“If I come across as disillusioned, it’s because I am: the illusion has been destroyed.”
– Kester Brewin.
I wrestled with what to say in this piece, because Kester’s book can’t be reviewed so much as witnessed; it doesn’t ask for an assessment, but rather calls for a response. In comparison to the standard radical theological fare, this reads more like a diary than a textbook, and is all the more powerful for it.
Taking us on drive-by of the various enthusiasms which have had us by the throat in the last fifty-years-or-so, from the fervor around the power of LSD, to surrounding the television in rapt attention as the moon landing took place, to the prophets now proclaiming everlasting life if we can just upload our consciousness to the cloud, Kester systematically dissects our longing for anything which might allow us to transcend and lift away from these bags of meat we wake up to each morning. The end result of this journey is a position of disillusionment, at least with respect to what is being proffered as any new solution to the human problem.
It’s not so much that we don’t like being human; that we have been human for millennia and decided that somehow it’s not for us. It’s that we haven’t yet given ourselves over to our rootedness here on the Earth, and allowed that fact to do its work on us. We never tried being human in the first place.
If the aim of psychoanalysis is to help the analysand realise that the Big Other doesn’t exist, then perhaps a project of Radical Theology is to help shine a light on the Big Other in the first place. As each Big Other is recognised as impotent, it is continually displaced and reinstates itself elsewhere. Kester deftly weaves this story of society in the 1960’s through today with his own story of constantly seeking salvation from himself and the space(s) he found himself in. And I suppose this is where radical theology, which (broadly) takes the non-existence of the Big Other as a starting point, finds itself with some traction; its claim is that any attempt to lift away, to flee into one technology or another, whether material or spiritual, is doomed to fail.
Radical theology is for the nothings and nobodies, those who find themselves subtracted from the systems that once gave their lives meaning. It is for the shit of the world, for those who have been chewed up, digested, and flushed. It is for those who have been thoroughly disillusioned, and Kester shows through his own journey and experiences, perhaps this isn’t the worst that could happen.
Forsake your gods; all of them.
Return to where you are.
Put your feet down, here, and don’t lift away.
As I’m sitting here writing, I wonder whether there is a future for this project, because it’s a hard sell. It’s a hard sell because at every turn we are being asked, commanded even, to worship one god or another. And we obey, because this worship is sold to us as a form of enjoyment; but it only leaves us hungry and confused. Kester is calling for us to take this hunger and confusion and channel it toward, perhaps for the first time, embracing, rather than escaping, our humanity.