Saturday, June 16, 2007

Notes on a philosophy of Birth

Birthing, returning to the passage out of the womb, the womb itself. Embracing the maternal matrix, the productive power of woman, and man's relation to that productive power in the form of sympathy and love.

In contrast, patriarchy begins with the idea that Eve should be controlled, de-natured, turned into Mary, a porcelain slab of purity. The womb becomes a phobic object, the engulfing maw. Female sexuality must therefore be viciously strapped down, swaddled, restricted, constricted. Male sexuality entwines itself with violence, beginning with slicing away at the clitoris. Rape becomes that which is just under the surface, as continual possibility and threat. And of course, men desire death.

The history of Western philosophy begins as a cosmic form of erotic desire - for the elements and being-within-the-cosmos (the pre-Socratic philosophers of wild being), but quickly becomes caged via Plato and Aristotle. Timaeus is one of the turning points, where chora - a spatio-temporal surface for becoming, is formed and opened and then reduced into space and rationality. We lose track of chora - there is no word for it in English.

Philosophers have desired death in their metaphysics for two thousand years, in the gradual rise of humanistic philosophy. After Copernicus and then after Kant, everything is reduced to the image of man, conquering the cosmos, starting with the earth - then structuring the very principle of thought and being itself - via transcendentalist philosophy. The repressed birth that lies outside dwelling-within-death is rendered nameless, noumenal. Philosophy becomes narcissistic and onanistic: how do I know others exist? How do I know they are not all mannequins? How do I know it is the moon I see? Are we not all in a dream? Legions of students troup through these questions, while life passes us by, as if beyond a thick silencing glass window. Existentialism and phenomenology do what they can to halt time's tide, but the die was cast long before (sometimes one needs to mix metaphors, just like there is always a time for a mochito).

And then Western philosophy ends (during the twentieth century), petering out into linguistic squabbles and logical puzzles - Russell, Wittgenstein, Kripke etc. The End of Man is widely proclaimed, and then the end of History is smugly announced. The philosophers of death end up fantasising about the death of philosophy, and it becomes a self-fulfilling reality. Deleuze loses his voice, jumps from the window and goes splat. The resonating decay at the end of the splat sound is the sound of philosophy quickly turning mute, like the silence after a church bell in a far off church.

And yet. The other side of the death of philosophy is the birth of the feminine, the Kristevan semiotic undermining and over-coding the symbolic. Man ends, the difference of desire begins. Chora returns - the space before space that has haunted all philosophers of death. The possibility lies within us that we recognise ourselves through our differences, rather than differentiate ourselves through the recognition of sameness.

But the birth of the philosophy of birth (loving the wisdom of birth) is fleeting, momentary, evanescent, fragile. The masculine ordering principle is all too ready to claim back the territory, the space between. What programmes, what teaching, what forms of learning and wisdom can keep us as long as possible within the feminine, at one with chora, the matrix, with Eve, Shiva, Osun, Yemaya and all the other feminine principles of desire and alternative forms of being-in-the-cosmos?

Stanislav Grof's perinatal exercises are one such way. Explorations of female sexuality are another (beyond the g-spot, the u-spot, the x-spot). Sexuality itself needs to be unleashed from its genitalised, heterosexualised cage (heterosexuality needs to become itself: truly heterosexual). A return to the earth, as the primary choral ground, is another way in which the feminine principle can become integrated within our lives. Economic growth models morph slowly into economic sustenance, as economic science itself returns to its ground in the oikos. We begin to worship Sango, as part-male, part-female ordering principle. Men no longer expel pregnancy from their lives, and women no longer tacitly accept it. A different set of boundaries are woven back into the lives of our children: they become the centre of our work in favour of the future, but are no longer drenched in material compensations, nor isolated and unloved. We realise that all we can really give our children (your children from me, my children from you) is the deep-routed sense that they are loved, and have always been loved, and will always be loved.

The philosophy of birth is a long slow process of becoming. We are not there yet. Masculine violence still rages through the world, destroying peoples, and ultimately the planet. It is only the feminine that will allow us to survive and flourish and lead the good flourishing life: eudaimonia.


Carol.Knowles.1 8:12 am  

I am currently struggling with Kristeva - reading "Revolution in Poetic Language", writing an essay on her philosophical and psychoanalytic concept of love based on the fundamentals set out in that book.

Your June 16th post on the Philosophy of Birth was a joy to read. Thank you.


Erik 7:54 am  

Oh dear...
I hear again the myths of innocence before fall, the Golden Age before the slaying of the ancient God(dess), even of death as a mistake of perception.

Why should I believe such myth-making in a world of grief?

Or is it just post-modern whistling in the dark? Was it just meant to be a "joy to read".

There is usually a rigour in your philosophical posts but this one sounds as self-referential and onanistic as some of your targets (who do deserve the tag, I admit).

t 7:07 pm  

When you write one of these posts (long and in your particular jargon) I can't take in the whole thing - Attention Deficit anyone? I'll try though.

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