Posts Tagged ‘god’

“It is astounding that this century’s two most lucid observers of the incomparable horror that surrounded them – Kafka and Walser – both present us with a world from which evil in its traditional supreme expression, the demonic, has disappeared. Neither Klamm nor the Count nor Kafka’s clerks and judges, nor even less Walser’s creatures, despite their ambiguity, would ever figure in a demonological catalogue. If something like a demonic element survives in the world of these two authors, it is rather in the form Spinoza may have had in mind when he wrote that the devil is only the weakest of creatures and the most distant from God; as such – that is, insofar as the devil is essentially impotent – not only can it not do us harm, but on the contrary it is what most needs
our help and our prayers. It is, in every being that exists, the possibility of
not-being that silently calls for our help (or, if you wish, the devil is nothing other than divine impotence or the power of not-being in God). Evil is only our inadequate reaction when faced with this demonic element, our fearful retreat from it in order to exercise-founding ourselves in this flight-some power of being. Impotence or the power to not-be is the root of evil only in this secondary sense. 

Fleeing from our own impotence, or rather trying to adopt it as a weapon, we construct the malevolent power that oppresses those who show us their weakness; and failing our innermost possibility of not-being, we fall away from the only thing that makes love possible. Creation – or existence – is not the victorious struggle of a power to be against a power to not-be; it is rather the impotence of God with respect to his own impotence, his allowing-being able to not not-be-a contingency to be. Or rather: It is the birth in God of love.

This is why it is not so much the natural innocence of creatures that Kafka and Walser allow to prevail against divine omnipotence as the natural innocence of temptation. Their demon is not a tempter, but a being infinitely susceptible to being tempted. Eichmann, an absolutely banal man who was tempted to evil precisely by the powers of right and law, is the terrible confirmation through which our era has revenged itself on their diagnosis.”

– Giorgio Agamben, “Demonic” in The Coming Community. Translated by Michael Hardt. Theory Out Of Bounds, Vol 1. University of Minnesota Press, 1993. pp. 32-33.

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“My Ark cannot be a wide popular movement. Nor can it be a movement among people in power and authority. Ordinary people won’t understand a new world they have never seen. That needs some cultivation of the imagination, and people who find this world full of gratifications, will resist any move towards a new world. They will detest the Ark idea, they will gather round to mock and hinder it until the inundation is rolling them over and over. So how do we man the Ark? Wait a bit, Noah; what was that sentence you wrote down when you awoke? Something quintessential for the élite and something very strong and clear and simple for the masses of mankind. Did that get a little deeper into our problem?” 

– H. G. Wells, All Aboard for Ararat. 1940. Chapter 2. 

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“The chess they play is not the little ingenious game that originated in India; it is on an altogether different scale. The Ruler of the Universe creates the board, the pieces, and the rules; he makes all the moves; he may make as many moves as he likes whenever he likes; his antagonist, however, is permitted to introduce a slight inexplicable inaccuracy into each move, which necessitates further moves in correction. The Creator determines and conceals the aim of the game, and it is never clear whether the purpose of the adversary is to defeat or assist him in his unfathomable project. Apparently the adversary cannot win, but also he cannot lose so long as he can keep the game going. But he is concerned, it would seem, in preventing the development of any reasoned scheme in the game.”

– H. G. Wells, The Undying Fire. Cassells & Co., 1919. 1.1.   

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