The Eucharist in Postmodernity

Adrian Worsfold

Transignification (sometimes spelt transsignification) often gets little examination compared with Roman Catholic favoured transubstantiation and even the Lutheran understanding of consubstantiation. The intention here is to critically focus in on transignification, and to also connect this with a social anthropological view about material-spiritual exchange-gift structuralism. However, with poststructuralism, a new understanding of the eucharist is suggested based on the postmodern semiotics of Jean Baudrillard and simulacra. Simulacration supersedes transignification in postmodernity. Transignification takes from semiotic theory where a linguistic or symbolic sign connects the reality of the signified - Christ, who has presence - back to signifier tokens of text and ritual action.

In transignification, the bread and wine are, basically, signifiers, and real presence is signified; the issue is what happens with simulacration.

In doing this analysis it is important to discuss the history of whether the eucharist was ever instituted by Jesus of Nazareth. The tradition generally claims he did, but a historical Jesus approach can suggest he did not. If he did not, how might this relate to real presence or indeed assist an understanding of simulacration? Historical examination also includes the early practice of an agape meal complementing or competing with the eucharist during the first decades of Christianity.
The eucharist or mass or communion is the central ritual of most trinitarian Christian Churches; it is rejected notably by the Salvation Army. Elsewhere it is also rejected by Quakers and celebrated patchily or inconsistently by some Christian oriented Unitarians.

The eucharistic prayer involves several stages, but the most important is the prayer of consecration, because here, it is claimed among those of the broader Catholic traditions, the eucharistic elements are transformed (thanks to the Holy Spirit).
Lutherans are said to favour consubstantiation, although they do not like the term (Jackson, 2002). This is where communicants eat and drink both the bread and wine and the true body and blood of Christ himself. This view has a parallel in Jesus Christ being both fully man and fully God at once. The dual state of the sacrament is produced after consecration, distribution, and reception and so after the congregation has completed consuming, there can be no real presence any more, and so there can be no reserved sacrament. (Wikipedia, 2007)

The basic understanding of transubstantiation is that after the prayer of consecration, whilst the accidental appearance of the bread and wine stays as before, in all reality they become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. This substantial real change is hidden from any testing. It is a hidden miracle every time, deceptive to the unknowing.

Many Anglicans and Methodists however find that transubstantiation is not according to the plain meaning of scripture and this understanding gives rise to superstitions. (Article 18 in paragraph 103 of the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline, see Wikipedia, 2004; Article 28 of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, see Church Society, nd)

Thye Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches share the view that the eucharist is not just a reminder of Christ's sacrifice but it is a real sacrifice, although it is not a new sacrifice nor a repetition of the sacrifice at Calvary. The Orthodox leave much to mystery, except to state that:

this none can understand but God; but only this much is signified, that the bread truly, really and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. (Philaret, 2003)

Transignification relates to virtualism (Moss, 1965). Virtualism denies that the body and blood are consumed, but the virtue and power are consumed. However, in transignification the body and blood can still be present: what matters is the signified presence and work of Christ, regardless of substances. Thus Roman Catholics can accept the semiotics of transignification so long as they keep transubstantiation (even if some do not, eg. Schillibeeckx, 1968). An encyclical from 1965 puts it:

...they no longer remain ordinary bread and ordinary wine, but become the sign of something sacred, the sign of a spiritual food. However, the reason they take on this new significance and this new finality is simply because they contain a new "reality" which we may justly term ontological. (Pope Paul VI, 1955)

Article 28 seems to express a compromise between taking bread and wine as the body and blood and taking these as a matter of faith (see Church Society, nd). Archbishop Rowan Williams has said:

"Of course I believe in the real presence. I believe that Christ is active in the sacrament, and that it´s not something we do, as an act of mental remembrance. spite of Cranmer's best efforts to make it a bit memorialist, we have ended up with - even in the Book of Common Prayer; certainly in more recent liturgical documents - a structure, a form, a rhetoric of eucharistic worship which pulls very firmly away from the idea that it's just a mental act." (Handley, 2006)

The Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Anglo Catholics often argue in their own ways that a priest should be ordained by a properly consecrated bishop of apostolic succession to validate real presence. However, some take an inclusive view, that transignification takes place regardless of conditions of ordination or consecration, so that a person may indeed carry out a eucharist service that invokes real presence. United Methodists claim a belief in real presence (GBOD, 2006; Wikipedia, 2004; Methodist Church, 2007).

It is important here to state that in transignification the presence legitimates the ritual. It is not a form of conjouring. The reality is already claimed as objective. Subjectivity - the mind of the believer - is a danger should signifier and signified lose the necessary certainty of connection.
At this point, in order to get any further with transignification, the basic theory of signifier and signified needs to be addressed, in general and as in the eucharist.
A sign acquires its meaning when it points to and incorporates some other conceptual reality. A sign stands for something other than its most obvious self. A sign has a form of its own, or signifier, such as bread and wine, or substitutes for bread and wine, with the text that is read with the accompanying actions. The work of Christ is therefore the ultimate signified.

The sign becomes fully meaningful as the connection made. The sign is the association of the signifier with the signified (Ferdinand Saussure, 1983, 67). The direction of relationship is called signification, here located in the real presence.

The same signifier can exist, but if the signified alters then the meaning of the sign alters. However, the signified can have a different signifier. Thus bread and wine at a Pagan festival is a different sign from bread and wine at a Christian eucharist, but a Christian eucharist might use a crispbread and fruit juice to perform the same signified real presence and therefore be the eucharistic sign.

So signs can be the same yet different, and different yet the same. Actually signifiers are so arbitrary that you could possibly use a piece of chocolate and milk for the eucharist. What prevents this is a more complex understanding of a chain of signifiers and signifieds.

Unitarians have developed the Flower Communion. For some this may be a flexible signifier for something like the eucharist. It was born in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia so that the Jews sheltered within the congregation could have an acceptable ritual. To what then did this change signify? For some it must have been equivalent to the communion sign that had previously been used. However, for many, and today, the Flower Communion has an indeterminate signified, other than perhaps congregational unity through exchange.

If the argument is made that one cannot have such flexibility in the signifier, such as also with chocolate and milk, then this can only be because the eucharistic sign is more complex and in a chain. The sign first of all has a signified in the bread in the Last Supper meal and the wine blessing after the Last Supper, and then this signified becomes a signifier of real presence.

Meanwhile, the signifier cannot be meaningless in itself nor the signified completely formless (Saussure 1983, 101). The signifier must have a plain meaning that allows it to relate to other meanings and there must be a recognisable signified. Thus is the weakness of the Unitarian Flower Communion: whilst the flowers have a plain meaning, the signified is perhaps too formless and unstated. Any liturgy must state what the signified is: the early Churches knew the importance of the words for their developing salvation ritual: "This is my body" and "This is my blood of the New Covenant" - not statements of cannibalism but, at the very least, the intended signified (without them analysing semiotic theory!)

The eucharist is meaningful in its signifiers and in its signifieds: there is a discipline between them, maintained even when complex. Complexity in the signs includes the broken unleavened disc form for the bread, a common cup, and fermented wine that represents transformation. For others leavened bread and grape juice can be a sufficient signifier for real presence.

Saussure was quite clear that both signifier and signified could be psychological (Saussure 1983, 12, 14-15, 66), but usually the signifier is material in nature even if the signified is not. In transignification, the signified is non-material if equivalent to virtualism. If material then the signified must be absorbed into and with the bread and wine, raising issues again of transubstantiation.

In producing his general theory, Saussure takes the signifier right back to mental constructs, making the signifiers more complex still. In the eucharist this would include the repetition of ritual, the remembered lines and even the sounds, as well as all the visualised shapes. They are all signifiers, and they may all relate to signifieds prior to reaching real presence.

Saussure goes further with this. The signifier has to exist, and has to be particular, but in the end it and the sign gives itself up. For example, the coin that is money is itself irrelevant as a coin. Its metallic content is not important, for example. It is just a sign of exchange value, representing goods and services and therefore production and consumption. The sign gives access to them, but is given up at the point of access. In the eucharist the sign is actually consumed, taken into the human body and given up. It is consumed to declare its exchange in the real presence of Christ.
Nevertheless, there is a problem, and it is that the presence of Christ is itself in the realm of meaning, and not simply a demonstration of a physical presence. The whole sign is interpretation, and this never ends, pointing to further signs. The fact that this cannot rest is why this theory, and the whole stability of semiotics, starts to break down.
Another example helps. In the economy the exchange value of the monetary sign for goods and services translates into a signified psychological condition of utility or a preference for some goods and services measured against others - and this lies in the realm of meaning. Economics is itself a science of signs. Plus, to make this even more complex, comparing preference must involve other symbolism including language. Economics is a form of conversation, and one that is multi-layered.

Here is the problem of how anything in symbolism or language upholds reality, or whether it all just collapses into a sea of signs, one after another, that go nowhere due to an intense interpretive relativism. Surely too, if exchange is mental, it is individualist and subjective, and so is any sign system.
In any case there is the sheer contradiction of collective views on the eucharist. Some have the eucharistic sign of memorialism or real absence.

Calvin's view was actually like real presence with the sign and reality somewhat distinct. Calvinists seeing the distinctiveness have ended up often interpreting the eucharist like Zwingli and Socinus believed: that the eucharist only symbolised the body and blood of Christ; this still works as a sign, but has been understood as real absence.

Who is right? Is there the possibility of real presence or the possibility of real absence?
All these positions accept that Jesus instituted the eucharist: after all Paul has the eucharist linked to salvation, and the gospels, heavily influenced by Paul, and as part of the reinterpretation of the Jesus movement for Gentiles, have the eucharist as being instituted by Jesus. But was it?
It is commonly accepted that only by the time of Justin Martyr at 150 CE was the communion of bread and wine fixed as the Christian remembrance meal. Until then it ran along with the agape meal. The agape meal though was rather much to carry and prepare when under oppression and needing to get out quick; it also looks rather like the Jewish Seder meal, and Christianity wanted to become distinctive. Anyway the bread and wine are the focus of the elements, so that the ritual became economic. Arguably in the early years these carried a sense of the presence of the near Kingdom of God, not Christ as such.

Jesus did celebrate a common meal with his disciples. The Pauline and Mark accounts vary in their language too much to be of the same Greek source, but agree in having common Aramaic origins; the Luke account is a later mix. Jesus's meal is a last meal of a series they had, and then this will not be celebrated again until the new wine in the Kingdom of God, that new reality breaking in very soon. This means he did not institute a new ritual; it is the end of the ritual and ends the series. The meal is either a passover meal or along its lines (on the wrong day). There is praise over the bread (that follows the grace) and this comes first, and at the end words over the wine are said before it is distributed. This is normal, and so Jesus is not inventing anything. He is acting like the head of the family at the meal. Assuming the words were said, he is giving the disciples a share in his body - personality - and blood, and so the disciples are involved in the final unfolding drama. In other words, it is a covenant between them for the last moments before the new time. The covenant is traditionally sealed by a meal and the sprinkling of blood. The Pauline twist involves the death of an innocent spilling blood and turning this into a salvation meal. While Jesus is absent, the faithful are to stay together as represented in the table fellowship. (Kung, 1977, 322-325)

There was not a standard ritual in the early days of Christianity, and (as indicated by the Didache) the common meal did not carry sacrificial or resurrection meanings. Whilst the New Testament (including the gospels) is heavily Paul influenced, this is not the sum total of early Christianity, nor is the ritual consistent even for the Pauline influenced. The Ebionites, outside of the Pauline strand, and arguably closest to the primitive Jesus position continued by his brother James, would not have carried sacrficial-salvation meaning in their common meal. So the meal Jesus had with the others, the last in Jerusalem, simply goes back to previous Jewish covenants and involved anew a further covenant relationship, and was not a new ritual.

The early Churches wrote the gospels and the New Testament as a whole, and they did institute the ritual. The Church is like a holding operation before the Kingdom of God does arrive. Like the agape meal, the table fellowship is a taste of the Kingdom of God ahead of its arrival. However, Jesus after his death underwent an acceleration of status, from human messianic figure to bring in the Kingdom to sole Lord and Saviour and eventually second person of the Trinity. With these status increases, and replacement of charisma by tradition, the presence of the Kingdom became the presence of Christ.

In any case, this is all such a different premodern world-view, dependent on the supernatural, and on eschatology. In working out a contemporary understanding of ritual, and even linking it to some definition of "presence", the historical difficulty does have to be faced.
It does not help, however, to have flatly contradicting understandings ot helped by history. Perhaps there is another stable understanding of eucharist instead.
One understanding of ritual and indeed the eucharist builds on the social anthropology of Marcel-Israël Mauss (1872-1950). His main work is Essay sur le Don (1923-24) or The Gift (2002, first published 1954). Islanders will travel long distances, take risky journeys in boats, to exchange tokens that have no other utility. The tokens and the actions represent mutual obligation passing along chains of people. The spiritual benefit is manifested in religious and mythical interpretations and in the stronger economic, political, legal, kinship and social relationships that result. The token is a sign of society with a return of greater collective unity.

We do not live in primitive society, but our society is not so far removed and is an exchange society with gifts.

It is possible to extend these observations to our own societies. A considerable part of our morality and our lives themselves are still permeated with this same atmosphere of the gift, where obligation and liberty intermingle. Fortunately, everything is still not wholly categorized in terms of buying and selling. Things still have sentimental as well as venal value, assuming values merely of this kind exist. We possess more than a tradesman morality. (Mauss, 2002, 83)

Over and again people give material things in order to receive something equivalent or of more value at the margin. It is done in the semiotics of economics. There is the semiotics of sex: in the effort of the sex act couples hope for something more, including the bonding of love. People make talk, giving out secrets, for which they receive conversation, and a binding of mutual interest with the conversation partners.

Yet in some cases the return is more uncertain, if more hopeful. Thus in a public house, instead of each person buying their own drinks, participants take it in turns to buy drinks for everyone, as in part a material exchange but also as a gift relationship.

The eucharist, representing incarnation, is gift-based because it has always been the ritual exchange without a direct function of its own, but acts as a reflective overview ritual of general contemplation. Rather like the priestly role, it stands back and is somewhat apart, but then projects itself back into the world. Well, the individual makes the effort to go to the church, makes a financial gift, takes the time, and presents him or herself at the altar rail. The priest or minister then distributes the tokens. These tokens carry the morality and lack of utility of the gift. This gift is said to be: from Christ, of Christ, sacrified to Christ. The individual does not know that the material offering of the self will involve any spiritual reward personally, though the model is the sacrificial one in Christian theology. The impact of the gift includes binding oneself covenantly with other members of the congregation and indeed going out into the world to serve the world. The tokens then, where bread and wine have their own meaning, have signification, from Christ with presence or as memorial: it is in a semiotic system, and is a gift-exchange ritual.
Immediately there is a problem here, which is that the Marcel Mauss derived system is structural, and indeed was taken up by Lévi-Strauss's structuralist project. In other words, causal relations go behind the particulars and function because of background but vital reciprocal structure. This means it is also reductionist.
Therefore the eucharist works not because of the contents unique to itself but because it conforms to an apparently universal structure. An argument can be made that the content gives the structure, but it still must conform to the structure. Examination of the particulars of rituals may of course suggest important differences that question apparent universal structures. Whatever, the eucharist is at least a sign consisting of a signifier and a signified that follows one pattern of gift-exchange.

When, however, the signifier and signified become uncertain, such as after doing problematic historical work (in what sense does Christ become present or is he absent?), or that the signifier has relative autonomy with the potential for endless interpretation, and there mental belief-located subjectivity, then the structure breaks down.
What in the past upheld the objective reality behind linguistic interpretation and stopped everything running away in relativistic even subjective meaning was the binary nature of words. What something is can be defined by what it is not. Saussure himself found this negative basis very important (Saussure 1983, 115). Unfortunately, a between the lines view of words does not support this. Even if starting through use of irony, there is something of the polar opposite already in the definition of a word. Jacques Derrida states that boundaries erase (Klages, 2004). Thus comes poststructuralism and indeed postmodernism.
Under poststructuralism the signifier and the signified get up to all kinds of tricks. They find autonomy, and new directions. The eucharist may be enjoyed for its actions and taste; it can be theatre, a pause in the day or a chance to identify with some friends. The signfier freed up finds different signifieds. The chain is not only complex, but becomes chains.

In this situation, perhaps the Unitarian Flower Communion is more obviously postmodern. It has a run-away flexibility - postmodern without first the modern or even the premodern.

The slipperiness overcomes relationships between the signifier and signified that might be considered iconic (one where the sign and symbol are clearly related: the eucharistic meal relates to the Last Supper, remembrance and presence) and even indexical (of direct physical connection). A symbolic relationship (a looser type) always was slippery.

However, where postmodernity makes its biggest impact is in the reversal of importance between the signifier and signified. Suddenly real presence is not so relevant: it is the very ritual act in itself that matters, on its own terms. Its meaning, from one minute to the next, comes and goes. The linked relationship, so important in principle to Saussure (Saussure 1983, 118), and indeed structuralist, breaks down.

With the postmodern turn, the signifier is freewheeling and the signified is unstable. The arbitrariness of the whole sign turns real presence into not only virtual presence but even an absence that is not clearly absent. Transignification cannot work with any clarity due to the arbitrariness of the sign. Signs with their multiple and highly unstable meanings mushroom into such instability that they fall in upon themselves. A good image here might be the quantum world of appearances and disappearances in a vacuum - something borrowed out of the future, made present, and lost, to reappear.

One additional reason for this collapse is the other signs that muscle in as the expansion and collapse of meaning takes place. Secularisation has provided a whole range of signs that compete against the legitimacy of a signified real presence. Signs clash that knock each other out. Where is this 'real' real presence? Is it in only the spiritual realm? What sort of 'work' does it do? Salvation? What's that? At the same time, there is the matter of the ambiguity of secularisation itself, with the sacred infused into the secular, or the sacred edged out, and the rise of spirituality with consumerism and transience attached. The multiplying plural nature of meanings produce a "now you get it now you don't" condition.

Even real presence giving life to the bread and wine in the context of spoken text that consecrates it gets reversed. Roland Barthes shows that an ordinary story has the action leading to description, the content leading to the form of writing, the idea guiding the text, and the story's passion leading to suitable expression (Barthes, 1974, 174). But with the postmodern turn Barthes sees writing as a process of doing the signifiers - description, form and expression - and let's see what they go on to express.

Thus liturgists can best focus on what makes written material worship-style. It must be accompanied with the right kind of paused reading. There is a stock of religious-like words. This is all visible in Common Worship (Church of England, 2000): short phrases, poetry-like, historical repetitions, pauses, and lead-ins for congregant choices of responses. The style works on the sound pattern and the materiality of the words themselves: who knows where they go in the minds of those present? Are they meditation in themselves rather than prayer? The form is for many the substance - the signifier is the signified. Common Worship went backwards from the Alternative Service Book (Church of England, 1980) in its use of older forms of language, because of the long made arguments about the mystery that derives from peculiar and even incomprehensible words: the signifier is the signfied.
A postmodern position then is neither and both real absence and presence, neither objectively grounded nor (because of no objectivity by which it can be contrasted) a subjective individualist whim. It is a sea of signs, connected by journeys anywhere.
According to Jean Baudrillard (see Horrocks, 1996, Baudrillard, 1994), signs in premodern societies reflected an unbreakable reciprocal social order. One knew one's place and behaved accordingly. However, with the appearance of a middle class, from merchants to owners, and from the Renaissance onwards, bourgeois society developed fashion and signs that were no longer about obligation but varieties of status, wealth and prestige. Baudrillard saw that these signs, freed up somewhat from obligation, could be counterfeit, like a stucco facing. A basic reality is masked for a bougeois reality. Such was the first order of simulacra. The second order concerned mass production, class, mass unions, mass media. Here signs become about social differentiation including power and powerlessness derived from production, one sign leading to another in mass capitalism organising mass labour. The third order of simulacra is about the information age, genetics and DNA, artificial intelligence, modelling, and opinion polling. These signs are pure creation, simulations that make reality up as we go along. Fiction and fact merge into a kind of rolling faction: the real is just that which can be reproduced: it becomes hyperreal. The hyperreal is like a replicant, a made real that is more real than real. Everything exists on the surface with impact. Signs now start to misdirect and misfire in all kinds of directions. Thus there is something like Disneyland, which is a disguise, because America is already a kind of Disneyland. (See Horrocks, 1996, especially 104-112)

The economy now has given up its mass industry for a kind of simulacra of added value, where exchange involves seduction in a hyperreal fantasy of consumption. We are no longer in social relations of production, but of consumption. Debt is a kind of fantasy of unending swirls of money where exchange-consumption goes on and on and the bankrupt just starts all over again. When sold-on debt crashes, and credit vanishes, the central banks invent money to keep the system going. It used to be called generating inflation, to make the saver lose and the consumer gain: to stimulate and indeed seduce.

If the media and ideology once kept people in place by transmitting false consciousness, now there is no false consciousness to transmit any more: the media makes the truth by being media: "the medium is the message", as Marshall McLuhan said. Nowadays people no longer watch TV consistently: they just sit flicking channels because reality has become the flick-through. News reports follow the pictures and press releases where a reality is constructed in bite size (that feed the intercessions of worship). Via flashing images and meaningless meaning-making cuts, capitalism is an unending sea of signs that serves this instantly fictional. (See Horrocks, 1996, especially 118, 121-124)
This matter of the image, the theatrical, the repetitious, is relevant for a ritual like the eucharist.
The Parish Communion movement increased the number of communion services to the exclusion of other services. Whereas at one time the importance of the service was emphasised by relative infrequency, now it is emphasised by frequency.

Michael Ramsey, then Bishop of Durham and soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury, saw some of the problems connected with the claims of the movement. He expressed concern with "the ease with which our congregations came tripping to the altar week by week." And he emphasized that reception of Holy Communion is "dreadful as well as precious" and that "clergy are sent not to bring people to be 'communicants' so much as to bring them into union with the Lord." Further, he stated that "there is much to be learnt from the Matins and Sermon whereby congregations were nurtured in the Scriptures." [Durham Essays & Addresses, SPCK, 1957, pp.15ff.]  We agree with his Grace!(Toon, nd; see Ramsey, 1956)

Negatively this might be seen as a kind of fetishism of the signifier. This should be so if the traditional belief that accompanied this ritual seems to be undermined by biblical and historical criticism. The Image starts to supersede the Word, but ambiguity that results affects the sign the more it is employed, the more the signifier is itself the focus.

This is simulacration. In the absence of produced presence it is producing a consumed presence of absence. The signifier is everything, freewheeling the sign over and over again. The emphasis is on proper ritualistic actions, the main signifier, whilst there are more variations of text in Common Worship (Church of England, 2000) to facilitate the repetition of the ritual so that people can come and participate more often. Holy Food may indeed begin to look like fast food (Toon, nd):

Spirituality is increasingly a thing in itself, rather than a product of religion. Religion of the words of heaven and the once preacher preaching the certainty to be had, is replaced by a sea of indeterminate signs of doubt and truth that is yours or mine but maybe not theirs. As words collapse in on themselves, along with the supernatural world-view, so enchantment increasingly depends on appearances and artistic impacts. The eucharist understood according to simulacration follows the path where the actuality of words becomes secondary, a slave to the theatrical - and the theatrical comes first. The dramatic impact comes in the consumption of the ritual itself: the bread and wine goes right into the body and the simulacration is ended, and soon the communicants need another. At Easter the first communion of the day is regarded as yesterday, so that another can be consumed later on during the very important day. There is a danger of needing a fix, of acquiring eucharistic obsesity.
Yet the old order cannot be re-established. Transignification needs stability, and this is no longer available. Once the structural system is collapsed in upon itself, once the signs are freewheeling, then simulacration or a ritual of appearances takes over.

Equally so the Mauss scheme relies much more on hope. The exchange is ambiguous and arbitrary: presence or absence, virtual or real, binding or none, effect or no effect.

So the ritual no longer claims us but seduces us, and Baudrillard shows that seduction gets reversed (Horrocks, 1996, 96-99). The subject, say the real presence in the sign, as a "seducer" of the object, the congregants, involves a turnaround, so that the congregants seduce the ritual. With objectivity removed, the relationship shifts because of the visibility of the signifier. Seducers are people who learn to consume the ritual and even any assertion real absence is undermined by the taste.

As the distinctions break down, the ritual gets closer to magic, though it is not magic as in the old magic, of supernatural powers and interventions, but more like "we know how it is done" magic. It gets dangerously close to conjouring, and yet it cannot be. When the magician reveals the secret of how it is done, the abracadabra is gone, but the trick then becomes not just a memory of when we were amazed, but a present day recognition of the skill involved in the action itself. The magician's skill was once a signifier to the signified other reality (that was declared an illusion - but the audience could not tell another way to do it). Now it is the skill: the Masked Magician gave it away, though it is suspected that Penn and Teller told fibs. The priest who tells fibs might just keep something going for longer, but no one is quite sure.

Time only goes forward. We may as well join the Disneyland of ritual participation and enjoy the rides. As soon as presence seems established, it looks like absence, but it is not absence, and nor is absence absent especially when there is seduction; simulacration does not end real presence or absence, it just joins these with virtual presence and absence - indeed both. There is a kind of non-space in which all sorts happens, for less than a glimpse of a moment that is the mirror image of eternity. According to simulacration, the eucharist generates a profoundly religious event because of its depthless flash of consumption. Probably, or probably not.


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Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful

Created on 19 August 2007