Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

James Luchte


Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.  It is the opium of the people. [1]

Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal source of consolation and justification.  It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality.  The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.[2]

Perhaps the most formidable obstacle in the task of retrieving a sense of the sacred in Marx consists in his repeated, and often polemical, statements against religion – or the edited selections of his editors and guardians.  Indeed, such an obstacle may in the end be one of our own making, as we are trapped within the labyrinth of our own historical understanding.[3] Yet, assuming, for the moment, that religion and the sacred are the same phenomena, if we take his pronouncement that religion is the opium of the people – which I purposely left out in the opening quotation – in isolation, we may be lead to believe that Marx felt that at best religion – and thus the ‘sacred’ – is a narcotic, which while it may be utilized to alleviate pain, remains an illusory amelioration for a situation of humiliation and despair.  Religion is an opiate in that it not only implies sedation from the pain of a life of exploitation, but also – ambivalently – suggests a systematic and strategic attempt to deaden or absorb any critical impulse to liberation.  In this sense, Marx’s characterization of religion as an opiate is a forerunner of many of the most radical criticisms of religion and ‘negative’ theology in last century – Gutierrez, Miranda, Bultmann, Heidegger, Derrida, and Bataille.  Each of these thinkers, in his own way, articulated a sense of the sacred in the wake of Marx and his deconstruction of religion as an ‘ideology’ – despite, perhaps, his own generation’s scientistic blindness to the regulative status of all ideas.

The kinship which is shared by each of these thinkers is a disdain for mere religion in favour of the ‘sacred’.[4] Religion simultaneously constructs a ‘picture’ (Bild) for contemplation (Anschauung) and an organization that cultivates our captivity to that ‘picture’ (Wittgenstein).  The sacred, on the contrary, intimates ‘love’ (Badiou), ‘binding commitment’ (Heidegger), an engaged and affirmative eruption of liberation amidst finite existence.  Religion constructs its eternal church as an everlasting perpetuation of the ‘picture’, of an idol – a captivating grammar of existence – while the sacred exults in this moment of lived existence,[5] in the haeccitas of Duns Scotus.  If religion is a ‘rational’ and ‘systematic’ orchestration of feeling and phenomena, the sacred is an attempt to seek access to a phenomenon beyond the array of objectification towards traces of the numen.  Indeed, for Otto, one need only begin amidst this singular event.

In light of this preliminary distinction between religion and the sacred, it will be the task of Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred to excavate and disclose in the writings and historical activism of Marx an affirmative sense of the sacred which is alterior to his inherently negative conception of religion.  With Marx’s empathy in his ‘sigh of the oppressed creature’, we can glimpse a sense of the sacred dissociated from a religious leviathan that merely serves to perpetuate suffering – we can begin to glimpse a sacred that exists as a radical commitment to liberation.  In this way, I will contend that Marx’s criticism of religion as an ideology of oppression and sedation in no way forecloses on a possible relationship between his work and Twentieth and Twenty-First Century attempts to articulate a sense of the sacred in the world.  There emerges in these latter attempts the possibility of an openness which discloses a topos for an encounter with a sense of a sacred not mediated by ‘ideology’ (or positive theology).

To read the book for free, please visit Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

To read and download a smart phone, IPad, etc.-friendly PDF of the book, please visit Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred –


Lacan and Psychoanalysis: A Conversation between Andrew Stein and James Luchte, Part 2

Part 2: Conversation on Andrew Stein’s ‘Of the Difference between Freud-Lacan and Jung’

Andrew Stein

Andrew Stein

The goal then to overcome or heal an original break between subject and object, “I” and “Thou”, partial objects and an identification with a imago of the whole mother etc is the opposite of the goal set forth in psychoanalysis. It is a complete reverse (inversion) of the Freudian and Lacanian attitude (towards intersubjectivity and the cure). There the focus is neither on an original wholeness that has been lost (via alienation) or that is achieved in the first years via the integration of the child’s partial objects but on an original and impossible lack right from the beginning when the subject emerges via language in the (field of) the Other’s desire. Psychoanalysis as Freud and Lacan conceived it is not a return to an original or ideal Mitsein or a Tikkun. Rather, the subject of the unconscious has to separate itself and its own desire from the desire of the Other which at first defines its limits and subjugates it, because a subject is born in language and because it depends on the desires of a (mostly unknowable) Other.

Thus, Jung who views the aim of analysis not as being ‘separation’ but what he call ‘individuation’ (which is not individuation at all but the integration of the unconscious archetypes, a union of sexual (anima and animus) opposites), is in a long tradition that reduces the gap (of difference and desire) which psychoanalysis opens to either an original philosophic or religious ‘intersubjectivity’. This is a ‘secret’ knot binding such apparently dissimilar psychologies as Jung’s and Sartre’s to the same imaginary (ideal ego); for existential psychoanalysis, which will emerge at approximately the same moment as Jungian psychology, also postulates ‘the identity of the doctor-patient relation and an originary being-for-others, an originary Mit-sein, an originary intersubjectivity.’ (Warren Montag, ‘Althusser and His Contemporaries’, Philosophy’s Perpetual War, Duke University Press, 2013)

Andrew Stein

September 25, 2014

James Luchte

James Luchte

James Luchte: Is an identification with the imago of the mother not just the Oedipus Complex fulfilled?

Andrew Stein: No, the Oedipal complex is what allows a gap or space to open between an identification with the Mother; this gap is originally via a prohibition– a no, you must not desire this, etc. Psychosis happens when the Name of the Father (and the Oedipal complex) is foreclosed by the subject.

James Luchte: Sorry, that is what I meant by fulfilled – that the father is rejected and it is the mother which determines identification. Fulfilled in the sense that the desire for the mother is not prohibited.

To read the rest of the conversation, please visit Lacan and Psychoanalysis: A Conversation Between Andre Stein and James Luchte (Scroll to Part 2)

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

Chapter 1: The British Wasteland: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right


Prime Minister David Cameron


On the Toxicity of the Coalition Government and the Cynicism of UKIP and the Tory Right


The British Wasteland: The Meaning of Cameron

As we can barely remember the debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. With our senses still awash with the anti-climactic failure of the Scots to take a bloodless independence that was so nicely gift-wrapped for them, all we can now remember is that Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, was it, perhaps, merely a job interview for the junior partner of the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII.  But, we all pretend that that did not happen and condemn Russia instead.  Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.


To read the rest of the article, please visit The British Wasteland


Fish in Shanghai

Fish in Garden Unit, Shanghai

İştirakî 2. Sayı Çıktı! – Ölümcül Tekrar: Badiou ve ‘Şairler Çağı’ (Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the ‘Age of the Poets’)

İştirakî 2. Sayı Çıktı!

‘Ölümcül Tekrar: Badiou ve ‘Şairler Çağı’ (Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the ‘Age of the Poets’) – Istiraki
Translated into Turkish by Mustafa Kerem Yüksel, Istiraki

kapak toplu

Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality, with Appendix: Reply to Kisiel

Martin HeideggerThis essay was published by Philosophy Today in Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 252-257 (Fall, 2003). The Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, ‘The Indication of “Makeshift” in an Interpretation of Heidegger’s Radical Phenomenology’ is intended as a reply to Theodore Kisiel’s criticism of the indication of ‘Makeshift’ as too revolutionary for Heidegger in his Review of  Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality, published by Bloomsbury in 2008.

When questions are raised about principles, the network of exchange that they have opened becomes confused, and the order that they have founded declines. A principle has its rise, its period of reign, and its ruin. Its death usually takes disproportionately more time than its reign.1

In a summary of the Davos Disputation with Ernst Cassirer, and in his lecture on Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger is documented as announcing the deaths of the principles of ‘reason’, logos, and ‘spirit’ as adequate “grounds” for a finite thinking rooted in existence. He rings the alarm bells – the “foundations of Western thinking” are in “crisis” – and are threatened with utter collapse. Heidegger makes these statements amidst the horizons of his own temporal existence and problematic, that of his radical temporalization of thought and of the exposure of these traditional grounds to their ‘tragic’ origin as aspirations of finitude. Cassirer contests Heidegger’s radical, temporal interpretation to Kant – any thought worth its salt must be open to the eternal. Despite his comments elsewhere that defer to the spirit of Cassirer’s criticism, Heidegger intimates possible readings of or engagements with the Kantian text which moves beyond “philology” or “scholarship” in the usual sense of cultivating or advocating a “school of thought” – or any attempt to identify the will as a ding an sich. Heidegger’s attempt to disclose an “unsaid”, to de-construct texts so as to retrieve the original temporality of the question, concerns not only Kant but, in light of the “Being and Time project”, other thinkers, such as Leibniz and Husserl, who are significant for his expression of a radical phenomenology – for his temporalist thinking.

In many ways, these many names are place-names, topoi, for the investigation of the historicity of thought in its significant junctures, reversals, transitions, convergences, transgressions. And there is a marked similarity in the treatment of these many thinkers as each is appropriated in the context of Heidegger’s “makeshift.” As mentioned, Heidegger does not seek to be a “good scholar,” but to investigate various topoi of thought with respect to their disclosure of “matters themselves,” in their accentuation of the phenomenon of original temporality. In his activity of squatting these various topoi, Heidegger is in a destruktive, oppositional comportment with the “history of ontology,” but in such a way which seeks to learn from this trajectory of the questionable thesis that truth resides in the proposition and that the measure of truth is ultimately “logic.”

To read the rest of the essay, which includes the Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, please visit Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality

Between Terrestriality and Aquacity: Foucault Contra Miller

Who am I? If this once I were to rely on a proverb then perhaps everything would amount to knowing whom I “haunt.” I must The Passion of Michael Foucaultadmit that this last word is misleading, tending to establish between certain beings and myself relations that are stranger, more inescapable, more disturbing than I intended.  Such a word means much more than it says, makes me, still alive, play a ghostly part, evidently referring to what I must have ceased to be in order to be who I am.

   Andre Breton, Nadja[1]

Michel Foucault is dead, decaying, etc., yet a faceless apparition persistently haunts the ‘living’ amidst this space of the present. A nebulous ‘who’ and ‘what’ flash on the surface of this polymorphous spectre. The apparition erupts, hovers amidst the massive collocation of traces and artefacts of the ‘life of the man.’ The fragments themselves remain dispersed, singular instantiations, traces, residues amidst the surface of homo terra. And, from the out and about of this anonymous sending of the terrestriality of the present, a discourse persists which suggests that the project of constituting a ‘who’ requires something more than this disarray of ruins. It pleads for the establishment of a principle of unity, projected as traversing the gathered traces, an identical matrix which systematically integrates intentionalities as a constantly present ‘subject’.

The throng of readers and writers chant mercilessly, “Who is he?” “Who is Michel Foucault?” And just as inexorably, the throng satisfies its hunger by providing its own answers: “He is this, he is that…” Unity is bestowed via the projection of systematic totality as a teleological unfolding of the Same.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Between Terrestriality and Aquacity: Foucault Contra Miller

Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’: A Critical Reading

It may seem unfair to read Existentialism is a Humanism as a canonical example of Sartrean philosophy – although it is always the first thing anyone reads by him, and it thus, holds a decisive sociological status.  And, he did choose to present the text in the form of an address.  Indeed, much later, he disavowed this text.  Yet, the text was performed in public in 1946 and constituted the first post-War international philosophical event.  This novel and international character became explicit with Heidegger’s response to Sartre in ‘Letter on Humanism’ later that year.  In this way, regardless of Sartre’s later disavowal, it is important that the text be understood, since, if for no other reason, this is the text, or something similarsartre, with which Heidegger engaged.  Yet, the text is important in itself, especially if read in tandem with Being and Nothingness.

In the following, I would like to undertake a critical reading of Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism against the background of the persistent question of subjectivism.   Indeed, this is one of the primary charges against his philosophy with which he begins his address.  To this extent, Existentialism is a Humanism could be seen as an attempt to clarify and address criticisms of Being and Nothingness (1943), which had found many enemies amongst the public.  It could be argued that this attempt was obviously a failure and served to distort rather than clarify Sartre’s philosophy as presented in Being and Nothingness.  The dissemination of a philosophy is often fraught with misunderstanding, as it, as Nietzsche writes, wanders the earth as a fear inspiring grotesque.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Jean Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism: A Critical Reading

Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce

Of the Feral Children: Synopsis and Review

Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce: 1

‘From the re-incarnation of a Dadaist Poet fixated on an Edwardian Pornographic photo to the end of British Civilisation in an Apocalyptic Earthquake, this novel sprawls across the devastated landscape of the ‘teens of this century. The seedy underworld and the seedy overworld clash in a kaleidoscope of sex and violence leaving only the ‘feral children’ to make their own world from the wreckage.’

Watch Wasteland, a documentary by William Wright on squatting in the United Kingdom.

‘Marx and the Sacred’ – Journal of Church and State

Journal of Church and State‘Marx and the Sacred’, Journal of Church and State, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp. 413-437.

Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.Religion is the opium of the people.

Perhaps the most formidable obstacle in the task of retrieving a sense of the sacred in Marx consists in his repeated, and often polemical, statements against religion. Indeed, such an obstacle may in the end be one of our own making, as we are trapped within the labyrinth of our own historical understanding.

To read the entire essay, please visit Marx and the Sacred

« Older entries