Sunday, August 13, 2006

Edmund Husserl and Ramana Maharshi say always the same

Postmodern spirituality A dialogue in five parts Part V: Can Only A God Save Us? Postmodern Proto-Spirituality And The Current Global Turn To Religion Roland Benedikter
Remember one thing: The starting point of postmodern philosophy was not only about “reducing” (Husserl), “deconstructing” (Derrida) or even “destroying” (Heidegger) all kinds of hidden and open ideology to get in touch with things in a “different” manner. It was also about a certain critical view point on the world, about a deeply subjective or even “monadic” attitude of thinking and of being in the world. It was a certain aesthetic or inner sensitivity of the “isolated subject” that has driven postmodernism from the late 1980s until September 11th, 2001.
It has driven this subject into a frenetic activity of deconstructing everything, which became, not as a personal attitude, but as a cultural paradigm, one-sidedly nominalistic. Doing the frenetic deconstruction connected to a even more frenetic construction and innovation complex of contemporary culture, deconstruction misunderstood itself as anti-spiritual (which until today is its “academically correct” interpretation, and this is absolutely against the intentions and approaches of the late Derrida and Loytard).
Deconstruction became in most cases not only secular, but also anti-spiritual - until some of the symbols of its frenetically progressive approach have been “deconstructed” by history. To be even more clear with you: From my point of view, the terror attacks of 9-11 did not cause, but they marked the beginning of the end of the first generation of postmodernity. Not of postmodernity as a whole, of course, because we have to keep all the great postmodern achievements. But of the beginning end of their so far nominalistic one-sidedness...
If you have no explicit, balanced nominalistic-“essential” position towards the “essence” of man, you cannot find a single argument for the existence of human rights, which are based by their very nature on an assumption of “essence” or an “ontological” concept. When Derrida said there were no justifications for exporting the idea of human rights into the world, because they were, according to him, mainly a cultural invention or a societal construct of European-Western civilisation, some regimes in the world, not only the Chinese, paradoxically started do discover Derrida as “one of the greatest living philosophers of the world”.
Derrida did the cause of Human Rights no favour with his typically hesitating late theories about the possibilities of ethics and theology compatibles with deconstruction. Those theories were, like his whole late thinking, always exactly at the borderline between the negative rise of some “essential” perspective, and the sudden retiring of his own timid advances towards those perspectives. It is exactly this half- or borderline-position which can produce some contra-productive, in some cases even dangerous effects on the global political field, as it has been with the postmodern dealing with the problem of global human rights. I think exactly this one-sided, hesitating and, in exactly this point, sometimes indeed irrational or only “academically correct” attitude is the kind of postmodernism which has to be overcome, by some better and more balanced, more realistic, more inclusive paradigms in the coming years. Which we, of course, are only starting to develop on a broader scale, even if there are some pioneers which pave the way for some decades now...
Now, as you remember, all philosophia perennis all over the world of all times, including so different thinkers like Edmund Husserl and Ramana Maharshi, says always the same: You first have to destroy your normal ego, to approach your real Self. Postmodernists are trying to do something like that. And the price they're paying for it is that everything seems to be meaningless at first glance; because everything appears just as an effect of language, of culture, of history, of life styles and so on. Things probably are more complex than postmodern thinkers have been able to analyze.
But the main postmodern thinkers we talked of wanted primarily to point out one indeed very important discovery: That your self is not what you normally identify with. And this is a very important perceiving of postmodernism, because they don't only have this intuition, but they also try to do it. If you go through all the theories and these philosophies, there's no any other chance than to “deconstruct” or to destroy your normal ego, and to go through the death of the ego; or to be more precise, to undergo the death of the subject. That is, very all the paths of postmodernity lead and converge, in the end. The death of the subject is their ultimate point of arrival...
I think the death of the subject is the most important achievement of postmodernism in the long run. Nietzsche, the father of “rhizomatic” thinking, predicted it; Postmodernity realized it to a certain extend. Both moved necessarily always in sort of a twilight, or in a borderline sphere of deep, even radical ambivalence, where the ego slowly begins to be accompanied by the witness. The further exploration of exactly this borderline or twilight zone, with all its dangers and hidden traps, seems quite necessary to me, if we want to make a step forward...
That seems to be indeed, as we said, the most important ongoing process in the deeper dimensions of current world history at the cultural level. And it is interesting, that it is not any longer mainly a battle between confessional religions and “enlightened” European-Western philosophy, as some thought after 9-11. At the contrary: It was never only such a battle. It is rather a general battle between those who believe that “only a god can save us” (Cf. Martin Heidegger: Only a God Can Save Us. Der Spiegel Interview 1967/1976. In: Martin Heidegger: Philosophical and Political Writings, ed. Manfred Stassen. Continuum International Publishing Group 2003) at the one hand; and those who think that there can be a rational spiritual alternative to the “global turn of religion” at the other hand.
That alternative may be not only a decisive strategical political and cultural goal for a good development on a world wide scale. But it seems also necessary for avoiding the “clash of cultures” of which so much has been spoken in these years – but without including so far the positive building up of a rational spirituality which could become a bridge between confessional religions and secular rationalism. It is interesting that currently you will find avant-garde philosophers of the most different kind on both sides of the battle. There is no longer a clear distinction between religion and its former “ancilla theologiae”: philosophy any more.
These debates have increased after 9-11, but the brought almost no productive results. (Cf. Giovanna Borradori, Juergen Habermas, and Jacques Derrida: Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Juergen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. University Of Chicago Press 2003). The question today is not a question of “end” or of a shrinking sovereignty of academic philosophy in front of the growing power of religion. The question today is rather:
  • Is it possible to imagine a “rational spirituality” of post-metaphysical, critical-empirical and positive, constructive dimensions, which could possibly create a new, more balanced paradigm for the emerging global civil society in the coming decades, departing actively from the progressive proto-spiritual achievements in the late works of those leading postmodern thinkers we talked of?
  • Or must we turn back to traditional religions, if we want to find an “essential” paradigm which can give us balance in times of increasing instabilities?
  • Can only a God save us, as Martin Heidegger put it in his Der Spiegel testament (1967/1976)?
  • Or is a forward oriented, “rational inspiration” the way to proceed, as the “deconstructive” proto-spirituality of late postmodern philosophy (1989/91-2001) seems, even if still timidly, to indicate us?
  • In other words: Can there be a rational alternative of spiritual thinking and behaving to the global turn to religion?

This is without any doubt one of the most important issues of our time in the middle and long perspective...Maybe at the current point we should not call all that, what we have so far, “postmodern spirituality” at all. Maybe we should call it a prelude to a new spiritual realism for the global civil society, coming out of postmodernism. Maybe we should call it a pre-eminent spirituality or a proto-spirituality emerging rationally under the conditions of late postmodernity. Not less, not more.

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