cc One commonplace about philosophers today is that their very
¡5 analysis of the hypocrisy of the dominant system betrays their naivety: why are they still shocked to see people inconsistently violate their professed values when it suits their interests? Do they really expect people to be consistent and principled? Here one should defend authentic philosophers: what surprises them is the exact opposite—not that people do not "really believe," and act upon their professed principles, but that people who profess their cynical distance and radical pragmatic opportunism secretly believe much more than they are willing to admit, even if they transpose these beliefs onto (nonexistent) "others."
Within this framework of suspended belief, three so-called "postsecular" options are permitted: one is allowed either to praise the wealth of polytheistic premodern religions oppressed by the Judeo-Christian patriarchal legacy; or to stick to the uniqueness of the Jewish legacy, to its fidelity to the encounter with radical Otherness, in contrast to Christianity. Here, I would like to make myself absolutely clear: I do not think that the present vague spiritualism, the focus on the openness to Otherness and its unconditional Call, this mode in which Judaism has become almost the hegemonic ethico-spiritual attitude of today's intellectuals, is in itself the "natural" form of what one can designate, in traditional terms, as Jewish spirituality. I am almost tempted to claim that we are dealing here with something that is homologous to the Gnostic heresy of Christianity, and that the ultimate victim of this Pyrrhic "victory" of Judaism will be the most precious elements of Jewish spirituality itself, with their focus on a unique collective experience. Who today remembers the kibbutz, the greatest proof that Jews are not "by nature" financial middlemen?
In addition to these two options, the only Christian references permitted are the Gnostic or mystical traditions that had to be excluded and repressed in order for the hegemonic figure of Christianity to install itself. Christ himself is OK if we try to isolate the
"original" Christ, "the Rabbi Jesus" not yet inscribed into the Christian tradition proper—Agnes Heller speaks ironically of the "resurrection of the Jewish Jesus": our task today is to resurrect the true Jesus from the mystifying Christian tradition of Jesus (as) Christ.8All this makes a positive reference to Saint Paul a very delicate issue: is he not the very symbol of the establishment of Christian orthodoxy? In the last decade, nonetheless, one small opening has appeared, a kind of exchange offered between the lines: one is allowed to praise Paul, if one reinscribes him back into the Jewish legacy—Paul as a radical Jew, an author of Jewish political theology. . . .
While I agree with this approach, I want to emphasize how, if it is taken seriously, its consequences are much more catastrophic than they may appear. When one reads Saint Paul's epistles, one cannot fail to notice how thoroughly and terribly indifferent he is toward Jesus as a living person (the Jesus who is not yet Christ, the pre-Easter Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels)—Paul more or less totally ignores Jesus' particular acts, teachings, parables, all that Hegel later referred to as the mythical element of the fairytale narrative, of the mere prenotional representation [Vorstellung]; never in his writings does he engage in hermeneutics, in probing into the "deeper meaning" of this or that parable or act of Jesus.What matters to him is not Jesus as a historical figure, only the fact that he died on the Cross and rose from the dead—after confirming Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul goes on to his true Leninist business, that of organizing the new party called the Christian community. Paul as a Leninist: was not Paul, like Lenin, the great "institutionalizer," and, as such, reviled by the partisans of "original" Marxism-Christianity? Does not the Pauline temporality "already, but not yet" also designate Lenin's situation in between the two revolutions, between February and October 1917? Revolution is already behind us, the old regime is out, freedom is here—but the hard work still lies ahead.
In 1956, Lacan proposed a short and clear definition of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit is the entry of the signifier into the world. This is certainly what Freud brought us under the title of death
0 drive."9What Lacan means, at this moment of his thought, is that the ■J- Holy Spirit stands for the symbolic order as that which cancels (or, rather, suspends) the entire domain of "life"—lived experience, the u libidinal flux, the wealth of emotions, or, to put it in Kant's terms, J
■J the "pathological."When we locate ourselves within the Holy Spirit, 0 we are transubstantiated, we enter another life beyond the biological one. And is not this Pauline notion of life grounded in Paul's other
£ distinctive feature? What enabled him to formulate the basic tenets a
■J of Christianity, to elevate Christianity from a Jewish sect into a uni-u versal religion (religion of universality), was the very fact that he was * not part of Christ's "inner circle." One can imagine the inner circle of apostles reminiscing during their dinner conversations: "Do you remember how, at the Last Supper, Jesus asked me to pass the salt?" None of this applies to Paul: he is outside and, as such, symbolically substituting for (taking the place of) Judas himself among the apostles. In a way, Paul also "betrayed" Christ by not caring about his idiosyncrasies, by ruthlessly reducing him to the fundamentals, with no patience for his wisdom, miracles, and similar paraphernalia.
So yes, one should read Paul from within the Jewish tradition— since precisely such a reading brings home the true radicality of his break, the way he undermined the Jewish tradition from within. To use a well-known Kierkegaardian opposition: reading Saint Paul from within the Jewish tradition, as the one located in it, allows us to grasp "Christianity-in-becoming": not yet the established positive dogma, but the violent gesture of positing it, the "vanishing mediator" between Judaism and Christianity, something akin to Benjaminian law-constituting violence. In other words, what is effectively "repressed" with the established Christian doxa is not so much its Jewish roots, its indebtedness to Judaism, but, rather, the break itself, the true location of Christianity's rupture with Judaism. Paul did not simply pass from the Jewish position to another position; he did something with, within, and to the Jewish position it-self—what?
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