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The Sacred Conspiracy (from Acéphale 1)

Georges Bataille

A nation that is already old and corrupt, that bravely shakes off the yoke of its monarchical government so as to adopt a republican one instead, can only survive by committing countless criminal acts; this is because it already exists in a state of crime, and if it wished to pass from crime to virtue, that is from a violent state to a peaceful one, it would fall into a state of inertia the outcome of which would be its imminent and certain ruin.


That which presented itself as politics and supposed that it was politics, shall one day be unmasked as a religious movement.


You that are lonely today, you who li,,e apart, one day you will be a people. From those who have thus chosen themselves there will one day come a chosen people- and it is from this people that the Superman will be born.


The thing we have undertaken must not be confused with anything else; it cannot be limited to the expression of an idea and still less to what is properly considered art.

It is necessary to produce and to eat: many things are necessary but also count for nothing, and so it is with political agitation.

Who, before he has struggled right to the end of his task, would dream of stepping aside for men it is impossible to look at without feeling the urge to destroy them? But if nothing can be found beyond the range of political activity, human avidity will encounter only the void.

WE ARE FEROCIOUSLY RELIGIOUS and, in so far as our existence amounts to the condemnation of everything that is known today, an inner necessity demands that we be equally unyielding.

What we are starting is a war.

It is time to abandon the world of civilised people and its light. The time has passed for being reasonable and cultured – this has only led to a life lacking in any attraction. Whether secretly or not, it is necessary to become completely different, or else to cease to be.

The world of which we have been a part offers nothing that deserves our love outside each of our individual shortcomings: its existence is limited to its convenience. A world that cannot be loved to the point where it is worth dying for – in the same way that a man loves a woman – represents only financial interest and the obligation to work. If we compare it to worlds long past, this world is hideous and appears as the most failed of all.

In those past worlds it was possible to lose oneself in ecstasy, something which is impossible in our world of cultivated vulgarity. The advantages of civilisation are offset by the ways in which men profit from them: the men of today profit so as to become the most degrading of all beings that have ever existed.

Life has always proceeded in a tumult with no apparent sense of cohesion, but finds its splendour and its reality only in ecstasy and in ecstatic love. Whoever tries to ignore or disregard ecstasy is an incomplete individual whose thinking is thereby reduced to mere analytical processing. Existence is not only a restless void- it is a dance that compels us to dance like fanatics. Thought that does not revolve around dead fragments may have an inner existence in the same way as flames do.

What is required is for us to become sufficiently firm and unmovable that the existence of the world of civilisation will at last be called into question.

It is useless to respond to those who are still capable of believing in the existence of this world, and who manage to derive their authority from it; when they speak, it is quite possible to look at them without hearing what they are saying and, even while looking at them, to ‘see’ only what exists far behind them. We must reject all tedium and live only for what holds our fascination.

Whilst following this path, there is no point in getting worked up or trying to interest those who indulge such trivial impulses as passing the time, laughing or becoming individually eccentric. We must go forward without looking back over our shoulders and without making any allowances for those who lack the strength to forget their immediate reality.

Too long has human life served as head and reason for the universe. In so far as it becomes this head and this reason, and in so far as it becomes necessary to the universe, it accepts servitude. If it is not free, existence becomes empty and neutered, whereas if it is free, it remains in play. For as long as the Earth produced only cataclysms, trees and birds, it represented a free universe; the fascination of freedom was tarnished when the Earth produced a being who insisted that necessity was a law that was greater than the universe.

Man, however, has always been free not to respond to any necessity; he is free to be like anything in the universe that is not him. He can also dispense with the idea that it is either he or God who prevents all the other things from being absurd. Man has escaped his head like a condemned man escaping from prison. What he has found beyond himself is not God, who is the prohibition of all crime, but a being who knows no prohibition. Beyond what I am, I encounter a being who makes me laugh because he has no head, and who fills me with anguish because he is formed of innocence and crime; he holds an iron weapon in his left hand, with flames like those of a Sacred Heart in his right. In a single outburst he unites Birth and Death. He is not a man. Neither is he a god. He is not me, but he is more me than I am: his stomach is the labyrinth in which he himself has become lost, and I along with him, and there I rediscover myself as him, in other words the monster.

What I have thought and what I have put forward, I have not thought or put forward on my own. I am writing this in a cold little house in a fishing village; a dog has just barked in the night. My room is next to the kitchen where Andre Masson is happily moving about and singing; at the very moment when I am writing this, he has just put a record on the phonograph of the overture to Don Giovanni; more than anything else, the overture to Don Giovanni connects what has been allotted to me by existence with a sense of defiance that opens me up to a rapture beyond myself. At this precise instant, I look upon this acephalic being, an intruder composed of two equally fervent obsessions, as it becomes the “Tomb of Don Giovanni”. A few days ago, I was with Masson in this same kitchen, sitting with a glass of wine in my hand, when suddenly he foresaw his own death and the death of his family; with his eyes wide in suffering, he was almost screaming that death must become tender and passionate, screaming his hatred for a world in which the worker’s hand is gripped fast even until death, so that I could no longer doubt that the fate and infinite upheavals of human life were open to those who could not exist any more like sightless eyes, but as seers swept away by an overwhelming dream that can never belong to them.

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