Prayer = Occular Technology (Star of Redemption)


Technology scrambles what we think we mean when we think about religion. No, prayer has nothing to do with time, sound, language, signification, semantic symbolization, or propositional content. Looked at this way, prayer has to do with the occular perception, pictures, vision and the visual phenomenalization of distant and radiant stellar reaches. As it appears in Franz Rosenzweig’s 1921 magnum opus, The Star of Redemption, prayer is technological:

The searchlight of the prayer lights up for everyone only what it lights up for everyone only what illuminates for all: only the fathers, the Kingdom. All this beforehand remains in darkness, the Kingdom of God is the nearest. Since the Star that otherwise shines out in the distance of eternity this becomes visible as this which is nearest, the whole power of love turns toward it and draws in its light, with magical force through the night of the future into the day of the praying community. (Rosenzweig, Star of Redemption, Galli translation, pp.310-11)

As long as we know only elements of the paths and laws of the path of a star, our eyes have not yet seen it; it is only a material point that moves in pace. Only when a telescope and spectroscope draw it near to us do we know it as we know a tool we use or a picture in our room: with familiar visual perception…That which can be looked at is relieved of language, put into relief above it. Light does not talk; but shines. It is not turned in on itself; it radiates not inward but outward…like a face, like an eye radiates, an eye that becomes eloquent without needing to open its lips” (p.313).

Note the combinations of distance and nearness with magic, technology, vision, and light. This is what makes the appearance of the Star a type of techne. The combinations of stars and technological devices feels like science fiction.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Prayer = Occular Technology (Star of Redemption)

  1. EL says:

    I have recently found an article that related prayer with Foucault’s tech of the self…
    Abstract and full text available here:

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