"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2
For this reason, I invite the reader to consider taking up further points of inquiry as suggested by any one line of thinking presented here. The problem at hand, the integral problem, demands this kind of conceptual precision,6 actually a greater and more scientifically rigorous precision than I personally am capable of. As such, these are new values, new to integral theory.
New values are necessarily exotic, in that they present themselves as they are relative to their new context—unfamiliar, perhaps unwelcome, perhaps uncomfortable or uncomforting. To adopt a Nietzschean trope, they are unfit for easy consumption. The usefully new is like this. At first it is puzzling and exotic, beyond the reader’s horizon,7 but through a respectful approach and repeated exposure it becomes familiar and useful in the way a handtool does when one has mastered its use.
A handtool is impersonal. It does not care about its user’s hopes or fears; mercilessly, it carries on with its task of hammering or cutting, regardless. Theory generally and new values specifically are like this also: philosophizing with a hammer,8 cutting through spiritual materialism (Trungpa, 1987), making the Body without Organs with a "very fine file" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 160), as appropriate.9 Unlike theology, theory is not a consolation (see Thesis Seven). [...]
There is a dialectical, developmental relationship between theory and practice (see Thesis One). Theory makes practice intelligent, while the contingencies of practice—actual material conditions—inform theory. To produce theory, then, is to produce a systematic set of concepts with a definite relationship to material conditions and to a definite methodological agenda (here, comprehensive "inner" and "outer" transformation) and, therefore, to produce concepts that are explicitly contingent because they are necessarily not universal or transhistorical, any more than any other coherence such as a hammer or a cutting tool is metaphysically "real." Theory, therefore, must venture to be honest about its capacities and humble in its claims.117 By contrast, theology is traditionally taken to be a practice of explicating doctrines that are assumed to be universal and transhistorical, and that therefore transcend the material and the contingent, even as theology is understood at its roots as an epiphenomenon of natural philosophy (an interesting context for Aurobindo’s decision to express his theology in the patois of nineteenth-century natural and social science: evolution, races).118
Where theory aspires to an accurate reflection and response to material conditions, theology makes effective myths. The meaningful point of contrast here lies in practice. Where for theory meaningful practice is to change the world into a saner space, for theology meaningful practice implies an increasingly developed adherence to a premade doctrine and, concomitantly, implementation of a doctrine into the material world, thereby effecting a transformation of the world by inspiration outside of the world.119
Theory implies co-causality (theory-to-practice, practice-to-theory); theology, a one-way, top-down causality of transformation (Word-to-the-world). This reflects a difference in the means of production of concepts. Theory as I propose it here is a democratized production of values, insofar as it is a collaborative and dialogic practice, while theology can be understood as a private-property regime of production of values (see Thesis Two), insofar as the production of theology is limited to those who have appropriate institutional or traditional validity or have fashioned for themselves an independent tradition to represent, as in the case of charismatic religion. As I show in Thesis Eight, this issue of access to means of production and distribution of values is significant for the future of integral theory.
Either method, theory or theology, can be appropriate to a given situation. There is much good in competent, compassionate criticism. As I have suggested, some of what passes as criticism is clearly incompetent and lacking in compassion, and is therefore irresponsible and unacceptable (see Thesis Four), and in the last analysis, not even criticism. Similarly, much theological work is of real qualitative value, and as streams of cultural and practical transmission, must be valued. Appropriate valuation in the sense of critical consciousness is also a form of responsibility. That said, there is some measure of madness in theological projects; some are hopelessly irresponsible, and most are a mixed blessing. Theology as such is not necessarily a problem or a solution to a problem. My point in this instance is that when theology is asked to perform as if it were criticism, difficulties arise (see Theses Two, Three, and Six), counterproductive and unneeded ones. Specifically, the incorporation of certain theological positions into integral theory has caused a particular methodological problem...120
118 Augustine (1998) rejects theologies derived from cultural ("mythical") or civil life, emphasizing instead a theology derived from natural, of-the-world principles, such that theology following Augustine—the whole of European theology and its consequences—is natural philosophy spiritualized, or given cosmic, eternal significance. Theology is at its roots quite literally the Miltonic assertion of eternal Providence into material science and the justification of what a given regime takes to be the ways of God to the men subject to that regime.
119 Hobbes’s (1996) proposal for the establishment of a Christian commonwealth represents one of manyexplicit instances of this, where theology is openly described as a means of force, a means of subjective and social control. The ideological task of making these social controls into doctrines of natural science, presenting them as cosmic physical laws from above rather than as social forces, forecloses any appeal to the supernatural in the form of prophecy or dream-vision for moral or spiritual authority from below. Hobbes recognizes and addresses this threat in his hypothetical commonwealth, observing that "he thatpretends to teach men the way of so great a felicity," that is, one who claims to speak on behalf of Spirit, "pretends to govern them" (p. 288). Hobbes, then, establishes theological means to control, curb, and cage this threat to its own government, and the age of prophecy is declared closed. The relevance of vision andprophecy as a charismatic gesture is an unspoken subtext of Thesis Eight. Readers familiar with prophecy as a literary conceit will not be surprised to see that both natural-theological and prophetic gestures canand do arise in the writings of the same poet or thinker (Spenser, Milton, Blake, Yeats, Aurobindo), evenin the same sentence, in dynamic tension.
120 As with so much else in integral theory, this is anticipated in the work of Aurobindo Ghose. Like Milton, Aurobindo is a world-class poet and mythmaker, and a theologian to be taken seriously (and not only by the faithful); also like Milton, Aurobindo is a problematic political and cultural critic. Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 252 9:35 PM