This preview shows page 271 - 273 out of 341 pages.
(BOC VII, 257) Of such "religious suicides," Bataille notes, "there are more ex amples than one imagines." Yet these acts remain rare (257). But might there not be a way in which a conscious form of suicide could express the "violent need to lose" outside of war, without seeking to revive faded religious systems ? In a sense Jlinger him self hasthrown the question open: "What is more sacred than a fighter? " (cited on 2 5 3 ) . Until an answer to this question isfound, war will retain its status as the defining human activity. In closing the "War" chapter of The Limit of the Useful, Bataille answers not with a theoretical declaration, but with a literary tableau. Instead of Jlinger's frenzied soldiers, Bataille invites the reader to imagine a Tibetan monk "withdrawing in solitude, in the midst of overwhelming mountains," to meditate at the edge of the site where corpses are exposed to the wolves and vultures. The hermit "gives himself over to a 'comedy' of sacrifice": He does not die, but a long meditation shows him with growing acuity his own body as "a dead, plump prey, with a succulent appearance, enormous - lling the universe." Then his vision begins to move. He "sees" his own radiant intelligence in the form of an "Angry Goddess" holding a skull and a knife: she cuts off the head of his corpse.In her anger, this "Goddess" that he himself is tears of his skin, heaps on top of it the bones and the flesh, rolls it together, and "tying it using snakes' intestines as rope, she swings it over her head and hurls it to the ground with force." [ . . . ] Nothing real accompanies this exercise. The body treated in this way remains intact. But the ascetic possesses - without doubt - the faculty to render as sensible as the real
world what an inner contemplation shows him. And in the ecstasy of this anguished vision, it is really as if the old man were ground up: the life of the narrow person loses itself in a much vaster reality, as the breaking wave loses itself falling back into the water that surrounds it. (BOC VII, 258-59) Through the sacrificial "comedy," the "Tibetan ascetic" lives his own death(259). He "dies in seeing himself die" - that is, consciously - "and even, in a certain way, by his own will" (HDS, 19). Meditation creates the conditions for an inner confrontation with death in no way less potent than death in the "real world." Moreover, Bataille explains, the ascetic's ecstasy does not differ from "what it is possible for each one of us toattain" using similar methods (BOC VII, 259). The comedy of sacrifice gives form to Bataille's notion of a "religious suicide." The ascetic is the "Angry Goddess" who decapitates his own corpse(while the Goddess, wielding a knife and a skull, recalls the iconography of the Acephale emblem, and thus suggests a female image of Bataille himself, Bataille in macabre di vine drag).35 Sublimated and turned inward, shifted from external action to the realm of contemplation, Sacrifice liberates " an excess of joy" springing from the unleashing within the self of a "movement of completely interior violence"(B 0 C VII, 2 5 9 ) .