<html><head /> <style type="text/css"> <!-- .style1 { font-size: x-small; font-weight: bold; } --> </style> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>Writing Sacral IR</title><meta name="keywords" content="sacral,ir,writing,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">Writing Sacral IR</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><IMG SRC="auth_chan.jpg" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="110" ALT="Chan" VSPACE="10" HSPACE="10" BORDER="0" ALIGN="right"> Stephen Chan (right), an adviser to many Third World countries and a professor at Nottingham Trent University, looks at aspects of recent Chinese history and Tibetan symbolism as examples of the ways in which international relations (IR) fails to recognize the more esoteric methodologies of faith and religion. Chan focuses on what he calls "illiterate discourses" and asks how a predominantly textual discipline can appropriate a faith (such as Buddhism or Zoroastrianism) that is illiterate, especially one that precedes text by hundreds of years. Is it possible to write a "sacral IR"? And how can IR address a representation of thought?</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What can we make of humanity's changed and globalised condition as the twenty-first century commences? We may live in a globalised world in the technological sense, perhaps also in the sense of capital movement and capital dependency, but it is a step too far to assert that any form of global governance exists or even that there may be (in the Rwandas and Balkans of the world) any sustained global civil society. Even if there is some sort of global technology and capital values, it is a lot messier under the surface than first and casual impressions suggest.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">According to Cornel West, the processes of "modernization, rationalization, commodification and nationalization" seemed to some to have dissolved the prerequisites for religious belief. And so it appears that the notional--that is, the unstudied and unquestioned--acceptance of secularization lies at the heart of any globalist view. In any case, rational technology is hardly the stuff of sectarianisms: one registered intellectual property draws profit from the entire world.</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The problem with this, from the viewpoint of international relations, is that religions and religious values still keep clashing. IR simply has no articulation for the rise of Islam. It cannot understand the Falun Gong movement in China. It has nothing to say about the contest between China and Tibet to ordain and maintain lamas. Nor has it said anything about fundamental forms of Christianity, the embarrassment within the West's own enlightened sense.</span><br> <br><A HREF="1599_500.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1599_Th500.jpg" id="3463" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1599_500.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I began to wonder why IR had nothing to say about a current political campaign in China against the Falun Gong. IR had had a very great deal to say about the Tiananmen Square demonstration by students more than 10 years ago. It was a demonstration, a protest for democracy which we could quite easily appropriate in terms of our political science and our political analysis: the programme for these students was not unlike the liberal programmes that you would find anywhere.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But IR literature fails to mention the Falun Gong. What is the Falun Gong? And why does the Chinese government find it so necessary to spend so much time and energy crushing and persecuting a group of people with mystical beliefs, who meet together in mystical conclaves and who pose no direct political challenge to the government? It's not an organized protest demanding governmental change. Any protests they do stage are only to enable them to meet together in mystical contemplation.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I also began thinking about other things that have been happening in the world of international politics. One example is the great struggle between China and the Tibetan religious leaders as to who had the right to select, bring up and ordain the lamas of the various Tibetan Buddhist religious persuasions. Why all the fuss to commandeer the young lamas who are meant to be reincarnations of previous spiritual leaders? Why go to all of this public political effort--often with very bad publicity attending--to commandeer religious leadership, particularly the leadership of religions which to the West even now must seem highly esoteric, and certainly when the religions themselves are not a political challenge to the hegemony of the People's Republic of China?</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What is going on here? And why does IR as an academic discipline have very little to say about these things in terms of the conceptual motivation and the conceptual animation of religious organization in China, Tibet and many other areas of the world?</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The problem of defining truth</strong></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The difficulty of writing about a discipline like IR is that it feels like the writing of fragments, only because the fragments are, within a particular discipline, unknown. That the discipline ostensibly concerns itself with the international makes the writing of such fragments tragic--or perhaps pathetic. Yet, it is IR that is a borrowing discipline. It cannot claim that its borrowing of Kant and Hegel, for instance--never mind Nietzsche--is more than fragmentary.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The tragedy lies in its circumscribed choice of fragments; this circumscription is a repudiation of the international, and, finally, a repudiation of knowledge. The compound tragedy is that the fragmentary borrowing, the circumscription and the repudiation are advertised as an unending and recurring quest for truth; but this truth can only ever, under such conditions, be fragmentary and circumscribed.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Truth as monolith--even if it fades and recurs--and truth seeking as an aristocratic pursuit are conceits. In this story I would like to illustrate both the subjectivity and self-reflexive subjectivity of any search for truth, and to offset the Oriental stories with knowledge from Western disciplines and thinkers outside IR. More to the point, I illustrate the desirability of various truths, the multiplicity of which should be contextualised within a quest for good. Not only that, but the telling of truths, and the quest for good, establish an intersubjectivity which is amenable to a hermeneutics, as Ricoeur suggested, most plausibly established in art and stories.</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But it is not enough merely to tell stories. I am saying here that, in its rush to secularity, IR has forgotten the need to tell stories that are sacral, stories that are compositions toward the sacred, and which are reflections upon long and different histories of establishing the conditions of goodness and of truth(s). It is the methodologies of reflection that, I propose, exist in the world's cultures as sacral devices.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Aims</strong></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">A positive step for IR would be to focus on the methodology of some of the more esoteric religions and then pose the very simple question "Is this methodology able to be appropriated in current IR discourse, particularly theoretical and normative discourse?" And if not, why not? And if this methodology cannot be appropriated, for whatever reason, should IR not seek to include what are becoming fundamental movements of thought, faith and protest in different parts of the world? In turn, should religions not seek to incorporate the methodology of their discourse into IR? But this is highly problematic for IR.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>"Illiterate" discourse</strong></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I have tried to concentrate this story (albeit with some release valves and escape clauses, by grounding it in thinkers familiar to Western thought) on certain methodologies that have to do with symbolism and silence, introducing the notion of "illiterate" Buddhism.</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If IR is a textual discipline, and if it is concerned with intertextuality--about the written word, and particularly about the written academic word--how are we going to appropriate the idea of a certain methodology of faith which is illiterate?</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If the international is to include the sacral, how should--in the midst of illiterate forms of Buddhism and Indian cultures--the sacral be written? Even if, in the case of both Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, faith preceded text by hundreds of years, modernity at least needs a written text. Or does it? Faith could also supersede text.</span><br> <br><A HREF="1599_501.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1599_Th501.jpg" id="3466" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1599_501.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If faith grew, developed and spread over the space of several centuries--before scripture became available, before text and intertextuality became available and before literate discourse became available--and if perhaps something like that is still capable of happening today to large segments of the world's population (which, after all, remain illiterate), what is IR doing about thought? Often quite complex thought, motivating thought, thought that the authorities think they must crack down upon? How can IR bring such methodology, such conceptual apparatuses that exist to animate such thought, into its own discourse, particularly if this thought and these methodologies are religious and spiritual?</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">How is it possible to write a sacral IR? What do I mean by this word? I don't mean "sacred," which I take to be a finished product. "Sacral" is the process towards writing something that has the capacity to become sacred. It's the putting together of a document with various reference points that can only be described as either religious, spiritual or perhaps mystical, things which are not capable in their iconography, in their symbolism, of being captured in any rational and logical form.</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What can we do, therefore, with symbolisms that are not rational but mystical, that paint a universal picture that is sufficient not only to sustain meditation upon the universe painted but also to provide the bedrock for opposition to very powerful governments, such as the People's Republic of China? What is going on here?</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "></span><br> <span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Tibetan symbolism</strong></span><br> <A HREF="1599_502.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1599_Th502.jpg" id="3472" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1599_502.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I want to take--in IR terms, certainly not in theological terms--an excursion into Tibetan symbolism. Some of you who frequent New Age shops, bookshops and libraries will have some superficial familiarity with this sort of thing. But what I've tried to do is to go behind, as it were, the obvious glitz that comes with the Californian version of this kind of thing and have a very deep look at IR, about the nature and the methodologies of symbolism for the Tibetan case. I want to look at these things as a form of malleable and self-reflexive subjectivities.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">When one starts looking at this sort of symbolism as a position in an ontological debate and as an ontological expression, one is able to enter it into the current IR debate about ontology and epistemology, agency structure and so on.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In different ways, this remains a centralizing debate and a centralizing concern, even in illiterate discourse. Just because it's not textually available and the methodologies can't be appropriated in an easy, textually based Western logic does not mean that the very same debate and the importance of this debate are not manifest in the whole question regarding political opposition in different parts of the world.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If you are a free agent with an ontological position, and you believe in this and you're able to reason for the sake of this, you're going to establish for yourself a foundation of protest and an opposition to overwhelming structure. You as a free agent, you as an agent imbued with certain conceptually justifiable senses of your place in the universe, will be able to have a position against an earthly government, against an earthly dictatorship, for instance.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">That was the theme of my excursion into Tibetan symbolism from the perspective of IR, which I don't think has been attempted before. It seemed to me that I needed to do it, because when I was thinking about those preliminary political questions, such as the Falun Gong and the ordination of lamas in Tibet, it seemed rather useless simply to say there is a lapse in IR, without trying at least--in a provocative way--to overcome or to fill temporarily that particular lapse.</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "></span><br> <span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Ricoeur's work on self-reflexivity</strong></span><br> <A HREF="1599_503.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1599_Th503.jpg" id="3474" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1599_503.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">As well as taking a brief look at theological thinkers such as Hans Kung and of course Mircea Eliade (the now deceased theologian who taught at the University of Chicago in the latter part of his career), I also want in particular to try to echo some of my work on the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur. Now Ricoeur, as you know, has spent the latter part of his career mostly concerned with the theory of narratology, but the early part of his career was very much concerned with the theory of symbolism, particularly symbolism that could not be anchored by a narrative text. This is not to say that a narratology of the symbol is impossible, but it is much more problematic than if you have the text to hand.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The early part of Ricoeur's work was very much concerned with the problematic of navigating symbolism and establishing, as it were, a narratological apparatus for the study of symbols. Tibetan mysticism in particular depends very much on the illiterate symbol.</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Ricoeur's work on self-reflexivity is one of the key points I am trying to make in my critique of IR. Apart from the debate within IR on agency and structure, ontology and epistemology, and on subject/object and so on, all of these things are depicted as flat oppositional qualities, as in: I'm a subject--so what? I have a subjective view of the world--so what?</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Through Ricoeur's work there's the possibility of looking at the subject--itself/himself/herself--as self-reflexive. In other words, there is more than just "me" the subject, but all the multiplicities that become part of me, everything that is, as it were, psychologically and contrarily driven.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Ricoeur's work is very much about the impossibility of pure subjectivity, using Nietzsche's perspective on the term "cogito." It is impossible not to have a divided cogito. The only way that the cogito, the knowingness of the subject, can be unified is by its being mediated, often through mystical, religious and certainly symbolic forms. This seemed to be a nice way of rounding off the Buddhist discourse that I've been trying to propose.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think that when you read not so much the aphorisms but the most sustained piece of Nietzsche's writing--which I take to be <i>Thus Spake Zarathustra</i>--then what you have is an obvious effort, but an effort not only at sacral writing (in the sense that I've tried to use the term "sacral"). What you actually have is something which can be interpreted in a number of ways, not unlike the way that Buddhist and Tibetan Buddhist thinking can be interpreted for use in IR today.</span><br> <span class="style1"><br> Conclusion</span><br> <A HREF="1599_504.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1599_Th504.jpg" id="3483" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1599_504.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">My final and most lingering thought is on the notion of truth: "If you've got all of these different methodologies, some textual, some nontextual, and you wanted to put all of these into IR, how do we know--with all of these multiple and indeed self-reflexive subjectivities--what is true anymore? How can we "speak truth to power," to use the old phrase? My advice would be: first, you can't, and second, you shouldn't try beyond a certain point. The real thing that IR should be doing is not trying to isolate itself in the library so as to find sufficient text from which to "speak truth to power."</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The real aim of IR--just as the real aim of Tibetan Buddhism, for instance--is not truth, but seeking the capacity, either verbal or nonverbal, to do some good in the world.</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There is nothing complicated about this. Good is simply something done. The task of IR is to let a million flowers bloom. The pages of each journal should be filled with poems and stories. Or, conversely, there being too many words, there might be a benefit to the world in having no journals at all. There is something to illiteracy, even more to complete silence, if it facilitates an action.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">This story is adapted from a lecture given on May 27, 2000, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>