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Sadism: "This strange and ill-defined condition cannot in fact arise in the mind of an unbeliever. It does not consist simply in riotous indulgence of the flesh, stimulated by bloody acts of cruelty, for in that case it would be nothing more than a deviation of the genetic instincts, a case of satyriasis developed to its fullest extent; it consists first and foremost in a sacrilegious manifestation, in a moral rebellion, in a spiritual debauch, in a wholly idealistic, wholly christian aberration. There is also something in it of joy tempered by fear, a joy analogous to the wicked delight of disobedient children playing with forbidden things for no other reason that that their parents have expressly forbidden them to go near them.

"The truth of the matter is that if it did not involve sacrilege, sadism would have no raison d'etre; on the other hand, since sacrilege depends on the existence of a religion, it cannot be deliberately and effectively committed except by a believer, for a man would derive no satisfaction whatever from profaning a faith that was unimportant or unknown to him.

"The strength of sadism then, the attraction it offers, lies entirely in the forbidden pleasure of transferring to Satan the homage and the prayers that should go to God; it lies in the flouting of the precepts of Catholicism, which the sadist actually observes in topsy-turvey fashion when, in order to offend Christ the more grievously, he commits the sins Christ most expressly proscribed - profanation of holy things and carnal debauch."- J. K. Huysmans. Against Nature.

"And the future, when you came to think of it, was the same for all, and nobody with any sense would dream of envying anybody else. For the rich, though the setting was different, it was a case of the same passions, the same worries, the same sorrows, the same diseases -- and also the same paltry pleasures, whether these were alcoholic, literary or carnal. There was even a vague compensation for every sort of suffering, a kind of rough justice that restored the balance of unhappiness between the classes, granting the poor greater resistance to physical ills that wreaked worse havoc on the feebler and thinner bodies of the rich." - J. K. Huysmans. Against Nature.

"No one awaits us on the last shore, where all is unprepared, where naught remains afoot save terror." Maurice Maeterlinck. Death.


dogimo said...

The first part there is interesting, but I can't truly credit it. There's a strong urge to perversity, to transgression, that occurs whether or not religion is the dominant moral model being rebelled against. The bourgeois values of polite society make just as effective a foil, as could perhaps such paradigms as jingoistic nationalism.

I mean, there are plenty of robust sadists today who find the very idea of God to be laughable! A total fiction.

But what's most interesting to me to consider is that in Huysmans's time - barely more than a century ago - religion was so deeply entrenched that to his protagonist, it could easily have seemed impossible that any sort of rebellious tendency could be anything but a rebellion against it.

We've come a long way, baby!

John Dantzer said...