Monthly Archives: October 2010

Mastery / slavery ? Digressions in Terminology

How the more extreme forms of domination and submission oriented dynamics acquired the terminology “Master/slave” is an odd question at first glance, and one related to another form of terminology, that of “Owner/property”.
A slave, defined by being-owned, would by definition have an owner.  One who owned a human being would by definition have a slave, owning simple “property” would not distinguish one from any other in our current society.  Masters in various areas of endeavour might have servants, novices, acolytes, initiates, apprentices, etc.  But in the specific area of consensual slavery the slave’s owner appropriates the designation “Master”.  Seemingly in reaction to the ability and responsibility mastery requires, some in domination/submission dynamics opt out of the issue of what mastery entails, preferring to return to simple ownership, but the simulaneous reduction of human property (“slave”) to just “property” signals a felt lack, as if owning a human being without mastery is somehow inappropriate.
Consensual slavery has multiple defining features, but one of the principle features is a vow of obedience that overrules further need for consent, in most cases perpetual, at least in intention.  Perpetual vows of obedience are found in a number of other areas of human endeavour, but are most associated with the religious life.  Within many religious orders a vow of obedience to the order is prescribed.  While it is unusual today, vows of obedience to a particular person were at one time also common within Christianity as in other religions.
The justification for vows of obedience within specifically Christian theology stemmed from the limited perspective available to any given individual, together with the notion that community ameliorated that limitation and provided a brake on unconstrained and potentially mistaken willing by the individual.
Will as Will to Power, in the consummation of metaphysics and therefore Christianity itself, however, is the term for the essence of being itself, rather than a specific faculty of a specific being.  As the essence of being itself the slave’s being is as fully Will to Power as the Owner’s.  Rather than ameliorating the expression of Will to Power, the being of the community, religious or otherwise, is also Will to Power.  A vow of obedience could not in post Nietzschean terms accomplish any constraining of the Will to Power but would simply make the perspective panoramic, and as panoramic all the more perspectival.
A vow of obedience, as central to the slave’s being-a-slave, and hence the slave’s expression of Will to Power, serves two other purposes.  First the vow is a shield against the tempting, in particular the most tempting itself.  Second it is the focus for the more understanding and creative expression of that will demanded by its continuing alignment with the will of the Master.

It is in the radicality of the demand of obedience that it functions as a shield against the tempting.  “The most tempting itself” is an odd phrase at first –  temptation is often conflated with desire, yet in a sense it opposes and frustrates the pursuit of that which is most desired itself.  Temptation diverts from the pursuit of desire as much as from the pursuit of perfection, or any other particular pursuit.  As the “most” tempting fundamental temptation is something we always find ourselves in in advance.  Radical obedience, in either expectation or fulfillment, opposes the most tempting in an essential way because it is an extraordinary expectation, and an extraordinary thing to attempt.  “The most tempting”, the founding temptation in which we always find ourselves immersed is essentially the temptation of the mediocre, the averageness of everyday understanding and levelling off any distinctions that might threaten that tranquillizing mediocrity of everydayness itself.

Expecting this kind of vow implictly requires a sense of one’s own unique abilities, a sense that develops with mastery of those abilities itself, a sense that breaks and continually re-breaks the temptation towards a tranquilizing common mediocrity.  Consenting to such a vow requires an honouring of the uniqueness of the Master’s abilities that accomplishes the same severing from the temptation to mediocrity.

Obedience in an M/s Relationship

Within non-consensual slavery begun by the initial consent to becoming-a-slave, to obey is to hear and to follow-after the words of the Master. Following-after cannot be conceptualized, turned into a program that could be justifiable ethically or otherwise. To follow-after according to one’s understanding is to negate following-after as obedience. Instead following-after involves obedience to what is at that moment beyond the understanding: blind in terms of comprehensibility, revelatory and immediately factical. Performing any act without the mediation of the understanding requires absolute trust and courage. It is a way of being resulting from one decision, and not a continual decision-making stance. There is no temporal cause / effect relationship between hearing and obeying, it is one and the same act.

Proper obedience as following-after negates the systematic and the conceptual apparatus of the understanding in an unjustifiable manner that brings together hearing and obeying as one movement. In following-after the words of the Master are heard-obeyed in a way that may negate even the teachings of the Master, since any such teachings would have to be interpreted anew by the slave rather than the Master. Interpretation and the resulting understanding is dispensed with in favour of a direct hearing-obeying of something said in a shared place, a sharing in which the self itself is the shared.

In hearing-obeying the words of the Master the slave responds to an external ground that names the way in which the slave’s identity as a slave is formed and develops. The ground of following-after is outside the slave, shared by the Master through the sharing of the Master’s own being-there, a being-there-with the slave. It belongs to the Master inherently as the slaving of the slave. A slave cannot supply the grounding – in being-a-slave and following the words of the Master the slave is moved according to the words of the Master in every specific facticity. This grounding is necessarily a grounding in the abyss brought about by not-understanding, where the void at the base of the slave’s being allows the immediate presencing of the Master’s will to the slave. It expresses the sheer facticity of belonging, a facticity that places the slave in the originary historicity of being-a-slave as having-become-a-slave. As such, obedience defines the slaving of the slave, thereby defining the slave as being-a-slave in the factical situation.

The slaving of the slave is the root of the historicity of being-a-slave. The radicality of this personal position is only to be uncovered within the progression initiated by having-become-a-slave. The courage required by such radicality is the courage that makes the slaving of a slave a constantly demanding and difficult task. The commanding that the slave hears-obeys is itself revelatory of the Master’s being-a-master to that slave in all its particularity and within its own historicity of having-become-a-master to that slave.

Little Discouragements

Recent days have been filled with a series of individually small, but cumulatively difficult discouragements. I keep feeling each one sapping my energy, little by little, until I barely feel capable of acting in any way whatsoever. Each issue seems to trammel whatever energies I might have, turning them in on themselves until they are exhausted in sapping each other.

Changes and Judgments

Lately days seem to run together.  It gets difficult to remember what one did 3 or 4 days or nights ago.  I often feel like I’m not really doing anything although I have a number of projects on the go.

Writing in a contemplative mode has become more difficult.  I find my thinking betrayed by the nominal formations of the words and phrases that people find comprehensible, and writing in a more verb-oriented, dynamic manner lends itself to accusations of intentional obfuscation.  And yet the inevitable misinterpretations that happen when I attempt to convey my thinking in nominal terms end up making me physically ill after conversations where there is any real matter at stake.

Judgment, always a difficult topic, is more and more in the forefront of my mind.  It seems to be infecting every area of my life with newfound difficulties.

All this is isolating me mood-wise, with the resulting desire to isolate physically.  And yet I remain aware of my interdependence with every other human being.

We have an upcoming meeting that is joint between the Master/slave group and the local submissives group, with guest speakers, discussing poly M/s.   As we are almost the local poster-family for poly M/s it pretty much behooves us to go.  Actually I have no desire to go at all, but it would be rude, particularly to certain people I’m very fond of, if we skipped the event.

In the meantime the odd feelings that go with a big change in the lives of household members continue to strain things.  Although I think patience is a key ingredient, the sense of the right moment to step in and temporarily suspend that patience is also important.  Trying to balance the two is a big part of my interactions at the moment.