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TThe Face of the Deep is the first complete theology to reclaim creation from the watery chaos - creatio ex profundis - both as an alternative to the orthodox power-discourse of creation from nothing, and as a figure of the bottomless process of becoming. The dogma of an original creation from absolute nothingness dominates Western religious discourse as well as modern common sense. The creatio ex nihilo reflects the unquestionable presupposition of faith in an omnipotent Creator and Lord, and so in the pure and simple Origin of our complicated world. The process of creativity in matters natural, social and textual is thus read as a function of power and order: an assumption which upholds Jewish, Christian and Muslim orthodoxies. But the ancient texts, says Catherine Keller, imagine a messier beginning, with no clear point of origin and no final end. The difference of the heteroglossic Deep - the Hebrew tehom or primal oceanic chaos - already marks every beginning. It leaks into the bible itself, signifying an indeterminate dark and fluid matrix, a bottomless potentiality, a heterogenous womb, a germinating abyss of self-organising complexity.
Embarking on a watery voyage which spans from Augustine to Melville's Moby Dick, via Job's whale, Heidegger, Donna Haraway and Luce Irigaray, The Face of the Deep is more than a provocative challenge to the abstract orthodoxies of nothing as fearful structures of transcendent power. It seeks to relate the swirling maternal floods of the biblical chaos to the complex interdependencies of our embodied, material beings. Engaging with the political and the mystical, the literary and the scientific, the sexual and the racial, it grippingly argues for chaos - as a dual symbol of denigrated marginality and of mutating, exhausting, diffuse power - as representative of the volatile energy of the 'submerged faces within our culture and the gendered face of their suffering'. The forgotten face of chaos struggles and labours with creation; it unfolds upon the dark brilliance of the deep and the quantum fragments of our infinite, resourceful cosmos. On its surfacing depths we catch a glimpse of our emergent selves. From within a dangerous and crowded postmodernity, Catherine Keller's impassioned, graceful meditation holds up an intuitive mirror to the magnetic depths of cosmic origin.
Drawing upon the fractal science of chaos, evolution and complexity, and seamed with allusive flickerings of light and dark, it posits the discovery of a chaotic identity that, though not conventionally pure, fulfils the prophecy that this world and all of its creatures are potentially 'good'. As a landmark work of immense significance for Jewish and Christian theology, gender studies, literature, philosophy and ecology, The Face of the Deep takes our originary story to a new horizon of profundity and poetry, rewriting the starting point for western spiritual discourse. Catherine Keller, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology at Drew University, is a leading voice in contemporary constructive and feminist theology. Her books include Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World and From a Broken Web: Separation, Sexism and Self (1986).