CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


organized by CESNUR, Center for Religious Studies and Research at Vilnius University, and New Religions Research and Information Center
Vilnius, Lithuania, April 9-12 2003  

Ultra-modern democracies and governing the self :
Towards a new process of subjectivation ?

by Christine COSTA, PARIS VIII University– France, “Sciences of education” department, Research group PAIDEIA (philosophy and education), First year in third cycle
A paper presented at the CESNUR 2003 Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

During the student revolution in May 68, we could see written on the walls the famous aphorism from Nietzsche [1]: “God is dead” ; to what it was answered one day by another graffiti : “Nietzsche is dead”, signed God”. This joke had a certain success, and one could ask oneself, according to the Freudian analysis, about what was funny about it. Indeed, if Nietzsche is truly the author signing in his own name the first aphorism, one cannot think that God could claim about His answer written on the Parisian walls. It is of course a man who speaks and signs instead of Him. A man who thinks he is God in a way ; and here we have an indication of the problem which brings about the problem that creates the emotional release through laughing. We can see here the paradox enforced to every individual living in what some sociologists and jurists have marked out through the word “post-modern” or “ultra-modern” societies. In this type of society the human individual is literally asked to be free and autonomous. But to be free through obeisance to an order is not so easy, for it supposes going back through a circle to absurdity, it suggests that one is freed from the great foundering figures of this same society, to be in the transcendental position of God, in a way.

Let me quote here Marcel Gauchet, : “the accession to democracy is the passage from a society of religion, that is a subjugated society, to a society as its own subject structured outside religion”. Though M. Gauchet, do tells us that to extract completely out of religion seems indeed possible, he adds at once “we do not know actually what is an [“unsubjugated”] subject ,what is the completely developed form of a subject. [we do not know] what are the foundations, in a word, the existence of something we call an autonomous self. For the thought, the man from after religion is not yet born. [For] even if we suppose the age of religions closed, we must indeed be persuaded that between private religiosity and substitutes to the religious experience, we will never be finished, probably, with the religious ; […] surely is there here one of the great future sources of cultural invention. […] What was structurating scheme for the experience of the religious man and which still stands for our own, under other names, or without our knowing it, we can mainly mark it out on three levels : it is still living in our thinking process, it presides to the organisation of fantasy, it engenders the forms of the problems of the self.”[2] End of quotation.

The characteristics of the post-modern society is the disappearance of the great foundering hypostasian figures, that is the great figures whose role was to give meaning to the world and to attribute a place to human activity in this world. These great figures of transcendental otherness have been of the public or private religious type such as the Physis of the Greeks, the Ancient Gods, God the Father, or of the laicised type such as the Republic, the Proletarian people, the Revolution, Science, technological Progress, and so on. Now the disappearance of these great figures leads to serious social and psychological consequences : diverse anomies, loss of the moral or political sense of responsibility, increase in the number of cases of breakdowns or multiple personalities, and also multiplication of solutions through identitarian withdrawals and fundamentalisms of all kind, and so on.

I have worked upon the last of the three levels marked out by M. Gauchet, since it includes necessarily the two others : the problem of the self and its great question : to what conditions may I pretend to be the author of my life, that is being literally a creating god and a created man, and how this pretension can be included in a register of universal ethics, and not, of course, in the destructive registers of the all powerful paranoia and narcissism.

Several authors have been interested in this question. Among them, let me quote :

- Pierre Legendre, for whom : “[…] the symbolic status of the mirror rejoins the status of mythology. […] Each culture edifies a discourse about the mirror, putting on stage this [foundering] void, this [essential] interval, so that the subject may build himself”.

- Dany-Robert Dufour, from the same acknowledgement, : “…Which [great Other one] would be capable to defend ourselves against our own folly ? Which law could we create that would protect and perpetuate at the same time the crazy effects of the symbolic, juridical, and economical autonomisation of the subject ?”.[3]

Now, as is shown by each of them in his own way, Emmanuel Lévinas (through his philosophical ethics), Paul Ricoeur (through his analysis of the Freudian sublimation) and D.-R. Dufour (through his analysis of the lacanian mirror), there must already be some “I” in an enigmatic “anteriority” for an “ego” to exist. In other words, there is “always-before” some other than my ego not only apart from the other objectal, but also and apart from the symbolic other socialized, since beyond the signified absence in these symbolic constituted systems, may emerge the conscience of the lack of meaning which comes and question them, a consciousness of the ab-sens.

Considering seriously that, and here I quote P. Legendre : “man is only assured to possess a being through the separation with the self, so that becoming other for himself is the condition of his life, [ it is also recognizing that ] man carry this mirror within himself. [And that], he knows it, not on the mode of scientific objectivation, but on the mode of the alienation and tearing. We only live in relation to this cut and within the proximity of madness : [we only live through] the search of the other inside ourselves. [The fright and the sadness of Narcissus, his madness in ignoring the mirror which divides and separates him from his self, speaks of it. Without the Third ritually put on stage by the political theatre, without the Mirror elaborated by culture, normativity would have no hold on the subject, being pure conditioning. […] We, the modern, quick to put away the basic human interrogation with so-called scientific discourses, losing touch with what is the point for the subject considering the images, [we lose touch] with the representation of the fundamental and foundering absence, put into words through the mediation of an image, the image of the host popping up there as the expression of the unknown Cause”.[4] End of quotation.


I will now go on more precisely and listen first to Hans Jonas[5], philosopher, specialist of the ethical questions :

- H. Jonas notices that until “the seventieth century, when the modern man is appearing, {[…] there has always been some reason to this here, as long as man considered the cosmos as his natural home, that is actually, as long as people took the world as a cosmos. Then,[…] man is rejected as a whole towards himself when searching for meaning and value, […] the goals [of his life] are nothing else than [his] own creation. Now, there is a situation, and only one as far as [we] know, throughout the history of the occidental man, where, whereas nothing that could have been seen as the premises of the modern scientific thinking – he became conscious of this condition[…].This is the Gnostic movement […] who has been seen multiplying throughout the three first centuries of the Christian era, a deeply troubled period in History, in the Hellenistic regions of the roman empire, and beyond its eastern frontiers”.[6]

- Let me quote a historian of the Gnosticism, Henri-Charles Puech : ” Gnosis – which, in fact, is assimilated to a “way”, a “course” – will appear so, since the first moment, as an “attitude”. An attitude, not simply psychological or purely intellectual, but whole, “existential”, engaging one’s life […] the being of the whole man. [… Feeling “a stranger in this world”, […] which is equivalent to putting oneself in front of the world that is in opposition. […] In short, the Gnostic tends from one side to the other to “know” (to “recognize”) who he is and through this to become (again) totally what he is […]”[7].

- But, instead of a profound existential anguish, Simone Pétrement, philosopher of religions, who has analysed in detail the foundering texts of the historical gnosis of the second and third centuries, prefers, in her interpretation, to place the experience of revelation and faith in incipit of the process of Gnostic knowledge : “[gnosticism] defines itself through a certain structure of systems : the distinction of two levels in the “supra-terrestrial” world , “the Gnostics said that one must be freed of the religion of the world and that it is possible only thanks to a revelation which is not from this world”. “Knowing oneself is first knowing that one is not from this world, that one is from God […] : “see, our mirror is the saviour ; open your eyes, look inside Him, and know the lines of your face” (Salmon’s Odes, 13, 1-2). The knowledge of the Saviour is the necessary condition to know oneself, and to know God”.[8] S. Pétrement has, besides, brilliantly demonstrated the platonician roots of this gnosis, if we can hear again, as has been done through the last works of the specialists (Pierre Vernant, Luc Brisson, Pierre Hadot[9]…), that Plato taught a philosophy he lived, a true spiritual practice.

“Existential anguish” for H.-C. Puech, or “revelation and faith” for S. Pétrement, I postulate that, to answer to the paradoxical assignation to be free, these two definitions of the Gnostic attitude are not contradictory, and must be understood together.

The whole of my research aims then to encompass the notion of “ipseity” as it is attested in the occidental gnosis, (Valentinism, Manicheism, Catharism and Rosicrucianism) as “ an elaborated instance of self” ; in the same movement, I am working on a definition of the “spirituality”, in particular in the thematical relations it has with the notions of “rationality”, “imaginary”, “transfiguration of the self”, and of an educational or cultural “transmission” of this transformation.

Through my work on Sigmund Freud’s texts, I did this surprising discovering : Plato is Freud’s first philosophical reference of. Plato has inspired psychoanalysis. However, I have also noted their main divergence .

I endeavour to precise, through S. Freud’s texts (sometimes enlightened by the lacanian concepts of “real”, “imaginary” and “symbolic”) and Plato’s texts (explained from the elements of the teachings of Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri[10], modern Gnostics, in particular as far as the notions of the “three souls”, of “daimôn”, of “noùs” are concerned), two diverging conceptions of the process of elaboration of the self, but which can be sent back to one another, as in a relative isomorphism.

These two conceptions do envisage a dialectic “image/force” or else “sense/desire”, where is played effectively a process of subjectivation, including its drifts or frequent imperfections, but the worlds of reference where these two notions take root are different, as the analysis of the compared “Eros” called upon from each part has shown it.

- S. Freud envisages three levels of relation with the law. The first time is the one of the “no-law” (the time of the horde) ; the second time is the one of the persecuting law (the time of the totem).The third possible time is the one of a moral duty, founded, after the Kantian imperative, upon the decision of the logos, of reason. But S. Freud fears that this reasoning moral instance be insufficient to neutralize the drives of death at work within the will to master the world and the bodies, what modernity promotes, willing by that way to provide happiness for everyone.

- Plato, in opposition to S. Freud, considers that the third time of the law is achieved when the daemonic noùs (the spirit) is symbolized within the soma (the body). Because he includes the answer of both the neutralized epithumia and of the neutralized thumos (forces of lust and agressiveness, this third level opens upon the realisation of a fraternal eros manifested through the ethics of detachment and summed up in the evangelic formula “being in this world, but not from this world”.


This research has permitted to propose on one hand, that there is actually an economical problem of becoming conscious of oneself, but that all the episodes of the libido are also and above all adventures of the division in two selves, whose last avatar, partially examinated by Freud, is about the philosophical astonishment itself ; on the other hand, the Freudian concepts of “identification”, of “idealisation” and above all of “sublimation” revealed themselves insufficient to be of use both in the crisis of the ab-sense from where appears the question “who am I ?” and its reprisal in the philosophical or spiritual field.

But this research has shown that some observations, though retained by S. Freud come to reinforce the necessity of the mythological “fantasieren” (for S. Freud himself said very seriously that his theory about drives is a “mythology”). S. Freud tempted then to show these troubling observations through such notions as the “fluidic materiality” of the soul, of the “viscosity of the libido” and of “telepathy”, but also through his study of the case of Leonardo de Vinci, whom he defined as the prototype of a “third type [of man], the most perfect”. I have shown how these clinical observations and theorical remarks leave in the work of Freud, as if veiled, and through a play of denied hypothesis under the imperative of a philosophical Kantian a-priori (“I have two gods : Logos and Ananke”), the possibility to envisage two sources of desire, two Eros (and S. Freud did attest of a “fight of Eros against Eros”), as presented them Plato, and to conceive then the sublimation (in the intellectual investigation and the artistic creation) as covering imperfectly the two first phases of a triple process that Plato describes as the “conversion of the epithumia”, and that J. v. Rijckenborgh names the “transfiguration” of the soul.

This process would manifest itself in and through “an unknown chemism” capable of enlightening the whole play of the mental forces[11] (according to S. Freud who hoped that the endocrinology would come one day to describe and to circumscribe it) and that Luc Brisson, commenting Plato, describes with this terse formula : “ ethics rejoin then the physics becoming a spiritual exercise”.[12] But if S. Freud, as a doctor adhering completely to the ambient positivism of his time, envisaged an allopathic “treatment” of the sublimation, Plato, and the Gnostics, for their part, taught through myths, the phases of a process of sublimation going unto the transfiguration, process that their way of life permitted, without any medical trick or occult exercises, not only to set in motion but also to lead to its right end.

To go further, we must think again the Spaltung, the foundering scission which makes of an individual a divided Subject. S. Freud has theorized three instances (the Id, the ego and the super-ego) and situated the normative and foundering scission between the ego and the super-ego. But he found himself confronted, besides, to a disinterested and spectatoring instance, a figure of the Other different from the “Other as super-ego” in the clinical testimony of patients cured of their schizophrenic crisis[13].

The last phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, transmitted to Eugène Fink (his last pupil), also brings to light a spectator disinterested instance. Actually, the phenomenological subject is describable as a series of interlockings, or rather of successive dis-interlockings : the empirical “ I”, flooding and multiple ; the “I” reflexive and thematized and unifying the first “I” ; the “I” constituting thematizating the relation of the “I” reflexive to the “I” flooding and lastly the “I” spectator (or phenomenologist).The “I” constituting and the “I” spectator form together what E. Husserl called the transcendental ego.

It appears that according to the data I have worked on in the Freudian, husserlian and Gnostic texts that the first three “I” are, unfortunately, always susceptible to get attracted into the magnetic spheres of the appetites and/or the drives of auto-conservation ; only the latter, the ”I” spectator, is ever since the beginning dis-engaged from them. In fact, this “I” spectator is, literally, “outlaw”, he is the even source of heresy in its first meaning, that is the instance required for freedom to make a real autonomous choice.

The three first “I” are still susceptible to get attracted by the magnetic sphere of the appetites and/or drives of auto-conservation, only the last one is from the beginning and before all disengaged.

Now, let us consider altogether the thesis of Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edouard Sapir (about the languages) and the ones of M. Foucault (about the “epistemial” and the disciplinary know-how and powers) : for Whorf and Sapir, each language operates a cutting partial and biased through the real, passed on to every native-born and that the latter commonly and naively accepts as an objective evidence ; for Michel Foucault[14], the juridico-social and politico-disciplinarian institutions (like the state police, human sciences, school institutions, the penitentiary and psychiatric asylums…) are discourses in acts which pre-form the surrounding world of life and that, through the interiorisation of the intersubjective relationship they induce, inform and condition the intrasubjectival world without the exercise of a critical mediatization.

These last considerations allow us to complete the structures of the husserlian and Freudian subjects. Consequently, the “I” constituting is the true organ of appropriation of the language games, the one from where, among others, the objectivating deviation of modern science and/or of metaphysics are possible. Nevertheless, nothing guarantees, in itself, that a motivation insufflated by the appetite for first hand knowledge originated from the willpower ; that is what E. Husserl denounces in his book – La crise de l’humanité -. The same is true for the “ideal of the freudian ego”. For S. Freud does not hide his pessimism about it as can be seen in his book –Malaise dans la culture- . Thus, the scientific knowledges, as have shown it S. Freud, E. Husserl and M. Foucault, find most of the time their motivation in the drives of ascendancy and mastery, motivation rationalized through the ideology of neutral objectivity.

This appetite for the know-how, as is so well described by Plato in the – Philèbe-, is radically opposed to the desire of true knowledge because the latter which engages the essential being in an integral transformation as the price to pay for being able to pretend to the philosophical and spiritual knowledge, only arises when the consciousness makes it actual for the disinterested “I” spectator to retreat ultimately. Plato speaks then about the awakening of the daemon within the thymos, and the Gnostics of the circumcision of the heart.

We find in Fink/Husserl a conceptual tool sufficiently refined to make us aware of the first phase of the spiritual way : the acknowledgment of a radical otherness within the most profound and intimate place of a being, the one that Master Eckhart, often quoted by E. Husserl, pursued between the creating god (constituting) and the deity (spectator).

But E. Husserl has not thematized the play of the drives operating in the processes of the successive epoche he describes.

On the other hand, we find in S. Freud a clinic of the instinctive plays (eros and thanatos) mobilized by the ego and the super ego in the processes of the second elaboration

But his theorisation has come up against the capability to fix the constituted, on one hand and, on the other hand, against the desire of creation at work in the artistic and spiritual processes. S. Freud does show the psychic religious economy articulated from the figure of the super-egoic and often punitive of an all powerful creating god ; certain mystical experiences of fusional type through the libidinal identification with the ideal of the ego can still be explained by him ; but he recognizes that some religious experiences called “mystical” are not fusional and even lead to an auto-perceptive knowledge of oneself, but no farther : the world of the deity and of the “drives” it works upon is closed for him.

S. Freud, on the other hand, gives to the science the power to free the ego from his narcissic illusions, in and through the confrontation with the reality. But, we have seen it, the fundamental rupture must be set in motion from this “elsewhere” pre-inscribed in the heart of the ego being and it manifests itself like an intimate “étrangeté” (unheimlichkeit would have said S. Freud). If the ego-consciousness acknowledges it in its absolute radicalism, in that it outflanks the constitution itself of the reflexivity, and from there, every particular social and mundane insertions, then it accesses to the evidence of a universal brotherhood co-substantial to each node of “étrangeté” thus discovered. E. Husserl himself, in his last conversations, designed such a brotherhood by the words of “Gnostic community”.

Actually, if these historical Gnostic communities (such as the ones founded by Paul‘s and Apollos disciples, the Valentiniensis, the Manicheans, the Cathars, the first Rosicrucians, and so on) effectively put in place an organisation always as a “school”, yet they have never had to retire from the world, be it physically and/or institutionally (except when under serious persecution). On the contrary, it is only by being “in this world”, considered as the very matter of the initiation, that can be expressed the “not being from this world” and that it can work through “body and soul” the candidates.

How are we to articulate these data with the situation of the “ultra-modern” democracies ?

In his book –Le désenchantement du monde- , M. Gauchet has shown how, from a particular interpretation of the two persons within the Christ, the temporal world has progressively detached itself from the religious jurisdiction to result in the idea according to which man needs to perfect himself by and for himself as a human creature actualised in itself. M. Foucault, for his part, has studied how in this passage to the “raison d’état”, the happiness of people ceased to be the subsidiary effect of a life lived for the salvation of the soul ; happiness has become, on the contrary, a tool used by the power state who submits his people to the control of a police of life. It ensues a progressive leeway of the jurisdictional powers towards a system of reglementary and normalizing controls.

But this passage from the law to the norm comes as a fitting glove for the worldwide liberalization of the economic markets, the so-called auto-regulation of supply and demand, for such a system, as teaches Patrick Berthier[15] in his 2003 seminary, implicitly shows that the whole social stake would be reducible to :

1 ) needs, and no more desire (in a psychoanalytic sense), of which satisfaction would depend upon material or symbolic goods already available, because desire is necessarily “desire for the desire of the other” ; to turn it down upon simple “constituted objects”, it is to provoke a phenomenon of consumerist addiction

2 ) a demand that would be necessarily adequate to what is needed (every individual is supposed to know perfectly and in full consciousness what he lacks : come back to the Cartesian philosophical subject).

3 ) a need for social gratefulness exists which would define itself both :

a ) as a justification of the capacity to satisfy the above consumerist needs and

b )as a will of the identitary adherence to the normalized social of the group (and not anymore of the society) which is his reference ; the social links are then defined, no more in and by a “public space”, but in and by a “advertised” and “banalised” space.

4 ) a culture and an education which could be reduced :

a ) to a pure transmission-communication of documentary information, preferably digitalized,
b ) to exchange (of equal value) of daily savoir-faire (to replace a tap) against scientific or philosophic know-how. The value of these know-how or savoir-faire can be measured then to the number of demands (if nobody never asks for reading Plato’s books, then Plato is worth nothing and disappears from the memory banks).

To sum up, the pre-supposition is that happiness is the goal of one’s life and that it is something that one can acquire on the mode of the repletion of the appetites, including appetites for knowing. Man has become the creating god of a terrestrial paradise, and the distance from the world which constituted until now the assigned residence to the human and put him apart from the animal is at last annihilated.

Finally, P. Berthier notices that “the norm accomplishes what Hobbes thought what law should be : to regulate and not to founder or to institute. Ultra-modern democracies have realized what Hobbes attributed to the state of the Nature : they have made all men equal. But, should we remind it, for Hobbes, equality necessarily brings war of one against the other.”[16] Conflict becomes the regulating and organizing mode of the public space where law has been dissolved and of which dynamics proceeds from a ideologically rationalized egoism.

Within such a context, nothing is wrong, but only (maybe) abnormal. Of course, the monstrous par excellence (that which is pointed by the finger at) becomes what writes again within the heart of the individual the caesura which consecrates him as a subject, the foundering scission of the subject from himself. Every traditional authority (parents, teachers..) is half-masted, every feeling of culpability or duty to accomplish tends to disappear in the stead of feelings of superiority or inferiority. Every spiritual initiative is then considered as folly needing a treatment through medicalized action.

As M. Gauchet said :“the contemporary individual would have in particular to be the first individual living, not knowing he lives in a society, and to be able to ignore, because of the very evolution of the society, he lives in a society”.[17]

I do then sustain, for my part, that in such an ultramodern society, and contrary to what the French republic’s motto would have let us hope, “freedom” and “equality” are opposed to “fraternity”. At best, a polite indifference allows everyone to mix with people, or to avoid each other ; and at worst, the other will be considered as some object to enjoy or as some insupportable hindrance that must be suppressed at once.

Therefore, spiritual traditions which have always existed everywhere, instead of “equality”, have inscribed “love” and “service to one’s fellow man” in their conception of social links. These traditions have also always put forth man as a three-dimensional structure “spirit, soul and body”, and not two-dimensional (soul and body) as has been developed unto its mortified end by the technicised modernity. And these traditions, almost always persecuted by the supporters of the bi-partition, have continuously taught the possibility of the transfiguration of the soul and of the body thanks to the spirit.

This process of transfiguration can be, on the basis of the Gnostic teachings given by J. v. Rijckenborgh and C. d. Petri, and according to the community and fraternal structure they have set , summed up thus :

1 ) first, to awaken the “I” spectator (the daemon-noùs of Socrate, the Jesus semen of the Christians, the “jewel within the lotus” of the Buddhists and so on…) : reminding and reminiscence of the fraternal world he both points and express (“You all are the unique Son of the deity”),

2 ) then, exclusive desire to find out, to bear witness of, and to participate to, this fraternal world (“love each other as I have loved you”, “where two or three are together under my name, “I” will be in the middle of them”),

3 ) then, rendition-submission of all the egoic excrescences t(of auto-conservation and of will to have a tight hold aver the others and the world) to this desire (healing of the blind,…),

4 ) and consequently, a new behaviour whose aim is to manifest to the surrounding world these new modalities of service to one’s fellow man (“You have been told… but I tell you…”),

5 ) and finally, the entry into the actual reality of this brotherhood of knowing-loving brothers.

We do see that the original gap is still kept, because the manifestation of the “I” spectator and extemporal through the “I” empirical does not erase the particularity the latter owes to his life course necessarily historically situated, but that it transfigures this specificity into a singularity. There is not an identitarian and duplicative adherence to a pre-constituted image and conveyed by the native culture (or by the pseudo-called mass-culture as far as ultra-modern societies are concerned) ; but there is not either an identificatory aiming to submit oneself to the totemic, super-egoic and/or idealegoic figures. Quite on the contrary, there is auto-creation, auto-realization of the “I” spectator through the three sub-liminary “I” (empirical, reflexive and constituting) through the accomplishment of a brotherhood defined by the necessary “intra-otherness” of the singular subjects who make it alive.

On the side of the instinctual forces at play, there is disinvestment of the adaptative forces of auto-conservation to the benefit of the creative forces of auto-realisation :

- Plato spoke of a turn-back of the egocentric part (epithumia), of its submission to the daemonic eros giving birth to the noùs (intelligence of the heart), only proof of a real responsible public life.

- G. Canguilhem, in his works about the norms of life, has shown that the auto-conservative processes reduce in fact the capability to live ; using with profitability the texts of S. Freud[18] to debate with M. Foucault, he maintains the idea of a vital normativity which, because it gives the priority to the infraction over the regularity, opposes himself to the epistemic (ideologic) and doxic (native language and objectivation of the living) normalisation ;

- S. Freud, for his part, wished for a second Eros capable of neutralising the devastating effects of Thanatos on our modern democratic societies.[19]

Now, the possibility to mobilize such an “eros of the heart” is described by J v. Rijckenborgh as the primary condition to live a process of transfiguration and of auto-realisation ; it exclusively depends on the reconnoitring, sometimes dazzling, sometimes accompanied and educated, of the “I” spectator present in everyone.

This abstraction of such an “I” pushed unto the “nothing”, luminous and gold-bearing, was named “deity” by Eckhart, or “pneuma” by the Gnostics, “noùs” by Plato or the “absolute Other” by J. v. Rijckenborgh. But as H. Jonas and S. Pétrement show it in their books, it is also variously named according to the Gnostic traditions through the whole history. It is this point, according to the – Banquet - by Plato, that Socrate tempted to make it understandable for Alcibiade who wanted to seduce him : “You’d like to give pewter (your mundane prestance) in place of gold (my wisdom), how ignorant you are ! Understand first that I am “nothing” but in a very special sense”.[20]. Contrarily to the “nothing” of the mundane presence, the spiritual “nothing” or “kenose” is, according to the Gnostics, inalienable, non-transferable and non-bargainable. It is a priceless treasure, hidden deep within the heart of mankind and guarantor for the autonomous and free elaboration of the self. No personal development, no mystical fusion, no identitarian religious beliefs, no reduction to the state of paradisiacal animal

And this “nothing”, Plato gives us a more precise meaning of its luminous nature somewhere else :”we are each a starry semen from the heaven, that we must bring to bear fruit together for it only shines among its star-fellows”.[21]


[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich , - Le gai savoir - , Aphorisme 125 : “ Where is God , […] We are all his murderers […]Who gave us the sponge to erase the whole horizon ? […] Have we not been thrown in an endless fall ? […] Do we not feel the breathing of the void ? […] God is dead. […] Is the greatness of this action not too great for us ? ”.

In his book – Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra - , chapitres : - Hors service – et – Le plus hideux des hommes - , Nietzsche tells that it is « the most ugly man” who killed God.

[2] Gauchet , Marcel , - Le désenchantement du monde, une histoire politique de la religion - , 1ère éd. 1985, Paris : éd. NRF Gallimard, 1997, ( Bibliothèque des sciences humaines ) p. 247-248, 292-293.

[3] Dufour , Dany Robert , - Folie et démocratie , essai sur la forme unaire - , Paris : Gallimard, 1996, ( Débat ), p. 249.

[4] Legendre , Pierre, – Dieu au miroir, étude sur l’institution des images - , Paris : éd. Fayard, 1997, p.9 à 16.

[5] Jonas, Hans, Philosopher, has written, on this subject : - Le principe de responsabilité – (1990, Flammarion, Paris, 2nd printing 1998) ; - Pour une éthique du futur – (1993, Rivages poche/petite bibliothèque, Paris, 2nd printing 1997).

[6] Jonas, Hans, - La religion gnostique, le message du dieu étranger et les début du christianisme - , Paris : éd. Flammarion, 1978, ( Idées et recherches ), p. 419-424. Underligned by I.

[7] Puech, Henri-Charles, - En quête de la gnose : 1, la gnose et le temps - , Paris : NRF-Gallimard, 1978 ,( Bibliothèque des sciences humaines ), p. XIV et XV.

[8] Pétrement , Simone, - Le Dieu séparé : les origines du gnosticisme - , Paris : éd. du Cerf, 1984, ( Patrimoines ), p 23, 43, 197-198.

[9] Hadot , Pierre , Philosopher, has written, on this subject : - Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique – (1981, Etudes augustiniennes, Paris, 3rd printing 1993) ; - Qu’est-ce que la philosophie antique ? – (Gallimard, Paris, 1995) ; - Eloge de la philosophie - (Alea, Paris, 1998) ; - Eloge de Socrate - (Alea, Paris, 1998)

[10] Rijckenborgh, Jan van, et Catharose de Pétri, foundators of the Lectorium Rosicrucianum à Harlem, Holland, and authors of many books. See, more specifically, - La gnose universelle -, - Un homme nouveau vient -, et – La gnose des temps présents - , éd. Rozekruis Pers., Holland. (Translated in more than 10 languages)

[11] « Suppose now that we be in the position to intervene through chemical processes within this structure, to increase or to diminish the libido quantity existing at a given time, to strengthen a drive instead of another : that would be a causal therapeutic in the first sense of the word, a therapeutic for which our analysis has accomplished the preliminary and indispensable work”. Freud, Sigmund , – Introduction à la psychanalyse –. Cf, also in :- Abrégé de psychanalyse - .

[12] Brisson, Luc, - Introduction - , In : - Timée - , Paris : GF Flammarion, 1992, ( GF ; 618 ), p. 63.

[13] On the subject, see also: Swain Gladys, , - Dialogue avec l’insensé- , précédé de Gauchet, Marcel , – A la recherché d’une autre histoire de la folie -, Paris : éd. Gallimard, 1994, ( Bibliothèque des sciences humaines ).

[14] Foucault , Michel , thinker, has written a lot of books. Some examples : - Le souci de soi – (1984, Gallimard, Paris, 2nd printing 1998) ; - L’herméneutique du sujet – (Seminary 1981-82, Gallimard-Seuil, Paris, printed in 2001) ; - Dits et écrits, II - (1979-1984, Gallimard, Paris, 2nd printing 2001).

[15] Berthier, Patrick , philosophe, enseignant à Paris VIII, Département des Sciences de l’éducation , - Cours du premier semestre 2003 pour le séminaire de philosophie et éducation - , non publié. Patrick Berthier a publié : - Lire, un verbe impérativement transitif - , In : – Y a t-il une éducation après la modernité ? – ( collectif ), Paris, l’Harmattan, 2002, ( Ecriture et transmission ) ; - Le second apprentissage de la lecture - , Paris, Anthropos, 1999, ( Education ) ; et a coordonné et participé à l’écriture du collectif - Philosophie du langage, esthétique et éducation - , Paris : L’Harmattan, 1996, ( Sémantiques ).

[16] Berthier, Patrick – DEA seminary – 2nd semester, 2003 – Paris VIII Sciences of education department , Unpublished.

[17] Gauchet, Marcel, – La démocratie contre elle-même -, Paris : éd. Gallimard, 2002, (Coll. Tel ; n° 317), p. 254.

[18] Freud, Sigmund , -Au-delà du principe du plaisir - ,

[19] Freud, Sigmund , see the last paragraph in : - Malaise dans la culture - .

[20] Plato , - Le Banquet - ,218c-219b : « it is a quite advantageous deal that you want to make, because you pretend to obtain real beauties for imaginary beauties, and that you think to get in exchange, in reality, iron against gold. But, my nice friend, take a closer look, and be careful not to illusion yourself about my insignificant value. The eyes of the spirit do begin to be penetrating only when the eyes of the body begin to get weak ; you are still far from this age.” And at the end of – Phèdre - , 279b-c : “may the sage always appear rich to me and may I bring as much as gold that the sage alone can bring with himself”. And also at the end of the – Théétète – 210c-d : “if you remain empty, you will be less of a charge for those that you will go around with, and kinder, for you will be wise enough not to believe that you know what you do not know, that is all I can do for you, and nothing more […] As for the art of bringing souls to life […] I had it from the divinity. […] And now I have to go to the Portico of the King to answer to the accusation that Meletos brought against me.”

[21] Plato , - Timée - ,41d-42c ; 90b-91b, - Charmide -, 156-157c, and – Phedon – 78a-78d : “when the creator had created the whole, he shared it in as many souls as there are stars, and he assigned each of them to a star”, “we are a plant of the heaven […] and there is only one way to heal something, it is to give to it the food and the moves that are its own […] so that it reaches the perfection of this excellent life that the gods have proposed to mankind” ; “but, the soul is healed by incantations, and these incantations are the most beautiful discourses. These discourses engender wisdom within the soul”, “the nature of the incantation, a Thracian healer taught it to me, one of the disciples of Zalmoxis whose science can, so it is said, to make them immortal” ; “where can I find, Socrate, such an enchanter […] ? – […] you have to look for him yourselves inside each other ; for it is possible that you cannot find more capable people than you to do these enchantments”.

As has noticed Luc Brisson, in his introduction of the - Phèdre - , and as suggests explicitly Plato in 250b-250c, the vocabulary and the allusions to the Mysteries impregnate this text : as well, the “own means” whom each honest candidate has at his disposal can only be understood within the specific context of a “community of souls”, fact noticed by Pierre Hadot : “ Philosophy appears this time, we will have to say it again, as an experience of love”, “philosophy can be realised only through the community of life and the dialogue between masters and disciples inside a school”, Pierre Hadot, - Qu’est-ce que la philosophie antique ? – 1st ed. 1995, Paris : Gallimard, 1999, (Coll. Folio Essais ; 280), P. 84 and 93. Underlined by me.

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