“NON-RELIGIOUS” CONVERSION: quantum porosity or relativistic closure between Latour’s modes, a Laruellian rejoinder

“We make a distinction in general between two heterogeneous types of mysticism according to the use they make of their Christian material, a religious or else a non-religious or heretical use, according to their dogmatic or theorematic style, and finally according to the model or one of the models capable of interpreting them concretely, a model that is either micro-physical or quantic or else philosophical. But it is essential to keep in mind firstly that future mysticism, fiction-mysticism, and micro-mysticism (little used here), are all the same in the theoretical structure, in the formalism, and differ in the models, philosophico-religious or scientific, capable of interpreting this formalism and in consequence capable of naming it with their symbols” (François Laruelle, MYSTIQUE NON-PHILOSOPHIQUE A L’USAGE DES CONTEMPORAINS, page 9, my translation).

I think Latour comes close to proposing such a “formalism” in his account of religious enunciation, but ultimately draws back. The idea that such a formal model might have to efface the name of religion, what the provisional name of non-religion points to in Laruelle’s text, is no doubt too disturbing. Nor does Latour’s policing of the boundaries between modes open him to the possibility of a formalism that could instantiate itself indifferently in religious and in scientific models. The privileging of the moment of “conversion” adds a mystical-sounding aura to what is finally conceived as the constitution of the addressee as a unified person.


“The Christ-Word however seizes upon this glorification and adoration of the Name and performs them to the point of the last-Humaneity. If there is a real content to the “Jesus prayer”, it is not the transcendent repetition of this vocable in the desire of interiorising it into itself, at the heart of illumination through repetition. It is to repeat, in a certain manner ritually, this name of Christ in the universal spirit of the vision-in-One rather than in the “spirit of Jesus” which is a historical and mundane spirit, condemned to an ascetic use of language. The future mysticism is a unilateral ritual like the rest of non-philosophy. Let it be born-without-birth, let the cloned name of Jesus be born as other name of the Son or of the Subject…” (ibid, 168).

Understanding the “name of Christ” in the spirit of Jesus is understanding it in terms of historical and mundane religion. Laruelle does not want to put a stop to this mode of enunciation, typified here in the Jesus prayer, but to change its felicity conditions by understanding it in a different key, that of the vision-in-One. The problem arises of the indebtedness not just historically, and also biographically, of the name of Christ to the name of Jesus, but also transcendentally. Cloning the name of Jesus into a different mode of understanding, as in effect Latour does too, even if this involves quantizing the name (this quantum effect can be seen in Latour’s privileging of evental conversion over stabilised faith), conserves too much of the historico-biographical plane it departs from and so does not attain the universality it lays claim to.

Laruelle’s upward path of cloning is to be preferred as it attains a formalism that on the downward path of instantiation can include both scientific and religious models. Quantic conversions are not stopped by the merely relativistic barriers separating Latour’s modes, and this is a great advantage over what amounts to a thesis of operational closure in Latour.

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