By Alexander Blum
The Christian age is the age of the fish. The meaning of this poetical and incoherent statement is that the Christian concept of the “Word” and the “logos” is the fish that resides in the unbroken tides of the unconscious. All human beings are born with animal minds, sculpted by natural selection in the image of nothing, of the “lion who swallows the sun”, of the dense bone and shellacked spine at war with the world, ejected from mother and weeping in the thicket of an enchanted tomb. For this orphaned child, for the philosopher’s stone is always an orphan, the only option is to draw the fish from the sea. The fish is the Word, the capacity to intellectualize God out of matter, to generate spirit from a stone, to withdraw from the tomb of the world the body of the living God.
More and more, the notion that God should ever enter the mind of an orphaned child is itself the highest absurdity. We could understand how an orphaned child, power-mad, seeks to create a father in the sky willing to strike down his foes. Less coherent is the supposition that that child, cast to the wilderness, should believe that God is good, distinct from the world, and that the reign of endless water is not all there is, that the orphan was created, though the distance between the orphan and the creator is as far as could possibly be conceived, nevertheless an obligation to that creator exists, and must be affirmed, even if it ends in crucifixion.
The symbols of Jungian psychology are so silly that they fall apart at the slightest scrutiny, and so obvious that they are impossible to walk away from. The symbol of the serpent swallowing its own tail is the icon of the ring of the world. It is the fate of all matter, the endless gushing of a tide, the species who consumes species, the world in blood and bone. And yet, the circle is also the image of the Mandala, the Saint’s halo, the Virgin Mary with each corner of her spherical abode adorned with eagle, bull, angel and – the missing fourth, the lion, who is also man.
How could the Ouroboros, the serpent in infinite self-consumption, also be the shape of the Mandala, the image of psychic wholeness? The same way that God is both the beginning and the end, the breath which alights the reflection of self-to-self consciousness, self-talk on the face of the waters, and also the finality of death and the collapse of the orphan in the mouth of the serpent at the end of its journey, never having seen God, but knowing He exists nonetheless.
The orphan hunts for fish. The orphan hunts relentlessly in the waters held within the confines of the coiled serpent’s basin for a fish. Christ was related in medieval times to this precise fish, the Word out of burnt nothings, the piece of reality emerging from the ugly recessing tides which reveal the skeletons of his ancestors and no salvation. The Christ was the ring identified that was left by God, the empty snake which created the world. In this hollow husk was the Word, the gift granted to make sense of it all. And yet, is not the Christ we discovered also the source of our own downfall?
To negotiate with the maternal thicket to whom we are orphans, to build upon it huts and rounds of stone, we are in effect building the techne which will smother the poetical Christ out of existence. The “NPC” meme, or the idea that all our words are ultimately summarized as mere categories of a predictable type, are affirmed by every leap in artificial intelligence innovation and every recommended song by an algorithm that actually is “an incredible song”. The logos has been cracked open, studied. We are all objects of phrenology now. Our words are known before they burst from our lips. No thought is authentic, because it has been predicted, and we have already been sold a bill of goods on its basis.
Artistic production is questionable in its value. There are already so many works of art, more than a million lifetimes, and all further art generated in this current era will be either for a subgroup to whom it affirms pre-existing ideas, or to the mass NPC machine which produces an entire season of television every week, and all of them are worth watching, though no one will. I grew up writing fiction, but it is clear now that the ultimate goal of fiction is to be selected by an agent who knows an editor who can sell it to a specific marketing bloc, and that bloc is more well defined and nailed down than ever before. There is no more mystery. We don’t write for ourselves, or for an imagined audience of fancy. We write to be published to market. And as long as we write to be published to market, the entire creative output of our century is little more than a desperate desire for a foothold in an enterprise that we do not understand. Great, enduring literature was never written for the professional class of New York City, nor to be distributed at the helm of a brand built on thought-melting sparks of combat and certainty. It was written because it was needed. Now, the need is limited by the size of the pinhead brain with all the magnifying supply of the corporate world aimed at burning into your soul its million stories.
The desires of the individual have reached a terminal point. The individual which incarnated in the Christian idea, the “fish” loosed from the pond of Grendel’s mother, the water drying up and leaving the fish gasping and throbbing for oxygen, is upon us. The end of the Christian age is upon us, because the end of the individual who wields words to impact the world in unique fashion is also upon us. We enter a new collectivity, the spirit of which expressing itself either in left wing socialism or in right wing religious communitarianism. We seek to return to the waters of the unconscious, having cooked our dried fish. But what waits for us there? Perhaps disaster. Perhaps extinction. Perhaps genetic self-transformation and Eugenic-Chipotle as the name of our children. We do not know. Certainly, it is not utopia.
But the Christian affords some freedom. The world is distinct from God. The hell and the mania of the world is the distance of God to man, and it is a carnival of slurping tongues wrapped in barbed wire. The Christian story of a God who is outside of the world and yet loves the world allows this paper-moon world to become something of a comedy, an ironic thing, a joke and an occasion for play. The distance between this recognition and nihilism is only the strength of our obedience, of course, and our ability to control ourselves. Freedom, as a goal, was a dead end. Transforming the world into the body of Christ is a utopian mad endeavor, despite how hard individuals such as Peter Thiel believe it possible. The fate of the world is not the fate of God. In that recognition, we can derive our infinite hope.
But is it possible, anymore, to be Christian? This is an honest question. I do not know how it will be answered in my lifetime, at all. It seems to me that to be Christian is to be Catholic, and to be Catholic is to be pulled in half by the dangling allure of evolutionary theology and the hard cobblerock of tradition, the same circumstance as the pagan. The cultures of the ‘red pill’ and the turn to reactionary thought are occurring in secular and religious contexts, in stoic contexts and more, leaving open the question as to whether Christianity can be anything more than politics in the first place. But is it a progressive politics, or a reactionary politics? Honestly, I don’t know. Would Christ open the border or scatter Babel and make of us vagabonds discrete from one another again? The openness of the question at the heart of theology renders the Christ into Mercurius, the trickster God. We do not know what He wants.
When Terence McKenna noted that Western culture was shaped by the dominator principle, that is, the spirit of the logos which sculpts nature and out of it produces Amazon, he was referring to the fish identified by early Christianity inside the human subconscious. He was referring to the logos, to the selfish process of individuation and the full participation in the world by testing ego against ego like rams, of bursting through the bramble and setting fire to the crown of thorns by becoming a full individual, shaped by arbitrary facts of being, belonging to no one, existing only to become a tower of impenetrable powers. That is the fate of our Christian civilization, where Kanye West, the converted Christian, tours with Joel Osteen and proposes a strong brand as the best defense against darkness. The logos has been consumed by capital. This is the anxious realization of the socialist and the reactionary. But how to move forward?
If the logos is the dominator principle, a certain company with darkness must be made and maintained. We cannot create the commune, for day one of the commune is one man crouched in the corner jealous of another man, seeking a way to get what he has, whether it be fame, love, respect, or the ability to tell a joke and captivate a crowd. There will always be distinctions between people, and communism is a kind of horizon eternally on the edge of the world, yet the second it is passed it becomes the first step into barbarism again, as an eternal sunset of recurrent existence, Nietzsche’s eternal return. Equality is impossible unless it is achieved through the manipulation of matter, through science and capital, through the true reimagination of human nature and the birth of the alien or the dwarf or the not-human out of the pinned-open jaws of the logos, the orphaned son recreating himself as a monstrosity, the beastly individual equal to all others who reigns over a dull world as a God with a quantum computer. The socialist who wants pure equality of all being is left depending upon venture capital to remake the brain in his purported image. Contradiction reigns.
The stone is an orphan. But the orphan has a Father, who is outside of the world. The orphan and the stone and the fish, all the same roiling set of images to stand in for the light of the one true God not in this world, is our one true inheritance from the beaming brilliance of the finger of God depicted in the art of Michelangelo, the finger that is not flesh but is realer than flesh, that defines the world of contradiction as we know it. Each morning, when we wake up, we know we are a paradox, and yet anyway we walk. The existentialists found this, but they found nothing more. Faith is merely accepting the irony of the situation and believing it ultimately points outside the confines of the game. Insanity is attempting to break the rules of the game. Sanity is accepting the limitations and striving to become distributed more evenly amongst the multitude of voices emerging from the stones, fishes, and orphans which populate the sea.