Richard Kearney: Anatheism

M. Steingass —  17.9.15

When I see such a post in my FB-timeline it passes my filter and I investigate. Although, of course, knowing the workings of the academy one is skeptical at once – to say the least. Is this not just another fruitless lesson in how to exercise intellectual desktop skills? I mean the contemporary intellectual can make something out of everything (you know the pizza joke the Dalai Lama loves? Make me one with everything! That’s it), from a profound looking but unintelligible and senseless aphorism to thousands of pages amounting to less than nothing. So when one reads the blurbs about Richard Kearney’s Reimagining the Sacred one is less than convinced if this is something to spend time on. When will publishers learn that the blabla of the blurb is obnoxious for any serious reader? But at least one can take a buzzword and google. The cant in this case is Anatheism. Just another highbrow sales pitch? Not so!

Richard Kearney’s Anatheism, as it turns out, could be rather interesting thinking – a thinking that does not fall into the perdition of esoteric mysticism on one side nor vanishing into the house of mirrors where the surplus value scholar soliloquizes us to death.

John Burkey of Siena College gives a detailed review of the text.

Anatheism does not offer a dialectical synthesis of the theism-atheism opposition, yet it is committed to the necessity of mediation in a concrete, hermeneutical sense.

Mediation is the important notion here. An art of communication. An Art which can, as every good psychotherapist knows (and how rarely they are seen…), turn any interaction upside down – in the positive sense – whereby the other important skill is that of non-knowing

aligning itself with the venerable traditions of Socrates, Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, Kierkegaard, Husserl or that moment of bewilderment which impels seeking and questioning in the first place.

That moment of bewilderment or simply being, „this gesture of non-knowing is crucial to the anatheistic paradigm“, and it is the point where it becomes really interesting in the frame of topics this blog is engaging in.

That bewilderment can easily be induced going earnestly into the complications of, for example, Thomas Metzinger’s Ego Tunnel or his Being No One, as much as it could be brought on by the Marxian thought about consciousness as being dependent on its material conditions, or, to name another example, by the workings of the human memory, which is all but an exact recollection (oh that dream of that original original) and instead comes down to an ever adapting narrative nurturing the individual self in whatever situation arises.

The consequence of such bewildering insight into the shaky ground of ones ownmost self is that that insight is probably the basis of all what we call human (where, of course, we are at once in danger to run into ground at the lee shore of universalism…) and that the question arises wether hostility or hospitality is therefore required when meeting that stranger? In this regard Burkey remarks:

The current book is […] showing that in both secular and religious contexts (western and non-western) there live figures of thought and figures of action that embody the anatheistic gesture of welcoming the Stranger, enacting the choice of hospitality over hostility.

The stranger and the event of hospitality/hostility is the main topic of this book.

Reading Burkey’s review it seems like Kearney’s Anatheism is not just another exercise in turgidity. But this being just a note, let’s end with a quote from the book itself:

Kearney, Anatheism