“Kujawski’s ‘The Myth of Religion’”: The Lost Presentation[1]

          Conference presentations, generally speaking, are ephemera. Apart from the relatively small amount of presentations that are recorded and sometimes posted on the Internet, the overwhelming majority of conference presentations simply flare into being and just as quickly disappear, held tenuously—and momentarily—in the fallible grasp of memory.

          Small indeed is the number of presentations that persist in time merely in the media of collective memory. Like a talisman rubbed by innumerable hands, such memories are burnished by recollection and retelling. In time, alas, the line separating memory and imagination becomes smudged and obscure. The event becomes less history and more legend as constant retelling in effect instantiates the mythical ship of Theseus. Perhaps the best extant example of this type—let’s call it the “remembered presentation”—is Igor Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion.” The crowds of scholars who claim to have heard the “Myth” presented bring to mind Calvin’s witticism regarding the relics of the True Cross possessed by practically every church in medieval Europe: if all were collected together, they would fill a ship.

          Igor Kujawski is a scholar who needs no introduction. This is indeed fortuitous, for little is actually known about the man. He has worked—or, perhaps, “worked” in the simple past tense is sufficient—nearly his entire career as an independent scholar—a practically extinct species in the highly professionalized atmosphere of the contemporary academy.[2] This is by choice, not necessity, for at various times Kujawski had received teaching offers from several respected universities in Europe and the United States. But all of these he turned down. Outside of a handful of guest lectureships and temporary appointments, Kujawski deliberately stayed outside of the academy. Nevertheless, he became a stanchion of scholarship in several fields. He published often, was frequently seen both in attendance at and on the programs of various professional conferences, and even possessed an unofficial network of students—some would say followers or disciples—who cheerfully profess to being “Kujawskians.”

          Ironically, Kujawski’s best known work is “The Myth of Religion.” We say ironically because no definitive copy of this work has ever, prior to now, been published. In fact, to our knowledge there are no extant unpublished versions. Like all myths, Kujawski’s “Myth” has no certain origin. The first definitive reference to the “Myth” is found in a footnote.[3] By the late 1980s numerous references to the “Myth” could be found in the works of many scholars, despite the fact that no extant version, published or unpublished, existed.[4] During the late 1980s and 1990s, the rising number of citations to Kujawski’s “Myth” was paralleled, so to speak, by the creation and promotion of a number of spurious versions of the “Myth.”[5] At the end of the present essay we will reflect on the presence of these alternative or competing versions of Kujawski’s “Myth” and their relationship to the genuine or canonical version, which is published here for the first time anywhere.

          What follows is the transcript of an unidentified reader presenting Igor Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion.” This presentation was made in Washington, DC, in November 2006.[6] While the original recording has been lost, this transcript was found in a box of miscellaneous items donated to the Mugar Library Special Collections at Boston University by Ms. Angelika Sherman, the widow of the noted Kujawski scholar Hubert L. Shuttleworth.

          The transcript has been heavily edited. In several places someone has drawn a line through the printed text and added material in longhand. Those additions have been inserted in the footnotes. Someone has also used a black marker to expunge a number of names from the text. We have allowed these marks to remain.

          One question the editors of any work of this kind must consider is whether the text possesses its original integrity. Do we have Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion” in its final form or even a form that Kujawski would approve? Are these editorial remarks authentic? According to Ms. Sherman, Professor Shuttleworth believed that the copy reprinted here is the extant copy revised and edited by Kujawski himself after the presentation had been transcribed. Ms. Sherman told us that her husband had no evidence for this belief other than his conviction as a longtime reader of Kujawski’s works that “The Myth of Religion” as reprinted here is genuine. Nevertheless, we editors feel incumbent to announce that we have no evidence—apart from Professor Shuttleworth’s testimony—that Kujawski is the source of the editorial remarks found throughout this work.

          Our contribution to the ongoing debate over Kujawski’s “Myth” provides the scholarly community with the genuine or authentic version of this text. So much discussion at conferences (and repeated in the text of journals) evaluates the relative merits of this or that version of the “Myth.” Because no version can claim to be authentic (or at least make a claim that finds widespread respect), these discussions are like a ship at sea with no navigational instruments, no sight of land, and the sun directly overhead—the awesome freedom of doing whatever one wants is undercut by the terror of infinity, the terror that comes from the awesome realization that any interpretation is possible. To change the metaphor slightly, the terror of infinity is like the sailor’s realization that his navigational charts have no necessary connection to the territory he is sailing. Our objective as editors is to provide, by way of a genuine or authentic version, a map that other scholars can use when exploring the territory first discovered by Kujawski. But perhaps we are providing the territory, and thus acting as surveyors. Future scholars will provide maps in the assurance that what they are mapping is genuine or authentic. Either way, the publication of the definitive, authentic version of Kujawski’s “Myth” is a seminal event.

          Word of Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion” had circulated in learned circles for several years—most influentially, in the tantalizing references made by Kujawski himself in several of his published works.[7] No scholar besides Professor Shuttleworth has had the opportunity before now to read this essay.

[transcript begins]

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Professor Igor Kujawski was taken ill[8] and is unable to be here with you—or, in fact, with us—today. He asked, however, that I appear in his place and read the paper he had prepared for this conference. If that is acceptable, I will read Kujawski’s paper entitled “The Myth of Religion.”

Let me adjust the microphone—unfortunately, I lack the stature of Professor Fr[DELETED]n! There, that should be fine. Can everyone hear me?

As is well known, Kujawski has spent the past ten years working on a theoretical treatise regarding the method and study of religion. Several essays related to that project have been presented at conferences and published in professional journals. A number of conference participants and journal readers have asked Kujawski if he could summarize his project so that these efforts could be better fitted together. Upon reflection, Kujawski drafted the present work, “The Myth of Religion,” which I shall read in a moment. This essay is something of a précis to Kujawski’s book, if not his entire life’s work. I am recording this presentation so that Kujawski will have unfiltered access to my reading—he was insistent that I read his essay in its entirety, word-for-word as he had written it. (And let the record show, dear Professor, that I have carried out your instructions to the letter!)[9]

The title of this presentation, “The Myth of Religion,” is the title of Kujawski’s essay as well as the title of his upcoming book.[10] In this book he engages the question of the social construction of the category religion, and engages in dialogue with such notable members of the field such as Professors S[DELETED], [DELETED]son [DELETED], He[DELETED], and [DELETED]j. Today’s presentation provides an overview of Kujawski’s project. An overview, however, presumes that the object of study is something—some thing, to put a fine spin on it—that is separate from the scholar or investigator or what have you. There is a distinction made between subject and object, with sufficient difference—différence, to quote D[DELETED]a—to allow the subject to transcend, in a manner of speaking, the object of study.[11] As [DELETED]r reminds us, critical scholarship is the principal means of liberation for modern man trapped in the iron cage of capitalism. Yet freedom for modern man is freedom to choose; it is, to put the matter bluntly, freedom to shop, or consumer freedom. Modern man has no choice as to whether he is to consume or not; his freedom consists only in his consumerist choices.[12]

Myth is a genre of writing that is pre-capitalist. By that I mean a genre which antedates the origins of modern capitalism. The advantage of myth over more capitalist forms of scholarly writing is that myths do not presume such a sharp distinction between subject and object, buyer and seller. There is simply the myth itself—a narrative, if you will—that the reader enters into without the guidance of the scholar whispering in his ear throughout—or her ear, I hasten to add—such blandishments as “I intend to demonstrate …,” “thus reason tells us…,” or “following this we must conclude….” Myth presents the narrative directly to the reader without the artifice of scholarly commentary characteristic of most academic writing.[13]

Ladies and gentlemen, please. [pause] My speaking voice is not as strong or mellifluous as, say, Si[DELETED]’s. There will be [garbled] at the end. Also, as I noted earlier, the entire presentation is being recorded and so Kujawski intends at some later date to respond—the title of that upcoming essay is “A Response to My Critics,” and he is currently engaged in negotiations with editors of several prestigious journals in the field who are or would be interested in publishing such an essay.[14]

Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, I give you Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion”:

There is a man Kujawski. I am not Kujawski. Kujawski is the main character of this myth, but he is not the narrator. I am. (But I am not Kujawski.)

—I should interrupt (you recall, Professor, that you instructed me to interrupt at this point—your instructions are written in red ink in the margins of my manuscript copy: interrupt here and state for the record that I am not “I.” I am simply the voice transmitting these words without any necessary connection to the words, the setting, the characters, their beliefs and actions, and so on. Kujawski, it must be said, has no necessary connection either. This is not a work of biography, autobiography, or memoir. It is simply the revealing of a myth that, in Professor Kujawski’s considered opinion, summarizes the book-length manuscript “Kujawski” (that is, Professor Kujawski the scholar and author, not the mythological character bearing a similar name) is presently completing.

So with that disclaimer stated, let me start again, from the beginning:

There is a man Kujawski. I am not Kujawski. Kujawski is the main character of this myth, but he is not the narrator. I am. (But I am not Kujawski.)

The fact that these words (and the meaning conjured by these words) are arranged in the form of a myth is arbitrary. Earlier I had entitled these words The Gospel of Religion, for these words relate good news about religion. But I did not do this because I did not want my critics to see the word Gospel and connect the figures of Kujawski and Christ. “Look at this,” they would say. “What a swelled head this fellow has!” But let me reiterate: I am not Kujawski. Kujawski is not Christ. (I am not Christ, either.) This is not a Gospel; it is a myth. (Though Gospel as a genre of literature functions as myth, and thus is a type of myth.) Kujawski is a character in the myth, but it is not a myth about Kujawski. Gospel and Christ have such powerful cultural associations that it was a mistake to bring them up in the first place. (Whose mistake? The author’s? But is not the reader the ultimate source of meaning for any text? Blame does not interest me at the moment. But surely, however, the reader is culpable in this instance if there is in fact anything to be culpable about.) But one cannot unring a bell once it has been rung, even in myth.

As I was saying, there is this man Kujawski. He is a professor of religion. He teaches courses such as “The World Religions,” “Religions of Asia,” “Comparative Religious Ethics,” “The Abrahamic Religions,” “The Bible,” “Religion in America,” and so on. Kujawski is a scholar of religion—he professes religion, in the literal meaning of the word—but he is not a religious man. He vacillates between thinking of religion as a storehouse of soothing beliefs (Bag Balm for the soul, as it were) and a cesspool of the rankest superstition. Most of his colleagues are similarly humanists of some kind or another. Not all of them, however. One colleague is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Another practices Wicca and is the faculty advisor for the Wicca student association sponsored (with some controversy) by the Chaplin’s Office as part of their Tolerance 2000 campaign.

Despite the fact that Kujawski made his livelihood teaching undergraduates about “religion,” “religions,” and “religiosity,” he began to doubt whether such entities actually existed. Such doubts, Kujawski realized, were something like the onset of a religious experience—a non-religious yet religious experience. But how could his experience be religious and non-religious all at once? Kujawski was not, to repeat, a religious man. Students would sometimes ask him about his religious beliefs, especially so when he taught courses that touched on the Bible and Christianity. Kujawski would answer these questions using the words of others: At first he mimicked Peter Berger and said he had not yet found the heretical sect that best fit his views—perhaps he would need to start his own. (He was uncertain whether the latter part was Berger’s or something he added on his own.) Would the student be interested in joining such a heretical sect? he would go on to ask with a wry smile. Kujawski discarded that response after a student one day exuberantly answered yes! Afterward, if students asked about his personal religious beliefs he would simply quote Max Weber and declare that he was “religiously unmusical.” He was not sure what students made of that answer, but as there were no follow-up questions, he deemed the response successful.

He lived a thoroughly unreligious life. Religion was simply something he did for pay. It was like he was a salesman who peddled knowledge of religion, religions, and religiosity for a living. The problem for Kujawski was that “knowledge” fascinated him, while the rest—“religion, religions, and religiosity”— increasingly did not.

He became a seeker, but not of religion. Kujawski sought “religion.” He sought the concept that made “knowledge of religion” possible. “Religion” was something of a form for human experience, the preconditions for experience of the type labeled “religious.”

Professor Kujawski inserted a note here. “Read insert IV.7.02 here.” The word here is underlined for emphasis. Unfortunately, I could find no insert labeled IV.7.02. I did, however, find some remarks written in pencil on the backs of the other manuscript pages. The autograph is different from the comments Professor Kujawski wrote. Yet no one, to my knowledge, has read or commented on these pages except Kujawski. These remarks are the only possibility we have for the otherwise missing insert IV.7.02, and in my considered opinion they seem to fit best here.

This rendering is a corruption of the original. It is in no way a myth: it is simply some self-indulgent musings of “Kujawski,” who apparently fancies that his experiences and his intellectual obsessions are necessarily of interest to others. The above should be replaced by the following text.

The remainder is in a different hand:

Kujawski wandered down to the river. There, he had heard, lived a ferryman who was viewed by many as a sage. “Ferryman,” he said to the old man. “You convey everyone who expresses interest in crossing the river. Is that which we seek across the river?”

The ferryman shrugged, dragging on a cigarette. “You don’t have a bike with you?”

“Do goals—our preconceived notions about things, about ourselves—limit us? Isn’t it better simply to be free, to be without a goal?” Kujawski studied the face of the ferryman intently.

The ferryman looked across the river at the far shore. Kujawski’s eyes searched his weather beaten face, his eyes narrowed to slits against the bright sunlight flashing off of the moving water. “My goal is to cross the river. The river’s a tricky thing. You have to know what you’re doing. I can tell you how to navigate, but I can’t tell you how to navigate this river.

Kujawski pursed his lips, nodding “And after you . . . what will happen to this knowledge of crossing this river after you . . . after you are no more?”

The ferryman took one last drag on his cigarette and flicked the butt over the side of the boat. Kujawski watched it bobbing on the surface of the water as the current caught it and took it, spinning, downriver. “It disappears, I reckon. I have two sons, but neither one of them wanted to live this life.”

“But the truth is,” Kujawski continued, “the truth of the matter is that no man can live another man’s life.” For a moment he was in front of a class of undergraduates, ostensibly conveying information about his field of expertise yet in fact imparting wisdom. He felt comfortable now, in his element.

“Earl has a detailing business. The last I heard from him he was doing okay for himself. If you don’t mind the work you can do okay in detailing.” Kujawski realized with a start that the ferryman was not listening to him.

A group of college students pulled up on bicycles. Kujawski looked at them carefully, wondering if some of them were his students. He did not recognize any of them, but that did not really mean anything. He only recognized his students when they were in his classroom. In the hall, in the library, or outside, they seemed like rank strangers to him. After they paid, the ferryman carefully loaded their bicycles on the ferry and then instructed them where to stand, telling them if they moved around they could destabilize the ferry. The river was up right now, and the currents were strong.

Kujawski watched the ferry as it slowly crossed the river. The ferryman remained on the far shore. No doubt he would only return for a fare—and, clearly, he did not consider Kujawski someone worth returning for. A flash of anger flooded through him, but quickly defused. The ferryman was right—Kujawski had no interest in crossing the river. He simply wanted the ferryman to answer his questions, but he did not know what his questions were. Another flash of anger—why would he wish to question this uneducated ferryman? The ferryman should be asking him questions. The only thing Kujawski could learn from the ferryman was how to navigate this river. So the ferryman knew one thing. How many things did Kujawski know? He started making a list in his head.

Night fell. The horizon cooled from bright orange to pink to dark purple, slowly fading to black. One by one stars began to burn through the dark firmament and twinkle into being.

There were at least 147 items about Hinduism Kujawski calculated that he knew. Multiply that by the different religions he had taught over the years and related fields such as history, sociology, and philosophy, and Kujawski knew over a thousand things that the ferryman did not –thousands of things, no doubt. Tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands. Every star twinkling in the night sky represented something that Kujawski knew. The ferryman, in contrast, knew only one thing. He knew nothing about Shankara’s non-dualistic understanding of the relationship between Atman and Brahman. He could hardly be expected to speak knowledgably about Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Kujawski smiled, imagining the ferryman’s no-doubt blundering attempt to explain how the three persons in the Christian Trinity relate to one another.

But what exactly do I know about those things, Kujawski asked himself. He thought about J[DELETED], whom he had not given a second thought to in many years. [DELETED], one of Kujawski’s professors in graduate school, had asserted on multiple occasions that religions were simply particular ways of connecting dots. Clayton [DELETED] was fond of the connect-the-dots metaphor. There were multiple ways to connect the dots, [DELETED]ns told them. He scheduled his graduate seminars in the evening, usually ending the night in the university pub. The most interesting and instructive part of the class, Kujawski remembered, took place afterward in the pub.

If history is the study of the different ways men connect the dots, Kujawski one time asked, is theology the study of the dots themselves? Without saying a word,[DELETED] began to fix his pipe. Inwardly Kujawski was pleased. [DELETED] dismissed bad questions out of hand: “You’re not listening to what I’m saying.” Good questions received a more thoughtful, but immediate response. The best questions received no response initially, save [DELETED]s’s silent fiddling with his pipe, which simply bought him time to think. (Once a question was so good that [DELETED] slowly prepared his pipe with ritual-like intensity and smoked it contemplatively. After 45 minutes, he looked at the faces around the table—he seemed surprised, as if he had forgotten they were there—and said: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen,” and then left for the night.)[15]

No, [DELETED] said in a rush of smoke.[16] Theology is simply a way of connecting the dots. Theologians, however, always forget that there are no dots.

But, Kujawski asked, if there are no dots, how do you connect them?

You don’t need the dots, J[DELETED] said in a low voice, almost a whisper. There are simply the connections.

Kujawski paused. His mind was racing. He did not want to challenge [DELETED]. But what then are people doing when they’re connecting the dots if there are no dots? He was unsure for a moment if he had asked the question aloud or merely imagined doing so in his mind.

What are they doing? [DELETED]ns repeated in an irritated tone. What are we doing? What are you doing? No, I know what you’re doing—you’re not listening to what I’m saying.

Kujawski did not press [DELETED]. He wondered if his fellow students understood what [DELETED] meant. No one at the table said anything for a moment, and then [DELETED] asked if anyone was planning to drive to the AAR that year. Kujawski continued to brood. Perhaps no one understood what [DELETED]s meant, but no one was willing to admit it. Only Kujawski knows that he does not know what [DELETED] is talking about—even J[DELETED] does not know he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Where is Socrates when you need him? Kujawski thought bitterly. He is in need of Socrates but all he has is this ignorant ferryman who is deliberately staying on the far bank of the river.

Kujawski looked up at the night sky. A moonless night. Bright stars. Kujawski spent little time outside—if it were dark, he would be inside reading, normally. There were constellations in the night sky, but he could not see any of them. Only the stars.

I can see the dots, Kujawski thought to himself. I can see the dots, but I do not know how to connect them. Kujawski thought of the ferryman sitting in his boat across the river. Surely the ferryman sees constellations—he sits outside nearly every night. What else has he to look at but the night sky?

Why can I not see the constellations? Is it simply a lack of training? I am untutored in the night sky—this, however, would be knowledge that the ferryman could teach him. Unlike crossing this river, which is particular, the night sky is universal—it is the same for anyone who has eyes to see. I could be tutored in the night sky, Kujawski thought, and learn how to see constellations—learn how to connect the dots.

He looked unknowingly at the night sky while listening to the current moving swiftly between the rocks downriver.

Postscript

Several weeks after his encounter with the ferryman, Kujawski cancelled his office hours one afternoon and went for a walk. He stopped to browse in a bookstore. He found a children’s book on the night sky, and turned to the chapter on constellations. Careful instructions were given for where in the night sky to find each constellation, along with a diagram of the constellation. The constellations were not dots connected together; they were, rather, connections made over and beyond the relatively small number of dots presented. The connections could not be reduced to the dots. Put differently, the dots were ancillary to the connections. Kujawski paid for the book and resumed walking.

[DELETED][17]

This is the end of “The Myth of Religion” by Professor Igor Kujawski. I hope I did not interpose myself overmuch between you the listener and Professor Kujawski’s words. If I did, I’m sorry—that was entirely unintended by me. A voice, however disembodied it might seem, is nevertheless embodied, even if the body is never seen.

I will check with the moderator and see if we have time for questions . . . we have time for one, possibly two questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please. If I could prevail on the moderator, Miss [DELETED]—oh, I’m so sorry! Dr. M[DELETED]s—please accept my apologies. This is quite the awkward post-feminist moment, to be sure! So, if you could, madam, recognize the questioners.[18]

[Inaudible]

Did everyone hear that gentleman’s question? Yes, sir—would you mind repeating the question as you heard it, for I must confess that I did not.

[Inaudible]

Yes! I agree that Professor Kujawski’s choice of literary form is crucial for understanding his authorial intention in this text. I do not think he could have written this particular text using any other available form. A myth is a myth, and an essay about a myth is an essay about a myth. One is not convertible to the other.

I would add, of course, that the text is not reducible to authorial intention. The author is not in a privileged position vis-à-vis the reader.

I have time for one long question or two short ones.

[Inaudible]

The question points to the issue of authorship. Does it make a difference whether Professor Kujawski wrote this text or not? I don’t think so. Such a claim, as I mentioned a moment ago, illegitimately privileges the understanding of the author vis-à-vis the reader. This becomes all the more significant when we are discussing myths, which typically have no identifiable author.

[Inaudible]

Excuse me?

[Inaudible]

Yes, of course Kujawski is the author of this text. I think I made that clear at the beginning of my presentation, prior to my reading Kujawski’s text aloud—you notice I say Kujawski’s text, not my text or Dr. [DELETED]j’s text.

[Inaudible]

I’ve answered that question already. Certainly I can provide a different answer if the first is unsuitable—but why should my answers be privileged as authoritative? Please, sir, turn to the gentleman sitting beside you and put your question to him. Please relay his answer to us, if you would.

[Inaudible]

I tell you in all sincerity that I would have never provided such an answer. I am not in a position, of course, to say whether that answer is

[transcript ends]

          There is not space enough in this essay for a thorough analysis of Kujawski’s “Myth.” Our modest objective is to leave the reader with the simulacrum of an analysis, which will no doubt be filled in and fleshed out by other scholars in a variety of academic disciplines.

          The most obvious and immediate hermeneutic concern raised by the transcript regards its authenticity. Is this version the genuine or authentic rendition? To press the question in this way, however, presumes understanding of the value denoted by the terms “genuine” and “authentic.” In order to interrogate this presumption, we must first determine the value that the terms “genuine” and “authentic” designate.

          The traditional understanding of the genuine/authentic (let us call it that) locates these values in the intention of the author. A text is said to be authentic if it reflects the intention of the author. Authorial intention is problematic, however, insofar as the meaning of the text is concerned. Does the author possess a monopoly on the meaning of a text? Certainly not. In many cases the author is not even the best interpreter of the text, and certainly not the only one who has the authority of interpretation.

          The genuine/authentic both claim unwarranted ontological authority insofar as they assert their reality in contrast to the unreality designated by the spurious/counterfeit. That is, the genuine/authentic is not a simple descriptive designation, but rather comprises a normative ontological category. As such, the genuine/authentic presumes a metaphysical framework in order to be understood. If this were not the case, then the genuine/authentic would become a political discourse signifying the authorized use of power by one group and the consent of other groups to that usage.

          Let us say for the sake of argument that the genuine/authentic can be collapsed into the spurious/counterfeit—then what? One troubling conclusion would be the nihilistic position that no text possesses enduring meaning of any kind—that is, there is no ontological difference between, say, Professor Salerno’s version of the “Myth” (which has been demonstrated to be a plagiarized copy of another text) and Professor Kujawski’s version, which we have presented here for the first time in print anywhere.[19] Is Professor Kujawski’s version genuine because we say it is? Not necessarily. In order to stipulate authenticity, we must arrogate power for ourselves. That is to say, stipulating that Professor Kujawski’s version is authentic presumes no process of ontological discernment on our part. Rather it is a purely political process—an exercise of pure power.

          But examination of the social and political sources of the power necessary to stipulate authenticity takes us far afield from Kujawski’s “Myth.” The final question regards the question raised earlier: Have we provided a map or the territory itself? The insightful reader will recognize, we trust, that this is no map. The problem with Kujawski’s “Myth” in the past has been the noisy assembly of multiple maps all claiming to exemplify the cartographer’s virtues: usefulness, accuracy, and—in a word inclusive of the rest—authenticity. The terror of infinity stems from the imperative to choose (which is the original definition of heresy, in fact) combined with the sheer inability to make such a choice. We have dispelled this terror by means of what we call a plat of speech. A plat of speech collapses the distinction intrinsic to the map-territory binary. The plat of speech vouches for the authenticity of the territory under dispute. The authenticity of our plat consists in the discourse stemming from the signal event; in this case, the publication of this essay. We call this performative authenticity insofar as the genuine “Myth” is intextualized. The text at last takes empirical form. What is left (the final act of this performance, as it were) is to pronounce good this form—the authoritative form—of Kujawski’s “Myth.” Let it be, and so it is.



[1] We would like to thank the editors of this journal for the opportunity to publish the definitive version of Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion” and clarify some of the misconceptions shrouding this work. We would also like to thank Professor Jones Smith for reading our essay prior to publication. Professor Smith, a renowned expert on Kujawski’s theoretical writings, has occasionally inserted footnotes into our text. His additions are tagged with his initials [JS]. We would like to take the opportunity here to thank Professor Smith for his contributions. To distinguish our notes from those of Professor Smith, we have tagged our notes “[Eds.]”. [Eds.]

[2] It is unclear whether Kujawski should be spoken of in the present or past tense. No one claims to have seen or heard from him since 2009. Earlier, however, Kujawski disappeared from public view between 1979 and 1993. In 1994 he resumed his typically vigorous schedule of publications and conference attendance without any explanation of his whereabouts for the past fourteen years. Owing to the coincidence of these dates with the Reagan and HW Bush Administrations, some scholars have speculated that Kujawski worked as a sort of presidential consultant during this period. There is no evidence in support of this hypothesis, however. [JS]

[3] “Surely such an ‘instance of the fingerpost’ could be provided by a myth. For an illustrative example of this, see my ‘Myth of Religion’.” Igor Kujawski, “Bacon’s Transcendent Fingerpost: Empirical Judgments of Religious Experience.” The Journal of Pastoral Theology and Psychiatry 17 (1977): 421–77, esp. 467, fn 152. [Eds.]

[4] From 1984 to 2009, we found approximately 184 references to Kujawski’s “Myth” in secondary literature. In 1996 alone there were 21 references (we are unable at this time to explain this spike in numbers). The 184 references can be supplemented by the 97 references made by Kujawski himself between the years 1994 and 2009. We would like to thank Ms. Rachel Burton for undertaking the extensive literature review that provided the basis for these figures. [Eds.]

[5] The earliest fabrication was an appendix to Roland Salerno’s study of modern myths (Making Modernity, Making Religion [1987]). In Salerno’s version, the character “Kujawski” is the leader of a cult that shares many characteristics with the Unification Church founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. In a footnote in his review of Making Modernity, Making Religion, Professor J.L.P. Smithers speculated about a possible connection between “Kujawski” and Igor Kujawski. David R. Taylor was the first scholar to identify conclusively Igor Kujawski as the author of “The Myth of Religion.” Using textual evidence, he demonstrated that the myth put forth in Salerno’s book was in fact a fabrication and based in part on (or, well, plagiarized from) a section of L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. In “Taylor Agonistes,” Salerno argued that all myths were simply “made up” and to privilege one set of myths (the so-called “genuine” or “authentic”) over another set (the so-called “fabricated” or “plagiarized”) was simply an instance of “European hegemony” focused on the “exorcism of the Other” (Salnerno, “Taylor Agonistes,” 476). In a Master’s Thesis analyzing cases of disputed authorship (“Who Wrote This? Contested Narratives in Twentieth-Century American Academic Publishing”), Colleen R. Murphy set forth a provocative argument that the “Kujawski” character in Kujawski’s “The Myth of Religion” was in fact less believable than the “Kujawski” character in Salerno’s version. She then rewrote the myth (replacing the “Kujawski” character with one called “Murphy”) and publishing this version (“My Name Is ‘Murphy’: Silent No More”) in an online literary journal specializing in creative nonfiction. Following this publication, numerous copycat versions appeared in print. While these versions varied widely in content, they all possessed the common characters “Kujawski” (or “Murphy” in some iterations). In private correspondence published after his untimely death, Professor Smithers speculated that Igor Kujawski, Roland Salerno, and Colleen R. Murphy were all different personalities of the same individual. He went on to say that he felt himself drawn into this “nexus of personality.” This letter was never posted, owing to Smithers’s inability to select a recipient. Multiple versions are addressed to “My dear Kujawski,” “Dr. Salerno,” “Miss Murphy,” “David (if I may be so familiar),” and so on. There is even a version addressed simply to “Smithers, you damned fellow.” The best treatment of this episode is set out by Adam James in an unpublished essay, “L’Affaire Kujawski,” in which James concludes that a common version of Kujawski’s myth had privately circulated among Taylor and Murphy. For a provocative argument that links this “Q-source” version of Kujawski’s myth to the practice of “off-the-page” composition, see my edited volume Off the Page: Studies in Compositional Samizdat (2001) and in particular my note 17, below. [JS]

[6] Sole evidence for this dating is a note written in longhand using red ink at the top of the first page: “AAR 2006.” AAR is the American Academy of Religion, the annual meeting of which was held in Washington, DC, in 2006. Kujawksi, however, does not appear anywhere in the conference program. A number of learned societies hold meetings in tandem with the AAR’s annual meeting, but I—or, rather, we—have not been able to determine which society sponsored Kujawski’s appearance. [Eds.]

[7] In his review of Kujawski’s possibly posthumously published essay collection Kujawski on ”Kujawski," Thomas Marrs claims that “The Myth of Religion” is a “dark force” exerting influence over all of Kujawski’s published work. In conversation Marrs readily admits that he has never read “The Myth of Religion” but contends that its influence can be induced from a number (11, to be precise) of textual and logical contradictions in Kujawski’s published work. Marr’s use of the Straussian notion of “esoteric writing” is, however, controversial and has been challenged vociferously by a number of “West Coast” Kujawskians. (Marrs, by the way, is a “North East” Kujawskian.) [JS]

[8] In the original ms the phrase “Professor Igor Kujawski was taken ill” is struck through with blue ink and the following text inserted: “Kujawski and I were poisoned.” All subsequent editorial insertations/deletions/etc. should be understood with respect to the original ms. There are a variety of editorial notes, insertions, deletions, and so on made apparently by multiple individuals. Evidence for this is multiple colors of ink used, with each color ink written in a distinctive autograph. We note in passing that Professor Smith (in agreement with the orthodox position held by Professor Shuttleworth) does not believe the autographs to be sufficiently distinctive as to support our claim of multiple editors. [Eds.]

[9] “NO” is written using black ink in the margin beside the last sentence in this paragraph. [Eds.]

[10] No book by that title has been published to date by Kujawski. [Eds.]

[11] “WHAT??? WHAT??? WHAT???” is written in black ink over the text. A simple rendering of a frowning face is sketched in the margin (also using black ink). [Eds.]

[12] As the presenter is anonymous, it is not possible to evaluate his academic credentials. My hypothesis is that the presenter is a member of Kujawski’s inner circle (and thus is responsible for some, if not all, of the edits made to the transcription. As previously mentioned, Professor Shuttleworth understands the edits to be made entirely by Kujawski. Both of us agree, however, that the editor—whether or not it is Kujawski or Kujaswski’s presenter—possesses a deep and profound knowledge of Kujawski’s work. [JS]

[13] Multiple remarks fill the margins on both sides of this paragraph. Black ink: “What???” Green ink: “!” Blue ink: “This has nothing to do with [DELETED] work!” Red ink: “Should be made clearer or deleted.” Someone using a pencil wrote “This is skybalon, Paul” in Greek characters across the paragraph. [JS] “Paul” could possibly refer to “Paul Redfern,” a noted scholar of the New Testament and onetime collaborator with Kujawski. It is unclear, however, whether “Paul” is signing his comment or an anonymous editor is directing this comment at (presumably) one of the other editors who happens to be named Paul (or at any rate answers to that name). [Eds.]

[14] While Kujawski penned a number of essays with this title, none of them seem to address explicitly critics of “The Myth of Religion.” [JS]

[15] “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus (1922), trans. C.K. Ogden: §7.

[16] An editorial insertion has been made here in blue pencil: “That is a wonderful question. It is like reading the Barks translation of Rumi to a beautiful woman for the first time. And now I will give you my answer.”

[17] This paragraph has been entirely effaced from the manuscript with a black marker. In the margin reads the following note: “Delete—unnecessary detail.” In a different hand someone crossed through that note and substituted the following: “Save—crucial information.” An arrow in the margin points toward the top of the page. It is unclear whether this paragraph was reintegrated somewhere earlier in the draft or simply removed from the page. We argue that (a) Kujawski himself is responsible for this deletion, and (b) by so doing he has introduced the public-private binary into the very compositional form of his myth. That is to say, by moving part of his myth to a private sphere apart from the public sphere of the myth as we have it here, Kujawski reduplicates the invention of modern religion as part of a religion-secular binary created in the historical transition from the Middle Ages to early modernity. See Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age for sustained discussion of this transition. [Eds.] I call this phenomenon “off-the-page” writing, and discuss it at length in my contribution to the edited collection, Off the Page: Studies in Compositional Samizdat (2001). I argue that one response to the censorship and intellectual surveillance characteristic of modernity generally and the former USSR in particular is the practice of off-the-page writing in which key elements are removed from the public text and placed in an unseen private text, one that is “off the page” and thus impervious to the censor. Off-the-page writing, however, presents certain hermeneutical challenges to the reader, though these issues—unlike those posed by the problem of private meaning—are ultimately surmountable. [JS]

[18] In blue pencil the following note is written in the margin: “In the stage production, score this section using “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” by the Ray Conniff Singers from Turn Around, Look at Me (1968).” To our knowledge, no definite plans exist for a theatrical version of Kujawski’s “Myth.” [Eds.]

[19] The inability of certain critics to discern any difference between Salerno’s ersatz “Myth” and that of Kujawski is, we contend, a failure of theory.












Stephen Dawson lives in Virginia and teaches philosophy and religious studies at Lynchburg College. His professional interests infuse his creative writing with effervescent hints of time, memory, and nothingness. “Kujawski’s ‘The Myth of Religion’: The Lost Presentation” is his first published work of fiction.


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