Unlike explanation, the symbol is the identity, the encounter, of the sensible object and the object of thought. The sensible object is called symbol, and the object of thought, losing all signification, is a hieroglyph or a cipher. In their identity, they form the concept. The symbol is its extension, the hieroglyph its comprehension. Whereupon the word “initiated” takes on its full sense: According to Malfatti, the mysterious character of mathesis is not directed against the profane in an exclusive, mystical sense, but simply indicates the necessity of grasping the concept in the minimum of time, and that physical incarnations take place in the smallest possible space—unity within diversity, general life within particular life. At the limit, we could even say that the notion of the initiate is rationalized to the extreme. If vocation defines itself through the creation of a sensible object as the result of a knowledge, then mathesis qua living art of medicine is the vocation par excellence, the vocation of vocations, since it transforms knowledge itself into sensible object. Thus we shall see mathesis insist upon the correspondences between material and spiritual creation.
Gilles Deleuze, “Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy” (Collapse III, Ed. Robin Mackay, Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2007, p. 151)
What happens when a tradition has to be radically modified, and immediately modified? A certain ancient tradition of initiation calls for a fire, but the land on which the initiation must take place is suffering from drought and the danger of wildfire is too great. Yet the initiation must take place. Those leading the ritual process discern that the initiation will take place, this time by water. On what basis is this discernment made? What principle legitimates the change? The very fact of having to make such a decision seems to violate the tradition, to place oneself outside its gift, to alienate one from its power. What is the passage, the “pass” (Latour’s term) by which such a tradition others itself, differentiates itself, becomes more itself as it becomes more than itself? I do not have a direct answer to this question, which is somehow, between the lines, what I suspect Jacob Sherman has asked of me. I suspect that my confrere Matthew Haar Farris, who conveyed to me this problem in painstaking detail, may have more to say directly about it, than I can. All I can say, here, is that such crossroads increasingly define tradition, for me, rather than being seen as in any sense external to traditions—philosophical, religious, aesthetic, magical, or simply democratic. Continue reading “Conscious Complicity at the Crossroads: A Response to Jacob Sherman’s “What’s at Stake in Hermetic Reterritorialization”” →