Marion on excess: why we need both saturation and distance
Early in his career (Idol and Distance 1977), Marion speaks of distance as a positively determined (but not predicated) divine excess through and toward which we traverse, but which we never abolish, in our prayer and praise. God is ever greater as given but more fundamentally as not given. The difference between traversing and abolishing distance is precisely the gap between the given and the not given. It is a gap which is denied by predication but respected by prayer/praise. This is what Marion learns from the mystical theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, but also from Nietzsche, Hoelderlin, Balthasar, and certain passages of Christian scripture.
Later in his career (e.g., In Excess 2001), Marion shifts focus toward the eidetic possibility of revelation conceived as the ”saturated phenomenon par excellence.” Again, the Dionysian tradition is recalled, but this time divine excess is thought as saturation: i.e., the surplus of intuition over intentionality. This is a complete inversion of the Kantian (but also Husserlian) understanding of transcendence, according to which intentionality exceeds intuition, the latter being impoverished. In saturation, it is not that givenness falls short of our ability to grasp it; it is that givenness wildly oustrips our ability to grasp it. But what warrants our attention for the moment is this: that which makes God ever greater in this revised phenomenological rubric remains, perplexingly, a kind of immanence: immanence, not in the sphere of intentionality, but in the sphere of givenness (for consciousness), which entails possibility, not actuality. According to Marion, we can say with phenomenological certainty that already within what is given there is given the essential possibility of much more intuition of God than we are able to organize, interpret, or understand.
Question: having noted the difference and similarity between the two, should one conclude that saturation (because its theorization comes later) supercedes distance? No.
The emphasis has to be placed on distance, though not to the exclusion of saturation. The earlier formulation must be prioritized. Why? Because the claim that God is ever greater cannot be translated adequately by a theory of immanence or givenness, however expansive and inverted. If one thinks divine excess in terms of saturation alone, this suggests a never realizable potential for full understanding already within our consciousness. It suggests that God is (qua eidetic possibility) already totally given. It seems necessary to maintain, on the contrary, that however much the givenness of God already exceeds our ability to grasp it, that which is not given of God exceeds it all the more. In short, the excess of distance exceeds (but does not render meaningless) the excess of saturation.
Phenomenology perhaps cannot think this thought. For this one perhaps needs prayer/praise, which, moreover, makes no pretense of bracketing the actuality of God.