Okay, so I have a few things that I keep thinking about or which are being put forward for me to think about, things that will probably make their way into posts of their own, but right now I want to see what I can do to just get them out of my head and put them in front of my face, see what other connections might arise thereby. Notebooking, so caveat lector.
The more I look into the Christian syncretisms that developed in Mesoamerica with American thought, the more comfortable I am in asserting that the syncretisms were rooted in the deep and understanding appreciation of the Mesoamericans for the Christian mysteries. This wasn’t naive or protective (hiding ‘real’ Mesoamerican deities behind Catholic facade), but a visceral awareness that the celestial mysteries animating their religious understanding also animated the Christian mysteries.
In short: it wasn’t a Mesoamerican syncretism so much as a Mesoamerican synthesis, one mutilated by the inability of Europeans to appreciate and reciprocate the Mesoamericans’ insights. It seems, too, like this insight is portable, to other instances of ‘syncretism.’ So that what we are seeing is not ‘cultural’ in the sense we use the term, but ‘scientific’ (as a 19th century German might have used the term)—rational, comparative, synthetic.
This will be a short piece; I want to think out loud through some ideas coming up around the apophatic material, see how they sound. Take what I say here with something of a grain of salt because I am stating the ideas a bit strongly to see them more clearly.
As I work through the implications of apophatic work, syncretism presents itself again and again as a problem, one intricately bound up with the concern for idolatry that runs through the gnostic material. Kabbalism proper is necessarily anti-syncretic, but I suspect that even less rigorous expressions of this gnostic vein of thought (like my own) must be suspicious of syncretism.
I believe it was in Difference & Repetition that Deleuze specified that the foundation of any system of exchange was not exchange at all, but theft and gift. This fits into his broader argument in that text regarding the derivative nature of systems of equivalence and representation. Those are deep waters, beyond the scope of a blog to plumb, but I want to focus on that bit about theft and gift in regards to a discussion of spiritual syncretism and appropriation.
I mentioned in a previous post that I had been reading Jeffrey Kripal’s Esalen. I am still reading it–I have started reading it straight through while still dipping in and out of whatever section catches my interest. There are a couple of through-lines that organize a somewhat disparate narrative thread and I want to jot down a few thoughts about one of them: the crossroads of sexuality, liberation, and Tantra.
All gods and all religions and all magical traditions get cobbled together out of bits and pieces of previous traditions. All theology and all revelation look suspiciously like syncretism, and scholarship confirms this. Chaos magic adopts it as a guiding principle without apology or evasion.
This sort of thing strikes me as somewhat banal these days, true in a breezy sort of way that doesn’t mean a lot. I can agree wholeheartedly with the statement without necessarily agreeing with Carroll or anyone else who affirms it. I’ll probably have to actually read this book at some point, but for the sake of a post, I’m just going to talk about how I would cash out the statement. Continue reading “Syncretism”