The Daemonic Concept Of A Negative Philosophy Of Religion
by Leo Lowenthal
I. The Aspiration
In the year of the death of King Uzziah, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and His lower extremity filled the Temple. Seraphim stood above for Him, six wings, six wings to each one; with two he would cover his face, and with two he would cover his feet, and with two he would fly. And one called to the other and said, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." And the doorposts quaked from the voice of him who called, and the House became filled with smoke. And I said, "Woe is me for I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and amidst a people of unclean lips I dwell, for the King, the Lord of Hosts have my eyes seen. And one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal; with tongs he had taken it from upon the altar. And he caused it to touch my mouth, and he said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity shall be removed, and your sin shall be atoned for."And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am; send me."
The Prophet Isaiah
Did Isaiah truly see the Lord before the angel flew towards him? When the angel burned the seams of his lips with glowing coal, was only then Isaiah's sanctification into prophethood completed?
Prior to the angel departing from the Lord, Isaiah saw nothing, he intuited the Lord, he felt the awe and secrets of the eternal, still cloaked by the wings of the angel. It is the situation of the faithful man which the scriptures depict: he who feels the great mystery to which he himself constitutes the solution, but whose Father conceals himself shrouded in the cloud. The believer first becomes a Seer, when an angel departs the Lord: "if a lappet of the secret is lifted" how in deeply symbolic words the people proclaim. Because man is imbued with the divine breath of life not in the blessing of the lips, but in the beholding of the revealed divine being; and the great end, the utopian shining star will rise when all angels remove themselves from God and He in "mystical democracy" without cloak or mediator will reveal himself as most imperturbable certainty and form.
So the freezing gaze turns towards the last revelations of the secret and wants to transcend the vision of constructs granted to us with unbearable longing. But here among us, grace is only given to a few and the pitiless master keeps Himself hidden from the many. Because of this, the spectre of pagan, biblical, and Christian demonology and hierarchy haunts and separates us with both good and bad intentions from Him. Thus arises the problem of the daemonic with the unholy enchantment of this world, whose utterly sheer abandonment hands us over the desperation of a negative proof of God. In baroque ecstasy becomes visible the realm of the forms, of the forms of the Limbo, the angels, devils, amourettes, who all simply are the spawn and curse of the "present," but "non-existent God." And so it remains as a mission for a new "negative theology": to sort out all this bizarreness in the process, to develop itself from the mystical, bound to the natural to the last differentia of the solely spiritual, to find sublation, tranquility, and form in messianic aspiration.
He who would presume to be permitted to proceed here as a psychologist, reveals himself as a disguised "negative" metaphysician, whose pretension of approaching objective constructions purely out of theoretical interest transforms into an analysis of his own, merely "functional" self. He who falsely believes to be able to make "comprehensible" through sociology the phaenomena of an immanent analysis of sense functions in reality as a witness of "negative" philosophy of history, whose given meaning is of course solely limited to the "dynamic" of the spirit ordering the temporal constructions. No, it is necessary to corporeally walk through the realm of absolute Negation where the devil's grimaces and grinning characters have found their sedate home. Here, here in this isolated, tracklessly expanding wilderness, modern thinking, out of desperation and anxiousness, out of spite and ignorance created the dispute of Is and Ought, wove itself from the Ego, the unknown Self as the enthroned new god, who must have been ab ovo already unreachable and unknowable. Here, here only could the atrocious blasphemy of syncretism of the symbols of all parts of the earth and ages occur, could the lunatic delusion of the Buddah and the Christ merge for the great, finally bestowed motherly salvation and accept purification.
But this shall not be the end and the defiance against God shall give account from the beginning of the new faith and the new ardency. Because our orations require a new Sense, a new responsibility. It becomes blessed with this responsibility immediately, as long as it just maintains its own sin: so that it loses its coherence. The urge of the modern thinker is suggestive, still unconscious, and impure, the expression of the longing for this coherence, this longing is strongest exactly where - in Marx - the incorruptible gaze into the nonexistence of the Sense and into the imbuement of the cosmos with the economic law, have struck the totality of atheism and unredemeedness. Here the "realistic" thinker meets with Husserl, who's seemingly lost in reverie all day, whose phaenomenology admits the expulsion of virtue from this, our, dreadful, frozen age and reveals the bare, bloody body as an indictment and a cry of rage. Because precisely this absolutely critical, most negative of all attitudes means the sole possible theodicy, it precisely wants to offer up all these things, offer up this helpless "hic et nunc", so that it may receive a blessing anew.
So must a coherent stance of Marx's world-historical-dialectical economics merge with the phaenomenological tendency into a "negative philosophy of religion" which recognizes the entire unirradiated pulp of things and transforms it into a temporally acquiescent cosmos and presents it with child-like desire, so that the miracle may occur.
Admittedly, this has to be understood correctly. The return of the vanished divine Sense to us from the messianically translated sphere doesn't appear as one man's work and vocation. Moreover, it is dubious frivolity to reinterpret the hope for "form", which for some people has become the potion of solace in loneliness and vastness, to a hope for the One, for the man, whose touch will purify the world of sin and who will and once again and now and once and for all time will perform the miracle of pure incarnation overflowing with his blessings.
Rather: The way leads through the abysses and garishnesses of the end of the world. The lackingless of value, but lawfulness of the economic and the entire awoken chaos of urges of the phaenomena has to expose in final clarity and evidentness the total nakedness of the world of things. And it forbids itself to make claims about results.
So much yet remains certain: only then, in this distraught, aroused, and awoken world of the forms are the conditions in place, so that the miracle of "transubstantiation" may occur, that the Celestial of the sanctified water and bread may take form in intrinsic "transcendence," which then surely will be "immanence," own blood of the own body, womb, conception, and fruit at once.
II. The Way
1 The observation forces itself into the god-forsaken and god-seeking sphere between paradise and the Messiah, between answers without questions and the total Negation of all questions posed as heretical or desperate, once it positions itself into this gaping abyss to temporally and fundamentally search it for the structure of the forms, which present the questionable and the unsettled, the Un-Ending in the negative sense - as laid out by Hegel already.
Admittedly, the ascent remains simple and obvious. Only in the more differentiated sphere of the spiritual does the dangerous witch's cauldron release the entire brew of its creations and grimaces. And the man of myth, still with his mind in the land of dreams, barely weaned from Paradise, begins his examination with the most naive Object: with nature, with the outside, because the full unfolding of all possibilities may only be brought about by the Ego confronting the Subject and the Object. The animal and the corpse, the plant and the stream, the sun and the lightning, all this that transcends a purely animalistic function, yet claims meaning in its immediate reality, becomes a mystical carrier (or more fittingly: intermediate-carrier) of the last forces. Here, we find the daemonic in its primal place. It becomes the explanation per se, the interpretation of that which appears to be in need of interpretation to the anxious soul. The compulsion to find one's way in the eeriness and mysteriousness of life and death creates in this way both the "Daimon" as the true "Allocator" in the original Greek sense of the word.
If one takes up the conceptual analysis, it concedes the impossibility of a contentual apprehension.
That it is negligible and impossible reveals the Sense of all the previously made observations. Yet three constitutive form-determinations prove themselves as continually valid:
A The concrete Imbuement. Nature defies dissolution into systematically forged chains of causality; it drives towards an enchantment of the laws of cause and effect and becomes soonest accessible through the analoga of the human experience. In a sort of "magic-causality" - as Wilhelm Wundt once called this primitive demonology - it relates the "Subject" and the "Object" from the perspective of the Subject.
B This is connected to a Value-Emphasis. Because the transference of the manlike to the natural primarily transfers the features of Good and Evil. This becomes understandable when we remember that a vital desire to see nature interpreted in its meaning for man, that is in the affects of its powers. So death and hail had to be evil daemons, birth and the harvest sun - good daemons.
C It should also be added, for the sake of completeness, the moment in which the phaenomenon reveals its own secret, but which has been exhibited enough already: the daemonic is no finality. Indeed, in the primitive stage this is not enlightening. But the possibility that there may be good and bad daemons, reveals the peculiarity of the sequence of stages: namely that no step is allowed absolutization to become a "concept". The daemonic means traversing stages. It is not the devil, it is not God, it is also not the demiurge acting far from and above all value judgments, it is an expression of the dynamic, cursed to traverse the antinomies of values in a determined order.
2 This becomes more clear in the second stage, whose place should be determined with a reference to Homerian Hellenism. Here it is no longer solely the Natural demanding interpretation for the most primitive needs, that - which according to the ostensive words of Jaspers - tells its history. The gaze has turned towards the internal and in a - alienated from the last Sense and therefore anthropomorphically featured - religious experience discovered in the forces of one's own pneuma, the theotechny and projected it into an Olympus, whose geographical and transcendental coalescing truly is far removed from the evidence of the Sinaitic revelation. But the "principle," the ultimately valid principle, has been erected here in the form of Jupiter Maximus. That now which doesn't submit to this "principle" (and according to its Genesis this must have been a not insignificant multitude), that which escapes the Absolute but does not also proclaim itself as a distinct spiritual substrate, all this of the intermediate world, this "air-space beneath the moon" as Xenocrates and Philo consonantly phrase, this residual enigma becomes the domain of the daemonic. He who remarks that in this case something which is intangible has been simply given a name raises a senseless objection: it is the compulsion of man, who lives in the half-emptied and half-languorous world, already divided between engrossing "Subject" and defying "Object," to continuously interpret and to grasp at at least the No-Longer-Tangible by robing it in the coy garment of a word, barely an apprehension.
3 But now it drives further away, above the primitive stage. The air grows thinner and the veils fall from the images of the old gods existing only as gaping masks to the ground, having become hollow. The primitive-metaphysical worldview departs and vacates the forum for the "Enlightenment" for a firmament removed of stars. The magic-causality of the daemonic is robbed of its vesture, its vividness wanes and it dovetails into the immensely vast field of vision of theoretical observation as a "problem", per se. This indissolubility of the being things is according to this attitude no danger anymore, because it operates with the term of the unending purpose and the unending solution of the theoretically possible and invariably advancing analysis and explanation of the not yet realized. Here we find ourselves in this frightening wasteland of the emptied Self and the world having been rid of form. The rhythm of the way reveals itself in the Hegelian dialectic: the Thesis of the fulfilled world arched over by Sense of the gods and daemons faces a de-deified world and, in addition to that, a world that is barren in its relationship to the Ego. Certainly: it triumphs in its justification. Because it bursts the scope of a naive Totality, overcomes the mythos, thus it becomes in its forms a rigid formality of a cult alienated from reality. Admittedly: the world becomes disenchanted, the clarity of the daemon's grimace becomes an abstraction of the question. But the continuity of the daemonic is retained in its "negative" reception as dubiousness per se. And not-being-able of giving the Answer - and in this rests the peculiarity of this stage - becomes a not-yet-being-able and so arrives at the consolation of anon-once-finding.
4 Here ends the temporal process. The subsumption of further types from the end for their necessary classification remains.
Language is dragged into the empty space and succeeds in the possibility of escaping the dark clasp of unknown aimlessnesses only through the form of the paradoxon. By hurling deliberate lies at the asserted truth, by mockingly showing an indispensable "Un-Real" to that which is claimed as real, it achieves the further unfolding of the process. However, he who sinks and sinks into the void space and doesn't feel the substance of the plane towards which everything hurtles in slow and yet unfathomably fast speed will not realize, that the search for wonderments, the inclination towards the eerie, is the sure sign for the dynamic of the course. Here the feeling expresses itself that the accessible nexus of the totality in some kind of abstraction, either believed to be achieved already or at least achievable in principle, may not withstand the "fullness of countenances." Shaftesbury once said there was no greater pleasure for man than the love "of hearing to and relating things strange and incredible". But in the end this "pleasure" reveals itself as stemming from righteousness, which is not satisfied by "harmonic" interpretations and "systematic" integrations of the whole and from the constant experiences of shrill disharmonies, which ridicule each mutilation committed by "systems." And thus blends itself into the objectified, abstract observation, which has been relinquished of the subject, the "personal experience," seemingly irrelevant to this observation. (Here is the ideological place, certainly the grave of theosophy.) The so-called Subject learns to know the necessity of the internal relationship to the so-called Object. Then the differentiation brought about the tearing apart of the coherence and the befalling of the unexplained demands at least the honest admission that the coherence is torn and thus opens the gap, the abyss for the wreaking of the daemon.
Certainly, the strongest impulse towards this honesty comes from the spiritual. Here initially wrests forth from a trembling heart a once restrained scream - I am thinking of a painting by Edward Munch that the deep psychological secret of the agony of modernity may unveil itself insightfully through a "Scream" - and gives the feeling of the Void Sound, which brought with itself the abstraction of formal imperatives. "Biological and sociological life has a profound tendency to remain within its own immanence; men want only to live, structures want to remain intact; and because of the remoteness the absence, of an effective God, the indolent self-complacency of this quietly decaying life would be the only power in the world if men did not sometimes fall prey to the power of the daemon and overreach themselves in ways that have no reason and cannot be explained by reason, challenging all the psychological or sociological foundations of their existence." And with truly enlightening words Lukacs continues: "Then, suddenly, the God-forsakenness of the world reveals itself as a lack of substance, as an irrational mixture of density and permeability. What previously seemed to be very solid crumbles like dry clay at the first contact with a man possessed by a daemon, and the empty transparence behind which attractive landscapes were previously to be seen is suddenly transformed into a glass wall against which men beat in vain, like bees against a window, incapable of breaking through, incapable of understanding that the way is barred."
So doctrine and life depart their seats and find themselves halfways in the twilight of baroque unrest. The calm of the immeasurably expanding vastness of forms of abstract laws is being abandoned. To the theoretician, it appears as untrue and furthermore aesthetically boring and yawning, to the ethicist it appears as evil and indecent because he views it as void. Thus one searches for the daemonic, while the other demands it as the driver, as the principally unprincipled, as the eerie and the breath down one's neck. Certainly, this demonology remains remote from the miracle. It resides in the bosom of God who releases it as a greeting and sending of His absolute power, as something without relation and to be only accepted. But the unclear breach of the daemonic tendencies is in an unclean union with man and reveals itself to belong to the sphere of the stadia, which mediates and expresses the divine-satanic antinomy through its transition through man. But even here the stage maintains its well-deserved right. It reveals a bravery, which is no longer content with continual explanation through the abstract law and which at the same time appreciates the impossibility of an explanation of its essence and its origin of the inexplicable and is not appeased by the weakness and unscrupulousness of the yet-once-to-be-explainable and the yet-once-to-be-progressable. This attitude, according to Georg Lukacs' elaborations, becomes most manifest in irony: "The writer's irony is a negative mysticism to be found in times without a god. It is an attitude of docta ignorantia towards meaning, a portrayal of the kindly and malicious workings of the daemons, a refusal to comprehend more than the mere fact of these workings; and in it there is the deep certainty, expressible only by form-giving, that through not-desiring-to-know and not-being-able-to-know he has truly encountered, glimpsed and grasped the ultimate, true substance, the present, non-existent God. This is why irony is the objectivity of the novel."
Certainly, among the mystic in divine times or among the lonesome blessed man who without a mediator in "democratic" consecration comes before his God the daemonic has no rightful place. It is only the devil's temptation, to desecrate the unenigmaticness of the realm relieved of division and to destructively give away the "unio mystica." The Ahasveric, the ever-homeless, is not able to break into this static world, in which according to immutable dictum everything takes its set place, past the antinomy of "Ego" and "Id" calling for dynamics. But here the Ahasveric may reveal as graspable ungraspability of abstraction, this static world's voidness and place the formal, subject-divested interpretation's vanity and contentment vis-a-vis du rien, to hurl it back into the antinomies of reality.
But thus far we neglected the discussion of our three determinations of the form. The proof of the intermezzo-esque, frail character undoubtedly comes to light: because the vividness, the constantly contentually comprehensible "experience" tears apart abstraction, unconcerned with its lofty aspiration, soon: certainty to be in secure possession of everything. And the valueful, which clearly shows itself in the ethical realm, can be found just as much in the hellish eeriness of the theoretical attitude.
The question as pure question was the product of the third stage. By turning its meaning against the wellspring the product left its mother at once and wandered aimlessly in "unreal" form. But it matures and celebrates its festival of completion in the Wise. Here the way of the "natural" daemon has reached its destination. From there on it proceeds into the heights and depths of the spiritual multiplicity. But now - preliminarily, of course - everything clears itself up, in order to let the, by its essence, Unclarified most plastically stand out.
5 It's Goethe, who is meant to exemplarily enlighten the entire sphere. He escapes the Unrealness encountered previously. The daemonic is no longer sought out, all rites and incantations from the crudest uses of cultural customs to the ingenious deceptions of theosophical pseudoscience may not conjure it up.
"Nature, mysterious in day's clear light, lets none remove her veil, and what she won't discover to your understanding you can't extort from her with levers and with screws."
But certainly: it reveals itself just soon enough to the observing gaze. Because Faust, who awakens to self-reflection, having become surfeited with abstraction experiences the indissolubility of the world through conceptual systems, experiences the defiance of the "Id" birthing itself as the "Ego," which resists all attempts to shove it into coherences and displays its tauntingly grinning visage to all harmony and order. Because at last there always remains as uncovered excess a Duo-Semic and Even-more-Poly-Semic, which rejects any principled classification. It is the Goethian phenomenon of the "situation," namely the relations of the given naturalness to man, in which this mysteriousness manifests: every success and every effect, so far as it concerns the spiritual as well, is mysterious and "daemonic." However the empty form "daemonic" would be pale and without meaning on its own. It only gains its meaning by transitioning through the bipolarity of good and evil. The daemonic, to cite the famous words, "was not divine, because it seemed unreasonable, not manlike, because it had no reason; not devilish, because it was beneficent; not English, because it often displayed Schadenfreude. It resembled coincidence, because it displayed no consequence; it resembled providence, because it pointed towards coherence. All which confines us seemed to be penetrable by it; it seemed to arbitrarily reign freely over the necessary elements of our existence; it contracted time and expanded space. Only in the impossible it seemed to enjoy itself and to shove away the possible with disdain." It is exactly this, which appears to the observer as Stop! to the Explainable Posing-Itself, as that which toppels all Sense again. Certainly: it is not a constitutive category of the world-construction, which for the God who "stirred from the outside", dissolved itself through a Sense-Synthesis transcending our gaze, which overlooks the cosmos in all-encompassing totality; but it is that which ever always fractures at the demanded as a constituent and which has to retreat itself into the darkness of inadequacy.
6 The process proceeds with necessity: the wise man points towards his own transcendence. Because he recognizes the contemplative tranquility of being all-observing, being all-understanding, being all-validly-interpreting, despite all their theoretical superiority, as ultimately inferior to the man acting meaningfully, who might not know everything or might not even know anything, but who places everything under the domain of his demands and his actions.
Thus the way leads evermore inward bound and ultimately disembogues into the center of the soul.
Here one - only reluctantly - concedes some room to the field of psychology, which intromits the daemonic into the area beyond good and evil and which depicts the man, in whom the daemon wreaks and wreaks and moulds, quite neutrally as one type among others in very defined idiosyncrasy. The man in whom thus that ever-wandering and entraining daemon usurped the throne is so far removed from the levity and ungraspability of a chaotic babel which simply lacks anything that it could be grasped with, so far removed from things such as the abstract-esque, soon void, having become a fanatical and aimless lifeform of the consequent stubborn-headed man. For the daemonic man every situation in its Being-as-it-is becomes questionable and in need of an answer, whilst he himself, through the problematic nature and idiosyncrasy of the given answer, through which in turn that stadia-esque that escapes the Antinomy-Voided of the chaotic man so well, just like the Antinomy-Ravished escapes the consequent, becomes a "daemonic" manifestation in the eyes of the psychological gaze. Because here his own law of life is revealed, gently and consolatorily, even to the most impartial man: as the man through a dark urge hidden to him manifests the consciousnesses of the right way in the products of his actions. This bringing to life, this precipitous lighting up of a nearly forgotten, but effective force, which blazes in one's own Ego, appears fascinating, all categories of good and evil, of sensible and insensible die out in their validness as torches and guideposts of the way having become too faint, and the soldiers follow Caesar like the children follow the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
But suddenly resounds in this ado that has been relieved of all valuefulness, in this witch's cauldron of those restlessly and unceasingly driving towards infinities the voice: of the alerter, of the caller for new values, since the daemonic man will never be able to reach consummation. That which drove the actions now becomes the action, that which originally promised to surmount the realm, having become void of substance, of the consequent man of the "enlightened" stage, now loses form and substance itself and becomes merely the obstreperous call for substance. Should this be the end?
No: for the dialectic rhythmics, which has shown the daemonic - having been robbed of its home in the realm of abstractions - its place to once again, expels it once more from its gained home. For the returning-again value peremptorily banishes it to the land of evil, because the ethical life has to place all unfreedom in its ward under imperial ban and excommunication.
In the border province the form of Socrates becomes visible - through whom the "Daimonion" is relieved of its activity, its immediate ability to intervene, and is thus merely allowed to raise its finger as alerter of the bad and thus as door-opener to the abode of this noble place.
7 Now the end is in sight: for the claim that good as springing from the idea of freedom expels the daemonic does not apply, benefitting previously flagellated formal imperatives. Instead the ethical life of this last and ultimate stage sojourns in the once again blessed realm and gains strength and pathos from experienced "transcendence." He who interprets towards something here, sins already or twaddles. And only in a short while may the forms be delineated.
According to Kierkegaard the danger of sin for man is his proclivity towards anxiety.
But the least ethical and most devilish is the anxiety about the good. This flight away from the divine contents into the void space of the Ego is the daemonic. "The only thing that is truly able to disarm the sophistry of sin is faith." The Not-Being-Able-to-Believe, the anxiety about salvation wants to create a foothold for itself through the daemonic, by raping and distorting this Not-Being-Able-to-Believe into a Not-Wanting-to-Believe. Similarly in his book The Spirit of Utopia, Ernst Bloch flagellates the daemonic as the unethical, as that which is in need of supersession and expulsion: "What holds us in its inept and then vengeful hand: blocking, tormenting, deluding us, the spider, the kill or be killed, the poisonous scorpion, the angel of death, the demon of chance, of disaster, of death, the homelessness of everything meaningful, the dense, banal, almost impassable mountain range separating us from all Providence, the wizard of a "pious" panlogism - all that can not be the same principle that will one day pronounce judgment, and then claim always to have been watching over us by inscrutable, suprarational means, and, in spite of the "Fall" caused by our overweening pride, to have kept us close to its heart." Precisely this is being rejected: the claim of the daemonic to be a principle and to be able to keep us safe and give us a home in a "suprarational" manner. For the pathos transcendently beholden and through all eternities, through all heavens and hells, through the imminently known ethical life rejects everything heteronomous of ambiguous, illegitimate daemony. "For we are mighty; only the unjust exist through their God, but the just-God exists through them, and into their hands is given the consecration of the Name, the very appointment of God who moves and stirs in us, the presensed gateway, darkest question, exuberant interior that is no factum but a problem, given as a prayer into the hands of our God-summoning philosophy and of truth."
Here at the denouement the gaze advances towards us and into our misery and through us and with blasphemic faithfulness augurs changes and wonders.
8 But at the end stands the downfall of the entire demonology, for the rutilating Messianic light means the principal negation and destruction of all things of the twilight and the useful role of the Daemonic as the restlessly questioning has played its part in one last, all-surrounding Unio mystica, which finds all rest in God the Lord.
End of The Daemonic by Leo Lowenthal