In a very interesting interview (“Pour une ethnographie des modernes”) Bruno Latour clarifies his attitude to religion. In reply to a question on the “religious phenomenon” he declares: “It has disappeared as religious mode of existence: it is ideology, opinion…the phenomenon itself has disappeared as mode of existence” (page 7, my translation). For Latour, “religion” as we find it in our society is no longer a living mode of existence, but mere ideology: empty rituals and meaningless prayers and sermons.
However, Latour himself manages to reactivate this very particular mode of existence. In his book on religion as a mode of enunciation, REJOICING, he claims that “in the operation of the book the enunciation that is being studied is produced” (ibid, 8). One may wonder: if Latour’s role is purely descriptive, empirical and ethnographic, why would he give himself the trouble of reanimating a dead mode of existence? In fact, Latour is rather proud of this feat and declares “for me the most scientific book that I have written is REJOICING”. His reason is performative rather than simply descriptive: “because there one is producing the phenomenon that one is talking about”.
Some of Laruelle’s theses on religion are very close to Latour’s own position. If, as Laruelle suggests, we abandon Jesus on the Cross to physicality and empirical historicity, we are in effect assigning him to the referential mode of existence that is authorised to pronounce on the factuality of his death, of his despairing cry on the Cross, and even of his existence (or not!). A meta-physical or a generic Christ would belong to another mode of existence that tends to isolate the Christ-figure not only from ordinary criticism, but also from more complex forms of pluralisation. So my question is: to what extent is messianity compatible with complexity except only partialy, locally, and provisionally? A further question is: to what extent is Laruelle, like Latour, enouncing a post-empirical and autobiographically delimited vindication of Christic enunciation, itself declared to be “science”, for the same sort of contingent autobiographical (and ultimately non-generic) reasons? Laruelle has the advantage of not claiming ordinary empirical validity for his generic analysis, which he calls a “Christo-fiction”, but he maintains this fiction in a close proximity with quantum physics.
It would seem that the autobiographical pseudo-transcendentalisation as covert impulsion towards a proclaimed but non-ratified, except circularly, universalisation is even clearer in Laruelle than in Latour. In Laruelle’s system, Christ is treated as a “formal supplement” able to “orient” a religion generically. For Latour Christian monotheism is a sui generis mode of enunciation and of existence that effectuates a reduction of theological content, assigning it to a quite different, referential, mode of existence. Aside from the obvious question of the desirability of such a universal “formal supplement” there is also that of its coherence. The notion of “reduction”, which is also employed as we saw in the reduction of historical content in the form of Jesus dying on the Cross, cannot be total if it leaves place for “orientation”. There is an unresolved conflict between reduction and orientation, which resurfaces in the conflict between a principled generic concept (or “formal supplement”) and a non-generic name (“Christ”). My worry is that this name is also pre-oriented, that is to say pre-decided, biographically in Laruelle’s case, as it is for Latour, and thus that the necessary genericity is only invoked but not attained.
The pluralist question is: is Laruelle’s appeal to a “christic intuition” compatible with a democracy of intuition, or does this step beyond schematization in terms of familiar religious imagery retain nonetheless some trace of the original. For Laruelle and his empirical biography, this is the image of Christ on the Cross, which escapes empiricity in that it is oriented towards its generic sublimation. The appeal to quantum schematization and also to that of imaginary numbers would seem also to partake of this autobiographical post-empirical schematization, just as is the case for Badiou’s sets and sheaves. Are these intuitions, (scientific, mathematical and religious) pluralistic heuristic indicators towards a fully post-schematized space, or are they regressive apodictic stopping points?
I wish to distinguish what Laruelle seems to identify, i.e. the “human incarnation” and the “name of Christ”. In Stieglerian terms, the “human incarnation” designates the process of individuation freed from its philosophical and theological emprisonments. The “name of Christ”, however, is a more local and more partisan affair. It is non-active, except for those who remain faithful to what Bruno Latour is forced to acknowledge is a virtually dead mode of existence, even if the religious domain is still going strong. Does Laruelle’s transgressive juxtaposition of “physics” and “christic body” really indicate a path that will free us from ideological entrenchments, whether idealist or theological?