Thursday, May 26, 2011

Getting Fucked Senseless: Myth Against Myth

By Prof Rowan

Dianus was the pseudonym under which Georges Bataille published the first part of Guilty, which has recently been published in a new translation by Stuart Kendall on SUNY Press, under the title Friendship, in April 1940. In an abandoned draft for an introduction to the second edition, Bataille wrote that Friendship had a sacred – which is also to say ambivalent (Bataille was influenced by Durkheim) – character (p. 162). Indeed, the pseudonym itself suggests as much, as the name is “that of a great Latin god, Janus, or Dianus,” (p. 158) and refers to the “King of the Wood,” the priest of Diana at Nemi – a position attained by virtue of a crime; it was necessary to kill one's predecessor in order to take his place. Finally, the name can also be read as a contraction of Dieu and anus (pardon my French): “God's asshole” (as the name of the author of Story of the Eye, Lord Auch less directly means: “God to the shithouse”) – which suits the priestly nature of Dianus – or, “That asshole, God.”

An earlier version had included an additional note attributed to Dianus: “later, quickly, all that will remain of us will be an absent memory of our inability to imagine this moment which, henceforth, we will have surpassed: this unimaginable world into which I cannot enter other than by refusing to imagine it, laughing at myself, repudiating it... What does this (book) mean? Would it already be for human intelligence what this world that shatters it is? A betrayal of man by the world, or a betrayal of the world by man? ...Unhappy, am I not in each point similar to you, complicit with each blunder?” (164-5)

Sure beats Simone, doesn't she? Bataille was hitting that.

What produces the illusion, the myth of transcendence? It is the capacity to think in terms of beings, the possibility of naming, of objectifying reality, and in the Sartrean version, women (Bataille got laid just as much as or more than Sartre – and he could do better than Simone). He womanizing consonant with his insistence on transcendence, as subject, he could not avoid objectifying them. To do otherwise would have been in bad faith. It is also a matter of unification, and as Bataille wrote in the unpublished “philosophical epilogue” to his book On Nietzsche,  “ is the possibility of being named that is decisive... I call being (a being) a movement that closes in upon itself, unifying limited elements.” The act of naming makes a given unity/singularity into a being, a being is inasmuch as it can be distinguished from every other being of its kind. The simplest components of the material world, elementary particles, such as atoms, molecules, etc, “cannot be considered as beings in that one cannot name this atom here, that molecule there. [But] a cell, an animal, a colony or animal society are beings.” (OC VI 443) In publishing Friendship under pseudonym Dianus, and then publishing Guilty and The Impossible pretending to be the editor of the posthumous notes of Dianus (who, it is discovered in the second part of The Impossible, committed suicide) and the notes of one Monsignor Alpha, Bataille distinguishes two existences immanent in himself, in every individuated self, every being. The ensuing philosophical tragicomedy culminates with an evocation of Orestes – a figure of poetry, of mythology, and also the “protagonist” of Sartre's play The Flies – who, in one version of the myth of the Tauric Diana, “whose priest at Nemi was the King of the Wood,” instituted the priesthood when he fled to the lake at Nemi seeking absolution for a murder.” Dianus thus serves as the persona of the counterpart of the existentialist hero of tragic freedom found in Sartre's retelling of the Orestes myth.

The myth of transcendence is everywhere, throughout the history of philosophy and even more so, theology. It is behind the myth of the subject, of the free, autonomous individual, and it was the dominant myth of Enlightenment philosophy and the historical-social-political concepts and practices in Modernity. The accomplishment of the culmination of Idealism in Hegel was that he made transcendence into the already-achieved culmination of the dialectical processes of history. With the attainment of “Absolute Spirit” by the vanguard, the European bourgeoisie at the height of the German Enlightenment, the dialectic came to a halt, to a conclusion: Transcendence was thereby transformed into an immanent myth. It is not at all surprising that both the analytic and phenomenological-existential Continental philosophical traditions fundamentally presuppose transcendence whether or not the subject opposed to the object is spoken of plainly or disguised by the jargon of authenticity. It follows that transcendence is even more than what Hans Blumenberg calls an “absolute myth,” it is the meta-myth of the West and the principle of our alienation – from others and from ourselves. Dianus and the cast of the melodrama that unfolds in the play of pseudonyms and that is staged in The Impossible, in which the suicidal pseudonym himself stars as narrator, evoke “the obscure region close to phenomenologists,” Bataille's “objectivity” (p. 213): the immanence that life truly is.

Yes, they actually allowed this man to procreate.
It is myth against myth. Myth as comedy against the mythical tragedy of the free, autonomous and incurably lonely self.

Life is a Tragicomedy. Taken seriously, life is a tragedy, but beyond seriousness the tragic devolves into senseless laughter. Suppose that Hamlet interrupts the dying speech of Laertes saying: “Ha! I've spent many years working up an immunity...” It's inconceivable.

I rest my case

Love is tragic, sex on the other hand – and let's be honest with ourselves – is fucking funny. What's more: we lose our sense of existing as individuals with names while fucking. We don't analyze, we don't “make sense,” if we're lucky we end up fucked senseless: Whether it be sex, the sacred, or DMT, there are moments during which immanence is felt and we can only laugh at the phrase “hell is other people.” It is the same with laughter, anguish and ecstasy, and this senseless loss of self is the very possibility and instantiation – when shared – of communication and the sacred friendship of the opening pages of Guilty.

Bataille lays the philosophical smack down on Sartre in the Times Literary Supplement (1953)

Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011. (Or sign up to be notified of its release on

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