Adventures in Vitalist Madness

“Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art king, let not us that are squires of the night’s body be called thieves of the day’s beauty. Let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon, and let men say we be men of good government, being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.”
― William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1

If I just had time and youth…

But it’s alright, I did my share of traveling both in reality and in books in my life. It’s not so much nostalgia as it is there is so much more to know, to learn, to live, to love, to be and become… that’s why I’m both a pessimist and not; I’m a complex creature who doesn’t fit into any categories, never have. Dam it! Being multiple – or, a multitude is like living in a living zoo, I’m never sure just where one of these creatures I am is going to go next. Maybe that’s the point, to be free is to just allow this thing we are to live. Yet, without the discipline of thinking and doing this menagerie would obviously have landed me in an asylum long ago. Poetry, philosophy, the handmaids of history and all the various aspects of culture have allowed me to run the gambit of existence; and, yet, I want more, always more. Bloom said of such creatures as Falstaff (Shakespeare) and Vautrin (Balzac) that they were the bookends of the great Vitalists: those who had more energy than they knew what to do with… and that the unlived life was the great enemy of both. Both were extremists and criminals, vitalist’s who could not be held to the strict rules governing the normalcy of their cultures. Maybe all outlaws in the end are those who cannot be bound by the codes that would trap them in false worlds… or, at least the literary Outlaws. Real one’s are just failed mongrels of existence…

As I work on my fantasy trilogy I’ve been rereading various frame-tale literature from the Arabian Night’s Tales, the Hoshruba (Urdo Epic), Somadeva’s Tales from the Kathasaritsagara and so much more.

The Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism is the world’s first and longest magical fantasy HOSHRUBA (www.hoshruba.com) was compiled in the Urdu language by two of its greatest prose writers. Spread over eight thousand pages, it reached the summits of popularity and acclaim never attained by any other epic in the history of Urdu literature. But the richness of its language and its length deterred translations for more than 125 years. In this first translation of this iconic fantasy by Musharraf Ali Farooqi, whose translation of THE ADVENTURES OF AMIR HAMZA was hailed by the international press as a gift to world literature, we enter the magical world of Hoshruba, conjured in the untold past by sorcerers defying the laws of God and the physical world. Filled with dazzling illusions and occult realms inhabited by powerful sorceresses and diabolic monsters, Hoshruba had a fixed life, and a designated conqueror who would use its magical key to unravel it one day. The first book of the HOSHRUBA series begins with the giant Laqa entering Hoshruba’s protection, and its sorcerer emperor finding himself at war with Laqa’s arch fiend, Amir Hamza the Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction, who pursues the giant with his numerous tricksters and a young prince – the yet to be known conqueror-designate of Hoshruba. When the prince is kidnapped by the devious trickster girls sent by the sorcerer emperor, it falls to an extraordinary trickster and a rebel sorceress to continue his mission.

Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara, a classic work of Sanskrit literature that features many memorable characters. Within the pages of this book, you will encounter demons and demi-gods, faithful guards and foolish villagers, golden swans, magic pots and even automatons made of wood! Adapted and wonderfully retold by Rohini Chowdhury, this is a timeless classic that will both entertain and enchant.

And, if you’ve not read it The Arabian Nights: Tales of a 1,001 Nights. From Ali Baba and the forty thieves to the voyages of Sinbad, the stories of The Arabian Nights are timeless and unforgettable. Published here in three volumes, this magnificent new edition brings these tales to life for modern readers in the first complete English translation since Richard Burton’s of the 1880s.

As I do research on this trilogy I’m working through works on the Silk Road, Central Asia, the worlds of Mughals, Islam, Persia, China, Mongols; along with the dark and mystical literatures of these ancient lands. One of the main features in my own work will be incorporating the magickal traditions of the Jinn. Works like Islam, Arabs, and Intelligent World of the Jinn by Amira El-Zein and others provide me a focused and scholarly study of these creatures who much like the more demonized literature of Western Christendom on demons is both unlike and like. In the sense of Sufi literature the Jinn are creatures who inhabited the earth before humankind much like our notions of fairy of Celtic and other pre-indigenous cultures of Old Europe. And, yet, the Jinn are different in that they are still a living part of Islamic culture and live in an intermediate realm with their own hierarchy and society, existing between us and the Angelic realms (at least in Islamic thought!). Either way there has always been a fascination with these creatures of smoke and fire, the embellishment of ancient sorceries, magick, and epic tales and narratives.

We’ll see where it leads…

Georges Bataille on Evil

Bataille On William Blake, Evil, and Energy:

Has the human being ever, for a single second, been able to discover an expression of liberty which rises above misery? In an eloquent world where logic reduces each thing to a certain order, William Blake spoke, on his own, the language of the Bible or the Vedas. By so doing he managed to restore life to original energy. So the truth of Evil which is essentially a rejection of subservience, is his truth. He is one of us, singing in the tavern and laughing with the children. He is never a ‘sad sire’, moralising and rational, who looks after himself and his money and slowly yields to the sadness of logic, without energy.

The moralist condemns the energy which he lacks. There is no doubt that humanity had to go through this phase. How could it survive if it had not denounced an excess of energy, if the very number of those who lacked energy had not brought those who had too much of it to their senses? But the necessity of adapting oneself ultimately demands a return to innocence. The marvellous indifference and childishness of William Blake, his feeling of ease when confronted with the impossible, his anguish which left boldness intact, all his defects and qualities were the expression of a simpler age and marked a return to lost innocence. Even a paradoxical form of Christianity can serve to indicate this; he is the only man to have seized with both hands, from two extremes, the roundabout of all times. Everything within him came to a halt before the necessity which entails laborious activity in a factory. He could not reply to the cold face animated by the pleasure of discipline. This sage, whose wisdom was close to folly, who was never disheartened by the work on which his liberty depended, did not have the self-effacement of those who ‘understand’, who surrender, renouncing victory. His energy rejected concessions to the spirit of work. His writings have a festive turbulence which gives the feelings he expressed a sense of laughter and liberty run loose. He never pursed his lips. The horror of his mythological poems is there to liberate us, not to flatten us: it reveals the great momentum of the universe. It calls for energy, never for depression.

– Georges Bataille, Literature and Evil

La Sorcière: Jules Michelet and the Literature of Evil

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La Sorcièreis one of the more reputable books on magic…
………..– Georges Bataille

Evil attracted them, almost overwhelmed them: without evil, their existence would have been … vacant. They were right, those ancient philosophers who identified fire with the principle of the universe, and with desire, for desire burns, devours, annihilates. At once agent and destroyer of beings, it is somber, it is infernal by essence.
………..– Emile Cioran

Thomas Ligotti in his famed short story “Medusa” will reiterate a refrain that is surely the leitmotif of all those dark and vitalistic counter-currents of the literature of evil and the philosophical peregrinations against which we comprehend those who know the true liberty of the rebel: “We may hide from horror only in the heart of horror.”1

Jules Michelet’s La Sorcière, originally published in Paris in 1862. A text that would fascinate certain of the late decadents and moderns. As he said of it: “The object of my book was purely to give, not a history of Sorcery, but a simple and impressive formula of the Sorceress’s way of life, which my learned predecessors darken by the very elaboration of their scientific methods and the excess of detail. My strong point is to start, not from the devil, from an empty conception, but from a living reality, the Sorceress, a warm, breathing reality, rich in results and possibilities.” (Michelet, p. 326)

The Japanese anime Kanashimi no Belladonna would be inspired by this work and stage the erotic and violent enactments of a dark world of rape and rapacious vitalism. It follows the narrative of Michelet’s Sorceress and her resistance against feudalism and the Catholic Church which is fudged into that of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc), whom Belladonna’s Jeanne is revealed to be, and her execution by burning.

Georges Bataille would devote one of his essays in The Literature of Evil on Michelet and his work La Sorcière. In it he would show forth the true power of art as that ability to stage manage anxiety: the “arts … incessantly evoke these derangements, these lacerations, this decline which our entire activity endeavors to avoid” (p. 68).2 One is reminded of the poet Rimbaud who practices the “long, immense and reasoned deranging of all his senses” in order to reach a transcendent state, which he calls the “unknown.”3

Bataille in his discussion of sacrifice and its dark history in the human corruption of society and its criminal bonds would see it as the supreme form of excess and immanent transgression, a fusion and a degradation so compelling that all participants were united in the evil lust of sex and violence. Bataille would disagree with Michelet’s almost beneficent view of the Black Mass, the malefice sacrificial darkness that was the rapture of an infinite defilement. One Bataille would describe as an “unrecognized greatness of ritual defilement which symbolized a nostalgia for infinite defilement” (p. 72). We must remember this was the age of decadents, but also of the world of the naturalists; a time when both religion and the religion of Reason were still working their political, social, and personal disenchantments out through the literary circles of the day.

“It is to Michelet’s credit to have accorded these nonsensical feasts the value due to them, ” says Bataille. Michelet was able to see the political anguish of the pagani, of peasants and serfs, victims of a dominant order, and a dominant religion.” (p. 72) Michelet was able to reach down into the lives of the neglected and abandoned, the dark hinterlands of the poor and outcast and pull them up into the realm of art where we could see these broken reflections as the dark face of our own beleaguered humanity. Michelet, a defender of women, of “exaltation of women and love”; a book that would at first find itself banned, and scandalized, only to finally be published by the Brussels Lacroix and Verboeckhoven – who, as Bataille reminds us published that great Book of Evil, Les Chants de Maldoror. (p. 73)

Bataille will align our need for the liberty of evil with excess and intensity, the need to go beyond the limits of social and human survival. He would provide an anecdote on Michelet who he felt never resolved the issue of evil’s intensity, and would impose limits to its excesses. Bataille relates that at times when Michelet was no longer feeling inspired and needed something to awaken his sense of evil he would walk the streets into the dark districts till he would come upon the stench of death, then he would breathe in deeply, having ‘got as close as possible to the object of disgust’, and return home to work. (p. 75) In a final note Bataille will relate: “I cannot but recall his face – noble, emaciated, with quivering nostrils.” (p. 75)

  1. Ligotti, Thomas (2012-06-25). Noctuary (Kindle Locations 388-389). Subterranean Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Georges Bataille. The Literature of Evil. (Marion Boyards, 2006)
  3. Arthur Rimbaud. A Season in Hell and The Illuminations Kindle Edition.