File spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/french-feminism_2000/french-feminism.0008, message 28


Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 23:01:47 -0500
Subject: Oops!


I'm horribly embarrassed!  My spell-check changed "Tantric" to "Tantrum" in my
post below.  Perhaps this is an electronic Freudian slip late at night;
nevertheless, I blame my computer!

Best wishes,
Nancy Buchwald


> Greetings!
>
>     I'll admit from the beginning that I haven't read Irigaray's
> _l'air_;
> nevertheless, I find your discussion of the book lucid and
> thought-provoking.
> I've been mulling over your recent post for the past day or so, and
> Andrea's
> post below crystallized, or at least made more cogent, what had been
> lurking at
> the periphery of my thoughts:  in what ways, if any, do you think
> Irigaray is in
> direct dialogue with Lyotard, especially in her not-so-veiled references
> to an
> "assimilated" multiplicity, or at least "not-One" that undermines the
> coherence
> and order of language?  I'm referring of course to Lyotard's _Heidegger
> and 'the
> jews"_, which postulates that "the jew" = the feminine = the
> unassimilable but
> yet necessary sublime and supplementary element which founds and yet
> subverts
> western discourse.  In a rather labyrinthine manner, perhaps I'm asking
> whether
> Irigaray, as does Heidegger, positions the Other, according to your
> interpretation, not only as escaping phallogocentrism and thus existing
> as
> implicitly feminine, but also now as an element (or its traces) which
> troubles
> the borders of "western" discourse.  Does Irigaray re-map a ground which
> elicits
> an ultimate division between   itself/herself as "eastern" or oriental,
> that is,
> as mystical, Indian, Tantrum, kabbalistic, the feminine/feminized
> elements which
> culminate in the Ein Sof (to refer to Lurianic kabbalah), but which
> remain
> always already multiple but yet conjoined?  Irigaray's emphasis (in your
> summary) on the embodiment or corporeality of
> air/womb/tomb/crypt/blood/other
> maps itself into a long-standing philosophical matrix (pun intended) in
> which
> non-western cultures/languages/religions are posited as the feminized
> body to
> the "western" mind/spirit/logos.
>
> Nancy Nield Buchwald
> University of Chicago
> nanield-AT-midway.uchicago.edu
>
> Andrea Wheeler wrote:
>
> > Hi Simone,
> >
> > You know this tantra thing, I must go and read all your sources, but it
> > worried me abit. I know Irigaray reads the Symposium in an amazing way to
> > ask where Diotima is, why couldn't she have recalled this marvellous
> > teaching about Love herself to the group. So I think my question is
> > something like was India then really a place where an non-dialectical
> > relationship between two could be described. Do the texts really describe
> > this?
> >
> > Andrea
> > >
> > >Dear All,
> > >
> > >First, I thank you for all the excellent work you've put into this
> > >discussion, and apologize for having bowed out for a while.  I had to go
> > >read
> > >Air, and then midterms in my quarter hit, and well  But, now I've read Air,
> > >and the midterms are returned.
> > >
> > >I would like to offer some context for reading what all I'm about to
> > >contribute to the list.  My Heidegger is rusty, but I have the general
> > >outlines of his ontological work, more or less.  Also, Irigaray mentions 'a
> > >certain yoga I know' and 'yogic practices' in several of her texts.  I got
> > >to
> > >wondering about this and have traced what I think is the influence of
> > >Tantric
> > >yoga on her work.  I gave a paper on this recently, and if posting it to
> > >the
> > >list would be helpful in any way, I'll be happy to.  It's submitted for
> > >publication to the Female Principle book that Luanne Frank is making from
> > >the
> > >proceedings of the conference, so I'm not totally sure that I can post it -
> > >but hey, it's my paper.
> > >
> > >Tantra insists that the feminine and masculine principles and beings are
> > >different from each other, mutually dependent on each other for their
> > >'transcendence,'  that the body is a spiritual instrument, and that respect
> > >of the highest levels must be accorded to women tantrists by men tantrists
> > >because men can't 'transcend' without women. Shaw's Passionate
> > >Enlightenment,
> > >recommended to me by someone on this list (thanks bunches again!), is a
> > >fabulous source on these issues.  (This philosophy developed between
> > >800-1200
> > >AD in India, and while it did place women on a par with men, as many of the
> > >Sutras of Tantra were written by women and women were mostly the Tantrist
> > >teachers - a great advance over the sexism of both Hindu and Mahayana
> > >Buddhism (which Tantra incorporates and differentiates itself from)  as
> > >they
> > >were practiced then in India - it did not address issues of homosexuality
> > >and
> > >bias against it.  There are new developments in Tantric practice for
> > >homosexuals, that from what I know, seem to work just as well.)  Tantra is
> > >the practice of the sensible transcendental, of spiritual incarnation, as
> > >it
> > >is through various exercises, mediations, and sexual practices (the body,
> > >that is) that one attains enlightenment.  So, that sort of back ground is
> > >where much of my reading of Irigaray now comes from.  Just getting the
> > >cards
> > >on the table.
> > >
> > >Also, I write the following without much in the way of qualification in my
> > >rhetoric, so let me say here that I'm offering this reading of Irigaray and
> > >of the list discussion as a bunch of stuff to think about and critique, not
> > >as an authoritative sort of Grand Standing.
> > >
> > >So, on the point about multiplicity.  Catherine wrote:
> > >It's of course true that Irigaray underlines the plurality of Being, its
> > >non-totalizablity.  But she rejects the multiple and multiplicity as well,
> > >seeing in this notion but another avatar for the one (in the guise of the
> > >many).
> > >-   nicely offered quote from Cheah and Grosz with which I agree -
> > >
> > >My response to this is complicated.  There's this move to the One made in
> > >most religious and philosophical texts and doctrines, the Kabbalah of
> > >Judaism, in some of the creation stories of Hindu, in some of the myths in
> > >Buddhism, in the Koran, in Socrates, and in Heidegger that all this
> > >fabulous
> > >difference of beings is part of, and expression of, or in someway linked to
> > >the One which either is supposedly neuter or is clearly male.  In the
> > >Hindu,
> > >Islam, Juadism and Christianity this One is male, God.  In Buddhism, even
> > >though the 10,000 things are all illusion distracting us from the All, the
> > >Emptiness of Being, and that All is neuter, males get privilege and
> > >reincarnation as a woman is considered a punishment, and so women can't be
> > >enlightened.  This is an entirely political move which aligns the All with
> > >masculinity and covers over the importance of women in the making of the
> > >world, and of sexual difference generally. (I'm saying things we all know,
> > >but I'm going somewhere with this, so please pardon the rehearsal.)
> > >     OK, this response to multiplicity is a bad sort of essentializing,
> > >ending
> > >in the Male and Masculine as model of all good things.  It's sneaky.  It's
> > >the flip side of the bad-Pomo version in which there is nothing but
> > >difference and relativity, which amounts to the same thing, really, and has
> > >the same effect of covering over sexual difference as important, affective,
> > >etc.  I think Irigaray is responding to both of these moves.  BUT, Tantra
> > >does not work like this.  In Tantra there is an insistence on the two-ness
> > >of
> > >Being.  Tantra does not start with the story of the world in which Brahma
> > >spoke/sang the gods and elements into existence.  Tantra starts with the
> > >story in which Shiva and Shakti (the names vary) created the world through
> > >sexual intercourse.  The Ganges River is thought to be the still running
> > >waters of Shakti's womb.  So, the world is a place of multiplicity that
> > >does
> > >not unify into a male-One.
> > >
> > >In Tantra, as in Hindu and Buddhism, one's physical body contains chakras
> > >that correspond to various energies, but ALSO to various gods and goddesses
> > >and aspects of self and spiritual development.  There is a recognition of
> > >the
> > >multiplicity and complexity of self and of subjectivity in this because men
> > >and women are considered literal embodiments of those gods and goddesses,
> > >and
> > >they are expected to behave in the 'modes' of these gods and goddesses as
> > >well as to sensually transcend them into an enlightenment that is not
> > >gendered and is available to both sexes.  Part of Irigaray's objection to
> > >multiplicity is that it can also dissolve into the vapid infinity of
> > >bad-postmodern multiplicity.  I think her recourse to Tantra allows her, or
> > >rather allows me to work out the implication that one can have a kind of
> > >multiplicity, but one which does not unify into One or dissolve into the
> > >everything, but which is limited by sexual difference to the two.  It
> > >allows
> > >for complexity without the sexist move to erase difference for the benefit
> > >of
> > >either sex over the other.
> > >You, Catherine, and Grosz and Cheng are correct with reference to the One
> > >and
> > >the everything of Pomo, but in the context of sexual difference as I
> > >understand with reference to Tantra, Irigaray is maintaining multiplicity,
> > >in
> > >the sense of complexity, and I would add that the 'remainder', or in
> > >Mader's
> > >much subtler translation the 'reserve', the other always harbors, that is
> > >beyond the grasp and control of the Self or Subject, is another indicator
> > >of
> > >multiplicity.  The other is always more, and more complex than the view of
> > >a
> > >subject can gather or name or control.
> > >
> > >Heidegger's Being, I think Irigaray is saying, makes the same sexist move.
> > >For now my reading of Air turns on the word 'reserve' which means not only
> > >something kept in store, or left over after various calculations, but also
> > >a
> > >truth or revelation held back because the laity might not be able to handle
> > >it. In this case that in forgetting air, Heidegger's metaphors of throwness
> > >and of Being and of the unheimlich cover over the condition of man (and
> > >woman) as thrown out of the womb - she's implying that the truth of Being
> > >kept in reserve is that Heidegger is not, once again, acknowledging the
> > >play
> > >of sex in his thinking, that Being, from which we are thrown and ontic
> > >beings, 'is' a feminine sort of entity or condition (even a feminine
> > >divine).
> > >  That ontology, or truth, or whatever, is still in reserve in his thinking
> > >as
> > >it does not think its way toward the sexual other, in which he literally
> > >originates - that easy place of giving without expectation of reciprocity
> > >in
> > >which air is given him through the blood, without there being any awareness
> > >of difference: the womb (associated in Air with the envelope, the
> > >interval).
> > >
> > >She is disallowing him the trick of making Being on the side of Man, or
> > >understood only from the point of view Man.  Her standard argument that
> > >language and predication functions by suppressing, by basing itself on the
> > >feminine without ever acknowledging that debt comes into play here.  Page
> > >80+
> > >of Air:
> > >
> > >Being is nothing but the possibility of predication. Of the dimension of
> > >predication.
> > >     If Being can make itself into a circle, it does so within the
> > >suspension
> > >of predication.  The subject-object axis has not yet been put forth there.
> > >The horizon line of understanding has yet to be drawn from that point. If
> > >its
> > >path has already been marked out, it is in the form of the encirclement, or
> > >the rolling-up into a spiral, of a mystery: the mystery of the beginning of
> > >Being's taking place. Of its springing forth from nothingness.
> > >
> > >     Whence does Being proceed?  And whence proceeds its strange power?
> > >How,
> > >and in what, can it unify? What is the secret of the constitution of
> > >sameness? And of the permanence of its site? Why does the line of the
> > >spoken
> > >word revolve around this crypt? Returning to it and shutting up with one
> > >and
> > >the same move? What sort of forgetting of the other within (it) make the
> > >unthinkablity of sameness's origin the exclusive place of thinking? What
> > >fundamental assimilation ensures the unfolding of Being as the region of
> > >sameness?  And what kind of magic provides for the participation of the
> > >whole
> > >in the subsistence of this singular site?
> > >     Mustn't Being give back what it has taken from the other? Having
> > >assimilated the other so as to begin to be, and to unfold on this basis the
> > >singular power of sameness, Being gives participation back to the other.
> > >     Appropriation is founded in this double operation: an assimilation and
> > >a
> > >participation. These do not take place on the same slope of Being's
> > >constitution, but they are to be found, joined together inseparably, under
> > >its dominion. Man and world are reunited in the sorcery of this circle.
> > >     When he does not remember himself and is unable to think that nature -
> > >vanishing within him so that he might be - nourished him first, he repays
> > >nature with this oblivion: it is only through him that she is.
> > >
> > >Let me pause here to point out that 'it is only through him that she is'
> > >harks back to Being consisting in predication, naming, and ties Heidegger's
> > >thought back to the tradition that has named woman and the feminine for its
> > >own purposes.  The circle of sameness is that same old trick of unifying
> > >into
> > >the One.  Man and world may be united in this sorcery, but woman is the
> > >side
> > >of the world, here, and soon to become that over-against which man feels
> > >himself thrown.  Being springs forth from nothingness = she is nothingness,
> > >and the usual comments about 'lack' and absence and 'phallus' begin to
> > >apply
> > >here.  Back to Irigaray for a second:
> > >
> > >Between the two of them (he and she), an operation of inversion and
> > >repayment
> > >is forgotten in the difference it neutralizes [me: for: how can you pay a
> > >debt to nothingness?]  A projection has taken place, upheld by the power of
> > >love and hatred: love the same, which indefinitely seeks the dimension for
> > >its appropriated being, and hatred, which divides, separates, and marks out
> > >boundaries, differences. [Earlier, Irigaray links the act of forgetting
> > >air,
> > >consigning the feminine to nothingness, with a hatred, hating that origin
> > >in
> > >the feminine].
> > >     Love of the same is the first love of the other: she who gave herself,
> > >first, for assimilation to him [when he was in the womb, his being was
> > >literally assimilating its sustenance from her being].  But, when this love
> > >is repeated with no difference [once he's outside the womb and in regard to
> > >the world or women] it brings about the elimination of the other.  Always
> > >wanting to have the same from her, he abolishes her to the singularity of
> > >his
> > >fate: compelling her to remain the one and only.
> > >     Wouldn't asking the question of Being be to undo one of these slopes
> > >so
> > >as to confront him not with what supports him in the safety and serenity of
> > >re-adhesion of the whole within sameness, through the other's participation
> > >and assimilation, but with that which - repeating from the outside of
> > >sameness the operation that originally constitutes him - re-opens the
> > >question of his relation to the other?
> > >
> > >Wouldn't really asking the question of Being be to ask the question of
> > >sexual
> > >difference, which Heidegger does not do?
> > >
> > >
> > >Ok, this is really long, and I've hit on a nice cliff-hanger, so I'm going
> > >to
> > >stop now.  More to come.
> > >
> > >peace on your hearts,
> > >Simone
> > >
> > >
> > >      --- from list french-feminism-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---
> >
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