The Religious Attitude

By and large, the religious attitude is characterised by the consciousness to which a man becomes aware, regarding the impossibility for him to be fully and definitively satisfied (or “appeased”: be-friedigt) in the Here Below, that is to say, in the World where he is born, lives and dies; and this not only in fact, but also in principle or necessarily, that is to say, in any “worldly” hic et nunc. As it is, this attitude is not viable. For if we accept as a premise that Man, whoever he is and whatever he does, can never be satisfied anywhere or ever during his lifetime, we can only deduce from this a single consequence, which is revealed in empirical Existence by the phenomenon of suicide properly speaking, that is to say of death fully conscious of itself and perfectly voluntary.

But the properly religious attitude is not purely negative: neither discursively or theoretically, nor actively or existentially. The Religious is not completely eliminated from the World in which we live (and Religion lasts and extends in the Universe of Discourse, both as the practical Discourse which is Prayer, and as the theoretical discourse that is Theology) because Satisfaction (which is the beginning and the end, even the cause and the goal of human existence as such) is not denied purely and simply by the Religious, but “suppressed-dialectically,” that is to say, preserved and sublimated in and by its very negation. In other words, the Religious attitude only denies the possibility of Satisfaction in the world in which one lives to affirm it in the Beyond, that is to say in the World-below where one lives as a rehearsal to death (Socrates).

It is this (possible) Satisfaction in the Beyond that characterises the Religious Discourse (practical or theoretical) and Religious Existence. But religious discursive Existence admits three essentially distinct variants. What characterises Religion as such is the “absolute” impossibility for the Religious Man to satisfy himself in the Here Below or in the World where he lives. Now, this impossibility is absolute only if, and by definition, nothing is really satisfactory in all that is still just a function of the life of Man in the World.

In particular, Man cannot be satisfied either by the fact that he is or exists-empirically in the Extended Duration, with all that which “automatically” results from it, nor because of what he himself does or of what results from his “conscious and voluntary” actions. And this is precisely because the existence in question is his existence and because the actions in question are his actions. But this does not mean that an existence determined by actions other than his own cannot give him satisfaction. On the contrary, Man is religious only insofar as he admits such Satisfaction as a function of “transcendent” actions, within the framework of a “transcendent” existence.

Now, the first religious variant admits that a Satisfaction is possible in the very World, where one lives, after being born there and before dying there; and that on the condition of supposing that the empirical existence of Man in the world Duration-Extension also implies a “spiritual life”, or that the “soul” lives not only according to its “bodily” desires, but also to a “divine will”, which is opposed to them. It matters little, moreover, whether the transcendent or divine actions take place in an “immediate” way, in and through the human-animal body, or are “mediated” by a “consent” or even by a “cooperation” of the human soul embodied in this body. If empirical existence is determined by “transcendent” acts (immediate or mediated), it will be satisfactory throughout its extended duration. Thus, Man can be satisfied during his lifetime, but his Satisfaction can only be religious: that is, once understood as not coming from him [all alone].

But if we radicalize this first variant of religious existence, we transform it into a second variant. One can deny the possibility of any Satisfaction in the Here below, on the pretext that, in the Extensive Duration, a co-operation of the Man who exists there-empirically is necessary and that no human operation could be really satisfactory. So, the affirmation of Religious Satisfaction, that is to say, the maintenance of Religion as such requires the affirmation of a Beyond where the man knows he cannot (really!) BE down here, that is, to hIS fullest extent.

However, if we note, on the one hand, that “the true being of Man is his Action” (Hegel), that is to say, that Man as such does not exist empirical, and that he only exists to the extent that he acts, consciously and voluntarily, in the world of Duration-Extension; and if we admit, on the other hand, that no human action can be fully and definitively satisfactory, we must conclude that Religious Satisfaction in the Beyond can neither result from any activity nor consist of any active existence. In other words, religious Satisfaction cannot be anything other than an “extinction” (nirvana) of the extended duration of human empirical Existence. And this “extinction” can be reduced just as little to simple death, which is still part of the pith, as it does not result from any activity whatsoever of this life itself: when one lives by acting, one dies only by acting; to be reborn by the perfectly satisfactory extinction is obtained only if one succeeds in living and dying in a total in-action, which suppresses even the very desire to act.

There are thus two extreme religious variants: one admits a Satisfaction in the Here Below, on the condition that Man acts there according to a will which is not his own; the other seeks this same Satisfaction only in a Beyond where there is no longer any action at all and therefore no longer any human existence, that is to say, voluntary and conscious. And these two “extreme” variants (thetic and antithetic) admit a third “intermediate” variant (or parathetic). This one admits a conscious or human Satisfaction, but it admits it only in the Beyond. This Beyond, where Satisfaction is human in the sense that it is conscious (if not voluntary and discursive), by the very fact of an”other world”, where man survives his life and death in the here below. Nevertheless, this World of Survival is not a “proliferation” of the World in which one lives, but an “other world”. Because Satisfaction that can be obtained there is so much different from all that one obtains in the Here-below, that it could not be obtained anywhere nor ever in the duration-extended of the empirical-Existence. And this is precisely why this World of surviving is “transcendent” to the World where one lives and dies.

Now, this Transcendence would not be religious if Satisfaction in the Other World were a necessary consequence of the conscious and voluntary life of Man in the Here Below. Nor would it be if, in the Beyond, Man could derive satisfaction from his own actions, even conscious and voluntary or human existence. If this were so, Man would not be religious, but divine: it is as God that he would outlive himself after dying as Man. The attitude towards the Hereafter is religious only insofar as the Satisfaction in the Otherworld is supposed to be just as “transcendent” as that which the first variant of Religion admits in the down here world. In other words, Satisfaction in surviving, that is to say in life after death, can only be conscious or human insofar as it is not voluntary, in the sense that the satisfying action is not [only] the will of the one whom it satisfies. In short, the intermediate (or parathetical) religious variant supposes a double Transcendence: a transcendence of God to the transcendent World, where the soul survives after the Body’s death (or pre-lives before the latter’s birth).

In this third variant, the Universe of religious Discourse involves three superimposed Worlds of which we speak: the Here Below, or the World of bodies, even of incarnated souls; the Beyond, or the World of disembodied or pure human souls; and the disembodied and inanimate divine World, or God. The first two Worlds have this in common, that they are both Worlds properly so-called, which are “phenomenal” in the sense that they are conscious of themselves. In other words, their constituent elements are structured units or Monads, each of which is distinct from all that it is not, thus being one (in itself) and unique (of its kind) in and for itself. These two phenomenal Worlds have this in common, too, that there is for each a Beyond of itself, in the sense that in speaking of all that which constitutes one of them, we do not exhaust the totality of what we are talking about or can talk about in a uni-total, even “coherent” and “complete” Discourse. The second World is not a mere replica or reduplication of the first. Indeed, if in the first World Man lives and acts, as an incarnated soul, without being able to be satisfied by his active existence, he can be satisfied fully and definitively in the second World, without however being able to act there himself.

Consequently, if the Soul can pass from the Here Below into the Beyond by “disembodying”, that is to say by ceasing to act and even to desire action, it cannot transcend this Beyond itself. Because inaction in the World where the incarnated Soul lives is just enough to pose, by disembodying it, the World of the survival of pure souls. Inaction during survival cannot, therefore, carry the Soul beyond the Otherworld. And if it acted [par impossible?] in the World where it survives, it could therefore only re-incarnate and therefore be re-born in the World of life and death without Satisfaction. If, by disembodying, that is to say, ceasing to live and act, the Soul survives its active life (limited otherwise by death), it cannot, whatever it does and even if it does nothing at all, transcend its limitless survival. The divine World where God is just as inaccessible to the disembodied or pure Soul as is inaccessible to the body and to the incarnated Soul of the Beyond that constitutes the intermediate World between that of the Beast and of God, even of the Gods or, if you will, Angels. If a man is not a Beast because his soul survives the death of his body, neither is he an Angel, because his disembodied human soul is immortal, so that, not reaching its own end nowhere, it cannot never exceed it.

If the religious or theological Myth presupposes the animist Myth, the latter does not, as such, presuppose the theological Myth. If the ideal World, where pure or disembodied souls live on the death of their bodies, is there only to allow men to gather the fruits of their active life in the Here Below or to make up for the lost time in obtaining there their active Satisfaction that they could not or did not know how to obtain during their lifetime; this ideal or transcendent World, thus, has no divine Beyond and the man who believes he will survive his death there is not a religious person. But if he is a Religious, that is to say, if he admits that even in acting he cannot be satisfied unless he acts according to a will other than his own, he must admit in itself a “transcendent” Soul which can only be satisfied by the will of a satisfying God. It is therefore quite natural to say that the transcendent or divine will is fully and definitively satisfied only in a transcendent World, where souls survive the life of their bodies and where the soul is disembodied and fully and definitively satisfied by its God Himself; and no longer does anything; – never and nowhere.

Now, the authentic myths of Plato are religious and theological myths. It is only insofar as these myths are theological and religious that they are also, and necessarily, animist myths. In other words, an animist myth is authentically Platonic only insofar as it admits a double Transcendence: the transcendence of the ideal world, where the disembodied souls survive (or prevent) in relation to the World of the duration-extension of the life who dies; and the transcendence of the inanimate Divine or the soulless God from this ideal World itself.

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