The Non-Conscious Sublime or the Art and Science of Submergence
Archaeology, before the birth of psychiatry, was the preeminent nineteenth-century science to embody both the act and the concept of delving. Strikingly, those two major interpreters of Western humanistic and scientific traditions, Hans Blumenberg and Alfred North Whitehead, similarly invoke a sublime archaeology of unearthing. Making the submerged emerge permits that which is excessive, or mentally beyond reach, to loom into view. This essay argues that what makes this version of the multifaceted non-conscious, or involuntary, Sublime still relevant across current disciplinary divides is that it integrates what otherwise remains, in Whitehead’s apt word, “bifurcated.” It does this by bringing to the surface separated, buried “causes,” thus allowing them to become attached in the process of entering our unifying awareness. By the Sublime, I refer specifically to that overwhelming psychophysiological intrusion, which—like love’s fury—transiently manages to merge the personal awareness of our affective and cognitive states with the otherwise concealed and impersonal neurophysiological mechanisms underlying them. With our resistance undone, we begin to understand how this raw subjective experience is actually conjoined with objective nature, that is, bound up with the tumultuous environment to which it intuitively corresponds.
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