Conversion Disorder: 7

Last entry I suggested that from a schizoanalytic perspective “conversion disorder” would refer to the conversion of a body into a particular organism or a concrete individual into a particular subject.  In this sense, conversion means “stratification,” or the process by which unformed matter is captured and “condensed” into formed substances.  There is another sense a schizoanalyst could lend to “conversion disorder”: that is, the conversion of an ideational delusion into an active delusion, the conversion of signifiance into subjectification.  Here “conversion” means “translation,” and refers to the capacity of one semiotic to overcode or exapt the expressions of another.

An example.  In the “regime of signs” plateau, DG state that the ancient Israelites exemplify the workings of the postsignifying regime and the procedure of subjectification.  The point of subjectification is rather more complex than DG explicitly state, so let me try to lard their sketch.  First there is a “double betrayal” on the human scale: the Egyptians betray the Israelities (i.e. betray their original hospitality in the time of Joseph and his brothers) and then the Israelites betray the Egyptians back (insofar as a slave revolt can be considered a betrayal!). The exodus from Egypt amounts to an absolute deterritorialization.  DG portray this “double turning away” in terms of signifiance and subjectification: the “interpretational and paranoid delusion” of the Pharoah against the “most passional and least interpretive delusion” of Moses…

Please, do continue

But in a certain sense, this double betrayal of the Egyptians and Israelites is an effect of a more profound double betrayal: the one that first takes place between God and His chosen people.  DG talk about this explicitly: they say that God initiates the procedure of subjectification by averting His face, an act that the human, “gripped by fear,” is compelled to imitate.  (DG don’t characterize the human reaction in terms of mimesis, but I find it hard not to.)  God withdraws from humanity and humanity is compelled to flee from that point of withdrawal, as from the site of an unbearable and unanalyzable trauma.

It is interesting to note that, in the Tanakh (i.e. the Hebrew Bible), God’s withdrawal is itself a gradual process.  In the garden, of course, there is Face-to-Face contact with the divine (although, interestingly, there is no signifiance, nothing for the prelapsarian humans to interpret, only things to name).  With the Fall comes the first stage of withdrawal.  East of Eden, God refuses to show his face.  But (at first at least!) He still wants to participate, so He hides in tokens: burning bushes, pillars of cloud by day and fire by night, fearsome angels, small, still voices, assorted miracles… Eventually, however, His appearances and direct interventions grow more and more infrequent…  In his biography of God (God: A Biography), Jack Miles notes that by the end of the Tanakh, with the Divrei ha-Yamim or the Chronicles, God has become “The Ancient of Days.”  This is God at His remotest, the maximal distance between the divergent lines of divine and human flight.  The last token that God leaves is His Book, which DG refer to as the “body of passion.”  Romanticists will recall that the whole process of withdrawal is recapitulated in one of the Memorable Fancies of Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

But the book as body of passion effectively translates itself back into a signifying regime.  God’s withdrawal from the world haunts the book He has left.  It is a black hole or apparatus of capture into which the hapless reader is pulled.  The pull of the book is a function of the promise of God’s return, the promise of the possibility of divine reunion.  But how might this reunion happen?  How might one quicken it’s actualization?  Why hasn’t it happened already?  Really, where is God, because we could really use His help to get us out of this jam?

(The book as body of passion is a “fascicular” book, a book that projects a supplementary spiritual dimension before and beyond its concrete proliferations. It is a n + 1 book.)

Like the Nietzsche of The Birth of Tragedy, DG were bothered by the story of Oedipus.  For in his post-incestuous wanderings, Oedipus embodied the glorification of passivity and absolute deterritorialization.  In the heart of “Greek” paranoia, an intimation of “Semitic” passion.  For DG, the passion of Oedipus just goes to show that a people do not invent a semiotic, or that a semiotic cannot be ascribed to a people.  (In other words, the association of Athens with signifiance and Jerusalem with subjectification is contingent, and shouldn’t be used to derive essences out of the two cultures.)  To show this, DG might also have considered the case of Job, as a counterpart to Oedipus.  But Job’s Book is even more of a confusion of semiotic regimes: the absolute intensity of querulous passion fused with an absolute intensity of interpretive delusion.  In The Book of Job, God is not the authoritarian agent who stuffs the prophet’s mouth with the words He wants broadcast.  He is the mysterious despot (El Shaddai) that provokes the intensest paranoia in His cowering subjects.  Job’s exasperated questions are fairly straightforward: What do You want?  What do You want me to do that I haven’t already done?  Why did You betray me?  Of course, this first question–what do you want from me?–is the psychoanalytic formula for hysteria.  The hysteric is oriented to the mystery of the Other’s desire.

I suppose what just happened was a deconstruction of the distinction between ideational and active delusions, or an assertion that the difference between the two is not inert but relational.  An active delusion converts or translates an ideational one.  Now, back to Thera Sanchez…


–Who said that?!


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