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Agony and Ecstasy

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LeRon Shults

on 7 June 2015

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Transcript of Agony and Ecstasy

5th Annual
Ecstatic Naturalism Congress
- or, how to break up Platonic relationships
Homo deiparensis
F. LeRon Shults
where do gods come from - and why do we keep them around?
Anthropomorphic Promiscuity:
Cognitive biases, such as "hyper-sensitive agency detection device"
The west Asian axial age
promiscuity pressed
to Infinity
Sociographic prudery pressed to Eternity
But GOD (an infinite person-like, coalition-favoring disembodied intentional Force) can not be imaginatively born(e)... for logical, psychological, political and even doxological reasons.
Bigger groups required bigger gods
Bigger gods required bigger empires
...and so "atheism" was conceived in the wake of the axial age, although it was rarely nurtured, and very nearly starved to death.
Naturalism and Secularism
Maybe we can interpret the
world without appealing to supernatural
Maybe we can inscribe the
world without appealing to supernatural
...having "the talk" about religious reproduction
The four "f"s
detection of agents
faces in the clouds

The usual suspects:
(vs. Kinesis) and
(vs. Difference)
The "hidden dualism" of Platonism: relationship between
as the basis for
Ideas (e.g., true justice, friend, wisdom)
Is it time to get off the USS Plato?
How God was born(e)...
or, the dangers of flirting with Plato(nists)
Homo deiparensis
Breaking up is hard to do...
...but it may be necessary for adapting to and altering the conditions of the Anthropocene
biases surreptitiously undergird and intensify the evolved defaults that hinder people from perceiving the ecological storm, and keep them clinging onto the USS Plato.

• the
of supernatural agents activates the
of supernatural groups (and vice versa)

• superstitious
about “revelations” activate segregative
based in “rituals” (and vice versa)

• belief in the
of gods activate behaviors oriented toward the
of gods (and vice versa)

• mental
about religious “content” activates social
in a religious “context” (and vice versa)

• religious
activate religious
(and vice versa)

Breaking up
Platonic relationships
and contesting religious biases
in and through
Ecstatic Naturalism
Sociographic Prudery:
Coalitional biases, such as costly signaling of commitment in ritual behavior
Plato's theological hypothesis: the (ideal) Form of the Good
Aristotle's theological hypothesis: Unmoved Mover (thought thinking itself)
Pragmatic strategies for survival?
Robert Corrington's
anthropomorphic prudery and
sociographic promiscuity!
"Religious" Naturalism ??
Unveiling Theogonic Mechanisms
Anthropomorphic Promiscuity
in cognition
of agents
inferential strategy
Sociographic Prudery
in coalitions
of in-groups
preferential strategy
To what extent can Ecstatic Naturalism contest religious biases and break up Platonic relationships in human minds and cultures?
"Initially, ecstatic naturalism can be defined as that moment within naturalism when it recognizes its self-transcending character. Naturalism is self-transcending when it understands the eternal power of the transition from preformal potencies to the realms of signification within the world" (EN, p. 18).
10 April 2015
The crises of the Anthropocene
intervals and intensities
protection of in-groups
cooperation: the "gods" are watching to punish
commitment: willingness to punish cheaters, defectors and out-group members
competition: god-bearing groups out-survived all other hominids in the Upper Paleolithic
"Let us consider two formulas: 'only that which resembles differs' and 'only differences can resemble each other.' These are two distinct readings of the world: one invites us to think difference from the standpoint of a previous similitude or identity; whereas the other invites us to think similitude and even identity as the product of a deep disparity." (LS, 299).
Are religious biases drowning us?
"Difference is understood (in Platonism) only in terms of the comparative play of two similitudes. The exemplary similitude of an identical original and the imitative similitude of a more or less accurate copy. This is the measure or test which decides between claimants... (However) the true Platonic distinction lies elsewhere: it is of another nature, not between the original and the image but between two kinds of images (
), of which copies (
) are only the first kind, the other being simulacra (
). The model-copy distinction is there only in order to found and apply the copy-simulacra distinction, since the copies are selected, justified and saved in the name of the identity of the model and owing to their internal resemblance to this ideal model" (DR, 127).
"Whenever immanence is interpreted as immanent 'to' something a confusion of plane and concept results, so that the concept bcomes a transcendent universal and the plane becomes an attribute in the concept. When misunderstood in this way the plane of immanence revives the transcendent again: it is a simple field of phenomena that now only possesses in a secondary way that which first of all is attributed to the transcendent unity... Immanence is immanent only to itself... whenever immanence is interpreted as immanent
Something, we can be sure that this Something reintroduces the transcendent (WP, 44-5).
Do we understand this "transition" by recognizing (or remembering) a
transcendent resemblance
or do we encounter it as
immanent differentiation

Is a "hidden" Platonic dualism shaping Corrington's hypotheses about the existential conditions for the melancholic (and blissful) experience of this "transition"?
What role can the bio-cultural study of religion play in helping us to unveil our "less than acknowledged relationships with Plato"? (RW, 201).
"Thus, by the mid-1990s I was more adrift in my (Neo-Platonic) passage toward
nature naturing
than I realized. On board with me were middling gods, anthropomorphic projections, and rather vociferous transcendental arguments..." (RW, 203)
"...the word 'God' (should) be gently purged from fundamental query into the ontological abyss between
nature naturing
nature natured
" (RW, 195).
"Platonic" Relationships in
Corrington & Deleuze?
The Agony and Ecstasy of Religious Naturalism
betweenness and different/ciation
the Freudian unconscious
What does this have to do with Ecstatic Naturalism?
Why ant-agonize Plato?
The birth of
: critique and construction of hypotheses about the existential conditions for all axiological engagement whatsoever
Christian hypothesis: An all-knowing, all-powerful Person who transcends those made in His image, and whose norms are the ground for the punishment (or reward) of all Groups.
And so many theologians within the Christian tradition developed other hypotheses that were more anthropomorphically prudish and sociographically promiscuous
intellectual mode
activist mode
mystical mode
Why is it so hard to contest the idea that we can only make sense of nature and act sensibly in society by appealing to supernatural agents?
Because of the covert operations of powerful religious
Biases that shape resistance to accepting (and acting on) the scientific consensus on climate change
Biases like solution aversion are fortified and intensified by religious credulity and congruity. People who regularly engage in intensely shared imaginative engagement with supernatural agents will implicitly perceive problems and proposed solutions through the lens of the axiological norms authorized by the supernatural coalitions to which they are committed.
Insofar as these norms are supported by ritual interactions that exhaust cognitive resources and guesses about invisible causes that raise anxiety about out-groups, it is little surprise that those strongly committed to religious in-groups sometimes find it difficult to attend to the problems of the Anthropocene, much less committing themselves to solutions that challenge their superstitious interpretations of natural causes and segregative inscriptions of the social field.
It is encouraging to hear the arguments and see the actions of many “religious” people who are
promoting the well-being of the environment and a fairer global distribution of wealth. Tragically, however, such efforts may be
undermined by the way in which their participation in religion – shared imaginative engagement with axiologically relevant supernatural agents –
deep biases toward anthropomorphic promiscuity and sociographic prudery in their fellow believers, thereby
the sort of critical reflection and cultural relations that are needed for surviving the Anthropocene.
Remember that religious biases are reciprocally reinforcing:
What are the implications for Ecstatic (and other forms of "Religious") Naturalism?
"5.4. None of the traditional divine predicates are applicable to the sacred orders, specifically omniscience, omnipotence..." (PSN, categorial schemas, p. 176.
"14.4. Spirits are not conscious agents in any sense analogous to human forms of consciousness" (PSN, 179).
"Here in the free space of the aesthetic Sublime religious tribalism with all of its violence, perhaps hardwired into our psyche/soma, as argued so forcefully by evolutionary psychology, is left behind as the aesthetic sphere transfigures finite human experience making it permeable to the Sublime which is manifest on the other side of the will-to-power of the religions of the world" (PSN, 14)
If the spirit works by erotic forms of encompassment and expansion, God works agapistically to give over its own plenitude to the signs struggling for full expression within the fissures of world semiosis" (EN, 114).
"...natural communities remain embedded in the powers of origin, while communities of interpretation serve the powers of expectation that compel all origins to become open to transcendence... Insofar as a community lives out of the 'not-yet' of its concrete symbols, it experiences the grace that comes from the spirit"" (NS, 97, 119).
"Ecstatic naturalism severely limits the concept of intentionality to a small group of sign-using organisms (in the currently known universe)" (
Nature's Religion
, 138).
Participating in sexual and religious reproduction comes relatively easily for most people in all known human societes. Why? Because these activities are motivated by naturally evolved tendencies that are part of our shared phylogenetic inheritance and have been reinforced across generations through social entrainment.
Having "the talk" about where gods come from - and why people keep them around - should involve more than simply explaining how "it" works. It is equally important to work out the physical, emotional, and social consequences of "doing it."
When it comes to having the talk about where babies come from and what it takes to care for them, we know that waiting too long can have devastating effects. Of course, it can be equally devastating if the conversation makes people feel attacked, afraid, or ashamed.
The ecstatic activities that lead to sexual and religious reproduction can feel terrific to our bodies, but baring our souls about them can feel terribly vulnerable. When discussing such intimate issues, it is important to be sensitive - but it is also important to be direct... especially as we face the challenge of adapting to the Anthropocene.
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