I am probably going to be talking about the Saadia material for a bit. I am not talking about it from a sense of expertise with the material and its context, but from the way in which it seems to provide a solid model for talking about the spiritual work I have been engaged within. Heck, being able to explore the model without diving into that context is one of the model’s virtues—it has the quality of a theorem which I can examine and apply according to its inner logic.
O radiance of the great gods, light of the earth
Illuminator of the world regions
Lofty judge, creator of heaven and earth
O Shamash, by your light you scan the totality of lands as if they were cuneiform signs
You never weary of divination.
—hymn from the reign of Ashurbanipal, qtd. by Derrida in of Grammatology, qtd. by Zainab Bahrani in Rituals of War (61)
I take an especial pleasure in this citation, the way this text joins other texts, like a needle and thread cinching together fabrics.
A blog post really won’t cover this, but I hope to lay out a rough set of orientations, a framework for exploration that might help orient us in the great wide world of spirit work. I don’t think deconstruction and witchcraft are such odd bedfellows, though I suspect few would agree with me. Still, consider the degree to which the sort of structuralism popularized by Claude Levi-Strauss began as an exploration of cognitive foundations of a cosmology. Those cosmologies have a deep tie to myth and rite. Derrida’s deconstruction, responding to this, is also, therefore, responding to a way of approaching myth and rite.
(Oh, and yes, I am using deconstruction to refer mostly to the Derrida-inspired variety, with its decidedly philosophical rather than literary or linguistic bent. Folks like Guyatri Spivak and Rudolph Gasche, yes. Folks like Paul De Man, not so much; though there is surely some overlap. I’m a sucker for the 1960s Derrida, so essays like “Force and Signification” and Of Grammatology loom large–those who know, will see why as I get going.)
Back in my first year or so of graduate school, I attended a lecture on the importance of writing in mysticism. I wish I could remember the name of the woman, but it escapes me. I carried a copy of it around with me through a few moves, but there have been just one or two many sharp turns in my life since then; it fell off the proverbial truck.
It was the late 1990s and she had come of age reading Derrida and De Man, but beneath the veneer of deconstruction there was an astounding core: for a group convinced of the ineffability and transcendence of the divine, mystics were obsessed with writing about it. It’s almost compulsive. Rather than a via negativa that opens to a pleroma, what if it only ever opens to a threatening negativa, which it is the work of writing to obscure?