A thought process that appears to be common to all humans is that of setting up binaries. It is a tendency that exists across cultures and since the beginning of time. This may be because it is easier to define what something is not than what it actually is. The opposition of a binary also contains the fundamental fear of the Other, the unknown, which ultimately is a fear of death. Plato famously addresses this unknowability of death in the Phaedo and attempts to use the Argument from Opposites to show that life comes from death and death comes from life, a step in his argument for the immortality of the soul, or a transcendence of life and death. Ultimately, however, he only succeeds in reproducing a binary of body and soul in which he attempts to suppress the bodily half. Also in Greek thought, and later taken up by Nietzsche, is the divide between Apollonian and Dionysian drives. Indeed this clash between order and chaos can be seen as one of the fundamental characteristics of modernity, or rather the accepted Western paradigm of modernity which stemmed from the Enlightenment desire to define, categorize and clearly delineate or illuminate, with the scientific method as its exemplar and ideal toward which to strive. However, the order/chaos split is itself a description of the binary system.
[...] London: Tavistock Publications Augustine. Confessions. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin. London : Penguin . Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and Ambivalence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press Cole, Susan Letzler. The Absent One: Mourning Ritual, Tragedy and the Performance of Ambivalence. University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press Crawford, J.R. Witchcraft and Sorcery in Rhodesia. London: International African Institute (Oxford University Press) Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press . Freud, Sigmund. Taboo upon the Dead.” Totem and Taboo. [...]
[...] “Even after leaving the Manichees Augustine remained convinced that in this, at least, the Manichees were right: our lives ‘here,' in bodies whose mortality and corruptibility ‘weighed down the soul,' those lives were one long journey through a desert of misery” (O'Connell 12). It is humanity's free will which gives us the possibility of choosing evil over good. In this light, God does not expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden; term Genesis uses is dimisit, a term which expresses that perfect coincidence between our voluntary choice and the working of God's Eternal (O'Connell 14). [...]
[...] To return to the question of ambivalence, witchcraft accusations are precisely a recognition of the emotional ambivalence felt towards the deceased. The person accused of being the witch who caused the death is almost always a very close relative, one who, as quoted above, “might actually have brought it [the death] about if it [he/she] had had the power.” A belief in witchcraft is a belief that the person indeed has that power and has acted on the unconscious hostility felt, and it is recognized by that person as well, who often in fact confesses to have bewitched the deceased, knowingly or not. [...]
[...] This suppression of the divine or any type of Idealism removes the possibility of recognition since it attempts to eliminate the other half of the binary which limits humanity. As has been demonstrated, this is not in fact a way out of the binary system; the only possibility for its transcendence lies in ambivalence. “Ambivalence is not to be bewailed. It is to be celebrated. Ambivalence is the limit to the power of the powerful it is the freedom of the powerless. [...]
[...] (Bauman It is in fact in relinquishing this fascination with order and recognizing the ambivalence of existence that knowledge is attained. This transcendence of strict delimitation can be found in both the Western Christian paradigm and traditional African customs, the “success” of both of which will here be examined through Pauline doctrine coupled with the Confessions of St. Augustine and African systems of divination and witchcraft beliefs. Bauman claims that gift of God was, so to speak, the knowledge of ambivalence and the skill of living in this knowledge” (174). [...]
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