Non Buddhist Mysticism: Performing Irreducible and Primitive Presence

(Part 7. To read additional sections, go to the ToC and scroll down to “Non-Buddhist Mysticism“)

4

Silence-Stillness

“Above all, our thought should be empty, waiting, not seeking anything, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object [the breath] that is to penetrate it.” In Buddhist contemplation and mystical prayer, such waiting assumes a great degree of silence and stillness. (We will follow the old English sense of stillan, present in modern German Still, and combine these two elements into one, as silence-stillness: quiet, not speaking together with motionless, fixed.) The danger here, as with all of our practice elements, is that we confuse the immanent symbol “silence-stillness” (= to be performed) for the Worldly ontological property Silence-Stillness (= already preformed). The danger is that the reader-subject of “silence-stillness” falls prey to the exuberant proclamations and urgent exhortations of the League of Life Philosophers and other spiritualists concerning its soothing healing exalting grounding wondrous Truth-bearing properties. How might we wrest silence-stillness from such seductive snares? How might we render silence-stillness a transcendental feature of the first thing that animates this text? These are actual questions that I am posing to you, the empirical reader because, in the end, it’s up to you. Let me add another wrinkle: how might we perform genuine silence-stillness? Three concepts will help us to think through the matter: the generic, person-in-person, and gnosis. We begin with the generic. The manner in which the terms genuine and generic are related should be informative. Both words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *gene-, “to give birth, to beget, to produce.” English genuine, derived from the Latin genuinus, has the additional connotation of “natural, not acquired.” And, English generic, derived from Latin genus, additionally implies “not special.” As employed in non buddhist mysticism, “the generic” has two senses. Laruelle writes:

“The first sense of the generic can be understood, from the outset, in the sense employed in pharmaceuticals and the sciences, where certain properties assume a universal yet not explicitly totalizing extension as discrete individuals.” 

Like the considerably less expensive generic allergy medicine at the pharmacy (which medicine, recall, has the exact same active ingredient as the expensive variety), a genuine silence-stillness is one whose cost is minimized. The cost of a generic pharmaceutical is drastically reduced because it has been stripped of the expensive-bearing additives of display, hype, branding, aggrandizement, fantasy, and so forth. Such additives are not only wholly superfluous to the goal at hand, they are perverting. How? They mutate the product out of its “natural” element (as basic remedy) into a kind of fetishized object (as magical medicinal excess), and, in so doing, they serve to corrupt consumers via the illusion of added curative value. Generics thereby possess an “anti-commercial potential…without a specular double, illusion or deception.” We need to add to this use of “generic” a second, “radicalized,” sense: “A radicalization of the generic is achieved by adding another real a priori condition: person-in-person.” Why is such an additional move required? In discussing another mystical element, namely “faith,” Laruelle says, “No one ‘has’ or ‘is’ faith, it is never an attribute that could be ascribed to an entity, rational or not.” Similarly, no one has or is silence-stillness. To posit such would entail the additional Authoritarian procedure of precisely ascribing, hence, inscribing silence-stillness with “beliefs, dogmas, concepts, and ideas.” This is an inscription, moreover, that inextricably positions “the person” within a mixture of the Authority’s own making. As Laruelle says, “If a position is doctrinal, posture is properly or most radically human…if a position is totalizing by vocation, posture is only universal, without being totalizing.” Forms such as “person-in-person” or “in-human” are intended to designate a posture within the performed “lived” of silence-stillness, and to distinguish this from a position within a preformed “learned” of “silence-stillness.” The “person” is this immanent posture and, as such, is “universal,” as opposed to being the fractured particularization of the Authorities’ warring ontologizing predications of an identity-enabling “silence-stillness.” Following non-philosophy, non buddhist mysticism opposes such predication to “the radical immanence of gnosis as an ‘unlearned’ knowledge.” “Gnosis”? Recall that the Silent One—Shakyamuni, Sage of the Shakyas, the Buddha—attains to eminent knowledge via jñāna (cognate with both knowledge and gnosis; from the Proto-Indo-European root *gno, to know). This is a knowledge that, while not reducible to, is certainly concomitant with, silent-still cultivation of attentiveness to the breath (ānāpānasatibhavana). It is a total, liberating knowledge of “how it is” (yathābhūtaṃ). And how is it? In a Buddhist idiom, it—all of conscious-material existence (nāmarūpa)—is impermanent (anicca), foundationless (anatta), and unsatisfying (dukkha). Since impermanence is a consequence of foundationlessness, and since unsatisfactoriness ensues from impermanence, how it is can be simplified to: foundationless. In the silent-still, empty, waiting, non-seeking reception of the breath in its nakedness, our model, the buddha-subject, comes to knowledge of first things

“Whatever is void of foundation, of that [the buddha-subject thinks]: This is not mine. This I am not. This is not my self/foundation. Thus is this to be seen, as it is, with sound knowledge.”

As the protagonist of an Authoritarian Dispensation, the Buddha’s “seeing (daṭṭhabbaṃ)” is a preformance within a position of x-buddhism. The buddha-subject’s “seeing,” by contrast, is a performance within a posture of immanence. We can index this seeing posture with the non-philosophical term Vision-in-One, synonymous with person-in-person, in-human, radical immanence, and the One. Laruelle characterizes this distinction as a choice “between the ontological leap and immanent knowledge”—between an encoded silence-stillness and a lived silence-stillness. From the perspective of the Authorities, Vision-in-One constitutes silence-stillness, rather, as an “unlearned knowledge.” For, “void of foundation”—deprived of preformation or predication—raises the question of where a non-positional posture “occurs,” where it leaves us, and what it makes possible. It will be useful here to add “gnosis” to our concept of heresy, and to cite Laruelle at length:

“Gnosis represents the most innovative and heretical aspect to Christianity, that is, the vision of the person as an autonomous being, more real than the world, and separated, in essence, from it. Gnosticism requires a ‘dis-alienation’ of the person from the world. Touching on the archaic foundations of religion, it is not possible to overestimate the importance of the gnostic cut or disconnection from such foundations, which can make Gnosticism appear like a mythological delirium, while, in fact, it only causes religion to appear so. Generally rejected, hated, or mocked in established Christianity over the course of centuries, the ‘gnostic cut’ can now be resumed here as a threshold for a heretical unblocking of religions.”

Let us risk being mocked, and invert Eckhart von Hochheim’s meditation on 1 John 4:9, “This is how God showed his love among us,” with this buddhomystical-fiction of his sermon.

The masters agree that all humans are equally noble by nature. I say something else, and even harder: The mystics and buddhas agree that all sentient beings are equally noble by nature. The masters say this nature is one, and simple. They say that something may here peep out or hang on it, but that that is not the One. I say something else, and even harder: Those who would exist in the nakedness of this nature, free from all mediation, free from all predication, must have left behind all distinction of person, so that they are as well disposed to a being who is across the sea, or who is as different from them as a pig, as to the one who is with them in presence and in species. As long as you favor your own person more than that being you have never seen or from whom you differ in kind, you have never for a single instant looked into this simple universal One. You may indeed have seen a derived image of the truth in a picture, but it was not the One! And, too, might we be pure of heart? For that heart is pure that has abolished particularized creatureliness. 

Where creature ceases, God begins.

Nothing is so like God as silence-stillness.

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transcendental feature. That is, an a priori basis of, or condition for, (un)knowledge. In the first instance a non-empirical element, independent of experience—but only in the first instance. Not to be confused with transcendent, which indicates a surpassing of immanent limits.

each derives from: Unless otherwise stated, all etymologies come from the Online Etymological Dictionary, website, https://www.etymonline.com.  

The first sense. François Laruelle, Clandestine Theology: A Non-Philosopher’s Confession of Faith, trans, Andrew Sackin-Poll (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020 [2019]), 12; anti-commercial potential, 12-13; “No one ‘has’ or ‘is’ faith, xxvi; beliefs, dogmas, xxvii (translator’s introduction); If a position is doctrinal, 29; the radical immanence, 5; between the ontological leap, 5; Gnosis represents, 53.

Whatever is void of foundation. Yadanattā taṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi na meso attā’ti evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. (Saṃyuttanikāya  4.35, “Atītayadaniccasuttaṃ.”)

This is how God showed his love among us. My buddhomystical-fiction is derived from sermon 5b, in Josef Quint and Niklaus Largier (eds.) Meister Eckhart: Werke (Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1993 [1936]), Predigt 5b,  67-76.

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