Towards the Hermeneutics of Hyphenation

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The either/ or thinking that controls us has several ills. To overcome and break from its chains, we need to embrace a hermeneutics of hyphenation. A hyphen links to polarities and frees them from their dialectical pulsation and introduces a dialogical impulse between the two poles. We shall come to this hermeneutics of hyphenation by understanding Khora and try to open an ana-khoritic horizon for our thinking theology. Hence we have to begin with ancient Khora as taught by Plato. Plato thinks that the sensible world is a copy/ mimesis of the world of ideas. Being a copy, the sensible world participates in the intelligible world but cannot be in contact/touch with the ideal world. The sensible cannot be totally separate from the ideal world as it will lack the ontological ground and will have to lapse into nothingness.

Plato overcomes the dilemma with the notion of Khora. It is an in-between notion. It is neither sensible nor intelligible. It has to be understood as a mirror. On her immense surface, the eternal Ideas are reflected without mixing with (their own) reflections. The reflections do not really exist. The world of ideas and its reflection in the Khora do not meet each other. But the process of reflection provides the reflection/ the sensible world a kind of existence that is both temporary and conditional. As long as the Idea is reflected, it gives/ makes place to the reflection/ sensible, once the Idea turns its back and leaves, the mirror comes back to what it always has been, an anonymous, amorphous, indifferent surface with no attributes whatsoever.

In Plato therefore, we may say that Khora functions as metaphysical police. Khora prevents and prohibits the meeting of what really is/ world of ideas and what is reflected/ the sensible world. Plato saves his universe from collapsing with the notion of Khora. We can therefore think that the ideas are intelligible to us through their reflections in the Khora. It bridges the world of ideas and the world of copies for us. Khora is a go-between us the world of ideas. By virtue of its function, we can know the world of our experience. Khora makes language possible. Khora cannot be a subject of language, but without it language itself is impossible. Plato, therefore, named the amorphous receptacle on which our speech leaves the impressions of ideas as Khora. This is why we have to say that Khora is the ultimate object of reference for our speech. We always call it when we speak. Thus, Plato walks the road of via negativa of philosophy so that he can return to the world of affirmation and language with confidence.

Derrida reads Plato’s text by introducing Khora as a paradigm of negation/ denegation. He indicates it as belonging to negative theology even before negative theologies came in their Christian form. Derrida rejects negative theology/ apophatic theology as a pseudo one, since it pretends to get rid of metaphysics by transcending language and essence but only so that metaphysics can return “from the back door” so to speak, by dressing as “hyper-essence” and “hyper-presence” in a higher level. Derrida wants to go radical and uses the notion of Khora to think and articulate his ultra apophatism. He sees Khora as a point of the irruption of the very binarity within which it is inscribed apriori. Khora is neither this nor that. It is the other of another/ the one limb of a pair of opposition, a thesis that is always antithetical to its opposite. It is located in the scheme of polarity and tension. It denegates the poles of polarity. The opening of the poles is radical. There is no closure to come. This means Derrida leaves the space completely empty without closure. He excludes even the unnameable hyper essence. He thus opens himself to a post atheistic, atheology. Using Khora, John Caputo has developed a theology that we may call ana-khoritic theology where he seems to be juxtaposing Khora and God and prefers the side of Khora that is never closed on to itself. Caputo thus sees a firm link between God and Khora but also underlines that the two beat with different hearts. This is why maybe Richard Kearney likes to take us to think together, Khora, being, good and God. This thinking together brings us to the hermeneutics of hyphenation. It actually began with Derrida with the opening of the tensive relation between polarities. Hermeneutics of hyphenation thinks side by side and not one side against another side. Let us deepen it.

The polarity between God and Khora manifested by deconstruction is that of topological distance: between the hyper of God and the hypo of Khora. The hyper of God reminds us of hyperbolism that ends in hyperessentialisms. It is the hyperbole of what is hyperekhon than being. On the other hand, Khora is described as a hypothesis that is metaphorically depicted in the hypodoche, the receptacle in the Timeaus of Plato. The hyper occurs in the transcendence as an ex-stasis and the hypo happens in the immanence as a hypostasis. We may place these to polarities in the Greek ex-static thinking and Jewish hypostatic thinking. To overcome this polarity we may need a third term that is neither ekstasis without hypostasis ( apophatic theology) nor hypostasis without ekstasis ( deconstructive atheology). Instead, John Manoussakis proposes a chiasmic crossroad of the two.

The chiasmic path that Manoussakis have pointed to does not consider Jerusalem or Athens but takes us to Chalcedon. Following the insight of Kearney, the third term that we propose is the hyphen that will link the hyper of apophatic theology and the hypo of the deconstructive atheology. This means we have to embrace a hermeneutics of hyphenation: hyper-hypo, high-below, inside-outside, intelligible-sensible, present-absent, active-passive, male-female, living- -nonliving, being-nonbeing, divine-human, and finally, God-Khora. The hermeneutics of hyphenation replaces the binaries of the either/ or and opens our thinking to move to ‘and both’ or between and beyond.

Following the hermeneutics of hyphenation, Manoussakis proposes God as Khora. Khora may enable us to understand how God become flesh in the womb of mother Mary. Khora may give us an insight into the divinity and humanity of Jesus and may bring light into the mystery of grace in our sacraments as well as enable us to profoundly understand the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity. We can already notice Chora/ Khora in the term perichoresis. Hermeneutics of hyphenation can open to us to a theology of Khora that will spring up a Copernican revolution in theology. It promises new insight into our sacramental theology and the workings of grace. It will open a new horizon in our approach to Christology, Mariology and God and Trinity and other theological sciences. It may inspire new ways of reading the Bible and we may see why it is the word of God in the words of men through the lens of Khora. This new light coming out of the depths and darkness of Khora will enable us to develop new Khora-centric theologies to replace theologies that depend on the metaphysics of presence.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao