In Blood Meridian, Judge Holden says that every man is “tabernacled” in every other, and thus every man is the “tabernacle” of every other. Why use this religious word? It turns Homo Sapiens into Homo Sacer. There’s another passage in which the judge sacralizes the human, this time by way of linking it to war. It seems sorta that the two attempts to sacralize humanity don’t quite jive. In war, I kill the other, who is said to be my tabernacle, so I am killing that in which I am tabernacled and also killing something that is tabernacled in me. Does that mean that I’m killing myself in killing the other? Do I, Samson-like, go down with the temple I topple? Or does it mean that I’m not killing the other totally, since he is tabernacled in every other, including myself, anyway? Does it mean that every last human being would have to die before any one particular human being would truly be gone? Bad news for haters.
In any case, the judge says that war proves humanity to be sacred because war “forces the unity of existence.” Here we meet that old master metaphor of allegorical thinking–the microcosm/macrocosm analogy. Accordingly then, the testing of microcosmic wills forces a subtending macrocosmic will to manifest itself in the act of selecting one over the other.
It is thus quite plain that this argument for humanity’s sacrality is totally different from the first one. Here what makes one sacred is the privilege or grace of being selected by something superior to onself: the tertium quid, the absolute (as) witness. So it’s an argument grounded in a notion of the hierarchy of being and the being of hierarchy. Of course, the argument also puts the microcosmic wills in the position of slaves with respect to that which they petition. The human is sacred because it is a slave to a macrocosmic master, who may either select or deselect it. The human is sacred because it is always and already handed over to be (or not be) killed. One interesting thing about this argument is that it reveals the assertion of the ordering of beings according to a sacred hierarchy as the product of a slave morality.
Maybe the two arguments for human sacredness can be squared in a way. Why would the macrocosmic will select one microcosmic will over its rival? Perhaps because it feels the one to be a superior tabernacle of its species than the other. In that case, the judgment of the macroscopic will is an aesthetic one. (One would thus have further to conclude that God has shown the worst taste in both men and women. Or that there are actually two gods, one with taste and one without, whose war with each other constitutes human history.)
But the point is that the tabernacle argument is not necessary for the microcosm-macrocosm argument. A man need not be a tabernacled tabernacle in order to force a larger will to select or deselect it. A man could just as well be an atom that houses nothing but his own monadic self. So the tabernacle argument could work as a component of the microcosm-macrocosm argument, but can the latter work as a component of the former? Why would the preservation of one tabernacle require the cancelation of another? How would this benefit the larger will that supposedly institutes the requirement? It seems a bit off to think that a macrocosmic phenomenon can only manifest when one of its two microcosmic terms is elided. Isn’t the macrocosmic entity manifestly damaged and deformed in the elision of one of the beings it has interpellated as a term or component?
There is obviously another way in which a relation exterior to its terms and originating in neither can manifest besides the “polemical,” and this is the “erotic.” The character of the judge speaks exoterically of war. Does he speak esoterically of love? Perhaps the tabernacle argument, so different from the micro/macro argument, confronts the latter in the unpronounced name of love. In love, a larger will might also be said to manifest and to subtend the smaller wills that it gathers together into its relation. But here the smaller wills do not “force” the larger to manifest. It comes of itself. One does not will love. One falls in love; one is transported by it. Love hails you, and you say, ‘who, me?’ Then you look into your tabernacle and find your beloved there, and the joy of that discovery absolutely vitalizes you. You are stronger and happier and freer by the love that has taken you up. The macrocosm serves to enrich and glorify the microcosm. So I guess the macro/micro argument could work as a component in the tabernacle argument, but only after it has been duly eroticized.
In the history of Christian theology, the polemical manifests in the orthodox notion of apocalypse (judgment) while the erotic manifests in the anathematized notion of apocatastasis (mercy, reversal, fulfillment). It seems the judge was on the side of all of history’s grand inquisitors. Typical schoolmaster. Slave to the bone. Not cynic, but cynical. And cynicism is just a form of melancholia. And melancholia is just an adverse reaction to not having the ground of one’s existence inside onself, of the subject’s lack of preponderance over the object, the organism’s lack of preponderance over its environment, the lover’s lack of preponderance over the beloved.
To try to drag all this back to the occasion at hand, one could say that the incredible duration of the paleolithic school testifies that art is essentially an erotic rather than a polemical venture. Which doesn’t mean it can’t be coopted for polemical purposes. But properly speaking, art’s about tabernacling, not seeking selection. The greatest works of art militarize the erotic, that is, they put the polemical in the service of the erotic, the will to selection in the service of the common world’s tabernacling. Herzog and company were trying to articulate this in their flirtation with the notion of “Homo Spiritualis.” They just did not articulate it quite so clearly.