in the last chapter of the history of the world
The title is of course borrowed from Giorgio Agamben, one of those essayists who mused on the post-Christian culture obsessed with the approaching apocalypse more than any other religious topic.
essays in apocalyptic studies
Closure and permeability. From pneumatic experience to extra-cultural insight in the kairós
სჯანი / Sjani: Journal of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature, no 23/2022, p. 38-48. ISSN 1512-2514, e-ISSN 2346-772X.
The aim of the present essay is to revisit and re-examine the inherited modes of thinking about catastrophic events that date back to the Antiquity, and to contrast them with the contribution provided by the present-day post-humanist philosophy in order to answer the question how the lasting effects of the COVID 19 pandemic may be captured through the lens of cultural analysis. To achieve this goal, the author of the article analyses the cultural paradigms established by Christian eschatology. According to religious tradition, the Apocalypse may be defined as the onset of a specific time – the kairós of Christian eschatology, as opposed to chronos, the usual, historical time in which usual events take place. The passage from chronos to kairós happens when the time is ripe for a revelation: in the Apocalypse of Saint John this passage is symbolised by the moment of breaking the Seven Seals of God and the opening of the Book of Secrets (Revelation 6-8). In the specific, apocalyptic time, the usual cultural distinctions, categorisations and ways of doing things, belonging to a secular time, lose their validity. So to speak, Apocalypse is a suspension of culture. This is why the human being confronted with the pandemic conceptualised as an apocalyptic event lacks not only an efficient bodily cure, but also adequate strategies of fear management, solidarity, mourning, etc. Nonetheless, the kairos, i.e. the suspended, a-cultural time of the crisis, offers an opportunity of novel insights, fostering the transgression of hitherto respected cultural limitations.
The revelation brought about by the time of crisis may be understood not only in religious, but also in secular terms. It can be captured through the cultural analysis and post-humanist philosophy, such as a recent, yet pre-pandemic essay The Life of Plants. A Metaphysics of Mixture (2019) by Emmanuele Coccia. He anticipated the importance of the pneumatic immersion-in-the-world, epitomised in this instance by plants. He speaks of “universal transmissibility” and “perpetual contagion”. The importance he attributes to the physiology of breathing, common to all living beings, leads to a philosophy of the organic that operates by a constant inversion of the container and the contained. Pneuma – yet another term with religious connotations, here used as a synonym of unity of all life, not only the human one – introduces a permanent overlap between the organism and the environment, and thus the principle of circulation, transmission and unavoidable contagion.