January 18th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

Slavoj Zizek: Heresy, Western Buddhism and the Fetish

“To be strange is to be foreign, alien - a stranger is a person whose home is elsewhere. ...But I cannot explain the mystery."
      - V. S. Naipaul

What always fascinates me about Slavoj Zizek is that he is always digging deeper and deeper into that darkness beyond the human, seeking if not answers then disturbing the darkness that is looking for traces of its excess.  In his little book On Belief there is an essay Gnosticism? No Thanks!  he offers a window onto heresies of all types, political or religious, and how they are actually outgrowths of orthodoxy itself: these "strange" beliefs which seemed so shocking to the orthodoxy were precisely those that had the appearance of stemming logically from orthodox contemporary doctrines. That is why they were considered so dangerous". * What is important here is that any orthodoxy, religious or political, has to confound or compromise its founding radical doctrines, its essential message; and, heretics are only those who reject this compromise by reinstituting the inherent intent of its original message. 

He tells us that an understanding of Heidegger's concept of Geworfenheit, of "being-thrown" into a concrete historical situation can help us understand heresy. He tells us that Geworfenheit is antithetical to both humanism and gnosticism: in the "humanist vision, a human being belongs to this earth: he should be fully at home on its surface, able to realize his potential through the active, productive exhange with it; for the gnostic, on the other hand, "the human Self is not created, it is a preexisting Soul (spark) thrown into a foreign inhospitable environment." What both traditions share is the idea of a home for humans: for humanism it is this natural earth, for the gnostic it is that far country of the preexisting earth beyond this universe. Heidegger instead offers another vision. Zizek asks "What if we effectively are "thrown" into this world, never fully at home in it, always dislocated, "out of joint," and what if this dislocation is our constitutive, primordial condition, the very horizon of our being? What if there is no previous "home" out of which we were thrown into this world, what if this very dislocation grounds man's ex-static opening to this world?"

Zizek emphasizes his own materialist reading of Heidegger saying there is no Sein (being) without Dasein (being-there) does not mean that if Dasein were to vanish without a trace that no things would remain, entities would still exists, yet "they would no be disclosed within the horizon of meaning - there would have been no world." Zizek's reading of Dasein is that it "is the ex-static relating to the entities within the horizon of meaning, which is in advance "thrown" into the world, in the midst of disclosed entities."  

Collapse )