& then a chill ran through me at her final metaphor … Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep and, that discourse is not a two-or-more-way conversation. It is One

I’ve been reading Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep: a theology of becoming. I came to it through Clayton Crockett’s Energy and Change (a little about which here). I went to some trouble to get the Keller. It was expensive and appears not to have had a reprint since the original imprint by Routledge in 2003.

And it was worth it. Crockett called it poetic, a poetic work of tehomic theology, introducing me to this word and concept that appears in the left index here in Hebrew, תְּהוֹם. Tehom has been a useful concept in the work I’ve been doing on cinematic time (here, here and here).

I’m currently working on the fourth section, “Theory of the Moving Image.” It’s the longest so far. It is for the reason that the theory gets interrupted by a detour that takes me around the planet and into space. You’ll see what I mean when I post it here.

Poetic. Crockett’s use of this epithet is in context reductive. It reduces Keller’s use of metaphoric association to ornamentation when the metaphors go down deep. I know, it need not. In another reading of poetic, as ποιεῖν, it would be flattering… then, it’s not a creative work, Face of the Deep but a work on creation, in the King James version, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Here‘s a nice comparison table for the Hebrew text, including תְה֑וֹם, with the transliteration ṯə·hō·wm, and terms that appear frequently throughout Keller’s book, elohim – אֱלֹהִ֔ים, which might actually be plural, מְרַחֶ֖פֶת – translated in the King James as “moved upon,” when it might actually mean that the spirit or breath hovered, shivered or stirred the surface of the deep, the deep – tehom; and תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ, that Keller transliterates as tohu-vabohu, formless and void but that might actually be chaos and chaos not lacking form but in motion, moving there, before the stirring on the face of the deep of ruach, וְר֣וּחַ, breath, spirit. I think here of Ruark Lewis, a friend although I haven’t seen him for years; an article about him here. Now, Ruark is a poet completely nonreductively,

I’m more interested in breaking language in an abject sense, so that the voice is produced between sound and noise to form a dissident and abstract outcome. Perhaps the shock of disabling something as primary as the tool of communication interests me more than some logical conceptual form.source

I have to include this because it’s such a great photo. Ruark Lewis performing Banalities / Banalitäten at Theater am Halleschen Ufer, Berlin, 2003 according to the caption. Photo courtesy of Tanzcompagnie Rubato Berlin:

Tohu-vabohu – תהו ובהו

… might mean formless and void … might mean void and waste … is a play on words making use of Hebrew’s ability to express absence without negation … so, not lacking form, not formless as anything lacking … literally, desert without water (?) and so goes from waterlessness to waterful, with the deep of the ancient sea, tehom … might mean waste and emptiness … can mean bewildered and astonished …

…then, might mean chaos not as the absence of order or form or nothing (Keller’s book is an extended argument against the notion of creation ex nihilo) but on the way, in motion, as chaos tends to be… : Keller’s endnote ::: cites Norbert Samuelson, Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation, “Finding in contemporary astrophysics a more radical notion of creation from nothing than in “the Jewish dogma of creation,” he suggests that while there is extensive congruence between the classic Jewish teaching and physics, the latter “fails to capture the sense in which this nothing is a motion towards something” … (282)

… energy itself seems to be an ordering principle …

… to electrify the boundary between eternity and time …


Centering time in Christ, the time-line at once lurches forward toward the end–and is pulled back by the power of the origin itself. “The creation” now serves less to open up a universe than to limit its significance to the timeless logos, or rather the dehistoricized past tense, the Christ event.

Creation itself, with its nonhuman multiples and materialities, continued to lose whatever intrinsic value it might have been granted, had the Church retained a greater sense of cosmological and hermeneutical diversity. Another quite formidable tendency takes over. Whatever dualism was overcome within the discourse of eternity–by eliminating any preexistent matter or chaotic Other–returns to electrify the boundary between eternity and time. The uncriticized binary of eternal being vs. spatio-temporal becoming now gets dramatized in the dominion of the purely eternal and unchanging Creator over and above the perishable world He created. But this world-stuff, as it turns out, is terribly unstable. It is constantly dissolving back into the nothing from which it came. (58-59)

Keller: … the neo-imperial orders of late capitalism foment a consuming hysteria, a greed, which indeed never rests … (79)

Keller: … the suffering of colonization and exile drove P to write a new beginning for the people … (160) [ie out of Babylon]


As the third Christian millennium slouches forward, religious terror and counter-terror on the rise, all the avant-garde apocalypses, with their unveilings of God’s and other ends, posture rather quaintly. They repeat the supersessionism they mean to supersede. (229-30)

… recalls, all the lousy little poets going around trying to sound like Charlie Manson, of Leonard Cohen.

Keller: … differences are intensified precisely by being brought into relation. (232)

… are they? … and look at the placement of, precisely. Precisely shares a root word with scissors, as Keller elsewhere points out in regard to decision. It makes a cut.

And this is precisely the reason I’ve adopted from Keller the tehom concept.

… but, isn’t the cut suppressed in or subsumed or sutured by the relation of differences? for the sake of intensification? Isn’t the cut itself sufficiently intense? Is it not deep enough?

Or being deep is it hidden? Or being deep, and from the deep, tehomic, is it as Keller all over the Face of the Deep says genetically lost? I mean in the tehomophobia she locates as operative from the 5th century of the ex nihilo interpretation of creation.

This interpretation grew, she says it did, out of an heresiology, the discourse of and condemning heresy.

Tehomic thinking can be heretical for presuming a material (mater-nal) antecedence to a dominological creation ex nihilo.

I like this word Keller uses too, dominology. Better than dominant or dominating discourse. It means the imposition of an interpretation exclusive of all others, in order to dominate and impose a dominant theology. Albeit one based in heresiology, of which Keller makes good use.

… and on this point of discursivity, I read that Jenni Hermoso did not consent to Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales’s kiss. He kissed her on the lips during the ceremony awarding the Spanish team the World Cup.

He kissed the whole team, I think. Hermoso rejects any suggestion of the kiss being consensual.

You could say the kiss plays over sexual difference, intensifying differences in an unsolicited, unwanted and nonconsensual relation.

… so the relation between differences … it could be one of force, one of fact, of an act and outside of discursivity, not within the consensus of relations and transactions that makes up the language or cultural semiotic. The relation in this kiss breaks with that consensus.

… but then it does so discursively.

… and nondiscursively.

What rules is it breaking?

Those of discourse that apply to nondiscursive acts.

… looking at it, it’s as if you can see the intensification. So that the image plays a discursive role in the moral discourse of nonconsensual physical relations … and of course there’s the dominological import of Luis Rubiales’s presidentship of the Spanish football federation. His (mis | ab)use of power.

Should Hermoso have come back at him? … should it have been plastered all over the press? … are the two things linked? Like a bad syllogism. Coming back at him > being plastered all over the press > …

Thinking these things I read these lines. A Fifa investigation was initiated. Rubiales responded with a meandering speech that railed against “false feminism” and the “social assassination” of his character (here).

And I find him fully responsible, both for his physical assault and for Hermoso’s press-powered coming back at him, because he ought simply have deferred to her.

I find him responsible because of his entry into public discourse as if it was a conversation, as if there are two sides to the conversation. When there is only one. It’s called discourse.

It’s a one-way street. Unfortunately despite all the talk about inclusion and diversity this is no assurance that it goes in the direction of moral improvement.

Claire Dederer has a good word for it. Static.

one-way static … in her Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma, 2023–about which a little here.

Static calls to mind Giorgio Agamben’s statement of its provenance in στάσις, meaning a period of civil war in the polis, the Greek city state (same root). Stasis places citizens in opposition who are fighting about either the political or economic constitution of the state. The same could be said of discursive opposition and of the constitution of discourse in general, in public and at the level of the global reach of discursive media.

Keller’s final several chapters palled on me. And then a chill ran through me at her final metaphor. The metaphor arises from a close reading of Iyyun Circle, the thirteenth century Sefer Bahir, or Book of Illumination,

The grammar of command and obedience has been replaced by an almost cinematographic montage of metamorphosis. … Its theological saturation depicts no self-sufficient and discarnate transcendence but a radical incompletion, a streaming infinity. ([my emphasis] 238)