Non Buddhist Mysticism: Performing Irreducible and Primitive Presence
(Part 5. To read additional sections, go to the ToC and scroll down to “Non-Buddhist Mysticism“)
These elements are additional materials for a buddhomystical dramaturgy. As such, the only viable attitude (from Italian attitudine, “disposition, posture, comportment”) to hold in relation to them is that of performance. We are performing the elements rather than operationalizing them. This text is concerned with performance, not with methodology or instrumentalization. Laruelle’s concept of “performation” will be useful here. In short, performation is an “activity or labor of the force (of) thought on its material.” The force (of) thought is a way of understanding “thinking” without lapsing into any of the grandiose fetishes that attend that concept. What is a thought anyway? Neuroscience says it’s a phenomenon that occurs in the process of a brain’s hundred billion nerve cells interconnecting with one another, creating trillions of potential additional connections. Each connection transmits one to a thousand signals per second. Among other phenomena, the signals that ensue produce what we call “thoughts.” We might experience them as static or moving images, whole or fragmented, as memories, as our own or another’s voice, as nebulous ideas, or whatever. If we were beholden to the principle of sufficient science, that explanation might be satisfactory. But who knows? Virtually every Authority under the sun pontificates on the nature of “thought.” The point here is that, whatever else it is, thinking a thought is, in itself, ephemeral and inconsequential. By contrast, the force (of) thought is a “force” because it is the “first experience” of thought as “activity or work” facing the World. It is, moreover, a relation to material, in our case buddhomystical material. As such, we can add that the force (of) thought is the reality or lived of thought to the extent that it is “not alienated in the [thought] or in its historico-philosophical forms.” In what follows, we will consider mystical elements such as breath, silence, receptivity, and emptying and buddhist elements such as disenchantment, contingency, and compassion. I think the danger of becoming alienated in the thought’s “historico-philosophical forms” is clear. The antidote, too. It is, namely, for our thought to “renounce these teleologies [of buddhism and mysticism] and [their] tired repetition and attach itself to the spirit of discovery that exceeds acquired knowings rather than reflecting or reappropriating them.” But what might it mean to become alienated in the very thought? The trope of an “immanent organon” is helpful here. Think of an organon as a kind of skin of thought. As such, it constitutes an immediate, hence immanent, interface with whatever it touches. Laruelle says of performation (performance) that it is “the operation of the force (of) thought, its activity of immanent organon…such that the intention, end or effect of the act are immediately realized with the act itself, without any division or transcendent distinction being able to slide between them and differentiate what emerges in one piece. The act is its work and the work or the value of action confuses itself with the act itself.” No “hinterworld” stretches out behind the force (of) thought, providing ultimate signification and revealing hidden meanings. In this manner, the force (of) thought is an “ante-autofoundational simplicity.” It “neither grounds nor un-grounds nor razes-to-the-ground; it is never a mode of [buddhomystical] grounding, but is grounding itself in its…simplicity.” Such ideas, of course, are not foreign to buddhism or mysticism. This close correspondence is, indeed, the reason that I am employing these materials. Our task, then, is not to alter the material but to transform our vision of it, to adjust our attitude toward it, to think it otherwise. Can we postulate that performance is it’s own manner of thinking? A manner of thinking, moreover, that cannot be paraphrased as, for instance, buddhism or mysticism? A manner of thinking, crucially, that is adequate to our “irreducible and primitive presence”?
For Laruelle on performation, see Principles of Non- Philosophy, trans. Nicola Rubczak and Anthony Paul Smith (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 168-185; and Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, trans., Taylor Adkins (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2013), 19-20.