Reality is beginning to resemble a truth that was not invented, since it was described 2000 years ago.
From the Introduction
Until now, my entire work has been presented as a discussion of archaic religion through comparative anthropology. Its goal was to shed light on what is known as the process of hominization, the fascinating passage from animality to humanity that occurred thousands of years ago. My hypothesis is mimetic: because humans imitate one another more than animals, they have had to find a means of dealing with contagious similarity, which could lead to the pure and simple disappearance of their society. The mechanism that reintroduces difference into a situation in which everyone has come to resemble everyone else is sacrifice. Humanity results from sacrifice; we are thus the children of religion.
This is the implacable logic of the sacred, which myths dissimulate less and less as humans become increasingly self-aware. The decisive point in this evolution is Christian revelation, a kind of divine expiation in which God through his Son could be seen as asking for forgiveness from humans for having revealed the mechanisms of their violence so late. Rituals had slowly educated them; from then on, humans had to do without. Christianity demystifies religion. Demystification, which is good in the absolute, has proven bad in the relative, for we were not prepared to shoulder its consequences. We are not Christian enough. The paradox can be put in a different way: Christianity is the only religion that has foreseen its own failure. This prescience is known as the apocalypse.
Once in our history the truth about the identity of all humans was spoken, and no one wanted to hear it; instead we hang ever more frantically onto our false differences.
Yet it has described mechanisms that recent discoveries in neuroscience confirm: imitation is the initial and essential means of learning; it is not something acquired later on. We can escape mimetism only by understanding the laws that govern it. Only by understanding the dangers of imitation can we conceive of authentic identification with the Other. However, we are becoming aware of the primacy of moral relationship at the very time when the atomization of humanity is being realized, and when violence has increased in intensity and unpredictability.
Violence, which produced the sacred, no longer produces anything but itself. I am not the one repeating myself: reality is beginning to resemble a truth that was not invented, since it was described 2000 years ago.
The fetters put in place by the founding murder but unshackled by the Passion, are now liberating planet-wide violence, and we cannot refasten the bindings because we now know that scapegoats are innocent. The Passion unveiled the sacrificial origin of humanity once and for all. It dismantled the sacred and revealed its violence.
Clausewitz’s posthumous treatise, On War, claims to be a work on strategy. It discusses what was at the time the most recent example of the trend to extremes, which had occurred, as always, unbeknownst to those involved. The trend then destroyed Europe and now threatens the world.
What happens when we reach the extremes that Clausewitz glimpses before hiding them behind strategic considerations? He does not tell us. This is the question we have to ask today. Let us dare to say that we, the French and Germans, are responsible for the devastation that is underway because our extremes have become the whole world. We set the spark to the tinder. If we had been told 30 years ago that Islamism would replace the Cold War, we would have laughed. If we had said 30 years ago that military and environmental events were foretold in the Gospel or that the apocalypse began at Verdun, people would have taken us for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet war has been the only engine of technological progress. Its disappearance as an institution, which goes hand in hand with conscription and total mobilization, has drenched the world in blood and fire. By continuing to not want to see, we are encouraging the escalation towards the worst.
For this, we have gone to the texts that no one seems to read: that of Clausewitz first, and then the apocalyptic texts. Through the former, the relevance of the latter becomes apparent with greater force.
The only Christians who still talk about the apocalypse are fundamentalists, but they have a completely mythological conception of it. They think that the violence of the end of time will come from God himself. They cannot do without a cruel God. Strangely, they do not see that the violence we ourselves are in the process of amassing and that is looming over our own heads is entirely sufficient to trigger the worst. They have no sense of humor.
Desiring war, which Clausewitz says is the typical attitude of the defender, against those who desire peace, in other words, desiring lies and domination, can thus become a spiritual attitude. Does not Christ himself invite us to be more cunning than the serpent? We are thus more at war than ever, at a time when war itself no longer exists. We have to fight a violence that can no longer be controlled or mastered. Yet what if triumph were not the most important thing? What if the battle were worth more than the victory?
The primacy of victory is the triumph of the weak. The primacy of battle, by contrast, is the prelude to the only conversion that matters. This is the heroic attitude that we have sought to redefine. It alone can link violence and reconciliation, or, more precisely, make tangible both the possibility of the end of the world and reconciliation among all members of humanity. We cannot escape this ambivalence. More than ever, I am convinced that history has meaning, and that its meaning is terrifying.
But where danger threatens
That which saves from it also grows.4
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“Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture)” by René Girard.
WE&P by: EZorrilla.