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Ineffability 81 5 From Communicable Matter to Incommunicable “Stuff” Extreme Combinatorics and the Return of Ineffability Since Kant, there has been an intense debate around the question of the location of the Sublime: Is it in the object or in the subject? In this essay, I tackle what I see as a fast- growing, indeed ubiqui- tous, sociocultural phenomenon, namely, the imagistic, linguistic, and ontological inability to configure the rising tide of confounding “objects,” leading to the vacuous usage of the nondescriptor “stuff.” Today, I argue, the viewer

45 The Ineffable There is a perfection of an operatic moment in an opera gen- erally derided now, Gounod’s Faust, that perfectly illustrates the musical illumination of the spirit within a character. It is not one of the “religious” moments of the work, but rather in its most perfect act and scene, the act 2 Garden Scene, and the moment occurs in a single sentence, a simple four- measure musical phrase: “O silence! O bonheur! Ineffable mystère” (Silence! Joy! Ineffable mystery). The four words are completely standard operatic language for the period, as

J2. Ineffability 315 tinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an ab- normal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal per- ceptions." In a similar vein, Santayana has repeatedly called mysticism "a religious disease." Although Santayana and Russell, usually poles apart, are in partial agreement on this point, their view is decidedly a minority view. Catholics think of some mystics as saints, while most Protestants are thrilled by the individ- ualism of so many mystics. Those who are not