Love and Philosophy Part. 1 With Saleh Najafi

Die Walküre

28 Aug Love and Philosophy Part. 1 With Saleh Najafi

The critical borders between love, politics and philosophy can be traced to many centuries back, when Plato wrote the Symposium. All the questions that we seek answers to, both in a formal and conceptual fashion can found there.

This discussion can be rooted back to my personal experience, when I was translating the article When East Meets West in the book titled The Puppet and The Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. In that article a question was put forth:

“A proper starting point would have been to ask the Schellingian question: what does the becoming-man of God in the figure of Christ, His descent from eternity to the temporal realm of our reality, mean for God himself? What if that which appears to us, finite mortals, as God’s descent toward us, is, from the standpoint of God Himself, an ascent? What if, as Schelling implied, eternity is less than temporality? What if eternity is a sterile, impotent, lifeless domain of pure potentialities, which, in order fully to actualize itself, has to pass through temporal existence? what if God’s descent to man, far from being an act of grace toward humanity, is the only way for God to gain full actuality, and to liberate Himself from the suffocating constraints of Eternity? What if God actualizes Himself only through human recognition?”

The viewpoint is what forms the radical philosophy. It is different from deconstruction in that deconstruction is concerned with redefining the text and meaning and what is constitutes as good and bad. In the Schellingian experiment we completely reverse what the text implies.

Zizek continues to utilizes this experiment to explain the notion of love:

“We have to get rid of the old Platonic topes of love as Eros that gradually elevates itself from love for a particular individual, through love for the beauty of a human body in general and the love of the beautiful form as such, to love for the supreme Good beyond all forms: true love is precisely the opposite move of forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual. (This lure of eternity can take many forms, from postmortal fame to fulfilling one’s social role.)”

So after putting forth this Schellingian question Zizek takes the same approach about love. when we think about love two ideas come to mind: One, the platonic love without the carnal relationship and the second the one that includes sexual instinct. To review this matter one must look at the platonic text in which along with the other thinkers of Greece viewed love as Eros or desire and believed that love undoubtedly begins with the carnal desire and gradually develops from one body to many and in this proliferation it reaches the appreciation for beauty of the human form itself. This will gradually mature into the love for the idea and the essence of beauty, the kind known as the perfect beauty. However, it must be noted that it is important to study the route that has led Plato at this conclusion.

In Northern European mythology Odin or Wotan Who is the god of gods, an entity Zeus who gives twelve figures known as Valkyries the power to decide Who survives a battle, who dies there and who enters Valhalla. In the first act; during a raging storm, Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. Hunding is not present, and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde, Hunding’s unhappy wife. Siegmund tells her that he is fleeing from enemies. After taking a drink of mead, he moves to leave, claiming to be cursed by misfortune. But Sieglinde bids him stay, saying he can bring no misfortune to the “house where ill luck lives”.

Returning, Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund the hospitality demanded by custom. Sieglinde, increasingly fascinated by the visitor, urges him to tell his tale. Siegmund describes returning home with his father one day to find his mother dead and his twin sister abducted. He then wandered with his father until he was parted from him as well. One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl’s relatives. His weapons were broken and the bride was killed, and he was forced to flee to Hunding’s home. Initially Siegmund does not reveal his name, choosing to call himself Wehwalt, ‘filled with woe’.

When Siegmund finishes, Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund’s pursuers. He grants Siegmund a night’s stay, but they are to do battle in the morning. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde, ignoring his wife’s distress. Siegmund laments his misfortune, recalling his father’s promise that he would find a sword when he most needed it.

Sieglinde returns, having drugged Hunding’s drink to send him into a deep sleep. She reveals that she was forced into a marriage with Hunding. During their wedding feast, an old man appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room, which neither Hunding nor any of his companions could remove. She expresses her longing for the hero who could draw the sword and save her. Siegmund expresses his love for her, which she reciprocates, and as she strives to understand her recognition of him, she realises it is in the echo of her own voice, and reflection of her image, that she already knows him. When he speaks the name of his father, Wälse, she declares that he is Siegmund, and that the Wanderer left the sword for him.

Siegmund now easily draws the sword forth, and she tells him she is Sieglinde, his twin sister. He names the blade “Nothung” (or needful, for this is the weapon that he needs for his forthcoming fight with Hunding). As the act closes he calls her “bride and sister”, and draws her to him with passionate fervor.

On the second act of the opera; Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhilde, his Valkyrie daughter. He instructs Brünnhilde to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Fricka, Wotan’s wife and the guardian of wedlock, arrives demanding the punishment of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have committed adultery and incest. She knows that Wotan, disguised as the mortal man Wälse, fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero (i.e., one not ruled by Wotan and not bound to respect Wotan’s contracts) to aid his plans, but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero but Wotan’s creature and unwitting pawn. Backed into a corner, Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund will die.

Ziziek questions whether the gesture of giving up eternal existence for the sake of love -from Christ to Sigmund in Act II of Wagner’s Die Walkure, who prefers to remain a common mortal if his beloved Sieglinde cannot follow him to Valhalla is the highest ethical act of them all? The shattered Brunnhilde comments on this refusal: “So little do you value everlasting bliss? Is she everything to you, this poor woman who, tired and sorrowful, lies limp in your lap? Do you think nothing less glorious?” Ernst Bloch was right to observe that what is lacking in German history are more gestures like Sigmund’s.”

We have to get rid of the old Platonic topes of love as Eros that gradually elevates itself from love for a particular individual, through love for the beauty of a human body in general and the love of the beautiful form as such, to love for the supreme Good beyond all forms: true love is precisely the opposite move of forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual.

This gesture is discussed for the first time in Plato’s symposium by Phaedrus, one of the guests present at the feast:

“Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning alive to earth; such exceeding honor is paid by the gods to the devotion and virtue of love. But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did not-dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might enter hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness.”

What Phaedrus is referring to is the famous story in which Orpheus’ wife Eurydice was set upon by a satyr at her wedding. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld. His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

In the philosophical dialectic, time is often the most horrid prison man can find himself in. The main goal in these dialects is breaking the confines of time. During the Schellingian experiment we’ll reach this statement that: What if the main confinement is in fact the eternity? And God is attempting to break free from it? Or according to Schelling God attempt some sort of Creation-Therapy in order to shatter the confines of eternity and the suffocating redundancy of potentiality. Freedom from that prison would mean descension into the realm of time. So in in philosophical sense time is in fact an Anthological Opening.

Thus, the incarnation which is the birth point of Christianity, is not an ascension of a body into eternity but quite the contrary.

Probably one of the most famous concepts of betrayal in literature, follows the logic elaborated by Hegel apropos of Julius Caesar: Caesar the-individual had to die in order for the universal notion to emerge. Nietzsche’s notion of a “noble betrayal” modeled on Brutus remains the betrayal of the individual for the sake of the higher Idea (Caesar has to go in order to save the Republic), and, as such, it can be taken into account by the historical “cunning of reason” (the Caesar-name returned with a vengeance as a universal title, “caesar”).

According to Zizek “A similar obscure ambiguity surrounds the role of Judas in Christ’s death: since his betrayal was necessary to his mission (to redeem humanity through his death on the Cross), did Christ not need it? Are his ominous words during the Last Supper not a secret injunction to Judas to betray him? “Judas, who betrayed him. said, ‘Surely not I. Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so'” (Matthew 26:25). The rhetorical figure of Christ’s reply is. Of course, that of disavowed injunction: Judas is interpellated as the one who will hand Christ over to the authorities—not directly (‘”You are the one who will betray me!”), but so that the responsibility is put onto the other. Is Judas not therefore the ultimate hero of the New Testament, the one who was ready to lose his soul and accept eternal damnation so that the divine plan could he accomplished?

It seems that the same holds for Christ: betrayal was part of the plan, Christ ordered Judas to betray him in order to fulfill the divine plan; that is, Judas’ act of betrayal was the highest sacrifice, the ultimate fidelity. However, the contrast between the death of Christ and that of Caesar is crucial: Caesar was first a name, and he had to die as a name (the contingent singular individual) in order to emerge as a universal concept-title (caesar), Christ was first, before his death, a universal concept (“Jesus the Christ Messiah”), and, through his death, he emerged as the unique singular, “Jesus Christ.” Here universality is aufgebohen (Removed) in singularity, not the other way around. So what about a more Kierkegaardian betrayal —not of the individual for the sake of the universality, but of the universality Itself for the sake of the singular point of exception (the “religious suspension of the ethical”)? Furthermore, what about “pure” betrayal, betrayal out of love, betrayal as the ultimate proof of love? And what about self-betrayal: since I am what I am through my others, the betrayal of the beloved other is the betrayal of myself is not such a betrayal part of every difficult ethical act of decision? One has to betray one’s innermost core; as Freud did in Moses and Monotheism, where he deprives the Jews of their founding figure Judas is the “vanishing mediator” between the original circle of the Twelve Apostles and Saint Paul, founder of the universal Church : Paul literally replaces Judas, taking his absent place among the twelve in a kind of metaphoric substitution , And it is crucial to bear in mind the necessity of this substitution: only through Judas’ “betrayal” and Christ’s death could the universal Church establish itself — that is to say, the path, to universality goes through the murder of the particularity. Or to put it in a slightly different way: in order for Paul to ground Christianity from the outside, as the one who was not a member of Christ’s inner circle, this circle had to be broken from within by means of an act of terrifying betrayal.

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