The Split $ubject: Metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties

March 8, 2018, 4:55 p.m.

Well, hello all, and welcome back to the Split $ubject. It seems that the reception has been split as well, lately…

Despite the delay in printing this article, I’d like to give a small thank you to The Stanford Daily, which has (barring a few edits that, in my opinion, should not have been made, as well as a few I disliked but understand and respect) done a better job upholding “Free Speech” on this campus than that local tabloid FoHo — the same “Fountain Hopper” that is “wondering how in the world someone’s” — that is, my — “1900 word treatise ended up in the Daily recently.” I take it that FoHo is implying that my article should not have been published. To my mind, this is “baffling” to hear from the same publication so avidly reports on Sex, Drugs and Politics ‘n’ Cringeworthy puns — the same topics that they recommend I not be published for.
Then again, “duplicitous” is perhaps a better word than “baffling.”

And let’s not forget that the commodity in question (marijuana) — and not even Jeff Sessions would be so narrow-minded as to think that this column is in support of ever growing commodification — earns State Governments across America Billions of Dollars in tax revenue. Now, that would be challenging to censor.

Anyway, I’m pleased to announce my retirement from the genre of polemic. The Split $ubject will now only treat the finer things in life, like Science-Fiction, Political Theology, Aesthetics and Infinity.

So, I find the heights of Dante’s paradise on my fingertips: “Then once the adverse truth of mankind’s present / miserable state was clearly brought to light by her who holds my mind imparadised, / as one who in a mirror catches sight / of candlelight aglow behind his back/before he sees it or expects to see it / and, turning from his looking-glass to test / the truth of it…just so do I remember doing then… for, when I turned around, my eyes were met / by what takes place here in this whirling sphere / whenever one looks deep into its motion.”

Here, we see a fiction about the king of Medieval sciences: optics. It’s always the right time to make fictions about science, especially those with a feminist grain. Indeed, this is one of the primary tactics of the Xenofeminism I so hysterically think our campus needs. So, I wanted to continue with the greatest feminist Sci-Fi political theology from tymes Medievall: Dante’s “Paradiso,” the book in which the structure that Dante takes from science becomes most clear, as well as his astonishingly beautiful theological vision of a redemptive femininity.

It’s my thesis that the co-emergence of these two things in Dante’s text is not a coincidence. The Catholic Church’s distrust of science should be well known to those of you who have heard of Galileo and the censorship of his Siderius Nuncius (“Messenger from the Stars”) in which he defended heliocentrism — the same heliocentrism that structures man-of-science Dante’s heavenly topology in his “Paradiso” from 300 years earlier. For those of you who do not know how bad the anti-feminisms found in Medieval Christian Aristotelianism get — which are in fact similar to Bruce Thornton’s “Snowflake Feminism,” from which I lifted the controversial title “Who’s your Daddy” and to whom it refers — I’ll give one quote from famed preacher St. John “Golden-tongue” Chrysostom: “The woman taught once, and ruined all…But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively.”

After that, it is quite the relief to hear in Canto 1 how “Beatrice stood there, her eyes fixed/on the eternal spheres, entranced. And now / my eyes, withdrawn from high, were fixed on her. / Gazing at her, I felt myself becoming / what Glaucus had become tasting the herb/that made him like the other sea-gods there. / Transhumanize— it cannot be explained/per verba, so let this example serve/until God’s grace grants the experience” (Trans. Mark Musa).

Thankfully, we moderns can replace Glaucus with Donna Harraway, and do not have to wait until “God’s grace grants the experience” to transhumanize. As the Xenofeminism (XF) manifesto has it: “Nothing should be accepted as fixed, permanent, or ‘given’ — neither material conditions nor social forms … Anyone who’s been deemed ‘unnatural’ in the face of reigning biological norms, anyone who’s experienced injustices wrought in the name of natural order, will realize that the glorification of ‘nature’ has nothing to offer us — the queer and trans among us, the differently-abled, as well as those who have suffered discrimination due to pregnancy or duties connected to child-rearing. XF is vehemently anti-naturalist. Essentialist naturalism reeks of theology — the sooner it is exorcised, the better.” Dante does not yet have the technoscience and mathematics to cast off theological and naturalist assumptions entirely; we students do.

Nonetheless, Dante succeeded in changing the Christian Imagination — Heaven, Purgatory and Hell as we know them today are largely his inventions — for the better by painting Paradise as scientific and feminine. He does so most paradigmatically at the end of “Paradiso,” when the twin prayers of Beatrice and Mary allow him to see the splendor of God in Human form, which he can only compare to the history’s most famous paradigm for the short circuit that constitutes a scientific revolution, squaring the circle:

“That circling which, as I conceived it, shone
in You as Your own first reflected light
when I had looked deep into it awhile,

seemed Itself and in Its own self-color
to be depicted with man’s very image.
My eyes were absorbed in It.

As the geometer who tries so hard
To square the circle, but cannot discover,
Think as he may, the principle involved,

So did I strive with this new mystery:
I yearned to know how could our image fit
Into that circle, how it could conform;

But my wings could not take me so high—
Then a great flash of understanding struck
My mind, and suddenly that wish was granted.

At this point power failed high fantasy
But, like a wheel in perfect balance turning,
I felt my will and my desire impelled

By the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

So it ends. 700 years after Dante, we can easily see what is redemptive and progressive and what is painfully regressive in medieval thought, including Dante’s. Xenofeminism is asking all of us to think today’s connections between Gender and Science from the year 2718, from which today’s good guys and bad guys will be equally clear. As with Dante, technology and Gender will be decisive factors: “XF seeks to strategically deploy existing technologies to re-engineer the world … Technoscientific innovation must be linked to a collective theoretical and political thinking in which women, queers and the gender non-conforming play an unparalleled role.”

Just as Dante caught sight of a paradisic time many years beyond his with his feminist sci-fi, perhaps we can catch scintillations and glimpses of scientific utopias to come with our own.

Doing so is the first step to making them happen.

Contact Joe Goodhew at jgoodhew ‘at’

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