Bataille 18

Bataille 18

Bataille on Nietzsche
Summit and Decline
The crucified Christ is the most sublime of all symbols–even at present.
— 1885-86

I now want to contrast, not good and evil, but the “moral summit,” which is different from the good, and the “decline,” which has nothing to do with evil and whose necessity determines, on the contrary, modalities of the good.

The summit corresponds to excess, to an exuberance of forces. It brings about a maximum of tragic intensity. It relates to measureless expenditures of energy and is a violation of the integrity of individual beings. It is thus closer to evil than to good.

The decline–corresponding to moments of exhaustion and fatigue–gives all value to concerns for preserving and enriching the individual. From it come rules of morality.


To begin with, I will show how the summit of Christ on the cross is an extremely equivocal expression of evil.


THE KILLING of Jesus Christ is held by Christians as a group to be evil.
It is the greatest sin ever committed.
It even possesses an unlimited nature. Criminals are not the only actors in this drama, since the fault devolves on all humans. Insofar as someone does evil (every one of us being required to do evil), that person puts Christ on the cross.
Pilate’s executioners crucified Jesus, though the God they nailed to the cross was put to death as a sacrifice. Crime is the agent of this sacrifice, a crime that sinners since Adam have infinitely committed. The loathesomeness concealed in human life (everything tainted and impossible carried in its secret places, with its evil condensed in its stench) has so successfully violated good that nothing close to it can be imagined.


The killing of Christ injures the being of God.
It looks as if creatures couldn’t communicate with their Creator except through a wound that lacerates integrity.
The wound is intended and desired by God.
The humans who did this are not less guilty.


On the other hand–and this is not the least strange–the guilt is a wound lacerating the integrity of every guilty being.


In this way God (wounded by human guilt) and human beings (wounded by their own guilt with respect to God), find, if painfully, a unity that seems to be their purpose.


If human beings had kept their own integrity and hadn’t sinned, God on one hand and human beings on the other would have persevered in their respective isolation. A night of death wherein Creator and creatures bled together and lacerated each other and on all sides, were challenged at the extreme limits of shame: that is what was required for their communion.
Thus “communication,” without which nothing exists for us, is guaranteed by crime. “Communication” is love, and love taints those whom it unites.


In the elevation upon a cross, humankind attains a summit of evil. But it’s exactly from having attained it that humanity ceases being separate from God. So clearly the “communication” of human beings is guaranteed by evil. Without evil, human existence would turn in upon itself, would be enclosed as a zone of independence: And indeed an absence of “communication”–empty loneliness–would certainly be the greater evil.


The position of human beings evokes sympathy.
They’re driven to “communicate” (with both indefinite existence and themselves): the absence of “communication” (an egotistic folding back into self) clearly evokes the greatest condemnation. But since “communication” can’t take place without wounding or tainting our humanity, “communication” itself is guilty. However the good is construed, it’s the good of individuals–but by wanting to attain it (at night and through evil) we are impelled to question the very individuals in relation to whom we had sought it.


A fundamental principle is expressed as follows:
“Communication” cannot proceed from one full and intact individual to another. It requires individuals whose separate existence in themselves is risked, placed at the limit of death and nothingness; the moral summit is the moment of risk taking, it is a being suspended in the beyond of oneself, at the limit of nothingness.



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