhood (catipunan) that will proclaim a new era for mankind . . . the way that Christ’s following multiplies presents quite a contrast to the traditional patterns of Philippine politics. This leader does not offer weapons, money, and security in exchange for loyalty. In fact, his followers must leave all these behind. (Ileto 1979: 16) In other words, although the pasyón text was an ideological prop to Spanish colonial rule it also reflected and negotiated with the concerns of the colonized culture. Over time it became a symbolic resource that was appropriated at the local level to imagine a break with Spain and, indeed, to engage in the violent overthrow of the colonial regime. Rafael’s analysis of the process whereby Spanish and Latin texts were translated into Tagálog during the early period of Spanish colonial rule similarly emphasizes the instability of textual meaning. In particular, Rafael concentrates on the incompleteness of the process of translation through which other, local meanings could be interpolated into the text. According to Rafael the very untranslatability of Christian signs could be reread in different ways by native converts. Rather than making indisputably apparent the authority of God’s sign and that of the priest, such terms presented the possibility of dodging the full weight of the missionary’s intent. (Rafael 1988: 117) For Rafael, then, the untranslatability of certain terms and concepts opened up the spaces between words in which alternative readings and meanings could be posed.3 Rafael illustrates this point with
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reference to an account of confession from the early period of Spanish rule in the archipelago: At the season of Lent it is heartbreaking to see the confessor, when he rises from his seat, surrounded by more than a hundred persons . . . who go away disconsolate because they have not obtained an opportunity to make their confessions; and in this manner they go and come for eight or ten days, or a fortnight, or even more, with unspeakable patience, but with such eagerness that when the confessor rises they follow him throughout the house, calling to him to hear their confessions . . . and hardly with violence can they be made to leave the father and they continue to call after him and some remain in the passages, on their knees asking for confession, so great is the number of penitents . . . No one save him who has had this experience can state the labours it costs to confess them; and even when the sin is understood in general, to seek for a specific account of circumstances is to enter into a labyrinth without a clue. For they do not understand our orderly mode of speech, and therefore when they are questioned they say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as it occurs to them, without rightly understanding what is asked of them – so that in a short time they will utter twenty contradictions. (Velarde S. J. in Rafael 1988: 85). As Velarde’s ‘confession’ illustrates, the continual repetition of confession threatens to lead the practice into meaninglessness, while the ‘contradictions’ that characterize the responses of the penitents displace the possibility for the verification of truth and serve to expose the limits of Catholic power. As such, the conversion of Tagálogs and Filipinos to Christianity is revealed to be a spectral site – indeed, a ‘labyrinth’ – that exceeds and dislocates the policing and ordering practices of the Spanish régime, such that it is the confessor who now confesses his failings and weaknesses (‘save him’!). This remarkable text, as Rafael makes clear, reveals a gap in expectations and intentions – a gap that results in at least a temporary inversion of the confession as an element in the structure of Spanish colonial power. In contrast to the historical approach taken by Ileto and Rafael, Cannell’s analysis focuses on contemporary uses of the pasyón text in rural Bicol. According to Cannell, ‘reading and writing, far from
being neutral technologies with a self-evident and universal set of effects in the world, are ethnographically shifting categories’ (2006: 135) and, as such, she focuses on rural Bicolaño readings or performances of the pasyón during Lent. Cannell argues that ‘the activities of “reading” and “writing” . . . in the lowland Philippines, might have altered textual meaning’ (2006: 139), claiming that the very performance of the pasyón text calls upon other meanings that destabilize ‘orthodoxy’. Significantly, Cannell’s focus on performance as a mode of meaning production is part of a recent trend in work by anthropologists on Christianity in which meaning is assumed not to be a property awaiting recovery through correct exegesis but rather arises dialogically, as ‘a process and potential fraught with uncertainty and contestation’ (Tomlinson and Engelke 2006: 2; see also Boer 2007 and Bielo 2008). Two things strike me about these accounts of Christianity and meaning in the lowland Philippines: first, the perhaps slightly alarming extent to which this recent Philippine scholarship is, as it were, self-confirming. Secondly, it seems to me to be somewhat paradoxical to apply aspects of a post-structuralist theory of meaning with its privileging of subversion and its critique of the so-called ‘metaphysics of presence’ as a guarantee for meaning and truth (Derrida 1997) when, in the country in question, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists face illegal detention, intimidation and murder for activities that can easily be glossed as the contesting of official narratives and meanings. Thirdly, while a cultural approach to Christianity is certainly preferable to accounts that place Christianity ‘in opposition to local culture’ (Tomlinson and Engelke 2006: 19), as Harvey Whitehouse argues, the anti-monolithic view of Christianity is very much a product of ‘postmodern sensibilities’ which ‘direct our attention to the creativity and distinctiveness of anthropological subjects’ (2006: 306) but obscures the fact ‘that missionisation really did impose some radically new socio-cultural models on colonised peoples’ (2006: 296) and uncritically assumes that these Christianities constitute valid forms of knowledge. As such, I will present three case-studies which all deal, one way or another, with social practices relating to the interpretation of the Bible. In the first I will detail the use of the Bible as an amulet or talisman to facilitate healing and the accumulation of (spiritual) power
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by a group of healers whose samahán (association) is located at the foot of the ‘power mountain’, Mount Banahaw. In the second, I will detail the allegorical reading practices of the Bible applied by members of a religious movement known as Ciudad Mistica de Dios also based on the slopes of Mount Banahaw. In the third, I relate the practice of ‘scripture interprets scripture’ applied to the Bible by Protestant missionaries working in the same area.4 These different examples may be taken, if read uncritically, to confirm the post-structuralist thesis of the indeterminacy of meaning. However, I will argue that the thesis of post-structuralist indeterminacy is a celebration of ignorance as it actively prevents critical interrogation of the readings real Filipinos actually elaborate which, when subject to proper scrutiny, can be shown to be saturated with assumptions and presuppositions that perpetuate distorted or false understanding of a variety of issues including the history of the Bible itself, local and national histories in the Philippines, the variety of possible interpretative strategies available for reading the Bible and the various strategies of verification and falsification for assessing statements and interpretations. It might of course be retorted that this book is equally saturated by pre-judices and presuppositions or that fact and value are dangerously intertwined or that historically and culturally embedded categories are being imposed on unsuspecting ‘others’. But, the idea that there can be a value-neutral analysis of other cultures is surely an equally dangerous assumption and one that, no matter how welldisguised in the language of post-modern theory, is in reality just a kind of positivism. With critical theory the assumptions and presuppositions that structure the enquiry are declared from the beginning, and the position that is staked out, however debateable, at least makes debate possible because it comes from an identifiable location and works itself out with reference to empirical sources that can be checked by others.
Spiritual power and not reading the Bible The Association of International Healers is a small group of healers that meets each weekend on the lower slopes of Mount Banahaw at the home of a healer who goes by the name of ‘Ka Erning’. There is
nothing ‘international’ about the group, either in terms of personnel or ambition. The group is made up predominantly of unemployed or under-employed men about half of whom are illiterate. Each Saturday night the group members congregate in the nipa hut beside Ka Erning’s house to engage in ‘spiritual’ practices and prayer. Every Sunday morning small numbers of people, usually in family groups, arrive to have a variety of physical and spiritual ailments treated by the healers, from heart complaints and urinary infections and cancers, to possession by malignant spirits. The group’s power to heal is attributed to Ka Erning’s ability to channel God’s power, and spiritual practices are engaged in each Saturday night for the accumulation of this power and for its distribution to the other healers in the group. These spiritual practices have no consistent structure and are somewhat ad hoc. Indeed, on returning to see Ka Erning in 2003 and then again in 2006 I found, on both occasions, that the ‘old’ practices had been abandoned and replaced by new ones. Nevertheless, the purpose is always the accumulation and distribution of power for the purpose of healing the following day. On my regular visits to Ka Erning during 1999–2000, the group used the Bible in a similar way to an amulet or antíng-antíng during its spiritual and healing practices. This means that the Bible was used as a repository of spiritual power and, moreover, it was never treated as a text to be read. For example, a spiritual practice – which they called ‘astral’ – involved the healers sitting with the palms of their hands face down on the open pages of the Bible (though no specific pages were selected in advance). They sat with their eyes closed for three periods of five minutes and after each of the three ‘meditations’ recounted what they had ‘seen’. For present purposes how they described their journeys is not important. Nevertheless, these sessions were great occasions for discussion and analysis, a kind of philosophizing by the fragile light of candles in the early hours in the Philippine countryside in which the praxis of ‘astral’ and storytelling was far more important than arriving at any fixed interpretation of these experiences (nevertheless, presupposed in the practice and the conviviality it engendered, was at least the promise of a full and true meaning to these experiences).
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For the healing practice, the Bible was typically used as a headrest for the patient as he or she was laid out on the treatment table. This, of course, was not really about the comfort of the patient and much more about the capacity of the Bible, as a repository of spiritual power, to transmit that power to the patient. As such, for both spiritual and healing purposes, the Bible functioned as an unlimited repository of spiritual potency, and it is this last point that distinguishes it from ordinary antíng-antíng which typically must be charged by prayer and which, as such, resemble batteries in that they store a finite amount of power or energy that must be replenished through specific practices, whereas the Bible ‘contains’ an infinite source of energy and moreover needs no special practice to access it except, of course, faith (pananampalataya). These kinds of religious or spiritual practice seem to be recognizably Southeast Asian, and anthropological explanations for the use of amulets and talismans typically emphasize indigenous or Southeast Asian conceptions of power and spiritual potency and corollary bodily practices. These accounts suggest that beliefs and practices relating to the use of amulets ‘conforms to the general pattern of Southeast Asian animism’ (McCoy 1982: 355). Ka Erning and his healers, then, use the Bible as an amulet and as if it were a direct and unmediated embodiment of the spiritual power of God. One of the consequences of relating to the Bible in this manner is that it obscures and mystifies a variety of complex processes including first the history of the Bible as a text composed and edited via the operation of authorizing practices and struggles over the interpretation of such problems as the divinity-humanity of Christ and secondly, of the history of the Bible in the Philippines and its translation into the local languages of the country.
Allegorical readings The Iglesia Mistica Pilipina – the Mystical Church of the Philippines – was, or so the story was told to me, founded in 1915 in Manila by Maria Bernarda Balitaan. Balitaan died in 1925 and, in 1942, there was a schism within the church leading to the emergence of the Iglesia Mistica Asiatica (the Mystical Church of Asia), and Suprema
de la Iglesia del Ciudad Mistica de Dios (the Supreme Church of the Mystical City of God). The father of Mistica’s present leader, ‘Mamay’ Suarez – a migrant to Mount Banahaw from Batangas – relocated the headquarters of Ciudad Mistica de Dios from Manila to the village of Santa Lucia on the slopes of Mount Banahaw in the late 1950s, a mountain that at that time as now, is associated with healers, hermits, rebels and spiritual power and potency. Significantly, this church also venerates or worships the ‘national hero’ of the Philippines, José Rizal. This history has been ascribed Biblical significance by members of Ciudad Mistica de Dios. When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God he was leading his people in their exodus from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land; similarly, Jesus’ mission and crucifixion occurred within the context of Roman imperialism. According to Mistica, there is a relation of structural identity in the context and message of the lives of Moses, Jesus, Maria Balitaan, José Rizal and Mamay. José Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines whose execution at the hands of the Spanish galvanized the revolution and who died, according to popular belief, for attempting to liberate the Philippines from the rule of the friars; Maria Balitaan who founded a new church to propagate a new Truth and Mamay Suarez who led the faithful to Mount Banahaw, are all figures whose stories echo or resonate with biblical themes and personages. In particular, Rizal and Balitaan are ascribed special significance by Mistica members, some of whom claim that Rizal is the Filipino Christ, and this significance is attested to in a Mistica hymn (Quibuyen 1991).5 The prominence of Rizal in the theology of Ciudad Mistica de Dios is not unusual, particularly among the religious movements and groups to be found in the vicinity of Mount Banahaw, and his life and death are commemorated by Mistica members with the singing of nationalistic hymns and a flag-raising ceremony, both of which are similar to state rememberings of Rizal. For Mistica, the remembering of Rizal is an element in a series of mournings for the ‘labindalawáng ilaw ng Pilipinás’ – the 12 Lights of the Philippines6 – all of whom, one way or another, were involved in the struggle against Spanish colonialism. Rizal and the twelve disciples of Philippine nationalism – as they are depicted in paint on the inside of Mistica’s church – are
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clearly rendered in parallel to Jesus Christ and his disciples. This veneration of Rizal as Christ, and/or the remembering of Rizal and other revolutionary heroes in terms of Christ and his disciples, suggests the framing of certain aspects of local and national history in the Philippines within biblical narratives of struggle, sacrifice and redemption. Indeed, just as Rizal and his 12 Lights are rendered in parallel with Jesus and the disciples, so the Sermon on the Mount has been written out on the wall next to a picture of Mount Banahaw, the Philippine national flag flying from its summit. This series of juxtapositions suggest a mode of reading which I have called ‘allegorical’. Allegory is when characters and events in one narrative are ascribed meanings and significance that lie outside or beyond that narrative. In this instance, Biblical narratives are deployed to give new meaning and significance to local and national Philippine histories, and this operation works in the opposite direction as Philippine history is also used to give new meaning and significance to stories in the Bible. However, when historical figures are written into a cosmic or mythical narrative and indeed when the emergence of a nation is understood in theological terms, the real forces at work – the political-economic nexus of colonialism and nation-state formation and incorporation into the global web of capitalism – can only be elided and disavowed in favour of a non-empirical account which is ultimately immune to falsification.
Scripture interprets scripture San Pablo City, which is just a few kilometres from the foot of Mount Banahaw, is home to a number of small Protestant congregations and missionary schools including the Christian Reformed Church which is actively working in the villages on the lower slopes of Mount Banahaw. In this section I want to briefly explore first how this group of missionaries conceive of the beliefs and practices of the healers and religious groups and movements living on the mountain’s lower slopes, and draw attention to their promotion of Bible-reading classes and a hermeneutic they call ‘scripture interprets scripture’ as a means converting the dispersed populations in and around Mount Banahaw.
The first people I established any kind of relationships with in San Pablo City were connected to a group known as the Banahaw for Jesus Movement (BJM). According to their analysis, Mount Banahaw and the religious activities that go on there are examples of idolatry, superstition and error. As such, they took me around the various shrines (puwesto) on the lower slopes of the mountain to ‘prove’ to me that the Filipinos in Mount Banahaw were worshipping ‘idols’. They also introduced me to locals who regaled me with stories of Banahaw’s alleged miracles. This ‘evidence’ was offered to demonstrate that Banahaw’s residents are superstitious and that, given the fantastical nature of these stories, the people of Mount Banahaw are in desperate and urgent need of cognitive instruction to save them from the Devil. Indeed, I was advised by the leader of the BJM group not to conduct research with Ciudad Mistica de Dios as their members were ‘witches’ and ‘Satanists’. The religious beliefs and practices of the villagers of Mount Banahaw are understood by BJM members as elements of a discrete system, some of which are recognizably Christian, others of which are pagan or even Satanic deviations. The first move for a BJM missionary is to separate or decontextualize local religious beliefs and practices both from the economic, political and cultural history of rural central-southern Luzón and the Philippines more generally, and to measure and evaluate them in terms of their accordance or lack of accordance with the Bible. Missionary work involves, then, identifying what are considered to be false or erroneous beliefs and practices – the worship or veneration of Rizal being a conspicuous example – and targeting them for correction. Their principal weapon in this task is the biblical text itself, and the second move is to organize Bible reading classes in which they practice a hermeneutic known as ‘scripture interprets scripture.’ This hermeneutic involves juxtaposing passages from different parts of the Old and New testaments to illuminate each other and assumes that the text constitutes a unity with a single meaning that can be made visible through correct exegesis, even where this promise of truth may in practice be deferred in the dialogical exchanges of group Bible-reading. As missionary or vanguard intellectuals, they endeavour to demonstrate the lack of fit between local beliefs and practices and what is
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permitted and prohibited in the Bible. Their mission, then, is to cognitively instruct Mount Banahaw’s residents in how to read the Bible correctly and to apply that reading to their own daily lives. They begin the process of re-education by distributing free medicines to villagers. Slowly they gain the trust of local people, suggesting that they should read the Bible together. They target village leaders for these Bible-reading sessions and were proud to inform me that they had the ear of the leadership of a religious group on the mountain called Tatlong Persona Solo Dios (Three Persons in One God) (see Marasigan S. J. 1985). The effect of their interventions in and around Mount Banahaw remains to be seen. However, a significant consequence of their missionary work and their effort to expose the lack of scriptural authority for the worship or veneration of Rizal, is the inscription of normative boundaries to demarcate the political from the religious. This secularizing effect can be seen in the Mistica compound. Although BJM have failed to convert any Mistica members, Mistica completed construction of a new church in their compound in 2000. Significantly, while in the old church can be found the paintings of Rizal and Christ discussed earlier, in the new church the walls are blank. When I asked about the reason behind this I was told that Mistica was concerned that the representation of the group as Rizal worshippers had constituted the group as theologically naïve. BJM missionaries regard the Bible as a text that lays out the rules of conduct necessary for the eternal salvation of the soul. Moreover, the biblical accounts of the creation and the lives of Moses, and Jesus, are factual statements. BJM missionaries present their reading of the Bible not as one possible approach among many others, but as the only approach through which the believer might come to know God in a deeper and more profound way. But, this hermeneutic exclusivism is a kind of violence that only acknowledges other interpretations as dangerous deviations from truth and which presents a complex text with a complex history in a way that eliminates those complexities.
Closing re Marx In the preceding pages I sketched the arguments of Ileto, Rafael and Cannell who have argued, in post-structuralist terms, for the Bible
and the pasyón as possessing no inherent meaning. Indeed, all three argue that rather than studying texts or traditions as conveying distinct meanings, meanings are rather produced and/or reworked in local contexts. My three vignettes about the Bible and meaning would certainly seem to constitute a further demonstration of their argument. But, what I want to argue is that the logic of the poststructuralist position prevents critical interrogation of the very reworkings and productions that Ileto, Rafael and Cannell seem to celebrate. It seems to me that in each of the three instances or case-studies I have outlined above, the readings of the Bible on offer constitute a travesty of real knowledge. Given that these readings are articulated by people lacking in either political or economic power or resources, would it be too much to say that these Bible readings might actually contribute to their powerlessness and that scholars, who ought to have some responsibility towards those they represent, should challenge beliefs and practices where and when those beliefs and practices clearly prevent or obstruct their co-subjects from reaching a clear and objective understanding of the reasons for their poverty and political powerlessness? In which case, what kinds of critical terms might be brought to bear to enable critical judgement of particular interpretations as and when they arise? Theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann have argued that the Bible, like all other texts, is interpreted within historically constituted horizons of pre-understanding. Thus, for each generation, situated in different historical and cultural contexts with shifting understandings of the past and expectations for the future, the task becomes how to make the Bible meaningful and this meaningfulness cannot be prescribed or limited in advance by, for example, any positivist approach to language (Palmer 1969: 48–52). Meaning can be as such renewed or perhaps better, produced, by the light – or indeed dark – of local preoccupations and understandings. This potential of the text to open itself towards any putative community of readers, and the emphasis in certain theologies on this openness and also on the empowering-ness of the Bible as with Liberation Theology, would appear to suggest that the Bible can become a tool for critical reflection and self-knowledge. More recently, Boer has emphasized the Bible as ‘a multi-vocal and ambivalent collection of texts’ (2007: 50)
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that might yet become a vehicle for a new kind of ‘worldly left’ politics (2007: 151). One might however problematize such a liberaldemocratic approach to meaning and interpretation of the Bible as it seems to offer only very fragile grounds for discriminating between rival interpretations and may indeed find itself powerless to argue against exclusivisms and fundamentalisms of different kinds. As such, the anthropology of religion might provide an alternative point of departure to develop a critical approach to local Bible reading. Scholars such as J. G. Frazer and E. B. Tylor were wedded to a referential theory of meaning: the meaning of a word or sentence lay precisely in its ability to picture or describe an actually existing state of affairs. This is why they imagined magic and religion to be early though erroneous forms of science: although magic and religion were based in empirical observation and deductive reasoning, false relations were posited between phenomena. According to Frazer and Tylor, only positive science establishes the proper relations between statements and the real and as such allows for the formulation of general laws that enable the gradual accumulation of rational, predictive knowledge. But, Frazer and Tylor were not only wedded to a reference theory of meaning, but also to a politically charged hypothesis about historical development, and the rejection of the evolutionist hypothesis saw the anthropology of religion adopt what can be glossed as a symbolic approach to religion in which sentences, propositions and actions referred not to the real but only to other aspects of the religiocultural system as a totally enclosed system or grid of meaning. Lévi-Strauss’ brilliant analyses of myth and la pensée sauvage are surely the high-points of this approach. However, the idea that analysis ought to focus on the hiatus between statement and reality did not simply go away. Ernest Gellner’s critique of Evans-Pritchard and Peter Winch – whom he accused of interpretative ‘charity’ – rests, according to Gellner, on a choice between relativism on the one hand, and a realist ontology on the other. Indeed, according to Gellner, interpretative charity blinds one to the role-played by absurd and nonsensical beliefs in social control. Now, my contention is that the Filipino interpretations of the Bible I have described, although thoroughly
understandable in the overlapping contexts of pre-Hispanic Southeast Asia and a more recent history of colonialism, migration, christianization and post-coloniality, nevertheless perpetuate a view of the world that is quite frankly wrong: the Bible cannot cure people of cancer; Filipino history is not a part of some Christian teleology and the Bible is not a coherent set of propositions about either personal conduct or the structure of reality. Talal Asad has agued that cultural translation is not a neutral, value-free process: rather, it is enmeshed in pre-existing political and economic webs of power (Asad 1986: 141–64). He is, of course, absolutely right. Indeed, it is precisely attentiveness to the powerlessness and poverty of my research subjects that leads me to hope that they will soon abandon their interpretations of the Bible and debate alternative texts and ideas with and through which they might better come to understand their situation and do something about it. Between the competing interpretations and applications of the Bible in my three vignettes and those of Ileto, Rafael and Cannell, I have so far tended, in rationalist rather than Marx-ist fashion, to focus on the truth-value of sentences and statements. It might indeed be argued that the examples I have furnished are manifestly inappropriate to a Marx-ist analysis, not least because of the apparent lack of ideological consistency between them: from Marx to Gramsci to Althusser, the mark of ideology is a dominance or hegemony of ideas that ‘is lived at such a depth [and] which saturates society’ (Williams 2005b: 37). Moreover, ‘the naïve positivism of “scientific” socialism’ posited a ‘rationalist game in which social agents, perfectly constituted around interests, wage a struggle defined by transparent parameters’ (Laclau and Mouffe 1994: 104–5). The interpretations of the Bible and related texts I have recounted here are neither uniform nor predictable and most certainly cannot be contained by any theory of ‘historically objective interests’. As such, it would seem that they entirely exceed the operative terms and categories of classical Marxism, namely base, superstructure, ideology and class. Yet, the fact that in each case an attempt to produce a meaning for being Filipino is mediated by the Bible discloses at once the hegemony of Christian texts as arbiters of truth and the historical contingency of that hegemony. It is precisely
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that hegemony that permits interpretative conflict so long as those conflicts do not challenge the basic primacy of the Bible and which moreover excludes and denounces other texts as ‘beyond the pale’. I will conclude by revealing a further dimension of Ileto’s approach to the pasyón which might prove useful and take ‘us’ back to the discussion of reductionism that was the point of departure for this book. In Pasyon and Revolution, Ileto is concerned with the Philippine revolution of 1896 against Spanish rule, and he claims that he is trying to ‘bring to light the masses’ own categories of meaning that shaped their perceptions of events and their participation in them’ (1979: 8). However, there need be no necessary link between verstehen and interpretative charity. Pasyon and Revolution begins with an account of a demonstration that took place in May 1967 when members of a religio-nationalist group known as Lapiang Malaya were massacred on the streets of Manila by government soldiers (see also Sturtevant 1969). Ileto develops his account of what has since become known as ‘Black Sunday’, as follows: The Lapiang Malaya affair is not an isolated event in Philippine history. It is not an aberration in an otherwise comprehensible past. We should be able to find meaning in it, not resorting to convenient explanations like ‘fanaticism’, ‘nativism’ and ‘millenarianism’, which only alienate us further from the kapatid [lit: ‘brother’ or ‘sister’] who lived through it. But what we modern Filipinos need first of all is a set of conceptual tools, a grammar, that would help us understand the world of the kapatid, which is part of our world. Twentieth-century economic and technological developments have produced the modern Filipino culture to which we belong, but as Marx himself often pointed out, cultural transformation proceeds in an uneven, sporadic manner so that in a given historical situation we find cultural modes that reflect previous stages of development. In the interest of social reform we can either further accelerate the demise of ‘backward’ ways of thinking (reflected in the Lapiang Malaya) in order to pave way for the new, or we can graft modern ideas onto traditional modes of thought. Whatever our strategy may be, it is necessary that we first understand
how the traditional mind operates, particularly in relation to questions of change. (Ileto 1979: 2) Ileto’s use of the word ‘kapatíd ’ is critical to this short passage. In the first sentence it functions to suture together ‘modern Filipinos’ and the Filipinos of the past. Yet, at the same time, a tension exists between ‘modern Filipino culture’ and ‘cultural modes that reflect previous stages of development’, and this tension can only be resolved in certain ways: either by accelerating ‘the demise of “backward” ways of thinking’ or by grafting ‘modern ideas onto traditional modes of thought’ (note how the advocacy of surgery sits both uncomfortably and necessarily beside the aim, very much in the spirit of Dilthey, to ‘bring to light the masses’ own categories of meaning’ and of understanding ‘the traditional mind’). It seems to me that the critical term Ileto appears unwilling to use – despite the reference to Marx – is ‘ideology’. Marx sought to theorize the manner in which ideas mediate apprehension of the world, and the articulation of ideas with particular organizations of power and property in specific societies. Marx’ notion of ideology – developed from his readings of Hegel and Feuerbach – was part of a generalized effort on Marx’ part to argue that knowledge has a social basis and to offer grounds for discriminating between competing truth-claims about society, nature and human being. Although Marx tended to regard ideas and ideologies as passive vehicles for ruling ideas, others have argued that ideologies are not merely reflections of economic relationships but have a certain autonomy, meaning that progressive social change cannot simply be brought about or caused by changing the mode of economic exchange but must also involve struggle in the realm of culture and ideas. Perhaps the term ‘ideology’ can be brought into the anthropology of Christianity as a way to think critically about how the Bible and other texts have been appropriated by different social groups to create an apparent plethora of ‘little’ Christianities. Rather than a post-structuralist celebration of the indeterminacy of meaning and the creativity of research subjects, perhaps ‘we’ should also attend to the ways in which local readings of the Bible and other Christian texts actually further the political and economic privation of the
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social groups with whom we do our research. Surely this can only be done when research goes beyond local categories of meaning and situates research within national and global contexts of political and economic violence, disenfranchisement and injustice. Perhaps also the term ideology can be introduced again to the study of religions as a means of furthering a research programme guided from the beginning by values of justice and freedom.
Introduction 1 2
See Tremlett (2006). For a further example, see Gadamer’s Truth and Method, wherein Gadamer asserts that the interpretation of texts cannot be confined within the methodological straight-jacket of a science. According to Gadamer, interpretation is fundamental to and constitutive of general human experience. Further, he suggests that hermeneutics differs from scientific investigation in that ‘it is not concerned . . . with amassing verified knowledge such as would satisfy the methodological ideal of science’ (2004: xx). Nevertheless, Gadamer claims that through hermeneutic interpretation, texts are understood and truths made known. Thus, ‘the book . . . tries to develop . . . a conception of knowledge and of truth that corresponds to the whole of our hermeneutic experience. Just as in the experience of art we are concerned with truths that go essentially beyond the range of methodical knowledge, so the same thing is true of the whole of the human sciences’ (2004: xxii). Later, Gadamer claims that ‘the truth that science states is itself relative to a particular world orientation and cannot at all claim to be the whole’ (2004: 446). Gadamer, then, frames the sciences in a very particular way, and further asserts that there is a kind of knowing that cannot be formalized methodologically. In the ‘Foreword’ to the second edition of Truth and Method, Gadamer argues that his point of departure is the ‘historical human sciences’ which he claims ‘maintained a humanistic heritage that distinguishes them from all other kinds of modern research and brings them close to other quite different, extrascientific experiences, especially those peculiar to art’ (2004: xxvi). This opposition of a scientific knowing to a knowing that has the quality of an art is constitutive of the debate about reductionism. The conjunction of positivism and neo-Kantianism that calls itself a ‘cognitivist’ approach to religions (Penner 1989; Lawson and McCauley 1990) attacks the phenomenology of religion as bad science. In search of a realm of pure facts available for transparent description, the phenomenological epoché is criticized for separating only some facts from some values. But the so-called cognitivsts seem intent on returning to some naïve idea of scientific enquiry as entirely free from pre-judice, as if science proceeds in a vacuum, insulated from the contingencies and vicissitudes of either history or culture. Fitzgerald claims that the category ‘religion’ is a specifically Western category – a product of what he calls ‘ecumenical theology’ (2000: 10) that has been uncritically imposed on non-Western cultures and societies. Although Fitzgerald
alerts his reader to the ideological saturation of terms like ‘religion’, his recommendation that university study of religions (or religious studies) departments simply legislate themselves out of existence and their staff relocate to cultural studies and cultural or social anthropology departments is undone by his failure to treat the category ‘culture’ to the same kind of analysis (Strenski 1998: 119) and by his frankly orientalist account of Japanese culture as ‘inherently inward-looking’ (2000: 200), and his claim that ‘the idea of the autonomous individual is alien to the Japanese’ (2000: 222). Moreover, the attempt to treat religious studies or the phenomenology of religion as a discourse (or ideology) distinct from the human sciences and having more in common with theology obscures the extent to which the writings of phenomenologists such as Otto and Eliade but also Ninian Smart and Wilfred Cantwell Smith emanate from within the aesthetic critique modernity. McCutcheon’s awareness of the problems inherent in treating the phenomenology of religion as some distinct and ultimately errant kind of theorizing is demonstrated in the following ways: first, he treats the claims of phenomenologists of religion – for instance, claims about religion being a phenomenon sui generis – as an element of a discourse (McCutcheon 1997: xi), and secondly he compares Eliade’s approach to religion to the New Criticism approach to poetry (1997: 53) which implicitly draws phenomenology into the human sciences and demonstrates that its assumptions and argumentative tactics and strategies are reproduced elsewhere in the human sciences. ‘Enlightenment Rationalist Fundamentalism . . . repudiates any substantive revelations. It repudiates that susbtantive absolutisation so characteristic of some post-Axial world religions which attribute an extra-mundane and transcultural standing and authority to given substantive affirmations and values . . . [enlightenment rationalism] does absolutise some formal, one might say procedural, principles of knowledge . . . what is absolutised and made exempt is the method itself’ (Gellner 1992: 80–81). As such, Gellner recognizes the possibility that science may be contaminated by politics, but insists that the method itself functions to insulate scientific practice from such sources of pollution. ‘Religious man can live only in a sacred world, because it is only in such a world that he participates in being, that he has a real existence. This religious need expresses an unquenchable ontological thirst. Religious man thirsts for being’ (Eliade 1959: 64). ‘Does the interrelation between freedom and repression, productivity and destruction, domination and progress, really constitute the principle of civilization? Or does this interrelation result only from a specific historical organization of human existence? In Freudian terms, is the conflict between the pleasure principle and reality principle irreconcilable to such a degree that it necessitates the repressive transformation of man’s instinctual structure? Or does it allow the concept of a non-repressive civilization, based on a fundamentally different experience of being, a fundamentally different relation between man and nature, and fundamentally different existential relations?’ (Marcuse 1969: 24).
Chapter 1 1
Callinicos summarizes Heidegger’s philosophical position as follows: ‘The trajectory of Western thought according to Heidegger is that of the progressive forgetfulness of Being expressed most clearly by the centrality given the subject by post-Cartesian philosophy and culminating in the triumph of an instrumental rationality systematically reducing the world to the raw material of subjective needs’ (1989: 72). In the essay ‘The question concerning technology’, Heidegger pursues this critique of instrumental reason. Indeed, Heidegger seeks to explicate the essence of technology, and he argues that this essence is by no means solely traceable, in its origins, to the Industrial Revolution. Heidegger suggests that the essence of technology ‘challenges’ (1993: 321) nature and human beings, over which it seeks mastery through the reduction of all things and entities to resources, or what Heidegger terms a ‘standingreserve’ (1993: 323). Heidegger calls the process through which beings and entities are ‘ordered’ into a ‘standing-reserve’ which is to be manipulated, ‘enframing’ (1993: 324), which is suggestive of a totalizing process that ‘threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth’ (1993: 333). Heidegger ends by suggesting that the only way into the experiencing of this allegedly primal ‘truth’ is through art. Similar sentiments are articulated by Victor Turner: ‘In studying religious symbols, the product of humble vision, we must ourselves be humble if we are to glimpse, if not fully comprehend, the spiritual paths represented by them. In this realm of data only innocence can hope to attain understanding. That is the reason why the attempts of such scholars and philosophers as James Frazer and Durkheim to explain away religious phenomena in naturalistic terms have been so unsuccessful’ (Turner 1975: 196). See also Engelke (2002). Kippenberg (2002) notes that Otto’s belief that mysticism could rescue Western culture from its decline is anticipated in the writings of Emil Hammacher who argued that mysticism ‘could liberate man from the constraints of rationalism’ (2002: 176).
Chapter 2 1
For a useful discussion of Foucault in relation to Bataille, see Jenks (2003: 87–93). ‘Charisma in its most potent forms disrupts rational rule as well as tradition altogether and overturns all notions of sanctity. Instead of reverence for customs that are ancient and hence sacred, it enforces the inner subjection to the unprecendented and absolutely unique and therefore Divine. In this purely empirical and value-free sense charisma is indeed the specifically creative revolutionary force in history’ (Weber 1978: 1117).
See also Tremlett (2007) where I argue against the phenomenology of religion for its interpretative charity and its failure to engage in any kind of critique of religions. Although the suggestion seems to be that Ileto, Rafael and Cannell are poststructuralists, that is not the claim I am making: rather, I am suggesting that read in a certain way, their work confirms the post-structuralist theory of the indeterminacy of meaning. As such, Rafael is the only one of the three who explicitly draws on post-structuralism via Derrida’s work (Rafael 1988: 43). I clarify Ileto’s position in some detail in the latter stages of this case study. Cannell’s position is somewhat more complex: in her analysis of lowland Bicolaño culture (1999), she begins by noting how lowland peoples in the Philippines have been represented as somehow lacking in culture, and Bicolaños appear to end it with a positive excess as Cannell proceeds to tie practices such as marriage, spirit-medium-ship, a local ‘cult’ of the dead Christ and transvestite beauty contests to what Lahiri (2002) calls a ‘pervasive logic of cultural practice’ (2002: 45) centred in and around local practices of exchange, debt, obligation and pity. In that work the focus is on local meaning and the horizon of interpretation is lowland Philippine culture. The same is true of the essay ‘Reading as gift and writing as theft’ (2006), where Cannell attempts to show how textual meaning is mediated and (re-)produced through local idioms of exchange and reciprocity but also, following Rafael, she writes of a certain ‘aesthetic’ of understanding ‘that relies on ambiguity and hesitation in meaning’ (2006: 159). Cannell’s focus is as such on how re-contextualization destabilizes or unhinges the relation between signifier and signified, which to be sure resonates with certain post-structuralist ideas about the exile of meaning. To demonstrate this point Rafael quotes from a passage from José Rizal’s The Social Cancer (1996) to illustrate the displacement of priestly authority. In this passage, Rizal lampoons the sermon as a site for the religious instruction of Filipinos. The character Padre Damaso delivers a sermon in Spanish and Tagálog, which has some amusing and unexpected consequences: ‘“Radiant and resplendent is the altar, wide is the great door, the air is the vehicle of the holy and divine words that will spring from my mouth! Hear ye then with the ears of your souls and hearts that the words of the Lord may not fall on the stony soil where the birds of Hell may consume them, but that ye may grow and flourish as holy seed in the field of our venerable and seraphic father, St. Francis! O ye great sinners, captives of the Moros of the soul that infest the sea of eternal life in the powerful craft of the flesh and the world, ye who are laden with the fetters of lust and avarice, and who toil in the galleys of the infernal Satan, look ye here with reverent repentance upon him who saved souls from the captivity of the devil, upon the intrepid Gideon, upon the valiant David, upon the triumphant Roland of Christianity, upon the celestial Civil Guard, more powerful than all the Civil Guards together, now existing or to exist!” (the alferez [an alferez was a junior officer of the Civil Guard] frowned).
“Yes, señor alferez, more valiant and powerful, he who with no other weapon than a wooden cross boldly vanquishes the eternal tulisan [bandit] of the shades and all the hosts of Lucifer, and who would have exterminated them forever, were not the spirits immortal! This marvel of divine creation, this wonderful prodigy, is the blessed Diego of Alcala, who, if I may avail myself of a comparison, since comparisons aid in the comprehension of incomprehensible things, as another has said, I say then that this great saint is merely a private soldier, a steward in the powerful company which our seraphic father, St. Francis, sends from Heaven, and to which I have the honour to belong as a corporal or sergeant, by the grace of God!”. The “rude Indians”, as the correspondent would say, caught nothing more from this paragraph than the words “Civil Guard”, “tulisan”, “San Diego”, and “St. Francis”, so, observing the wry face of the alferez and the bellicose gestures of the preacher, they deduced that the latter was reprehending him for not running down the tulisanes. San Diego and St. Francis would be commissioned in this duty and justly so, as is proved by a picture existing in the convento at Manila, representing St. Francis, by means of his girdle only, holding back the Chinese invasion in the first years after the discovery. The devout were accordingly not a little rejoiced and thanked God for this aid, not doubting that once the tulisanes had disappeared, St. Francis would also destroy the Civil Guard. With redoubled attention, therefore, they listened to Padre Damaso as he continued’ (Rizal 1996: 216–17). This passage is of particular interest given the theory of communication expounded by Padre Damaso in the opening lines, where ‘the air’ mediates the transmission of speech, and ‘ears’ and ‘hearts’ guarantee its comprehension, a process which can only be undone through the intervention of evil. Here, meaning is inherent in words, and the task of the listener is simply to decode this meaning. Rizal quite beautifully dislocates this theory, demonstrating that listening is a situated act that necessarily involves listeners bringing their own fore or pre-knowledge to bear upon any act of interpretation. See also Tremlett (2008). ‘Birheng Maria Bernard, Inang Pilipina, Dr. Jose Rizal, Pilipinong Ama, sa isang mysteryo sila’y magkasama, at dito ‘y lumitaw, bansang Pilipinas (Virgin Maria Bernarda, Mother of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal, Father of the Philippines, in one mystery they come together, and here emerged the Filipino nation)’ (Quibuyen 1991: 55). The ‘labindalawáng ilaw ng Pilipinás’ are, in alphabetical order, Melchora Aquino 1812–1919 (better known as Tandang Sora, she nursed and fed wounded Katipuñeros and was captured and exiled by the Spanish régime, but was able to return in 1898 when America occupied the archipelago); Andres Bonifacio 1863–1897 (founder and leader of the Katipunan that instigated the revolution against Spain, he was murdered by Aguinaldo in a power struggle for leadership of the revolution); Fr José Apolonio Burgos 1837–1872 (he was a Filipino priest who opposed the turning over of the parishes to the friars, and was executed after being implicated in the Cavite Mutiny); Emilio Jacinto 1875–1899 (he was a political essayist who wrote in Tagálog rather than Spanish); Graciano Lopez Jaena 1865–1896 (he was a member of the self-styled Propaganda Movement based in Spain); Gen. Antonio Luna 1868–1899 (considered
to be the best general in the revolutionary army, he was assassinated by Aguinaldo’s agents); Juan Luna 1857–1899 (a painter who won considerable accolade in Spain, he was imprisoned on the outbreak of hostilities between revolutionary and Spanish forces); Apolinario Mabini 1864–1903 (he was political adviser to Emilio Aguinaldo); Gen. Miguel Malvar 1865–1911 (he was a general in the revolutionary army); Pedro Paterno 1857–1911 (he was the writer of the first Filipino novel in Spanish); Gen. Gregorio del Pilar 1875–1899 (he was a general in the revolutionary army famous for his defence of Tirad Pass where he and his entire force were killed by superior American troops) and Marcelo del Pilar 1850–1896 (he was also a member of the Propaganda Movement in Spain).
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Adorno, Theodor 20, 24, 102, 104 Dialectic of Englightenment 18–19, 24, 102, 103 see also Frankfurt School aesthetic critique of modernity 4, 18–29, 90 authenticity and 16, 49 as discourse 8–9, 68 disenchantment and 83 limitations of 69, 78 limits of reason and 14, 31 Nietzsche and 45, 106 phenomenology and vii, viii, 7, 8, 9, 63–4, 67, 68 post-modernism and viii, 63–4, 68, 88, 106 see also modernity; objectivity; positivism; science Aesthetics and Analysis in Writing on Religion (Gold) 53–4 Aguinaldo, Emilio 134 alienation 32, 49, 83, 108 experience and 63–5 Althusser, Louis 125 Anderson, Benedict 20 anomie 32 anthropology 7 on amulets 118 Bible reading and 124 of Christianity 115 evolutionary frameworks and 11, 50
phenomenology and 12, 59–60 post-modern 57–8 problematized 54–5 value-neutral approaches and 54–6, 59 writing and 55–9 see also Evans-Pritchard, E. E.; Lévi-Strauss, Claude; post-structuralism; ritual; social science; Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus) Aquino, Melchora 133 archaeology (Foucauldian) ix, 73, 96 Aristotle 82 art, as replacement for religion 65 Asad, Talal 19, 109, 125 asceticism 36–7, 40 Association of International Healers (Philippines) 116–18 Austin, J. L. 101 authenticity 8, 12, 16, 25–6, 90 Bakhtin, Mikhail 13 Balitaan, Maria Bernarda 118, 119 Banahaw, Mount 116–17, 119, 120–2 Banahaw for Jesus Movement (BJM) 121–2 Bataille, Georges 28, 64, 74, 131 Being 35, 42 see also Being in Time ; Dasein
Being and Time (Heidegger) 25–6 see also Heidegger, Martin Bentham, Jeremy 26 Berman, Marshall 15, 16 Bible and Culture Collective 88, 95 binary oppositions 13, 57 dichotomies 80 bio-power 70–1 Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche) 37, 44–5, 64 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich Black Nazarene: procession of 1–4 Blanchot, Maurice 64, 74 Bloch, Maurice 110 Boer, Roland 123–4 Bonifacio, Andres 133 bracketing (epoché ) Eliade and 47, 52 evocation and 52, 53–4 history and 75–6 limitations of ix, 110, 129 method of 2, 32, 33, 34, 91 post-modernism and 58 see also evocation; phenomenology Bultmann, Rudolf 123 Burgos, Antonio 133 Callinicos, Alex 58, 107, 131 Cannell, Fenella 111, 114–15, 122–3, 125, 132 Capital (Marx) 61 see also Marx, Karl capitalism commodities 61 Communist Manifesto and 22–3 discipline and 70 globalization and 15 as grand narrative 27 life-world and 14, 105 modernity and 14, 47, 49
Protestantism and 23–4 social relations and 19, 20–1 Smart and 51 see also instrumentality; Marx, Karl; Marx-ism; modernity; Weber, Max Capps, Walter 12, 54 Caputo, John 72 Carrette, Jeremy 13 Carver, Terrell 61 Certeau, Michel de vii, viii, 6 Possession at Loudun 74–80 see also madness; post-modernism charisma 131 see also Weber, Max Christianity anthropology and 115 Bible use 111–12, 115–18, 120–6 capitalism and 23 colonialism and 113, 114 ideology and 127 missionization and 115 Nietzsche and 22, 36–7 in Philippines 1–4, 111–26 the sacred and 63 time and 17 see also Philippines citizenship 19–20 Ciudad Mistica de Dios 116 ‘Civilization and its discontents’ (Freud) 25, 40 Clifford, James 56–7, 58 see also anthropology; Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus) cognitivism 129 communicative action 28, 101–2, 104–5, 107 see also dialogue; Habermas, Jürgen communicative reason 106–7 see also Habermas, Jürgen
Index communism 50 see also Marx, Karl; Marx-ism Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels) 22–3, 61 see also Marx, Karl; Marx-ism comparative religion 32 compensation, religion as 3–4 Comte, August 18 Conser, Walter 32–3, 53, 91 Contribution to The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Marx) 38 see also Marx, Karl ‘Critical and traditional theory’ (Horkheimer) 102, 104 see also Horkheimer, Max Critique of Political Economy (Marx) 39, 61, 101 see also Marx, Karl Crockett, Clayton 63 cultural studies 7 culture industry 102 Dasein 25 see also Being; Heidegger, Martin de Certeau, Michel see Certeau, Michel de del Pilar, Gregorio 134 del Pilar, Marcelo 134 dependence, and religious feeling 12 Derrida, Jacques deconstruction and ix, 91, 92–5 Eliade and 13–14 ‘Faith and Knowledge’ 80 Foucault and 73, 99 Habermas and 28, 106, 107 instrumental reason and 107 language and 86 ‘Letter to a Japanese friend’ 93 Marx and 61
Memoires for Paul de Man 94 metaphysics of presence and viii, 14, 69, 80, 81–3, 86, 115 modernity and vii, 83 Nietzsche and 65 Of Grammatology 13, 81, 83–4, 85–6, 93–4 ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ 94–5 religion and 87 on speech and writing 80–2, 85–6 see also post-modernism dialectic 27 see also Marx-ism; Hegel, G. W. F Dialectic of Englightenment (Adorno and Horkheimer) 18–19, 24, 102, 103 see also Adorno, Theodor; Horkheimer, Max dialogue inter-religious 12–13, 50 reason and 107 in research 7, 57–8, 101, 106, 108, 115 see also communicative action; communicative reason; language Dilthey, Wilhelm 4, 32–3, 127 Discipline and Punish (Foucault) 74, 98–9 see also Foucault, Michel discourse 8, 13, 96–7 of post-modern ethnography 58 dreams 44 Dreyfus, Hubert 70, 98 Durkheim, Émile 19, 46, 104, 131 Eagleton, Terry 65 economics and religion 10, 39 see also capitalism; Marx, Karl; Marx-ism
eidetic vision 33 see also phenomenology Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Marx) 61, 65–6, 100–1 see also Marx, Karl einfühlung see empathy Eliade, Mircea 30, 34, 130 authentic meaning and 42–3 critiqued by Segal 5, 6 Durkheim and 46 fascism and 45 modernity and vii, 19, 31, 46–7 Nietzsche and 49 as post-modern 13–14 Quest 42–3, 53 reductionism and 7 representation of religion and 30, 34, 52, 53 the sacred and 31, 41–2, 46–7, 53, 69, 130 Sacred and the Profane 46–7 as unscientific 6 see also phenomenology; sacred, the empathy 33, 34 see also evocation; phenomenology end of history 61, 87 see also Fukuyama, Francis Engelke, Matthew 115 Engels, Friedrich 22–3, 50 as mystic 35 Enlightenment critique of religion 12 critiqued 4, 25, 130 as grand narrative 27 and Marx-ism 109 and progress 52 see also instrumentality; modernity epoché see bracketing Eros see sex
Eros and Civilization (Marcuse) 24 see also Marcuse, Herbert essence of religion 32, 33 see also irreducibility, of religion; phenomenology; sui generis, religion as eternal recurrence (Nietzschean) 48–9 see also time, cyclical and linear ethnography see anthropology Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 124 Nuer 55–7 Theories of Primitive Religion 60 see also anthropology evocation anthropology and 57–8 history and 75–6 Marx and 60–1 Nietzsche and 62 phenomenology and 30, 52–4, 67 representation and 59, 68, 108 see also bracketing; empathy; phenomenology evolutionary frameworks 11, 50, 52, 79, 124 experience of alienation 63–5 Foucault and 73–4 religious 12, 52–3 see also aestheticic critique of modernity; phenomenology; sublime, the ‘Faith and Knowledge’ (Derrida) 80 Fardon, Richard 57 feeling, religious see experience; mysterium tremendum; phenomenology Ferguson, James 110
Index Feuerbach, Ludwig 10, 38, 127 Fitzgerald, Timothy 6–7, 129–30 Flood, Gavin 7, 13 Foucault, Michel archaeology and ix, 73, 91 Bataille and 131 critique of modernity vii, 18, 26, 107 Discipline and Punish 74, 98–9 discourse and 8, 13, 95–7 genealogy ix, 91, 96, 97–9 Habermas and 28, 106, 107 History of Madness 70–4, 97–8 madness and viii, 70, 71–4 Nietzsche and 65, 74, 98 ‘order of discourse’ 95–7 see also madness; post-modernism; power Frankfurt School 24, 25, 83, 101, 104 see also Adorno, Theodor; Marx-ism; psychoanalysis Frazer, James B. 11, 79, 124, 131 French Revolution 18 Freud, Sigmund Certeau and 78 ‘Civilization and its discontents’ 25, 40 Foucault and 26 hermeneutics and 9, 13, 39, 43–4 history and 79 Interpretation of Dreams 44 modernity and vii, 18, 23, 25 as mystic 35 phenomenology and viii, 9 reductionism and 31, 35, 41, 66 Ricoeur and 8, 9, 35, 40–1, 43 on religion 11, 40–1 Totem and Taboo 41, 79 see also neurosis; pleasure principle; psychoanalysis; reductionism; sex
Fukuyama, Francis 17, 61, 87 functionalism 35, 60, 104 see also reductionism Furseth, Inger 105 Gadamer, Hans-Georg 13, 34, 107 Truth and Method 129 Gay Science (Nietzsche) 21 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich geisteswissenschaften see social science Gellner, Ernest 7, 124, 130 gemeinschaft 19, 69 genealogy ix, 23, 91, 96, 97–9 gesellschaft 69 globalization 15–16, 100 God, death of 21–2 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich Gold, Daniel 53, 63–4 Goya, Francisco 72–3 Gramsci, Antonio 125 Grandier, Urbain 75, 77, 79 Greenblatt, Stephen 75 Gupta, Akhil 110 Habermas, Jürgen communicative action and 101–2, 107 communicative reason and 106–7 critical theory and 102–4 Derrida and 82, 86 Foucault and 28, 106, 107 ideology and ix, 107 instrumental rationality and 101, 102–3, 106–7 Knowledge and Human Interests 104 language and 102 life-world and 105–6 modernity and ix, 4, 9, 27–9, 31, 67
Habermas, Jürgen (Cont’d) Nietzsche and 64–5 Philosophical Discourse of Modernity 101–2, 106 study of religion and vii Theory of Communicative Action Vols. I & II 101, 104 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; communicative action; communicative reason; modernity; post-modernism Haeckel, Ernst 79 Hammacher, Emil 131 Haraway, Donna 107–8 Hart, Kevin 87 Hegel, G. W. F. 10, 13, 31, 50, 65, 127 see also dialectic hegemony 125–6 Heidegger, Martin Being and Time 25–6 critique of modernity 18, 26, 106, 107 Derrida and 86, 92 Habermas and 101, 104, 106, 107 instrumental reason and 107, 131 Nietzsche and 62, 65 phenomenology and viii, 35 Hempel, Carl 6 hermeneutics of depth 39 Eliade and 42 Freud and 43–4 Gadamer and 129 as grand narrative 27 Habermas and 101–2 of restoration viii, 9, 34 of suspicion viii, 8, 9, 34, 35, 88 Hewitt, Marsha 9 Highmore, Ben 76, 78–80 historiography 75–8 and psychoanalysis 78–80
History of Madness (Foucault) 70–4, 97–8 see also Foucault, Michel holy, the see mysterium tremendum; Otto, Rudolf; sacred, the homogenization 102–3 Horkheimer, Max ‘Critical and traditional theory’ 102, 104 Dialectic of Englightenment 18–19, 24, 102, 103 see also Frankfurt School Husserl, Edmund 32–3, 81, 82–3 Idea of the Holy (Otto) see Otto, Rudolf identity modern 19–20 religion and 9 ideology (Marx-ist term) critical theory and 90, 102, 107 and evaluations ix, 10 hegemony and 125–6 non-ideological assertions and 107–8 reason and 103 religion and 38, 109–10, 127–8 social circumstances and 100–1 Iglesia Mistica Asiatica see Mystical Church of Asia Ileto, Reynaldo 111, 112–13, 122–3, 125, 126–8, 132 Industrial Revolution 17–18 informants, and ethnography 55, 57 instrumentality 19, 21, 101, 102–3, 106–7, 131 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; Englightment, the; modernity; objectivity; positivism; rationalization; science
Index inter-faith dialogue 12–13 interiority, as essence of religion 12 Interpretation of Dreams (Freud) 44 see also Freud, Sigmund interpretations, of texts 111, 112, 114–15, 133 Bible 115–18, 120–6 polysemy 14, 86, 94 irreducibility, of religion 5, 33, 42, 52–3 see also sui generis, religion as; sacred, the Jacinto, Emilio 133 Jaena, Graciano Lopez 133 James, William 97 Japan 130 Johnson, Barbara 80–1 Ka Erning (healer) 116–18 Kant, Immanuel 63, 87 Kaufmann, Walter 62 King, Richard 13 Kippenberg, Hans 131 Knowledge and Human Interests (Habermas) 104 see also Habermas, Jürgen Kristensen, William Brede 32 Kumar, Krishan 17 Laclau, Ernesto 125 Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste 79 language analysis in excess of 59–60 Bible interpretation and 123 communicative action 28, 101–2, 104–5, 107 deconstruction and 92, 93–4 discourse and 97 experience and 74
ideal speech communities 52, 107 ideology and 107 performative 53 referential meaning and 124 representation and 61, 62–3 signifiers and 86 speech-acts 30–1, 52, 96–7, 105 as unstable 82 see also dialogue; Habermas, Jürgen; signifiers; speech; writing Lapiang Malya 126 Last Man 47–8 Lawson, Thomas 6 lebenswelt see ‘life-world’ ‘Letter to a Japanese friend’ (Derrida) 93 see also Derrida, Jacques Lévi-Strauss, Claude 6, 81, 124 Tristes Tropiques 83–6 see also anthropology; post-structuralism; structuralism ‘life-world’ (lebenswelt) 101, 104–6 local, the 15–16, 19 logocentrism see writing Loudun 74–8, 80 Luna, Antonio 133–4 Luna, Juan 134 Lyotrard, Jean-François 26–7, 58 Mabini, Apolinario 134 madness critique of modernity and viii discipline and 70, 71 discourse and 96 historical response to 71–2 as otherness 73 privileged 69, 108 transgressive unreason 76, 79 see also Foucault, Michel; Certeau, Michel de
Malinowski, Bronislaw 54 Malvar, Miguel 134 Manila 1–4 Marcuse, Herbert 24, 102–3, 130 Marx, Karl Capital 61 Communist Manifesto 22–3, 61 Contribution to The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 38 Critique of Political Economy 39, 61, 101 cultural transformation and 126 Derrida and 61 Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 61, 65–6, 100–1 Eliade and 47, 49 end of history and 87 evocation and 61 modernity and vii, 9, 15, 18, 19, 25, 26 as mystic 35 phenomenology and viii, 39–40 as reductionist 31, 35, 38, 39 religion and ix, 8, 38–9 Smart and 51 the sublime and 65–6 theory of history 50 Theses on Feuerbach 38 see also dialectic; ideology; Marx-ism Marx-ism capitalism and 19 as grand narrative 27 ideology and ix, 10, 38, 90, 99–101, 103, 125–6, 127 modernity and 4, 23 study of religions and vi–vii, 9–10, 11, 13, 31, 90, 108–10 see also capitalism; Frankfurt School; hegemony; Marx, Karl
McCauley, Robert 6 McCoy, Alfred 118 McCutcheon, Russell 7, 13, 45, 130 McLuhan, Marshall 19–20 media 19–20 Memoires for Paul de Man (Derrida) 94 see also Derrida, Jacques Merina (tribe) 110 Merkur, Dan 63 Merquior, J. G. 71–2, 99 metaphysics of presence viii, 14, 80, 81–3, 86, 115 see also Derrida, Jacques modernity authenticity and 25–6, 42 defined 14–17 gains of 110 grand narrative of 18, 27 Habermas and ix, 4, 27–9 identity and 19–20 instrumentality and 19, 21, 101, 102–3, 106–7 life-world and 105 Marx and 22–3 metaphysics of presence and 83 Nietzsche and 21–2, 45 phenomenology as critique of vii, viii, 4 post-modernism and 87–9 power and 26 as profane 46–7 repression and 23–5 spiritual 31 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; capitalism; Enlightenment; rationalization; secularization Mouffe, Chantal 125
Index music, as replacement for religion 65 mysterium tremendum 63, 74 see also Otto, Rudolf; Other, the; sacred, the Mystical Church of Asia 118–20 mysticism 131 see also sacred, the Nagel, Ernest 6 Nambikwara (tribe) 83–5 nationalism 19–20 neurosis 79 see also Freud, Sigmund; psychoanalysis New Criticism 130 Newell, William Lloyd 35 Nietzsche, Friedrich art and 64–5 Birth of Tragedy 37, 44–5, 64 Christianity and 36–7 Derrida and 86, 92–3 Eliade and 49 eternal recurrence 48–9 Foucault and 26, 65, 74, 98 Freud and 25 Gay Science 21 On the Genealogy of Morality 37 ‘God is dead’ 21–2 hermeneutics of depth and 39 instrumental reason and 106 language and 60–1, 62–3 Last Man and 47–8 method and 43 modernity and vii, 9, 18, 31 as mystic 35 phenomenology and viii, 19, 31, 37–8, 66–7 as reductionist 31
study of religion and 7, 8 Thus Spoke Zarathustra 21–2, 47–9 tragedy and 44–5 Twilight of the Idols 37 values and 22, 23, 36, 93 the will and 37 Will to Power 62 writing style of 61–2 nihilism 22 Norris, Christopher 92 Nuer (Evans-Pritchard) 55–7 see also Evans-Pritchard E. E. numinous, the 63 see also mysterium tremendum; Otto, Rudolf; sacred, the objectivity viii, 12 critical theory and 102, 103–4 positivism and 14 rejected 18, 59 see also instrumentality; modernity; positivism; science; value-neutral approaches Odysseus 24 Of Grammatology (Derrida) 13, 81, 83–4, 85–6, 93–4 see also Derrida, Jacques On the Genealogy of Morality (Nietzsche) 37 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich One-Dimensional Man (Marcuse) 102–3 see also Marcuse, Herbert ‘Order of discourse’ (Foucault) 95–7 see also Foucault, Michel ‘orientalism’ 10 see also Other, the; postcolonial theory
Other, the beyond reason 18 dialogue and 12 as exotic 56, 64 globalization and 51 history and 75–7 need for poetics and 59 the ‘wholly other’ 63, 67, 108 Otto, Rudolf critique of modernity and vii, 7, 65, 130, 131 Derrida and 87 and experience 19, 33–4, 52–3, 63 Foucault and 69 mysterium tremendum and 63 representation and 30, 31 Schleiermacher and 12 as unscientific 6 see also phenomenology; sacred, the Over-man (Nietzschean) 47–8 Palmer, Richard 8 Pals, Daniel 35 Panopticon 26 pasyón 112–13, 114–15, 123, 126 Paterno, Pedro 134 Penner, Hans 6 Permenter, Rachela 13 pharmakon 94–5 Pheadrus (Plato) 94–5 phenomenology against evolutionary frameworks 11 against reductionism vi, 30–1, 35–6, 39, 66–7 anthropology and 59–60 Being and 35 critical reflection and ix, 88, 90–2
as critique of modernity vii, 7, 8–9, 12, 130 critiqued by Flood 7 critiqued by Segal 5–6 experience and 12, 63, 65, 88–9, 90 Foucault and 72 Habermas and 28 hermeneutics and 42 ideal speech communities and 107 language and 63 Marx and 39–40 meaning and 42–3, 47 methodology of 32–4, 43 modernity and 16 Nietzsche and 37–8 post-modernism and ix, 9, 10, 13, 14, 88, 99, 100, 108 subjectivity and 13 theology and 31–2 transformation and 53 as unscientific 4, 36, 129 see also bracketing; Eliade, Mircea; empathy; evocation; experience; Otto, Rudolf; reductionism; value-neutral approaches Philippines appropriation of Christianity 111–13, 114, 125–6 Bicol 114–15, 132 Christian movements in 116–22 cultural modes in 127 human rights in 115 Lapiang Malaya 126 pasyón and 112–13, 114–15, 126 Rizal, José 119–20, 121, 122, 132–3 Quiapo Church 1–4
Index Spanish colonialism and 113, 114 12 Lights of the Philippines 119–20, 133–4 Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Habermas) 101–2, 106 see also Habermas, Jürgen phonocentrism see speech Plato 94–5 ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ (Derrida) 94–5 see also Derrida, Jacques pleasure principle 40, 130 see also Freud, Sigmund; psychoanalysis; sex polysemy 14, 29, 86, 94 see also interpretations, of texts poly-vocality 57, 69, 79 Popper, Karl 10 positivism Bible interpretation and 123 critical theory and 102 Derrida and 86 epistemology of 14 history and 77 madness and 71 modernity and viii, 12, 16–17, 18, 101 Nietzsche and 22, 45 objectivity and 10–11 phenomenology and 108, 129 religion and vii, 4, 6, 7, 12, 36 socialism and 125 see also objectivity; science; reductionism possession viii Possession at Loudun (Certeau) 74–80 see also Certeau, Michel de post-colonial theory 13 see also ‘orientalism’; Other, the
post-modernism critiqued by Habermas 27–9, 102 Eliade and 13–14 as grounds for research viii limits of reason and 19 Lyotard and 26–7 meaning and 88 as neo-romantic 108 phenomenology and ix, 9, 10, 14, 99, 100, 108 reflexivity and 90–1, 92 study of religion and 87–8 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; Certeau, Michel de; Derrida, Jacques; Foucault, Michel; Habermas, Jürgen; madness; post-structualism; Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus) post-structuralism anthropology and 57–8 applied 111, 115, 132 Bible and 116, 123, 127 history and 78 polysemy and 29 see also post-modernism; structuralism power discipline and 70–1 knowledge and 23, 55 madness and 71–3 as pleasure 36 religion and 3, 111–12 see also Foucault, Michel primal father 41 prisons 98–9 profane, the 13–14, 46–7 see also Durkheim, Émile; Eliade, Mircea; sacred, the
progress see evolutionary frameworks protest, religion as 38 Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber) 23–4 see also Weber, Max psychoanalysis historiography 78–80 meaning and 43–4 see also Freud, Sigmund; neurosis; sex Quest (Eliade) 42–3, 53 see also Eliade, Mircea Quiapo Church (Manila) 1–4 Rabinow, Paul 70, 98 Rafael, Vicente 111, 113–14, 122–3, 125, 132 rationalization (Weberian) 102–3, 105–6 see also instrumentality; modernity; Weber, Max reductionism critique of vi, viii, 8–9, 30–1, 35–6, 60, 131 description and 59–60 Freud and 30 limitations of debate over vii, 7, 19 Marx and 10, 30 Nietzsche and 30 Segal and 4–6 see also Freud, Sigmund; functionalism; Marx, Karl; Nietzsche, Friedrich; phenomenology ‘religion’, as category 7, 129–30 Religion in Essence and Manifestation (van der Leeuw) 32
religionists, opposed to reductionists 4–6, 7 religious experience see experience; Other, the; Otto, Rudolf; phenomenology; sublime, the Renaissance 17 Rennie, Bryan 13–14 representation 30, 54–7 evocation and 59, 68 see also phenomenology repression Freudian 23, 40–1 modernity and 23–5 Repstad, Pål 105 Ricoeur, Paul Freud and viii, 35, 40–1, 43 interpretation and 8, 34 ritual 96 Merina circumcision 110 see also anthropology Rizal, José 119–20, 121, 122, 132–3 romanticism 73 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; phenomenology Rosaldo, Renato 55–6 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 81 sacred, the as beyond language 63 as beyond rational enquiry 69 consciousness and 53 ethics and 87 as feeling 63 as irreducible element of religion 34, 41–2 modernity and 19 the profane and 13–14, 46–7 as true vi, vii, 130 see also Eliade, Mircea
Index Sacred and the Profane (Eliade) 46–7 see also Eliade, Mircea Sade, the Marquis de 72–3 Saint-Simon, Henri de 18 Saussaye, P. D. Chantepie de 31 Saussure, Ferdinand de 81 Schleiermacher, Friedrich 12, 63 science anti-science 19 evolutionary frameworks and 11 hermeneutics and 129 ideology and 101 Nietzsche and 22, 45 status of method vi, 4–6 see also objectivity; positivism; social science; value-neutral approaches scientism see positivism Searle, John 101 secularization 19–21, 23 ‘God is dead’ 21–2 see also post-modernism Segal, Robert 4–6, 14 sex pleasure principle 40, 80 repression and 24–5 see also Freud, Sigmund Sharpe, Eric 35 Sherwood, Yvonne 87 signifiers 35, 63, 82, 86, 132 see also language; speech Smart, Ninian capitalism and 51 critique of modernity and 130 Enlightenment and 52 Habermas and 107 inter-religious dialogue and 50 reductionism and 7, 30, 34
Smith, William Cantwell critique of modernity and 130 the Enlightenment and 52 globalization and 51 Habermas and 107 reductionism and 7, 30, 34 social antagonism 39 Social Cancer (Rizal) 132–3 see also Rizal, José social relationships 2–3, 19 social science 4, 5, 7 as reductionist 35–6 as replacement for religion 39 see also anthropology; sociology; science sociology phenomenology and 12 as replacement for religion 11 see also social science Socrates 94 speaking-subjects 96 see also language speech ideal speech communities 107 privileged over writing 80–2 speech-acts 30–1, 52, 96–7, 101 see also communicative action; language; signifiers; writing Speeches on Religion to its Cultured Despisers (Schleiermacher) 12 see also Schleiermacher, Friedrich Spencer, Herbert 11, 23 structuralism 6, 97 see also Lévi-Strauss, Claude; post-structurualism Suarez, ‘Mamay’ 119 subjectivity decentred viii, 27
subjectivity (Cont’d) Habermas and 28–9 see also objectivity; phenomenology sublime, the viii, 63–4, 65–6 madness and 69 see also aesthetic critique of modernity; phenomenology ‘substantive reason’ 9 sui generis, religion as 7, 33–4, 91, 130 see also irreducibility, of religion Supreme Church of the Mystical City of God see Ciudad Mistica de Dios symbols, as signifiers 35 Tanner, Michael 22, 44–5 testability 7 see also objectivity; science Theories of Primitive Religion (Evans-Pritchard) 60 see also Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Theory of Communicative Action Vols. I & II (Habermas) 101, 104 see also Habermas, Jürgen Theses on Feuerbach (Marx) 38 see also Marx, Karl Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche) 21–2, 47–9 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich Tillich, Paul 63 time, cyclical and linear 17–18 see also eternal recurrence (Nietzschean) Tomlinson, Matt 115 Totem and Taboo (Freud) 41, 79 see also Freud, Sigmund tragedy 44–5 Tristes Tropiques (Lévi-Strauss) 83–6 see also Lévi-Strauss, Claude
Truth and Method (Gadamer) 129 see also Gadamer, Hans-Georg Turner, Victor 131 Twilight of the Idols (Nietzsche) 37 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich Twiss, Sumner 32–3, 53, 91 Tyler, Stephen 57–8, 59 Tylor, Edward 11, 124 übermensch 47–8 understanding (verstehen) 4, 7, 32, 33, 91, 126 value-neutral approaches vi, viii, 6, 30, 32, 33, 100 anthropology and 54–6, 59 see also objectivity van der Leeuw, Gerardus 32 Vattimo, Gianni 45 Velarde, Pedro Murillo 114 verstehen see understanding Vienna Circle 6 Wagner, Richard 44 Weber, Max charisma and 131 Derrida and 83 Foucault and 26, 74 Habermas and 101–2, 104 modernity and 18, 23–4, 25–6 Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 23–4 see also rationalization Whitehouse, Harvey 115 ‘wholly other’ see Other, the will (Nietzschean) 37 Will to Power (Nietzsche) 62 see also Nietzsche, Friedrich
Index Winch, Peter 124 writing deconstruction and 92, 93 Lévi-Strauss and 84–6 speech and 80–1 Theuth (mythical inventor of) 94
Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus) 54–5 ‘On Ethnographic Allegory’ (Clifford) 56–7 Rosaldo and 55–6 Tylor and 57–8, 59 see also anthropology; post-modernism