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Winners by Cioran

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Posted

Dostoyevsky was the last man who tried to save apradise. But he only succeeded in creating a stronger predilection for the Fall. He thus dealt Paradise, and our aspirations for it, a final blow. Dostoyevsky was also the last to know Adam before his fall. However, he only succeeded in teaching us the voluptuousness of sin. We try in vain to canonize Dostoyevsky. We shall always fail. Yet I don't know of any saint who would not be proud to unfasten the buckle of his sandal.

All great ideas should be followed by an exclamation mark - a warning signal similar to the skull and crossbones drawn on high voltage transformers.

Pascal established the difference between God and the idea of God when he distinguished between the God of Abraham and Job on the one hand and the philosophers' God on the other. One must add to his distinction the one between Bach and the rest of music, Teresa of Avila and the rest of the saints, Rilke and the rest of poetry.

...no matter what you do, the starting point is boredom, and the end, self-destruction.

Every revolt is directed against Creation. Any rebellious gesture, however small, undermines the universal order accepted by the slaves of God. One cannot be both for God and against His law. Yet out of love for Him one could dismiss and despise Creation.

In his name, one cannot rebel even against sin. For the supreme reactionary, anarchy is the only sin.

From the cradle to the grave each individual pays for the sin of not being God. That's why life is an uninterrupted religious crisis, superficial for believers, shattering for doubters.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for sharing Camp. I am not well versed in Cioran.

I have always appreciated this bit of Cioran's wisdom:

A civilization is destroyed only when its gods are destroyed.

I suppose I like the above because:

1) It's something any conservative would like. :)

2) Carrol Quigley, in the often misappropriated work, Tragedy and Hope, said pretty much the same thing (and I love Quigley).

Edited by DeadCanDance

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Posted (edited)

that's a pretty decent quote, but I'm sure there's more to it than how much it seem to conform to anyone's feelings at first blush. I mean, Cioran at one minute praises something, and then immediately slaps you silly for agreeing with him. Cioran is so far above the petty political categories (be it liberal, conservative, whatever) that he appears multi-faceted to the perceptive, and inconsistent to the myopic.

More:

Each of us must pay for the slightest damage we inflict upon a universe created for indifference & stagnation; sooner of later, we will regret not having left it intact. If this is true of knowledge it is even truer of ambition, for to despoil others involves more serious & more immediate consequences than to despoil mystery... [Tyrants] begin by making others tremble, but others end by transmitting their terrors to [tyrants]. ... fear of future masters will doubtless be heightened by an ominous & unexampled felicity, appropriate to a solitary par excellence lording it over all humanity like a god enthroned in dread, in omnipotent panic without beginning or end, coupling the acrimony of a Prometheus with the impertinence of a Jehovah, a scandal for the imagination & the mind, a provocation to mythology & theology alike.

Man cannot decide between freedom & happiness. On one side, infinity and pain; on the other, security and mediocrity.

We are all in error, the comedians excepted. They alone have discerned as though in jest the inanity of all that is serious and even of all that is frivolous.

Christians haven't yet understood that God is farther removed from them than they are from him. ... God is bored with men who only know how to beg, exasperated by the triviality of his creation, equally disgusted with both heaven & earth.

To believe in the reality of salvation you must first believe in the reality of the Fall: every religious act begins with the perception of hell—the raw material of faith—heaven comes only afterwards, a kind of corrective, a consolation; a luxury, a superfetation, an accident required by our bias in favor of symmetry and balance. Only the Devil is necessary.

Edited by Campanella

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Posted

Speaking from a minimal amount of experience with Cioran's works, though having seen the unjust and at times even insulting bastardization of a great thinker's works, the clipping of the wings of great ideas that soar above what could indeed be called 'political pettiness' by small minded ideologues, I second your motion Camp. I suppose this quote in particular speaks to me perspectivally (that 'conservative' part of me) and the trick is not to disallow Cioran (and all great thinkers for that matter) to speak to me in other ways.

What it is I took Cioran to be saying in the quoted passage is roughly what Carrol Quigley says here in Tragedy and Hope:

"...each civilization is born in some inexplicable fashion and, after a slow start, enters a period of vigorous expansion, increasing its size and power, both internally and at the expense of its neighbors, until gradually a crisis of organization appears. When the crisis has passed and the civilization has been reorganized, it seems somewhat different. Its vigor and morale have weakened. It becomes stabilized and eventually stagnant. After a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, internal crisis again arise. At this point there appears, for the first time, a moral and physical weakness which raises, also for the first time, questions about the civilization's ability to defend itself against external enemies.

Racked by internal struggles of a social and constitutional character, weakened by a loss of faith in its older ideologies and by the challenge of newer ideas incompatible with its past nature, the civilization grows steadily weaker until it is submerged by outside enemies and eventually disappears."

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Posted (edited)

That line is from New Gods. I'll post the remaining passage, to supply the context:

According to an old Roman prescription, no one could worship in private new or foreign gods if they hadn't first been admitted by the State, or, to be more precise, by the Senate, the only body en? titled to decide which deserved adoption and which not. The Christian god, arising on the outskirts of the Empire, reaching Rome by underground channels, would later avenge himself handsomely for having had to be smuggled in.

A civilization is not destroyed till its gods have been destroyed. The Christians, not daring to make a frontal assault on the Empire, took it out on its religion. They allowed themselves to be persecuted the better to fulminate against it, to satisfy their irrepressible appetite to execrate. How miserable they would have been if Rome hadn't deigned to promote them to the rank of victims! Everything about paganism, even its tolerance, exasperated them. Anchored in their certitudes, they couldn't understand how anyone would resign himself, as the pagans did, to likelihoods or follow a cult whose priests, ordinary magistrates assigned to go through the motions of ritual, didn't burden anybody with the crushing chore of sincerity.

When one repeats to oneself that life is endurable only if one can change gods, that monotheism contains the seeds of every form of tyranny, ancient slavery doesn't seem in the least pitiful. Better to be a slave and have the right to worship the gods of one's choice than to be "free" yet have no alternative to a single variety of the divine. Freedom is the right to difference; being plurality, it postulates a scattering of the absolute and the latter's resolution in a dust-cloud of truths at once justified and provisional. In liberal democracy there is a subjacent (or, if you like, subconscious) polytheism; conversely, every authoritarian regime has an element of disguised monotheism. How odd the workings of monotheistic logic: directly a pagan became Christian he fell prey to bigotry. It would be preferable to sink with a mass of lenient gods than to thrive in the shadow of a despot! Living in an era where, for lack of religious conflicts, we are witnessing ideological ones, we find ourselves faced with the same question that obsessed waning antiquity: "How can one give up so many gods for only one?" except the sacrifice asked of us is inferior, on the level of opinions rather than gods. Directly a divinity or a doctrine makes claims to supremacy freedom is menaced. If one assigns supreme value to tolerance, any attack on it should be considered a crime, starting with those campaigns of conversion the Church is a past master at organizing. If, moreover, the latter presented a distortedly grave picture of the persecutions it suffered, and ludicrously padded the number of its martyrs, it was because, having been so long an instrument of oppression, it had to hide its heinous crimes beneath noble pretexts; by letting pernicious doctrines go unpunished, wouldn't it have betrayed those who sacrificed themselves in its name? Thus, in a spirit of fidelity, it proceeded to liquidate those who "strayed" and, having been persecuted for four centuries, persecuted for fourteen. That is the secret, the miracle of its everlasting life. Never have martyrs been avenged more zealously and systematically.

Edited by Campanella

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