In the sci-fi novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin celebrates a universal valosphere, with its own creative energies, and expansiveness. A space-time traveler goes to the planet Winter, representing an intergalactic council of various civilizations. When this envoy tells a ruler there that the council wants an alliance with his civilization, the frightened king asks, “What for?” The envoy says, “Material profit, increase of knowledge. The augmentation of the complexity and intensity of the field of intelligent life. The enrichment of harmony and the greater glory of God. Curiosity. Adventure. Delight.” But the king is terrified, seeing the visitor only as a threat. He replies, “There’s nothing in between the stars but void and terror and darkness, and you come out of that trying to frighten me. But I am already afraid. Fear is king.”
Shall fear be our king? We might smile at the Winterian’s bad logic, if it weren’t so much our own. A void is a void. If there’s nothing at all in it, then there’s no fear. But why does logic not help us with such moments? The question is, shall we put trust in what we are ‘told,’ so to speak, in prayer and other forms of ecstasy? — music, sex, absorption in satisfying making of original things, etc.–all of them glorious experiences of extromission of self into the kind of “exchanges of life” discussed by Rosemary Haughton in The Passionate God. Or shall we regard the import of those experiences as only delusional–a smoke and mirrors effect of our physical and social mechanisms? So it must appear from within discourses of the outside–exactly because they are ‘outside’ it, based on extrapolations from the way our five senses happen to work. (Of course lately there is a great skepticism about the extent to which those objectifying discourses can represent their proposed object domains at all–and a great urge to take up a subject position within other, emotive domains of aggression and playfulness—discourses of the ‘inside,’ such as French feminism ‘speaking’ the female body.)
As a default view, one might think of a new Pascalian wager: if I myself am only a thing of smoke and shadows, then most fittingly I should cast myself on the largest shadow perceptible for me, which brings such plenitude of light and warmth. But what I seem to get told in prayer is that whoever loves and is loved matters, and matters in such fashion that what that self becomes–at its most ‘mattering’ or best instance–is an increment to the valosphere. Not a quantitative but a qualitative increment, as the valosphere is non-quantifiable. The celebrated self exists. Not that consciousness continues when one dies. Just a knock on the head will end that. Rather, the self is existent in such fashion that valorization itself (which can inherently be addressed only from the inside, as person, since ‘personing’ is what it does and persons we are)–valorization itself becomes one increment more and other than what it was, for each self that loves and is loved. As the universe expands, this serendipitous creating that is inherent in the knowing of selves by intelligent beings–more generally in the consciousness of all sentient organisms, which in turn has come from coding in matter-energy–this expansive creating becomes ever more possible and ever more celebratory: until the valosphere, or God as its infusion, “will be all in all.” This is how I understand Tillich’s definition that God is ultimate valuing. Someone who has never received love and never loved has empty eyes–like those of the criminal insane in mug shots. This is how I understand evil as absence of good, absence of all valuing, a lesion in the valosphere, a body gone back to the full recalcitrance of non-coding.
The post-structuralist experiment–to devalue presence and try to live always jumping from one to another of the aporias between its instances–has only succeeded in showing how definitive a category presence is, for human functioning, for self-becoming, for valorizing. I see three options for personal response to what is encountered in ecstasy: the hopscotch on the blank squares of deconstructionism (passé of late, as being non-political); ambling along and being now and then buffeted into touch with the valosphere; or heeding and trusting and riding its rhythms. For me, the last means to revel in God, to dance in presence, to dance it out into all it may have touch with, to work its serendipity on the leviathan of resistant matter-energy to the fullest–within the ‘instance’ that is one’s own self.