With respect to the three orders we have discussed, Prophetic speech/thought/action/perception, like all speech/thought/action/perception, is always made within the Symbolic order but in such a way that there is no Imaginary component to it. In this sense it is a speech that is purely authentic negotiation of the Symbolic. But surely — as we have also noted — there is metonymic speech that is simply madness. Or at least, speech of the unconscious: dreams. A life lived within the realm of the unconscious, as in a dream — is not illuminated. At best it is 1/46th of Prophecy.
But how does the property of illumination figure in this framing, to make metonymic Speech prophetic?
There is something more we can say about Prophetic life, tying up our understanding of prophecy as illuminated judgement with the emergence of the Feminine from the Gifted Body (also known to us as the Sublimated Logos).
The ideal human journey is Prophetic. We have said before that this is characterised by illuminated judgement: the formation of intersubjective co-recursive proofs of judgements that are self-aware of their mode of submission to the Beloved Other. That is, Prophecy is a life, a proof, formed through interaction/competition/communication with other subjects in such a way that all signs encountered within the Symbolic order are configured/judged to manifest in self-reflection this very process of signification, the fundamental nature of all life as a movement towards the Absolute Loving Unknowable. Illuminated judgement is the Divine Wisdom, the understanding formed in True Time that all the signs we encounter and configure submit to God.
An illuminated judgement — a Prophet’s judgement — is speech/perception/ action made with absolute self-awareness of its constituent signs’ deferral to Divine Alterity. We have said that, while the experience of life might take the form of visual perception or physical action as well as actual writing, thought or speech, it is in essence fundamentally linguistic judgement, because it arises from differentiation, from the subject’s encounter with, and subsequent choices of how to configure the signs. All life is signification and judgement. Thus, all life is lived within the Symbolic order.
In particular, an illuminated, Prophetic life is one lived solely within the Symbolic order, ‘untainted’ by the Imaginary order. It is a proof conducted in Logical Time that is self-aware of its own true nature as a proof. Its generation demands a fully-formed subjectivity, self-aware of its own nature as a subject moving in True Time toward the Beloved Other.
But there is something more we can say about the way in which this mode of judgement is entered. This requires an understanding of how illuminated judgement relates to the Real.
We have said the Real is not to be equated with absolute Alterity - and so the Real is not the Beloved Other. Rather, it is the Gifted Body: a positive space of inscription, possessing no internals or valuative semantics. It is the sublimated Logos: as human as human can be, as created as anything created, the creation par excellence in fact. And yet it is formed from the breath of the Divine, in its non-sublimated, recreated form, as close to the Divine as creation can be.
Some mystics have conceived of it as akin to a Cloud of vapor – the vapor of the Divine Breath – whose condensation forms the world we perceive. This image is precisely equivalent to our conception of the Real as a Body without Organs, whose contours enable us to form our language games, but, importantly, does not stand as an external, valuative meaning to our Symbolic paths. Judgement is contained purely within the paths we make upon the Gifted Body, the inscriptions we make upon the undifferentiated Real. Returning to the mystical image, the Cloud is not an external valuation. It is not an outside judge of the infinite varieties of condensation, the infinite possibilities of life. Rather, it is the ‘stuff’ out of which our lives-as-signification are made possible. It is the food upon which we subsist in order to live.
Returning to Prophetic life: we form illuminated judgements precisely by means of certain signs that are, in a particular sense, universal to all human positions (cultural, historical, political, social or personal). Their universality arises precisely through the way in which they permit us to encounter the Real.
Each judgement (illuminated and otherwise) is made from within a particular language game: a particular cultural, historical, social and personal position. A Buddhist will use a different set of signs and rules of production for their judgements from a Muslim. But both can recover the divine sparks of light within the constituent signs of their judgements through the illuminated mode of self-aware inscription and co-recursive proof.
Recall our earlier example of the hadith regarding milk as Wisdom, our attempt to show that the hadith’s intrinsic self-comprehension itself acts as the milk. Such an explanation will not be comprehensible to someone (say, an alien) who has never drunk milk before. We would have to give a different hadith to provide such Wisdom. And the different prophets over the ages have done precisely this, manifesting Wisdom in the different languages, from within the different language games of the ages and tribes. But in each case, their mode of illuminated speech is shared: in particular, Wisdom is shared.
So there is something universal – in this case, Wisdom – that can be encountered through any sufficiently complex language game (through any human’s position), irrespective of the particular sign that unlocked it.
The reason this universal mode of speech is possible is because the sign of milk is precisely a totalizing effect of an universal, physical aspect (or tendency) of the Real.
We call the sign of milk, when employed within the illuminated judgement of that hadith, the means by which the Real intrudes upon our Symbolic journey and makes us understand and feel the nature of Divine Wisdom.
Again, self-reflexively, we equate effect of the Feminine emerging from the sublimated Logos as precisely the mode of illuminated judgement by which we can recover the spark of Light – by which we recover Wisdom – hidden within the sign of milk.
The Feminine is of the sublimated Logos. That is, she is precisely the field of differentiation that arises from sublimation. (Although we do note that she has a precursor, the Eve that precedes her.) She is the emergence of our own potential to sense God from within our own limited field of perception/signification/judgement. When she faces us, she is the tranquility of faith and Wisdom that we all have felt from time to time whenever our prayer or remembrance is effective.
Self-aware, Prophetic judgement – the reconstitution of the light within the signs in the Symbolic – is enabled precisely through an emergence of Sophia. Recall that we have previously said that, while Wisdom appears to descend upon us, it emerges from within us through a partial actualisation of the Logos.
This partial actualisation is a moment of the Real’s intrusion upon our judgement within the Symbolic order. It is exactly illuminated judgement, a judgement made by the grace of the emergence/descent of the Feminine (the Shekhina-Sophia).
Before continuing, it is important to emphasize again that we do not say that such signs represent a “real value” that exists outside of us. That is, we are not saying that there is an archetypical thing called “Wisdom” outside of our language games and that, within one particular game, “milk” can be considered as a metaphor or denotation of “Wisdom”. To claim this is to construct another Imaginary semantics. Rather, within illuminated, Prophetic judgement, there are only signs and symbols devoid of interpretation or denotation. But these signs, when configured in a self-reflexive, co-recursive fashion, are partial actualisations of the Logos, they are intrusions of the Real upon lives, upon our configurations of the signs, upon our language games.
Also, we emphasize that, by saying intrusion or actualisation of the Real, we do not mean a dissolution or transcendence of the Symbolic or an “escape” from human language/perception/subjectivity into a Real nirvana.
The Real cannot be immediately touched by us. But it does frame our existence. It frames and sustains our journey of differentiation. It does this via what Lacan calls drives and primal energies and desires that form the true nature of existence that we are always unable to express.
From time to time, in daily, non-prophetic life, the Real threatens to invade or intrude on our lived, signified, linguistic experience of reality. While we are separated from the Real by our perception, we nevertheless have a Real existence that we cannot speak, perceive or even conceive. This Real existence intrudes upon us in many simple ways, often as natural, basic, corporeal transformations or bodily desires: the orgasm, the aging process, hunger, the need to urinate, and so on. And in Islam, it is clear that the relationship between the intruding corporeal, Real nature of the cosmos, and our actual direct experience of the linguistic, regulated, symbolised, signified, proved experience of reality is something that must be carefully navigated and negotiated. The Real’s intrusion, being of nature and perceived by us as primal and unknowable, is sometimes a threat to our linguistic, logical constitution:
Narrated Salman al-Farsi: It was said to Salman: Your Prophet teaches you everything, even about excrement. He replied: Yes. He has forbidden us to face the qiblah at the time of easing or urinating, and cleansing with right hand, and cleansing with less than three stones, or cleansing with dung or bone.
(Abu-Dawud Book 1:7)
This intrusion of the Real is not something signified by the signs, but rather it is something that is felt corporeally through the signs’ configuration. When we say “felt”, we mean physically felt, in exactly the sense that the Real is that which is physical, that which really exists, that undifferentiated physical body (the Gifted Body) that our differentiation relates to through judgement.
While for most of us, the Real’s intrusion is often felt in quite mundane instances, Prophecy is open to experiences that have the same corporeal status, but infinitely more profound, becoming the very core of revelation.
Those are common experiences of the intrusion of the Real in our daily lives: but in prophetic judgement, this feeling, this palpating of the Real, this actualisation of the Logos occurs in all speech, all perception, all action. Through living Symbolically, the Sophia of the Real emerges constantly upon the judgement of the prophets.
These experiences, given to Prophecy, are encounters with the Real’s intrusion in the form of particular signs. Signs and symbols whose meaning is given by their universal applicability, their universal predication: symbolic functions.
We have said that Prophecy is exactly characterised by perfect, illuminated proof, judgement, navigation of the Symbolic. But what powers this illumination is the treatment of the signs in such a way that the Real does exactly intrude. This is also the purpose of dhkir in Sufi tradition: for a physical, corporeal moment of the Real to become manifest.
(And its fundamental, defining moment of intrusion is exactly the Mi’raj, which is a physical, corporeal experience of the Real on the part of Prophecy. Incidentally, this is why Adam and Jesus are the first levels the Prophet meets at Miraj, because they are the nature of this Real, they are the foundation for the Real as it stands as sublimated Logos. We preempt our cosmology to come by observing that, in the recreation, the reconstitution of ourselves in Return, the Real as Body is recreated again to form the New Body: and when we speak of these things, a speech that is itself inscribed upon the Old, Gifted Body of the Real as symbolic judgement, two heavens emerge. The Aeon of Adam and the Aeon of the Jesus-John complex, that were experienced by our Prophet directly. He experienced these Aeons as what we will later refer to as Second Life functionals who still possess a form of meta-curvature within the Real itself.)
The privileged signs that facilitate illuminated judgements, the signs that permit us to encounter the Real, that permit the Real to intrude, that permit Sophia to emerge from within us/descend upon us, are these privileged, universal symbolic functions.
Thus a symbolic function is something very much like a Jungian archetype.
They are signs that act as regulators of way we perceive reality. In Lacanian terminology, these are signifiers that exist within the Symbolic order, within the plane of the unconscious and, for us, Prophecy. In Jungian terminology, they are archetypes from the collective unconscious. Whatever terminology we use, their defining characteristic is that, within the Symbolic order, they operate over, capture and predicate over any signs (including themselves) that we might configure within our lives-as-judgements.
Importantly, these signifiers can be considered to be privileged precisely because of their functional nature: signifiers that stand as functions whose input can be other signifiers. They are functions that operate upon all signs in whatever speech we are making, effecting some form of transformation within the proof we are living. To describe their nature is actually to enumerate their possible operations and effects: flows of energy, effectively. And this configuration — this flow of energy — is exactly what we mean by regulation.
Symbolic functions do this in a way that we don’t usually notice because they are, so to speak, molecular. Necessarily so, otherwise they would be inadequate for effecting transformation on any person. So they are cellular, embedded within the DNA of the Gifted Body.
For example, when we have a feeling of love when we relate to someone, at the Symbolic, judgmental level of our experience, the symbolic function of Abraham predicating over that particular judgement in our life.
Repeating our warning, each of these privileged, universal symbolic functions are not external valuation. Rather they the felt effects of dominant waves or curvatures on the fabric of the Real (in an analogous fashion to how gravity is the felt effect of curvatures on the space-time continuum in Einstein). But, within the Symbolic order, we encounter them as signs and, if we are rightly guided, they regulate and enable us to produce a final illuminated judgement, whose proof inscribes as the “value” and ultimate record or trace of our temporal journey.
The privileged symbolic functions are simply one thing “standing in” for a deeper Divine secret. Nor are they a grammar of God’s names that the universe is built from. Rather, they are precisely signs that simultaneously consume our vision of reality (by predicating over everything we see/think/do) and govern our trajectory (by standing, as signs themselves, in relation to us).
The Freudian-Lacanian school of psychoanalysis considered only a few Symbolic functions — the most important of which is the phallic function, a function of law that ranges over, predicates over every other sign. We do not wish to bag their efforts, because the phallic function governs the game I am playing right now (as we will see momentarily). But we note that they worked within a particular language game (the Oedipus game), not across a range of games (as the heterogeneous Jung did).
We consider each myth, each book, each story, each hadith to be a possibly different game, with associated symbolic functions varying in function and purpose. (Although in our discussion of the meta-model of the Mi’raj, we find ultimately that all derive ultimately from a set of seven higher-order functionals.)
But we do not prescribe a limit in general because there are an infinite number of language games played by all the lives in all the worlds. Let us relate symbolic functions to language games: A regulating Symbolic function is a sign employed within a language game that talks about, operates on, predicates upon all language games.
Each hadith is a miniature language game. There is a hadith that stands in isomorphism to the one we are constructing today: in the sense that it deals precisely with regulation and symbolic functions by means of a totalizing symbolic function those predication is precisely regulation itself!
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, ‘The (people of) Bani Israel used to take bath naked (all together) looking at each other. The Prophet Moses used to take a bath alone. They said, ‘By Allah! Nothing prevents Moses from taking a bath with us except that he has a scrotal hernia.’ So once Moses went out to take a bath and put his clothes over a stone and then that stone ran away with his clothes. Moses followed that stone saying, “My clothes, O stone! My clothes, O stone!” till the people of Bani Israel saw him and said, ‘By Allah, Moses has got no defect in his body. Moses took his clothes and began to beat the stone.” Abu Huraira added, “By Allah! There are still six or seven marks present on the stone from that excessive beating.”(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 277)
In this language game, just as in Lacan, the phallus is not just an ordinary sign, it is a symbolic function: it is intended to denote something that happens to all other signs in the Symbolic. It is a function of regulation itself (all symbolic functions always possess this self-reflexive aspect). Whenever we are regulated — whenever we are constrained in life — it is by desire for an Imaginary phallus or to an acceptance of the existence of a Real phallus that we cannot achieve. In Judaic mysticism, righteousness is associated with the phallus (hence the prescription for circumcision). And what is righteousness if not correct regulation of our journey? The tribe moves from doubts of the righteousness to an acceptance of the existence of a Real phallus, of the Real’s regulation, an acceptance of the Reality of a prime symbolic function.
But in terms of the Real, each Symbolic function can be conceived of as a curvature on the Real that regulates all judgements we make in the Symbolic. That is, each function is a form of Sophia that emerges from the sublimated Logos, guiding us as a wave can guide a ship’s navigation. And so, each Symbolic function opens up the possibility of a physical experience of the Real.
And this physical experience is the descent/emergence of the Feminine Sophia upon us in our illuminated judgement.