The current issue of Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory has a nice online review summary of the new book by Richard Kearney, Anatheism: Returning to God after God.
Kearney is a specialist in the post-secular return to religion in Continental philosophy. He is someone whom I always read and never actually quote since his best function is to let you know what people are thinking and what is said at conferences. He is good at spotting trends, seeing convergences and somehow places the ideas of Yale, Chicago, the Sorbonne, and Oxford under one roof. He lets one see how Levinas, Ricoeur, Kristeva, and Caputo are received in the literature. His prior works include The God Who May Be and Strangers, Gods, and Monsters.
In this new book, Kearney discusses how people return to religion after modernity with a neologism of Anatheism. His model for this return is hospitality- a theme of Levinas, Derrida, and especially Ricoeur. One can get terminology from Kearney to explain much of the modern turn to Zohar mediation, or Rav Nachman.
The seven page summary review by the reviewer John Burkley is especially lucid and detailed. Below are some excerpts.
Richard Kearney, Anatheism: Returning to God after God. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. $29.50
Anatheism is a fresh attempt to reconceive the possibility of the sacred for the 21st century, seeking a way, as the subtitle suggests, of “returning to God after God.”
So what is anatheism? Kearney describes it variously as a movement, a paradigm, an invitation, a wager, a drama; a position between, before, and beyond the division of theism and atheism; “another word for another way of seeking and sounding the things we consider sacred but can never fully fathom or prove” (p.3).
Yet it bids adieu to the God of metaphysics and traditional religion whose surname has long been “Almighty” taking seriously the critical and iconoclastic force of atheism.
Thus, anatheism works back from the experience of God-loss toward a genuine renewal of the sacred to recover forward a second, more mature faith. While insisting that anatheism is “nothing particularly new” (p.7), it seems to be of particular moment in this age where the gods have withdrawn. “Ana” – seeking ‘after’ (toward) God ‘after’ (subsequent to) the death of God.
Anatheism–seeking a rebirth of faith after the loss of faith.
The thematic core of Anatheism: Returning to God after God is the encounter with the Stranger and the event of hospitality/hostility. In this basket Kearney’s places all his eggs. While official theologies and the popular religious imagination typically emphasize stories of creation, salvation, miracles, power, or final judgment as inaugural solicitations of faith, Kearney takes up the neglected figure of the Stranger.
Abraham’s visitation by three desert strangers… an uninvited Stranger appears; in each case there is a moment of disorientation, perplexity, fear, perhaps trauma is not too strong a word; in each case the addressee must decide for or against the Stranger; in each case the host’s
welcoming of the Stranger opens from the Stranger a gesture for the promise of life, That, clumsily expressed, is the central dynamic of Anatheism, which “begins and ends with the epiphany of the divine in the face of the stranger (p. 149).
Mediation of these oppositions proceeds by way of five aspects of the anatheistic wager. One might call them interpretive attitudes or hermeneutical predispositions -imagination, humor, commitment, discernment, and hospitality–each crisply defined.
In each case, however, a reversal occurs… In the utter absence of a powerful and saving God a realization can occur that for God to be ‘we’ have to host ‘Him’, save ‘Him; if God is estranged and a stranger to this world ‘His’ coming depends our welcome.
Glossing on Ricoeur, Kearney writes, “The word of existence –which affirms the goodness of being in spite of its multiple estrangements….must be regrasped and reinstated.” The ambition of anatheism is “to disclose a site where the freedom of our will is rooted in a listening to a ‘word’ of which one is neither source nor master” (p.75).
The second half of the book (Interlude and Postlude) details the third moment of Anatheism: sacramental transformations in the everyday, mostly in secular scenes, specifically, at the levels of lived experience (Merleau- Ponty, Kristiva), literary imagination (Joyce, Proust, Woolf), and ethical-political praxis (Day, Vanier, Gandhi). Kearney puts on display a tapestry of anatheist or proto-anatheistic instances of mediation, acts of transformation, epiphanies where the secular and sacred mutually beckon and inform each other. Readers will find their own favorite and more illuminating examples.
The sacred for Kearney is “in the world but not of the world” (p.152). Hence the preference for the figure of the Stranger over a disembodied, otherworldly traditional Omni-God, and over the rather abstract and well worn master concept of postmodernism –‘the Other’.
He draws liberally on Ricoeur’s model of translation or “linguistic hospitality” defined as “the act of inhabiting the word of the Other paralleled by the act of receiving of the Other into one’s own home, one’s own dwelling.”2 Translation admits of no reduction of one language to another or to a third master language, but preserves the strangeness of the other while opening the host language to unthought possibilities.
Any thoughts about applying anatheism to the post-secualrism all around us?
Any post-secular religious experience that you can think of that produces disorientation and perplexity?
Most important, how will the image of Abraham greeting the the visitor change religion as it replaces the sacrifice of Isaac imagery used by modernists?