With the 2014 Gebser conference just around the corner, we would like to formally introduce this year’s Keynote speaker, Nicola Masciandaro.
Professor of English at Brooklyn College (CUNY), and a specialist in medieval literature, Nicola’s work falls between philosophy, mysticism, and criticism, with special attention to the topics of sorrow, decapitation, and commentary.
In his Keynote, Nicola takes a critical approach to the problem of individuation and mystical birth in Gebser, and seeks to investigate its aperspectival structure. Gebser is brought into dialogue with more traditional concepts of mystical becoming, as articulated in the writings of figures such fourteenth century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, for whom “god shines in man”, as well as more contemporary figures such as Meher Baba (1894–1969), who claimed to be a divinely realised avatâra (manifestation of god). According to thinkers such as these, spiritual evolution follows the pattern of a more radically singular process of self/world-negation. Here, salvation is individualised through God-realization.
Nicola’s recent publications include “I Am Not Supposed To Be Here: Birth and Mystical Detection,” in True Detection, eds. Connole, Ennis, and Masciandaro (Schism, 2014), “Paradisical Pessimism: On the Crucifixion Darkness and the Cosmic Materiality of Sorrow” (Qui Parle, 2014), Sufficient Unto the Day: Sermones Contra Solicitudinem (Schism, 2014), and Dark Nights of the Universe, co-authored with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker (NAME, 2013). Current/forthcoming projects include: Floating Tomb: Black Metal, Theory, and Mysticism, co-authored with Edia Connole (Mimesis); Sorrow Of Being; and Dark Wounds of Light, co-authored with Alina Popa. He is founding editor of the journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary.
Nicola will be presenting his Keynote on Saturday 18th October 2014, at 10 a.m. The full presentation abstract is provided below.
NEVER BORN … NEVER DIE:
INDIVIDUATION, MUTATION, AND MYSTICAL BIRTH
Nicola Masciandaro, PhD
Keynote Presentation, International Jean Gebser Society, Crisis and Mutation, 2014
Jean Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, in keeping with the seeming paradox of its titular concept, may be said to be saturated with the problem/question of birth to the point of erasure. On the one hand, its understanding of the mutative evolution of consciousness is thoroughly general and collective, sited within the universality of mankind and the scientistic episteme of the human ‘we’. It address our crisis, the crisis of the mutable world we happen to inhabit. From this perspective, the work leaves scant room for the radical asymmetry of individuated coming-to-be and expresses almost nothing of its hypersubjective existential terror. It is difficult to imagine Gebser, in communion with Cioran, either “long[ing] to be free . . . as the stillborn are free” or claiming that lack of “mourning and lamentations” over birth is the best “proof of how far humanity has regressed.” On the other hand, by bringing the mutations of consciousness wholly to bear upon the imperative of the present, Gebser’s work is integrally ordered precisely towards the solution of individual birth, the evaporation of the all-too-specific enigma of one’s being here, now. Its weight places itself squarely upon the singular ‘anyone’ or ‘someone’ who “supersedes ‘beginning’ and ‘end’,” who alone “knows of origin [and] has present, living and dying in the whole.” Like the fact of one’s own being born, the impossible and inevitable event of oneself which makes suicide always-already too late, the question of birth is not elided but rather made absently present in Gebser’s thought. Beginning, then, with the assumption that Ever-Present Origin’s non-treatment of the question of birth represents in these terms a significant form of spiritual refusal or silent negation of birth, my paper investigates the aperspectival structure of the phenomenon of birth by bringing Gebser’s thought into dialogue with more traditional concepts of mystical becoming, in particular those found in the writings of Meister Eckhart and Meher Baba, according to which spiritual evolution follows the pattern of more radically singular self/world-negation and individualized salvation or God-realization. As birth is a ‘ready-made’ aperspectival and four-dimensional truth par excellence—subjective, objective, both, and neither—so is it precisely the (w)hole one’s leap into which is the next mutation of human consciousness.