Anne Ashbaugh, Mythopoiesis

Anne Ashbaugh, Mythopoiesis

40 pages / stitched & screen printed

out of print

from Mythopoiesis

Identity resists differentiation. Yet, exiting the interior labyrinth and entering the exterior maze, a soul necessarily affirms other souls. Plato called this exterior labyrinth the circular flow that admits the presence of alterity into the boundaries of a soul. For reason’s desire, this flow becomes a principle: the soul promises not to contradict itself.  When the creative soul promises fidelity to the external world, alterity becomes the soul’s fuel. In the strife, the urge to create becomes a generator of freedoms that enables the body to soar. Sexual intercourse incarnates this birth of differentiation. Discourse begets intelligible offspring. Becoming a social self entails transforming the most creative impulse within us into the guardian of others.

Descartes’ tragedy consists in a radical confusion of these two energies. Lust for certainty caused him to relinquish the guardianship of self-identity to an external power: he surrendered self-making to a transcendent god innate to the soul only as an idea. The inverted self reverses the process of alterity. The twofold transgression of reason’s principles give rise to overwhelming paradoxes: an other, a radically other, appears as an innate, interior principle of the self. The cogito became a factory of evil geniuses.

The monstrosity of this reversal rendered Cartesian thought pornographic. All thinkers who view Cartesian certainty desire it erotically, without love. Like Pasiphae’s lust for Poseidon’s bull, the philosophical lust for certainty resorts to artificial contortions of the soul, language, and thought in order to captivate the Cartesian god. Like the Minotaur, the Cartesian god must remain in the mind by the sheer allure of the mind’s intricate pattern. If the god decides to exit, the cogito crumbles into illusion. To make the mind even more appealing, Descartes divorced it from the body. The eyes might seduce the god into complete love, into physical intercourse with the inquirer. The mind could not witness such a betrayal. Bodies seduce gods just as effortlessly as gods beguile the mind. Wise to this predicament, Descartes hid the body from the god innately captured in the mind. Unwittingly, he engendered a modern Minotaur within rationality. Eroticized certainty burdened each human body with a bull’s heavy head.

Epistemologists long to feel the phallic jab of Poseidon’s bull. They too appeal to Daedalus’ power. Reason must alter its shape so that certainty may penetrate it. Once the practical, constructive energies of the Daedalean power of the soul function at the service of this task, reason becomes a wooden cow: it ceases to be exercised as a desire and it becomes a vessel for knowledge, an empty receptacle where love of wisdom shrivels into sheer appetite for the image of truth. Like the speaker who divorces his words from their sound, the epistemologists attempt to think without desiring.

Descartes’ meditations prefigured virtual sex. In an intercourse with a god first doubted through an image of what the cogito would become, and then fiercely acknowledged as an innate idea of that cogito, the soul pleasures itself alone pretending to share its thrill with another mind. The Meditations function as an epistemological autoeroticism wherein the desire for knowledge indulges in the look of knowledge until it reaches a mental climax that paralyses desire. In Descartes’ meditations, Fermat’s theorem becomes psychological. There are no whole numbers greater than two. Within the self, alterity is always a proposition to the n-power.

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