Kristeva’s plumb line, part 2

From The Feminine and the Sacred (New York: Columbia, 2001).

Excerpt continued from previous post: Julia Kristeva, letter to Catherine Clement. Ars-en-Re, July 15, 1997 (p. 141-2).

“With Agnes and Catherine, I look at that plumb line a second time. Nondescript metal, gray-black, a long way from the nobility of gold of silver, a tip like an arrow pointing toward the ground. Yet we know that, above the point of suspension, the rooftop rises and the light of day unfurls. I see in that solidarity between surface and depth, light and shadows, the image of secrecy. It is well known that the sacred and secrecy have journeyed side by side throughout history. But the Greeks defined truth as an unveiling, and the Catholic Church made the mystery universal, available to all. Far be it from me to argue the present-day scientific and democratic benefits of that procession of ‘phenomena,’ ‘insights,’ and ‘openings.’ Let me say, nevertheless and simply, that it entails the risk of the spectacular and of the artificial. And I maintain that the rehabilitation of secrecy can be a salutary counterpoint to such tendencies, to such dangers. Not a secrecy that would revel in itself, that would be content with itself, or that would degenerate into corruption, which, in that case, would be as harmful, it not more so, than a complacency with appearance or display. But a secrecy that, like the plumb line, can be measured in the dignity of its focus, which, like the plumb line, does not forget that it functions so that rectitude shall become visible – that is, so that it shall appear in everyone’s sight in the visibility of the building, which remains the sole proof of the utility of the secret plumb bob. To respect Agnes’s secret, Catherine’s secret, my own – a trauma? an untranscendable desire? – and to give expression to, allow to be expressed, make readable and visible what Catherine, Agnes and I are capable of formulating here and now, at our own pace: such is the meaning of secrecy in psychoanalysis. And undoubtedly that of the best secret societies: that of friends, accomplices, philanthropic organizations.”


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