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  • Hieros Gamos: Typology and the Fate of Passion
  • James D. Faubion

Are we simply who we choose to be? We know well enough the poles between which answers to this question have tended to oscillate for at least the past century. Determinists of various stripes—biological, psychological, sociological—have insisted that we are not. Decisionists (of whom Sartre, in his more stridently existentialist moments, still occupies the extreme) have insisted that we are. We might review Judith Butler’s peregrinations from Gender Trouble to The Psychic Life of Power in order to remind ourselves just how vexed even the most subtle of efforts to hold something of a middle ground continues to prove to be. Or we might instead ask another question: Do we choose to love? The two questions might even collapse into one another if, as Niklas Luhmann has argued, we most modern of moderns have come to feel love, and to find it, in feeling and finding ourselves validated in the eyes and through the body of another. Both questions direct us to the review of lines of flight and force which, in hindsight, verge on the asymptotic. On the one hand, they direct us to the actuality of our urges and passions, and so to a peculiarly active passivity to which we must recurrently respond. On the other, they direct us to information—to our becoming informed and our coming to be formed—and so to that peculiarly active passivity through which we gradually transform our urges into accountable interests, our passions into discernable sentiments.

Aristotle rendered the primal scene of information as a Scene of Instruction in its literal sense: the classroom or gymnasium; the pedagogue, with his repertoire of primers and principles; a student, whose absorption of his lessons would one day be realized in his capacity to exercise what might properly be called self-determination, and so might properly be called choice. Not nearly so anti-Aristotelian as it might seem, Freud’s Primal Scene recasts the pedagogue as father, and the student as lustful, devouring, guilty son. Jacques Derrida has projected the Freudian scene into what Harold Bloom has appropriately deemed the agonistic dynamics of an always already written transcendental Text. Drawing upon Wheeler Robinson’s Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament, Bloom’s emendation of Derrida serves as my own point of departure:

[I]n his study of Old Testament inspiration, [Robinson] moves towards the trope of a Scene of Instruction when he sees that while oral tradition rose to interpret written Torah, written Torah itself as authority replaced cultic acts. The ultimate cultic act is one in which the worshipper receives God’s condescension, his accommodating gift of his Election-love. Election-love, God’s love for Israel, is the Primal start of a Primal Scene of Instruction, a Scene early displaced from Jewish or Christian into secular and poetic contexts.


Bloom points here to two processes, both of which are central to the story of being and love to which I shall shortly turn. The first is that process of reception through which the self comes to acknowledge its being, to inscribe itself as itself, in the light of an “election” which cannot be grasped apart from its interpretation, its reading, of the incorrigible particularity of the experience, and the relation, of love. The second is that process, somewhat too sanguinely deemed “displacement,” through which gnosis—of which the luminous experience of being-in-love is only one example—has come to occupy the epistemic fringes of a tradition increasingly guarded in its acknowledgment of either experiential transcendence or experiential truth.

Amo Apps, born Amo Bishop, met George Roden first in 1987:

I was given a house, 20’ by 20’. Leroy S. gave it to me. I had purchased a hired man’s house from him that had burned out. And I cleaned up the site so beautifully there wasn’t a scrap of tissue paper left. O.K., I figure he gave me a good price so I figured I’d treat him well.... So we went from this burned-out ruin of a house to absolute bare ground. And so he came over to my...

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