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ISSUE 1

A Spirituality Template

The Vignettes of Klossowski's Phantasmic Spirituality

ASYS is a simulacrum of spirituality. The topic of this journal, titled ‘The Journal of Spirituality’ is appropriately the intimate space of what is called ‘spirituality.’ The goal is for the eyes to further roll back in the head, accompanied and amplified by the flickering eye of the candle.
 

In this first issue, part 1 gives spirituality iits definition, and reifies it into a generic blank template – the space that can harbor many of spirituality’s vignettes. In part 2, this template of spirituality is filled out with six vignettes (numbered 0-5) to format the philosophy of Pierre Klossowski into a spirituality.

Spirituality's Template & Vignettes

 

A spirituality is a living interior space that holds itself to some greater 'else'. As Schneiders writes, “spirituality has something to do with the unification of life by reference to something beyond the individual person." (Schneiders, 1986, p. 266) This interest in the unification with something ‘beyond’ is as, Taylor writes, the aspiration for a "fullness," that is borne out of dissatisfaction with the closed-world model of exclusive secular humanism (Taylor, 2007, p. 26).

The effort of spiritual pursuit is invisible and internal, hidden in the feeling-thinking space of the living person. This interior space is alive, living semi-autonomously within the life of the subject who observes, builds and rebuilds it, and grows it across a history of stages. This means that spirituality is not encapsulated in a singule creed. Rather, it is a modular working interior composition, composed of axiom, feeling, referent, will, and experience.

The inventions of spirituality are drawn from the resources of theology and religion. Though it may deal in absolute statements, spirituality's articulation is principally built out of amalgamations of textual and aesthetic fragments of other existing religious or mystical traditions. This is summarized into a principle: the principle of bastard spirituality states that spirituality is necessarily bastard; ''a child born out of wedlock', borne of heterogeneous syncretic mixtures of systems which are themselves already mixtures. The bastardness of spirituality is a given, because the moral, ethical, religious etc. material from which it draws is always already impure, and yet more will have to be written to show how within this impurity its statements, buttressed by personal experience, are designated with purity.

Spirituality is likewise bastard due to a personal syncretism encouraged by a combination of individualism and perennialism. In practice, surfaces everywhere can be bent into depths. Any object can point to truth and any experience can become sacred and moral. Assuming that texts and experiences may be meaningful in a specific and isolated way, permits a synthesizing, amalgamating, roaming pan-religious syncretism. In other words, in spirituality permits syncretism to accelerate to the level of the individual, producing a spontaneous super-syncretism of individual spiritualities.

Thus, spirituality, the domain of human concern often dealing with purities and absolutes, is labelled bastard and impure at the outset to emphasize that its assertions are meant to be transitory and partial, and that spirituality is that which continues to be built up and destroyed along the personal journey.

Despite affirming spiritual variety, it is productive to articulate a model of spirituality’s cordoned off province. A square is drawn to represent the interior space of a spirituality. This space is surrounded by deliberately broad and naive terms: Deep, High, Good and Power, that connect to the individual subject who is marked by the X at the center. As Tillich defined religion-in-general as "ultimate concern" (Tillich, 1959, p. 7), s
pirituality here is described as the simultaneity of multiple ultimate concerns. The aforementioned four terms are the placeholders for the potential 'ultimate concerns' of a spirituality. The subject inside of the interior space pursues these points through this interior space. This is the house for spirituality.

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This template does not yet say anything about spirituality except that a spirituality could concern itself with these points in relation to the self. At this stage, these aspects do not form any presupposed relation with each other. Though they are spatially arranged on opposite sides of the square, 'Good' is not the opposite to 'Power' and 'Deep' is not the opposite to the 'High'. Also, the element 'High' could refer to a higher power, or it could refer to something else that can be called High. In drawing the vignettes over this template, these aspects may be combined, eliminated or put into opposition.

Because spirituality is a journey of drafting and redrafting interior diagrams each diagram is a moment that contains its principles and truth that continues to generate more principles and truth. The option for a variety of configurations is meant to accommodate the vicissitudes of the process. This is why this template is generic -- a guiding blueprint, that is meant to be elastic and defeasible, a template for drawing the diagrams of a spirituality -- and not universal, which is exception-less and describes a common characteristic or property that unifies all of its instances. This template of spirituality, because it is generic, is exception-tolerating, and is more like the average model or guiding work-space.

Pt. 2 - The Vignettes of Klossowski’s Phantasmic Spirituality

Though Pierre Klossowski’s work is not a spirituality at the outset, it can be realized as one, by being compounded into stages of relation to the potential ultimate concerns of the previously described template of spirituality. In the following segment, the template of spirituality is applied to the work of Pierre Klossowski, drawing from two of his books: The Living Currency and The Baphomet. Six vignettes are drawn in total.

Vignette 0: The Prepared Template of Klossowski's Basic Condition

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Phantasms are the basic human condition, and necessarily haunt this spirituality. The haunted state results from the original perversion of the natural impulses. This 'original perversion' is the decoupling of the two aspects of sexual will: the reproductive instinct and the 'voluptuous emotion'. The voluptuous emotion deviates from the purpose of sexual procreation -- suspending it "at a stage prior to the procreative act" (Klossowski, 2017, p. 49) and directing it towards other activities. This is perverse because what is given unilaterally from the Deep or the 'Soul' and is meant by nature to make the human animal procreate is instead used by humans for other purposes: the products of civilization: industry, art, and its destruction.

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The phantasms produce the subject or 'suppôt'. Though 'suppôt' means 'subject' in French, it also means 'subordinate' and 'henchman', giving the position of the subject a meaningful connotation, emphasizing the phantasmic dependence of the subject, despite its autonomous self-conception. The suppôt is the simulacrum of a unified subject born out of the repression of its phantasms. The suppôt is our central registration mark, and is placed at the center subject position of the spirituality template.

 

Despite their prevalence, phantasms are not directly accessible and are only apprehensible emotionally, and their emotion inspires in the suppôt a desire that directs the arrow of urgency. In the context of a person of spirituality, urgency is directed towards spiritual fullness. Though in the context of Klossowski's work, spiritual urgency is the urgency to find a worthy simulacrum -- a simulacrum equivalent to the dominant phantasm.

Vignette 1: The Spirit of Simulacral Good: The Grand Master

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This first vignette describes a scene in which the suppôt strives to neutralize its interior phantasms with the internal strength of will and external social coercion. This resistance nevertheless creates propulsion, the negative interpretation of the phantasms.

The individual strives to resist the phantasmic part of itself and in this striving build itself up a stable self image. In this striving it builds the strength to further resist phantasms, to continue pushing their voices down deep into one's being. It triumphs over internal temptation through discipline and charges on towards its destiny, an image of fullness as completely self-possessed being: The Grand Master. In this scenario, the phantasms are unconsciously used as negative propulsion. That is, the phantasms still express themselves, but covertly.

This internal stance of resistance is externally encouraged and rewarded by the herd but only when it aligns to the Good of gregarious instrumentalism. The herd has it in their interest to suppress phantasms because specific individual passions threaten the general interests of the herd. These mysterious invisible passional gestalts, or 'obsessional images' that seek to express their equivalent simulacra, are constrained and collectively rerouted, they are domesticated: either neutralized and deformed into 'needs' or diverted through counter-impulsive propulsion. 

The pressure of society is for the individual negate their mystery and to be purely useful, free of the diversions of simulacra, and instead fixate upon 'need' -- a seemingly more urgent simulacrum. Simulacra of art are rhetorically made to appear absolutely separate from utensils -- and utensils, seemingly have no art to them, that offer nothing but pure utility. That is, pure utensils are absolutely separate from pure art. Ascetic self-mastery against its hedonic opposite; instruments of productive human flourishing against the illusions that divert energy away from productive use. Yet this is the hypocrisy of utensils: that they they have to so forcefully appear rational: they are simulacra par excellence; the simulacra of non-simulation.

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Vignette 2: The Spirit of Simulacral High: the Pervert

In this scenario, somehow the spell of the urgency of ‘need’ is broken. Whether through disillusionment with so-called 'need' or the burst of internal pressure of desire, the pressure of a dominant phantasm bursts free to meet its equivalent simulacrum. 

 

An exchange happens: one integrity presides over the other. The 'integral monstrosity’ obliterates the ‘integral person’. A turn that is as much heroic sacrifice as hedonic indulgence: the sacrifice of rational self-possession and the indulgence of pleasurable sensation. From the perspective of the integral person, this is a ruinous and self-destructive spirituality.

 

Releasing the previous fixation, a new fixation of a different nature develops, of an ‘internal perversion’. There are two aspects to this orientation. First, the suppot submits itself before the High of simulacral theophany — before the deities projected from below — pleasurable incandescent images that produce obsession. Second, the suppot disregards the boundaries of individual propriety, operating not upon the register of individuals but of phantasms, the Inner Beings — even confusing the edges of where he ends and others begin. “He inhabits the bodies of others as if they were his own, and he attributes his own body to others...” The transgressive attitude of so-called ‘internal perversion’ earns the suppot the condemned title of the Pervert.

 

The Pervert fixates its center of gravity upon a singularity, like a detail or a gesture that persists to enchant it, derailing any previous commitment to gregarious morality. The Pervert seeks out the simulacra that would fulfill its phantasms, or creates these simulacra in art. It seeks a desired experience — instances of a detail or a gesture can be found in multiple settings, or a specific object that it continues to mine pleasurable experience from. Just like in the ‘external perversion’ of utensils, this obsessional repetitive focus on singularity makes this ‘internal perversion’ a perversion. In search and devotion to the High, the Good of utensils and need is overridden. The Good of general gregariousness is sacrificed for the High of simulacral singularities. Or otherwise the High becomes its own kind of Good.

 

This is a counter-social spirituality, that follows the truth of phantasms, destroying the rational constructions of industry in its path. By giving one’s self-possessed unity over to one’s ‘integral monstrosity’ that gapes in awe of great affective experiences and the simulacra of art, irrational individual desire (not need) presides over the herd. In spending money counter-rationally, by wasting it on ‘the non-existing possibility’ of the phantasm, the order of utensils can be subverted. 

Vignette 3: Higher Awareness and Withdrawal

 

"I am the nexus of two inexhaustible opposing impulses."

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The suppôt starts to realize its essential condition, and attempts to occupy a superior position in stillness beyond the propulsions of phantasmic desire.

This marks the realization that there is always a blind spot that betrays either direction, the Good or the High. Simulacra are the utensils of the passions, and utensils are the simulacra of non-simulation. Neither the Good nor the High can be pursued with abandon: both are mixed and share a common pre-cursor.

 

The human exists at tense intersection of two impulses, between the Good and the High. These two directions are ruled by the same underlying force: a propulsive hunger that is never eliminated or sated, whether it be resisted or embraced. The compulsive nature of both internal and external perversions is now understood: both are driven by an Inner Being -- something that lives inside and precedes the suppôt. As a force of animal impulse, it is monstrous, and an enemy to the institutional human. This is the 'integral monstrosity' that haunts the suppôt, driving its spiritual attempts at fullness.

 

This fullness that is always simulacral is understood as empty. Urgency always pulls towards something hollow: powerful emotion-generating images or simulacra. Understanding that one is trapped between two compulsions, one seeks a third way: to withdraw from acting on any desire. This describes the work of stillness to stand above both compulsions and not act on either urgency is a position of Power.

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Vignette 4: The Living Currency

Based on the understanding of the essential phantasmic-hunger of all individuals, we enter into another paradigm -- the attempt to become powerful by make oneself a Living Currency.

 

After the realization that the internal hunger of the 'integral monstrosity' is inescapable, follows the realization that the same is true for all people. Beneath the surface, societal infrastructure is animated by hungry, immutable and invisible forces called phantasms. A world of phantasms built upon phantasms, whose origin is 'the original perversion'.  Phantasmic hunger is realized as universal: every decision-making individual is preceded and determined by monstrous phantasms. 

The body has the useful capacity to satisfy the phantasms of other bodies. It is the capacity that gets transposed into the economic institutions of our World. The economy consists of the driving hunger of phantasms for simulacra, and the economic inter-relations between bodies that contain these phantasms. As Klossowski writes, "Bodily presence is itself already a commodity, independently of (and in excess of) the commodities its presence helps to produce." (2017, p. 76)

 

Realizing that this condition precedes the medium of money, a medium that neutralizes this condition, the suppot learns how to circumvent the institutions of exchange and industrial labour extraction, and becomes a 'living currency', by directly satisfying other's phantasms.

 

Practically, this scenario is difficult to achieve universally, which is why Klossowski presents it as a utopia set a pre-industrial society where it would be more conceivable. However, on an individual bottom-up level, it may be possible to gain counter-institutional power in this way, by learning to deal with others on a 'spiritual' phantasmic level. This condition allows the suppot to gain power not by fulfilling 'need' -- which neutralizes the primal powers and hungers of the integral monstrosity --  but by drawing power based in its ability to fulfill the desires of phantasms. By being or producing the simulacra that satisfies the original emotional and sensational desires of the phantasms of the original perversion in other people.

Vignette 5: Eschatology: Between The Grand Master and The Saint

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Suppose it were possible to access a non-physical dimension at the price of leaving behind the physical body and linear time. This is the final 'eschatological' vignette -- the disorienting world of eternal life and eternal time, drawn from Klossowski's 'The Baphomet'. 

The space of this world is defined by a kind of seeking spirituality of a Christian syntax, that oscillates between two approaches to its fundamental question: whether self-identity should be preserved or dissolved in an arbitrary, disembodied and eternal world. In the face of an afterlife where God infinitely recedes, now that the 'ranks of the elect are closed', the two approaches to this question are characterized by two figures: Teresa d'Avila, 'The Saint', and Jacques de Molay, 'The Grand Master'. 

 

The Saint (Teresa of Avila), in Baroque 'spiraling' fashion, strives to dissolve herself into oblivion. The Grand Master (Jaques de Molay) who is "responsible for the tranquility of the higher circles" in Gothic 'ogival' fashion strives to preserve self-identity. (Klossowski, 1988, p. 166) 

 

Epitomized by the deity Baphomet, 'Prince of Modifications', the nature of this world tends to the mutating orientation of the Saint. Dissolution of unified self happens easily, since there is no guarantee of the body -- no stability of a single soul corresponding to a single body. Appropriately, the soul here is called a 'breath' or in french 'le souffle', and it easily intermingles and forms clusters with other soul-breaths, like currents of wind in the sky.

Though the boundaries between soul-breaths are porous, self-identity is still preserved. In order to better preserve self-identity, unity through time is effortfully simulated. This is the effort of the Grand Master, who continues to re-stage the anniversary of the Templar Order's bizarre final ritual.

The orientation represented by the Grand Master corresponds to the Good on the spirituality template. The Good still looks to the future promise of resurrection -- to the true eschatological paradise when the soul is reunited with its body -- guaranteed by maintaining morally virtuous preservation of self-identity even within this fluid Baphometic space. The High of simulacral theophany and its price of self-oblivion is opposed to the Good of self-preservation.

Even the Grand Master gets swept up in theophanic simulacra, that overwhelms him in its direct presence and causes him to lose his self-possession. Simulacral theophany belongs to the ethic of the Saint, and corresponds to the High on the spirituality template. The High is not a transcendent destination, but the suspension of self before extreme sensation, or 'enchantment'. The direct experience of the Baphomet, before which the Grand Master loses self-possession, and in one instant transforms into a wasp, and allows himself to be swayed to accept the fate of oblivion.

The overwhelming High of enchanting experience is followed by the 'Low' of disenchantment and suspicion. Because the enchantment does not carry its promise into the next moment, and its simulacral nature is suspected after release from the seizure by intense experience. This dynamic space is vertically drawn across the high and low; overwhelment and suspicion; enchantment and disenchantment.

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This tension between the Saint and the Grand Master is also expressed by their relation to a third character: Ogier de Beausant, who we will reduce to simply the Body. The Saint and the Grand Master pivot around the Body each approaching it in their own fashion. The Saint inhabits and puppets the Body, true to her disregard for the necessity of maintaining boundaries in this world. The Grand Master is bewildered by the Body, hesitant by its presence in this world, and suspicious of its inhabitation by other souls.

Stepping out of this dimension of breaths -- this condition of tension between self-obliteration and self-preservation characterized by the Saint and the Grand Master relates to the condition of a spiritual seeker in general. The endless pivoting around the 'ego' no doubt supported by the individual separateness of the body -- its dissolution, its preservation, and the vicissitudes across the scale of enchantment and disenchantment.

In this final vignette -- an eschatology fit for Klossowski -- finality is suspended forever and nothing is ever resolved. The oscillating condition persists, without clear destination: neither culminating in total oblivion nor total perfection. Just like in the World. As below, so above.

The scene that follows the Grand Master's decision to follow Baphomet into oblivion, is a scene where his identity is still intact -- refreshing the same condition that seemed to have been resolved. Likewise, for all of the Saint's traversals and commitment to oblivion she also stays intact as herself across the bodies she inhabits. This is the final destination, the compromised condition of an inability to totally become one or the other, neither the Saint nor the Grand Master.

Bibliography:

James, I. (2005). Evaluating Klossowski’s Le Baphomet. Diacritics, 35(1), 119–135. https://doi.org/10.1353/dia.2007.0013

Klossowski, P. (2017). Living currency (V. W. Cisney, P. Foss-Heimlich, N. Morar, & D. W. Smith, Trans.). Bloomsbury Academic.

Klossowski, P. (1988). The Baphomet (S. Hawkes & S. Sartarelli, Trans.). Eridanos Press. (Original work published 1965)

Schneiders, S. M. (1986). Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners? Horizons, 13(2), 253–274. https://doi.org/10.1017/s036096690003632x

Stace, W. T. (1961). Mysticism and philosophy. By W.T. Stace. Macmillan.

Taylor, C. (2007). A secular age. The Belknap Press Of Harvard University Press.

Tillich, P. (1959). Theology of culture (R. C. Kimball, Ed.). Oxford University Press.