Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Giorgio Agamben Evening Lecture, 2010

NOTE: As with all my notes from the EGS, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

The students are required to attend evening lectures given by the faculty each evening as part of our curriculum. Giorgio Agamben was the second person to give an evening lecture during the August sessions.

What Is a Mystery?
(This talk is related to the research he's been conducting over the recent years, and resonates with his evening lecture last year on uficium.)

Imagine yourself in Germany in the 1920s, in a Benedictine Abbey in Rhineland. Odo Casel (also known as Johannes Casel) and his book, Das Christliche Kultmysterium, gives birth to the Liturgical Movement. This was the age of movement. At the heart of Casel's work is that the Catholic liturgy is a mystery.

My first thesis is that the Pagan Mysteries are not a secret.
My second thesis is that there is a genetic relation between Greek and Catholic mysteries/dramas and at the heart of this is a practice, not a doctrine. The Church is defined by the participation of the body to the mystery of the liturgies.

The immediate political relevance of this is the primacy of the action on the doctrine. Liturgy comes from a word meaning "public activity." [NOTE: from Ancient Greek λειτουργία < λειτ-, from λαός, people + -ουργός < ἔργον, work (the public work of the people done on behalf of the people)]

The Church, then, is a community of action.

The Christian Mysteries are not a symbolic action but an actual presentation, not of the historical Christ but, of soteriological effectivity. He is present in His effects.

Thus what is at stake is an effective action. These effects will be produced in any case. We are here to hear about the effectiveness of Christian liturgical action.

The sacramental acts have effectivity regardless of what the intensions of the priest committing the sacraments might be. (Though, if you recall from last year's discussion of uficium, the only time the effectivity is compromised is when the priest is joking.)

It is thus effective not because of the work of the person but rather because it is Divinely designed.

We are released from the false notion that a Mystery (see also the Disciplina arcani) is an inarticulatable and secret. Rather, these are actual (from Latin actus, the perfect passive participle of agō make, do.”), an action (cognates include Ancient Greek ἄγω)  of effectivity/efficacy.

Let's return to the Pagan Mysteries:
"Precarious" is what is obtained by a request (prex). In the Pagan Mysteries there is not certitude (extended form of Latin certus and of the same origin as cretus whose two meanings are "to be separated" and "to have become visible"), this is the opposite of the Christian Mysteries.

There is a strong link between Mystery in this sense and the novel.

In the Mystery and the novel we see the individual life related to the supernatural such that they become mysteric. The plot is what constitutes the mystery. What takes place in the novel is initiation into the Mystery.

Life itself is the initiator and content of the Mystery.

Q&A starts here. Wolfgang says something like, "My heart is full." The joke becomes, because he is the author of artificial life that he actually said "My hard drive is full."

Agamben clarifies:

Truth is doctrine because Christ is operating in them, thus the Mysteries have efficacity. Liturgy is the most perfect paradigm of action for Western Civilization. There is nothing that is not effective in the Mystery/Liturgy.

There is this strong influence, then, in our civilization for finding an action that is perfectly effective. This liturgical pattern spread and was secularized. It's in our pursuit of an effectivity of operationalism.

Life is an initiation into life itself - this is what the novel also does.

Agamben finds it suspect to find a perfect efficacious action - perhaps we must abandon that quest. Today we have no other idea of life outside of effectuality, this should change, no?

We do not perceive the liturgical basis of our contemporary lives.

[END OF LECTURE]

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