we should look for the nonperverse reading of Christ's sacrifice, of I- his message to Judas: "Prove to me that I am everything to you, so be-u tray me for the sake of the revolutionary mission of both of us!"
Chesterton also correctly linked this dark core of Christianity to ® the opposition between Inside (the immersion in inner Truth) and w Outside (the traumatic encounter with Truth): "The Buddhist is ® looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring ® with a frantic intentness outwards."8 Here he is referring to the well-known difference between the way the Buddha is represented in paintings and statues, with his benevolently peaceful gaze, and the way Christian saints are usually represented, with an intense, almost paranoiac, ecstatically transfixed gaze. This "Buddha's gaze" is often evoked as a possible antidote to the Western aggressive-paranoiac gaze, a gaze which aims at total control, and is always alert, on the lookout for some lurking threat: in the Buddha, we find a benevolently withdrawn gaze which simply lets things be, abandoning the urge to control them. However, although the message of Buddhism is one of inner peace, an odd detail in the act of consecration of the Buddha's statues throws a strange light on this peace.This act of consecration consists of painting the eyes of the Buddha.While painting these eyes, the artist cannot look the statue in the face, but works with his back to it, painting sideways or over his shoulder using a mirror, which catches the gaze of the image he is bringing to life. Once he has finished his work, he now has a dangerous gaze himself, and is led away blindfolded. The blindfold is removed only after his eyes can fall on something that he then symbolically destroys. As Gombrich dryly points out, "The spirit of this ceremony cannot be reconciled with Buddhist doctrine, so no one tries to do so." But isn't the key precisely this bizarre heterogeneity? The fact that for the temperate and pacifying reality of the Buddhist universe to function, the horrifying, malevolent gaze has to be symbolically excluded. The evil eye has to be tamed.9
Is not this ritual an "empirical" proof that the Buddhist experience of the peace of nirvana is not the ultimate fact, that something has to be excluded in order for us to attain this peace, namely, the Other's gaze?10 Another indication that the "Lacanian" evil gaze posing a threat to the subject is not just an ideological hypostasis of the Western attitude of control and domination, but something that is operative also in Eastern cultures.This excluded dimension is ultimately that of the act. What, then, is an act, grounded in the abyss of a free decision? Recall C. S. Lewis's description of his religious choice from Surprised by Joy—what makes it so irresistibly delicious is the author's matter-of-fact "English" skeptical style, far removed from the usual pathetic narratives of mystical rapture. C. S. Lewis's description of the act thus deftly avoids any ecstatic pathos in the usual style of Saint Teresa, any multiple-orgasmic penetrations by angels or God: it is not that, in the divine mystical experience, we step out (in ex-stasis) of our normal experience of reality: it is this "normal" experience which is "ex-static" (Heidegger), in which we are thrown outside into entities, and the mystical experience signals the withdrawal from this ecstasy. Thus Lewis refers to the experience as the "odd thing"; he mentions its ordinary location: "I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus." He qualifies it: "in a sense," "what now appears," "or, if you like," "you could argue that . . . but I am more inclined to think . . . ," "perhaps," "I rather disliked the feeling":
The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. In a sense. I was going up Headington Hill on the top of a bus. Without words and (I think) almost without images, a fact about myself was somehow presented to me. I became aware that I was holding something at bay, or shutting something out. Or, if you like, that I was wearing some stiff clothing, like corsets, or even a suit of armour, as if I were a lobster. I felt myself being, there and then, given a free choice. I could open the door or keep it shut; I could unbuckle the armour or keep it on. Neither choice was presented as a duty; no threat or promise was attached to either, though I knew that to open the door or to take off the corset meant the incalculable. The choice appeared to be momentous but it was also strangely unemotional. I was moved by no desires or fears. In a sense I was not moved by anything. I chose to open, to unbuckle, to loosen the rein. I say, "I chose,"
£ yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite. On the other
< hand, I was aware of no motives.You could argue that I was not a free
J agent, but I am more inclined to think this came nearer to being a perfectly free act than most that I have ever done. Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom, and perhaps a man is most free when, instead of producing motives, he could only say, "I am what I do." Then came the repercussion on the imaginative level. I felt as if I were a man of snow at long last beginning to melt.The melting was starting in my back—drip-drip and presently trickle-trickle. I rather disliked the feeling.11
In a way, everything is here: the decision is purely formal, ultimately a decision to decide, without a clear awareness of what the subject is deciding about; it is a nonpsychological act, unemotional, with no motives, desires, or fears; it is incalculable, not the outcome of strategic argumentation; it is a totally free act, although he couldn't do otherwise. It is only afterward that this pure act is "subjectivized," translated into a (rather unpleasant) psychological experience. There is only one aspect which is potentially problematic in Lewis's formulation: the act as conceived by Lacan has nothing to do with the mystical suspension of ties which bind us to ordinary reality, with attaining the bliss of radical indifference in which life or death and other worldly distinctions no longer matter, in which subject and object, thought and act, fully coincide. To put it in mystical terms, the Lacanian act is, rather, the exact opposite of this "return to innocence": Original Sin itself, the abyssal disturbance of primeval Peace, the primordial "pathological" Choice of unconditional attachment to some specific object (like falling in love with a specific person who, thereafter, matters to us more than anything else).
In Buddhist terms, the Lacanian act is the exact structural obverse of Enlightenment, of attaining nirvana: the very gesture by means of which the Void is disturbed, and Difference (and, with it, false appearance and suffering) emerges in the world. The act is thus close to the gesture of Bodhisattva who, having reached nirvana, out of compassion—that is, for the sake of the common Good—goes back to phenomenal reality in order to help all other living beings to achieve nirvana. The distance from psychoanalysis resides in the fact that, from the latter's standpoint, Bodhisattva's sacrificial gesture is false: in order to arrive at the act proper, one should erase any reference to the Good, and do the act just for the sake of it. (This reference to Bodhisattva also enables us to answer the "big question": if, now, we have to strive to break out of the vicious cycle of craving into the blissful peace of nirvana, how did nirvana "regress" into getting caught in the wheel of craving in the first place? The only consistent answer is: Bodhisattva repeats this primordial "evil" gesture. The fall into Evil was accomplished by the "original Bodhisattva"—in short, the ultimate source of Evil is compassion itself.)
Bodhisattva's compassion is strictly correlative to the notion that the "pleasure principle" regulates our activity when we are caught in the wheel of Illusion—that is to say, that we all strive toward the Good, and the ultimate problem is epistemological (we misperceive the true nature of the Good)—to quote the Dalai Lama himself, the beginning of wisdom is "to realize that all living beings are equal in not wanting unhappiness and suffering and equal in the right to rid themselves of suffering."12 The Freudian drive, however, designates precisely the paradox of "wanting unhappiness," of finding excessive pleasure in suffering itself—the title of a Paul Watzlawik book (The Pursuit of Unhappiness) expresses this fundamental self-blockade of human behavior perfectly. The Buddhist ethical horizon is therefore still that of the Good—that is to say, Buddhism is a kind of negative of the ethics of the Good: aware that every positive Good is a lure, it fully assumes the Void as the only true Good. What it cannot do is to pass "beyond nothing," into what Hegel called "tarrying with the negative": to return to a phenomenal reality which is "beyond nothing," to a Something which gives body to the Nothing. The Buddhist endeavor to get rid of the illusion (of craving, of phenomenal reality) is, in effect, the endeavor to get rid of the Real of/in this illusion, the kernel of the Real that accounts for our "stubborn attachment" to the illusion.
The political implications of this stance are crucial. Recall the widespread notion that aggressive Islamic (or Jewish) monotheism
I-(A U a is at the root of our predicament—is the relationship between poly-l- theism and monotheism, however, really that of the multitude and u its oppressive "totalization" by the ("phallic") exclusionary One?
What if, on the contrary, it is polytheism which presupposes the ® commonly shared (back)ground of the multitude of gods, while it w is only monotheism which renders thematic the gap as such, the gap ® in the Absolute itself, the gap which not only separates (the one) God ® from Himself, but is this God? This difference is "pure" difference: not the difference between positive entities, but difference "as such." Thus monotheism is the only logical theology of the Two: in contrast to the multitude which can display itself only against the background of the One, its neutral ground, like the multitude of figures against the same background (which is why Spinoza, the philosopher of the multitude, is, quite logically, also the ultimate monist, the philosopher of the One), radical difference is the difference of the One with regard to itself, the noncoincidence of the One with itself, with its own place. This is why Christianity, precisely because of the Trinity, is the only true monotheism: the lesson of the Trinity is that God fully coincides with the gap between God and man, that God is this gap—this is Christ, not the God of beyond separated from man by a gap, but the gap as such, the gap which simultaneously separates God from God and man from man. This fact also allows us to pinpoint what is false about Levinasian-Derridean Otherness: it is the very opposite of this gap in the One, of the inherent redoubling of the One—the assertion of Otherness leads to the boring, monotonous sameness of Otherness itself.
In an old Slovene joke, a young schoolboy has to write a short composition entitled "There is only one mother!," in which he is expected to illustrate, apropos of a specific experience, the love which links him to his mother; this is what he writes: "One day I came home from school earlier than usual, because the teacher was ill; I looked for my mother, and found her naked in bed with a man who was not my father. My mother shouted at me angrily: 'What are you staring at like an idiot? Why don't you run to the fridge and get us two cold beers!' I ran to the kitchen, opened the fridge, looked in side, and shouted back to the bedroom: 'There's only one, Mother!'" Is this not a supreme case of interpretation which simply adds one diacritical sign that changes everything, as in the well-known parody of the first words of Moby-Dick:"Call me, Ishmael!" We can discern the same operation in Heidegger (the way he reads "Nothing is without reason [nihil est sine ratione]," by shifting the accent to "Nothingness] is without reason"), or in the superego displacement of the prohibitive injunction of the symbolic law (from "Don't kill!" to "Don't!" . . . "Kill!"). Here, however, we should risk a more detailed interpretation.The joke stages a Hamlet-like confrontation of the son with the enigma of the mother's excessive desire; in order to escape this deadlock, the mother, as it were, takes refuge in [the desire for] an external partial object, the beer, destined to divert the son's attention from the obscene Thing of her being caught naked in bed with a man—the message of this demand is: "You see, even if I am in bed with a man, my desire is for something else that you can bring me, I am not excluding you by getting completely caught in the circle of passion with this man!"The two beers (also) stand for the elementary signifying dyad, like Lacan's famous two restroom doors observed by two children from the train window in his "Instance of the letter in the unconscious"; from this perspective, the child's repartee is to be read as teaching the mother the elementary Lacanian lesson: "Sorry, Mother, but there is only one signifier, for the man only, there is no binary signifier (for the woman), this signifier is ur-verdr'dngt, primordially repressed!" In short: you are caught naked, you are not covered by the signifier. . . .And what if this is the fundamental message of monotheism—not the reduction of the Other to the One, but, on the contrary, the acceptance of the fact that the binary signifier is always-already missing? This imbalance between the One and its "primordially repressed" counterpart is the radical difference, in contrast to the big cosmological couples (yin and yang, etc.) which can emerge only within the horizon of the undifferentiated One (tao, etc.). And are not even attempts to introduce a balanced duality into the minor spheres of consumption, like the couple of small blue and red bags of artificial sweetener available in cafés everywhere,
£ yet further desperate attempts to provide a symmetrical signifying ^ couple for the sexual difference (blue "masculine" bags versus red 0 "feminine" bags)? The point is not that sexual difference is the ultimate signified of all such couples, but that the proliferation of such couples, rather, displays an attempt to supplement the lack of the founding binary signifying couple that would stand directly for sexual difference.
Furthermore, is not so-called exclusionary monotheist violence secretly polytheist? Does not the fanatical hatred of believers in a different god bear witness to the fact that the monotheist secretly thinks that he is not simply fighting false believers, but that his struggle is a struggle between different gods, the struggle of his god against "false gods" who exist as gods? Such a monotheism is effectively exclusive: it has to exclude other gods. For that reason, true monotheists are tolerant: for them, others are not objects of hatred, but simply people who, although they are not enlightened by the true belief, should nonetheless be respected, since they are not inherently evil.
The target on which we should focus, therefore, is the very ideology which is then proposed as a potential solution—for example, Oriental spirituality (Buddhism), with its more "gentle," balanced, holistic, ecological approach (all the stories about how Tibetan Buddhists, for instance, when they dig the foundations of a house, are careful not to kill any worms). It is not only that Western Buddhism, this pop-cultural phenomenon preaching inner distance and indifference toward the frantic pace of market competition, is arguably the most efficient way for us fully to participate in capitalist dynamics while retaining the appearance of mental sanity—in short, the paradigmatic ideology of late capitalism. One should add that it is no longer possible to oppose this Western Buddhism to its "authentic" Oriental version; the case of Japan provides the conclusive evidence. Not only do we have today, among top Japanese managers, a widespread "corporate Zen" phenomenon; for the whole of the last 150 years, Japan's rapid industrialization and militarization, with its ethics of discipline and sacrifice, have been sustained by the large majority of Zen thinkers—who, today, knows that D. T. Suzuki himself, the high guru of Zen in the America of the 1960s, supported in his youth, in 1930s Japan, the spirit of utter discipline and militaristic expansion?13There is no contradiction here, no manipulative perversion of the authentic compassionate insight: the attitude of total immersion in the selfless "now" of instant Enlightenment, in which all reflexive distance is lost, and "I am what I do," as C. S. Lewis put it—in short: in which absolute discipline coincides with total spon-taneity—perfectly legitimizes subordination to the militaristic social machine. Here we can see how wrong Aldous Huxley was when, in The Grey Eminence, he blamed the Christian focus on Christ's suffering for its destructive social misuse (the Crusades, etc.), and opposed it to benevolent Buddhist disengagement.
The crucial feature here is how militaristic Zen justifies killing in two ultimately inconsistent ways. First, there is the standard teleo-logical narrative that is also acceptable to Western religions: "Even though the Buddha forbade the taking of life, he also taught that until all sentient beings are united together through the exercise of infinite compassion, there will never be peace.Therefore, as a means of bringing into harmony those things which are incompatible, killing and war are necessary."14 It is thus the very force of compassion which wields the sword: a true warrior kills out of love, like parents who hit their children out of love, to educate them and make them happy in the long term. This brings us to the notion of a "compassionate war" which gives life to both oneself and one's enemy—in it, the sword that kills is the sword that gives life. (This is how the Japanese Army perceived and justified its ruthless plundering of Korea and China in the 1930s.)
Of course, all things are ultimately nothing, a substanceless Void; however, one should not confuse this transcendent world of formlessness (mukei) with the temporal world of form (yukei), thus failing to recognize the underlying unity of the two. That was socialism's mistake: socialism wanted to realize the underlying unity directly in temporal reality ("evil equality"), thus causing social destruction.This solution may sound similar to Hegel's critique
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