Interstices of the Sublime – Conclusion

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This was a profound work that put psychoanalysis and theology in conversation like never before. It impressed upon me the difficulties of honest theological thinking once the troubling insights of psychoanalysis are acknowledged. It began with the deconstruction of sublimation. We must recognize that the spiritual is always already material. Sublimation is creation. The sublime is the “embodied source of sublimation” (184). We must attend to the remainder that creation leaves behind. Theological thinking must be creative and honest. “To remain in the realm of sublimation and lose the connection with the sublime is to take cover in an idealism that forgets the insistence of the Real” (185). The sublime cannot be neatly represented just as religion eludes the grasp of clear philosophical representation.

Psychoanalysis aids theology be lending concepts that enrich and trouble theological thinking. “The Thing, the Other, the Real – these are theological concepts because in psychoanalytic theory they implicate what we understand by divinity, even though they are not simply equivalent to God” (186).

This book both challenges and provides opportunities to think theology differently. Radical theological thinking is above all ethical. It cannot ignore the insights that psychoanalysis offers theological conceptualization. It must attend to the complications that continental philosophy and psychoanalysis pose to thinking theology in our day and age. Theology can continue to be conservative and orthodox, but as Crockett reminded us at the beginning the problem with orthodoxy “is that it is always Right” (8). Radical theology is ethical because it takes a leap of faith not knowing where it will end up. Similarly, Deleuze criticized Kierkegaard’s leap of faith because ultimately it “realize(s) Kantianism by entrusting to faith the task of overcoming the speculative death of God and healing the wound in the self” (Difference and Repetition, 95). Radical theology must repeat in the Deleuzian sense of bringing about the different, the noteworthy, and the worthwhile. Otherwise, we run the risk of not risking anything at all.

I’ll let Crockett have the final word. “God is dead, even if belief in God is back, which means that everything is questionable. Radical theology is free to ask questions, unanchored by grounding in a substantial God. Even substance is not substantial. Questions swirl, spiral, and intertwine. Sublimation means making meaning. The sublime both gives meaning to language and resists meaning. The sublime is the source of sublimation. Dark forces are at work. Illumination is partial, at best” (187).

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2 Responses to “Interstices of the Sublime – Conclusion”

  1. clayton crockett Says:

    Thanks so much for doing this Jeremy. It was very interesting and helpful for me to read over and to think through what I was doing with the book, which is somewhat experimental. Theologically, my work has become more explicitly political, and my book Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics After Liberalism is in press with Columbia, although it might not be out until early next year.

    Philosophically, I have engaged with the ideas of Catherine Malabou, especially her notion of plasticity, which is I think is a very striking and important idea. In addition to her book on neuroplasticity, What Should We Do with Our Brain? and Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction, for which I wrote a Foreward, she has also written a book that has not yet been translated dealing with Freud, Les nouveau blesses [The New Wounds or Newly Wounded], which is in part a critique of Freud and Lacan from the viewpoint of contemporary neurology, but it’s not the simplistic dismissal of a caricature that you often see with American psychologists and cognitive scientists.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Looking forward to your new book on political theology.

    I actually just read Malabou’s Plasticity last night, and it was fascinating to say the least. I really appreciated her critique of transcendence, and the way in which she put Hegel, Heidegger, and Derrida into conversation.

    I’m hoping to read her book on the brain sometime next week. This along with her book on Freud ant trauma make me curious to actually learn more about neuroanalysis. It’s surprisingly a burgeoning field that is both confirming and disproving some of Freud’s insights. Even Nobel prize winner Kandel argued that based on current research psychoanalysis still offers the best and most comprehensive view of the mind.

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