To withdraw into passivity with the expectation that this will have an automagic impact is a kind of idiocy. You’re not part of a great pantheistic universe which will notice your absence of engagement. People refuse to vote and then think the universe will register their absence and get all upset and repent. Zizek may be aiming for a rather more subtle and complex stance which can be found in shamanism in terms of don Juan’s “not doing” or Bataille‘s notion that the superficial transcendence of the Nazis invading France can be defeated with “our immanence“. But that is not passivity. That is biding your time and in a way stepping out of the linear sequence of time, so as to gather one’s energies to be used tactically when the exact right time approaches. Immanence is like a bear hybernating. It’s underestimated, because one does not know there is a bear there at all, so those with a superficial transcendence discount it in their calculations. Then one day, the bear appears, baring its teeth. She has stepped out of time for a while and is now back in the play, but the enemy has already miscalculated.
And can you see? That is a very different thing from passivity?
Bataille‘s UNFINISHED SYSTEM OF NONKNOWLEDGE is pretty good for restructuring the ego. When I try to think about where he directly addresses something akin to superego (he doesn’t mention that term), he seems to refer more to “God” as the lawmaker whose laws must be broken, so as to experience the sacred and push the boundaries of existence. But he as read Freud and so it is clearly the same thing: the internalized law maker.
NONKNOWLEDGE is more of a Hegelian project. It’s a way of understanding the means for recapturing primeval innocence. You can slip the noose of societally reinforced meanings. The insights that come from this are in terms of understanding what those societally enforced meanings are. Oppositional dynamics create a basis for understanding. But when society reinforces knowledge as the means by which we learn to express our rectitude, embracing nonknowledge is transgressive.
The weird thing about Bataille is he is the same and the opposite to Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s transgression was in transcending the Christian mores of his day, whereas Bataille transgresses by falling short of them. Both create a gap between two levels of understanding of reality and it is this gap which allows them to have insights into the nature of reality. It’s not the achievement itself.
Visions of Excess, some short meditations, may also be useful regarding his understanding of the sacred.
I don’t think Bataille’s system is really related to a system of regression, which I have been describing in terms of traditional shamanism. Traditional shamanism takes the individual back to a dependency state and then restores the mind, in a sense reprogramming it with a more coherent sense of reality, whilst removing the force of the painful memories. I understand this idea theoretically more than in terms of what may be practically possible — at least for all people at all times (although perhaps I am erring on the side of doubt). All shamanism involves some measure of reprogramming and reintegration of parts that had gone missing from one’s core being — that are needed in order to make up the whole.
In the case of Bataille, the way I read him, he was able to integrate the negative, lower elements of life that he would tend to try to escape from, only after he had made his effort toward transcendence. Without the fatigue that comes from this effort, I would say, there is no ability to integrate. Despair is the integrative principle. Fatigue is the opening/receptive principle. But initial effort is above all the disciplining and ordering principle, which is also necessary to give shape to the experience. Of course I read him through the lens of my own experience as well as through conjecture.
So Bataille and traditional shamanism are different, especially as regards their methodologies. But they are the same in the sense of the project, which is to discover the terrain of the mind and to integrate it more thoroughly.
As I said, I use some conjecture here, based on personal experience and so on. To me, the effort I make toward transcendence (the masculine principle) can become a form of developing resources (self nurturing), which makes integration with the difficult or seemingly impossible or hateful aspects of one’s experiences more likely. I think that modern man (the contemporary human being, but especially of Bataille’s time) is divided from himself, above all by principles of civilisation, so the aspects of life such a violence, sexuality and the sense of being fully in the body, in the skin, are implicitly denied if not renounced. To return to them makes for a fuller being, at least one that acknowledges the highs and lows better. One becomes less schizoid or divorced from oneself than the moral-minded man.
Getting back to traditional shamanism, in that case regression is facilitated by singing or changing or drumming, and/or with the assistance of mind-altering substances. The shaman thus regresses the subject to a dependency state. Once there, the subject can relearn about himself and about the world. But this is because the shaman is a healer, with highly developed intuitive skills and a mythological framework to impart. We all live in a framework of myths, anyway. There are Freudian myths, free market myths, other salvation and redemption myths. Some of these are healthier than others. To be integrated better (a sign of health) one can use a framework that is healthier than the one that one is implicitly relying upon.
I think most of us really don’t know what myths we are relying upon, which are animating us. Some will make it harder to reach wholeness. Christianity is a very negative myth for women, for instance, since it tends to divide the psyche rather than allow for its integration.
Feminine relaxation is just bodily relaxation. There’s a certain sense in which the earth is feminine and the sky is masculine, although we would be better to see these as symbolic categories rather than defining human differences.
That’s all I can come up with right now.
I would say that, roughly, object relations refers to the mother and superego refers to the father, in the Freudian/psychoanalytic paradigm. That’s very rough, but the idea it that the mother is not inherently authoritative, but nurturing, rather, whereas the father represents authority, and thus superego. This is of course all very Jewish, in the sense of being a construct that develops under both the practical and theoretical guidance of a religious patriarchy. In my original culture, female school teachers were in fact extremely authoritative, but in Australia, they have less latitude to represent something other than a nurturing mother. I think gender essentialist feminism has made this situation worse rather than better.
One of the problems relating to the discussion in terms of guiding parental principles is that it tends to be one sided. You can say, “well this was a slap that was internalized” and “this was a principle of obedience imposed from the outside”, but in fact the issue is also always one that concerns nourishment. In a pluralistic society, an authoritative slap down may mean that I simply look for my nourishment elsewhere. And whilst nourishment in the feminine sense may mean a search for approval, nourishment in the masculine sense would imply a search for a different standard of discipline or testing ground, so that one may prove one’s worth effectively.
Perhaps there are even stages of this, similar to Maslow’s pyramid, whereby the needs to be nurtured in a feminine way are superceded by a more masculine need. But some people have unfinished work at the basic familial/feminine level. Then object relations has a greater level of significance in their psyche. In fact, I think where people are brought up too quickly and forced to become adults very early on, they do not finish this early work ever, or only with difficulty, because it is hard to be nourished in a totally open and unconditional way in adult society.
In my case, I had a lot of nourishment at the early childhood level. I had a very prolonged childhood, but not in a way that was suffocating. What I really needed and craved was a more masculine rite of passage — which I eventually got through pushing beyond my superego limits, since my superego had placed a very narrow grid over my mind.
The old fat teacher in your story seems to have wanted some feminine level nurturing, but there is no intimacy of communication. Reality has become atrophied, even at the level of the (symbolically) feminine. I think, in general, in patriarchal societies, women are laughed at with the presumption that they are not capable of being aware of what is happening. As an example, I recently saw a site which depicted “before and after” photos of women not wearing and wearing makeup. The article was titled, “women are deceiving you”. In each section, the woman was condescendingly praised for making a good effort and managing to present herself better than in the previous image. The lesson is that no matter what women may do, the feminine is an object of ridicule. It is defined only for the purpose of being negated. Well, that is what is really problematic about occupying a female subject-position under patriarchy. Lesson for those who aspire to be good female teachers: No point “changing the subject” in order to win approval — you are, definitionally, never going to be any good. That is a condition of your gender.
Being “bad” however, is an option, as is being bad. The first is an obviation of language and the second is transgression. Both are ways out of a hostile construct of reality.
Your dream of smashing red phallic symbols against the wall? Well, a denial of masculine modes of reality — i.e. masculine authoritativeness? One cannot proceed to this next level, anyway, if at the level of the feminine one has become atrophied. One needs extreme fluidity at this level and then one proceeds to the next level. Or one prematurely crystalises and then stays in a needy mode.
One difference I see between African children and Australian ones is that the latter is more likely to be prematurely crystalised in a mode of neediness. The African child can be playful AND can take on responsibility, but more than often the Australian child still has need of nourishment but can’t really take it in and absorb it. Something blocks and prevents this, which probably leads to the high amount of misogyny in the society: the anger at “the feminine” for seeming to be withholding itself. Should one be able to regress to the level of an infant and then get all the unconditional love one had originally needed, one would perhaps be able to proceed more effectively through life. But many people are left trying to form unhealthy symbiotic relationships with others so as to extract this nourishment. The problem is, their own stomachs reject it and cannot take it in. It’s like in Knut Hamsun‘s HUNGER, he has been hungry for so long that he cannot digest a rich steak and throws up immediately.
Perhaps all misogyny stems from this sense of hunger in a more emotional sense? That is why we have right wingers proclaiming their desire to “save the foetus”, which makes no sense logically (since they are also prepared to deny life and to kill), but seems to symbolize their need for greater emotional nourishment at a stage of early development.
I had a dream last night where this was a maniac in Syria who had set up a roadside bomb so that it would kill passers by. He would beam the distressed cries of their family members immediately onto the Internet. Then I unpacked a huge sports bag I had been carrying, and suddenly out fell his head and then a human ear. I put these on the floor of the van and then I randomly decided to notify the cops. I said, “You know there is a human head in that van if you go and look.” But then they looked and there was nothing there. That made sense (in my dream) because I suddenly realized I had no sequence of memory leading up to the appearance of the head, and consequently I had probably dreamed it. But it had seemed so real. Somehow I had committed to something beyond myself by telling others what I had seen.
On this Freud letter, he is a Jewish patriarch and doesn’t want to offend his father by going beyond him and seeing what his father could not see and would have no interest in seeing. This level of obedience is very different from Bataille‘s transgression. Bataille would say: ”If my father would not have been privileged enough to see this sight and if he would have found it boring, then I must certainly see it very clearly and enjoy it.” There is no point in preserving tradition for its own sake. One must go beyond what exists, to create the future. But that is tricky because then one shatters the existing frame of being that has given us comfort. To accept that one cannot do certain things is easier than to push beyond what exists.
But nobody pushes into the limits without adequate nourishment. Consider an arctic voyage without stocking up and adequate supplies. One has to figure out the logistics of this, not just push willy-nilly. Part of this is accepting that what one is doing isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. So, since it is hard, one has to plan and plot along the way. Have plenty of nourishment, have plenty of “feminine” relaxation and you will be better off.
But pushing the limits in Bataille’s sense will be harder for people in a society where the “feminine” is routinely devalued. They can push along in a masculine mode, but they just won’t have the resources to get where they want to be going. Ironically, they will never figure out how their societies and the values they have been taught to embrace are sabotaging their masculine efforts. I keep seeing this all the time, but most people can’t or won’t be taught.
I used to see the same thing, that my father was suffering, and that someone should either help him or take him out of his misery. I felt bad that I had to see this suffering and yet be unable to assist. Also I was very angry, indeed rageful, because all of his efforts seemed directed to keeping me in a stunted immature state, from the age of 15 onward. He seemed to draw his energy from keeping me down. But this isn’t object relations, which would mean something that happened when I was very young. It happened when I was an adolescent and subsequent to that.
It’s a terrible state to be in, because as you have suggested it leads to an internal antagonism. Initially, whenever I became angry, I would reflexively condemn myself as worthless for being angry at what already had worth, whilst I, being not yet an adult had not yet any worth in my own eyes.
I had to get myself to adulthood so that I would have the authority to do something authoritative, to fix the situation. That was hard. I needed my father’s blessing or the blessing of a proxy to reach adulthood, and people, above all my father, resolutely refused to give this to me.
Actually, one of those things about patriarchal society is that if you mention “my father said X about me,” everybody takes it for granted that this is an authoritatively true statement about you. After all, it was said by one’s father. Consequently, people kept battering me and telling me to grow up — which was ironic to say the least. Nobody wanted me to grow up.
I did eventually get there but it was a stuggle in a way it ought not to have been and that depleted the energy I could have used for other things.
But I do understand what you mean by the stage where “no” would have been destructive, as I have been there myself. That was when I lacked authority. And really, I had to do a lot of things to gain my own respect, so that I would have more authority, compared to that of my father and his voice in my head. So I got into what Bataille calls transgression and I got into it more and more, to try to loosen my boundaries and reduce the levels of rigidity.
When I began writing my memoir (also a form of transgression, since I was attempting to tell my side), I had that very conservative idea of climbing a slope and reaching a point where it all made sense and the situation was redemeed. It didn’t really work out that way. People who read my work kept saying, “Your father said WHAT about you?” They were very much stuck at a patriarchal level and that is the way it has remained. But the thing is, I did transcend that notion of redemption eventually. It must be that I became more redeemed, so I had less use for the idea. Also I saw that it was futile to expect others to redeem you. Maybe in a homogenised society, where everybody could understand what was going on, due to sharing the same history, sense of responsibility and being able to conjecture. But otherwise, I had vastly overestimated the level of people’s emotional and intellectual knowledge. I had been so intent on proving myself to be an adult to those who would deny me that status, that I had very much overshot the mark. And they still couldn’t see it — the patience, the strategy, the effort.
So I began to laugh. I split with the whole structure of the trauma and with the notion that effort has to be morally rewarded. The Christians themselves, who had encouraged me along that line of thought, had proven it untrue by their own reactions, in not recognising the need to move beyond a narrowk patriarchal view of things. Since they had demonstrated their own ability to confirm the beliefs they had, I was free from their ideology.
One does have to learn to say NO to various things at various points, but the timing really does matter. You have to build up the strength within yourself to be able to say it, otherwise you get crushed by your own exertion. You’re dealing with forcefields.
Most people, it seems, can’t say “no” to things in important ways. For instance, someone might say to me, “It seems you have made yourself free from bondage to conservative situations and beliefs, but I can do that too in due course.” It doesn’t work that way, because the mind does not function only on volition, but on the basis of emotional muscle tone. You can build that up within you and there are ways of doing that, for instance by becoming more attuned with and accepting of “disgusting” things. Anything that reduces authoritarian rigidity is useful.
But the road to freedom can take a couple of decades, and not just at cruise speed either, but pushing along over some rugged terrain.
The end part of the dream was rather disturbing because I was in a bookshop, compulsively opening and looking through some very refined and well crafted picture books. However, the sweat on my hands was so intense it soaked the books and I mangled several pages in many of the books I touched. The sales assistant said that I was on their list as a suspect. I didn’t mean to be destroying the books I was touching, but this kept occurring. I even thought I could offer to pay for the one I had more recently mishandled, but then I thought I’d probably end up paying for all of them, which I wouldn’t have been able to afford. There were religious women starting to persecute me, too. One ugly woman got close to me and contorted her face and said, “Deeem….!” I said, “Demon?” She was implying I was demon possessed.
So I just left the bookshop, and I realized I had no baggage to carry at all. No books was good, on one hand, but then I also had no food. I went through a very built-up arcade, which was in a suburb where my parents now live, only way into the future. A woman with a child over her shoulder almost scraped me and I had to sidestep her.
I just wanted to get out of this claustriphobic place as soon as possible, but suddenly the book shop owner, a kind of spy, was running after me. She had always kept me in her sights. She said she just wanted to ask me a few questions, so I said, “yes?”
I was feeling very guilty, so she began playing on that guilt, asking me why I was no longer doing my martial arts training. That was false, as I was still doing it. I said, “Why do you ask?” She said that when she was 65, she’d like to have a very toned body, and implied that I had the responsibility to think about that. I began trying to run away from the place, but it was like running underwater. I could only make very tiny steps with all my force.
I was trying to get away from middle class people and their concerns, from religious people and their concerns and from a situation where I inadvertently destroy their artefacts.
What I am finding is, all the time, the rejection that what I have to say contains violence. It’s more like I’m suspicious because I mess up the picture book and inadvertently destroy cultural property, but this is more demonic than deliberate. Or something.
But then, to get out of femininity and its mode of suffocation, it has to be deliberate, not inadvertent or out of my control (and in the control of the one who eternally monitors and polices reality to make sure it contains enough of the ascetic ideal).
I suppose, in a way, this hints at my relationship to A, which isn’t really a condition of having totally no power in my case, but has to do with being required to embrace an ascetic ideal, in a way that conforms to social expectations, especially with regard to femininity. For instance, if I make an unusual, because very personal interpretation of a book, the feminine world will say I’ve made a “mistake”, rather than acknowledging that I have expressed myself creatively. The books I was messing up were not language books, but picture books, however. I was destroying pristine and elaborate appearances, just by picking up the books in question. And this is because my hands were very sweaty — probably because I was, yes, still continuing with my martial arts even in the shop.
The feminine world denies my efforts and abilities, whilst policing me and asserting this is something I should be glad about. I feel very, very clumsy in its arena, and mess things up consistently even when I don’t intend to. Then the social police will claim that this occurred because I lapsed from my real nature — in this case accusing me wrongly of no longer thinking about the future by doing martial arts.
This, for me is horror in the realm of A. There are people who are very, very clear about their direction in life, who will not see me as having a different mind than they and a life they haven’t directly observed for themselves. They work on conjecture and with bad premises. For instance, they may assume that I have given up my training because I don’t come across as an ascetic.
In any case, they are picture books, not language books, that I tend to destroy with my fingers. I destory the ornate and beautiful ideas, but still manage language. But my language isn’t good enough to correct the misconceptions or the policing of my being, so I can only run away.
The first configuration is what I came to call the Vampires’ Castle. The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desireto be one of the in-crowd. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if – and it will do everything it can to reinforce this thought – that one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements. The Vampires’ Castle was born the moment when the struggle not to be defined by identitarian categories became the quest to have ‘identities’ recognised by a bourgeois big Other.
IN truth, though, wondering if you are in the “enemy’s territory” because you use social media is taking oppositional politics a bit too far and perpetuating notion of pure ideological politics, which in other ways this article attacks. Relax and loosen up. Even if you are in a danger zone it is better to be loose than all tight and tense.
Let A stand for mother love and close proximity to others, whereas B will be more closely aligned to the symbolic masculine position, which is away from the community and on its boundaries, perhaps (in historical terms) protecting the camp from wild animals. In its extremes, B stands for the wilderness itself and A stands for civilized modes of relating.
In terms of how we find ourselves in relation to A and B, I think they are morally neutral in and of themselves. No preference for one or the other has any moral meaning in itself.
But I think what may be more important is the way that the relationship between A and B are symbolized in our heads. I am getting to a Freudian point. Perhaps for a male being pushed away from the embrace of the mother (A) is a very painful experience? It’s not A itself that is desired, but to relive that experience of a more gradual transition from A to B – one which is less damaging?
In my case, I really only feel healthy and fully myself when I am very close to B. I am suffocated when in A, and in truth I have not found a way to exist in language. In fact, sometimes I seem to mutilate language to take my revenge. I want to put it at a disadvantage, so that it doesn’t grab hold of me.
The wilderness, where I have fully separated is the only state that has full meaning for me. But because I am female, people have constantly treated me as if I were more comfortable with A, which is a fundamental misunderstanding of my being, not to mention my goals and desires. I am never happier than when I am cast out of society and left to fend for myself. Too much mother love robs me of my being.
If A and B are feminine and masculine modalities respectively, one has to keep both of them, to not deny one’s full humanity.
A certain scenario that keeps playing out, where people want to punish me by denying me access to the community, and inadvertently (on their parts), they liberate me. Whenever someone tries to make me see that I am not conforming to the community’s mores, the more I realize that I had only been conforming in a half-assed, rather unconscious way from the beginning, but that this had never been my actual desire. Their anger liberates me from that which was never really in me to begin with.
I suppose, in a way, what A does not have, which B has, is a sense of eternity. A tries to keep me focused on the details, like doing needlework when I am dripping with sweat and my eyes are half-blind. I can’t see anything beyond the details, but I can’t really experience them fully and their presence overwhelms me.
In the mode of B, my eyes gaze out to the horizon and beyond. There is no threat I am not already equipped to handle. When I give up on A, it is like throwing away a mutilated being, like a child I never wanted. I am relieved to be rid of an externally imposed burden.
One of my better videos, if you have read a bit of Nietzsche and Bataille already.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10453255/TV-presenter-causes-outrage-after-posing-with-lion-she-killed.htmlThe primeval is experience is that which is dangerously real. Reality isn’t real unless it is dangerous. Naturally, humans thirst for this experience, although plastic fakes abound. Strangle a lion with your bare hands, or attempt to, and I will concede that your experience has been real and dangerously so. Or: stand behind a mesh screen and shoot your prey through a peepy hole after it has been set up for the kill, and I will posit you are maybe just a yank.
Sorry. That was hurtful. I should refer to this by the full name: Yankee Doodle.
Tamed-down versions of primeval experiences exist, but when they have been dosed up on tranquilisers, they’re not any more primeval than your great granny in her rocking chair. But she may be a very nice lady and I’m not intending any insult.
Primeval experiences are dangerous, but being a lady isn’t so. To be a lady means no dangerous experience will rock your being. In fact the gender system agrees with me: once “a lady” is raped or otherwise mishandled, she loses her societal status and is nothing more than one who dwells in gutters.
In any case, I maintain my view that an unsullied lady is the only possible variety, with no room for deviation from that basic format.
A dangerously real experience means no longer calling on this gender terminology. Why not? Because you realise that it is fake. Why? Because you have become exposed to one or myriad experiences that are dangerous and real.
Many people long for a deeper draw on reality, but their lungs are shallow. So, they shoot a beast in Africa and then encourage other “ladies” to take up a weapon.
Why? Because they lack the courage for a full experience and want to latch onto plastic bubbles to stay afloat, when they should give up all claims to what is artificial. Go for the full-on dirty, combat with primeval elements.
You might find something out about the reality or falseness of society’s gender constructs.
There are some things that I have found in Bataille.. The notion of excremental being is very strong in his work. Consider society as a human organism. Some people will form the parts of it that function, like eyes and ears and others will be intestines or excrement. Bataille thought that “heterogeneous” beings were those who did not fit the regulated, homogeneous structure of society and were excreted out. You might be able to find his essay, “On the psychology of Fascism”. He speaks about it here. Basically these excremental beings are strong, but separated from everything else. So fascism gets moving when they are reintegrated into the whole.
There is also another aspect to this in that if we consider, again, the whole of society as a kind of bodily structure, people tend to project unrecognized and unwanted parts of themselves into others. For instance, if they are dependent, they might project dependency. As Melanie Klein points out, they are literally trying to get rid of their excretions. I say, “literal”, because there is a literal aspect to all this. The person projected upon feels dirty and estranged. Klein says that the infant does this form of projection on and against its mother. “Here, take my excretion. YOU are disgusting!”
So there are invisible transactions like this going on all the time, and they are far from being merely symbolic or imaginary. Rather, they do have a direct material effect on those who get treated in this manner, especially if the treatment is prolonged.
When I began my research into this, I started to understand that what shamanism ought to address is how to handle these projections as material realities. Start taking them seriously. Realize that they are actual, although invisible, forces that can do some severe damage to your life.
If we have weak boundaries, due to some kind of psychological trauma, we are more likely to be affected by these forces, as we are less able to recognize and deflect them. That is like being a person without skin. It would be worse if you are actually taught to embrace your weakness rather than work against it. Actually I was taught this, because that was the female gender role I was supposed to adjust to, but that means taking on everybody’s projections and allowing them to be the infants who want to transfer onto me the identification with their own excrement.
I think it is sometimes enough to recognize that humans do wish to excrete themselves to gain a sensation of purity and that they will use anyone around them who has experienced psychological damage as their toilet. It’s a general dynamic that is not particularly personal.
And there is a certain truth, also, to the fact that war cleans everything up and makes this dynamic either more obvious or more difficult to impose because people do get thicker skins when they recognize they are at war. The thicker skins themselves repel these forces. But weak or compulsively liberal societies seem to make them endemic. Everybody suffers from them and this is considered the norm.
So learning to be at war with oneself and with others, as Nietzsche recommended, can be a healthy solution.
Our understanding of what is real and what isn’t seems to take care of itself when we can differentiate these negative forces projected by others from our real selves. That’s easier said than done, especially if you are basically a kind and gentle person who takes on the burdens of others. But it has to be done.
Guilt is a primeval emotion.To have guilt as a primeval sensation is to be more well positioned to develop shamanic awareness. The consistency one finds in various shamanic writers is not in the use they put their knowledge to, but in the purity of their awareness that these expressions of the psyche are decisive.
Nietzsche says guilt is an idiocy. He also says that there is a dire need for someone, some kind of overman creature, to rescue humans from their proneness to guilt. Bataille says something of the opposite. Guilt is a primeval emotion that ought not to be wasted. It enhances subjectivity, giving us something else to focus on than the world of objects and actions driven by material need or by the mechanics of the system. Guilt returns the individual to himself in a doubling motion and makes him or her more self-aware.
There is always that doubling motion in shamanism. People that see reality as only having one side, or linear dimensions tend to misread the project. For instance, neither Nietzsche nor Bataille advocate a descent into primevality without reflection. The assumption is that there is a doubling back upon oneself, so that the higher reaches of the mind enter a knowledge of primevality. If you don’t understand this already then a return to the primeval limits is not for you. A simple regression is a descent into madness that wastes everybody’s time. The key to successfully completing shamanic projects is rather self-outwitting. Don’t get pulled in by something you can’t control, but do get close enough so that you can observe it.
In relation to this goal, guilt works wonders. It does indeed create an effective doubling. One has the original actor — the “sinner” if you will — and the accuser who stands apart and makes the condemnation. This shamanicically enhanced polarisation of experience enhances subjectivity. The psyche is widened and one takes in more information than before, when one’s being had been rather flattened.
Self doubling also comes about automatically in the face of the fear of death. One attempts to stand apart from the inevitable, and thus is doubled. This expansion is more extreme than dreaming and being attentive to what one dreams.
To make one’s project to reinhabit subjectivity rather than to allow one’s psyche to be passively filled is the entire purpose of shamanic projects. There’s always a risk of destruction — always.
Academics who might be inclined to assert that Georges Bataille is just being silly by making guilt central to his project whilst claiming to be a careful reader of Nietzsche are clearly not sufficiently DEEP readers of Nietzsche, which is to say they do not read deeply enough into the meaning of his project. It’s to enhance subjectivity through mastering the invisible forces. In making this his project, albeit in slightly different way from Nietzsche, Bataille is Nietzschean. He is just using methods available to him and to us today, as opposed to the aristocratic methodology of the past.
In terms of inner experience, it’s not like you can eliminate guilt and still expect to develop a means of self-doubling. Some circumstances may allow a different method, but not all. In the 20th Century, form has held sway over content. People emptied of subjecthood may feel no guilt, but that is not to their advantage.
Automatons march robotically in their sleep, free from the nightmares that could have them leaping from their beds.
But looking deeper than how things appear to be on the surface requires an already well-developed base of subjective knowledge. Let us not assume we have this capability already, simply by existing.
In our last section we caught a vision of the perambulating ape walking away from his ordinariness. I made a mistake with that. I meant to say he was embracing his ordinariness, but in an abject or profane mode and not with respect to the sacred.
I used to think it my moral responsibility to wake up all bipedal apes and inform them there were other modes of travel available, but they kept informing me with solemnity: ”No, can’t you see? We are bipedal!” It was their fate to travel only by foot as nature had ordained it. So let no man put a biped and his nature asunder.
You may as well just try splitting an atom. Or spitting gum.
I took a jet from one side of the Earth to the other and I kept hearing a refrain that was the same: ”Humans are creatures of instinct, nothing can change that.”
I agreed when I heard that, but the triumphant tone with which this was proclaimed confused me. If you walk away from yourself like that, you will spend the rest of your life in the modality of the profane. I know that can seem easy, natural, even good, but isn’t it a trifle? I mean you’ll never get to be a soft porn star in a typical French movie.
Worse than that, you will be under the thumb. Something is enticing our fellow — a banana perhaps? — and he is moving further and further from himself. “It’s my nature!” starts to sound a little hollow at this point. More like a desperate drive to prove something to others who aren’t even listening or capable of paying attention.
This hair-coated figure moves further and further away because he must. He doesn’t require a justification that this is “human nature”, but he wields it as a stick just incase. That this is human nature in its natural or organic state is not to be denied, but it is trivally true. It’s harder to turn back on oneself when one is lost or disgusted or driven by a need to revolt against internal emptiness. Embrace the realm of the profane as if it were an offer of redemption.
But if you do not return to yourself, you’ll never be my gargantuan fellow. Well that’s okay, but you will be someone else’s dummy. What you mistake for nature is just stuff the ruling class has put into your head. If you like it — good. Embrace. But it is put there not by you and not by nature. It’s in the order of the profane.
The sacred is a return to oneself, but that is difficult, like science.
Violence narrows the boundaries between life and death and makes them seem more permeable.
When I came to Australia at 15 I had a different culture in me. I found it very, very stressful to understand here. People assumed I wanted to fit in, or promote my ego or something like that, but I hadn’t even made the most preliminary steps in that direction, nor did it seem logical to do so. I really found, aesthetically, the situation here was too plastic and pretend. I still find modernity to be extremely jarring and repulsive in the sense of suddenly dropping a trap door under you. I can’t imagine how people could like that or even get along with it as if it were normal.
I had a bubble in me that was extreme rage and sadness, but primarily rage. My father felt he had been defeated in battle, which is why we were migrating, and he hated anyone that reminded him of his defeat. I reminded him, because I seemed, myself, defeated. Also he didn’t like women and I was turning into one, it seemed. Not that I was behaving in any particularly different way, but my body was starting to change slightly and this filled my father with a violent rage. I really don’t know why he hated the female gender so much, but it also probably had something to do with the war and perhaps being told that if the men had not been pussies they would not have lost the war, and lost the country. Who knows? His aggression was extreme. In response, I became very emotionally repressed and did not really experience any negative emotions.
But I had this bubble in me and it made me extremely weak and fatigued. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome. I got multiple allergies to foods and pollen, which only justified my father’s rage.
I eventually got to reading Nietzsche, during a crisis, and understood that somehow I had to express my negativity more fully. It was an experimental path to health for me. I was being bullied heavily in the workplace at this time, which had a lot to do with being out of my depth socially, politically and emotionally.
I was becoming more distressed due to my own experiences, and I finally understood the depth of my rage which had been making me sick. It was white hot and I thought I could actually kill people.
But the bubble has eventually gone, over ten or fifteen years. I was extremely hostile during this time, but for the purpose of digging through to what was in me and expressing it.
And now I’ve gone through all that process and I’m thriving pretty much physically, although mentally I am a little fraught from all the battles I have had with myself in terms of trying to adapt to modernity, when I cannot. You see, I still don’t like it, although I am starting to understand what it is and why I don’t like the kind of behavior people now consider normal. It seems lacking in sentiment and proper care and depth. So I understand this and I cope with it through the shamanic principle of “not doing”, not responding, just letting everything fall where it does. My nerves are a little bit ragged but they are improving as I start to understand that I will not adapt to some things and have chosen not to make the effort, come what may. It’s not that there is something wrong with me, but my mentality is different from those who expect a highly regulated environment and want nothing more than that. I actually want and need the opposite. To have developed the capability of living in the moment but not to use it seems a waste.
If the aim of knowledge is to turn what is unknown into a representation of what is already known, then the aim of shamanism is to do the opposite. Nietzsche suggests that people are often uncomfortable with anything unfamiliar, so we go to great lengths to convince ourselves that whatever we encounter is already known.
If A is like B, we’ve seen it all before, so we think we can handle it. The brain likes to build bridges. But this method comes with its own limitations. Sometimes A and B are extremely un-alike, but we try to convince ourselves they are the same anyway, just to give ourselves peace of mind. Anything, rather than face the unknown!
Turning what is not known into what is deemed to be known happens far more frequently than it ought to happen. The means by which we lay claim to knowledge is too facile. We fill our heads with links, narrowly portrayed, but often these do not represent our experiences to ourselves very well. We’re leaving out too much and including too little.
Here’s the thing. Perhaps none of what I am saying is true, but everyone loves Zen Buddhism, right? Zen is all about coming to terms with perceptions, because even though we think we are perceiving things, there is a lot that is getting past us. Well, enlightenment is to stop so much getting past us and to keep more of it near us, so that it becomes part of ourselves.
Shamanism is like that only different. In the case of Zen, you kind of get into an ascetic modality and you eat only a few grains of rice at a time and focus on the weirdness of it all. The brain snaps under the pressure of asceticism and you stop defending yourself so much from the unknown and accept it.
But in shamanism everything is more frothy and voluptuous. You just work with what you have. You don’t need to use asceticism to put you under strain. You can snap at anything. Sometimes it’s traumatic experience, or it might be pharmacology. Whatever it takes to stop defending yourself from yourself.
The level of shamanic health in any society can be measured by the degree to which it accepts, rather than defends itself against the ordinary. Asceticism and self-denial can take you way off in the wrong direction. ”We are disgusted with ourselves and wish to improve!” – but so? Self-contempt comes from self-alienation, which originates in an unbridled contempt for the ordinary.
Whoever told you that you had to be special to be able to accept yourself was setting you up to buy their own brand of snake oil. What you were when you were five or six years old — that was special. Nowadays, not so much, because you don’t really have yourself available anymore. Seems like you’ve wandered off somewhere. Any idea where you’ve gone?
Oh! You’ve in search of something that will make you special, most likely. But you were special before, and now with every step along the well-worn path to knowledge you are whittling down, becoming slimmer, harder to make out. Madnesss!
So many people have gone off their rocker. No expression conceals greater contempt for humanity than, “Oh, but this is ordinary!”
Can you imagine how very strange it is, to have a person, who ought not really to exist, proclaim that anything at all is ordinary? Consciousness is a fluke. The likelihood that it has come together in the universe is next to nothing. Your body is an alarming construct and it is impossible to believe that you are really here.
So stop being mad and get back on your rocker, as it’s getting late. I, personally, am getting tired of these general people, old before their time, clambering off their rockers.
I’m tired of it, I tell you. I have had enough!
Servility is whenever one embraces unequivocal truths about reality. This is how servility and the ascetic ideal are linked, as noticed by Nietzsche in his Genealogy of Morals. Now, this insight should definitely not be transferred into a different light to imply that objective reality doesn’t exist or that it is morally wrong (or right) to be servile. These links are psychological and only have moral implications further down the track. That is, intellectual shamanism calls forth the question of what it means to submit to the truth and whether this is always necessary.
To imagine reality as a small bubble of oxygenated consciousness inside which you or I dwell is to see it as the intellectual shaman sees it. I’m in this bubble and I feel safe. I’m surrounded by my truths, pressing in on me somewhat, but this state of being is reassuring. Maintaining awareness is oxygen, meaning I can breathe. I’m a spaceman walking on the moon right now, but nothing phases me. I’m only worried about losing oxygen, losing consciousness, for then I die.
Death is inevitable, but it is the fear of death that keeps us fixated on the truth as an oxygen supply.
Now let us imagine a different scenario. For some reason humans have come to associate truth with perserving life, but the relationship is more tenuous than had been presumed. For instance, truth turns out to be socially defined – meaning it has an unstable quality by its nature. Or truth is a boundary set up by your mind, that doesn’t really correlate with objective reality very much. Take the space helmet off and you will still be fine.
Most people don’t live long enough to see historical perspectives: boundaries of reality shift. That which seems true to people today will seem like superstition to those who populate the future.
The ascetic ideal, meanwhile, constrains us. Humans are prone to proceed cautiously through life, watching their steps. But intellectual shamanism counsels that a too narrow mode of consciousness, all suited up with helmet on and cautious steps, is also a form of death. One dies inwardly bit by bit.
Death is not a great thing, but Bataille goes on and on about it. You would almost think he was inclined to celebrate the act of dying, but that isn’t it. It’s the opposite. He is constructing formulations for opposing the ascetic ideal, without totally going mad and losing it. You need to pay attention to safety and freedom. A bit for tradition and a bit for me. Otherwise your safety mechanisms will destroy you and you will be none the wiser.
So don’t focus so much on the truth side of things and start to live a little.