Hölderlin’s song. Provisional annotations. by Gerardo Muñoz

There is a moment in Hölderlin’s late hymn “Friedensfeier” (1801) where communication is strictly defined as becoming a song. The verses in question are about midway into the poem, and we read read the following: 

“Viel hat von Morgen an, 

Seit ein Gespräch wir sind und hören voneinander, 

Erfahren der Mensch; bald sind wir aber Gesang.”

“Mucho ha, desde la mañana, 

desde que diálogo somos y oímos unos de otros, 

aprendido el ser humano; pronto empero seremos canto”.

This is the Spanish rendition by the Venezuelan poet and translator Verónica Jaffé [1]. These lines stand for Hölderlin’s unique effort during the years 1800-1804 to substantially qualify what he had confessed to his mother as his true task: to live a serene or quiet life. I think this Spanish translation is much closer to the original German. Jaffé hangs on the present perfect with conviction: “Mucho ha…”, as if knowledge remained at a distance in the metric while becoming a temporal duration, a form of experience. This is the poetic “strict mediacy” for Hölderlin that can only be cultivated [2]. And it is only through the duration of experience that one will become a song (“seremos canto”). We are not yet there, hence the apostrophe. In the late period, duration meant dealing directly with Pindar. Thus, the song is something other than language – even if announced through language. But it is a paratactic dispersion that seeks to free the pure voice. In one of the “Pindar fragments”, this is what Hölderlin claims: “then only the difference between species makes a division in nature, so that everything is therefore more song and pure voice than accent of need or on the other hand language”. [3]

I am caught up in the moment of “division in nature”. The subtraction from representational language allows for the true appearance of a more originary separation, where the song can finally emerge in its proper attunement with the world. The becoming song is another form of separation, which institutes the passage from the Empedocles (tragic sacrifice) to the Pindaric relation to the divine. This is the “highest” poetic challenge for Hölderlin – an impossible task after the fleeing of the gods. It is definitely maddening. Nevertheless, the song remains. It puts us in nearness in a postmythical world without recoiling back to the image of the tragic. Indeed, as Hölderlin says in passing in “The Ground of Empedocles”, his time already “did not demand a song” [4]. The passion for natural unity was an Olympic illusion whose retribution could only become romantic debris as the exclusive possession of the dichter. On the contrary, the clearing for the song has emancipated itself from the exclusivity of the modern autonomy of dichtung as mimetically separated from the experience of life. This is what the song wants to pursue before the closure of a significant (and signifying) world. Fundamentally, this means a subtraction from the continuum of language, and thus a form of prophecy as elaborated by Gianni Carchia in a difficult passage from “Dialettica dell’immagine”: 

“Where music and prophecy, in the inexhaustibility of their tension – an endless effort to overcome the Babel dissipation of language by freeing the residual state of the unexpressed – testify to a disposition to meet precisely in what passes, in pure transience, the need for salvation and the idea of fulfillment, beauty as a totalitarian and exclusive appearance is, on the other hand, nothing but the product of an arrest in the dynamics of the spirit which withdraws from the horror of worldly laceration to seek refuge on the scene circular and static of the eternal”. [5]

If the song addresses the prophetic it is because language has fallen to the fictitious needs that arrest the experience of the human being into the exclusivity of rhetorical force and poetic genius. Is not the song a refusal of both? A refusal now aimed at the “highest” task – that is, the serene life? Against the exclusivity of appearance that Carchia points to, what appears discloses a different sense of law. A few verses in the same poem, in fact, we are confronted with the “law of destiny”: when there is serenity (or peace) there are also words. And a few lines after: “the law of love” is equilibrium from “here” to the “sky”. What appears there is the landscape that comes through in a pictorial depiction: “[Sein bild….Und der Himmel word wie eines Mahlers Haus Wenn seine Gemälde sind aufgestellt] / “[su cuadro e imagen….y el cielo se vuelve como de un pintor una casa cuando sus cuadros de exponen]”.

Does not this also speak to the insufficiency of language, which justifies the step into a folded painting? There is a painting and a vanishing image, but also the painter marveled at gleaming finished masterpieces. Is painting the original placeholder for the song as originary attunement of life? Perhaps. But in its enactment it also means that the song is impossible to disclose except through pictorial invocation. It is a painting of a life in the world, and nothing less. The transfiguration of the law places men no longer into undisputed submission, whether in its positive or natural determinations, but rather of a “strict mediacy” that is ethical in nature. A third way of the law that does not renounce the problem of separation.

Monica Ferrando has insisted upon the enormous importance of this conception: the fact that Pindar’s nomoi, in fact, relates to the nomos mousikos, which is fundamentally dependent on gathering substance of the song [6]. The strict mediacy finds itself between the mortal and the immortal. It is definitely not a “return to the state of nature”, and I do not see how it could be reduced to “genius”, except as an ethics whereby appearing is no longer at the service of objectivity [7]. Adorno was of course right: it is a ruthless effort to deal with disentanglement of nature – and the nature of reason – but only insofar as it is a return to the song. Or, at least, to have a path toward the song: a lyricism of the indestructible against the closure of a finite time dispensed and enclosed.




1.  Friedrich Hölderlin. “Fiesta de Paz”, in Cantos hespéricos (La Laguna de Campona, 2016), Traducción y Versiones Libres de Veronica Jaffé, 93. I thank Philippe Theophanidis the exchange initial exchanges on these verses.

2. Friedrich Hölderlin. “Pindar fragments”, in Essays and Letters (Penguin Classics, 2009), 566. Kindle Version. 

3.Ibid., 565.

4. Friedrich Hölderlin. “The Ground of the Empedocles”, in Essays and Letters (Penguin Classics, 2009), 465. Kindle Version. 

5. Gianni Carchia. “Dialettica dell’immagine: note sull’estetica biblica e cristiana”, in Legittimazione dell’arte (Guida Editori, 1982), 21.

6. Lucia Dell’Aia. “Il Regno d’Arcadia: intervista a Monica Ferrando”, in Il mito dell’Arcadia (Ledizioni, 2023), 121. 

7. T.W. Adorno. “Parataxis: On Hölderlin’s Late Poetry”, in Notes to Literature (Columbia University Press, 1992), 148-149.

Sundays outside history: some observations on Eliseo Diego’s La Calzada de Jesús del Monte (1949). by Gerardo Muñoz

The origin of Eliseo Diego’s mythical poetic collection En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte (1949) is so well known and recorded that it has been completely forgotten even by its most copious commentators. In his short memoralist essay “Un día ceremonial”, written decades after the publication of the poem, José Lezama Lima wrote the following: “En uno de sus ceremoniales litúrgicos, en un día de nuestro santo, nos reunimos en la iglesia de Bauta. En esa ocasión Eliseo Diego leyó su “Primer discurso” de En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte. Era un precioso y sorprendente regalo, suficientemente para llenar la tarde con aquella palabra que nace para uno de los más opulentamente sobrios destinos poéticos que hemos tenido…Cuando se publicó En la calzada de Jesús del Monte, el júbilo que me produjo fue esencialmente poético. En unos versos de circunstancia amistosa he intentado decir la alegría que me produce ese libro que traía esclarecimientos para nuestro paisaje y su acercamiento” [1]. At the center in this confession is not only the centrality of a poetic liturgical practice that vested the friendship of the origenistas poets, but more fundamentally the efficacy of the poetic word that Lezama describes as a “júbilo poético” or poetic happiness. It is a strange remark (like almost everything written by Lezama), since En la calzada de Jesús del Monte has been largely read as the litany of a domestic space (a “gran casa de todos”) consumed by dread experienced at the turn of the mid-century failed and stagnated republic.

The intuition raised by Lezama, although not elaborated, still haunts us: in what sense is En la calzada de Jesus del Monte about poetic happiness and what could stand for? We can go astray if we claim that happiness is a particular substantive and representational content of the poetic word. Indeed, there is really no event of happiness in En la calzada de Jesus del Monte except for the taking place of the poetic word fully estranged and foreign from its own place of annunciation. This seems to confirm Diego’s poetic vortex who writes in the dedicación of the book: “A poem is nothing more than a few words told one afternoon to a group of friends” [2]. However, this only deepens the mystery, since whoever tries to find concrete friends in En la calzada de Jesús del Monte (1949) will find none. Solitude abounds and expands throughout spaces. Lezama attempted to elevate the secret of friendship from thought to the liturgical enactment in search for transcendent meaning. Indeed, the emphasis on the mystery of liturgy is emphatic and compressed in Lezama’s programmatic memory about the almost ecclesiastical origins of the poem. I would like to suggest another path for the mysterious and inapparent force of the poem, which is no longer situated at the liturgical aesthetic experience, but rather in the mystery of a felicitous life at the threshold of history. If anything is disclosed throughout the pages of En la calzada de Jesús del Monte this is, precisely, that things appear to dwell in their place, even if no one is around and no community could stand for its reverence. Indeed, the poetic event dwells in an existential solitude before a changing world now fallen into pure disenchantment.

The happiness that falls from the poem, then, is not merely about the execution of the word or the unity of form, but it consists of something previous, altogether different: a mysterious shadow of the enchanted myth. In En la calzada de Jesús del Monte (1949) we are exposed to a poetic language that gathers in a desecularized dimension that suspends what Gianni Carchia identified as the postmythical form of mystery that seems to anticipate the semblance of historical order [3]. But Diego’s En la calzada de Jesús del Monte transfigures mystery to the point of disclosing the limit where life and redemption from the material world take place; namely, in the Sunday of life. But, unlike for Carchia, this poetic transfiguration takes place within the grammar of Christian theology and not the Greek classical past. Here Diego’s poetic mysterium differs fundamentally from the liturgical mystery, which presupposes a “fundamental sacrifice” that allows the temporal sequence of the end of time as the motor for universal religious redemption [4]. By contrast, Diego’s idea of a poetic mystery (which is also the mystery of the poem, which he never ceased to reflect upon through his life) is spatially dispersed, redeeming eternal life from the visibility of worldly phenomena. As Diego writes in an essay defining his conception of the theological mystery: “Primero les haré una confesión…no veo por la sala ningún hábito de Santo Domingo. Uno no debe jugar con los Misterios Mayores, y ninguno es mayor que el Misterio de los Tres que son Uno. Pero, ¿acaso no hizo Él a las ballenas y a los colibríes? ¿Acaso él no sonríe con la infinitud de sus peces y sus insectos? No creo que me tome a mal esta broma que hago como un niño pequeño que pretende jugar con su padre” [5].

By separating the “mayor mystery” of the Trinity from the minor mysteries of imaginative creations of the world (fables, poetry, child’s play), Diego was able to displace the grandiose stage of the liturgical mystery emphasizing the role that humor plays in the affective realization of the kingdom. In other words, it is most definitely the case that the mystery and the poetic musicality compose the parabolic nature of a transfigured kingdom that accompanies the inner existence of each and every human being [6]. Furthermore, this is why the Calzada is a defined in “Primer Discurso” as a pantheistic kingdom: “mi reino, en esta isla pequeña rodeada de Dios por todas partes / en ti ciego mis descanso” [7]. The happiness of the poetic effect in En la calzada de Jesús del Monte is the consummation of an eternal life that, by withdrawing itself from the representation of historical time, can outlive both dread and death. However, in its call for “eternity”, it is language itself that becomes a mode within a series of uncountable events: “sigo pensando, aquí, mi amigo, sucediéndome. / Luego de la primera muerte, señores, las imágenes … .Porque soy reciente, de ayer mismo” [8]. The “sigo sucediéndome”, a modal attempt at transforming life through event diffuses life and death like “Abel y Cain reunidos en Adán, como la muerte” [9]. The transfiguration of liturgical mystery does not evoke a christological arcana, but the overcoming of the civilizational myth of fratricide only to find “unity” in the eternal paradise evoked through Adam. As Diego will also write in an essay about the work of British novelist Jean Rhys: “…el sentido de orar para convertirse en símbolo del misterio de vivir: nuestro jardín era grande y hermoso como aquel jardín de la Biblia – el árbol de la vida crecía allí, nos dice, en medio del terror de una violencia que no entiende” [10]. The reemergence of the myth of an enchanted Edenic garden through the poem?

The fact that Diego chose to write En la calzada de Jesús del Monte as a series of poems and not a novel speaks to his resistance to metaphorize the Garden of Eden outside of the world, overly compensated through a figural postmythical semblance that could have only been taken as a form of parody. On the contrary, En la calzada de Jesús del Monte evokes the original paradise as a recurring and parabolic Sunday of life. A life of nothingness: “si la nada / es también el dormir, pesadamente / la caída sin voz entre la sombra… el Paraíso / realizado en la tierra, como un nombre!” [11]. What cuts through between the forms of the world is the poetic parabola that put us in nearness to the limit of the mystery and the unspeakable. This is what poet Fina García Marruz beautifully captured in one of the most outstanding essays on En la calzada de Jesus del Monte where the weight of the question is meshed with the eros of the poem’s parabola: “Todo arte es, o debería ser, arte de amor, qué es arte de re respeto, la estrategia de una amorosa retirada. Donde el yo se manifiesta en exceso, invade los otros límites, incendia el mundo, pero el verdadero sol del centro, como en Heráclito, no rebasa sus medidas” [12].

García Marruz will even allude to a “magical distance” to elucidate Diego’s poetic measureless opening to proximity: “para el dulce tamaño de la vida que miden estas distancias” [13]. The distances modulate situated existence against the reduction of ordered historical time: “El sitio donde gustamos las costumbres / aquí no pasa nada, no es más que la vida” [14]. As an authentic habitante Diego’s parabola solves the problem of the eclipse of historical time (the ruins of the first morning of historical development) through a descension to spatial detachment where the rest of Sunday is achieved amidst the dust of the world (“como el polvo del mundo”). And from the vantage point of every concrete experience and every limit, life emerges from the dead before a ruinous world marked by the failed Republic. This was a Republic that could not be named (“Yo no sé decirlo: la República”) in a paradoxical display of expository nominalism. As Diego writes in “El sitio en el que tan bien se está”: “en la penumbra como deshabitado sueño” [15]. At the height of 1949, En la calzada de Jesús del Monte was the most rigorous attempt to retreat from this penumbra of historical political life and its daydreaming.

This is the open secret of the actual city street, La Calzada de Jesús del Monte (Havana), during the first decades of the twentieth century, which according to historian Emilio Roig de Lauschering was the only route of communication between the hinterland and the new urban community: “La Calzada de Jesús del Monte que después se llamó después Calzada de Jesús del Monte por haber construido una ermita en la pequeña eminencia donde se encuentra la iglesia parroquial de Jesús del Monte…[…] Pero la Calzada de Jesús del Monte fue desde remotos tiempos hasta no hace mucho la vía principal de entrada y salida entre la población y el campo” [16]. In the late 1940s, la Calzada de Jesús del Monte was already a ‘deshabitado sueño’ as symbolized by dust, debris, oblivion, and death announced by the abstract time of modernization. En la calzada de Jesús del Monte, however, does not cross the path nor seeks a communication between the limits, but rather it opts to dwells on it.

This might be, indeed, Diego’s most important and subtle difference with Lezama’s defense of a liturgical surplus (even ex ecclesia cult of friendship, Freundschaftsdichtung, as a surrogate for national salvation) as if he had found a refuge in the mysterious parish of the Calzada Jesus del Monte or Bauta [17]. Diego’s transfiguration of history placed him at Sabbath in possession of “poderosas versiones de su vida” (“strong modes of his own life”) [18]. But the Sabbath is not a mere memory of a defeated religious community, but as Hermann Cohen argued, a spatial and institutional habit of a people coinciding with the cycles of a bright moonlight [19]. This is why imagination in En la calzada de Jesus del Monte is not enough, and the poet laments: “de tanto imaginarla mi corazón iba callando”. The eternal life of Sundays finds a retreat in the sabbatical experience against the historical time of normality and its revolutionary cycles that demystifies the thingly destruction in which civilization had declined at the end of times. Diego’s La Calzada de Jesús del Monte enshrined the only access to the transfiguration of the mystery: a sabbatical rest disambiguated from the monotone idleness posed by postmythical romanticism [20]. It was in the threshold of parabolic dwelling where En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte remained faithful neither to religious idolatry nor to a free-standing mysterium, but only to the feast of a sabbatical life “como un asno, en perpetuo domingo” (like a donkey, in a perpetual sunday) [21]. The donkey is the transfiguration that must carry this weight. And withdrawing from Juan Vives’ known fable about the peasant who sacrificed a donkey when realizing that he was drinking the moon reflected on a bucket of water, En la calzada de Jesus del Monte stubbornly trumpets not the entry to a “poetic enlightenment”, but the dwelling into the eternal Sunday where poetry is not a resource of radiant sacrifice of beauty, but the prophecy for both silence and sound [22].




1. José Lezama Lima. “Un día ceremonial”, in Imagen y Posibilidad (Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1992), 48-50.

2. Eliseo Diego.  En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte (Editorial Pre-Textos, 2020), 103.

3. Gianni Carchia. Dall’Apparenza al Mistero, in Immagine e verità: Studi sulla tradizione classica, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Roma, 2003.

4. Odo Casel. Misterio del culto en el cristianismo (Cuadernos Phase, 2006), 82.

5. Eliseo Diego. “Viaje al centro de la tierra”, in Flechas en vuelo: ensayos selectos (Editorial Verbum, 2014), 162.

6. Giorgio Agamben. “Parabola e Regno”, in Il fuoco e il racconto (nottetempo, 2014), 25-37.

7. Eliseo Diego, En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte (Editorial Pre-Textos, 2020). 

8. Ibid., 115.

9.  Ibid., 117.

10. Eliseo Diego. “Una Iglesia no muy británica: Jean Rhys y su ancho mar”, in Flechas en vuelo: ensayos selectos (Editorial Verbum, 2014), 124.

11.  E. Diego, 119.

12. Fina García Marruz. “Ese breve domingo de la forma”, in Hablar de la poesía (Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1986), 398.

13. E. Diego, 131.

14. Ibid., 177.

15. Ibid., 184. 

16. Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring. La Habana: Apuntes Históricos (Editora del Consejo Nacional de Cultura, 1963), 111.

17. Wolfdietrich Rasch. Freundschaftskult und Freundschaftsdichtung im Deutschen Schrifttum des 18. Jahrhunderts (Halle-Saale, 1936).

18. Ibid., 157.

19. Hermann Cohen. “The Sabbath in its Cultural-Historical Significance”, The Reform Advocate, February 10, 1917, 5-6.

20. José Lezama Lima claims in “Pascal y la poesía”: “En la tradición de Pitágoras, que creía que sólo el símbolo daba el signo y que la escritura, tesis incomprehensible para el contemporáneo romanticismo antisignario, nace de un misterio, no de la horticultura de la pereza”, in Algunos tratados en La Habana (Anagrama, 1971), 166.

21. E. Diego, 147.

22. The fable is told by Hans Blumenberg: “The Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives recorded the fable of a peasant who killed a donkey because it swallowed the moon while drinking from a bucket, and because the world could sooner do without a donkey than without heaven’s lamp”, in “Glosses on Three Fables” (1984), History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg Reader (Cornell University Press, 2020), 604.

Von Balthasar and the eclipse of humor. by Gerardo Muñoz

Some will surely remember the figure of the painter Tirtorelli in Kafka’s The Trial who executes portraits of monotone and serious judges and magistrates on demand. The aura of these portraits is of absolute austereness and seriousness, as if Kafka wanted to capture the lackluster liturgy of the empire of judges and their repetitive exercise of legal adjudication. This seriousness, however, must be contrasted to the comic dimension of bureaucracy, that is known to anyone who might have glimpsed at the administrative processes that control even the tiniest details of daily life (the literary and cultural objects are too many to even reference them). The comic and the serious are also visual tones in the exhibition of modern public powers. If the empire of judges is gray and inexpressive, the bureaucratic agencies have been rendered as playful even if they repeatedly yield tragic effects on anyone entrapped in the legal construction of the “case”.

I recall this, because if today we are in the rise of an administrative state, this fundamentally entails a collapse of the bureaucratic comedy and the judge’s seriousness. The joining of the two spheres implies not only a transformation of the legal culture in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, but also a confusion regarding both the comic and serious that now form an integral techno-political unit. As humor eclipses, comedy becomes controlled, assessed, and weighted against what must be free-standing seriousness each and every time. This integralist institutional imagination, at first sight, could be taken as a return of theology of sorts; but, according to Hans Urs Von Balthasar, it is quite the contrary: the integralist suture is so alien to Catholic theology and the mystery that it only deserves to be taken as a distance from the divine. As Von Balthasar writes in Il Complesso antiromano (1974):

“For humor is a mysterious but unmistakable charism inseparable from Catholic faith, and neither the “progressives” nor the “integralists” seem to possess it—the latter even less than the former. Both of these tend to be faultfinders, malicious satirists, grumblers, carping critics, full of bitter scorn, know-it-alls who think they have the monopoly of infallible judgment; they are self-legitimizing prophets—in short, fanatics.” [1] 

And Von Balthsar reminds us that fanatic is a word that comes from fanum – “holy place” – which alludes to the site that the guardian must guard to keep the divinity at bay. In the same way today, the fanatic is the nexus that organizes the administrative process that covers all spheres of human activity and purpose. If this is the case, then one could say that our current society is “fanatical” not because of the new religious factions or outnumbering of social cults, but rather because new legal administrators exert their control in the guise of priests that speak the rhetoric of a social intelligible common good. This is, indeed, the ultimate comic aspiration of a very seriousness legal process (it impacts literally every living species) in which the precondition to safeguards the “good” must be exerted as to keep everyone away from the irreducibility of what is good, beautiful, and just.

The seriousness of the administrative agents is transformed into a perpetual laughter that secures a social bond where no transgression and sensation is possible. Against this backdrop, we see how Gianni Carchia was correct when suggesting that the passage from comedy to enjoyment (divertimento) renders impossible the laughter of redemption in a life that ceases to be eventful [2]. In this way, comedy mutates into a mere socialization of laughter. And the impossibility of entering in contact with the comic initiates the commencement of the social parody.




1. Hars Von Balthasar. Il Complesso antiromano. Come integrare il papato nella chiesa universale (Queriniana, 1974), 304.

2. Gianni Carchia. “Lo cómico absoluto y lo sublime invertido”, en Retórica de lo sublime (Tecnos, 1990), 153.

The Gnostic residue. On Mårten Björk’s The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg (2022). by Gerardo Muñoz.

Mårten Björk’s The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg: Theology and Resistance Between 1914-1945 (Bloomsbury, 2022) is a major contribution to the ongoing discussion on theology, politics, and life in our present. Indeed, this book of unmatched originality will radically change the coordinates that have structured these debates in and beyond the academic disciplines involved. First conceived as a longer dissertation entitled Life outside life and defended at Gothenburg University in 2018 (which included an voluminous and illuminating chapter on the work of German theologian Erik Peterson, not included in the published monograph and scheduled for publication in the near future) studies three figures of the German interwar period that confronted the civilizational catastrophe of the twentieth century and the rise of the regime of mass production. Through different conceptual elaborations in Franz Rosenzweig, Karl Barth, and the Oskar Goldberg Group (it also includes thinkers such as Adolf Caspary and Erich Unger) a unified thesis emerges: these thinkers crafted a fundamental response to the collapse of the legitimacy of the modern epoch through a radical imagination of immortality and eternal life (Björk 2022, 3). From an angular perspective, Björk’s book measures to Hans Blumenberg’s groundbreaking defense of the legitimacy of modernity through “self-affirmation” of the human; a philosophical anthropology predicament that today has become fully integrated into the arts of planetary destruction, although its genesis is to be captured in the first decades of twentieth century through the dawn of a new catastrophic politics (the term is coined by Erich Unger in his Politics and Metaphysics). In Björk’s account, these thinkers took the stance against the stimmung of the epoch, its historical closure as well as the immanence of nature in order to take up a historical collapse that was civilizational in nature.

It would be a common place to remind the readers of this book that the figures of the research (with the exception of Rosenzweig who in some corners has been taken as the greatest Jewish philosopher since Maimonides) have been unwarranted buried in the monumental and political historiographies of the period and in the edifice of normative Continental philosophies of the twentieth century. However, Björk’s monograph is no simple restitution of dead old men, as this would be too accommodating to the field of the history of philosophy. Behind these figures there are multiple strategic displacements that connect the destruction of biopolitics to the reformulation of ethics of the dead, as well as the revision of Judaic theological sources to execute an effective retreat from the collapse of civilization of the last 5000 years of the human species. In this quadrant there is also a timely gesture on the complicated relationship between Judaism and Christianity; a relation that the book never really solves, although it runs throughout the book flagged for possible future explorations. Methodologically, it is the field of “theology” (not of science of religions a la Weber) that returns to the center as a way to explored an unthought dimension of immortality – that Björk properly renders as life outside life, against all biopolitical saturation and ecological catastrophe of the natural world. It goes without saying that there is an untimely tone that directly speaks to our present. Indeed, it is the radical theological and cosmological presuppositions (outside the formalism of religion and the apocalyptic historical saeculum of the Church) where something like a radical new existence of what it means to live can be rethought. This is Björk’s fundamental invitation.

In “Yearning for a system: Franz Rosenzweig and the great paganism of life’, Björk offers an all-encompassing outlook to the work of the Jewish scholar whose famous Star of Redemption was also accompanied by an interest in European geopolitics of the first decades of the century. In the midst of the First World War, Rosenzweig witnessed the rise of a new paganism of the state as the acceleration of the struggle for life in the West reproducing forever war (Björk 2022, 29). For Rosenzweig modernity was not an authentic or unfinished secularization, but rather the institutionalization of a pagan order of depredatory confrontation that foreclosed the world without outside: absolute immanence now meant the subjectivation of new false gods of modern civilization ordered towards survival and struggle (Björk 2022, 25). Against this backdrop, Björk reads Rosenzweig’s Star as an original theosophy of redemption of the world that exceeds the national political counters, while offering a new planetary and universal dimension of salvation beyond the state as articulated in Globus. Furthermore, Björk notes that Rosenzweig saw himself as a sort of Jewish fighter in the defense for a new planetary community with “religion as an instrument for change” (Björk 2022, 53). Even though the language had residues of imperial imagination proper to the time, it is the theological vector that distorts the political register of the ground battle for survival. Here Judaism appears as a subtraction from conventional historicity by retreating to a prehistoric past where the ‘unity of the world’ had no nomoi, states, or borders (Björk 2022, 54). It should be noted that something similar was advocated in his 1922 booklet Die Staatslose Bildung eines Judischen Volkes about the stateless wandering of the Hebrew people, by Erich Unger who thought could show a way out of the decadence of Western civilization through the revitalization of ancient Judaism. The Jew had never been a member of the polis or a slave of the state, since the Judaic Kingdoms were ruled, as Björk explains, “by an antipolitical priesthood” or a “metapolitical priesthood and not political kingdoms” (Björk 2022, 61). The sharp contrast to the modern Judaic subtext is of importance: whereas Eric Nelson shows in The Hebrew Republic (2010), how the ancient Jewish sources influenced the constitution of the modern state theories of Thomas Hobbes and John Milton; the work of Unger and Rosenzweig centuries later, in the wake of the Weimar era, seeked to radically alienate the command of Judaic prophecy from the regulatory political and geopolitical techniques of anthropological modernity. The gap between the two, for Rosenzweig, would be the hope for eternal life against the management of survival to which modern political grammar succumbed without return (Björk 2022, 66).

But theology offers the route to imagination and vocabulary of restitution, and infinite recapitulation. To grossly synthesize Björk’s thesis: life is best understood as an endless dialogue with the dead. The second chapter “Abundance and scarcity” glosses aspects of Reformed theologian Karl Barth’s thought against the materialism of scarcity of the world and the principle of abundance proper to eternal life. By tracing Barth’s critical dialogue with Feaubach’s sociology of religion of the species-being (which radically impacted the way Marx and Marxism came to understand theology), Björk’s theology puts paradisal life at the center of the mission of salvation; a heretical notion that exceeds the predestination theology of grace deployed in the organization of the modern kakedomonic public powers of modernity (Björk 2022, 88). In this sense it is insufficient to define the capitalist religion as merely a cult without dogma or atonement; it is also, perhaps more fundamentally, an axiomatic system that accentuates the two-dimensional positionality of death and life without residue. For Barth, Björk reminds us, theology is a way out from the cultish axiomatics of the countable and measurable of the visible world: “Theology….seeks to open the believer to the belief in the invisible side of the reality of the world. Theology must become an investigation of this invisible world to which further posits that the visible world is related” (Björk 2022, 103). And Barth’s lifelong interest in the theology of resurrection was precisely a way to insist on the invisible register that conflates nature, morality, and survival of the living within the objective normativity of the world.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Barth’s theology discussed by Björk comes by way of the opposition of ethics and morality – this is elaborated as a rejection of the predicament of natural law’s imago naturae and its dependency on rationality – where the second is discarded as merely finite life unto directive command of the natural good. On the contrary, an ethics suspended by the postlapsarian stage is guided by the principle of suum cuique (Björk 2022, 114). The suum cuique (‘to each its own’), although prima facie echoes the Thomist epikeia, it is also free standing for something more: it is a limit to the irreducibility of life in relation to God, which cannot be inscribed in a system of balancing of moral principles in the hands of a sacerdotal authority. Whereas the moral principle of equity (epikeia) organizes the government of this world through principles and moral reasons for action; the suum cuique is the limit set upon our finite life and the eternal in the scope of the saeculum. Björk connects the notion of the suum cuique to the Barthian figure of the “strange saint” who “with tears and laughter provides God and in this provocation is obedient to the election that forms death into life” (Björk 2022, 116). The suum cuique, accepting the postlapsarian condition rejects the instrumentalization of original sin in order to become a “vast eon of the cosmos itself…temporal and finite but also eternalized as that which once was” (Björk 2022, 117). In this way, the suum cuique prepares the paradisal affirmation of every unlived life, an anathema to the thomist substantiation of merely personal dignity and the exceptional mechanism of individual mediation with the economy of election and grace.

The theological exploration of modality of being – this is one of Björk’s implicit lessons in the book – never truly disappears in modernity, but rather reemerges in unexpected spheres. The politics of immortality does not pretend to exhaust this problem. But it is in the last chapter on the enigmatic figure of Oskar Goldberg where this theme is best explored as the true meaning of a life outside life at the center of the book’s conceptual development. Oskar Goldberg is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Weimar era; a magnetic personality that gathered diverse personalities from all corners of the intellectual milieu. He was looked with high suspicion by Thomas Mann, who portrayed him as a mystical undemocratic thinker in Doctor Faustus, but also dismissed by Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem (it only suffices to look at the correspondence collected in Scholem’s Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship). A scholar with strong and sedimented knowledge in the Talmud and Ancient Judaism, Goldberg developed a highly sophisticated and speculative theology of the transcendental organism, to put it in Bruce Rosenstock’s terms, which provided an original formulation of a transcendent being based on the Torah in the wake of the new biological theories of the species (the work of Driesch, Uexküll, Spemann, among others) [1]. The biological and mystical vocabulary of Goldberg aroused immediate skepticism from the German intellectual class, but Björk convincingly shows that Golberg’s project was not an arabesque of a madman, but rather a very peculiar modal speculative system that seekd to confront the 5000 years of the civilization of fixation of the Western transition from the society of myth to the civilization of production and psychic energy imbalance (Björk 2022, 127). For Goldberg the passage from the prehistoric stage of myth to the inauguration of the religion of the state meant the sedimentation of a civilizational regimen oriented towards production, devastation, and positionality (Theophanidis recently expressed the proximity between Goldberg’s fixation and Heidegger’s Gestell, unexplored in Björk’s book). Björk is attentive to the fact that Goldberg was not just a proper name but also the constitution of a sort of ‘metapolitical university’ that gathered diverse figures, such as the economic historian and political thinker Adolf Caspary or the philosopher Erich Unger, both who developed their own critique of technological domination under the shadow of Goldberg. Thus, the critique of civilization is not to be taken as an abstract mysticism; for Björk, the concrete effects can be read in Caspary’s forgotten The Machine Utopia (1927), which criticized the utopia of machine civilization proper to both Soviet Bolshevism and Western capitalism – two social orders that shared the same the same historical horizon: reproduction and accumulation of surplus value (Björk 2022, 142).

In this framework, and against the historicist analytics of Marxism, for the Goldberg circle class antagonism and division of labor was not oriented towards emancipation, but rather towards the realization of a global total state. For the Goldberg circle to escape the civilization of the Behemoth of the industrial state required nothing short than a politics of errancy (defended by Unger in his Politics and Metaphysics of 1921) and the reversal to a modal relation with YHWH as an effective and potential dimension against the imbalance of an impoverished reality. Björk claims that for the Goldberg circle there were three possibilities of existence of coming to terms of the modern decline towards: civilizational fixation, myth, or Torah (Björk 2022, 154). And in different ways, they opted for the Torah, which implied not an identitarian reversal to a territorialized Volk but rather an infinite task of becoming immortal, given that our modes correspond to the nature of God and the world (Björk 2022, 166). The task was to depose the production of evil and suffering here and now as mobilized by the incarnation of historical progress. This infinite retreat from the materiality of the finite of the species was a way to open a new polytheism to the Ancient Hebrew metaphysics elaborated in Goldberg’s book, The Reality of the Hebrews (Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer, 1925). In other words, to exit from the fixation of the 5000 years civilization required a passage to immortality as a way to “make us unadapted to the normal laws of evolution” and to the objective world (Björk 2022, 178).

Truth be told, immortality never disappears from modern political imagination and governmentality. Some of us still remember that one of the famous mottos of the Cuban Communist Party was: “Los hombres mueren, el Partido es Inmortal” (“Men die, but the Party is immortal”), which ultimately served to guarantee the idolatry of the state’s sacrificial principle through a continuous “lucha” (struggle) of everyday life under real-existing administrative communism. Likewise, in recent years Boris Groys has argued at length that immortality lives off in the topology of contemporary art, where archivization, spatial flexibility, and museification of the historical Vanguard stand in for the desire to become immortal [3]. This is, indeed, what Björk calls, following Blumenberg, the moralization of immortality whose political translation resulted in truly barbaric consequences that we are still suffering (Björk 2022, 186). Against all moralization and political instrumentalization of immortality, The Politics of Immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg (2022) rises the theological mirror so that yet another anthropogenesis event through the “the Gnostic residue by insisting that the problem of evil could only be solved by God” (Björk 2022, 190). In other words, the problem of immortality restores the gnostic residue to its proper place beyond exceptionalism and anthropological humanism, since finitude (death) externalizes what is living, while “life” now becomes the meaning as its own otherness to the modes of God. Departing from the fourfold structure of the history of the modern error in Nietzsche’s typology, we could add a fifth: the error of conceiving the gnosis as worldly aspiration to domesticate exteriority as a forever postponed apocatastasis.

It is in the sense that Björk’s important book complements the unfinished elaboration on the gnosis undertaken by Giannia Carchia towards the end of his life: the exodus from the fiction of the subject and the person implies nothing short than the “resurrection of the human community capable of renewing the arc of history that appears so dramatically broken” [3]. Perhaps Carchia was a bit of an optimist here: the historical arch emanating from the potstlapsarian moment is now in ruins, but the gnostic residue remains once the darwinism of human-assertion has fallen flat into pieces across our planet (Björk 2022, 197). But Mårten Björk majestically teaches us that to keep insisting on life (on absolute life, on dignified life, or the monstrous “good enough life” recently proposed in a frank instance of academic nihilism) cannot but reproduce the civilization of calamities that has put the world in the road to extinction. In the current epochal implosion all these pieces are more apparent than in any other time in history. Yet, life is elsewhere, always escaping objectivity and immanence: “it is the invisibility of the wished, the desired and the dreamt. This is what human life entails. It is related to the wide world of what could have been or what should have been” (Björk 2022, 199). The modality of eternal life is also what value cannot apprehend, and for this reason what remains undialecticized, stubbornly disjointed from every unbearable fiction of the world. The Politics of Immortality (2022) is not only an exceptional book; it moves us to look to what always remains on the side of the invisible, to the unsaved in the exterior elan of every life, our lives.




1. Bruce Rosenstock. Transfinite Life: Oskar Goldberg and the Vitalist Imagination (Indiana University Press, 2017).

2. See, Boris Groys, Política de la inmortalidad (Katz editores, 2008), and “The Immortal Bodies”, Res, Vol.53-54, 2008.

3. Gianni Carchia. “Elaborazione della fine: mito, gnosi, modernità”, in L’amore del pensiero (Quodlibet, 2000), 150.

The ostrich as symbol. by Gerardo Muñoz

A couple of years ago I wrote the prologue to accompany the new edition of the almost forgotten novel Vendaval en los cañaverales (La Habana, 1937), by the reactionary writer Alberto Lamar Schweyer. I entitled the text “Avestruces en Niza”, since half of the novel, or almost all of it, takes place in the French riviera, where a bunch of decadent upper middle-class bourgeois couples live off the revenue of a transnational sugar-cane production and exports company based in the eastern part of Cuba. Written at the height of the convoluted years of the 1930s – as political turmoil intensified and the economy plummeted, putting an end to the recurrent developmentalist dream – it was not too difficult to read the ethos of this important work in light of the famous lecture “Cubano, avestruz del Trópico” (“The Cuban, an ostrich of the Tropics”, 1938) by eminent intellectual Enrique Gay Calbó, who deployed the figure of the bird to diagnose the obliviousness to economic reality and the short-term disposition (“cortoplacista”) of the national anthropological subject. The essay has been read, at times, under the framework of a pessimistic outlook towards the aspiration of amending a truly republic after independence, but at the same time, and all things considered, it should be also read as a metaphorical attempt to denote the ethos towards abstraction of the ruling criollo elite that would accelerate its compensations through direct coercion and acerbic pro patria mori rhetoric. Lamar, who belonged to this intellectual class, was able to provide a narrative form to these elements of the national interregnum, without introducing allegorically, the figure of the ostrich. And it is impossible for him to have known of Enrique Gay Calbó’s metaphoric resource, given that the lecture was delivered in April of 1938.

However, the ostrich was not accidental, and some of these details were unknown to me while writing the prologue to the edition (hence this sui generis addendum). Indeed, the ostrich was no exotic animal in the new minted Republic of Cuba, since as early as 1906 there were active ostrich farms in Marianao, Havana, financed by an American company from Arizona [1]. To my surprise, the mini report from The Cuban Review and Bulletin stated that half of the ostriches came from Nice, France. It would make sense, then, why Jean Vigo’s silent beach documentary À propos de Nice (1930) in truly natural fashion, featured a montaje of a fur-dressed lady with that of a strolling ostrich across the Promenade des Anglais, the same boardwalk used by the characters of Lamar’s novel. But what could Vigo’s momentaneous, and almost dream-like ostrich tries to tell us? Unlike Gay Calbó’s bird, the Promenade ostrich is no longer burying her head on the ground, but rather looking perplexed at modern bourgeois world, quite disoriented and visibly alienated among the frenzied crowd of strange and oblivious tourists. This is no world for an ostrich, and the moment she appears on the screen she is gone. Or at least this was Vigo’s playful cinematic gesture: the “new world” of the 1930s was soon going to be transformed into something radically different underneath the gaming, the sporting, and the consumerism.

Furthermore, the ostrich as a symbolic creature occupies a sort of threshold between transitional epochs. In a beautiful book dedicated to the arcanum of this animal in Raphael’s fresco at Sala di Costantino at the Vatican, Una Roman D’Elia reminds us that the idea of the ostrich as the cartoonist semblance of a bird sticking the head in the sand marked the new Renaissance mental structure that separated art and science in a new world now dependent on the self-assertion of anthropocentric conception [2]. However, what was enigmatic and attractive (and it continues to be) in Raphael’s ostrich is precisely an intermingling of the ostrich as arcana that converged mesopotamian, Egyptian, Hebrew and Roman bestiaries, and Christian religious history in a thick living creature that was both a myth and an animal of this world. A true symbol of imagination that brings to an end the modern conception of figurative expression and animal taxonomy. This is why even Saint Augustine could allude to the ostrich along with sirens – “Sirens daughters of ostriches, why should they bless me?” – who were called filae passerum by Plautus because they were imported from Africa, that is, from overseas [3]. The ostrich was the animal of passage between land and sea. In a clear parodic unfolding of symbolic meaning, what at some point cultivated imagination, myth, and the distance with the world was transformed into a large bird for farming, and converted into a metaphor of the deleterious effects if the constitution of reality is ignored.

In this forking of paths, it is true that Raphael’s ostrich is no longer a clear symbol to transmit a myth; on the contrary, it becomes a metaphor open to meaning (a meaning which will soon become extraction: feathers, egg production, zoology, and finally anthropological metaphor). For Roman D’Elia, the ostrich claimed a “higher mystery” in its own evasive force that resulted in the tensions between naturalism and meaning, symbol and representation, justice (iustitia) and the creations of the world. Was the ostrich a pagan incarnation of “Justice”, or perhaps the mannerist morphology of the all-encompassing judge’s majestum, that is both tender and imposing? Or is perhaps is the ostrich iustitia the last form of justice, at the eclipse of this world, that is, an messianic figuration towards the end of days and the banquet of the mythic primeval monsters (Leviathan, Behemoth, and Ziz)?

As Lois Drewer draws in her interpretation of the three mythic creations from the Talmud: “Once the egg of a Bar Yokani [an alternate name for Ziz] fell and its contents swamped sixteen cities and destroyed three hundred cedar trees. But does it actually throw the egg? Is it not written: ‘The wing of the ostrich beateth joyously’ [Job 39. 13]. The egg [which it smashed] was rotten” [4]. Could the ostrich be understood as the mythical Ziz, who unlike the monsters of the nomos of the Earth (Leviathan and Behemoth), refuses to engage in the depredatory game in order to save itself for the celestial messianic banquet of eternal life? And if this is so, then the ostrich, instead of a creature of this world, is the last animal of the world who takes under its wing the absolute accomplishment of Justice that coincides neither with the principle of the aequitas of nature nor with the constitution of reality, but rather with what is vanquished in the modern spirit: mainly, the erotic mystery of the separation of life and the world. The ostrich was not in itself mysterious, but perhaps more fundamentally a keeper of the eschatological mysterium.




1. “Ostrich Farm in Marianao”, The Cuba Review and Bulletin, Vol.5, 1906, 23.

2. Una Roman D’Elia. Raphael’s Ostrich (Penn State University Press, 2015). 

3. St. Augustine. The Works of Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Old Testament (New City Press, 2011), 410.

4. Lois Drewer. “Leviathan, Behemoth and Ziz: A Christian Adaptation”, Journal of the Warburg Institutes, 1981, V.44, 1981, 152.

Karl Barth’s suum cuique. by Gerardo Muñoz

In his chapter on the radical theology of abundance and ethics of Karl Barth, Mårten Björk discloses a central concept to the reformist theologian: the suum cuique, a term that prima facie could be rendered in natural law definition of legal justice, inherited from Roman lawyer Ulpian, as “may all get their due”. In the thomist tradition the legal notion of epikeia promptly became equity as the moral supervision of law’s principle (ius) understood as the application of the fair and the objective good. The justification of the balancing of aequum became a regulatory mediation on the grounds of a fictive principle of nature as moral reasoning, which has been well documented by Stephen Humphreys [1]. What makes Barth’s drawing on the notion of suum cuique in his interwar pamphlet Church and State (originally entitled Justification and Law, 1938), on the contrary, is precisely that it is not reducible to equity, but rather as Björk explains it: “the limit to our life, a limit brought forth by death itself, is in the end the vast chams that posits the creature as create of God…and this has ethical and political consequences” [2]. This is telling, and my aim here is to supplement the discussion in “Abundance and Scarcity” by showing its radical asymmetry with the reasonableness of the natural law. Barth’s anti-activist Church (although not neutral in the wake of the total state of the 30s) and apathy towards morality, stands as a sui generis bearing.

First, in the moral natural law tradition of equity (epikeia) “giving each one their due” becomes a strict legal-authoritative command principle on the reasonableness of nature centered on the ontology of the person. It is quite the opposite for Barth who does not favor a constant moral adjudication, since the separation between Church and State presupposes a previous divine justification that belongs exclusively to the Church, but not to the state. In fact, law practiced on the condition of natural principles will undermine the authority of the liberal positivist state, which Barth defends vehemently, making the case for its coherence with the teachings of the New Testament: “The democratic conception of the state is justifiable expansion of the of the New Testament…Christians must not only endure the earthly state but they must will it as a just state, not as a “Pilate” state” [3]. It is not surprising, then, that Barth wrote this tract openly defending the authority of the modern positivist state, contrasting it to the anti-statist unjust pretarian judgement of the trial of Jesus. This makes sense given that the pretorian ius honorarium could be understood, at least in part, as belonging to the tradition of the moral balancing of equity between morality and norms (just as the two irreducible kingdoms) [4]. Barth’s defense of the positivist state is even contrasted to natural law, which for Barth is incommensurable with the word of God: “We cannot measure what law is [in the State] by any idea of natural law…” [5].

Accepting the primacy of the equity of a substantive bonum will not only serve to override the authority of the state, but also, and more importantly, to flatten out theology’s monopoly over divine justification. At this point Barth is quite explicitly in saying that this is what took place – and I think he is correct, specially if we take into account that the degenerate legality in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia was not an abuse of positivism, but a consequence of the open-ended common and natural law principles to the point of distortion – in the wake of fascism and Bolshevism in the interwar years of Europe. Barth writes with this in mind against artificial heavens on earth, as part of a hyperbolic “politicizing from above”:

“Fascism and Bolshevism alike will be dethroned and the true order of human affairs will arise. Not as heaven (not even a miniature heaven) on earth! No, this “true order” will be able to arise only upon this earth and within the present age, but this will take the place really and truly, already upon this earth, and this present age, in this world of sin and sinners…this is what the Church has to offer to the state…” [6]. 

The political domination of the total state amounted to a conflation between the lapsarian condition of man and the theology of eternal life. The passage or mediation between the two dimensions, which he also described as a “tailor made garment” was the suum cuique, understood as a limit to life and death beyond morality and biological reductions. Barth insisted on the principle of separation in face of every temptation of technico-rational closures. Thus, by externalizing divine justification to the sphere of theological eternity, Barth’s conception of “giving one’s due” was radically disambiguated from the Nazi motto “Jedem das Seine” (to each his own) in the concentration camp of Buchenwald in 1937, made possible by the opened force of common law adjudication against the state positivist authority (understood by Nazi legal scholars as “too Jewish”). This was the barbaric dereliction of duty of the state becoming what Barth called a “clerical state” [7]. Barth’s ethical limit on finite and eternal life, so well reconstructed in Björk’s brilliant monograph, can only be a witness to a ‘world passeth away’ to which no priestly jurists have the last word unless catastrophic consequences are expected. The ethical response to the lapsarian condition was a radical drift from the dangers of natural absolute rationalism that was directly implicated in the arousal of immanent powers and the reduction of the population as mere administration of doctrine of last things through consciousness and not grace. The suum cuique introduced a radical exteriority in which all men became “strangers” (to the Church, national identity, the community, to the social) whose proper involvement pertained to the eternal mystery of life and death.




1. Stephen Humphreys. “Equity before ‘Equity’”, Modern Law Review, 2022, 1-37.

2. Mårten Björk. The politics of immortality in Rosenzweig, Barth, and Goldberg: Theology and Resistance Between 1914-1945 (Bloomsbury, 2022), 115.

3. Karl Barth. “Church and State”, in Community, State, and Church (Anchor Books, 1960), 146.

4. Gerardo Muñoz. “El pretor romano y el ius honorarium”, Infrapolitical Reflections, 2022: https://infrapoliticalreflections.org/2022/04/24/el-pretor-romano-y-el-ius-honorarium-por-gerardo-munoz/ 

5. Ibid., 147.

6. Ibid., 148.

7. Ibid., 132.

De Maistre’s modern politonomy. by Gerardo Muñoz

The conservative Spanish political theorist Jesus Fueyo used to say that given that politics is not strictly a science, it always requires an attitude to vest the political. This holds true especially for the reactionary tradition given their sharp and distinctive rhetorical style, which at times it can outweigh the substantive orientation of its principles, doctrines, and immediate commitments. The attitude towards the political defines and frames the energy of the political, and it helps to define a politonomy, or the laws of its political conception. This is particularly relevant in Joseph De Maistre’s work, who doctrinally was a monarchist, legitimist, and, if we are to take Isaiah Berlin’s words, also a dogmatic precursor of fascism [1]. For a classical liberal like Berlin, De Maistre’s critique of liberalism all things considered (contractualism, deism, separation of powers, public deliberation, and individual civil liberties) amounted to a fascist threat. This reading crosses the line towards doctrinal and substance but it says little about its politonomy. On the contrary, what surprises (even today, as I was rereading some of his works) about De Maistre is the recurrent emphases on political autonomy, which automatically puts him in the modernist camp against doctrinal theologians and otherworldly moralists who do not truly classify as counterrevolutionaries. But insofar as the counterrevolution presupposes the revolutionary event, we are inhabiting the modern epoch. Furthermore, and as Francis Oakley has shown, even De Maistre’s classical ultramontane book The Pope (1819) emphases the authority of the pope against history, tradition, and the conciliarist structure of the Church [2]. In this sense, De Maistre taken politonomically is no different from Hamilton’s energetic executive or the sovereign decisionism that put an end to the confessional state.

In fact, De Maistre’ conception of politics measures itself against a “metaphysics of politics” which he links to German universality of the modern subject and Protestantism. Against all ideal types, for De Maistre politics is always best understood as politonomy; that is, a second order political authority that validates itself against the insecurity, unpredictability, and radical disorder of the modern revolutionary times [3]. For the counterrevolutionary position to take hold, the volatile modern reality of the political needs first to be accepted as well as the positivist emergence of modern constitutionalism. Indeed, De Maistre’s critique of written constitutions in the “Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions” is leveled against the assumption that text is all there is to preserve order and institutional arrangement.

De Maistre argues that there is also an unwritten dimension that functions to preserve authority and genealogical force of the political regarding who has the last word in all matters of public decisions (something not too strange in contemporary jurisprudence). Of course the function of the unwritten for De Maistre has a divine origine but its assignment is to control the proliferation of discussion that weakens institutional authority, thus pouring a war over the meaning of words (this was the same problem that Hobbes confronted regarding interpretation). De Maistre’s attack against textualism and incredulity of the written text of positive law was exerted in the name of a defense of a sovereign transcendence as the sole guardian of the institutional stability [4]. This is why De Maistre defends a combination of traditional unwritten Common Law with sovereign rule guarding institutional continuity. The politonomic condition elucidates that institutional arrangement is proper to a concrete order, and not doctrinally about the Church regarding secular temporal matters. This is why the Pope enjoys sovereign immunity from the doctrinal production of the Church that allows for the emerge of politonomy.

In a way this becomes even more obvious from what at first appears as De Maistre’s most controversial and antimodern treatise Letters on the Spanish Inquisition, where he takes neither the role of the theologian nor of Hispanic monarchic providence, but rather that of modern autonomy of the political conditioned by civil power: “…any great political disorder – any attack against the body of the state – be prevented or repelled by the adoption of energetic means” [5]. Notwithstanding the different ends, this is not very different from The Federalist’s conception of executive power as energetic for second order of institutional threats. What’s more, emptying all christological substances of the Inquisition, De Maistre defines its practice from a politonomical viewpoint: “The Inquisition in its origin was an institution demanded and reestablished by the King of Spain, under very difficult and extraordinary circumstances…under control, not of the priesthood, but of the civil and royal authority” [6]. For De Maistre even a religious and clearly antimodern institution like the Inquisition was a first a political institution that was required to obey the “lawful and written will of the Sovereign” [7].

This polarity also attests to De Maistre’s politonomy: in a context where positive sola scriptura triumphed, he recommended the internal genealogical control and sovereign decisionism; whereas in monarchical Spain where no revolution had taken place, the Inquisition had to respond to norms, written laws, and civil power. This could explain at least two things: on the one hand, why De Maistre’s political philosophy was discarded and regarded with suspicious by Hispanic royalists and Carlists; and secondly, why De Maistre understood political economy in his text on commerce and state regulation regarding grain trade in Geneva [8]. Here one can see how the structure of politonomy aims at regulating the constant friction of norm and the exception in a specific institutional arrangements. To return to our starting point: the reactive attitude towards subjective politics was also modern insofar as it breaks radically with the classical view of politics that understood itself as oriented towards the good, the virtuous, and equity balancing (epikeia). If modern politics opens as an abyssal fracture, then politonomy is always the management of a catastrophic, fallen, and demonic dimension of politics. Thoroughly consistent with the dialectic of the modern epoch and its oppositorum, politics becomes destiny precisely because religious sacrifice has ceased to guarantee social order in the temporal kingdom. Politonomy emergences as the formal science of the second-best; that is, an effective way, by all means necessary, of administrating aversion given that “sovereignty is always taken and never given” [9].




1. Isaiah Berlin. “Joseph De Maistre and the Origins of Fascism”, in The Crooked Timber of Humanity (Princeton U Press, 1990), 91.

2. Francis Oakley. The Conciliarist Tradition Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church (Oxford U Press, 2003). 201. 

3. Joseph De Maistre. “Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions and Other Human Institutions”, in Major Works, Vol.1 (Imperium Press, 2021). 4. 

4. Ibid., 42-43. 

5. Joseph De Maistre. On the Spanish Inquisition (Imperium Press, 2022). 6

6. Ibid., 18.

7. Ibid., 49.

8. Joseph de Maistre. “Report on the commerce of grain between Carauge and Geneva”, in The More Moderate Side of Joseph de Maistre (McGill Queen U Press, 2005), 230. 

9. Joseph de Maistre. St. Petersburg Dialogues (McGill Queen U Press, 1993), 263.

Böckenförde sobre la unidad de Carl Schmitt. por Gerardo Muñoz 

Ernst Böckenförde, quien fuera juez de la Corte Suprema de Alemania, tal vez haya sido uno de los responsables en la restitución del pensamiento de Carl Schmitt en la postguerra distanciándose de la polémica sobre los ‘años negros’ del nacionalsocialismo así como de la instrumentalización propiamente ideológica de la nueva derecha. De hecho, lo que vuelve singular la proximidad de Böckenförde con Carl Schmitt es que ofrece lo que él mismo denominaba un uso “liberal” de quien supuestamente fuese uno de los críticos más duros de las categorías de legitimización del liberalismo moderno, como la representación, la democracia, el subjetivismo, por no hablar del economicismo, o de las teorías del valor en la jurisprudencia iusnaturalista.

¿Cómo es posible que un defensor del liberalismo político como Böckenförde haya tomado el pensamiento de Schmitt como lámpara para encarar la relación entre derecho y política, como le confiesa al biógrafo Reinhard Menhring [1]? En manos de Böckenförde la leyenda iliberal sobre el pensamiento de Schmitt colapsa, e incluso va más allá: si el liberalismo puede seguir teniendo chance en la organización política del estado debe atender a las recomendaciones de Schmitt. Böckenförde sugiere que el desplazamiento de Schmitt ocurre en dos niveles compartamentalizados donde se ubicaría toda discusión sobre el alcance, los límites, y la dimensión deficitaria del concepto de lo político.

Primer nivel: contra las teorías de “ocasionalismo” de la decisión política (que lanza Löwith pero que genera una proliferación relevante en la teoría contemporánea), para Böckenförde el concepto de lo político no remite a la decisión, sino a la unidad política subsumida a la autoridad del estado de derecho. Como bien argumentaba Böckenförde en un ensayo de 1988 sobre El concepto de lo político, la noción de lo político tiende a una “homogeneidad relativa” que solo cobra sentido en el marco de la constitución que organiza la forma de estado. Esto se deja ver con el “Guardián de la constitución”: un poder neutral que asiste a la unidad política en última instancia independientemente de los diseños constitucionales vigentes de segundo orden. ¿No es esto lo mismo que pedía Platón, aunque ignorando el constitucionalismo moderno, con la figura del Consejo Nocturno hacia el final de Las Leyes? [2].

En cualquier caso, el concepto de lo político no buscar definir un enemigo ad hoc (mucho menos producirlo), sino que existe cuando la producción de normatividad falla y la sociedad civil muestra su debilidad estructural (con respecto al estado). Este había sido el problema de la autonomía de lo civil en la teoría del estado de Hobbes, como dice el propio Schmitt en su monografía de 1938. Lo político tampoco depende de una ubicación específica de la auctoritas, aunque sí de una noción de temporalidad, por lo que se le suele involucrar al ejecutivo. Pero para Schmitt habría una diferencia entre el constitucionalismo en el polo de la legalidad, y la definición de lo político que mantiene, a pesar de todo, lo que Böckenförde llama una “homogeneidad relativa” de la autonomía de los poderes.

El segundo nivel se deriva no tanto de Böckenförde como del propio Schmitt: ¿qué pasa con el concepto de lo político una vez que la neutralización del estado entra en su eclipse filtrando todo tipo de potestas indirecta? Esto pudiera verse de dos formas. Por un lado, el concepto de lo político se elabora como respuesta a la insuficiencia de lo “civil” en la teoría más fuerte del estado (Hobbes), y que que recorre buena parte de la experiencia “liberal” del siglo veinte relativo a los presupuestos prácticos del positivismo. Schmitt responde con un concepto de lo político contra una dimensión civil que asumiendo razones del actuar es incapaz de responder a la crisis de autoridad. Pero hay una segunda respuesta que, sin negar la primera, ofrece Böckenförde en un ensayo tardío de 1997, a propósito de la obra de Schmitt. Y es allí donde Böckenförde pareciera trasladar el concepto de lo político del estado al fondo de la teología política:

“Me parece – y esta es mi opinión – que la “cifra” de la teología politica es la llave maestra de Schmitt. Aunque formulada teológicamente, aquí damos con la divisa katejóntica para responder a la lucha contra las fuerzas del reino del Anticristo. Pero formulado en su versión secularizada, esto puede tomarse como una clara hostilidad al liberalismo occidental en sus propias bases políticas e intelectuales. ¿Quiere esto decir que el enemigo es la incorporación de la propia pregunta de Carl Schmitt?” [3].

El mismo Böckenförde no logra responder a la paradoja que ha formulado: por un lado el concepto de lo político se nutre de la leyenda de la teología política convirtuendo al liberalismo en el enemigo; por otro, el liberalismo también es el resultado secularizado del saeculum transitorio de los regímenes temporales, en la que la persistencia del enemigo es irreductible a la política si es que no quiere sucumbir a la tentación donatista de una escatología teológica. Aquí se confirma la raíz agustiniana de Schmitt, que hace del concepto de lo político un principio auxiliario del saeculum contra todas las derivas indirectas (pueden ser técnicas o morales) que hacen del desacuerdo un “enemigo de la Humanidad”. Entiéndase: un enemigo expugnable de la Tierra misma: mititte me in mare si propter me est orta illa tempestas! [4]. Concepto de lo político: tierra y tiempo.




1. Ernst Böckenförde. Constitutional and Political Theory (Oxford University Press, 2017), n.20.

2. Ibíd., “The Concept of the Political: A Key to Understanding Carl Schmitt’s Constitutional Theory”. 83. 

3. Ernst Böckenförde. “Carl Schmitt Revisted”, Telos, n.109, 1996, 86.

4. Carl Schmitt. Glossarium (El Paseo Editorial, 2021), entrada 28.4.48, 176.

Hobbes y la génesis hebrea. por Gerardo Muñoz 

El antihobbesianismo postliberal consta de muchas gradaciones y matices, pero de fondo yace una paradoja conceptual relativa a la leyenda de la secularización: por un lado Thomas Hobbes aparece como aquel pensador que adoptó el registro aristotélico y agustiniano, pero solo para llevarlo a fines materialistas que anunciaría la crisis moderna de la potestas indirecta de la Iglesia; por otro, Hobbes es un pensador que reconstruye y adapta una teología política específica que debe evacuarse o permanecer desapercibida. En efecto, cuando Hobbes habla al final del Leviatán de que la Iglesia existe sobre las ruinas del fantasma del imperio romano, lo que él busca es expugnar esa fantasmagoría y no desarrollar una ciencia de estratos de aquellos escombros para la invención de una “nueva ciencia política”. Sin embargo, la dificultad en torno a Hobbes, en la medida en que supone la secularización, también remite a la fuente teológica de Hobbes que se nutre del pacto entre el pueblo judío y Dios, y que Eric Nelson relaciona al paradigma de la Republica Hebraeorum que circuló en el siglo XVII, pero que en Hobbes encuentra la síntesis de la asociación civil.

Esto quiere decir que la creación del concepto de la autoridad civil no es simplemente una secularización de conceptos cristianos, sino también una politización moderna de la teología en toda la complejidad que esto supone (la apelación a un ur-texto es bastante clara). Y como ha visto Nelson, la Republica Hebraeorum no es simplemente un paradigma estático sino una aspiración que hace posible imaginar una nueva estructura de autoridad por fuera del absolutismo de una potestas indirecta deficiente en la tarea de frenar la guerra civil [1]. Para encarar lo que Hobbes domina “the Fire of a Civil Warre”, se necesitaba una concreción de fuerza autoritativa capaz de escapar una escatología inmanente arraigada en la parálisis del “después de esta vida”. Así, el principio de lo civil es antes que todo, una forma de un representante temporal y mortal, cuya forma vinculante era un contrato con aquellos a quienes solicitaba su obediencia. La secularización hobbesiana pasa, por lo tanto, a través de un proceso genético cuya regresión es la fuente de la república judía como condición de posibilidad de lo civil.

El concepto de lo civil, sin embargo, y antes que una matriz de reconocimiento y fuente de derechos individuales se definía como una separación de poderes y potestades. Ahora la teología carecía de la última palabra sobre la política, porque su operador era la profecía. En este punto el historiador David Nirenberg tiene razón: una vez que la profecía es separada del orden de la revelación, es que se torna viable un contrato entre el profeta y el pueblo. Esta nueva dinámica daría lugar a una forma política desentendida de los subrrogados substaciales o de las intromisión nominalista del reino superior [2]. Si Moisés fue el profeta del pueblo hebreo, es porque puedo establecer un pacto como peculium de cunctis populis (un pueblo específico ante mi). No se trata de un principio de Humanidad ni de los atributos de Dios que para Hobbes son siempre insondables, sino de una función pública que garantiza el principio de autoridad que es reconocido internamente. La profecía y la función del profeta es el quizás el instrumento central en Hobbes para despejar la potestas indirecta del providencialismo de los teólogos, introduciendo no solo la división, sino más importante aún, el principio impersonal de delegación.

Según J.G.A. Pocock en su conocido estudio sobre Hobbes: “De Moisés a Samuel, de manera intermitente pero siempre recurrente, los profetas aparecen como prolocutores – hombres a los que Dios les habla y sobre quienes delega su palabra hacia el pueblo, y a través de los cuales los altos sacerdotes de Dios pueden ejercer un reino civil” [3]. Así, la fuerza de la profecía devenía neutralización contra toda sacralización de la historia y la inmanencia de salvación hacia una forma del poder civil. Por eso también es notable que los sacerdotes para Hobbes estaban conferidos a un poder civil cuya fuente era la constitución de un pacto positivo, y no meramente la apelación a una fuente superior como en el ius romano de Ulpiano [4]. El formalismo civil, la delegación, y el principio de autoridad en Hobbes fueron llaves hebreas de lo que diseñaría el aparato moderno del estado sobre la arquitectónica del principio de soberanía como liquidación de todo velo de teólogos y de recargas virtuosas de la política homogénea de la antigüedad. La fuente hebrea podía suministrar una política de la separación que la política teológica de la Iglesia no podía ofrecer al suturar la creencia de la revelación hacia la forma providencial de un imperio cristiano. No era menor que la res publica heredada de los hebreos era la condición de una teología política desde una articulación temporal para alterar el dominio de los poderes públicos y sus diseños institucionales.

Aunque la oposición a Hobbes desde el tradicionalismo católico o el naturalismo dogmático prefiere ignorar la fuente genética de la república hebrea, tal vez este sea el síntoma que recorre la interpretación del Leviatán en la conocida monografía de Carl Schmitt de 1938. Puesto que para Schmitt, la creación del Leviatán durante los siglos fue liquidada desde adentro, arruinada por el espíritu de la técnica, y finalmente “pescada” como gran ballena en el banquete del cumplimiento de la historia como mito originario. Dada la dependencia en el mito del Leviatán, para Schmitt Hobbes habría buscado divisa de una forma de “activismo filosófico” de la acción que no podía agotar la condición de un verdadero “pensamiento político” [5]. O mejor dicho, desde la propia gramática schmittiana, Hobbes no contaba con un verdadero concepto de lo político. El Leviatán en tanto que mito absoluto culminó en una desmitologización soterrada: alojar a los pescadores – falsos usurpadores del Christós, donde se patentiza el antijudaísmo de Schmitt – en la barriga de la enorme ballena. Y aquí la máxima proximidad como máxima distancia entre Schmitt y Hobbes: el concepto de lo civil estaba entregado ya a la totalización de una debilidad del mito, cuya dependencia en la (razón) acción del cive no podía garantizar una forma política en verdaderos momentos de crisis o amenaza.

De este diagnóstico se puede derivar que solo el concepto de lo político – y que Hobbes no pudo pensar como primera instancia al interior de la unidad del estado – debe prevalecer sobre la debilidad del concepto de lo civil. Aquí es interesante el contraste con Marx, ya que para el autor de “Sobre la cuestión judía” la emancipación judía guarda una relación intima con lo civil. Salvo que para Marx es el principio de la economía política lo que debería refundar la totalización social (es por esta razón que Schmitt escribía que, si Marx había encontrado la plusvalía económica, él había dado con la plusvalía de lo político). ¿Pero qué podía ofrecer el concepto de lo político sino una apuesta en última instancia desde la crisis de la separación de la teología política hebrea? ¿No era la separación de toda política la condición de posibilidad del concepto de lo civil? Tal vez el silencio sobre la génesis hobessiana de lo civil, su liquidación a través de la mitificación escatológica (Peterson y el rechazo a la conversión) y posteriormente su superación desde un conceptualismo substantivo pone en evidencia la incomprensión de la teología política, ya sea para establecer la base del estado moderno como en Thomas Hobbes, para afirmar el pueblo errante como en Erich Unger [6], o bien en las formas que pudieran anunciarse en el agotamiento de la filosofía de la historia cristiana, pero que ineludiblemente siguen contorsionando el nudo de Occidente.




1. Eric Nelson. The Hebrew Republic (Harvard University Press, 2010). 129.

2. David Nirenberg. Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. 317. 

3. J.G.A Pocock. “Time, History, Escathology in the Thought of Thomas Hobbes”, en Politics, Language, and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (University of Chicago Press, 1989). 148-201.

4. Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan (Penguin Books, 1985), 707.

5. Carl Schmitt. The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes (Greenwood Press, 1996). 85.

6. Erich Unger. Die Staatslose Bildung eines Judischen Volkes (Verlag David, 1922)

Carl Schmitt: ¿una teología política católica tenue? por Gerardo Muñoz

En una reciente presentación en el marco del Seminario de derecho, política y sociedad (Universidad del Salvador), el profesor Sebastián Abad reabrió el caso de la leyenda católica de Carl Schmitt, ciertamente un tema irresuelto a la luz de las transformaciones (epocales, aunque no solo) en las esferas del derecho, la política, y las instancias intra-soberanas del orden mundial. Es un trabajo que me permite desarrollar algunas variantes, aunque tal vez no las mismas que propone o le interesan a Abad. Glosando la crítica de Wolfgang Palaver que sostiene que el concepto de lo político de Schmitt reintroduce una concepción pagana o precristiana, se deriva que el pensamiento político de Schmitt es incompatible con los presupuestos de la teología cristiana. En realidad, esta crítica no es nueva, ya que el mismo Erik Peterson habría sostenido en su momento que la defensa de la unidad de lo político y el desprecio por la potestas indirecta “solo tiene sentido si renunciamos a ser cristiano y optamos por el paganismo” [1]. Los teólogos no han dejado de ‘falsificar’ a Schmitt, incluso los teólogos secularizados.

Recuerdo que hace algunos años atrás el gran estudioso de la obra eclesiástica de Eusebio de Cesarea, Michael Hollerich, apuntaba a la gama de “catolicismos” que se barajearon en la Weimar, algunos críticos acérrimos del liberalismo, aunque también otros que intentaron reconciliar el liberalismo con las doctrinas sociales de la Iglesia Católica [2]. Desde luego, este fue el contexto en el que tuvo lugar la primera escena de la polémica Peterson-Schmitt, y también en el que se escribe el largo poema Epimeteo Cristiano (1933) de Konrad Weiß, cuya figura Schmitt adoptará para su propia condición existencial después de la guerra. Si tomamos como punto de partida este contexto, creo que se puede ver con claridad el catolicismo sui generis de Carl Schmitt: pues en su caso no se trata de extraer y actualizar “doctrinas sociales” de la Iglesia (ni de la tradición pública), ni tampoco generar una política teológica equipada con las herramientas para justificar la revelación cristiana para una crisis de institucionalidad política. La supuesta “modernidad” de Schmitt supone una toma de distancia de la palabra de los teólogos como figura central o relevante en la vida publica europea, esto es, en el derecho.

Parte de la confusión – presente en diferentes elaboraciones en las críticas, de Palaver (paganismo) a Hugo Ball (representante romano), de Heinrich Meier (teólogo de la revelación), a Erik Peterson (defensor del imperio sin Trinidad) – en torno a la leyenda del catolicismo de Schmitt radica en que se reduce a una búsqueda de doctrinas substantivas que pierde de vista, o quizás que nunca llega a ver, que para Schmitt el catolicismo como problema en la secularización solo pretendía ser un presupuesto tenue (un mínimo enérgico, no un máximo de doctrina) capaz de generar autoreforma interna capaz de garantizar el orden. De alguna forma, la mirada de Schmitt ante las “reformas” al interior de la evaluación del cristianismo occidental es consistente con estudios tan autorizados como los de Gehart B. Lander, aunque con una mínima diferencia: la novedad de Schmitt consintió en complementar el inevitable espíritu de la reforma (ius reformandi) con la capacidad de garantizar un principio de orden concreto en el que cual solo el derecho podía tener la última palabra. De ahí que no es menor que Schmitt repita en varios lugares que su pensamiento se sitúe bajo el lema de Alberico Gentili contra los teólogos (“Silete theologi in munere alieno!”), o que repita en numerosas ocasiones que él solo podía hablar como jurista (y no como teólogo o canonista, y mucho menos como historiador del cristianismo, algo que intentó el propio Hugo Ball con su libro Cristianismo Bizantino sobre los Padres del Desierto y a quién Schmitt consideraba un extremista). Como le dice a Fulco Lanchester: “Me considero jurista al cien por ciento y nada más que eso. No deseo ser algo distinto. Soy jurista, en ello persevero y moriré como tal, con toda la desdicha que comporta” [3]. Tengo para mi que para poder “sostener” el catolicismo sui generis de Schmitt hay que partir de su práctica como jurista, y por lo tanto encargado del ámbito de las “cosas públicas”. Se trata, en todo caso, de la perseverancia del orden y del principio de autoridad del derecho.

Por eso tiene razón Andrés Rosler al decir que las afinidades de Schmitt con Weber no son accidentales sino paralelas: lo que Weber hizo para la predestinación protestante y la ética del trabajo, Schmitt lo hace con el catolicismo y el derecho público [4]. O dicho en otros términos: lo que Weber hace con la dimensión “reformista” interna de la deificatio comunitaria y sus condiciones comerciales; Schmitt lo hace con el institucionalismo, la decisión política existencial ante sus enemigos internos, y la forma estado. De ahí que a Schmitt no le interesaba si todos los conceptos teológicos católicos habrían sido secularizados, sino más bien cuáles conceptos de la tradición política podrían entenderse al interior de la secularización que inicia y preserva al estado moderno y el derecho público europeo. En este sentido no es que la teología política dependa de un concepto de lo político para reproducir enemigos; más bien, es el concepto de lo político el que presupone un resto teológico-político institucional que puede garantizar la posibilidad de un orden concreto. Esto es lo que Schmitt encuentra en los contrarrevolucionarios franceses o en los discursos de Donoso Cortés. En ambas instancias el énfasis no se encuentra tanto en la sustancia o en las doctrinas de un pensamiento ultramontano, sino más bien en la respuesta a la crisis de autoridad que ya comenzaba a despuntar en el siglo diecinueve con la impronta del liberalismo y del socialismo, dos formas de voluntad de poder. Por eso Schmitt tenía que identificar la decisión con la excepción (irreductible a la norma básica o a la regla de reconocimiento legal), aunque homologarlo al milagro se preste a más de un equívoco (i.e. ocasionalismo o ‘personalismo’).

En otras palabras, solo una teoría del derecho capaz de localizar las fuentes en la autoridad podía estar en condiciones de responderle a la anti-teología teológica de Bakunin, quién además había escrito la “teología política” de Mazzini. Visto así, el “concepto del enemigo” no es en modo alguno derivado de un resto pagano, sino más bien la capacidad regulativa de frenar la guerra civil o la autodisolución de una comunidad política desde su interior. Así , el concepto de lo político no opera en función taxativa de la revelación, sino como razón secundaria, pues es un sobrevenido de toda teología política cuya finalidad es evitar un mal mayor (razón primaria): la desintegración y el enemigo absoluto, sea en nombre de Dios o de la Humanidad. Por lo tanto, creo que si algo podemos decir con certeza del catolicismo “tenue” de Schmitt es que podía evitar tanto el dominio de los sacerdotes como el de los humanistas y los técnicos modernos. Ni la apelación de la potestas indirecta de la Iglesia ni la unificación del mundo bajo la técnica podían dar una respuesta adecuada al problema latente de la inestabilidad y de la guerra civil. Como bien le recuerda Schmitt a Peterson en Teología Política II sobre la centralidad de poder político eclesiástico (uso la edición inglesa del libro):

“Was the Augustinian peace in the Civitas Dei able to accomplish this [putting an end to wars and civil wars]? The millennium of Christian popes and emperors who recognized the Augustinian theology of peace was also a millennium of wars and civil wars. The doctrine of the two swords – one of which is a spiritual sword – is still beyond the horizon. The confessional civil wars during the Reformation, in the Christian sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were about the ius reformandi (right to reform) of the Christian Church; they were conferred with the inner theological and even dinner Christological disputes. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan is the fruit of a particular theological-political era. An epoch of ius revolutionalis and total secularization followed.” [5].

Vemos con claridad que para Schmitt la ius formandi (algo que también había confirmado Weber) no podía ofrecer una respuesta al ius revolutionis, puesto que la reforma trabajaba la experiencia monástica intra-cristiana, mas no la aceleración revolucionaria de la cosa pública con aspiración a la dominación del mundo. Precisamente por esta razón es que Hobbes pudo introducir la autoridad soberana como neutralización de la guerra civil. ¿Pero de dónde bebe esa ‘ancient Wisdom’, como le llama Schmitt hacia el final de su monografía de 193&? El pasaje a la autoridad moderna necesita de la primacía de una potestas directa que solo dejara la potestas indirecta en el campo de lo privado, o bien en el registro de los conceptos teológicos secularizados operativos para la nueva fase histórica de la modernidad. De ahí que la figura central del catolicismo de Schmitt – lejos de las formas y doctrinas de la tradición del derecho natural y del tomismo que criticó como insuficientes formas de moralización (Homo homini Radbruch)– es el Katechon que emerge en San Pablo, Tesalonicenses 2: 6-7 [6]. Este es el arcano del catolicismo tenue. ¿Pero en qué sentido?

A mi parecer esta es la figura que ofrece un mínimo “litmus test” del catolicismo de Schmitt, o de lo que Schmitt entendía como el principio de una teología política católica: ¿Quién o qué puede frenar una guerra civil? ¿Quién tiene la última palabra? En efecto, para Schmitt en la medida en que vivamos en la estructuración de los dos reinos de la doctrina de San Agustín, la pregunta Quis iudicabit? Quis interpretabitur? es la única pregunta concreta que hace emerger una y otra vez la fuente de la teología política, y para la cual solo el jurista podía responder como representante existencial del ordo. Es así como puede entenderse sin misterios, su autodefinición como Epimeteo cristiano tomada de la poética de Weiß: “Cumple lo que debes cumplir, ya está desde siempre complicado tú no puedes más que responder” [7l. De ahí que a Schmitt no le interesara la aceleración inmanente de la historia cristiana. Es la esfera del derecho la que responde sobre la base de una teología politica del Katechon. Siempre atento a la realidad y al principio existencial concreto que solicita el concepto de lo político, nos preguntaríamos qué pensaría Schmitt hoy del pasaje una stasis que ligada a la propia capacidad de responder del derecho positivo. ¿A dónde ha ido a parar el κατέχων si el derecho público ha quedado liquidado en manos de sacerdotes (Ulpiano) y de jueces Hércules? Ius civile bellum. ¿Es este el límite de Schmitt, y la crisis interna del catolicismo tenue para darnos respuestas en el colapso categorial del derecho? ¿Puede acaso el κατέχων responde a una crisis que ya no es externa sino interna?




1. Carta de Erik Peterson a Carl Schmitt, en Nichtweiß, 734-735, citada en Hollerich (2012), 41. Y de Wolfgang Palaver, “A Girardian Reading of Schmitt’s Political TheologyTelos, N.93, 1992, 43-68.

2. Michael Hollerich. “Catholic Anti-Liberalism in Weimar: Political Theology and its Critics”, en The Weimar Moment: Liberalism, Political Theology and Law (Lexington Books, 2012),

3. Carl Schmitt. “Un jurista frente a sí mismo: entrevista de Fulco Lanchester a Carl Schmitt”, Carl-Schmitt-Studien, 1, 2017, 223.

4. Respuesta de Andrés Rosler al ensayo de Sebastián Abad, ensayo inédito, agosto de 2022. 

5.Carl Schmitt. Political Theology II (Polity Press, 2008), 101.

6. Ver mi comentario sobre las críticas de Schmitt en Glossarium, “Carl Schmitt y el derecho natural” (2022): https://infrapoliticalreflections.org/2022/04/04/carl-schmitt-y-el-derecho-natural-por-gerardo-munoz/

7. Carl Schmitt. Ex captivate salus: experiences 1945-1947 (Polity Press, 2017), 88.