Monday, November 18, 2013

Disciple and Punish

To the Ecclesiast and Alpinist:

I found in the Magus' remains a strange note about aberrations in the Christian movements. Apparently a good many of them in the New World and in Britain seek to "disciple" people.

The note below is uncharacteristic of the Magus' charity and somewhat harsh. I think it may be a quotation from some other author.
----
Discipling people is an extension of power and control beyond that of oneself. It is stronger and more powerful than any external control, any police state, or the threat of force. It is the most terrible secret of power -- I do not need to control you if you can be convinced to do it for me for yourself. Human beings have not always had an inner life. But the beginnings of the practices of discipling are to convince people to control themselves instead of merely being controlled by force.

'To Disciple' may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a 'physics' or an 'anatomy' of power, a technology. And it may be taken over either by 'specialized' institutions (the churches or 'congregations' of the present age), or by institutions that use it as an essential instrument for a particular end (small groups, emerging Christianity), or by pre-existing authorities that find in it a means of reinforcing or reorganizing their internal mechanisms of power (one day we should show how intra-familial relations, essentially in the parents-children cell, have become 'discipled', absorbing since the classical age external schemata, first educational and military, then medical, psychiatric, psychological, which have made the family the privileged locus of emergence for the disciplinary question of the normal and the abnormal); or by apparatuses that have made discipline their principle of internal functioning (the discipling of the administrative apparatus from the Puritan period), or finally by community apparatuses whose major, if not exclusive, function is to assure that discipline reigns over society as a whole (the small group leader or lead pastor).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Don't Blink

To the Ecclesiast and Alpinist:

I have survived the strangest debacle.  I do not know what happened to the Magus.  I am left in charge of his writings, experiments, and diary.  We went to investigate the strange pictures of Luther and these doctors mentioned by the Alpinist in the country of Britain.  Quickly we were woven into a strange affair that required more of us than we could muster.  We are men of Geist who welcome unknown ideas not adventure on land and through corridors.

I barely escaped because I kept my eyes wide open. We thought we were near the root of this strange lineage of doctors and their investigations of liberty and so of Geist -- we thought we were able to ask of this strange gentleman and his companion about time.  So much of Geist is about time and so much of our modern era has been able to dominate space and so ignore time.  When it treats time it does so as if it were physical extension not as another wobbly part of our existence.  In Geist time is more than just a dimension of things and more than just a second rate thing to space.

But my good Magus blinked.  We had encountered thousands of remarkable angelic statuary.  But he blinked and all was lost. I did not and made it barely out.

Magus Minor

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ljubljana

Dear Macedonian,

I once visited a fair city, Ljubljana, but all the stores were closed for Cyril and Methodius. Is this anywhere close to Macedonia? I admit, my ecclesiastical work precludes far-flung travel or careful study of maps.

While in the great city of Ljubljana, I did encounter this devil:


Do you know him? Is he one of ours?

In Geist,

The Ecclesiast

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Enter: The Macedonian

June 1895

To the Ecclesiast,

Greetings to you, most excellent friend.  If I've been at all successful, you will be receiving this letter from Bitola, in the hotly contested region of Vardar Macedonia, at the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where it is known as Monastir.  I have not sufficiently mastered the Cyrillic alphabet as of yet, and so write you in our agreed upon code of Geist.  Do pass this along to the Magus should your paths cross.  Also to my "cousin," the Alpinist, in America.  

For the foreseeable I shall be operating under the moniker of "The Macedonian."  I've come to Bitola on a most unusual mission.  As you know, this whole area of the Empire, south of the Balkan mountains of Bulgaria, is a veritable time bomb whose fuse has little time left before expiration...and explosion.  My task here, drawing upon my Slavic roots and preternatural ability to sprout a beard, is to infiltrate the recently formed Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), and, if at all possible, to root out those fellow believers of Orthodox heritage and to recruit them for our clandestine airship missionary endeavor.  I must not only earn their trust, but restore to them the vision of our Lord's cross, which proclaims, not Constantine's legacy of bloody reprisals and vengeance, but rather, the crimson tracks of the Crucified Lamb, whose blood makes white the robes of the martyrs.  It is my hope that, by the grace of God, I can help to prevent the days of hell looming upon the horizon of these fair mountains, in a land where, as one poet writes, the whole people is as "a hand thrusting towards the realm of the stars."

Perhaps as striking: despite its proximity to the steam laboratories of Austria-Hungary and Transylvania, just to the north, much of the southern region is utterly devoid of steam technology, or any knowledge of Geist.  Like the mysticism of their icons and the passion of their ethnic hatreds, this realm is governed by different laws.  Under the dream of Turkish rule and the Quranic choruses of the muzzein, which loom above church and Sephardic synagogue alike, this land of peaks and storms seems to have slept, like the American tale of Rip Van Winkle, through the last half-century of advances to the north and west.  There are rumors also of other powers afoot - and for now, let me simply surmise that perhaps of all chroniclers of this region, it is perhaps more akin to the stories of Stoker and the intrigues of Lords Byron and Shelley, then anything we have seen from the inventors and scientists.  

I must be off.  I have enclosed my photograph - a crude antiquity in light of our current technologies, but they are a proud lot, and insist on our blood, as well as our image.  In case the worst happens, you will know how to find me.  The IMRO is a dangerous operation.  It is bent on nothing short of terrorism, against Albanian, Bulgarian, Turk, Greek, and any other who lays claim to their beloved mountains.  I hope we shall find some who still hold to the true Gospel, and so will rise on the wings, not of the Archangel Michael, but with the horn of Gabriel and upon eagles' wings, using our airships to proclaim the true Geist - before the darkness incarnated and invited into the world by this seething cauldron of blackest hate is unleashed upon us all.

Sincerely yours,
The Macedonian

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kronos, Geist, und Möglichkeit: Three extracted steampunk theses on power and promise

The outpouring of the Geist onto the present and the past does not simply endorse the given and accept the state of affairs that we accept as a reality common to us. But it would not simply abandon them or negate the given in full. In discerning the present in the dwelling Geist, a community is enjoined to the Möglichkeiten of what things are and the state of affairs that may be. This to encourage a sort of ordinary Möglichkeit, to help things along and nurture them to be what they could be. But it is also to uncover and enable discarded Möglichkeiten and to unearth what never was or could never be, to present not only what was once möglich but to embrace what is entirely unmöglich.

--

The weak power of the Geist gives a way to articulate the post-metaphysical concept of Moglichkeit at work in promissio. The Möglichkeit that the Geist brings in its promise is a possibility that not only enjoins what could have been but also what is not and never was.

--

To so privilege the future in spite of the past wold neglect the relationship that promise has with the given. Thus, to utilize the language of Kronos, the future reaches to the past and gives it new light; it does not simply abolish or purely negate what has come before now. It negates this past while transforming and revisiting it.

--


Selections from this tome of Steampunk Theology:  Being Promised




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Doing steampunk theology

"Doing theology is like building a comically circuitous Rube Goldberg machine: you spend your time tinkering together an unnecessarily complicated, impractical, and ingenious apparatus for doing things that are, in themselves, simple. But there is a kind of joy in theology's gratuity, there is a pleasure in its comedic machination, and ultimately-if the balloon pops, the hamster spins, the chain pulls, the bucket empties, the pulley lifts, and (voila!) the book's page is turned-some measurable kind of work is accomplished. But this work is a byproduct. The beauty of the machine, like all beauty, is for its own sake. Theology, maybe especially steampunk theology, requires this kind of modesty. The Church neither needs nor endorses our Rube Goldbergian flights. The comic aspect of the arrows we wing at cloudy skies must be kept firmly in mind. The comedy of it both saves us from theology and commends us to it. Engaged in this work, theology has only one definitive strength: it can make simple things difficult. Good theology forces detours that divert us from our stated goals and prompt us to visit places and include people that would otherwise be left aside. The measure of this strength is charity. Theological detours are worth only as much charity as they are able to show. They are worth only as many waylaid lives and lost objects as they are able to embrace. Rube Goldberg machines, models of inelegance, are willing to loop anything into the circuit-tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, Democrats, whatever. In charity, the grace of a disinterested concern for others and the gratuity of an unnecessary complication coincide. Steampunk theology helps us to find religion by helping us to lose it. Theology makes the familiar strange. It ratchets uncomfortable questions into complementary shapes and helps recover the trouble that is charity's substance."


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Doctor Who-ther?

Farringham, England
November, 1911

To the Magus,

I have recently received a photograph that you may find of great - and quite possibly utterly disturbing -  interest.  I write to you having come across the sea post-haste by airship in person to verify its authenticity.  What I am about to tell you I have seen with my own eyes and touched with my hands, as the Eagle once wrote to the Ephesians in his first epistle.    

A former classmate and colleague of mine, Professor Rachel Manke, formerly of Malden, Massachusetts but now at the University of Tennantshire in Eccleston in the countryside of Britain, is the sender.  She has been conducting an investigation into the history of the relationship between our dear Doctor Luther and those sympathetic to his cause in Henry VIII's England.

Following the suggestion of her colleague, the renowned Professor Thomas Baker, Dr. Manke made a visit to the preparatory school in Farringham, where, she was told, a teacher by the name of John Smith resided.  His reputation on matters of history was almost fantastical, and it was rumored he was privy to certain dimensions of the past which others found inaccessible or unbelievable.  

Upon hearing the name Luther, Mr. Smith became excited, and leafing through a well-worn leather journal, he produced the following photograph.  I have supplied a daguerreotype with this letter so you can witness for yourself:


As you can see, it is quite clearly a Cranach.  And, as you can also clearly see, the good Doctor is portrayed in the most outlandish manner.  I know it may sound fantastic, but I do believe the strange box behind him resembles a telegraph box, the kind of which are only beginning to spring up like trees across our cities.  Mark those details: a telegraph box...in the year 1529.  Almost four centuries ago. 

Further cryptic details abound.  In particular, the inscriptions across the top, which appear in English to us.  "In silentio fortitudo" - on of Luther's favorite phrases, pointing to the profound revelations that appear when silence falls.  But the other: "malus lupus."  You will of course remember from grammar school that this is Latin for "Bad Wolf."  But perhaps it will escape your attention that the initials are M.L. - the same as the Doctor.  

And let us not forget the scarf, an absurd bricolage hardly keeping with any 16th century styles, especially not of German origin.  Not even the French Bohemians of today's Montemarte would be so ostentatious.  

Something is clearly afoot.  A scraved Doctor standing before an anachronistic box bearing inscriptions about the silence and a bad wolf?  And here is the rub: by all estimates and a number of chemical texts, the photograph is authentic.  Let me repeat: the photograph is authentic.  A photograph of Doctor Luther from 1529!

Now, you will probably suppose that I've been reading too many Jules Verne novels again.  For all the wonders our age has witnessed, and all the blessings yet to be bestowed upon us by the steam and the geist, we have yet to even fathom the possibility of time travel.  And yet, here we are presented with a most unusual paradox.  

You can see why now that I made such haste to come to Farringham to speak with this John Smith myself.  Smith could not seem to remember where exactly the photograph had come from.  But he was eager to share with me the contents of his journal, which he called a book of "impossible things."  Such an imagination has this man - mechanical humanoids, strange creatures, angelic beings, and all other manner of invention and fantasy.  There is more to this Smith than his mild manner lets on.  He is himself, I think, a kind of magus to rival even your brilliance.

A few pages from this journal struck my eye in particular.  For one: notice the implement that the Doctor is holding in the picture.  The same implement appears throughout the journal, including here:


Strange indeed.  And then, I found a page with a self-portrait of Smith himself, along with nine other men, many of whom bore characteristics or resemblances to Doctor Luther, especially the fourth one, with curly hair and a similarly gaudy scarf.


Could it be that our own Luther belonged to the lineage of this strange progression?  That this one who, for all intents and purposes, was used by God to save humanity from itself by reminding them of the true light of the Gospel of Freedom and the importance of thinking and believing for oneself, rather than in corrupt and self-intereted religious authorities?  Was he a part of some order beyond the Augustinians or the Evangelicals? 

Or, dare I imagine: the one that so many seem to believe dropped down from heaven with the Bible open in his hands - might he actually have dropped out of heaven?  Come, in that telegraph box, from another place...or another time?  

And if this is the case, is this picture really of Doctor Luther?  And if not of Doctor Luther...then Doctor...Who?  

As I said, most disturbing.  John Smith claims the pictures in his journal come from vivid dreams that he has most nights, dreams of strange travels across the temporal spectrum and beyond this sphere.  If it were not for the authentic 400 year old photograph, I would simply deduce that all this was the work of a Verne-like imagination.  But perhaps...just perhaps...a kind of anamnesis is taking place.  Perhaps...as insane as it is even to think...our Doctor Luther has more to do with this John Smith and his drawings than we can even imagine.

I leave this before you, good Magus, as you seem possessed of skills of inquiry and discernment far exceeding my own humble clerical senses.  Let me know what you think, and if you so desire, come with all haste to Farringham.  

Yours in bafflement,

The Alpinist