That Same Sociality

I just found this old post that I never published. Can’t remember why.

For some reason, Mormons often cling to the old creeds of eternal, objective truth. Perhaps they are wary of the “boogey-men” of relativism. This makes no sense to me because Mormonism arose out of an intellectual environment that was questioning these very foundations of eternal truth. In the end, Mormonism becomes the ultimate example of a religion without any eternal, objective truths because the eternities are the participation in a culture.

Consider the brief statement in D&C 130:2: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” Here, the heavens are described as an extension of mortality. Sociality is just how it is both here and there, though we will have “eternal glory,” in the next life (not sure what that is…). This vision is confirmed in D&C 138 that sees us all just going to work in the afterlife. There is no access here to immediate truth. Instead, the same sets of issues we face in this life concerning the contingency of culture will persist in the culture of heaven. It is all now, and will always be, culture; turtles all the way down. All “truths” are the product of that culture, which both structure and are structured by that culture.

Though Mormons have longed for immediacy in relationship to the divine, this path has consistently been cut off. Though we have often longed for a “pure” Adamic language that will somehow transcend the limitations of mortal language, we still imagine communication as bound within language, which means that the signified is forever deferred, unaccessible outside of language. Before the linguistic turn, Mormons already had imagined that language was inescapable.

When we imagine that God is an exalted human, we have forever left behind traditional notions of eternal truth. God is one member of the human community who produces and reproduces all truths, which are bound to culture. As Joseph Smith taught, “that is the great secret.”

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com Jacob J

    Turtles all the way down, indeed. D&C 130:2 is one of my favorite scriptures and I agree that if taken seriously it jettison’s many of the traditional ideas about absolutes in the eternal world. I posted some related thoughts here.

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com Jacob J

    jettison’s …shoot me now

  • Raedyohed

    “Though we have often longed for a “pure” Adamic language that will somehow transcend the limitations of mortal language, we still imagine communication as bound within language, which means that the signified is forever deferred, unaccessible outside of language.”

    Your meaning in this statement was certainly “deferred” to me for a moment or two. Thinking that I now have your meaning, I must disagree. Your conclusion does not necessarily follow, for it overlooks one possibility, which is in fact implied by the very transcendental nature to which you refer. That is, that in pure and perfect communication the signified and the signifier are one and the same. Is that not “the great secret?”

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Raedyohed,
    in pure and perfect communication the signified and the signifier are one and the same.

    I think that this is an accurate account of the mythos of the Adamic language, but I don’t think that it solves the problem at all. In my view, the signified and the signifier cannot possibly occupy the same space because it is the signifier which calls into being the signified. All there is is the Lacanian “Real” behind language, and language gives it structure. I guess I don’t really think it is possible for their to be a transcendental signified because something can only be signified by means of a signifier. That may sound like gooblygook, but it makes perfect sense to me!

  • Raedyohed

    “I guess I don’t really think it is possible for their to be a transcendental signified because something can only be signified by means of a signifier.”

    My point about the transcendence of pure language was poorly phrased. Let me take a “differant” tack.

    I imagine truly transcendental language as the process and/or structure whereby understanding is perfectly aligned with that which is to be understood. The statement that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” implies a certain unity of thought, a fullness of interpersonal understanding. “For they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.”

    Perfect understanding comes from perfect likeness, and vice versa. This is predicated upon the dissolution of the Imaginary. Settling fully into the Symbolic we are left with la différance, which distinguishes between the Real and the Symbolic and causes a deferral of the signified to the signifier. Thus begins the free-play of the signifier.

    But if “we shall be like him” then we shall be like one another. What happens to a society in which eventually all human distinctions are lost? La différance diminishes, eventually leaving only the Real. If that is all that is left, then there is no more signifying, no symbolic language, and no more relative culture. If it is actually turtles all the way down then perhaps we, like some kind of testudine fractal, eventually converge. That convergent singularity is God, to whom all individuality, society, and culture eventually must defer.

    As a corollary to that final deference, God himself breaks the chain of signifiers, and replaces it with a language imbued with power above and beyond that of the Symbolic language.

    You’ve said, “All there is is the Lacanian “Real” behind language, and language gives it structure.” Absolutely, and Lacan goes a step further saying “it is the world of words that creates the world of things…” and after all, “the Word was God.” We read that “the Gods ordered… and it was so,” and that it “was by faith that the worlds were framed – God spake, chaos heard, and worlds came into order…”

    On the other hand, however, if we follow Derrida’s endless chain of signifiers to its non-conclusion, there can be no ultimate creative power in words. Yet, we’ve established that God creates by words. Therefore God’s words are of a unique language, different from the Symbolic. If the language of God is not the Symbolic, it is not a language of signifiers at all, but a language where signifiers (words) must be the signifieds themselves.

    Whew, that was long. Sorry… got a little carried away! Probably should learn to condense a little, but hey I’m new at this philosophical stuff, so thanks for your patience!

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    So, if I get what you are saying, you’re suggesting that Derrida gives the foundation for a pure language which communicates perfectly? I admit that I don’t know Derrida as well as I should, but I find that hard to believe.

    I imagine truly transcendental language as the process and/or structure whereby understanding is perfectly aligned with that which is to be understood.

    Okay, but this is a different problem than the linguistic turn, as I understand it. It isn’t that there is a breakdown of understanding between subjects, but that understanding is mediated through and conditioned by language. Perhaps here is possible area where I have not been clear. I do not deny that an Adamic language can exist where understanding can be greatly enhanced (though I have no idea what that would be like). Rather, I am suggesting that as a language it has the characteristics of language, namely that it orders the world around us in a particular way.

    Perfect understanding comes from perfect likeness, and vice versa. This is predicated upon the dissolution of the Imaginary.

    I am not sure what you mean by the “dissolution of the Imaginary.” It seems that one is left with fragmentation and senselessness, which don’t strike me as particularly divine qualities.

    La différance diminishes, eventually leaving only the Real. If that is all that is left, then there is no more signifying, no symbolic language, and no more relative culture. If it is actually turtles all the way down then perhaps we, like some kind of testudine fractal, eventually converge. That convergent singularity is God, to whom all individuality, society, and culture eventually must defer.

    While this is an interesting point, and I don’t know Derrida well enough to say if it is an accurate reading, I think that the exact opposite conclusion is drawn from a psychoanalytic perspective. If you only have the Real, there is no erasure of difference because there is only difference. There is simply nothing to order the chaos. If, however, there is this “unity” called God which gives order, then we are back to the way that all languages are structuring that order. How is God’s “language imbued with power above and beyond that of the Symbolic language” that is not also a Symbolic language?

    I guess for me the key point is that there is no unmediated access that is prediscursive, or transcends language because there isn’t anything there to have access to. I like the Lacan quote that you give. What is the reference?

  • Raedyohed

    The Lacan quote comes from his ‘Discours de Rome’ or, ‘The function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis’ in Ecrits, though I must confess to not having read it. I suppose I ought to confess to not having read much of any philosophy, since I am far too busy lurking on blogs and procrastinating my research! But that was probably obvious from moment one.

    ‘I am not sure what you mean by the “dissolution of the Imaginary.”’

    Here I’ve probably misused the word dissolution and/or misunderstood the Imaginary! From my very cursory reading of Lacanian Orders, the Imaginary, which is typified by psychic processes like preverbal fantasy or misidentification with others etc., is the antithesis of the Real. The Symbolic has one foot in each so to speak, in the sense that there is a différance between signifier and signified. The resultant play of signifiers has to stem either from absence (a feature of the Imaginary) or fantasy (also Imaginary). The Overlap of the Symbolic and the Imaginary is at the root of the deferment of the signifier. I hope to show that under a certain case the différance is eliminated. This takes the Imaginary out of the equation, yanks the rug out from under the Symbolic, and plunks us down in the Real.

    “I don’t know Derrida well enough to say if it is an accurate reading”

    You took the words right out of my mouth! Two days ago I could not have told you who he (or Lacan) was. I’m sure I’m butchering this stuff. But hey, it’s still fun right?

    “…there is no erasure of difference because there is only difference.”

    That is to say, there is only meaning in difference, which is true. I would submit that for there to be difference there must be “two”, but in the case of perfect unity with God there is only One. Thus, in the end, the phrase “You and I” has no meaning because there is no différance between “you” and “I”. It is at this point that “language” (whatever that is) between “you and I” has completely abandoned the Symbolic Order, because it cannot possibly depend on difference between “you and I”.

    “…I think that the exact opposite conclusion is drawn from a psychoanalytic perspective.”

    I think that’s pretty safe to say. I am (somewhat untidily) trying to take the implications of that perspective in a different direction from the original intent. That is, that the discursive becomes subsumed by the experiential. We all become subsumed by God.

    “How is God’s “language imbued with power above and beyond that of the Symbolic language” … not also a Symbolic language?” (is this the intended meaning here?)

    I dunno. I have to think on this some more. Maybe gods don’t really use language with each other. Maybe it’s just like a knowing nod between bro’s. Maybe God has multiple languages for different purposes, like talking to humans stuck in the Symbolic, grasping at straws like me!

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Thanks for your thoughts on this! Don’t sell yourself short on philosophy. Its pretty impressive if you’ve picked up as much as you have in just a few days!

  • Raedyohed

    Ugh, just re-read my last comment. What a mess. Over my head. Tapping out. Thanks for the encouraging words though! Maybe I’ll pick up a copy of “Deconstructivism for Dummies” next time I’m at WAL-MART.

  • Chuck

    “When we imagine that God is an exalted human, we have forever left behind traditional notions of eternal truth. God is one member of the human community who produces and reproduces all truths, which are bound to culture. As Joseph Smith taught, “that is the great secret.”

    Well, I suppose if you insist on taking a statement by the prophet and tacking onto it your own musings — truth bound by culture, indeed! — you are welcome to it. But please do not present that curious deformation as a teaching of Smith or of Mormonism. I sit down astonied!

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