Letters Journal & Negative Theology

Nihilists! One Less Effort if You Would be Nihilists‘ is an interesting article by John Cunningham at Mute on Letters Journal, an  ‘Anti-Political Communist Journal’. I haven’t actually seen the physical Letters Journal, but judging by its Hebrew scripture-citing blog there is an interest in radical strands of theology which I share. Or maybe, as Cunningham suggests, it is characterised by a  ‘negative theology’:

‘As fragmentary as Letters appears to be it’s in no way random or ill thought out. Overall, the effect is of a cohesive assemblage happily indeterminate in its theoretical negation and intent on opening out anti-capitalist critique without locking into pre-existing models. This assemblage revolves around the absent object ‘communism’ more defined by its lack in the present than any latent immanence. As Letters IV notes, ‘Whatever is possible in this world is not communism‘. This lack is disruptive in its absence, forcing the anecdotal and literary fragments to revolve around it. But the notion of communism is also decomposed in that reflections upon it end up incorporating the everyday experience of its lack. This infects the certainty usually expressed in critique with an awareness of its own limitations and failure however embedded in critical science it may be. In Letters IV this is almost a negative theology with ‘G-d’ replaced by a communism immanent in its very absence. Much like Kafka’s parables of ‘no exit’ such as The Castle, this accentuates the negativity of the existent, with any kind of utopia only existing as the negative image of the accumulated debris of the capitalist present.This does run the risk of over-emphasising ‘no exit’ over any agency to change ‘fate’. Emphasising ‘no exit’ can risk a reification of such structural constraints and the loss of any sense of the essential instability of capitalism due to its basis in that most unstable element of all – human labour. Generally though, this sense of ‘no exit’ is finely balanced between its destructive use as a way of accentuating the lack inherent in a world built around the needs of capital and a subsequent necessity of not simply retreating to the safety of theoretical certainty’.

Here’s an extract from Letters Journal, October 2010:


1. G-d exists because G-d cannot be expressed. 2. The English word “God” is incoherent. It lacks definition. It is, at best, a question (ie. which God?, what sort of God?, etcetera), but it primarily functions as an expression of dishonesty. 3. One writes G-d as an acknowledgment of the limits of human language. Hebrew demonstrates this limit; the language lacks a word for G-d and communicates entirely in euphemism – King of the Universe, My Lord, etcetera. 4. G-d is not logical; G-d exists entirely outside of logic. If one presupposes G-d’s omnipotence, there is the obvious paradox. 5. G-d is other even to otherness. 6. G-d persists as a lack, as a problem both inexpressible and unavoidable. G-d exists in this problem outside any argument or doubt. 7. G-d’s inexpressibility is explained in the Talmud as exile. 8. The universe exists because it is expressed; G-d is that which expresses it. 9. The inability of the universe to express G-d – the inability of one to express that which is one is expressed by – is the problem of communication. 10. G-d is the radical limit of language; therefore, it is the beginning of the anti-political communist adventure. 11. The adventure is doomed but remains, at heart, the only fundamentally optimistic project in a world ruled by the anarchy and nihilism of the market. And so it is as it shall be’.


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