According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future
aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Peter Rollins - The Price of Happiness

It’s very easy for us to question the possibility of experiencing a lasting happiness.

Can we really find it?

Is it something that we can hold onto for prolonged periods of time?

The answer is likely ‘yes’. Indeed there are many who have dedicated their entire lives to cultivating it, even creating retreats and seminars designed to help others realize it.

However, in psychoanalysis there is a price to pay for happiness: the fundamental compromise of your desire. The more that happiness pervades ones life, the more that individual becomes estranged from their unspeakable passion.

In this way, people like Zizek refer to happiness as the category of the fool. It is the pursuit undertaken by one who would rather avoid confronting the contradictions and antagonisms that lie within them. Contenting themselves instead with a peace that is opposed to chaos, rather than a peace that is hard won via tarrying the chaos.

In this pop-up seminar I’ll be exploring the chasm that lies between happiness and desire via reference to an ancient Jewish parable and the Lacanian notion of the barred subject.

Against Happiness
by Peter Rollins
Streamed live on Dec 8, 2020

Comment: Peter. I was wondering if you could do a talk on the damage done to mental health of kids, and still when these kids are adults, by extreme fundamentalists, especially Calvinists. Here in Northern Ireland it would be churches like Free Presbyterians, Independent Methodists, Reformed Baptists, Brethren. I had to attend a Free P school and I, and others, are still mentally affected. My father was moderator of the Free P church, so I have significant inside knowledge if you need details privately. There are a huge number of people struggling as as a result of their upbringing. Many thanks.

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Wikipedia - The Graph of Desire

Lacan devised numerous quasi-mathematical diagrams to represent the structure of the unconscious and its points of contact with empirical and mental reality. He adapted figures from the field of topology in order to represent the Freudian view of the mind as embodying a 'double inscription' (which could be defined as the ultimate inseparability of unconscious motivations from conscious ones).


The graph of desire was first proposed in a 1960 colloquium, and was later published in the Ecrits. It depends on ideas developed originally in Lacan's Schema R, a graph in which fundamental organising structures of the human mind are shown in a schematic relationship to the domains or 'orders' which in turn structure human reality: the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real.

The graph of desire is a 'flattened' representation of a signifying chain as it crosses a pathway Lacan called a vector of desire. It appears as two curved lines which cross one another at two separate points. Each line has a symbolic meaning.

Elements of the graph

The signifying chain begins in a linguistic sign (S) and progresses to a signification (S'), or a linguistic meaning. It can be expressed sententially and has a duration.

The vector of desire is a representation of the volition and will of the split or barred subject ($). Unlike the signifying chain, the vector of desire is expressed metaphorically, and has no duration.

It is necessary to bear in mind the special conception of the subject Lacan means by the $ symbol. The barred subject is the internally conflicted result of the processes of individuation that begin in infancy. In Lacan's account of individuation, the infant must respond to the loss of symbiosis with the mother by creating a symbol of this lack. In doing so the infant is constrained by the always-already present structures of a natural language. There is a certain relief in the summoning of a symbolically present 'mother', but the experience of the mother who returns to the infant as someone-signified-by-the-word-'mother' is nevertheless one of absolute, irremediable loss. Mother — and the world — is now mediated by the Symbolic order and the exigencies of language.

With this in mind, the crossing of the two pathways in the graph of desire can be understood to connote interference and constraint. Desire for the primordial object is not fulfilled except through the constraints of the signifying chain. The vector of desire is metaphorical, substituting various objects for the absolutely lost primordial one, and irrupting into language without regard for the passage of time, or for the particular human relationship through which the vector moves.

Finally, the points at which the vector of desire and the signifying chain cross can be seen as instances of Freudian double inscription. The 'conscious and unconscious' significance of an act or utterance are one and the same, and each constrains the other.

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Lacanian Graph of Desire

Lacan developed his graph of desire in four stages – you find them below. The graphs and the theory behind it can be found in the 1960 essay “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious.”

In: Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, trans. Bruce Fink (New York: W.W.Norton &Company, 2006), p. 435.

See also:

Free Ebook - 

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Happiness and Desire by Peter Rollins
or, the Meaningfulness of Opposition and Contradiction

Abridged Notes by R.E. Slater
December 10, 2020

Optimized Therapies help one become happy whereas Productive Maladaptation Psychoanalysis confronts the contradictions of one’s self whereby one may (mal)adapt to find a less conflicted sense of purpose, meaning, contentment again.

Pete tells of a Jewish Parable to help explain The Elemental Signifier "S" in the Graph of Desire by Jacques Lacan:

In the parable God interrupts two rabbis who have been arguing about a subject for twenty years. Growing weary of the conflict God goes to tell them what the topic of their division means but as soon as God introduces Himself the two rabbis ask God to bugger off so that they may continue arguing about their differences.

What is the meaning of this Jewish parable? First, God is the incoming of happiness which neither want. They want the struggle to discover who they are, not the answer to their difference. Second, the rabbis represent the Torah which presents the interpretive struggle of their context. Without the struggle there can be no discovered meaning which might significantly change their being. And lastly, the removal of God’s Self from the argument is the pleasure of God in allowing freewill beings to gather meaning in order to garner resolve and productive movement into and through their lives.

In Lacanian terms we would deconstruct our idea of happiness against our desire for happiness knowing that it is in the contradiction to happiness that we might find in the struggle of one’s self "that which we are and which we want."

In religious terms God is the One who brings wholeness and peace into our lives. Conversely, the Torah is seen to represent the signifying chain which are a set of meanings or words which convey a form of communication between one to the other. But not exactly in the same ideations but in close approximation of meaningful ideations. (Cf. Signifying chain by Jacques Lacan. Also see, Lacanianism in Wikipedia)

Along this signifying chain, or line of personal meaning, is the process of discovery where we start at one place and end up at another. However, without the process of discovery, of struggle, of opposition, there can be no meaningful or significant “end” of discussion, or change of being, should the process be denied, interrupted, or mediated in less oppositional terms.

It also can mean that once we arrive at a meaningful discovery or deconstruction point in our lives, then by looking back on our past, or on some aspect of meaning we had held as significant, that all those self-placement points of meaning will have now shifted to become either more meaningful or less meaningful in the personal reconstruction process. It is in this way which Lacan is seen in post-structural terms of postmodernism.

Hence, the signifying chain of one’s being is both a process moment of forward activity as well as a retroactive moment of letting go of the past process that was becoming us. Though Pete doesn’t say this, Lacan has identified what the Process Logician Alfred North Whitehead would call a very process moment of “being and becoming.” (Cf. Process and Reality by Whitehead)




While listening to Pete's discussion to the vain pursuit of happiness I thought I might twist it a bit to show how Lacan may easily fit in with Whitehead's philosophy of process. As an integral theory, Whiteheadian thought is by its nature inclusive to any and all parts of academic and biblical discussions. No longer may other 'isms rule such as Plato or Neo-Platonism nor any biblical theologies based upon Hellenised Platonisms (or Scholasticisms, or Modernisms). Process thought is best expressed through postmodern post-structuralism and should continue to be an integrating force far beyond the 21st Century. But it was first best expressed in postmodernism. And so, while we struggle with fear and uncertainty, we must also know that in the bible, in Israelite societies and all societies coming after them, that fear and uncertainty is a constant in human survival. Process thought says to allow it be, learn from it, and build better societies from there. In biblical terms this means we replace fear of life with trust in God's presence in our lives. That we replace division of society because of uncertainty to trust with one another to work together towards a better unity. And that at the last, having gone through common struggles of survival with one another we might also have formed tighter bonds of fidelity and wellbeing with one another. It is vain to pursue happiness when in the very pursuit we deny to ourselves the process of being and becoming which is the very thing we are attempting to artificially create but cannot against the reality of disallowing deconstruction, contradiction, and opposition to shape us towards a more meaning personal identity held with the bounds of societal togetherness. - res