Ah! for me to learn to believe in your “conscientiousness,” ye would
first have to break your venerating will.
Conscientious- so call I him who goeth into God-forsaken
wildernesses, and hath broken his venerating heart.
In the yellow sands and burnt by the sun, he doubtless peereth
thirstily at the isles rich in fountains, where life reposeth under
But his thirst doth not persuade him to become like those
comfortable ones: for where there are oases, there are also idols.
Hungry, fierce, lonesome, God-forsaken: so doth the lion-will wish
Free from the happiness of slaves, redeemed from deities and
adorations, fearless and fear-inspiring, grand and lonesome: so is the
will of the conscientious.
In the wilderness have ever dwelt the conscientious, the free
spirits, as lords of the wilderness; but in the cities dwell the
well-foddered, famous wise ones- the draught-beasts.
The key to intellectual shamanism is self-renewal, though defying the gods of one’s forefathers and the gods of one’s community. The above text, from Zarathustra, also forms a link between thinkers, Nietzsche and Bataille.
One could use words like self-renewal, personality restructuring, mental freedom and seeing through power structures, to describe the state that comes about through “break[ing] your venerating will”.
Whereas some might read the above text as if it suggested one should make a break from Christianity, the psychology of Nietzsche’s texts takes us deeper than this. The break is not from Christianity, but from the inclination to venerate, as such.
The issue, then, is with holding ideas, nations, values and positions in such high esteem that one does not have real independence of mind. We all do it. It’s the natural human disposition. We simply can’t help ourselves. As Freud reveals, our minds function on the basis of Superego. We tend to develop reverence for certain elements of life, based on our upbringing. We revere our nation, or our authorities, or certain traditions. We do so unthinkingly. To the degree that objects of reverence occupy their elevated position in our minds, we are unfree.
Unfree people attack others who are free. That’s in their instinct. They simply cannot help but do so. The cost of sacrificing spontaneity and pleasure to Superego gets too much. Out of their sense of unfreedom and emotional paucity, unfree people attack. They attack those who do not obey the laws they apply to themselves. Ultimately, they want you to pay the price for their desire to venerate things.
The shamanic type is the one who breaks the general human law of veneration. He or she transgresses (and temporary suspends) the spell that has been cast by Superego, which would cause them to sacrifice to the object of veneration. Superego always sends off a flair that if one transgresses against its laws, one will surely die:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:17
So, one must face the specter of death to reclaim life-force from it.
The encounter with death leads to a confrontation with Superego. One steals back one’s life’s essences by defying one’s fear of death. This is what Bataille means when he says he “transgresses”.
Temporarily, one does not venerate that which had seemed so important and vital in one’s youth. By refusing to venerate, one buys the capacity for a wider perspective — “the knowledge of good and evil”.
Thus, one goes more deeply into life and sees through many of the traps that Superego had set to make one worship all sorts of arbitrary things. Many of these are beneath one’s stature as a human being. One can become free only by challenging one’s own fears. One’s own fears tend to make up a large part of the personality structure itself.
When one challenges one’s fears, one challenges oneself. One also gets beyond immature ideas about the world, and finds the insight and intelligence to work towards something better than the goals one had committed to in one’s naive states.