The Cioranian oeuvre bears the reputation of a completely unsystematic articulation. In spite of this character, which is mainly due to the preference Cioran has shown for the fragment and to the aphoristic form the expression of his obsessions has described – his work has yet several unifying coordinates, which though not allowing for a systematic construction, could still function as “metaphysical milestones”, i.e. “metaphysical constants”. These constants can be said to concentrate, to curdle the entire mass of Cioranian fragments around one single constellation.
Just like Heidegger’s existentials were all reducible to the nuclear existential of “care” (Sorge), in a similar fashion we uphold the thesis that all of Cioran’s existentials (dominants) are derivable from the profound and fundamental existential of Transcendence.
The antinomy of transcendence is the crucial attribute of that allow for the deduction and comprehension of all the existential structures of the Cioranian metaphysics. Due to this antinomy, the erotic ecstasy, the musical ecstasy and climactically the mystical ecstasy – find an explanation at the hand of the enlightening/luminous and generous attribute of transcendence, which triggers the urge of breaking free from the shackles of human condition and reaching the ecstatic union with the Absolute. It is this very antinomic character of transcendence that allows for the existence of non-sense, the absurd, sickness, ultimate experiences and, generally speaking, sufferance.
1. The Development of the Concept of Transcendence in the History of Philosophy
The question referring to the ultimate grounding which makes possible the act of being sweeps obsessively through the whole of the Western history of philosophy from the school in Miles to Heidegger. The principle nature was called in turn: One, Primordial Engine, Pure Act, Matter, Absolute Identity, Indetermination etc. The difficulties posed by the deciphering of this ontological code have generated self-contradictory solutions, metaphysically, logically and gnoseologically speaking. Thereby, the divergences which have marked the history of Western thought refer not only to the rationalisible character of the principle as opposed to its cognitive inaccessibility, but also to the nature of this principle that has been described by means of self-contradictory enunciations. Neither the transcendental, not the immanent character of Being have been spared of controversy.
The aim of our investigation will be that of identifying several major moments in the development of the concept of transcendence in the history of European metaphysics and afterwards to detect the sources, occurrences and the meanings of the idea of Transcendence in Emil Cioran’s system of thought. With Plato Transcendence is thematically explored especially when he poses the problem of the ontological condition of Good, more accurately, when he refers to the position Good entertain in its relationship with sense and sensitivity. Plato suggests the possibility of a super-intelligible character of Good, i.e. a transcendence infinitely more radical than the transcendence of paradigms as compared to things.
The problem of the corruptibility of the world, which has decisively marked Cioran’s metaphysics, will be re-configured with deeper implications when defining the concept of transcendence by means of Aristotle. In order to avoid the idea of a regressus ad infinitum, Aristotle infers an initial cause of motion, which in its turn should not be moving, a sort of stillness in motion. The substance of the Prime Motion? Is a pure act which is not conditioned by ability, does not undergo any changes. Being self-conditioned, the PM conceives in its act of self-thinking the entire coherence of the universe. Being in full debate with the Eleats on the issue of the homonymy of Being, Aristotle retrieves by means of the doctrine of Prime Motion – in his Metaphysics XII – the sense of the eleatic identity between thinking and Being, an identity which may become the onset for the personal character of Divinity.
With Kant, the supreme idea of reason is the idea of totality, which – if hypostatized, represented as an individual – becomes the Transcendental Ideal. This ideal hypostatisation of the substance of predicates, out of which the determined predicates are selected, and which constitutes an absolutely perfect Being that presents all the attributes, i.e. the affirmative predicates, excluding the negations. Owing to the piling of all affirmative predicates, this idea of totality, this Transcendental Ideal is also called by Kant ens realissimus, i.e. the Being which presents a supreme degree of reality. Kant also upholds that this idea of totality exemplifies best the concept of the unconditionally necessary Being, this being the speculative source of the ontological argument. Although Kant does not admit to the necessary existence of this totality, taking a critical position as to the ontological argument, he acknowledges though the sublime character, the greatness of such overwhelming an idea.
The problem of transcendence is thematically re-approached by Hegel, who suppresses the opposition between essence and Being, which consequently leads to the suppression of the transcendence of Being. Spinoza’s substance could not explain the process of becoming, let alone temporality; for it only could conceive of an eternal present. This how Hegel’s question came into being: what is the way of reaching the state of becoming by means of a substance which is absolutely affirmative, as long as becoming involves negation? Hegel co-relates this ontological question with the problem of the relationship between determination and indetermination. Any determination is negation, and any indetermination is the absence of negation. But as any determination is also an affirmation, any indetermination is also the absence of any affirmation. As absence of any negation, indetermination is Pure Being; as absence of any affirmation, indetermination is Pure Non-Being. Hegel eliminates negations as well as affirmations, this speculative operation resulting therewith in the identity of Being and non- Being.
In his phenomenological project, Husserl will change the meaning of this term, applying it to the relation between cogito and cogitatum. The next step in the phenomenological redefining of the concept of transcendence belongs to Heidegger. The above mentioned thinker is characterized by having made a clear distinction between the concept of transcendence as such and its theological acceptation, and transcendence as the coinage of modernity. According to him, both acceptations present a crucial flaw: the representation of inwardness, as basically defining subjectivity. For Heidegger, the transcending force is the Dasein, while the aim of this transcendence is again the Dasein, which does overcome itself by means of itself but not in the sense of a transcendental alteration as it happens with Divinity.
The question over the meaning of being, as well as that over the relationship between the sacred, temporality and the abyss, finds its continuation in the investigation of poetic expression, as well as in the attempt to reveal the intimate relation between being and logos. It is only now that the question over the absence and the waiting for the God appears to be completely entitled. The God is absent, withdrawn from our “night of time” and expecting men to prepare his dwelling place. Yet men cannot do as such, no until they have not reached the abyss, not until they have brought to completion this “night of time”.
2. Cioran and the Negative Rehabilitation of Theological Transcendence
By denying the absolute character of the Being, as defined by metaphysicians, and by upholding the thesis of the constitutive finitude of this being, Heidegger’s experience of non-being is not a radical one. The only form of nothing which is truly radical is the one that becomes antonymous, and which assumes an oppositional relationship to everything, excluding cosmological totality, but including the theological one, as an absolutely infinite one. Therefore, Cioran’s anguish becomes possible only at the hand of the retrieving of the theological concept of transcendence, and provided the fact that we are aware of our living in a cosmos that is but a mere dim reflection cast by the luminous halo of transcendence. For Cioran, cosmological immensity is equivalent to the nowhereness of Divinity and man, while the prerequisite for a genuine nihilism is the existence of recollections of paradise lost, which basically amplify the contrast between our cosmic condition and the transcended territory. With no receptivity as to mystical ecstasy, there can be no ultimate existential source of nihilism.
3. Cioran’s Position as to the Antithetical Character of Transcendence
Being as defined by theology is one that becomes inseparable from the hypostatical character of Divinity. The topos of divine Being is by no means one conditioned by space, yet this character remains a guarantee of the absolute transcendence of Divinity. As Emil Cioran was mainly approaching the theological Being, rather than Heidegger’s phenomenological one, the issue of the topos of Being and of a metaphysical position taken by man toward ens increatum re-attains its meaning. The cosmic desertion, the lack of metaphysical paternity is triggered by a projecting beyond the topos of Eternity, of man and cosmos equally. Cioran does not deal only with man’s position toward transcendence, but also with the failed cosmic condition, the failure of creation. He paints an ontological picture in which the fall maintains the dramatic character of the Christian genesis, yet continuing with the Oriental idea of every form of temporality being a form of metaphysical degradation. Thereby, as the ‘God’ chooses manifestation and not being able to refrain from the temptation of creation, he chooses the path of failure. All in all, this seems to indicate to a subtle questioning of divine omnipotence.
As long as the fall is not an accident any more, but a given of the world, the nostalgia of non-being is a logical conclusion for Cioran. The longing for precosmic nothingness lies in an antinomic proximity to Cioran’s craving for Infinity, which is the foundation of his mystical and musical sensitivity. Thus, his stance is essentially ambivalent as regards Transcendence: by contesting its creation, Cioran seems to question the very divine attributes, their infinite character and consequently the perfection of God. On the other hand, the mystical and musical ecstasy awaken him, or rather his conscience to the existence of so overwhelming a reality, that cosmological and existential contradictions seem to remain simply suspended.
4. Counterpoint Cioranian Apophatism
Theological literature distinguishes three degrees of apophatism, while Dionysus Areopagytus elaborates on the third degree, which expresses the abundance of divine light by means of the metaphor of divine darkness. This way, the infinity of Light, its super-determination triggers an antithetical relationship to created light and this is the basic reason of calling divine super-light also divine darkness. This form of apophatic negativity, which functions as an over-assertion, manages to avoid the positioning of contradiction at the very heart of Divinity. In fact, one could say that the apophatic antinomies are not ontological in nature, but rather cognitive. The areopagytic apophatism refers to God’s character of totality. In order to affirm enough about God, one should affirm at least everything that is affirmable about everything existing. As the affirming predicates are only predicates by analogy, we need also deny about God everything that is deniable about things existing. Negation refers neither to discourse, nor to logic, as the suppression of an affirmation does not necessarily lead to nothingness, to absence. What the apophatic negation refers to is not nothingness, but an infinitely valid affirmation, an overstatement; thus God is beyond affirmations as well as negations.
The general status of apophatic negation is a different one with Cioran; paradoxically, his need of God is perfectly equivalent to his need for the absence of God. Cioran is therewith completely dismissing the basic principle of non-contradiction on account of his inverted mystical passion. Although apophatic in method, Cioran involves antimomies of a different kind than those of the classical apophatism. If the negative expressions of Dionysus Areopagytus aimed at ontological excellency and superlative, by contrast, Cioran’s apophatic target is that of God’s withdrawal from the world. Cioran’s God is not apophatic because of is unfathomability, he is so owing to his existential absence. Cioran carries within himself and at the same time dismisses theological Transcendence. Having a dislike for assertion, he will delve into the Christian abyss and not its light. His apophatism may thus be called an inverted one, whose side-effects may degenerate into meonic activism.
5. The God of Theology and the God of Philosophy
The major difference between the God of theology and that of metaphysics refers to the personal character of the former one. The God of Philosophy is a deductive spectrum, an abstract, overcategorial entity, whereas the God of theology is a subject, hierophany, concrete. The consequences resulting from the anthropomorphosis of Divinity, along with the problem of theodicy and the absurd of history, represent a connecting point between Cioran and Christian theology, whereas the nostalgia for an impersonal pacification – either in the unity of matter, or in the Buddhist vacuum – would basically stand for Cioran’s attempts at liberation from the terrible shackles of the idea of a personal God.
The idea of the absurd cannot come into being without admitting the existence of a divine person who renders meaning and finality to the cosmic creation and to the process of becoming. Cioran’s mutiny against Divinity is fuelled by the contrast between the moral attributes that theology bestows on God, and the factual evidence. Upholding the goodness of God in a death-conditioned universe torn apart by sufferance becomes a major metaphysical challenge which cannot be placated by discourse.
UNIVERSITY “LUCIAN BLAGA” OF SIBIU