Carlo Suarès : Critique of Reason Impure : The man who thinks himself
(Extract from Critique of Reason Impure by Carlo Suarés. 1955 Stock Edition)
Since we must first agree on the meaning of words, let's say that, in our opinion, thinking is first of all thinking about something. We hold, with Julien Benda, that it is very badly to analyze the thought process, than to imagine it continuous movement. The "spiritual modification" that we are given as presiding over science, particularly at present science, is a movement which passes, either in the individual or through history, from a stop of the mind to another stop; it is a modification by leaps and bounds, not by a continuity of movement, free from any stopping [ 1 ]. Thought is a discontinuity of attention, which arises successively from one image to another, from one idea to another, from one word to another. Thought is only stopped, says Benda: mobile thought is not thought, he adds, "less scientific". We understand all the less this reservation in Benda, as his criticism relates, not to scientific thought which has never claimed mobility, but to a philosophical school which, since Bergson, has affirmed that concepts can be fluid , in a constant becoming. Of course, it is with rigid concepts, since there are no others, that Bergsonians operate, in so far as they express thoughts [ 2 ], says Benda. So let's remember that Benda's previous reservation was a distraction. The unfolding of a thought can be extremely fast and give the illusion of movement, just like in the cinema a succession of images. But it is obvious that thought must be able to stop at any time, on any idea (or what association, which is still an idea: the idea of "a relationship" between two or more ideas) for lack of be inconsistent. Even if I think "fluidity", this thought is rigid because it is definable. If it were itself "fluid", it would only be vague, fuzzy, which would force me, either to stop to examine it better, or to let myself slip into the sensation of an emotional movement, a frozen sensation that I would be wrong to confuse with the movement itself [ 3 ].
Let us sum up by saying that a thought is a representation, that is to say the act of making something present in the mind. To "think" of oneself is therefore to be present to oneself. And if this presence to oneself imposes itself so strongly that it banishes from consciousness any doubt as to its reality as a being, the thought "I" - this image that man makes of himself - stops to the point of not perceiving itself as thought, which does not mean that it does not exist. It is nonetheless true that man "thinks" himself the more strongly that he knows it less, which leads him to all kinds of extravagance. We will examine, with two examples, two stages of this presence to oneself, according to the Knowledge whose method is our object. The first example will be that of a man who thinks himself without knowing it, which we say is in a dream state. The second example will be that of men immersed in religious myth. In a following chapter, we will examine the case of some minds for whom the object of Knowledge is contained in this dictum of Bergson: " If philosophy did not try to answer these questions: who are we?" Where are we going ? it would not be worth an hour of trouble. [ 4 ]
a) Presence to oneself in the dream state. - Even though many people dream awake, our example will be that of a sleeping dream, as it has been communicated to us.
"I dreamed that I was on a mountain range without any vegetation; everywhere there were only heaped stones and sometimes very large rocks. Curiously, I moved without difficulty on this rugged landscape, although I was on roller skates; I came and went in all directions, and in a feeling of anguish more and more painful, knowing that I had to serve orange blossom water, that I had none, and that I could not discover any tree, no flower, not the least vegetation, in spite of my innumerable races. My anxiety turned into a nightmare when I was in front of the dragon I was to serve. Then he said to me, most quietly in the world: don't you know that orange blossom water is extracted from stones? - Ah, yes, that's right, I replied. And I cannot forget the deep relief which thus ended the dream."
When I woke up, commented the author of this dream, I learned that during my nap they had wrapped a car engine under my window, which immediately gave me the explanation of the absurd situation of my character ; the noise of the engine had suggested that of roller skates and the choice of these skates, overcoming the most extraordinary obstacles, was an excellent opposition to the breakdown where the car was: the image of myself traveling mountains in every sense, exactly the opposite of the real situation, was a well organized escape. But as the noise threatened to wake me up at any moment, I regretted not having orange blossom water to better fight my nervousness. So far everything is fairly simple, if we stick to the descriptive aspect of the phenomenon. But it is both its simplicity and its extreme intensity that put me on the path of reflection. First of all, I tell myself that to compose an imaginary leak so exactly opposite, in all these elements, to what I did not want to undergo - the noise of the engine - I necessarily had to know the truth, that is - to say that this engine was trying to wake me up. I can hardly imagine an unconscious and an "unconscious" subconscious, in the process of fabricating, for the use of my "conscious" consciousness, a dream whose effect is to make it "unconscious". If I avoid speculating on this phenomenon, I am forced to admit that "I knew" what my sleep was fighting against. Like children who ask to be told stories while they are having a soup they do not want to swallow, "I" asked myself to "tell me" a story about roller skates on a mountain range. The curious thing is that I succeeded. The story held up, with difficulty, anguish and dragon, but it held out, until I assume that the noise has stopped. How could it be possible?
By what mechanism am I, the sleeper, wrapped in my own story, until I am just one of the characters? I have asked myself this question many times, always avoiding answering it with speculation. I often had to plunge back into the state where "I" had found myself - which was easy for me because of its intensity - to realize that the process would not have succeeded if it had not was intense, and that this intensity was due to a fixity of thought, in other words to a fixed idea which had entirely absorbed my consciousness. This fixed idea, this thought, was personified in an "I". This "I" was infinitely more intense, more present, more perceptible than it was at any time in my waking life. He was there in the manner of an omnipresence which excluded any self-observation. It is therefore inaccurate to say "I" was moving, "I" was looking for, "I" had to find orange blossom water, because, apart from the comings and goings, anxiety, stones, the non-eau-de-fleur there was nothing. There was not someone in situation, in conditioning. There was an anguish-stones-not-orange-flower-water, so devoid of any other element, that on reflection I realize that my account of the dream is inaccurate: "I ;Did not tell myself that+ I ;did not have this water, nor that+ I ;could not discover any tree, no flower, no vegetation despite my countless races. "I" didn't say anything to myself, "I" didn't comment on the situation; "I" did not say to myself, either, that if "I" did not find this water, this or that would happen to me, that, for example, the dragon would punish me: there was, at that time , not even a dragon, this one suddenly presented itself, at the end of the dream; hitherto "I" had not thought of the person "I" should serve, nor of the reasons that "I" might have served it, nor of the dangers which would threaten me if "I" did not serve it. There was not, I say, a consciousness in condition, but a consciousness that was only the personification of an anxious condition.
The examination of this state revealed to me an "I" in the state of pure thought, of fixed idea, an "I" silent in the way we imagine a soul in pain. He had no questions. It was manufactured so that no question could arise. If it is true that there was a problem (finding this water) nothing looked like a problem and nothing called for a solution. I realize this: if this "I" had started to reflect on the situation, it would have immediately stopped thinking. If he had "thought" in the sense that we usually give to this function, he would have examined himself in his relations with his action and with his anxiety and would no longer have been the thought personification of himself. " Who am I ? Already indicates that we are no longer the object of this interrogation, that we have created an observer, a superego, apparently objective, apparently detached, capable of judging, evaluating, comparing, manipulating values , etc. Nothing like this happened in my dream. This "I" was the identification of the thought "I". And this thought was an anguish incapable of posing as an object of its own thought. This last observation is not to surprise me, because we know, it is established, that an anxiety which thinks "around" itself, that is to say which examines itself, which gives itself reasons and explanations is no longer anxious.
But it is difficult to see that an "I" who thinks himself, knowing that he thinks himself, is no longer him. "Thought-around" is a false perception. Thinking yourself, knowing that you are thinking yourself, is a flight. Here is my discovery, and that this leak leads to false thoughts, to false evidence, to explanations which have no more content than the stones contain orange blossom water. The advantage of my dream was its naivety. Because the "I" thought about it without knowing it, so that the anxiety not disguised, came to this admirable solution: "do you not know that orange blossom water is extracted rocks ? - Ah! Yes, it's true ". This absurd dialogue intrigued me for a long time and inflicted on me a kind of humiliation of the fact that, in spite of my reasons, this "I" was really me and still makes me feel it, in the memory of a really lived anxiety. May it be dispelled, not by this "Ah! yes, it is true "but by the cessation of the noise under my window, does not at all mitigate the fact that, for this" I "(which, I repeat myself, is still me in the feeling that I have ) there was revelation, deep intuition, certain evidence that stone = water and that I had always known it, the way we teach that a soul knows God but, distracted by itself, may not be s 'report it. The bliss, which immediately put me back to sleep, was, I remember, total. As total and unthinkable as the "I" had been total and thought. As indecomposable as the "I" was in the non-reflexive state in which it was. There was substitution, bliss having replaced the "I". It was therefore a single process, the two aspects of which were linked. I started by breaking down and admiring in its smallest details, so minute, this "I" which had given itself an "in-itself", that is to say a way of being a sleeper, "for him ": Was made. The cause, the fact, the reality of the sleeper and the noise, all of this obviously constituted a "for-itself", that is to say a way of being for the sleeper, for him an arrangement of his consciousness, for its purposes. Someone was sleeping, and was tired, and needed to sleep, and his consciousness implemented a "for-itself" and was absorbed, "apparently" entirely in this "for-itself", was integrated into the dream. But it was not a happy state.
This dream was a last resort. It was the temporary and hasty disguise of a state of conflict, of an intense struggle. The sleeper did not know if he would succeed in his ends. There was therefore, more than "desire" for sleep, there was "will", that is to say organization of desire, and very little assured of itself, uncertain as to its strength of resistance. Indeed, the anxiety kept increasing in intensity. The dreamer, left on his roller skates, in an attempted escape made from the annexation of elements "opposite" to those who constituted his enemy, could not have carried into these imaginary spaces the "for-itself" that was his conscience. He could not afford "for himself", a laughing landscape where he might have found a woman met the day before, or the realization of a vacation project. Thought could not therefore be concentrated in the satisfaction of a "for-itself", this satisfaction being always "an acknowledgment of oneself". Or, more precisely, a recognition of self-being-realization-of-for-oneself. There could not be a reflexive thought of self recognizing itself, because consciousness, instead of being the for-itself to which it aspired at the start, had encountered an irreducible opposition (in this case, the noise of the engine) and had been forced to change its nature, to be the "being" of a conflict. Of a conflict which, if it had been seen in its reality, would have been a revival outright. Indeed, to say to oneself: there is a noise of engine which prevents me from sleeping, it is already not to sleep any more. So at no point does the sleeper have the right to say to himself: there is an engine noise under my window. He could, setting out his dream differently, hear an imaginary motor. "This" engine, under "his" window, could still be dreamed of, provided that he, the sleeper, is not what he is, trying to sleep. In other words, the for-itself is obliged, "for itself", to invent itself other than it is and "not to know how it was invented". Because if he knew it, he would be as he is, so he would no longer be him. In summary, "self-awareness" is satisfied; it becomes "conflict consciousness", and at the same time "consciousness-non-perception-elements-of-conflict", without which it would change state, it would be awake, which would be the opposite of itself, since 'she wants to sleep. There is therefore a hiatus of consciousness. There are holes, which are necessarily the elements of which this "I" is made. And can we be surprised, since he sleeps? Without these holes, sleep would not be.
These missing associations "are" sleep. But, the noise ceasing, why does the dragon not tell him that he has, in his cave, a good supply of orange blossom water, or that he is no longer thirsty, or anything else reasonable solution that would nullify the conflict? Because nothing can reduce the conflict to nothing except the absurd observation that it never existed, that stones and water have always been one and the same thing. Any other answer would keep the stone-water opposition and therefore constitute a series of problems and questions. The question: "did you not know? "The answer" Ah! yes it's tru e, are the only ones that prelude to a good sleep, deep, peaceful, without dreams. As absurd as they may appear later, to a consciousness in a higher state, they are the only ones who fulfill their purpose.
b) Presence to oneself in a myth. - In a peaceful sylvan landscape, at the foot of a mountain, was an hour's walk from a small town, a lake. On the northern side of this lake, a hedgerow sheltered a sanctuary. In the sacred grove stood a special tree from which, at all hours of the day, even in the late hours of the night, a dismal face appeared around. In the high hand a raging sword, he seemed to search without respite, with his inquisitive eyes, for an enemy quick to attack him. This tragic figure was both a priest and a murderer, and the one he relentlessly watched had sooner or later put him to death himself in order to exercise the priesthood in his place. Such was the law of the sanctuary To the enjoyment of this precarious tenure attached the title of king; but never crowned head had to sleep with such a feverish sleep, haunted by dreams so bloodthirsty, because from one end of the year to the other, winter, summer, in the rain or the sun, he had to mount his solitary guard. To close his weary eyelid for a few brief seconds was to put his life on the line; the least bit of vigilance created danger for him; a minimum decline in his bodily forces, an imperceptible clumsiness on the ground, a single white hair visible on the forehead, would have been enough to seal his death sentence [ 5 ].
This lake is Lake Nemi, not far from Rome; this sanctuary that of Diane Nemorensis, and this cult is not the invention of a nightmare: these priests existed in antiquity.
We know that in search of an explanation for this curious use, Frazer was led to compile, in twelve volumes, a huge documentation on witchcraft, magic and religion, across the ages and the continents. This picture of blind and bloody humanity is terrifying. Does the distressing story of stupidity and human error that we have unfolded in this book provide us with a more general conclusion, a lesson, some hope, some encouragement? wonders Frazer at the end of his book. And its conclusion is that, considering the identity of the needs of man of all times, in all places, and the diversity of the means adopted to satisfy them, we will perhaps, then, be ready to conclude that the progress of thought in its high form, as far as we can trace it, has generally gone from magic to science through religion ... In magic man depends on his own strength, to face difficulties and dangers awaiting him from all sides. He counts on the existence, in nature, of a certain established order on which he can rest with certainty, and which he can make serve for his ends. When his error dissipates ... he abandons himself ... at the mercy of certain supreme beings but invisible ... It is thus that among the most perceptive minds magic gradually gives way to religion ... In the long run, this explanation, in turn, becomes inadmissible; for it presupposes that the succession of natural phenomena is not determined by immutable laws, but that it leaves room for a certain variability and irregularity; closer observation does not confirm this postulate ... This is how the wisest minds ... return to the old point of view of magic, by explicitly presupposing what magic had only implicitly admitted, know an inflexible regularity in the order of natural phenomena ... In short, religion, considered as an explanation of nature, is dethroned by science ... In the final analysis, magic, religion and science are only theories of thought ; and, just as science has dislodged its predecessors, so it may be supplanted by a better hypothesis ..., etc. [ 6 ].
It is indeed a better hypothesis that attracts our attention, or rather a new "theory of thought" based on the fact, now evident, that no "explanation of nature" is likely to satisfy us. . It is hardly necessary to note that, for a religious spirit of our time, the laws of nature, whatever they are, inflexible or indeterminate are those same that God gives him, which reduces to nothing the conclusion of Frazer.
The universe is mysteriously the expression of a mathematical formula, which escapes all possible representation. For the men of the nineteenth century who placed their faith in the scientific myth, everyone outside was to become, one day, thinkable, so as to definitively appease the hunger that man has of knowing, as if the only enigma of man was other than himself, since, if he knew himself, and since he is the place of what he knows and what he does not know, he "would" be knowledge. How could these men have supposed that a consciousness would resolve itself in the total knowledge of what it is, by offering to its discursive reason an "explanation" of the Universe? As well, Frazer explains nothing. The myth of the priests of Nemi, seen through scientific myth, does not reveal to us the nature of "human needs" which, according to Frazer (and it may be that he is right) "is identical at all times, in all places ". If these needs are to "rest with certainty" on nature, how to interpret the free and tragic choice of a situation where a man must, at all hours of the day and night, stretch his faculties so as not to be murdered ? There is a contradiction, an absurdity, which justifies Frazer's surprise and calls for less disappointing conclusions than his own. If this absurdity is inherent in human needs, where to locate it, where to locate it, in our time? What names to call them? Are we, seriously, this fiction: civilized, freed from this absurd and from these needs? Or rather, does behavior seem absurd to us only until we know its motives? And cannot it be, on the contrary, the lived representation of a reality too deep to allow itself to be contained in rationally obvious associations? (Like the dream previously described was only preposterous.)
Let's examine the characters in the drama, their roles, the decor, the props, the staging.
Diane Nemorensis, first of all, a new incarnation of the Tauric Diane whose bloody rite required that any foreigner landing on the shore be sacrificed at his altar [ 7 ]. Settled in Nemi, his cult changed in appearance. The Diane-sang association was maintained, mythically, only in the character Diane-chassesse, and human sacrifices had both as executioners and victims, their own priests. The rite was as follows: within the enclosure of the sanctuary of Nemi stood a certain tree of which no branch should be broken. Only a fugitive slave could try to break one of his branches. The success of this attempt enabled him to attack the priest in single combat and, if he succeeded in killing him, he reigned in his place, under the title of King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis). According to the opinion of the ancients, the fateful branch was the Golden Branch that Aeneas , by order of the Sibyl, gathered before embarking on his perilous journey to the land of shadows. Let us note these important associations: the fugitive slave in the conquest of a Rameau d'Or, emblem of dead-vanquished, was contradictorily, brought to inflict death on the victor-on-death in office. He thus acquired a freedom-in-death, since from a slave not threatened with death, he became King-in-murder. Frazer does not seem to have retained that these priests preferred death to slavery, and, before death, a period of royalty, even a precarious one. Now this story becomes less absurd as far as priests are concerned, but shows them to us in an aspect in every respect opposite to those sinister characters imagined by Frazer; it is still unexplained with regard to the necessities of worship; so let's continue its review.
Two mythical characters in Nemi attract the attention of the author. One is Virbius, son of Hippolyte. Hippolyte, as we know, in love with Artemis (or Diane), thereby disdaining the love of mortals, was, following a vengeance of Phhdre, thrown at the bottom of his chariot and killed by his horses. The body of the young hero was collected by Diane, brought back to life by his care (with the assistance of Aesculapius) and Hippolyte lived in the sacred wood of Nemi, where he had a son: Virbius.
The second mythical inhabitant of Aricie wood is the nymph Igirie , personification of a spring which fell in cascade in the lake. This source was miraculous; it had healing properties, and in the region, it is even assured today that it still has them. We found in the sacred baths that surrounded it, the remains of many votive offerings. It was to Egeria that Diane was entrusted with the care of the resurrected Hippolyte.
The cult of Diana, as Vesta, included the maintenance, by Vestals, of a perpetual fire. According to the symbolism that we sketched in a previous work [ 8 ] the symbols fire and blood belong to the same category, masculine, dynamic. Fire is, symbolically, an exaltation, a transfiguration of the blood: in a way a purified and purifying blood. If he is attached to the Diane Nemorensis, whose origin is bloody, it is because this Diane has risen, has become spiritualized. And how can I doubt it? Did she not want and obtain the Resurrection of the pure hero Hippolyte? We recognize here very great themes , the importance of which is still considerable today. These themes still live and proliferate in what we have agreed to call the collective unconscious. And that it is, in this cult of Diane Nemorensis, not witchcraft, magic, savagery, but the prodigious Myth in which humanity still struggles (as inside a nightmare which it cannot or does not want to wake up) we still have proof of this in Nemi, of these two feminine poles: Diane-feu and Igirie-eau.
The cult of Diana was so widespread in antiquity, that it resisted the centuries, while changing its name: the feast of Diana was celebrated on August 13. It only moved forty-eight hours, calling itself the feast of Mary. Certainly, Diane, unlike Marie, was not the only goddess in heaven. This is by no means important; what seems to us to be the key to the mystery of his cult is that through him was the cu l te of a more important mystery, psychically: that of the death and resurrection of a male character. Virbius was, according to Frazer, a spirit of the sacred tree and the priest - the King of the Woods - personified this tree: presumably an oak. It is possible that the Rameau d'Or was mistletoe, according to this author's thesis. Very old traditions represented the life of the oak as being in mistletoe, which would explain why it was necessary to break a branch of this parasitic plant before killing the sovereign-priest identified with the tree: part of it was removed in advance. his vitality. Seen thus, from the anthropologist's perspective, this cult was therefore only a bunch of superstitions and modern man is ready to accept the idea that the man of a few centuries ago dreamed of. Because (can we say today ) there was, in fact, no Diane, nor Hippolyte, nor Virbius, nor Egeria , but a wood, a spring, and a tree around which we slaughtered. There was a myth, the power of bewitchment was such, that men and women played both their happiness and their lives in roles assigned to them by this drama. Imaginary, it became real, really lived, in pain and blood. For these characters, priests, vestals or simple faithful, their "I" were perceptible to themselves as identifications with their roles. We see them as far below an objective view of themselves, as was our dream character, described above, on his roller skates. And that is indeed how we wanted to show them.
But if we want to condescend to examine the ancient myths as men involved in everything that is human, we no longer see why the death and resurrection of Osiris, Hippolytus or many other gods or heroes is essentially different from that of Jesus, nor why the idea that these gods live again in trees or in bread and wine, is sometimes superstition sometimes truth. To this end, constant efforts have been made to demean ancient myths, to remove all sense of the divine, to demonetize them. It seems to us, however, that these dreams were sometimes healthier and less cruel than those of the religions of our time, whose dreams only too often take the form of those of drug addicts. From one to the other there is the space between not knowing and not wanting to wake up.
It is not the myth of the death and resurrection of Hippolyte which seems childish and savage to our folklorists, but the transfer of the life of Hippolyte to Virbius, from the life of Virbius to that of an oak and finally to a branch of mistletoe. Perhaps they forget that when we "believe" in such transfers, we call them sacraments. As for the identification of priests in the Golden Ram, this psychic operation is the most constant and the most generalized of our time. The most miserable individual becomes "something" as soon as he identifies with a flag, a memorial, a football team, a runner, a movie actor, a simple word in " is m, meaningless. We transfer what we would like to be (and that we are not), in order to dream it, and we also transfer what we are (and that we would not want to be), either on a god who takes suffering for him, or on a neighbor (capitalist or communist) who is made responsible for all evils. These transfers, one way or the other, necessarily end up in the blood. The priests of Nemi, more honest than those of our time, at least took the risks for themselves.
We have described the practice of killing the god among the peoples of hunters, shepherds and farmers ; wrote Frazer [ 9 ] and we tried to explain the reasons which led men to adopt such a curious custom. There remains an aspect of custom. The misfortunes and sins accumulated by all the people are sometimes carried over to the dying god, and he is believed to take them away forever, leaving the people innocent and happy. The idea that we can pass our guilt and suffering on to some other creature, which will carry it for us, is familiar to the savage mind. It comes from a very natural confusion between what is physical and what is mental; between materiality and immateriality. Because it is possible to pass a load of wood, or stones, from our back on that of another, the savage imagines that it is possible, too, to pass to another, who will carry in its place the burden of its pains and sorrows. He acts on this idea; and the result is an infinite number of very unlovable stratagems intended to get rid of another, the pain that one does not want to bear oneself. In short, races that are at a low level of intellectual and social culture commonly understand and practice the principle of suffering by substitution. In the following pages, we will illustrate theory and practice, as found in savages in their simplicity without veils, stripped of the refinements of metaphysics and theological subtleties.
Frazer's cold humor for his contemporaries is not without a certain sadness.
The transfer to a god was generally accompanied by a "communion" intended to benefit the faithful from the sacrifice of the god: the Aztecs practiced, before the discovery and conquest of Mexico by the Spanish, the custom of eating, in sacrament, bread as the body of the god On the day of their solemn communion with the deity, the Mexicans refused to eat anything other than the consecrated bread which they adored as the flesh and bones of their god, and that is why, until noon they were not to drink anything, not even water. They feared without doubt - adds Frazer gravely - of defiling the portion of their god that they had in their stomach by contact with ordinary things [ 10 ].
No doubt but for what reasons? The "I' of believers, at all times, in all places, is so deeply identified with transfers and communions of this order that it would feel like death if it were suddenly persuaded that it, this "I" "is not that, but" something else". . He perceives himself only as part of a representation whose theme is the existence of a life (eternal, infinite, etc.) which exceeds him, which he therefore does not know, but which he imagine being captured (in relics, bread, wine, a branch of a tree) and appropriating it by a magic operation (touching, absorption, etc.). The thought that accompanies this act removes, for a short time , the antinomy that provoked it. But the peculiarity of thought being the discontinuous, this happy abolition of the conflict (don't you know that water is extracted from stones? - Ah! Yes it's true) ceases with the ritual operation so that the believer finds himself obliged to repeat it, all the more often as his thinking is more unstable. If, by a constant effort in the creation of a fixed idea, the believer manages to identify himself day and night with the image which he has of an eternal life, he assumes at the general judgment all the virtues. And, on this account, we see how unjust it is not to grant holiness to the sovereign-pontiffs of the cult of Diana at Nemi. Because, perfectly aware and logical with their truth, they held that their identification with eternal life symbolized in the Golden Palm could only be maintained by a constant thought, constantly on the alert, whose stop was If it was momentary, or the weakness, was it hardly noticeable by a slight mental intermittence, led to forfeiture and death. In their eyes, they were worthy of living only in the manner of these flames maintained by the Vestals, and made a vow to be murdered as soon as their strength was no longer their only support. No doubt they were dreaming, as one dreams any religion. But, at least, this dream had produced no refuges, no consolations, no absolutions. He appears to us to be still in the state of anguish and uncertainty which characterizes good faith.
These two examples illustrate the state of consciousness of the vast majority of men.
In the first stage, consciousness, still infantile, is the product of a contradiction which is far from having revealed itself. The perception of the ego is, as we have seen, all the more intense since the ego does not present itself before itself, in a reflexive state. With a fixed idea, we followed him in extravagant races, in search of the impossible, without he ever stopped in front of his own show like in front of a mirror. The identification of being and the self has not yet been made: there are successive identifications of being and of an uninterrupted series of for-me. The little girl who wants a doll is fully aware of "for-me-doll". She is aware of herself only according to the needs, the pleasures, the sorrows of the self. The doll breaks, there is deprivation, rupture of this for-me: the for-me cries. We present him another distraction, here is another for me, who laughs to see Guignol, who is "Guignol". It goes from there to be for-me-taste, and so on. When the for-me experiences neither pleasure nor displeasure nor need, it is empty and bored in the vagueness. We must, without stopping, present him with some object of being, without which he abandons himself to daydreams, identifies himself with them, in an imaginary world which, depending on the case, has points of contact with reality or does not have. The awareness of the waking dream joins that of the sleeping dream.
(We must clarify that we are only considering here a dream mode, the one whose function is to protect sleep. Some dreams are emissions, sometimes extremely lucid, of deep layers of consciousness, for the use of layers. on the edge of reason, which in images, symbols and parables - the only language available, although sometimes we wake up with a word that may have crossed the roadblocks - transmit to them, if we apply them understand, teachings, even revelations. Other dreams are real, oversensory perceptions, because it happens that the sleeper "comes out of his body" more or less consciously. Other dreams are premonitory. Etc ... etc ... Let's epeat that our study concerns consciousness and touches the immense domain of dreams only from a defined angle.)
This imaginary world of children has the same function as the dream-for-me: a protective function. The infantile self is "known" (without knowing it) fragile. The child does not say "I am", or even "I am me". He says: I am Jean, I am Marie. Tell him, in matters of joke: no, you are not Jean, you are not Marie, he is confused, he is afraid, he cries. And that is because, in fact, it is not yet a self, it is only conscious by associations. It is the conscience of these associations. It is consciousness which results from psychic combinations (similar to chemical combinations) whose elements constitute a new body, the for-me of the moment. The child "is" Jean-pour-moipour-Jean. Likewise, our dreamer of a while ago was orange-flower-for-me-for-orange-flower-water. Jean, for the child, is his fixed idea, which helps him, moreover, to fix his ideas. Throw it in doubt, and this world of ideas, in formation, feels vacillating, seized with panic.
This terror arises all the same, one day, when, spontaneously, the child, in a sort of dizziness, wonders how it is that it is precisely him, why the world is not another, by what hallucinating coincidence his parents are his, and he feels rising in him the abyss of essential anguish, the vital disarray of unanswered questions, in short, blessed Knowledge. Immediately, his environment, his parents, his school, his elders, his priests, throw themselves on him and stifle the divine voice of the unthinkable, with catechism, scouting, conformism: morality and its procession of virtues, if the child adapts, shapes him in the image of what he is not. His for-me of wise and well-thinking child, finds in complacent absolutions the satisfaction of his interest: he fixes himself. It is fixed because it is defined. It is defined by all the explanations with which one has knocked out its anguish. His environment, his parents, his school, his elders, his priests, combined to offer him an answer to everything. Each answer was a brick. The bricks have made walls. The for-me, walled in, will never see again, thanks to the sky, the abyss opening before it.
The individual dream has become Myth, Church , Religion. The more the individual is immersed in the definitions of himself, the less he will be isolated, since these definitions are collective. The more he says to himself: I am French (American or Chinese), Catholic (Buddhist or Jewish), trader (captain or sweeper), angler (or collector of postage stamps), etc, the more he will have the notion of " me ". Wrong notion. What happened, in reality, is this: the spontaneous for-me of the child, at all times, became "something else" , because it was only a succession of different for-me , (the little girl was crying because she had broken her doll: two minutes later, laughing at Guignol, she had not "forgotton", she was no longer for-me-finished-doll, she was for- moi-Guignol; the sorrows of children only last if the child, left to himself, falls into it, so to speak, without being able to pick himself up alone). The child's selves, barely connected to each other, were set in half a dozen permanent selves, nationality, religion, marital status, social condition, functions, tastes and entertainment, including meeting point provokes the notion "I am me". Under the appearance of an adult, the adapted individual has not reached a reflexive state, his so-called self is only a fixed assembly of several for himself.
This is true up to the saint, to the hero, these two poles of adaptation. (The unsuitable, he can be a saint and a hero, but being without saying it and without being said, without knowing it and without knowing it, it is not, in fact, not , since it escapes the words holiness and heroism; it escapes comparisons, definitions, scales of magnitude, because it is not located). And we have seen, in effect, acting as in a state of hypnosis, the priests of Nemi, in contrast to these sorts of brute haggard imagined by Frazer, to be both heroes and saints, and to fulfill sacred functions, which , if the Myth of Diana were still divine, we would plunge ourselves into worship.
We have just succinctly described the state of the man who thinks himself, and have, by examples, illustrated this, which we wrote (in the paragraph preceding the story of the dream): a thought is a representation, that is that is, the act of making something present to the mind; "To" think is therefore to be present to oneself. And, further on, we have clarified that man "thinks" himself the more strongly as he knows it less. We have seen, in all cases, that what is made present in the mind is a for-me, which is done and undone according to the dream or the meetings of the child, which is done without undoing, in a myth, as well as in the adapted adult, that is to say mediocre. In the following chapter, we will examine a higher stage of Knowledge, that of the man who seeks to think himself. To this end, we will choose two examples. The first will be that of four French writers who, in a recent volume [ 11 ] expressed their concern at certain events, and sought to think in the development of this action (just as they have always sought to think in the action, during the war, Resistance and Liberation). Our second example will be that of a man who seeks to think himself in philosophical reflection: we will do our best to elucidate, in a few pages, some fundamental themes of the very complex philosophical position of Jean-Paul Sartre. We will thus end the first part of our work.
1 From Some Constants of the Human Spirit. Book cited, p. 19.
2 Book cited, p. 92.
3 In fact, emotion only exists if I recognize it. Thus, I can make, without emotion, a difficult ascent in the mountains, and only experience then an unbearable dizziness, etc. But this is beyond our scope.
4 J. Benda, cited work, p. 194 (in note).
5 James-George Frazer. " Le Rameau d'Or ". Abridged edition, translated into French by Lady Frazer. Er. Genther, p. 5.
6 Book cited, p. 661-662 (Frazer).
7 Book cited, p. 6. Our following quotations, concerning the worship of Diana in Nemi, come from the same work.
8 C. Suaréss: " The Judeo-Christian Myth ", according to Genesis and the Gospels according to Matthew and John. At the Book Circle, 1950.
9 Book cited, p. 459.
10 Book cited, p. 459.
11 " La Voie Libre ", by Claude Aveline, Jean Cassou, Louis Martin-Chauffier, Vercors. Chez Flammarion, 1950
L'homme qui se pense par Carlo Suarés - 3e millinaire