false idols

February 5, 2011

          The void that founds the asymmetrical antinomy of the phantasm is the nonbeing of evil, a concept whose theological necessity cannot contain the corrosive contradictions and double-binds the concept itself releases. Indeed, in their desire to characterize and delimit the nature and function of evil in the cosmos, the early Christian fathers might even be said to have made a pact with the paradoxical concept of non-existence—a tactical alliance of necessity that, as is common with such pacts, carries with it a host of messy and unexpected consequences.

           Augustine gives us perhaps the strongest patristic account of evil as privation, an absence of good that is also, by way of his Neoplatonism, the absence of being. Early in the Confessions, Augustine makes it clear that his doctrine emerges partly in reaction to the erroneous cosmic dualism of the Manichaeans. Their doctrine of an absolute and substantive evil appealed to the young Augustine

because as yet I knew not that evil was naught but a privation of good, until in the end it ceases altogether to be; which how should I see, the sight of whose eyes saw no further than bodies, and of my mind no further than a phantasm?[i]

From his reading of certain “Platonic books,” which almost certainly included Plotinus, Augustine eventually came to the conclusion that, since all existing things participated in the good, the absence of good was necessarily without ontological substance. Evil is non-entity. Jeffrey Burton Russell explains the basic logic of the position: “Evil cannot come from God, since it is a contradiction of God, and it cannot be an independent principle, since all that is comes from God. Evil is therefore literally nothing in itself.”[ii] That said, immediately the theologian is confronted with accounting for the activity of evil in the world, an activity that cannon be reduced to a mere appearance; Christ’s suffering, in any case, must be real. The exact contortions that Augustine and other theologians go through in order to square the nonbeing of evil with the (apparent) existence of diseases, wars, and cruelty to innocents is not our concern here. More important is how we should characterize the dynamic activity of evil itself as a paradoxically nonexistent entity. The twentieth-century French author Pierre Klossowski, whose work might be described as a kind of erotic theology of the phantasm, here limns the metaphysical desire of the devil:

a created spirit, he reveals his demonic tendency by his contradictory aspiration to be in order to cease to be, to be in order not to be at all, to be by not being…Since it denies being, the demonic spirit must borrow a being other than its own; being itself only pure negation, it needs another existence in order to exercise its negation…The spirit seeks to associate itself with creatures in order to know its own contradiction, its own existence in the nonexistent.[iii]

Here Klossowski locates the ontological oscillation of the demonic in the heart of the devil’s own (non-existent) desire, framing its insinuating, infectious quality as a hunger for the being, the substance, of other creatures. But despite Klossowski’s own rich thematization of the phantasm in both his philosophical and fiction, the phantasm as such seems strangely absent in the above account, since the phantasm can be seen as another way for the devil to (not quite) be. In this theological sense the phantasm might be seen as a kind of halfway house for the demon’s desire for substance, a kind of flickering at the edge of being. This is why the categories of illusion and deception are so crucial to the theological account: appearance is the paradoxical “substance” of the demon, an essence that is nothing but a phantasmic surface without depth. Perhaps this illuminates why, in the passage from the Confessions above, Augustine explains that he was unable to recognize the reality of evil as privation because of the deceptive presence of bodies and phantasms.

         The coupling of nonbeing and appearance is evident as well in Athanasius’ Contra Gentes, written roughly seventy-five years before the Confessions, on the other side of the continent, and in a different language. Among patristic thinkers, Athanasius has a particularly pronounced concern with nonbeing, which lies at the core of his anthropology. Because we are created ex nihilo, Athanasius reasons, we are predisposed to nothingness; indeed, without our active participation in the Word, and especially without the stabilization provided by our “likeness” to God, we are doomed to dissolve into nonbeing ourselves. God offers salvation through participation in his being, without which we ourselves are in essence nothing more than mere appearances, fleeting will-o-the-wisps:

Seeing then all created nature, as far as its own laws were concerned, to be fleeting and subject to dissolution, lest it should come to this and lest the Universe should be broken up again into nothingness, for this cause He made all things by His own eternal Word, and gave substantive existence to Creation.[iv]

Earlier in the same text, Athanasius makes explicit the connection between evil and the nothingness that lurks behind the fluctuations of mere appearance. “Good is, while evil is not; by what is, then, I mean what is good…But by what is not I mean what is evil, in so far as it consists in a false imagination in the thoughts of men.[v]” Here the phantasmic oscillation begins: evil is not only nonbeing as such, but an absence of being that consists or participates in the illusory or phantasmic productions of the human imagination.

         Athanasius clarifies this productive interchange between evil, imagination, and nonbeing in an elegant depiction of man’s fall from the contemplation of God into idolatry. Ceasing to worship god, man turns his hunger for divinity to the sun and moon, then to the upper air, then to elements, then men, living and dead, and then animals and sticks and stones. Here we have a clear analogy of a Neoplatonic descent into matter, one that leads ineluctably away from the One/God. But there is farther yet to go:

For to such a depth have some fallen in their understanding, to such darkness of mind, that they have even devised for themselves, and made gods of things that have no existence at all, nor any place among things created. For mixing up the rational with the irrational, and combining things unlike in nature, they worship the result as gods, such as the dog-headed and snake-headed and ass-headed gods among the Egyptians, and the ram-headed Ammon among the Libyans.[vi]

Although Athanasius does not explicitly name the culprit here, it is the human imagination that, in its mash-up of phantasms, recombines unnatural forms and mixes up rational and irrational categories. The gods that result have even less existence than stars or men, and therefore are placed below the level of mire wherein we “creep in the slime like land-snails.” Idolatry is not, in Athanasius’ account, a work of devils, who are nearly absent from Contra Gentes: it is rather a product of the human imagination as it descends inexorably toward the lodestone of nonexistence. At the same time, and paradoxically, the imagination reifies its false productions into visible (and marketable) objects of human craft. Athanasius follows up the above passage with a brief discussion of the folly of image worship, a folly that ignores the contingency of the social and cultural process that transforms ordinary materials into idols, so that men nonchalantly walk on stones that, once passed through the carver’s art, become objects of ritual attention. Notice that Athanasius does not, in this account, invoke the category of demons in his condemnation of idolatry[vii]. Given the association of evil and nonbeing, he only needs to show that idols do not exist as spiritual entities in order to morally reject them. Therefore, it is sufficient to offer a skeptical and naturalist account of the material and cultural labor that produces the idol; indeed, Athanasius sounds like a Marxist anthropologist hunting down the ideology of the commodity form when he notes the fact that the image maker, “as though forgetting the work he has done himself, prays to his own productions.”[viii]

         Even with the demons deep in the background, Athanasius stages the phantasmic oscillation between the deceptive appearance—the image that calls for worshipping—and a naturalistic account of the mechanism or techne that mobilizes the appearance. Most patristic accounts of this antinomy, of course, also introduce the agency of demons, and it is the introduction of the demons that arguably destabilizes the opposition, since the demons can do their work, depending on the context, on both “sides” of the appearance: its visible surface and/or its underlying mechanism. In discussing the transformations wrought by Circe in The Odyssey, and other similar metamorphoses, Augustine insists on the party line: while demons cannot create real substances, they can manipulate phantasms. In one curious passage, he goes so far to suggest that such apparitions may not only fool the bewitched but may pass through the world on their own accord. But elsewhere Augustine applies the rhetoric of suspicion as well; when discussing mythological “reports” that Diomedes’ companions were transformed into birds, he argues that it was more likely that the fowl were “slyly substituted” for the men—a jugglery (praestigiea) that “could not be difficult for demons if permitted by the judgment of God.”[ix] In an operation that will repeat itself throughout demonological theory, the category of praestigea manages to integrate and modulate the spectrum of skepticism, serving to both naturalize extraordinary appearances as products of non-supernatural trickery while simultaneously keeping those tricks in the hands of demonic agents. In “The Divination of Demons,” for example, Augustine invokes human wonder-workers, reminding his readers of the skeptical truth that “miracles” are nothing more than performances:

How much have rope-dancers and other theatrical performers done that caused wonderment! How much have the artisans and especially mechanics!…If, while each one uses the somewhat gross material that is at hand, either that of his own body, or of earth and water, namely stones and wood, and various metals, certain men can produce such great works that those who are unable to equal them frequently, in their amazement, call the producers in comparison with themselves divine, which actually some of the producers are superior in the arts, but some of the admirers superior in character, how much greater and more marvelous deeds in proportion to the faculty and facility of the most subtle body, that is, the aerial, can demons perform![x]

Given the naturalistic orientation of this celebration of human craft and skill, one is almost surprised to come to the final invocation of the superiority of the flighty flesh of demons. However, Augustine is not simply tacking on a theological assertion to an essentially skeptical reminder to not believe everything you see. Something subtler is coming forward: the normalizing of demons. For by integrating the human arts into the category of deceptive wonders, Augustine also begins to draw demons and their miraculous performances into the order of physical laws; the “demonic naturalism” that Stuart sees in the early modern period is already operative here. At the same time, and despite his stress on the human manipulation of natural materials and mechanical operations, Augustine also wants to deepen the metaphysical suspicion of marvels, which, in not being what they seem to be, carry a devilish taint—the stain of nonbeing.

         In addition, Augustine’s invocation of rope-dancers and mechanics cannot be separated from the patristic critique of idolatry, and especially its theatrical manifestations through stage plays, statue worship, and the wonder-working ritual dynamics (and sometimes mechanics) of the temple. Marvels are idols, and vice versa. In Book 21 of City of God, Augustine discusses purely natural marvels, like the fire of quick lime and the invisible pull of the lodestone. He sounds a crucial note of disenchantment, reminding readers that the initial delight of such wonders wears off quickly through familiarity and exposure. Then he turns to the sorts of marvels contained in traveler’s tales, including the report of a temple of Venus whose candelabrum continues to miraculously blaze in the open air whatever the weather. Faced with rumors like this, Augustine admits he is in a double bind: by denying the wonder, he risks denying the divine wonders of scripture; by acknowledging the wonder, however, he may “avouch the pagan deities.” His partial solution is to acknowledge the wonder while exposing its possible naturalistic mechanisms.

That lamp, therefore, was either by some mechanical and human device fitted with asbestos, or it was arranged by magical art in order that the worshippers might be astonished, or some devil under the name of Venus so signally manifested himself that this prodigy both began and became permanent.[xi]

This is a curious sort of disenchantment. Not only does it unconvincingly multiply possible causal chains like the Malleus passage quoted above, but it also explains away a relatively pedestrian marvel through recourse to the powers of a demon. We cannot forget the existence of “demonic naturalism,” but not so much so that we ignore the ambivalence between demonic powers and all-to-human mechanical contrivance. Shortly after this passage, for example, Augustine explains a far more impressive temple wonder, only this time he does so without recourse to demons. Within the house of the god, an “iron image” floats freely in midair—an effect, he explains, produced by two magnets hidden in the floor and the ceiling. Augustine is clearly impressed with the stunt; what he fears is that those ignorant of the lodestones will “suppose the power of divinity.”[xii]

         In exposing the contrivances behind temple wonders, Augustine wants to do more than report on those natural wonders that otherwise might be exploited by men or demons in order to fool the ignorant into worshipping the false. Augustine’s technical explanations could also be seen as an attempt to condemn, through a kind of synecdochal contagion, the entire theatre of pagan display as one big false marvel. In this move, the (theo)logic of demonic appearance, with its tricky oscillation of presence/absence, moves from specific anomalies to the spectacle itself. This helps explain why, sandwiched between his analyses of the Venusian flame and the floating iron image, Augustine provides one of his most important statements on the relation between demons and pagan theatre:

They are attracted not by food like animals, but, like spirits, by such symbols as suit their taste, various kinds of stones, woods, plants, animals, songs, rites. And that men may provide these attractions, the devils first of all cunningly seduce them…[xiii]

 Contrived marvels, like the Venusian flame and the “iron image,” clearly belong alongside stones and plants as another kind of attraction or sign. And all are deployed, not merely to attract and trick humans, but to attract demons as well. Demons, in this account, are not just working backstage—they are also, like us, enjoying the show. In other words, Augustine is not simply concerned with naturalizing apparent miracles; he also wants to condemn pagan spectacle as such by recoding the material theater of its spectacles into an incorporeal appearance—an order of signs and symbols that, like demonic apparitions themselves, fluctuates over an evil void.

         Augustine may have gotten this curious notion of demons seducing humans into creating sacred theater from Tertullian’s De Spectaculis. In this powerful, bitter text, Tertullian unmasks the demons as the true objects of idolatrous plays and rituals. Like the demons that Augustine says kept the temple flame alive “under the name” of Venus, Tertullian’s demons secretly dwell “in the names” of the gods or dead heroes who inspire the icons and stage shows of pagan cult.[xiv] These demons are, once again, self-divided, though instead of being simultaneously present and absent, here they are at once both spectacles and spectators. They “pretend to be divine” in order to be glorified, but through that feigning are therefore only worshipped indirectly, through a mask that, because they do not exist as such, is arguably all they are. “For Tertullian,” Klossowski has it, “the demon is essentially the simulator.”[xv] The eccentric circular masking implied in this account mirrors, in turn, a circularity in the production of the pagan spectacle in the first place. Inverting Athanasius’ ironic anthropological account of idolatry mentioned above—where the crafter of the image turns around and worships his own production—Tertullian argues that it is the evil spirits who bestow on humans the artistic gifts that enable them to create the “artifice of consecration” in the first place. Here the “rhetoric of suspicion” inherent in demonology becomes a paranoid rejection of art itself: not only are the human arts of theatre and wonder-working also used by demons, but aesthetic techne itself is a gift of demons.

         For Tertullion, the evil of these shows not only lies in their distracting capacity to lead men away from God, but in the insubstantial “essence” of the performance itself, a lack of reality that participates in the nonbeing of evil as such. When Tertullian condemns theatrical appearance, he does so not because of demons but because he sees art as nothing but a lie, and therefore an evil:

The Author of truth hates all the false; He regards as adultery all that is unreal. Condemning, therefore, as He does hypocrisy in every form, He never will approve any putting on of voice, or sex, or age; He never will approve pretended loves, and wraths, and groans, and tears.[xvi]

 The scriptural source for pronouncing such an anathema is, of course, the Second Commandment and its rejection of graven likenesses, which Tertullian here extends to the human actor or mask. If God forbids the making of likenesses, the thinking goes, how much more must he detest the inferior mimetic reflections manufactured by those creatures who are already made in his own image? What seems frightening here, at least in part, is the eccentric recursion implied, an infinite and degenerative reflection that potentially ungrounds likeness itself, rendering it, not in appearance but in its ontological substance, unlike. Tertullian is not simply concerned with the disobedience or adultery implied by theatrical appearance; it is the productive powers of the false that he condemns. This is the paradox of the nonbeing of illusion: even if it is empty of substance, appearance still appears, still catches the eye.

         There is a Platonic dimension to Tertullian’s hostility as well, one grounded in an arguably more subtle distinction between true and false likenesses. In The Sophist, Plato wants to show that the Sophist is not a wise man but only a sleight of hand man, an imitator of the wise, a philosophical illusionist who exhibits “images of all things in a shadow play of discourse, so as to make [listeners] believe that they are hearing the truth.”[xvii] In order to capture this dissembler, Plato, through the mouth of the dialogue’s mysterious Stranger, establishes a famous analogy to characterize the difference between wise utterances and empty sophistry—in other words, he founds the sophist’s difference from truth in an image, a conceptual likeness.[xviii] And that’s what the subject of the analogy is: a likeness, which is the word that F.M. Cornford and others have translated for Plato’s term eikon, which means a sculptural representation. For Plato, the true eikon is a pure copy, as it conforms to its original in all dimensions and colors. But there are other kinds of copies as well. Some sculptors or painters, “leaving the truth to take care of itself,” will employ foreshortening and other technical tricks, not to faithfully reproduce the real proportions of the given object, but to create secondary effects. One of these effects, paradoxically, is the appearance of true proportion—given the colossal size of some figures, distortions in proportion are necessary to create, in the viewer, the illusion of true proportion. This second kind of likeness making, which of course characterizes the Sophist, is described as phantasma.  Cornfeld translates the term as semblance, but, unlike eikon, phantasma has also inspired a legion of contending synonyms. Arguably, it is the very nature of the phantasm to produce a series of reverberating differences, which in this case also include appearance (Fowler 1921, Cobb 1990, Silverman 1991), apparition (Notomi 1999), the French apparence (J.-P. Vernant), and finally simulacra-phantasms (Zeitlin 1991), which follows Marsilio Ficino ’s hermetically-inspired Renaissance term phantastica simulachra (Allen 1989).[xix] Fittingly, it is precisely to arrest this sort of “sophistic” multiplication of distorted and differential resemblances that Plato erects his entire theory of Ideas in the first place.

         In an extraordinary appendix to The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze explains this Platonic quest as a desire to construct a criterion of judgment that can discover a real difference between true copies—the eikon that faithfully follows the model of the Idea—and false or inauthentic phantasma, which Deleuze describes as simulacra. Copies and simulacra are all, in his terms, “pretenders,” and it is the job of the wise man to adjudicate them. And while the proper criterion for evaluating just pretenders is explored in a number of dialogues, The Sophist stands apart in that its goal is “to track down the false pretender as such, in order to define the being (or rather the nonbeing) of the simulacrum.”[xx] This hunt accounts for many of the difficulties of the text, which explores the ontological and linguistic paradoxes implied in the question of whether illusions—things that are not—can be said to have being at all. These problems, which become demonic problems in patristic hands, are only amplified by the Sophist’s own rhetorical hunt for vertiginous equivocation. Indeed, in some readings of the text, Plato loses the battle in the end: the dialogue closes with what appears to be an ironic equivalence between the Socratic Stranger and the Sophist himself, both of whom could be said to use “short arguments in private and [to force] others to contradict themselves in conversation.”[xxi] In Deleuze’s view, Plato just gets more than he bargained for: “as a consequence of searching in the direction of the simulacrum and leaning over its abyss, Plato discovers, in the flash of an instant, that the simulacrum is not simply a false copy, but that it places in question the very notations of copy and model.” Elsewhere, Deleuze makes the same point more bluntly. “The simulacrum is not a degraded or distorted copy. It harbors a positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the reproduction.”[xxii]

         This positive power is the productive character of the demonic phantasm as such: a reverberating multiplication of differences that produces or stages an event that ruptures or “floats free” of strict determinate chains of being or cause. Let us try to unpack this claim. For Deleuze, the initial founding of the simulacrum in difference rather than similarity opens up a “becoming-mad:” there is no inherent limit or boundary to the differential series, which is perpetually “able to evade the equal, the limit, the Same or the Similar.” The Platonic response—and by extension the contest of demonologists against the insidious power of the demonic appearance—is the fight to contain this proliferation of differences within the limit of the Same, to insist on true icons rather than crafty simulacra. Deleuze explicitly links this proliferation to the orthodox catechism:

God made man in his image and resemblance. Through sin, however, man lost the resemblance while maintaining the image. We have become simulacra. We have forsaken moral existence in order to enter into aesthetic existence.[xxiii]

 Art—the qualitative domain of appearance—is key, but art itself is an effect of techne. The simulacrum depicted in The Sophist is not an amorphous blob, after all, but a canny artifact that still possesses the appearance or “effect” of resemblance. The difference is that, unlike the ideal copy, this resemblance is no longer grounded in essences but rather in a “ruse or subversion.” Within Plato’s analogy, this ruse has a specifically technical character based on physical law, for it takes into account the optical limitations and ocular distortions introduced by scalar conditions. So, when creating a large phantasma (as opposed to an eikon), a sculptor or painter would distort the proportions of the original in order to create effects that take both the nature of optics and the viewer’s position into account. In other words, the simulacrum has a fundamentally perspectival character, one that is grounded precisely in a minimum difference (as opposed to similarity). “The simulacrum includes the differential point of view; and the observer becomes a part of the simulacrum itself, which is transformed and deformed by his point of view.”[xxiv] This perspectivism, which carries with it a Nietzschean exuberance and a Nietzschean abyss, also resonates with demonological accounts. In his discussion of prestidigitation in the Malleus, for example, Kramer quotes Alexander of Hales to the effect that “Properly speaking, conjuring is an illusion of the demon. This has no cause from the point of view of a change in the object but only from the point of view of the perceiver…”[xxv]

         The contribution that Deleuze can provide to the understanding of demonic appearance deepens when his discussion of the simulacrum in The Sophist is opened up to engage his general discussion of the related figure of the phantasm in The Logic of Sense. Like the classic depiction of the aerial forms of demons and the insubstantiality of their apparitions, Deleuze’s phantasm hovers at the edge of bodies, at the limits of matter, forming what Foucault calls, in his visionary essay on Deleuzian metaphysics, the “impenetrable and incorporeal surface of bodies.” [xxvi] The phantasm, Deleuze says, exists on an “ideational surface” that transcends inside and outside; its “topological property” is a kind of Mobius strip whose internal and external sides are brought into contact and fuse. This is a beautiful characterization of the spatial and causal ambiguity of the demonic apparition, which “takes place” in different locations, fluctuating between external simulacra and internal phantasms even as its effects remain “the same.” But the important element here is not the phantasm’s incorporeal body, nor its ambiguous location, but its relationship to the event. “Neither active nor passive, neither internal nor external, neither imaginary nor real—phantasms have indeed the impassibility and ideality of the event.”[xxvii] The crucial quality of the event here is that it characterizes the manner in which the phantasm “floats free” of the corporeal causes and conditions, the state of things, that surround its actualization. In his essay, Foucault gives us a somewhat clearer picture of the phantasm-event than Deleuze: “as bodies collide, mingle, and suffer they create events on their surfaces, events that are without thickness, mixture, or passion; for this reason they can no longer be causes.” By saying that these phantasm-events no longer have causes, Foucault is marking the way that the phantasm floats free from physics or the causal laws of bodies. Instead, Deleuze offers a “phantasmaphysics”: a way of understanding the “materiality of incorporeal things—phantasms, idols, simulacra.[xxviii]

         Deleuze’s original discussion of the phantasm takes place in the context of Melanie Klein’s account of object relations and the early child’s psychological formation; for Foucault, the great example of the phantasm-event is death, a rupture in the causal chains of living that remains unassimilated, forever in its own undisclosed terms. At the same time, such a rupture clearly resonates with the demonic apparition, which could be said to form both a prototype and epistemological echo of the Deleuzian phantasm-event. Indeed it is only with Deleuze’s incorporeal events in mind that we might be able to finally identify the peculiar and enigmatic “smooth body” mentioned above, and which Kramer’s demons introduce between the probing senses of the bewitched castrato and his actual still-endowed physical body. Here we have a perfect image of the Deleuzian phantasm-simulacrum whose minimum difference (the absent member) ungrounds the Platonic claim of truth and representation, even as it simulates that claim of resemblance through a ruse. The apparition also takes place as an event at the limit or surface of bodies, and its “smoothness” suggests not so much the absent semiotic phallus but the sort of “smooth space” that Deleuze (with Felix Guattari) elsewhere refers to as the continuously variant, labile, and unmarked space of the event that exceeds or transcends signifying chains as such.[xxix] Finally, there is the insidious quality of the phantasm, which Deleuze captures in his depiction of the Sophist as a kind of satyr or Proteus, “insinuating” himself into the process of making sense of the world, “climbing to the surface,” irrepressible. Here we cannot help but invoke one of St. Augustine’s most vivid depictions of evil, a passage from Book of the 83 Questions that is also cited by Kramer in his depiction of illusory demonic castration:

This evil thing creeps stealthily through all the entrances of sense: it gives itself over to forms, it adapts itself to colors, it sticks to sounds, it lurks hidden in anger and in the deception of speech, it appends itself to odors, it infuses tastes, by the turbulent overflow of passion it darkens the senses with darksome affections, it fills with certain obscuring mists the paths of the understanding, through all of which the mind’s ray normally diffuses the light of reason.[xxx]

 Like Augustinian’s depiction of evil as a vaporous and penetrating mist, the Deleuzian phantasm is a paradoxical kind of incorporeal body that forms or invades the surfaces of sensation, while insinuating itself into those rational operations of sense-making that attempt to adjudicate pretenders and ground legitimate chains of resemblance and representation.

         Let us return, finally, to Deleuze’s account of the phantasma in The Sophist to ask a skeptical question. How do we square the “becoming-mad” of the simulacrum, its aesthetic ungrounding of the Platonic logic of representation, with the fact that the simulacrum achieves its flight through a technical ruse? After all, the perspectival differential that founds the simulacrum is a crafty contrivance, an artisan’s trick, a manipulation of optical effects that draws the observer into the simulacrum. Such tricks opens the simulacrum up to skeptical exposure, to those explanations that disenchant surface effects through the delineation of causal mechanisms based on natural law (the laws of optics, for example). For Deleuze, and perhaps for the demons, this skeptical reduction cannot corral the productive reverberations of the simulacrum any more than the Platonic operations of truth and resemblance could; the effect, the event that grounds the being of the phantasm continues to “float free” of the causal operation of bodies, too unmoored to be captured in the language of appearance or illusion. As Foucault explains, “Physics concerns causes, but events, which arise as its effects, no longer belong to it.” Whether or not Deleuze’s phantasmaphysics allows us to suspend naturalistic accounts in a “quasi-physics of incorporeals,” the simulacrum remains wedded to the knowledge, discourse, and deployment of techne, of mechanism, of naturalistic causal chains. The simulacrum remains what Deleuze calls a “Dionysian machine:” an apparatus that eludes both mechanistic and transcendent claims as it engineers the endless differential series of phantasmic events.

 

Footnotes

[i] Augustine, Confessions, III.vii.2, trans. J.G. Pilkington, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887). http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1101.htm.
[ii] Jeffrey Burton Russell, Lucifer, the Devil in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 1986), 35.
[iii] Pierre Klossowski, Such a deathly desire, trans. Russell Ford (SUNY Press, 2007), 17.
[iv] Athanasius, Con.Gen. III.xli. Trans. Archibald Robertson, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 4 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2801.htm.
[v] Ibid, I.iv.
[vi] Ibid, I.ix.
[vii] This despite the indication from the hermetic Asclepius that at least some idols in late antiquity were explicitly considered to be animated with incorporeal spirits through magical or theurgic rites. “Our ancestors once erred gravely on the theory of divinity…But then they discovered the art of making gods…Because they could not make souls, they mixed [the power from matter] in and called up the souls of demons or angels and implanted them in likenesses through holy and divine mysteries.” Asclep., [35]. In Brian P. Copenhaver, Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a new English translation, with notes and introduction (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 90.
[viii] Athanasius, I.xiii.
[ix] Augustine, City of God, XVIII.xviii. Trans. Marcus Dods, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2, (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887). http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120118.htm.
[x] In Treatises on marriage and other subjects, trans. Charles T. Wilcox (CUA Press, 1999), 429.
[xi] Augustine, City of God, XXI.iv.
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Tertullian, De Spectaculis, 10. Trans. S. Thelwall, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885). http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0303.htm.
[xv] Klossowski, 18.
[xvi] Tertullian, 23.
[xvii] Plato, Edith Hamilton, and Huntington Cairns, The collected dialogues of Plato: including the letters (Pantheon, 1963).
[xviii] Ibid, 978-980.
[xix] I owe the gathering of these translated terms to Han-liang Chang, “Plato and Pierce on Likeness and Semblance,” 5. http://homepage.ntu.edu.tw/~changhl/changhl/Louvain%20paper.pdf
[xx] Gilles Deleuze, The logic of sense, trans. Mark Lester, ed. Constantin V. Boundas (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004), 256. The entire appendix, “The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosopy,” runs from 253-279.
[xxi] Plato, 1016.
[xxii] Deleuze, 256, 262.
[xxiii] Ibid, 257.
[xxiv] Deleuze, 258.
[xxv] Hammer, 197.
[xxvi] Michel Foucault and Donald F. Bouchard, Language, counter-memory, practice: selected essays and interviews (Cornell University Press, 1980).
[xxvii] Deleuze, 211.
[xxviii] Foucault, 170.
[xxix] For more on the Deleuzian concept of “smooth space,” see Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia (U of Minnesota Press, 1987).
[xxx] Augustine, Eighty-three different questions, trans. David L. Mosher (CUA Press, 2002), 43.