***Author’s note – ***
This is an essay which was written and submitted as a letter. The stated goal of the assignment was to write a letter describing my experience in the class and then to also subsequently employ the various elements of propaganda and persuasion that had been covered in the class. I felt compelled to make this clear – that in light of these requirements, this writing is more of an act of creative writing then an actual personal letter, therefore, there is a degree of artistic licensure at work here; which (to some) may be very obvious – and to others, less so. The things I write about myself may or may not be true explicitly or relatively; and there may or may not be some very personal subjective or objectives things related. But don’t read too much into it – because I won’t comment here those things that I just pushed farther out in a creative reach – if not for anything else, then to just have some fun, for no other reason then that I could. I will say – however – that all the footnotes are actual, and the research and history related to Tillich are also factual.
Thanks for reading – and I hope you enjoy it!
Dear Dr. Palmer,
I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the questions that you asked of me in terms of the writing of this letter. It presupposes as degree of introspection to reflect upon the quality of one’s own writing, and – as it as turned out – this semester has in fact entailed a much greater amount of writing then has been required of me in previous semesters – which had, in turn, honestly already affected a significantly reflective consideration of the process of my writing. And while I am confident that I have written more papers and longer papers between Propaganda and Persuasion & Satanism, Witchcraft, and Spirit Possession then I have ever had to before, I am also confident that when you are pushed to your limits – that this is the place wherein you will generally, authentically find both your own strengths and your limitations: when discipline structures and capabilities are strained, and even – at times – altogether systematically fail. It is somewhat of a cultural idiom that ‘that which does not kill you – only makes you stronger.’ Many a comedian and burnt-out college student has issued an earnest corollary: that ‘all that is a lie – it does not make you stronger – it just leaves you somewhere between dead and alive.’ I think that the truth really does lie somewhere in between the two. It may not be a stretch to argue that – in a true Hegelian sense – they may both be true, and that the truth between them is something altogether different in its own nature, itself. Perhaps it is in this ‘half-deadness’ that we find more life – or what we might speak over ourselves in more confident moments, as some kind of existentially grounded strength that does come – only when a part of you really does die. Writers – and the present soul is certainly no exception – are most prone to this dance toward a self-styled sense of self-delusive self-absorption. Our own worlds flow out of the Rumpelstiltskin that is our own creativity; our own demon-driven muses – wherever they may be, in whatever form they may take. We cannot always tell our own straw – or the gold that we have in fact spun – from the same. Many a writer has lost their moorings to alcohol and other self-medications in their quests to either keep their mental looms threshing – or to painstakingly try to separate the gold from the straw. For some, it truly is easier to write a 60-page paper – then it is to trim a mere 10 pages from it. How then can one find the strength to edit one’s own words – when we are ourselves are most blind to their quality?
If the editing is the praxis – then the theory that precedes it must certainly be The Muse. And to properly engage and tame the practice – you have to have some grasp of the rudimentary nuts and bolts that transfer the creative power from imagination to worlds upon a page. Any creativity-mediating adjudicatory rubric necessarily resolves backward to its own creative foundations for the writer. To best edit – I must better know my own muse. I have to go back to the source. Some may argue that this is an archetypical tautology – and not an authentic teleological root. It does entail a risk to assume this creational ontology – but it is a risk I am quite willing to take. If to speak of the Muse is to speak of something real- then it is nothing less then the ultimate propagandist of the soul. It is an argument and a persuasion that should be sought – even at the risk of accepted, outright self-detriment and deception. The alternatives for the deeply creative soul – are without a doubt – much far worse.
There is a gentle irony – that the birthplace of many muses is nothing less then the womb of eros. In her paper “Woman” and the “Primitive” in Paul Tillich’s Life and Thought, Some Implications for the Study of Religion, Tracy Fessenden agues that all of the esteemed Christian theologian’s work may actually be his own attempt at being a veritable King Midas with his own renegade, perpetually libertine and overt sexuality. Fessenden quotes Rollo May, from his book Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship, “One of the qualities with which [Tillich] endow[ed] eros, and the loved woman, [was] the capacity to constitute him as a being,” and Tom Driver, from an article in New Republic that he wrote in 1973 –
Tillich’s pursuit of women was a search for the Eternal Feminine. Whether he was exclaiming over the “10,000 women’s legs” in Berlin, whether he was reading pornography, or whether he was seducing the latest woman of his life, he pursued the image of La femme éternelle, the shadow side of the Christian God, so deep in shadow that she cannot even be mentioned in systematic doctrine.
Fessenden goes on to unpack – not necessarily attempting to understand the entirety of the reason behind it – the seldom spoken, but albeit true nature of one of Christianity’s most respected theologians; that in a very real sense –he was literal the embodiment of a dirty old man.
If properly framed – Tillich may perhaps be properly understood in a two-fold way; that he understood the propaganda of his own muse and secretly abdicated any sense of self-control to the rule and reign of what he must have felt was his one, true, and sincere ground of all creative being. Indeed – the fact that a fellow theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once sent a student of his to see Tillich – only to have them return, saying that Tillich had overtly sexually groped them – seems to be stuff of wild and crazy gossip. That it happened – has been substantiated. Fessenden points out that Driver argued that the “lurid details” of Tillich’s “secret sexual life” certainly had “no place at all in his theology,” but argues against him, writing
I argued that Tillich the connoisseur of prostitutes and pornography and Tillich the systematic theologian might be seen to converge in, for example, the musings on the erotic resonance of “woman” in The Socialist Decision, the image of the ground being as life-giving and life-extinguishing womb in Systematic Theology, or the sexualizing of primitive ritual and art in The Demonic.
According to Tillich biographers Wilhelm and Marion Pauck, Tillich regarded his overt sexuality as a
“…means to productive intellectuality…he did not want to pay the high price of the loss of nature, the demonic, the world of art, intuitive truth, and mysticism….deprived of the experience of the erotic, whether actual or sublimated…he could not produce.”
Brevity and the personal nature of my own search for my own muse precludes a protracted discussion of its nature and my own historical searches for it – misadventures included. I will say that I do someday hope to write something of it – in what may evolve under the title of The Firefly Effect: Capturing and Being Captured by the Muse/Power of Love – but it is an extended conversations that I will save for space elsewhere.
I must concede, however, that throughout the duration of the semester, the dynamics of my own muse, and the constant creative output that was required of me were constantly on my mind. Concomitant to this – was the irony of the mysticism (and perhaps the seeming ‘witchiness’ of my own convictions of the dynamics of what might be considered an ontology of muses – but also how all of these resolve back to the very basic elements and tenants of Propaganda and Persuasion themselves. Unfortunately – at this time, I am unable to find any documentation or transcripts of a program that I heard online, while listening to NPR. The host was interviewing the director (I believe) of one of the national zoos, and the topic of her discussion was “Sex at the Zoo.” She argued – very convincingly, I might add – that almost all of the relationship dynamics that are observed in the sexuality of humans, can, surprisingly enough, be found “almost in spades” to use her exact words – in the animal kingdom. Perhaps this is the most amazingly pervasive, profoundly disturbing and immensely powerful element that I have taken away from this Propaganda & Persuasion; that all of our abstract and lofty philosophical extrapolations and endless terminologies may be rooted much less in cultural phenomena and societal potential – but more so in the functional nuts and bolts of our life itself. In my presentation – I made the short exclamation that Life was Propaganda. I stand by this assertion. In his book The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul, argued that as part of the ongoing evolution of our own society – we are increasingly subjugated by the technical and standardization of the ‘routine’-ized. The terms “routinization of charisma” is a terms synonymous with German Sociologist Max Weber – but for Ellul, it means much more then the charisma of a leader being made predicable and safe for a culture and the movement behind it – but more so (potentially) the very creative essence of culture itself.
Nothing belongs any longer to the realm of the gods or the supernatural. The individual who lives in the technical mileu knows very well that there is nothing spiritual anywhere. But man cannot live without the sacred. He therefore transfers his sense of the sacred to the very thing, which has destroyed its former object: to technique itself. In the world itself, technique has become the essential mystery, taking widely diverse forms according to place and race. Those who have preserved some of the notions of magic both admire and fear technique.
I think that there is a critical truth here. I believe that it is possible to cogently argue that the one defining characteristic the embodies any approximation of what one might remotely consider “American Exceptionalism” is necessarily contingent upon a responsible and jurisprudent acceptance and (furthermore, for that matter) practice of a ‘mystical heart’ on the level of the individual citizen – collectively expressed as a whole. There is a whole fleet of contingencies that I would argue should be articulated – for a full defense of this; which are beyond the fully and acceptable expectation of this letter – but I nonetheless assert it to be true. I assert that this is our one and only salvation to save us from ruinous and mindless adherence to mind-numbing, spirit-crushing, existentially-abusive totalitarianism: that there is and will always be some form of a foundation ‘beyond ourselves’ that we may not be able to always understand or even subjectively appropriate – but we necessarily – simply must honor and celebrate. I believe that this is Tillich’s theologically fabled “ground of all being:” the foundation that can never be shaken – when everything else is shaken. It is also expressed in Kierkegaard’s ‘Knight of Faith.’ I believe that the greatest power in society rests upon the level of the individual. I believe that democracy, propaganda, and ethics form a trifecta – the unifying power of which has always been, and must always be, an individualistic mysticism that is not a form of blind fideism neither an all-encompassing rationalism. If these two things can be approximated as extremes – then again, the truth is in the dance between: the dialectic that forms when they are thrust together. My own work, has traditionally revolved around these presumptions. I believe that these cannot be proven directly – but only (as Kierkegaard argued) by indirect subjective exploration. Kierkegaard, in some of his early works, employed what he referred to as ‘indirect communication’ – or, essentially ‘deceiving a person into the truth.’ Kierkegaard would write a book about something and purposefully fail (as a technique of Propaganda and Persuasion) at making a case for a given point. Having failed (or appeared to have failed) the reader would then be implied to provisionally accept the opposite dichotiomatic position; where Kierkegaard would want them to be, in terms of his true agenda. Kierkegaard was, more or less, my ‘gateway drug’ into the world of Philosophy – and then subsequently later Theological studies. It should be added – that in many aspects, the idea of theological studies can not be separated from the art of persuasion and ideological assertion. Apologetics is the artful term for what would otherwise be considered religious propaganda.
I confess that I struggle with the idea of writing from an ‘apologetic’ standpoint – and that the general spirit of my writing, seems to more naturally flow from what might be considered a ‘prophetic’ or ‘corrective’ dimension. The passion that drives my writing – is built more so on the desire to rebuild a foundation, as it were – then to try to argue for its existence to begin with. Though it may sound inexcusably non-pastoral to say it – I am not as much interested in arguing or persuading those who do not believe to do so – but rather my passion to it speak to those who already do – and to help them find a way to either take it to the next level – or get back on the level that they should be on to begin with.
I feel that I have made efforts to be more ‘multidimensional’ in my writing – because I know that there are moments in time when the writing can and should seek to write towards the audience. I know that I have enjoyed what I felt was a degree of rhetorical freedom in writing for this class – as I have been able to employ ideas and frameworks which I could assume to be already understood, and I did not allocate extra space to their ‘unpacking.’ One weakness – however – in my writing, is that I took too much liberty in this regard, and over-assumed. This is represented in the corrections that I have made.
In terms of writing to you of the grade that I feel that I potentially deserve – I will take a radical chance and I will admit to the following: that I believe that A’s are all too often given out. An “A” should represent an uncommon meta-intelligence; capable of asserting a degree of stasis, in an otherwise unpredictable pedagogical relation. For instance – I once read that Kierkegaard, when he was a young school boy, was told by his sternly patriarchal father, that he did not want him to be first in his class – but that he wanted him to in fact to be third place in the allotted grade positions. This meant that the young Kierkegaard did not only have to know how good of a student he had to be (to be number one) but he had to selectively ‘scale’ back his demonstrated academic performance, not just by one degree, but by two – respective to the perceived pedagogically-adjudicated positions of two of his classmates. He had to know how smart they were – and then subsequently play “adequately dumb” insofar as he would place just below them. This is a form of intelligence that extends beyond the classroom textbook – and into a knowledge of how and in what way one’s own intelligence compares in capability to select other individuals. I believe that an “A” should be awarded to students who can demonstrate a ‘meta-capability’ in terms of interelatory persuasional dynamics. I will further take a radical risk – and assert that if I have adequately demonstrated an appropriate form of ‘meta-capability’ – then, potentially, I might be deserving of an A. For your consideration – I will likewise make a bold assertion, and ask the question – have I influenced you? Perhaps in an even bolder statement – have I been able to be a form or expression of a muse unto you? Have I pushed your own creativity or spirituality into new places by virtue of giving you the book on mysticism or creating the posters for you – have I demonstrated an ability to recognize and then subsequently harness your creational energies, and then concomitantly with responsibility, persuade them to advance to a greater level? I do not believe that one need always know that their muse is in fact functioning in that given capacity. A muse has an intrinsically felicitous nature by virtue of what it is to begin with. If I have been a great asset to you, as a student, in addition to above average quality work – then I would humbly ask for an A. Otherwise – I know if you have not received a benefit in our teacher-student dichotomy- that I am only deserving of a B.
Sincerely and Respectfully Submitted,
 ‘Worlds’ is intentionally used here – and not a potentially presumed ‘words;’ as it is voluminous aggregates of words that serve to create these singular worlds.
 “Woman” and the “Primitive” in Paul Tillich’s Life and Thought, Some Implications for the Study of Religion, page five.
 “Woman” and the “Primitive” in Paul Tillich’s Life and Thought, Some Implications for the Study of Religion, page five.
 Ibid, page three.
 Ibid, page three.
 Ibid, page four.
 The Technological Socity, pg. 143.
 http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=378 (The Shaking of the Foundations by Paul Tillich).