If the founding move that establishes a symbolic universe is the empty gesture, how is a gesture emptied? How is its content neutralized? Through repetition. Giorgio Agamben tried to indicate this process with the notion of profanation: in the opposition between sacred and secular, profanation of the secular does not equal secularization; profanation puts the sacred text or practice into a different context, it subtracts it from its proper context and functioning. As such, profanation remains in the domain of the non-utility, merely enacting a “perverted” non-utility. To profanate a mass is to perform a black mass, not to study the mass as object of the psychology of religion. In Kafka’s The Trial, the weird extended debate between Joseph K. and the Priest about the Law (which follows the parable of the Door of the Law) is deeply profanatory – one can even say that Kafka is the greatest profanator of the Jewish Law. As such, profanation – not secularization – is the true materialist undermining of the Sacred: secularization always relies on its disavowed sacred foundation, which survives either as exception or as a formal structure. Protestantism realizes this split between the Sacred and the secular at its most radical: it secularizes the material world, but keeps religion apart, plus it introduces the formal religious principle into the very capitalist economy. (Mutatis mutandis, the same goes for the Stalinist Communism – it is secularized, not profaned religion.)
Art “allows for an absolute and genuinely transformative liberation-expression, precisely because what it liberates is nothing other than the liberating itself, the movement of pure spiritualization or dematerialization” (Hallward 122): what has to be liberated is ultimately liberation itself, the movement of “deterritorializing” all actual entities. This self-relating move is crucial – and, along the same lines, what desire desires is not a determinate object but the unconditional assertion of desiring itself (or, as Nietzsche put it, the will is at its most radical the will to will itself).
– Excerpts from Deleuze and the Lacanian Real by Slavoj Zizek