Payot 1976 – Pages 29 to 32
Historians have shown us how the birth of humanism was deeply linked to the progress of irreligion in the sixteenth century. Since the great ideological systems of integration, whether religious or political, have begun their decline by ceasing to provide a large consensus on the undeniable reason of things, the facts of conscience and the facts of existence are developing, independently of each other, on either sides of a deeper and deeper more painful cut . Anthropology, presenting the man of natural history, under whatever disguise as it appears, as its unique object, was in the proper position to provide at the opportune moment a pretty brand-new Logos, extremely multiplied on the earth, and capable of delivering to any inquiry a unitary interpretation of the things of conscience and the acts of existence . In a so easily explicable fortune , the anthropological enterprise has nevertheless developed in two contradictory directions; one, aimed at the descriptive inventory of a human world considered immobile, allowed the search for this common denominator, where neopositivism, conventional rationalism and university-type formalism still strive to find the guarantee of their speculations. Those who advanced in the other direction, on the other hand, felt that no psychosocial phenomenon is intelligible outside the dynamism which aligns its sequences, that the facts of history can not be fully explained by what precedes them, but much more by their future, and that historical analysis, in order to detect in every instant the orientation of the present, must imperiously take into consideration what has not yet happened where wishes and desires are still enveloped. This revolutionary anthropology, opening to the revalorization of the real functions of the individual and social organism, has no more constant enemy than the leveling humanism which serves as official ideology to the formalized civilizations of which we undergo the reign, and which imposes as a law this common measure, in the name of which children are raised in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, the adults sent to rehabilitation courses and where, his whole life long, each individual is surgically narrowed in a bed of Procrustes shorter from year to year. As early as the 1920s, surrealism for apart coincided with revolutionary anthropology: it drew no less enchantment from the exploration of the inner worlds than from the observation of geographical or historical distances and, in both cases, recognized the manifestations of human power that has been turned back to the state of pure virtuality, in the general impoverishment of reality to which we give the name of civilization. The anthropological aspect of surrealism is nothing else than this generalized temptation to recover and restore “lost powers” in front of the gradual narrowing of the human possible .
The extremely fast scrolling of images on the historical screen since 1920, probably the most frenzied ever, has not spared a revolutionary opposition movement linked in its critical action to the evolution of the forces of oppression and repression, the new modalities that they had and that it was necessary, if possible, to denounce, defuse or sabotage. Initially alerted by the investigations of the pioneers of modern psychology (Myers, Charcot, Janet) and by the new dimensions that they opened to the poetic act, following Freud, this opposition movement quickly discovered the psychological actors of repression and their action within the social elementary cell : the bourgeois family of the beginning of the century. Simultaneously seized by the rumor rising from the public square and especially by the echoes of the October Revolution throughout the world , this opposition movement did not hesitate to embrace Marxist criticism by seeing the origin of oppression and repression in the antagonisms of class societies. Conscious of thus questioning by different ways a unique reality, it immediately came to question the historical structures of civilizations in order to ask them to account for the diversions they practice on the fundamental social fact. Such an exploration would lead to the conclusion that the socialist transformation of the economic-political system was not able to reduce social repression and that it could only replace one form of class antagonism by another, without radically upsetting the system rules. It was these rules that it was now necessary to attack, not only the capitalist and bourgeois forms of class society. It was then necessary to submit to a more radical criticism the dominant principles of the so-called Western civilization, those which, now almost universally, deprive men of the exercise of their real powers by imposing on them a more and more narrow and formalized register of expression.
It was necessary to recall the essential unity of these generally well known moments of surrealism, from which arises the interest that it invested not only in the various monuments of heterodox thought listed by the history of ideas (hermeticism, magic, libertine materialism, Swedishborgianism, martinism, Fourierism, etc.) and their poetic correlations (alchemists poets , cursed poets , eroticism, black genre, romanticism) or revolutionary (millenarianism, revolutionary masonry); but also the passion with which it scrutinized the testimonies of inaccessible civilizations that reached up to it. Whether dated by archeology or only distant, they are anyway exposed, in the appreciation of what manifests them before our eyes, to a reading error. As soon as their essential options are reflected in the language imposed by a formalizing civilization, they are the prey of a reductive interpretation. There is thus scarcely anything but scandalous in the visit of ethnographic museums, distributed in windows by haberdashers, long time experts in the storage of reels and especially in the use of the mortal scissors. Would this aggression only be situated in the area of knowledge, it would not less be serious, in the eyes of our elders as in ours, than the definitive solutions periodically found to the alleged ethnic problems.
Nazism, eminent promoter of this kind of solution, was only possible because it happened to put its finger on decisive buttons. The perpetrated horrors have frequently determined, and especially in Germany (Adorno, Marcuse, Enzensberger, etc.), an attitude of flight from the irrational in all its forms and of flight before the myth in particular. During the development of this attempt at the development of the new rationalism, it has been seen that the myth was constantly regarded as reducible to rationality. Either due to the fact that philosophical or sociological observation only records rational facts, or because philosophy adopts a normative language to demand the urgent eradication of the irrational. The surrealists, (1) though they associate with all the efforts of the revolutionary thought, nevertheless feel on this point that the tendency stemming from the Frankfurt School is in a both repressive and dangerous position : thanks to this retraction, the irrational is likely to soon be recalled to our good memory in a devastating way.
Behind the grandiose facade of our so-said civilization, forces are at work, to which it would be futile to refuse existence by decree on the pretext that they contravene the program that is timelessly assigned to societies. Others have existed (or even still exist) where these forces animated the social edifice and all the culture with their inexhaustible creative power, as is peremptorily demonstrated by their arts or even their myths. The career opened up to these forces in civilizations spared by the monomaniac focus of economism and which remain able to offer these forces a vast field of expression, attests of the possibility of a forgotten fulfillment and shows us, seething in the heart of irreplaceable wonders, the great energies at work in worlds differently and much less severely repressive than ours.
Vincent BOUNOURE et Vratislav EFFENBERGER
(1) “No offense to some bureaucrats, in man the mythical thought, in constant becoming, continues to move parallel to the rational thought. To deny it any way out is to make it harmful and to cause it to burst into the rational that it disintegrates (delusional worship of the leader, junk messianism, etc.). André BRETON, Entretiens, p. 267.