Baudrillardian Anglicanism

Jean Baudrillard discussed hyperreality in his famous essay Simulacra and Simulations. He said:

The real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models — and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. It is nothing more than operational. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is a hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.

His ‘desert of the real’ concept perhaps echoed Nietzsche, who long before had said that “truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are: metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.”

Operating with this in mind, one can ask what is signified by the term “Anglican” in the Anglican Mission in the Americas? What is real and what is imaginary in the term used by this organization? Does it refer to doctrinal formulations from the time of Queen Elizabeth I as mediated through historical prayer books and norms, or simply a simulacrum of the same? As Baudrillard said, “It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes.” The appearance of reality is enough to sustain the organization and provide a semblance of historical connectedness, while allowing for a plurality of meanings, none of which really map the territory of liturgical/doctrinal norms. Borges puts it this way:

Menard, a contemporary of William James, defines history not as a delving into reality but as the very fount of reality. Historical truth, for Menard, is not “what happened”; it is what we believe happened. [from Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote]

The fount of reality dictated by statements that look at one polarity only, not casting a wider net to capture the possible origin of the event. For Baudrillard, this process proceeds as follows:

These would be the successive phases of the image:

It is the reflection of a basic reality.

It masks and perverts a basic reality.

It masks the absence of a basic reality.

It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

Discerning what stage of this schema that the Mission falls into is an individual judgement. The untethering of the Mission from a Provincial home added to the absence of Prayer Book worship and zeal for Elizabethan norms are indicative of a final simulacrum, as are the aversion to clerical dress and historic norms of ordination.

Applying Baudrillard’s categories to the AMiA is only a thought exercise, a tool to attempt to elaborate on what the simulacrum is actually simulating. The steady march towards discarding what was once thought of as Anglican sees its culmination in a series of referents, all pointing to each other and none to any definable core. Elsewhere, Baudrillard wrote:

As for the new events, one could say that they plough a void in front of themselves as they go along, wherein they also get swallowed up. It seems that everything jostles ahead in a haste to be forgotten. These events leave no place for interpretation, if not for all interpretations simultaneously, and where they skirt all the intent of meaning and the heavy/weighty attraction of a continued history as they enter on the light orbit of a discontinued history. They arrive faster than their shadow – unforeseen for the most part – however, do not have any consequences.

We must part ways with Baudrillard’s nihilism, and yet it is only with great effort that one can combat the weightless quality of events interpreted only by favored parties or internet press releases.

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