Reflection: On Hoffman, Garcia and Paul of Tarsus’s Letter to the Corinthians—Apr. 17, 2015

Partial Animals: A Collection of Stories, Songs, Artifacts, Images, Poems, Documenting the Anthropogenic Climate Interference, by Edgar Garcia
1 Corinthians 12:4-26

Sermon delivered at Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT

I don’t think I can explain why, but each member of this pathway has citizenship before they have arrived.

The Body of Christ is both a road which leads back in time, yet also grounds a lack of temporality in an eternally receding and approaching pathway.

And then these things like God and Book and Church are silent classifications which only stare out from translucent Bible-paper with forlorn mena-tones.

The weaving is a hypostasized message then, including its own story, but also, as a web of the Spirit, it can flinter in the showing shadows of eye, ear, nose, hand, foot—of conscientious unbelievers or fictitious future preservationists.

I’m asking the eyes of the body if they can see the colorful path that is above their heads. Because there are some who act as resisters to the dangerous Utopian no-man’s-land of the Future. The Breathing of God, and the pneumatic Gifts of God’s people are things like, we are told, interpretation, healing, prophecy.—these places.

He explains emphatically that the Spirit of God, the πνυεμα of God as it is in the original Greek, the breath of God, is that which makes this backward looking futured Group of People into the already assembled Body of the Crucified incarnation of the God which does the breathing.

It is surmised that it is a section from a Letter which Paul of Tarsus wrote to a community in 54 CE that he founded in the Roman port city of Corinth several years earlier.

The Biblical text read for this afternoon is one that, according to scholars, is older than the Gospels.

And in finding this path I found that it has chipped away at the façade of my identity until I can no longer tell where they end and I begin.

A way which is composed of multi-colored, melancholy yet gregarious Saints: Mystics, Midwives, Barbarians, Cavalrymen, Queens, Tribesmen and Tribeswomen, Slaves, Freedmen, Jews and Greeks of all times and places who have in some way or other defied the categories of possible.

A way populated by healings, prophecies and interpretations.

And their way home has long ago, without their knowing, been set down a road of broken ritual practice and decaying prayers.

It wasn’t because of the integrity of the text, and not because of the efficacious of the rituals and liturgies, however beautiful or delightfully ugly—not for any rational reason, but somehow, one finds their Perception altered.

I don’t remember when I came to regard the solemn testimony of the ancient-dead about the supposedly historical events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as authoritative or believable.—both these places.

It takes the weaving of healing, interpretation and prophecy to turn useless kitsch and extruded polymers into a pathway of memory.

But texts are as dead as dockets. “Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.”

Jesus Christ is a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Jesus Christ is spiritual milk. Jesus Christ is a living stone, the Light from the Light, the child of humanity, the shepherd, the gate.

These texts are processed and woven into past practices and rituals which come to fruition in the present moment. I interpret past texts, woven with other further past texts, which are interpretations of extinct rituals.

Our task is the constant task of backward looking, forced future facing PRESENTation.

The task of a poet-anthropologist and of a weaver of trans-national-plastic are the irrational metaphors for what a moon-lighting Christian preacher might be.

Us, the enemies of secularity and the friends of what is self-contradictory.—occupy both these places.

The object of our desires is unintelligible and therefore we ought not exist. We are obscurantists. I’m asking the Eyes of the Body if they can See the colorful Path that is above their heads.

Are there any who act as resisters to the Utopian no-man’s-land of the Future?

“The brutal Christian creedal conflicts of the 30 Years War in Europe between 1618 and 1648 that the Reformation unleashed, the brutality of the two World Wars, and during his time, the anticipated annihilation of the Cold War, where all the same conflicts using the same morals, the same first principles, and therefore religious, categories.”

Rational Judgments repeat Rational Judgments.

#20. Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.

#10. Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually    find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.

#8. When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.

#4. Formal art is essentially rational.

#3. Irrational judgments lead to new experience.

#2. Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.

#1. Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.

Selections from an article called “Sentences on Conceptual Art” by Sol Lewitt, published in the magazine, “Zero to Nine” in 1968.

But still some very plausibly question whether or not “Religious” experience is even possible anymore. What happens when suddenly we see ourselves as members of a Future-Clan, whose meaning is derived NOT from a Future Predictive Hypnotization of Moroseness or Optimism, but from an Memorio-archaeological understanding of lost ritual?

Interpretation, healing, and prophecy.—to occupy both these places.

They are currently in the process of publishing this work. Basically, it began as an effort in imagining modes of artistic engagement that were not human centered. As an experiment she asked Edgar if he could write something in response to her work.

She soon found that Edgar had been working with parallel ideas in his poetry. This class introduced her to texts that related directly to the themes she had been exploring in her painting practice at the School of Art.

Camille Hoffman also met Edgar when she took his writing seminar downtown last year.

We got really tipsy on the free wine and looked at some of my paintings which were on display at the time and talked about preaching.

Late in the semester Edgar accompanied me to a presentation of photographs of Native peoples from South America by the poet and novelist Fanny Howe in the Great Hall of the Institute of Sacred Music.

I met Edgar Garcia, a graduate student in the English department, last year when I took his poetry class downtown.

Yes, indeed, we are moving backwards.

His claim was that he would drink himself to death and in three days re-enter into the life-cycle of the world. Over in the center of the town, there was a Jesus-imposter who had been elected by the people of the city.

And all around him there was a carnival-like street fair that was like an orgy.

He had descended into Hell.

I have a friend who, while I was preparing this reflection, told me his dream.

And now is not a time that I want to be clear.—be to occupy both these places.

“Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form.”

Another was a Black Bear made of thin sheets of black plastic tablecloths.

One was a Brown Moose swimming through a large and placidly black lake, and whose maw was split open and was connected by his thick lips to the sky with filament thin cables.

They appeared in many forms throughout the night.

My realizing this important truth angered many demons and I had to pray fervently all night to keep them at bay.

But not in a spatial or temporal way, but In a Way of Perspective.

I made the dream-conclusion that the Cross of Christ (which we call the place of the death of God, the end of Perspective), is both the undoing and the undergirding of reality, and must, therefore, be the center of time—the center of the Cosmos.

Half-waking from the dream I realized that this point of departure was nothingness, and that was the point at which the branch Crossed itself.

It was somehow the point of departure with other branches which made it whole.

As I stared up at the branch, floating disembodied-like in a dark sky, I realized quite clearly that the pine needles which gently protruded were not the source.

How does the branch come from itself? Where does it begin?

I dreamed a dream where I was contemplating the possibility of a pine branch.

Is it true that power, society and religion always drift off toward intolerance?—can be to occupy both these places.

The quote-unquote-Religious now are Irrationals, Queers, Liars, Traitors and Enemies.

I suppose we’ve all had the experience of listening to each other speak and barely knowing in what direction we were going.

Because when Schmitt speaks about a “Reoccupation” he means the original categories still remain intact.

“The exceptional demand for killing and being killed.” As Paul Kahn summarizes it.

We may add to these the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the perpetual War against Terror.

For Schmitt the brutal Christian creedal conflicts of the 30 Years War in Europe between 1618 and 1648 that the Reformation unleashed, the brutality of the two World Wars, and during his time, the anticipated annihilation of the Cold War, where all the same conflicts using the same morals, the same first principles, and therefore religious, categories.

I want to step away from that podium. So, therefore, I am not Religious. But in reality isn’t Religion Politics and isn’t Politics Religion? But the break between secular and the theological is not what we might have thought. Religion is supposed to be more free to be religious, and politics more free to be politics.

Which means that Secularization, especially as it is used today, is a way that Politics, both self-blinded-Conservative-RIGHT and the dangerously-Utopian-LEFT, has concealed itself from public discourse.

Politics, while taking the pre-eminent place in Society, at the same time, completely denies it has done so.

The Political Thinkers and their prognoses are the Reoccupied and Neutralized Prophets of Scripture whose predictions about future worth, retribution or salvation claim to keep the fabric of society woven together.

The eschatology of salvation salvaged from the “wreck” of Christianity in the West was Reoccupied by the notion of PROGRESS.

We have Judges and Public Opinion as high-priests.

To say our political practices rest on a civil religion is to claim that no such break ever occurred between the religious and the secular.

Whether it’s obedience to dictatorial decision-ism, or the veneration of federal constitutions, or the enshrinement of Natural Law, Religion is like the cult of the Roman Emperor, it NEVER leaves the side of politics, even when Religion is called Science, or especially when Individualism is called Religion.

It is for him that ground of every act of sovereignty which steps outside the bounds of law or constitution regardless of how “secular” the nation claims to be.

Regardless if it “looks” religious or not.—excruciating it can be to occupy both these places.

Schmitt claims that Law and Politics REQUIRES something to be outside history and outside politics, and this is called theology, religion. In referring to the notion of Secularization the German jurist Carl Schmitt prefers to use the term “Reoccupation.”

Many in the US might note, though with the wrong emphasis, that it seems there is little separation of Church & State. A product of Revolution.

While some want to say that Secularization is a spontaneous, independent process, arising from the triumph of Reason, others say it was a clear and unambiguous program that has been executed.

It’s tossed around with some political historians and theorists that Secularization is not simply a separation of Church & State.

I’m not “Spiritual-But-Not-Religions,” nor am I “Religious.” Let me just say that Religious experience is still possible but it can’t be called Religious.

Indeed, perhaps ironically, the path of the modern, from Religious to Secular, looks to be perfectly mapped out by the progression of Painting in the West; from illustrator of Christian piety, to divisive cultural critique, to post-Christian Freudian-cum-Jungian spiritualism, and beyond—into a myriad of diversions and de-centered whirlpools.

The object of my desire is unintelligible. I, an enemy of secularity and the friend of what is self-contradictory. In the eyes of many who are close to me, I am an obscurantist.

Some, very plausibly, question whether or not “Religious” experience is even possible anymore. I don’t think I can explain why.

And also how excruciating it can be to occupy both these places.

Not soon after, I woke up here, to find that Camille’s work is a deft and scintillating object lesson for what it looks to be called an Artist and called a Christian.

I graduated from RISD in 2007, but in 2013—after that mandatory apostasy from Christianity which seems to be required of a young idealist painter—I had a vision.

Not soon after, I woke up here, to find that Camille’s work is a deft and scintillating object lesson for what it looks to be called an Artist and called a Christian.

And also how excruciating it can be to occupy both these places.

I don’t think I can explain why, but each member of this pathway has citizenship before they have arrived.