Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Death-of-God theology meets jazz

I vaguely heard of Death-of-God theology back in the '60s when it was briefly in vogue, but didn't know anything about it. My first contact with the writings of Thomas J.J. Altizer was some time between 1970s and '90s, via his treatment of William Blake.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said (see this blog) that music was the one thing that could make him believe in God. I understand the sentiment. Nevertheless, I can't feel the same way I once did about many things as I reexamine the past. Here is how I dealt with the mysticism associated with avant-garde jazz:

The Jazz Avant-Garde, Mysticism & Society: Meaning, Method & the Young Hegelians

Now make of this statement by Altizer what you will:
"The power embodied in jazz violently shatters our interior, as its pure rhythm both returns us to an archaic identity and hurls us into a new and posthistoric universality. Most startling of all, the “noise” of jazz releases a new silence, a silence marked by the absence of every center of selfhood, the disappearance of the solitude of the “I.” That silence is the silence of a new solitude, an absolute solitude which has finally negated and reversed every unique and interior ground of consciousness, thereby releasing the totality of consciousness in a total and immediate presence And we rejoice when confronted with this solitude, just as we rejoice in hearing jazz, for the only true joy is the joy of loss, the joy of having been wholly lost and thereby wholly found again."

— Thomas J.J. Altizer, Total Presence: The Language of Jesus and the Language of Today, 1980, pp. 107-108.
 SOURCE: "Thomas J. J. Altizer (1927-)," edited by Derek Michaud, incorporating material by Wilfredo H. Tangunan and Andrew Irvine, Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology.

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