Pit Schultz on Thu, 11 Jul 96 00:08 MDT

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nettime: The space of revelations - Wim Nijenhuis

The space of revelations

Wim Nijenhuis

A revelation (apokalypsis) is a presentation. Something
is being expressed, something becomes phenomenal or visi-
ble. A revelation brings something to light. What was once
hidden in darkness becomes knowable and known. The essence
of a revelation is that there can be no mistake.

'And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And
being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the
midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Sun of
man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt
about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his
hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes
were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine
brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as
the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand
seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged
sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his
(The revelation of St. John the Divine, I:12-16)
(cursive by the author)

The space of revelations is the infra-normal time-space
of a manifestation which emerges, makes a lasting impres-
sion and then vanishes. It is an interspace, an interval
in time. The voice that calls and proclaims, and the
manifestation bathed in light are not in Newtonian space-
time and cannot be measured by euclidian geometry since
they have no continuity. The surface of the inscription 
is not the street or the square but a temporal crack in
the cosmos - the manifestation time or illumination time -
the sound and light of which are the carriers. A revelati-
on puts the closedness and the unicity of the real world
in a different perspective, as it presents that, which has
no place in the here. Its manifestation points to a world
that is hidden from our view: the beyond, the parallel
world. Its miracle is that of its trans-appearance in a
temporal interval.

A revelation is actual, true and real.
A revelation is actual, as it exists in its own time but
it is also an actualitas, because it has an effect.
A revelation is true as it is evident, but it is not of
the real world as it does not embrace the possible. Its
truth is contrary to that of the possible.
A revelation is real as we have evidence of it. But even
if the revelation is only imagined it would be real in as
far as it is other than what is possible and apparent,
because it acts on the self and may even have an impact
far greater than the persons and things we find in the
real world.
In its inactuality a revelation may exist in our memory.
(but the world of the media has no memory). It is only in
our memory that a revelation can have continuity. The
continuity of a revelation therefore can only be found in
psychological time.

The space of revelations is made by poetic objects. A
revelation is related to language in the sense that it has
the power to evoke a representation. By analogy we can say
that poetic objects emerge as soon as a carrier makes
their manifestation possible. This carrier can be a word,
a definition, but also a light effect. The object disap-
pears as soon as its carrier disappears.
It is not correct however to assume that this would justi-
fy a coordination of time and space, to assume for in-
stance, that the order of revelations consists of thought
and extension. In that case the object would have a loca-
tion in a field which would allow us to find it again.
The temporal order of manifestations lacks a space which
is a continuity in time. If, for instance, we see a series
of revelations, a cloud of smoke, say, and then a burning
field followed by a half-extinguished cigarette, they have
no coherence other than the association of thoughts that
links them up. Causality is an effect of the imagination.
The space of revelations is held together within a mundus

The imaginary linking up of poetic objects, which call to
mind rather then represent a world, allows for a science
of non-existing objects. The objective of such a science
would not be its credibility but the pleasure of the
representation and the sensationalism of its 'architectu-
ral' constructions. One cannot seek truth or probability
in the construction of the temporal orders of poetic
objects but it is possible to find wonder and bewilder-
ment, to play it off against reality.

A revelation derealises the world as it puts reality in
a different perspective within the domain of 'reliable
appearances'. Reality too is a phenomenon of time and is
generally attributed to all that come into being, has come
into being, is coming into being or ends. A sense of
reality is a transcendental conciousness of how things
proceed that goes beyond and forces back other contents
of our consciousness.
A sense of reality is created by experiencing, living,
suffering and endduring all that happens to us but parti-
cularly by what we expect or anticipate, what we prepare
ourselves for or what we are ready for. The conciousness
of the real possibility is evidence of our having been
struck in advance by what is to come and what might curb
our freedom to act. That is why our presentation of reali-
ty generally produces a kind of docility, which is elimi-
nated by the effect of derealisation produced by a revela-

The derealised world of revelations corresponds to a
subjective and psychological philosophy of time. Time is
real only for the moment. The present is indefinite, the
future is no more than what is expected in the present and
the past is what is remembered in the present.
The time-space of a revelation actualises the world radi-
cally. It creates the actuality of the apocalypse.

The geometry of heaven is defined by verticality. Not far
off or nearby but high and low. Where high and low coinci-
de, where they are one and the same world, we find Paradise.
A heaven on earth is made by lovers. When they feel a
great happiness they say they are 'in heaven'. Dancers
wish to dance their partners in heaven. 'Ich tanze mit dir
in den Himmel hinein.' Heaven is a situation in everyday life
when we feel blissfully happy. From time immemorial man has
tried to create heaven on earth.

There are no bodies outside heaven, or places, nor is
there emptiness or time.
In his book 'On Heaven' Aristotle argues that heaven does
not come into being nor does it perish. It has neither
beginning nor end. Consequently heaven is a mathematical
structure, which comprises the totality of all bodies and
of all physical reality. Heaven is characterised by three
things which all fit within this idea. First, heaven is
all reality found on the horizon. This is the commonplace
view. Second, heaven is the body that, from the horizon
of the visible world extends into the distance.
In this sense the sun, the moon and the stars are all
within heaven's circumference. In the third and widest
sense heaven is Totality, the Universe, as it should be
supposed for the explanation of reality. This heaven can
only be calculated and geometrically constructed.

Christianity sees Heaven as part of a bipolar and closed
world. It denies the infinite sphere. The vertical truth
of the world rests on a totalised opposition between
Heaven and earth. Paradise, out of bounds since the fall
of man, lies on the border, that is, on the horizon of the
world. Below is the worldly earth, barren and desolate.
In between there is an abstract space the neutrality of
which is best expressed in the landscape of the desert.
It is the zone of exclusion, a metapher for the inter-
space which seperates the 'high' (Heaven) from the 'low'

Western culture attemps to bridge the interspace. The
being that has traditionally had the privilege to do so
is the angel. An angel however is not merely a medium that
guards and cruises the interspace, it is also a represen-
tation of Heaven. Through this being we can learn more
about it. 
The longing for Heaven has fostered the millennia-long
project to build the transcendental bridge that thanks to
technological progress and acceleration now seems to have
reached its final stage.

The most important building blocks of the transcendental
bridge are the angel's wing and the clouds.
The wing is represented as polychromatic; the variety of
colours makes it resemble a rainbow. The rainbow is the
visible bridge between heaven and earth. That is also why
all other arched forms are building elements of the trans-
cendental bridge. Where the arched forms link up to make
domes and vaults they become the evident architecture of
The clouds are the building material of the transcendental
bridge as the sun breaking through them provides them with
polychromy and their form is polymorphous. They are the
ideal building material in that their permanently changing
forms suggest a movement from this place to that place,
from the earth to heaven. The clouds make a flowing and
moveable transition from one state to another.

The transcendental bridge alters those who set foot on it.
He who walks with his head in the clouds is touched by
heaven. The bridge causes the transformation of our being,
which moves from density and heaviness to rareness and
lightness. Ultimately this will lead to a transfiguration,
that is, the change into a being of light.
If heaven and earth represent the two extremes of a bipo-
lar opposition in the world, the interspace is a neutral
zone. This zone, where heaven and earth meet is represen-
ted as a shining plane.
Being neither heaven nor earth it is the visual expression
of a space of light which cannot accommodate the substance
of the visible figures outlined against it. The light
stands for the undefined space of the transfiguration
which transforms a being of spatial dimensions into a
manifestation with the moveability of light.
Similarly the tele-traveller cannot set foot on the tele-
bridge of electronic communication in his material body.
He will adopt an intermediate form, the simulative movea-
bility of a pseudo-body which is a consequence of the
properties of the technological and secondary light in
which the traveller moves.
It is the same with UFOs, not their manifestation, but
their materiality and their reality in space is the sub-
ject of debate.

We cannot enter the 'space of light' in our material body.
This is why the space of light can never be a public
space. The experience of Thomas of Aquino corroborate
this. Whoever attemps to achieve wholeness, or holiness,
must conquer the time of matter, the coming and the going
of things, to see into outertime. Angels are out of time.
They are free from the metamorphoses that every material
form is subject to, angels are purely spiritual forms.
Thomas of Aquino has brought to light this 'truth of the
angels' by becoming an angel himself. At his canonisation
it was established that during his life Thomas had become
more and more like an angel. In him aspects of heavenly
bliss had been realised on this earth; Heaven had descen-
ded in him. He was a man of the beyond who lived in paral-
lel worlds. Vincentius Contenson (died 1674) called Thomas
a doctor Angelicus 'not only on account of his sharp
intellect, which could penetrate the depths of truth, but
also because spiritually he was in Heaven among the angels
while his body sojourned on earth'.

Angels are immaterial and can therefore go through walls
and closed doors but their reality is the influence they
exert. Angels know of no obstacles, they live in a trans-
parent world. Since angels are pure spirit and in that
sense not of this world their presence is felt through
their ability to act. They are real when we feel their
influence as is illustrated by the angels in 'Der Himmel
Şber Berlin'.

The constructed heaven has three structural characteris-
The first is that of the earth in reverse. Where below
there is shortage, there is plenty in heaven. In heaven
wishes are instantly gratified, on earth this is represen-
ted by the party. Our party behaviour - drunkenness,
surfeit, fatigue, incapability to go on, disgust - shows
why we are so reluctant to stay in heaven forever.
The second characteristic that would make heaven attracti-
ve therefore is that of happiness devoid of desire. The
road to be taken is that of austerity, which is the least
difficult for those who already have everything they
The third characteristic is that of the realised utopia.
Utopia is a situation in which things are no longer stated
or declared but merely said. The difference between spea-
king and thinking, seeing and understanding, fact and
fiction no longer exists.

The realised utopia - not the utopia of the plan!- closely
resembles paradise, the concept of which is the garden.
The garden is nostalgic in the sense that it embodies
'preservation'. The garden is a place preserved where
paradise still lingers. The garden is incorporated in the
poetics of what still is. Mythical memories from time
immemorial sojourn there. Gardens are the artificial
paradises from a previous life, waking up from its intoxi-
cation is tragic.
'To be in paradise' is to become aware thar everything
else is a parade, in the sense that things are on show,