Spirit of Fragmentation - Part I

by R. Artaud (Telos)

What follows is not a fragment from any lost work but it is in the spirit of Fragmentation. That is to say it is composed of shards from several discourses — from philosophy, psychology, social criticism, science fiction and maybe a few others. Nothing is added and nothing is subtracted except as needed to get them to fit together. Sometimes that is done by editing, sometimes by writing, sometimes by deleting. The result is an edifice that looks, if you squint just right, like a dromosome of some primitive but cunning molecule. You could not call it alive for sure, nor dead either, and it may prove impossible to see it clearly — even with a high-powered electron microscope. This is only fitting because, if I do say so myself, it is a remarkably profound structure and what you may hope to gain from inspecting it is an image of that-which-transcends. It may even be called a model or an icon — provided that the beholder remembers not to confuse the two terms with those other ones. There will be no caption below. If you are sufficiently developed then no caption should be necessary. If you are not, then no caption could possibly be helpful. Good luck.

(At the center) All is well.

(Tendrils radiating) Good will toward men.

(In each angle) A judge of good and evil.

(Caveat) Nothing is quite as it appears.

(Outermost layer) Closely-woven net of interrelated judgements, each indispensable to the continuity of the others.

(Third from center) Metagood and metaevil.

(Second from center) Over-all shape: organic molecule with or without coiled helix.

(Center) Punctum, unique point of singularity and unlimited energy.

(First from center) Relation between meta- and paragood-and-evil.

(Innermost layer) Contacts between Punctum and outer net.

The punctum is unique point of singularity and unlimited energy. That it is a point of singularity may be taken to imply that all points except this one are “ordinary” and share the same “generic” properties. In a word: this point is a hole in space. However that may be, we can say this: that any motion of the punctum toward the outer net will have the same general direction as all motions of paragood (and by paragood we mean both paragood-and-paragood, and paragood-and-paraevil, and paraevil-and-paragood); and that any motion of the punctum away from the outer net will have the same general direction as all motions of metaevil (and by metaevil we mean both metaevil-and-metaevil, and metaevil-and-metagood, and metagood-and-metaevil).

These properties of the punctum (singularity, hole in space, motions relative to paragood and metaevil) are to be taken as equivalent to saying that it is both Good and Evil, though in some strange way that these words no longer carry their usual meanings. (Recall that paragood and paraevil retain their usual meanings.) “Good” and “Evil” in reference to the punctum denote properties intrinsic to the punctum alone and are unrelated to the properties that it shares with paragood and metaevil. You might even say that these “Good” and “Evil” properties belong to two sets, one set containing “Good” and the other set containing “Evil”, such that no common element exists between the two sets. Yet they both relate to the punctum, as do paraevil and metagood. Here is an example that might help you grasp this situation more easily: Think of a diamond cut with facets arranged in two sets: one set shining downward and the other upward. There is no overlap between the two sets and you cannot tell which set belongs to “Good” and which to “Evil”. In order to know whether any particular facet belongs to the one set or the other, you must look at the polish on the edges between the facets. Only at these points will you be able to see which set goes with “Good” and which with “Evil”. “Good” and “Evil” do not, then, inhere in the punctum, but they do belong to the punctum in a special way, as do metagood and metaevil.

In saying this we must emphasize that “Good” and “Evil” are no more “polar” opposites than are metagood and metaevil. Each of the four properties denoted by these terms — two “Good” and two “Evil” — are intrinsically in a relationship of complementarity or, better, mutual complementation, each requiring the presence of all the others in order to be what it is, but at the same time all these four being mere moments, so to speak, of one unique energy that has no properties other than those that appear as the relations among these four. Only by gross abstraction and at the cost of some violence to reality can it be said that any two of them (whichever two) stand in an antithetical, much less a dialectical, relation to each other. Yet there is no doubt that this appearance is indispensable to any unfolding of events — as if the unique energy had to be parceled out among its four moments in order for anything to happen.

But it would be a great mistake to think that anything thus parceled out was somehow inessential to the total energy, or that this total energy in its pure unity was any way less than all the parceled-out parts taken together. This is what the meta- properties teach us. For both metagood and metaevil, taken together, exhaust all possible combinations of relations between paragood and paraevil, while their own relative parity is indifferent to all such relations. For example, metaevil is what results when there is perfect, rigid correspondence between paragood and paraevil (just as metagood results from perfect, rigid non-correspondence), while metagood and paraevil are merely paragood and paraevil when they agree and disagree, respectively. We shall not pause here to prove these propositions. (We omit also the obvious proof that when metaevil and paraevil agree they become metagood, and when they disagree, paragood.) Let it be said, however, that it is through a process of such simplification, abstraction and division that all knowledge begins — all that we ordinarily call knowledge, and not just what is accessible to the physical sciences. (But a moment ago we were speaking of what was not accessible to them, weren’t we?)

Once paragood and paraevil have been divided into metagood and metagood, and metagood and metaevil, the outer net can begin to take shape, its coherence deriving from the property of continuity in the relations among paragood, paragood, paraevil and metaevil. Not that there are not innumerable gaps in this net, or that the filaments composing it do not criss-cross one another in complicated and conflicting ways. Indeed, a striking characteristic of this net is that it appears to have two orders of magnitude, with filaments both very fine and very thick coexisting simultaneously, much as in the crosshatched areas of a certain type of pencil sketch. These filaments must be understood dynamically and not statically. It is not so much that some are taut while others are slack, or that some are stable while others are unstable, but that some are persisting while others are in flux, or that some are moving into or out of order while others are maintaining or changing the order in which they occur. Some have “frozen” what were previously relative movements into an absolute configuration of coherence, others are “melting” coherent configurations into new relative motions. There are tendrils of filaments that reach into and out of the center, as it were, transporting relative orders between the two surfaces of the net. In some regions of the net there are disturbances and displacements that can be interpreted as cyclical fluctuations of metagood and metaevil around a central equilibrium of paragood and paraevil. In other regions the cycles appear to have ceased and a single trend dominates, whether this is the rise of metagood over metaevil or the rise of metaevil over metagood, depending on what is taking place in the center. Still other regions give the impression of oscillating indecision, of oscillation within oscillation, of an inner turbulence in which no direction seems capable of winning out over any other.

It is not yet clear what mechanisms, if any, underlie these diverse behaviors, or even if the net as a whole is necessarily heading somewhere. We know only that somewhere in its inner depths lies the punctum, the point of singularity around which all its properties congregate and from which they radiate. And this much seems clear: that in its very simplest terms the structure of the outer net is made to resemble that of the most complicated molecular organisms. For at the center of every living organism lies an organelle called a mitochondrion, whose shape is roughly that of an elongated peanut and which resembles very closely the dromosome described above, not counting such frills as the presence of a double membrane, the complex coiling of the helix, and other molecular peculiarities. Could it be that life, if it has any “meaning”, exists solely for the purpose of symbolizing and interpreting the punctum and the net that surrounds it? If we could penetrate the enigma of the punctum, would it put us in mind of the “primal scene” — that ever-elusive nucleus of original trauma around which the whole edifice of psychoanalytic theory is woven? We must tread warily here, because if there is a core of truth in this speculation it may turn out that all our science and learning are no more than an elaborate self-deception aimed at warding off the stark, naked reality of the punctum and its only companions, absolute metagood and absolute metaevil. Perhaps in another age, or at least in another mood, we will have something useful to say on these matters. For now, we had better put the topic aside.

Proceed to Part II, Life.