There is no explaining the pure experience. There is only the completely unwarranted presupposition that others should others should somehow understand that it has taken place. but the judgement whether a pure rather than a secondary experience has actually occurred can, by definition, only be self-referential.&that would be in order if, simultaneously, there were not the presumption that something objectively meaningful about phenomenal reality had been illuminated.Or, putting it another way,the problem is not what James Joyce termed the epiphany, the momentary glimpse of meaning experienced by an individual, but rather the refusal to define its existential place or recognize its explanatory limits....Insisting upon the absolute character of revelatory truth obviously generates a division between the saved & the damned.There arises the simultaneous desire to abolish blasphemy and bring the heathen into the light.Not every person in quest of the pure experience,of course,is a religious fanatic or obsessed with issues of identity.Making existential sense of reality through the pure experience,feeling a sense of belonging, is a serious matter & a legitimate undertaking.But the more the preoccupation with the purity of the experience, it only follows,the more fanatical the believer. In political terms,therefore,the problem is less the lack of intensity in the lived life of the individual than the increasing attempts by individuals and groups to insist that their own,particular,deeply felt existential or religious or aesthetic experience should be privileged in the public realm.Indeed, this runs directly counter to the Enlightenment.... Different ideas have a different role in different spheres of social action.Subjectivity has a pivotal role to play in discussing existential or aesthetic experience while the universal subject is necessary understanding of citizenship or the rule of law.From such a perspective,indeed,the seemingly irresolvable conflict between subjectivity and the subject becomes illusory: it is instead a matter of what should assume primacy in what realm....From the standpoint of a socially constructed subjectivity,however, only members of a particular group can have the appropriate intuition or experience, to make judgements about their culture or their politics...This stance now embraced by so many on the left,however, actually derives from arguments generated first by the Counter-Enlightenment & then the radical right during the Dreyfus Affair.These reactionaries, too, claimed that rather than introduce grand narratives or totalizing ambitions or universal ideas of justice, intellectuals should commit themselves to the particular groups with whose unique discourses and experiences they, as individuals, are intimately and existentially familiar.The pure-or less contaminated- experience of group members was seen as providing them a privileged insight into a particular form of oppression. Criticism from the outsider loses its value and questions concerning the adjudication of differences between groups are never faced,...Not every person who believes in the pure experience -again-was an anti-Semite or fascist.But it is interesting how the pure experience, with its vaunted contempt for the public and its social apathy,can be manipulated in the realm of politics.Utopia doesn't appear only in the idea of a former golden age located somewhere in the past or the vision of future paradise...history has shown the danger of turning reason into an enemy and condemning universal ideals in the name of some parochial sense of place rooted in a particular community, Or, put another way, where power matters the pure experience is never quite so pure and no place is sacrosanct.Better to be a bit more modest when confronting social reality and begin the real work of specifying conditions under which each can most freely pursue his or her existential longing &find a place in the sun.
Stephen Eric Bronner