Georges Bataille’s Atheology as Abstract Literature

Conversation, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“With the positing of the individual, the Beyond is established.”
      Hegel, 1807

One imagines Bataille in a bordello, maybe one of the ones he regularly frequented in Pigalle. He is trying to explain to one of his fille de joie how everything can only be understood not simply in terms of the death of God, but in terms of atheology.

– My dear Lydia, atheology is not atheism. Not in the slightest. This is where drasted Sartre has me all wrong.

– Ah, yes, peut-être. Poor Jean-Paul was here just last week and indeed I found him very confused. Also, how can an existentialist be so goddamned ugly?

– My dear Lydia, I find you utterly enticing as well as metaphysically astute. Bravo!

– Very well Georges, I accept your compliments with gratitude. Of course, I recognize you as the only authentic Lord of Excess, making all the false suitors pale into the background.

Thus did Bataille thoroughly earn his reputation, mixing high theory and low practice in a demonic hybrid unequalled then or now. But Georges wasn’t yet finished as, although hardly suffering from false modesty, nonetheless he considered the admiration of his beloved Lydia only worthwhile if properly deserved. As a true metaphysician of the dark, and a purported inheritor of the Symbolist legacy and mantle, he was conscious of the need for the recognition of excess to be justified by a thoroughgoing atheology. Also, in accordance with the old Heraclitean principle of opposites meet (stolen and passed off as original philosophics by the bastard Christian medievalist eunuch known as de Cusa), such syllogistic logic must also be rendered accessible in a bordello. From high to bordello, from bordello to high. Otherwise, frankly, null and void. Otherwise, truly, not worth the naked skin they are written on, such logicisms. In this, we follow the bould Hegel who was a lot madder and less rational than the traditionalists suppose.

– Dear Lydia, while indeed grateful to you for your kind words, I have one further task in hand before we might descend to the dungeon of whips. Oh, Georges, don’t delay as every second counts – also, every second costs and I know you have ill-spent most of your monthly library salary even since last week.

– True, alas Lydia, you are right. But metaphysical syllogism bearing on abstract truth simply cannot wait, money or no money. As a true philosopher (as with Diogenes, aka Socrates gone mad!), I am willing to pay the full penalty. Perhaps, nonetheless, you can consider a perverse pedagogue’s discount? Either way, let me make haste on my proof. You see, all these atheists such as Jean-Paul have got it wrong, arse ways I tell you. They read Nietzsche’s Gay Science and think that when he tells us that ‘God is dead’ that somehow this is intended as a defence of secular reason against divine superstition. But Lydia, my beautiful darling (oh how those deep brown eyes of yours seduce me so intensely and that V shape of yours where all of me is lost in unholy syphilitic succor!), it is the very opposite that is true.  As my great confidante Pierre Klossowski (the brother of Balthus no less!, so we have it on aristocratic artist authority) succinctly rendered this fundamental if shocking truth; the death of god does not culminate in an atheism, it continues rather. Or in other words, the death of god may kill off the mothball theology (to which I say – good riddance! – although I remain fond of Augustine’s self-contortions) BUT it only frees up, in this very demise, the rest of our love and pain and sex and tears. And not just ours – but that repressed excess of the very WHOLE of the COSMOS. I call this, dear Lydia, the liberation of the accursed share!

– Oh Georges, you are so much more handsome and sexy than Jean-Paul. I think I get most of what you are saying, though I may have got a bit lost there near the end. You do so speak as if in a kind of magical trance and it carries me away to far off terrains way beyond Pigalle, Monsieur Bataille. But alas, I have to remind you – time is money!

– Ah yes, you are of course (as always!) correct. Enough of the accursed share in the abstract. Let us descend to the dungeon where we may indeed (as if by magic) conjure up the materialization of such metaphysical truths. To the cave we must go, Mistress, let us be patient no longer. [As an aside] By the way, did you remember to buy those pills for me?

– Of course, Master Georges, I am always completely attentive to your demands. [Laughs affectionately]

– Ah, Lydia, god may be dead, but you are indeed my Saviour and the only one worth having, are you not? [The two descend down the stairs to the dungeon’s semi-darkness, maintaining this heartfelt irreligiosity].