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How Can Adam Imagine Himself Happy and Perfect? or (The Illusion of Theology)

It is the real which makes itself possible, and not the possible which becomes real.

–Henri Bergson

There is, according to Bergson, a continuous creation of unforeseeable novelty which seems to be going on in the universe. However, the human inclination to posit an original nothingness which precedes being prevents us from asking metaphysical questions that accounts for this novelty, rather we tend to create inert and enclosed images of life that presumes to know what bodies can do. The idea of nothingness is therefore closely tied to the suppression of the real that makes itself possible, which effectively coerces deathly repetitions at the expense of the rare and exceptional. Morality in such worlds is perceived as inseparable from obedience, and the principle that consciousness essentially is meant to tame our passions is internalized into the very fabric of the socius.

Contrary to how us humans are inclined to think of consciousness, it knows nothing of causes but registers only effects. Hence Bergson asserts that the human mind is destined to work upon a phantom of duration rather than duration itself, and Deleuze correspondingly writes in his short book on Spinoza that “the conditions under which we know things and are conscious of ourselves condemn us to have only inadequate ideas, ideas that are confused and mutilated, effects separated from their real causes.” In short, effects on the body is in this way perceived as final causes of its own actions, which makes it possible to believe that our consciousness can domesticate our bodily passions. Our consciousness thus disguises its own unknowing by reversing the order of things, with the outcome that it perceives itself as both free and as the first cause. This deceptive move nevertheless has its limits, and that is, states Spinoza, where the theological illusion comes into play—when consciousness can no longer imagine itself as the first cause, it invokes a God that operates by final causes, and morality is then seen as the judgment of this God.

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