Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Death of the Flesh: The Way of All Flesh as the Calling of Religious Community

The natural disposition of the flesh rejects non-self. Auto-immune disease results from the flesh's self mistaking itself for non-self: the flesh rejects itself. Since I provisionally accept that the body can become diseased, but we always suffer in the flesh, the self never finds itself in the body. The self and the flesh form a unity. Immunology, though, occludes the possibility of any kind of dualism in this state of affairs.

When we declare the death of the body, the body, or parts of the body often remain viable; transplant medicine bases its project on this condition. Transplantation poses problems for the flesh, as it sets up a collision of two selves. The donor's self remains in the organ (the graft) that survives the death of its body, and when transplanted into the body (the host) of another imbued with flesh, self and non-self reject each other, in the clashes of host versus graft and graft versus host. The solution to this problem is to alter the host (and graft), via immune-suppression, so that it does not recognize non-self.

As we keep the matters of the self (or selves) in mind, we can return to death. That the body, or parts of the body remains viable, we continue to note that the body experiences disease and dying, but only the flesh experiences death. Dying of the body implies cessations of functions, shutting down of systems resulting from disease. But death never completely comes to the body until every process within it ends. Such is death for the body: absolute cessation of processes. I think HAL had it right as it flashed: "life functions terminated."

The flesh suffers, and it eventually suffers death. This death is the death of the self, as the flesh and self saturate each other: there is no room for another flesh or self: relationality, saturated with the flesh, in its very excess precludes another self in the same place. Self rejects non-self.

Which is the richer phenomenon, the living on of the body, with all its life-processes and genetic coding for more function and more life, albeit in the flesh of another, or the "living on" of the flesh and self, in their excess of relationality, after the suffering of death? We cannot speak here of an "afterlife," for otherwise we would not be speaking of a saturated phenomenon: we speak therefore of the life of the flesh, and the death of the flesh. The saturated phenomenon of the flesh achieves a negative certainty that the death of the flesh and death of the body are different phenomena. Better we should speak of something like an "afterdeath," or come up with a more robust understanding of death as it applies to the flesh. The reader should abandon this reflection now if she expects a discussion of 'consciousness after death' to ensue.

The event of death forecloses on disclosure. We defer any exploration of the relationship between self and consciousness. Instead we maintain the location of consciousness in the flesh and body of living creatures. So our question[s]: does the givenness of death constitute the self of the recipient in the phenomenological moment? Is that constitution fatal, or does it itself impart 'mortality?' Because we do not experience death as the death of our own flesh as a counter-experience, we are open only to the experience of the death of the other as death of the flesh. This is not to say that we do not have some experience of some aspect of death as our own, and in this regard, imaginative variations of the reduction can be in play; but because of the foreclosure of the event to us, that is, the necessarily incomplete 'reportage' of this event, the reception of death has no place to project itself.

If the flesh grounds Dasein's being in the world and its authentication through its being toward death, then at least one response of the self to the givenness of death is expectation. This is the way of all flesh: to receive formation of the self from the givenness of death, not in its lethality but in its invitation to authenticity, albeit in the manner of a special case of expectation: of advent and a messianism. The givenness of death calls the self into being, the self into a formation. The community, grounded in the experience of the self as the witness of phenomenality of the death of the other, arises in response to the same call.

The death of the other discloses terror or hope; if terror then a community of magic and superstition arises. If hope, a community of advent, of a messianism of an anonymous religion, an unthematic religion, arises. The former community is poised for a pantheon, the latter for Mashiach. The former is poised for rejection of non-self; the latter is poised for the self of the other as another in the flesh that is the image and likeness of my flesh. In this manner the phenomenality of death, the event of death, recapitulates the call of a community into the event of religion in each and every death; as the 'called' community recapitulates the givenness of death in the phenomenological moment. It is through religion that expectation, the response to the givenness of death, opens upon the possibility of revelation.

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