Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sacred Flesh and Profane Body: Falque on the Site of Phenomenality

Falque identifies the flesh as the site of transformation in his The Metamorphosis of Finitude, and in the process, sacralizes the flesh and medicalizes the body. The 'traces' or stigmata of finitude that remain in the flesh notwithstanding, the body is open in a way the flesh is not to alteration. "My flesh is that through which I experience my own body phenomenologically, and not the simple biological and molecular substratum that can be cured, or repaired, or modified" (MF, 136), or, in other words, medicalized. And yet none of this formulation denies "an insistence on the "resurrection of the flesh" (Leib) as a summing up of the lived experience of our bodies" nor does it "imply a denial of the reality of the substantial and material body in the Christian incarnation...It remains the case, however, ...that a total identification of the biological body with the resurrected body...leads to major aberrations" (137).

Aberrations indeed.

What is born of the flesh is flesh (Jn. 3:6). The flesh is born "to a world 'already there'---which I could naturally believe was there before me but which I have to recognize phenomenologically was born only along with me" (129). This birth does not enter the memory (past made present) of the one being born, though the event itself can be certified, witnessed, a birth certificate signed and issued by the physician (or just as commonly, by the professional midwife). Part of the business of medicine is to certify transitions of the body: as a physician, I have completed birth and death certificates, but I do not certify who has been born into finitude, or reborn into finitude metamorphosed. "What is true of birth, in the obscurity of the act of being born for the one who is born, is true also of the mystery of the act of being reborn for the one who is reborn" (129). What, then, precisely, is medicalized? The witnessing gaze of medicine 'sees' only the body, and it is a gaze of power, of science and knowing (see Foucault). The flesh, sacralized into phenomenality, and therefore into its manifestation (see below).

Nonetheless, as Falque argues, "I need witnesses of my flesh, for my birth certificate, but also for my rebirth (baptism and resurrection" (131). Only by such witness does my flesh have an 'origin' and only in this origin and this witness can one find the "clarity of giving birth"  which "can be claimed analogically for rebirth and resurrection." Falque's notion of 'analogy' is nothing if it is not charged. It seems at times that Falque, after taking Marion to task for his attempt to invert the metaphysical impulse that moves from the finite to the infinite analogically (analogy from 'below'), that is, by shifting to the side of the infinite as it analogically moves to the finite (analogy from 'above'), he inverts the inversion. And it really seems to be an inversion, and not a subversion, of Marion's novel inversion, which seems to have to happen prior to the implementation of Falque's stratagem.

Still, medicine, seeing the body only, wants to 'hear' from the flesh. The distinction between symptoms and signs, what the patients subjectively experiences and what the medical gaze accesses, respectively, rests in relation among the self, subjectivity and the flesh. When the flesh cannot speak, only a witnessing gaze is in play. In the case of birth, the gaze alone certifies the event. This medicalization of the body allows the flesh to appear in itself and by itself, albeit in a glass dimly.

Of birth certificates and death certificates, of births and deaths, either certificate will do: births are deaths and deaths are births. Being born and reborn remain distinctly other matters. When we are resurrected, we are resurrected 'in' the Resurrected One, who shows himself of himself and of his own initiative. "The initiative of his appearance guarantees me against my own fantasies, insomuch as I receive him there and when I don't expect him: That is to say, the apparition comes from him rather than through me. Thus he is the phenomenon---exactly as phenomenon is defined" (146). Such guarantees against fantasies underscore "the real existence of this object" that presents to consciousness (146). "When the body withdraws and the flesh becomes manifest, it is then that he shows himself" (145). The phenomenological method that elucidates the phenomenality of the body and of the flesh, also causes the withdrawal of the medicalization of the body, and allows the flesh to 'speak' in its own voice. The medical gaze recedes into its witness and certifications, as it is unable to grasp what the flesh communicates; it does not, finally, hear the voice of the flesh apart from its gaze of the body: it hears only through the gaze. The natural attitude simply will not suffice in the moment of the metamorphosis of finitude.

Medically un-certifiable, un-see-able rebirth, "[t]he resurrection is not simply the manifestation, or the appearance, of another mode of presence of the flesh. It is also a disqualification, or rather a withdrawal, of the substantiality of the body" (144). With respect to the resurrected Christ and the empty tomb tradition, "[t]he objectivity of the disappearance (of the body) signals, then, the disappearance of objectivity (of all reified bodies in the resurrection)". And along with such disappearances, whether on the road to Emmaus, in the delivery room or prior to delivery to the morgue, the medical gaze and all its medicalizations, that it itself visits or that which is visited upon it, is itself perhaps reborn into objectiveness (Gegenstandlichkeit, nach Husserl), which then might make an appearance in the phenomenological moment.

Emmanuel Falque certainly passes for a Catholic, but The Metamorphosis of Finitude will not be receiving the imprimatur or nihil obstat any time soon. He might turn out to be one of those radical theologians John Caputo has insisted into existence; the phenomenology of the resurrection is a theopoetics par excellence, and quite possibly haunts the Catholic tradition with rattling chains of a monadological panentheism. There is great beauty in the spiritual suffering in the Father through the suffering of the Son in the flesh, yet this can be construed as 'making of God' in the image of Husserl. The consciousness of God, on His side of the Resurrection, sleeps in Falque's phenomenology and somnambulates the divine perichoresis: God is Unconscious, to resurrect Jacques Lacan through Tad DeLay's treatise of that title on the psychoanalytic of religio-politics. The Father must be waked as he is [cata]Falque'd, so that we can see if he stays dead, or if this death of God is the death of a conceptual idol (31); so we can see if God awakens from the Mitternachtslied's 'deep dream' of the Symbolic order to insist on his existence. In the meantime, God rests in the Real, calling all finitude to himself, into metamorphosis, into a new heaven and a new earth,within a new God and a new human, in a world transformed.

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