Bataille 19

Bataille 19

Bataille on Nietzsche
Summit and Decline
. . . Humans are the cruelest animals. Participants in tragedies, bullfights, crucifixions–until the present they’ve been more at home on earth; when they invented hell, it was in fact their paradise. . .
—Zarathustra, “The Convalescent”

IT’S IMPORTANT to me to show that with “communication” or physical lovemaking, desire takes nothingness as its object.
It’s the same with any “sacrifice.”

Sacrifice generally, and not just the sacrifice of Jesus, seems to give the feeling of crime; sacrifice is on the side of evil, evil that is necessary for good.


Moreover, sacrifice is not intelligible if not regarded as the means by which humans once universally “communicated” among themselves and simultaneously “communicated” with the ghosts they understood as populating hell or heaven.


To clarify the links between “communication” and sin, between sacrifice and sin, I’ll suggest that as sovereign desire eats away at and feeds on our anguish, on principle this engages us in an attempt to go beyond ourselves.


The beyond of my being is first of all nothingness. This is the absence I discern in laceration and in painful feelings of lack: It reveals the presence of another person. Such a presence, however, is fully disclosed only when the other similarly leans over the edge of nothingness or falls into it (dies). “Communication” only takes place between two people who risk themselves, each lacerated and suspended, perched atop a common nothingness.


This way of understanding things gives a similar explanation to both sacrifice and the works of the flesh. In sacrifice, humans unite with a god by putting him to death: they put to death a divinity personified by a living existence, a human or animal victim (the means we have to unite with each other). Sacrifice itself and its participants are in some way identified with the victim. So, as the victim is being put to death, they lean over their own nothingness. At the same time they understand how their god is slipping into death. The victim’s surrender (in holocausts, the victim is burned for that reason) coincides with the blow striking the god. The gift partly frees up a “humanity” for us, and for a brief moment human beings are free to unite with the existence of their divinity, a divinity that at the same time death has brought into existence.



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