For In him we live and move and have our being as even some of your own poets have said, For we too are his offspring. -- Acts 17: 28
In Acts 17 Paul quotes Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus to make a bridge to Greek concepts of deity while setting Yahweh apart as the god who needs no temples, as the one who provides for himself everywhere a place, and thus for humans a place within Him.
Unlike Zeus who must rely on temples and idols of silver, Yahweh makes a place for his own making, generating the unfolding of space itself; but like Zeus, God the father provides for His offspring a means of reproduction emanating directly from His ousia. With Zeus, patrilineage can be established via ectopic pregnancy in a cavity in his head or thigh; for Yahweh, divine substance or substrate emanates directly into a child-clone, the Logos (in a process possibly analogous to cellular mitosis).
Zeus seems to be demonstrating what Irina Aristarkhova calls “ectogenetic fantasy,” or the desire for a womb outside of the mother, an artificial, non-interior, or non-maternal origin.
Yahweh seems to be displaying what Judith Butler calls “autogenetic fantasy,” the desire to procreate from oneself alone, without the necessity of a woman.
Both ectogenetic and autogenetic fantasies seem to indicate (male) asexual reproductive fantasy. Both manifest an anxiety around sexual reproduction and the maternal indebtedness of messy corporeality that Virginia Burrus so effectively narrates via the patrilineage of Christian patristic theology in Begotten Not Made (2000). The Logos is begotten of the Father’s own substance, in a way that bypasses maternal contributions.
How could the God in whom we live and move and have our being, a God of such generative spatiality serve such different projects?
It could be as simple as a difference in textual reading strategy, between a male author’s envious stealing of maternal qualities, a feminist Christian reader’s reclamation of gynomorphisms as evidence of an enduring feminine in the nature of God, and a queer reading of the trans-adaptability of a multi-gendered God.
While such creative strategies – an envious lie, a feminist protest, a queer mirror—certainly point to differences of identity, agenda, and desire, I believe they also point to contradictions common to the birthing and becoming of humans in general. Contradictory impulses like stealing, mirroring, protesting, and protecting occur in response to overwhelming presence and power (not unlike, perhaps, the authority of a sacred text); a force experienced first as environment, co-extensive with and under the control of the infant, then with increasing frequency, outside of it.
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The Matter of Mind
1. Aristarchova, I. L. (2012). Hospitality of the matrix: Philosophy, biomedicine, and culture. New York: Columbia University Press.