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The Sacred Conspiracy cover image The Sacred Conspiracy

Georges Bataille

Eclectics & Heteroclites 20

Illustrated by André Masson. Edited and Introduced by Marina Galletti & Alastair Brotchie. Translated by Natasha Lehrer, John Harmann, Meyer Barash.
ISBN 978-1-900565-95-0
480pp 23.4x17.9cm
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The internal papers of the Secret Society of Acéphale and lectures to the College of Sociology.

This book recounts what must be one of the most unusual intellectual journeys of modern times, in which Georges Bataille — still best known outside of France as a highly wrought pornographer (The Story of the Eye etc.) — have spent the early Thirties in far-left groups opposing the rise of Fascism, abandoned that approach in order to transfer the struggle on to "the mythological plane".

In 1937, he founded two groups in order to explore the combinations of power and the “sacred" at work in society (Bataille associated the sacred with expenditure, eroticism and death). The first group, the College of Sociology, gave lectures that were intended to reveal the hidden undercurrents within a society on the verge of catastrophe. Bataille and Roger Caillois produced some of their finest texts for these sessions, in which many of the most celebrated intellectuals of the period participated. The second group was Acéphale, a genuine secret society whose emblem was a headless figure that in part represented the death of God. This “ferocious” anti-religion enacted torch-lit rituals in a forest at night beneath an oak tree that has been struck by lightening. Until the discovery a few years ago of the group’s internal papers (which include theoretical texts, meditations, minutes of meetings, rules and prohibitions and even a membership list), almost nothing was known of its activities. Here is the story of what must be among the strangest associations in political, literary or occult history.

This book is the first to collect a representative selection of the writings of Bataille, and of those close to him, in the years leading up to the war. They judged that the time was right to confront the most intractable problems of the human condition head-on: how to live an integrated existence in a universe that was ruthless, absurd and indifferent? And how to oppose repressive and unequal social structures given the obvious impotence of the democracies and the political left when faced with far-right ideology? Such themes have a renewed resonance today.

The texts published here comprise lectures given to the College of Sociology by Bataille, Caillois and Michel Leiris, essays from the Acéphale journal and a large cache of the internal papers from the secret society. A desparate narrative unfolds, and Bataille risked all in this wholely unreasonable quest. With a few fellow travellers, he underook what he later described as a "journey out of this world".


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